Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Exploiting Foreign Labor: Qatar and Kuwait

Living in Qatar and Kuwait was a life-changing experience. We loved the stimulation of living in an environment where little was as we expected it to be. The sights, sounds and colors were stronger, attention-getting, and learning to think in different ways kept us alive and young in ways we never anticipated.

There were also challenges. While as white Americans, we were high in the pecking order, we also realized we were high in a secondary category; there were the nationals, and there were all the others. We qualified, along with all the other imported labor, as others. We lived a great life, and we never forgot that we were “the other.” We were blessed with friends whose families had been living there long before our own country was even imagined. It gave a new perspective to our lives.

On the downside was the treatment of labor. Here are a couple of my own photos:

Traditional scaffolding

High rise window washers

Working on a new building, these laborers are more than 12 stories up. There is no elevator, and this is their solution to accessing a location without climbing 12 stories in the 115 degree F. heat.

That breaks my heart is the statement that all these deaths are within the expected range. The laborers are treated with callous indifference. Most came hoping to provide their families with a better life, they lived in squalor and sent most of their salary beyond meager subsistence, back to their home countries. The employers held all the cards. They had a choice – take this terrible risk or go home.

I found this on AOL News and it said it was from Yahoo News.

Report: More than 6,500 migrant workers have died during Qatar’s World Cup prep

JASON OWENSFebruary 24, 2021, 11:34 PM

More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar amid the nation’s preparation to host the 2022 World Cup, The Guardian reports.

The report cites government data from the home nation of migrant workers including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The data have been compiled since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010, working out to an average of 12 deaths per week, according to the report.

FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar despite widespread concerns over human rights violations and treatment of migrant workers that have only been exacerbated since. Amnesty International has documented conditions of workers being “exploited” and “subjected to forced labor.”

“They can’t change jobs, they can’t leave the country, and they often wait months to get paid,” a report from the human rights organization states.

According to The Guardian, 2,711 workers from India, 1,641 from Nepal, 1,018 from Bangledesh, 824 from Pakistan and 557 from Sri Lanka have died working in Qatar since 2010. The Guardian estimates that the actual death toll of migrant workers is “considerably higher” since the data it cites is limited to the listed countries.

The nation with a population of less than 3 million is depending on 2 million migrant workers to build its labor force. The Philippines and Kenya are among other nations to send migrant workers to Qatar, according to the report.

The listed causes of death include electrocution, blunt injuries due to a fall from height and suicide. Most of the deaths are listed as “natural” while citing heart or respiratory failure.

Daytime temperatures in Qatar can approach 120 degrees during the summer. Normally played in the summer, Qatar’s World Cup will be held in November and December because of the oppressive heat.

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Workers walk towards the construction site of the Lusail stadium which will be build for the upcoming 2022 Fifa soccer World Cup during a stadium tour in Doha, Qatar, December 20, 2019.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Workers walk towards the construction site of the Lusail stadium which will be build for the upcoming 2022 Fifa soccer World Cup during a stadium tour in Doha, Qatar, December 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Nick McGeehan of labor rights organization FairSquare Projects told The Guardian that World Cup construction accounts for much of the death toll

“A very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup,” he said.

Qatar has built or is building seven new stadiums in addition to significant infrastructure upgrades including roadways, hotels and an airport in preparation to host the World Cup. The opening and closing matches will be held at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, a city being built from the ground up ahead of the World Cup.

Qatar: Death toll within ‘expected range’

Qatar’s government didn’t dispute The Guardian’s findings and characterized the death toll as “expected” in a statement to publication.

“The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population,” the statement read. “However, every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country.”

FIFA also provided a statement to The Guardian.

“With the very stringent health and safety measures on site … the frequency of accidents on Fifa World Cup construction sites has been low when compared to other major construction projects around the world,” the statement reads, per The Guardian.

FIFA did not provide The Guardian with data to back up its claim.

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers seek employment in Qatar to escape poverty and unemployment at home. It describes dirty living conditions with eight workers living in a single room one they arrive. Workers are sometimes promised one salary only to be to be provided a lower wage once they arrive.

The group spoke to workers who paid anywhere from $500 to $4,300 in recruitment fees to agents that leave them in debt before they begin working in Qatar.

February 25, 2021 Posted by | Building, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Pantone Colors for Spring and Summer 2021

I love color. I work with color in my quilting. To me, color makes all the difference, and one of the best part of living in different cultures introduced me to widening my ideas about what colors can be used together. We all differ in our preferences. I don’t have to like all these colors, but there is one I like a lot.

The one I like a lot is called Fairy Wing. I would have called it Rose Quartz; I’ve always loved the subdued natural stone. My Mom’s best friend in Alaska had a fireplace surround made out of Rose Quartz; it was a knock-out. I think countertops of Rose Quartz would be gorgeous.

February 17, 2021 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, color, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Marketing | | Leave a comment

“From Dust You Came, and to Dust You Will Return”

At our early morning service today, our priest talked about Lent being a time when we, literally, think about our own mortality, our sins of omission and commission, our relationships, our attachments and we think about them in a larger, more objective sense. He also said Lent is a time of reset, a quieting of our normally busy schedule, a time of sacrifice and reflection, and drawing closer to our Creator, and the person we were created to be.

Then he said that it feels like this has been almost an entire year of Lent. Once COVID got our attention, we’ve all been exposed to earthly mortality, as we lost loved ones, as friends lost loved ones, as we concerned ourselves with our own vulnerability to exposure to this mortal disease.

That got my attention. My life under COVID simplified greatly. For me, it was a good thing. I’ve always felt pressured to be more social that I really am, and I’ve always felt guilty about my introverted tendencies. The seclusion of COVID has given me respite, and has allowed to to connect with a me that feels more authentic than the me that was trying to meet all the expectations of the world.

I intend to enjoy this Lenten season, by the end of which I will have had my second vaccination. I expect that the pressures of life will begin to resume. God willing, I intend to be more reticent about involving myself, and give myself more time for reflection and living quietly.

February 17, 2021 Posted by | Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Faith, Lent, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Values | Leave a comment

Reset – and Lent

We bought our house – again – last year, shortly after my Mom died. Something about death gets our attention, doesn’t it, and can serve as an impetus to get us moving. Buying this house, which I have always loved, is one of the best things we have ever done.

We are great planners. We make lists, we make budgets, we make plans and divide those plans into actions, so we get it done. And yet – when you make the best plans, you don’t always have all the information, so some decisions have to be revisited. After living here for six months, we are making some serious changes (already planned) and not making some we thought we would make. Our daughter-in-law pointed out that some changes have unintended consequences, and we love that concept.

We know, from having made these changes at our bigger house, that having a metal roof and a tankless water heater combine for great energy savings. I don’t know the science, but metal roofs reflect sunlight away, the ridges in the roof bring in cooler air, and tankless heaters mean you are not spending on keeping water heated when you don’t have a need for it.

We intended to put in a full garage and storage area, but learned that what we have actually works pretty well, and that is where the unintended consequences come in. Florida land tends to be sandy, and can wash away. You change the drainage pattern, and things happen. For right now, we’ll forego that change; down the road we can always re-visit.

I wanted minimal coverage on our big windows looking out on the Bayou; in arranging for that I had to empty out my china cabinet and another decorative cabinet. “Good,” I thought, “a chance to rethink and put things away smarter.” As it turned out, I changed a couple little things but not much. Most things are working. Now I have to see how the windows will work, if the minimal covering will be right for us or if we will need to add some kind of screening against the summer sun or some kind of privacy protector. Resets are not such a bad thing.

So with Lent starting comes another possibility for Reset. I’ve always loved Lent and Advent, times to slow down, to turn away from the messages of our culture, from our world, and focus on greater truths. You’d think with the COVID restrictions, life would be isolated enough, but we find ways, don’t we, of distracting ourselves? Lent gives us a chance to examine our choices and move closer to being the people we were created to be.

I’ve found a wonderful book by a man I love reading, Richard Rohr. I took a theology seminar for four years; I learned a lot about my religion, my church and its beliefs within that religion, and the greater history which brought us to where we are. At the end of the four years, my theology had greatly simplified back to the earliest teachings I received, God is Love. Richard Rohr believes God is Love, that God loves us, that we are his creation and that everything that exists, exists because God created it. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.

February 15, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Home Improvements, Lent, Living Conditions, Money Management, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Valentines Day, and AdventureMan Scores

My greatest fear, when AdventureMan retired, was that after the life of challenge and adventure we had led, he would be bored and restless. Instead his days are full. He supervises all the house repairs and researches financial questions, plays with the grandchildren (who are able to give him a run for his money in the games they play), he supervises the landscaping and gardening, and . . . . he cooks.

He doesn’t just cook. He tries new recipes all the time. Most of the time they are really, really good. Occasionally, we just don’t care for it. But tonight, for Valentines Day, he went all out, and oh WOW.

Tonight he fixed Wagyu filets he found at a nearby butcher shop; he stuffed them with a crab mixture, and wrapped them in bacon. Oh WOW. He pounded pepper coarsely in a mortar, and patted it onto the sides before cooking, and while they were cooking, he and made a brandy-mushroom cream sauce to serve with it.

We agreed it was his BEST Mushroom sauce ever, made with Cremini mushrooms.

We went by the Craft bakery early in the day to pick up a freshly baked Focaccia, and my paltry contribution was a leafy green salad.

We feasted. We agreed this dinner matched the best we had eaten in any restaurant we could remember. It was rich. It was flavorful. AdventureMan took full honors.

He also thought to buy our last King Cake for our dessert; Lent starts this Wednesday and King Cake will be no more for another year. We are too full to eat it. AdventureMan thinks maybe in an hour, with a little French Vanilla ice cream, but I am not so sure.

February 14, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Entertainment, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | | Leave a comment

Best Birthday Ever

A few years ago, I hit a number and I felt like my life was over. Rationally, I knew I was doing fine, but just the sound of the number hit me hard. I remember feeling the same way when I hit 50, and I thought it was going to be terrible, but that very day I went to pick up my photos for my Saudi pass and my photograph was fabulous.

OK, you know, here goes that rationality thing again. The RULES in Saudi Arabia say you are forbidden to retouch photos. The photographer just stood there with a big grin as I looked at photos of me with all signs of aging totally removed. Inside, my heart was dancing. My head knew it wasn’t really how I looked, but my heart danced.

In spite of the heartache of my Mother dying of COVID, this has turned out to be a sweet year. I had some stellar moments, dancing-heart moments. I love our new/old house, as you can guess from all the sunsets I post. Now, my son and AdventureMan installed a Little Free Library for me to care for, and another dream has come true, and my heart dances for joy. My family was together, my grandchildren helped fill the Little Free Library, and we all had cake and ice cream together, masked most of the time.

I’ve always loved libraries, and the first job I ever had, at six years old, was checking out books at the little library in Alaska. The clerk had failed to show up; the librarian was busy with a big time-sensitive book order and I volunteered. She showed me what to do. So easy a six year old could do it, and I had a ball.

I avoided book clubs until I ended up so many years in the Middle East. A group of women I knew and trusted asked me to form a book club, and I reluctantly turned them down because I didn’t want that responsibility. Very gently, they kept inviting me to start a book club and finally, I asked “Why me?”

“You’re the only one who can bring in the books we want to read,” they told me.

I learned so much from these women, and the book club was a huge blessing, a window into the way a lot of women think who are from different countries and different cultures from me. I learned how HUGE it is when ideas can be examined, and discussed openly, even when one must speak indirectly. I learned again and again how many mistaken assumptions I had made, how narrowly I saw the world. Books matter. Ideas matter. Sharing books and ideas challenge our narrow views and give us broader understanding of our complex world, and our fellow human beings.

Tonight AdventureMan is making Pasta Carbonara, which I should never eat, but once or twice a year, I do. It’s not like AdventureMan loves Pasta Carbonara; he makes it for me because I love it. Some of those excess calories come off as I dance and dance for joy.

The year I thought my life was over, some amazing things happened. I’m not going to get all excited, like this is going to be the best year ever, but I am so grateful, I feel so blessed, to have some dreams I know I dreamed come true, and some unexpected dreams I didn’t know I was dreaming also come true.

“In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

February 7, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Books, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Exercise, Food, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | | Leave a comment

A Peevish Jesus?

Mark 9:14-29

14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. 16He asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ 17Someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.’ 19He answered them, ‘You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’ 20And they brought the boy* to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it threw the boy* into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21Jesus* asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. 22It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ 23Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ 24Immediately the father of the child cried out,* ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ 25When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You spirit that keep this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!’ 26After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ 29He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’*

This gospel reading from today’s Lectionary makes me uncomfortable. Loving, merciful Jesus sounds frustrated, and if I were there, I might think he was tired, or distracted, or hungry or needed a hug. He calls the people around him “faithless” and chides them with their own words – “If you are able!” when it was probably meant politely.

Maybe he is thinking about how short his time is, and how little human beings seem to understand about his message. He states “All things can be done for the one who believes.” He has said this before, to the bleeding woman, to the centurion, to the woman whose daughter was imprisoned in her own flesh by a demon – when he was able to perform a miracle, Jesus would say “Your faith is great!” (It always catches my attention that many of these with desperate faith were not Jewish).

I consider myself a religious woman, and yet at the very heart of today’s gospel, I find myself in the desperate father, wanting only a cure for his child, as he says ‘I believe; help my unbelief!

February 6, 2021 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual | 1 Comment

Family Coastal Restaurant, Eastpoint

After walking on the beach, we had a great appetite, so we were delighted to come across Family Coastal Restaurant, with all kinds of people parked in front. We could tell this was a popular place to gather on a Sunday morning, and it had an outdoor deck with no one on it.

Occasionally AdventureMan will read a post and remember our experience differently. This is the last time we ate in a restaurant, although I maintain we were not IN the restaurant, and AdventureMan maintains we had to walk through the (admittedly, very crowded) restaurant to get to the outdoor, screened deck, and that the servers did not wear masks, even though we did.

You know how you can tell how other people are thinking by how they look at you. Most of the camouflage-dressed hunters and local people crowded in the waiting area to have an indoor table found our mask wearing somewhere between amusing and incomprehensible.

AdventureMan reminds me how the unmasked server got right up next to me to point out something on the menu (I didn’t notice and it didn’t bother me). While we were waiting for our food, a couple other couples joined us, socially distanced, on the outdoor deck. Inside the restaurant, there was an open salad bar and tables packed closely together, and lots of happy chatting going on table to table; they all seemed to know each other and this was a local gathering place.

I was delighted the server told me that I could have my oysters grilled, as opposed to deep fried, so I ordered them with cheese grits and steamed vegetables. The oysters were OK. I ate a bite of the grits, and most of the vegetables. The hush puppies were delicious. I envied AdventureMan his meal.

Below is AdventureMan’s fried oysters, fried okra, fried onion rings and fried hushpuppies. It all looked so good, and being a generous hearted man, he shared one of the fried oysters with me. Mine didn’t take up much room on my plate . . . Fried food, when done right, just looks so appetizing . . .

When we left, it was even more crowded than when we arrived.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Pilgrimage to St. George Island from Apalachicola

A very short drive from Apalachicola, but a whole different world. Cross two amazing bridges/causeways which are an adventure in themselves, so beautiful, so wonderfully engineered. We are always in awe of what it takes to connect dry land over a lot of water, and how really smart people can also figure out how to generate electricity, maintain the equipment, and bring it to far flung locations.

Moody sunrise

Headed out of Eastpoint toward St. Georges

Coming into St. Georges

We drove all through St. Georges; we stayed her once when our son was a student at FSU but it all looks entirely different now. Finally, we get to our favorite part, the beach at the far eastern end of the island. You can park and walk even further east, or west, or whatever you like. There are few people there on this sunny cool day, and it is a glorious day for a long walk.

Day tripper friendly

Shell heaven! Piles of shells everywhere!

Wind patterns on the sand

What is the beach without some surf?

Surf, sand, shells and sun; we are as happy as we can be. No masks on the beach, no need, few people and far apart. It is a glorious day.

More wind/sand patterns because I am a dork who cares about these things . . .

This was a great part of our get-away.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Hamaknockers and We Exercise Bad Judgement

Have you ever noticed bad judgement happens in bunches? Like you can be really good for a long long time and once you let loose, even just a little, your self-discipline just goes to hell?

It’s all Hamaknocker’s fault.

So for the third time, we are choosing to eat inside a restaurant where not everybody is wearing masks, and how can you wear a mask while you are eating? We do manage to sit apart from the other customers dining in.

Now . . . more bad judgement.

We ordered platters. I ordered the chicken, and it was a lot. I also ordered applesauce, because I don’t see that on the menu often, and it was really, really delicious. I think it must have had a LOT of sugar in it.

AdventureMan ordered the pork, and there was a lot of pork, too.

So this was the really really bad part. We had a refrigerator back at our hotel, and it is a cold day. We COULD safely take extra food back to the hotel and enjoy it later.

We did not.

We ate the whole thing.

Hamaknockers is what we call Michelin Red R cuisine – really good local food at reasonable prices.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment