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

Avian Thrills

I wish I had photos to show you, but there are moments where if you run for the camera, you miss the moment. I’ve had three moments in the last week that thrilled my heart.

A week ago, after a big storm, as I pushed open the curtains I saw hundreds of pelicans, swooping and circling just in front of the house across the street on the Bayou. Normally, pelicans fly all sort of relaxed and then, suddenly, plunge into the water for a fish, but this time, they seemed agitated, and there were a lot of them. I watched, and after a while I saw there was a big flock of ducks on the water, and the pelicans (I am speculating here) did not want the ducks there. So they were swooping the ducks and swooping and swooping, and eventually, the ducks got rattled and flew away.

Four days ago, as I stepped out the door, a huge bird flew over my head to a nearby tree, carrying a fish. I signaled to AdventureMan to come out and see; he thought it was an eagle, and after watching him tear at the fish (never dropping it, skillfully done) I agreed. He didn’t seem to mind us observing. That was very cool.

This morning, as I stepped out to feed our outdoor cat, Emile, I heard a very loud “Who-who-who-who-WHOOOOOOOH!” It was so loud I jumped a little when it started, and then realizing it was a big owl in our little backyard forest, I just stopped and enjoyed the rest of it. I love the sound of owls, and I grinned, thinking of a little owl we used to hear in Botswana, I can’t remember the name (Pell’s Fishing Owl? Pearl Spotted Owl?) but we secretly called it the orgasm owl because it’s call was very long, starting with like who-who-who-who-whow-Whow WHow WHOw WHOW WHOW! WHOW!! WHOW!!!!! And after that huge crescendo, it would go quiet for a while . . . and then start up again. It never failed to make me grin.

February 22, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Birds, Botswana, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Prepping Dinner, Prepping My Week

We were waiting for our pick-up order at Gulf Coast Seafood when I turned to AdventureMan and said “I’ll be right back; I want to pick up some crab.”

I love this place. Not only do I get really good blackened salmon, just the way this Alaska girl likes it , or some of Pensacola’s best fried oysters on the rare day when I can’t resist temptation, they also have really good hush puppies, and they give me steamed broccoli to dip in my baked beans. On top of all this good food, Gulf Coast Seafood is a Patti restaurant, and has a seafood store in the same building as the restaurant.

And they have crab. They have fresh salmon. They have bags of oysters, fresh every day. I pick up a pound of crab for Sunday dinner, thinking a garlicy cream crab sauce over angel hair pasta.

Today, after church, Adventureman asks if I want to go with him to Craft Bakery for a croissant or pain au chocolat, and wouldn’t you know, there is a beautiful gorgeous foccacio bread and my previous idea went out the window and now I am thinking crab salad and smoked gruyere baked in pockets of this gorgeous bread.

Crab salad

On a roll, I decided to go ahead and make a big batch of my oatmeal cereal – oatmeal flakes, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts or pecans, cinnamon, clove. Just add milk. I could make hot oatmeal, but I don’t like it much, so I don’t. I just eat it with milk and fresh blueberries.

Oat mix

And noticing that I have some cilantro that needs to be used up, I made a salad that I’ve only found in one restaurant ever, Cilantro and chopped peanuts with a soy sauce and rice vinegar dressing. It was from a Chinese restaurant in Doha, Qatar, which no longer exists, but a very famous restaurant.

Doha was not the Doha it is today; it was a sleepy little town on the verge of massive development. Street addresses were almost non-existent, and those that existed didn’t make any sense at all, like there was no continuity or rationality to house addresses because of the idiosyncratic development as Doha expanded.

So this restaurant, which I think was called something like Lucky Chinese, was famous because they had a book, a very large book, that told how to get to houses all over Doha. It would be unthinkable now, but Doha was a safe little village then. The first time you ordered, you had to go in person and draw a map to your house in the book. As you thumbed through, you could see the location of almost every Chinese-food-loving expat living in Doha. Those were the days when the Ambassador held an open house (LOL open bar) every Friday and all Americans were welcome. There weren’t that many Americans.

The salad is simple and delicous: chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, water (just a little) and olive oil.

Now, I suppose (sigh) I need to go for a n(ice) cold walk.

January 10, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Doha, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Restaurant | Leave a comment

Pork with Roasted Apples and Onions

“Where did you get this recipe? What gave you the idea?” AdventureMan asked as we feasted on a meal I wasn’t even sure we were going to like when I started it.

“Ken Follett,” I said slowly, trying to remember which book. I think it was A Column of Fire. The characters serve a meal of pork and apples, and it’s not anything I have cooked before, that combination, so down the rabbit hole I went. I have my Kindle on my laptop, I can check maps of where books are set, I can look up obscure words, and when something intrigues me, I can take a few minutes and follow that path.

I wasn’t sure how these ingredients would go, I wasn’t sure we would like fennel seeds, I wasn’t sure this was really a good recipe for us, but it sounds so good on a cold winters day and I had a pork tenderloin in the freezer. I pulled it out early in the day, read through the recipe, discovered my tenderloin was larger so I increased the amount of apples and onions by half. Actually, when I made the recipe, I didn’t really measure that closely; you can sort of tell from the instructions that this is another of those very forgiving recipes.

AdventureMan had some tiny potatoes left from his Bourride with Aioli, so he roasted them up with oil and garlic, salt and parsley, we put together a small green salad, and a feast was on the table. One bite and we agreed we have had such things on winter nights in France – and in Germany. These ingredients are so simple and the preparation, while a little fiddly, goes very quickly and easily. The combination is yummy.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Apples and Onions

Makes 4 servings

1 large pork tenderloin (about 14 ounces) (ours was 24 oz.)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 large onion, sliced

2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/2 cup dry white wine or apple cider

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 450°F. Season pork with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and sear until all sides are brown, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. 

Transfer pork to plate. Cool slightly. Spread mustard over top and sides of pork; press fennel seeds into mustard. 

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add onion slices and apples; sauté over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Spread evenly in skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place pork atop apple-onion mixture.

Transfer skillet to oven and roast until apple-onion mixture is soft and brown and meat thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 150°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer pork to platter and tent with foil. Let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour white wine over apple-onion mixture in skillet. Stir mixture over high heat until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Cut pork on diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spoon apple-onion mixture onto plates. Top with pork and serve.

From Epicurious who credits Bon Appetite February 2004

Thank you, Epicurious, and thank you Ken Follett!

January 3, 2021 Posted by | Books, Cooking, ExPat Life, Experiment, Food, Recipes | , | 3 Comments

Never Fail Appetizers: Sausage Cheese Puffs and Artichoke Cheese Dip

These two recipes are so easy that even a ten year old and a seven year old can make them – as we did last night to say farewell to 2020 (and good riddance!) and to welcome 2021. The kids love these, and so do most adults. At one party, I watched a shy man eat almost the entire recipe of cheese dip, he loved it so much. We are trying to give our grandchildren tools for living, tools for self-reliance and confidence in themselves and their skills.

They are both from an old cookbook from my military wife days – The Fort Leavenworth Cookbook. Things change; I don’t know if military wives still have the same expectations, but we needed fool-proof, quick recipes we could prepare from the pantry in a heartbeat. These two fit the bill, and are great crowd pleasers.

Sausage Cheese Puffs

1 pound hot or sweet bulk sausage

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese

3 cups biscuit mix

3/4 cup water

Brown sausage, drain and cool. Add cheese, biscuit mix and water. Mx with fork – or fingers, until it sticks together. Roll into 1 inch balls. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 – 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Makes about 80.

Artichoke Cheese Dip

1 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (or one jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped)

1 small jar chopped red pimentos

(optional: chopped up pickled jalepeno pieces, to taste, one or two tablespoons)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese

2 cups grated sharp Cheddar

(I use 16 ounce bags of Mexican mix cheese in place of cheddar + Monterey Jack; they keep in the freezer)

1/8 teaspoon cumin powder

1 cup mayonnaise (we use 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream)

Combine all ingredients, turn into baking dish (we use a quiche dish) and bake at 350 degrees until bubbling hot. Serve with corn chips.

Both of these recipes are very forgiving. Christmas Eve, I made the Sausage Cheese Puffs, only to discover I had forgotten to put in the sausage, cooked and cooling on the stove. I added it to the remainder of the dough, and we had two kinds of puffs, Cheese and Sausage-Cheese, and both were delicious.

The Artichoke Cheese Dip can use various kinds of cheese, and the extra cup of cheese I add doesn’t impact on the results. Nor does cooking it at 400 degrees, while I am also cooking Sausage Cheese Puffs. We need more of these fool-proof, flexible and delicious kinds of recipes!

Happy New Year and happy cooking 🙂

January 1, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Recipes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Elizabeth Peratrovich

Sometimes I can get a little paranoid, and today was one of those times. Look at that gorgeous Google doodle for today. I spend a certain amount of time looking at Alaskan legend as a source of art images for my quilting, so when I saw the Google doodle, I thought it was one of those targeted things.

Not so.

As it turns out, it is a doodle honoring an Alaskan Tlingit woman, Elizabeth Peratrovich. I’ve taken the following from Wikipedia (to which I donate, so I am comfortable sharing what they have to say. I love that it is updated to show today’s doodle.) This woman was something special:

Elizabeth Jean Peratrovich (Tlingit name: Kaaxgal.aat; July 4, 1911 – December 1, 1958) was an American civil rights activist and member of the Tlingit nation who worked for equality on behalf of Alaska Natives.[1] In the 1940s, her advocacy was credited as being instrumental in the passing of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, the first state or territorial anti-discrimination law enacted in the United States in the 20th century. In 1988, the Alaska Legislature established February 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day “for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska” (Alaska Statutes 44.12.065).[2] In March 2019, her obituary was added to The New York Times as part of their “Overlooked No More” series.[3]

Early life and education

Elizabeth Peratrovich, whose name at birth was Kaaxgal.aat[4], was born on July 4, 1911, in Petersburg, Alaska,[5] as a member of the Lukaax̱.ádi clan in the Raven moiety of the Tlingit nation. When she was young, she was adopted by Andrew and Jean Wanamaker (née Williams), who gave her the name “Elizabeth Jean”.[6][7] Andrew was a fisherman and Presbyterian lay minister. The Wanamakers raised Elizabeth in Petersburg, Klawock, and Ketchikan, Alaska. Elizabeth graduated from Ketchikan High School, and then attended Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, and the Western College of Education in Bellingham, Washington (now part of Western Washington University).[a] In 1931, Elizabeth married Roy Peratrovich (1908-1989), who was also Tlingit, as well as of Serbian ancestry.[9]

Activism

In 1941, while living in Juneau, Alaska, Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich encountered discrimination in their attempts to secure housing and gain access to public facilities. They petitioned the territorial governor, Ernest Gruening, to prohibit public places from posting the “No dogs or Natives allowed” signs that were common in Alaska during this time.[citation needed]

The Anti-Discrimination Act was proposed by the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, but the first attempt to pass this legislation failed in 1943.[citation needed] However, in 1945, Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich became the Presidents of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, respectively, and lobbied the territory’s legislators and Governor Gruening to pass the act.[citation needed]

Before the territorial Senate voted on the bill in 1945, Elizabeth Peratrovich, representing the Alaskan Native Sisterhood, was the last to testify, and her impassioned speech was considered decisive.[10] Responding to territorial senator Allen Shattuck of Juneau, who had earlier asked “Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?,” she stated:[11]

I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.[12]

Fran Ulmer, who represented Juneau in the Alaska House of Representatives (and who later became lieutenant governor of Alaska), in 1992 said the following about Peratrovich’s testimony:

She talked about herself, her friends, her children, and the cruel treatment that consigned Alaska Natives to a second-class existence. She described to the Senate what it means to be unable to buy a house in a decent neighborhood because Natives aren’t allowed to live there. She described how children feel when they are refused entrance into movie theaters, or see signs in shop windows that read “No dogs or Natives allowed.”[12]

The Senate voted 11-5 for House Resolution 14, providing “…full and equal accommodations, facilities, and privileges to all citizens in places of public accommodations within the jurisdiction of the Territory of Alaska; to provide penalties for violation.”[11] The bill was signed into law by Governor Gruening in 1945, nearly 20 years before the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Acts of the territorial legislature required final approval from the U.S. Congress, which affirmed it (Bob Bartlett, Alaskan delegate, was known for his efficiency in passing legislation). Alaska thus became the first territory or state to end “Jim Crow” since 18 states banned discrimination in public accommodations in the three decades following the Civil War; not until 1955 would two more states, New Mexico and Montana, follow suit.[13]

The Peratrovich family papers, including correspondence, personal papers, and news clippings related to the civil rights work done by Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich, are currently held at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.[14]

Personal facts

On December 15, 1931, Elizabeth married Roy Peratrovich (1908–1989), also a Tlingit, of mixed native and Serbian descent who worked in a cannery.[citation needed] They lived in Klawock, where Roy was elected to four terms as mayor.[citation needed]

Looking for greater opportunities for work and their children, they moved to Juneau, where they found more extensive social and racial discrimination against Alaska Natives. They had three children: daughter Loretta, and sons Roy, Jr. and Frank.[11]

The Peratrovich family later moved to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, where Roy pursued an economics degree at St. Francis Xavier University.[citation needed] From there they moved to Denver, Colorado, where Roy studied at the University of Denver.[citation needed] In the 1950s, the Peratroviches moved to Oklahoma, and then back to Alaska.[citation needed]

Elizabeth Peratrovich died after battling breast cancer on December 1, 1958, at the age of 47.[15] She is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Juneau, Alaska, alongside her husband Roy.[citation needed]

Her son, Roy Peratrovich, Jr., became a noted civil engineer in Alaska. He designed the Brotherhood Bridge in Juneau, which carries the Glacier Highway over the Mendenhall River.[16]

Legacy and honors

2020 Native American $1 Coin

  • On February 6, 1988, the Alaska Legislature established February 16 (the day in 1945 on which the Anti-Discrimination Act was signed) as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day,” in order to honor her contributions: “for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska” (Alaska Statutes 44.12.065).[17]
  • The Elizabeth Peratrovich Award was established in her honor by the Alaska Native Sisterhood.[citation needed]
  • In 1992, Gallery B of the Alaska House of Representatives chamber in the Alaska State Capitol was renamed in her honor.[12] Of the four galleries located in the respective two chambers, the Peratrovich Gallery is the only one named for someone other than a former legislator (the other House gallery was named for Warren A. Taylor; the Senate galleries were named for former Senators Cliff Groh and Robert H. Ziegler).
  • In 2003, a park[18] in downtown Anchorage was named for Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich. It encompasses the lawn surrounding Anchorage’s former city hall, with a small amphitheater in which concerts and other performances are held.[19]
  • In 2009, a documentary about Peratrovich’s groundbreaking civil rights advocacy premiered on October 22 at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage. Entitled For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska, the film was scheduled to air as a PBS documentary film in November 2009. The film was produced by Blueberry Productions, Inc. and was primarily written by Jeffry Lloyd Silverman of Anchorage.[20]
  • In 2017, the theater in Ketchikan’s Southeast Alaska Discovery Center was named in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich, and a companion exhibit exploring her role in the struggle for Alaska Native civil rights was unveiled.[21]
  • In 2018, Elizabeth Peratrovich was chosen by the National Women’s History Project as one of its honorees for Women’s History Month in the United States.[22]
  • On October 5, 2019, United States Mint Chief Administrative Officer Patrick Hernandez announced that Peratrovich would appear on the reverse of the 2020 Native American $1 Coin, making her the first Alaska Native to be featured on U.S. currency.[23][24][25]
  • In December 2019, a 4-story apartment building called Elizabeth Place, named after Peratrovich, opened in downtown Anchorage.
  • In July 2020, a new mural was unveiled in honor of Peratrovich in Petersburg Alaska.[26]
  • On December 30, 2020, a Google Doodle in the United States and Canada honored Elizabeth Peratrovich. The Doodle was drawn by Tlingit artist Micheala Goade.[27]

December 30, 2020 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

“Oh, He’ll Blame Obama”

I laughed as I read the following headline to AdventureMan:

China will achieve major landmark this decade: Report

The Asian giant will overtake the United States to become the world’s biggest economy sooner than previously thought, a think tank estimates.

“Trump is going to hate that this is part of his legacy,” I laughed. Our infantile, petulent soon-to-be-gone President throws temper tantrums over this kind of news. Anything he doesn’t like he determines to be “fake news.”

AdventureMan just snorts. “He’ll just blame it on Obama,” he says.

Americans are addicted to cheap goods, and plenty of them. China feeds that need. No need to look for a conspiracy. It’s all classic supply and demand. No nefarious plots. Take a look at your furniture, your plasterboard, your wooden floors, look in your cupboard at your canned goods, in your closets at your clothing. China is building the largest economy in the world by providing what people want at a lower price.

December 26, 2020 Posted by | Events, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Political Issues, Transparency | , , | Leave a comment

I Can’t Look

Today is election day in the United States of America, following four of the nastiest years in our history.

I try to be objective.

We served our country, AdventureMan and I, for many years, most of them outside the United States, sometimes in dangerous circumstances, not always agreeing with the official policies of our country but always, always, supporting them, as we were sworn to do. That is the nature of the “dark” bureaucracy. We serve our country, and we obey the laws.

To see the bureaucracy derided, dismissed and destroyed breaks my heart. To see all the painstaking hard work taken over years and years of persistent policy making tossed aside, along with our faithful allies, enrages me.

Oops. Enraged?

One of the things we learn along the road is not to take things personally. We learn to suffer disappointment and watch for opportunities to get back on track. Anger doesn’t help. Name-calling doesn’t help. Confrontation may be useful, but you have to choose your timing, and your battles.

I was raised to be competitive. I have had to dial it back. I learned that focusing on the win all the time drove bad decisions, and an unhealthy attitude – in me, I am not judging anyone else here, I just learned that to be effective in my own life, I had to lay competitiveness aside.

Tonight we will learn the design of our next four years. I can’t help it; I am emotionally involved. I spent the day NOT watching the news, not watching for signs and portents. I took care of business, I quilted, I went to the dentist, all great diversions. I prayed, frequently, throughout the day as I have been praying for four years. I try not to give God advice, I try to remember always to keep in mind “Thy will be done” and yet . . . I have my private opinion of how things would work out best.

Tonight, once the polls close, I will watch.

Whatever happens in the next few hours, or days, or even weeks – or months – I will try to stay level, stay focused, stay the course. No matter how bad it has been, there have been minor celebrations along the way, and I can persevere, I know I can. It would be nice, however (God? are you there? are you listening?) to have a break, to have some normality restored, and to begin to have a longer news cycle, and rest between crises, and even, God willing, some peace on earth, good will toward mankind.

November 3, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Maskmaker, Maskmaker, Make Me a Mask

When I headed to the YMCA on Wednesday, it was with a heavy heart. I have loved the reservation only swimming; I have actually felt fairly safe with so few people, and the respect for protecting one another through keeping safe boundaries. Already rumors are abounding that the Governor is about to move rapidly forward with his “evidence based phase-in” headed toward the new normal, and will open gyms.

The same day, I received my word that my sister, who was very sick this winter and was told over and over by her doctor that it was only severe bronchitis, has tested positive for the corona virus antibodies. She had it all along. She kept asking. They told her no.

That, along with my mother’s death from the virus, makes me cautious. We come from long-lived people. We are no match for this virus.

So I headed into the Y knowing that once the gym gets back into full swing, I may have to withdraw until I am certain the virus has diminished in our area, and that the “evidence” is supported by full transparency of the medical examiner’s reports (currently being censored / withheld by executive decision of the very governor who is telling us we will go forward making decisions on these unavailable statistics, nationally reported to be underreported in the state of Florida.)

Excuse me, but WTF??

So I wear my mask into the Y, but I take it off to swim, all that chlorine and I feel safe enough. One of the lifeguards gasps and says “I LOVE your mask! Did you make it?” and I told her I did, that I had made about 150 and given them all away.

“Would you make me one just like it?” she asked.

The mask is made from some fabric I found in the souks in Tunis, when we lived there forty years ago. It is a deep sea blue, and purple, with some black and white for drama, with Berber jewelry motifs, triangles with five pendants, crescents, hands of Fatima. I bought ten yards of the fabric when I saw it, and have used it through the years in projects and quilts, a little here and a little there. I loved it that she had the same immediate emotional response to the fabric that I had.

“I don’t know if I have any of that fabric cut for masks,” I told her honestly, “but I will look.”

I swam my mile and headed home, feeling lighter. I had my tasks outlined for the day, but I am nearing a point where I can’t go further – I’ve already packed items we need, like that spare tube of toothpaste, and my vitamin C serum. I got a little carried away with the packing . . .

So I scurried the rest of the morning, full of energy, and in the afternoon I rewarded myself by allowing myself to go back to mask-making, a place I haven’t been for nearly a month. Masks aren’t hard; I figured out a way I like to do them, and I really like to do them, I like the process, and I love working with the fabrics. Even better, my young friend asking me to make her a mask just like mine breathed new life and hope into my spirit; I was able to finish about fifteen masks and offer them to other staff members and life guards when I went in this morning. As I was working with them, I found just one piece of the fabric she loved, that I love, and it was enough to make her a mask, just like mine.

People around here are more reluctant to wear masks than people in places like Seattle. When I walked in with a selection of masks in lovely fabrics, people were delighted to be able to choose something that pleased them. One lady, when I offered, didn’t hesitate, she said “Oh, I know exactly what I want, I can see it!” and chose a dark blue batik with turquoise stars. Another woman chose a Florentine style ivory print with cranberry and green, and gilt highlights. It was fun for me to see them choose, and I can only hope they will like them well enough to wear them as we work to protect one another from this lurking virus.

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, color, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Tunisia, YMCA | Leave a comment

No, No, I Won’t Let Go!

AdventureMan and I make a great team. He is making sure the outside and the garage sparkle, and I am taking care of the inside, except for his office and his personal clothing. He likes to manage those himself, and I can’t blame him.

There are mornings I can barely face another day of packing, and then I remember Fort Leavenworth, when my riding boots arrived, packed without wrapping, in a box with my evening dresses. There was a part of me that felt outraged, dishonored. Who would do such a thing? And another part that empathized with the worker at the end of a long day, packing for a privileged woman who had riding boots, and evening gowns, and saying “what the hell.”

I learned a good lesson. If it matters to you, pack it yourself. If you can’t pack it yourself, have a special crate built for it.

We were so young, but we saved our money and bought a bird cage from Monsieur Samouda, in Sidi bou Said, Tunisia, and had a crate built for it. We’ve had it for forty years now with many moves and no damage.

I have packed a lot of boxes in my life.

I’m finding that there are some things I can part with easily. And then some things I can’t let go.

 

We met and spent our early married years in Germany. This was our wedding candle, lo, those many years ago. I had to stop burning it on our anniversaries when it started to collapse. It still makes me smile. I can’t let go.

My Mother and Father were in the Wednesday night bowling league in Germany, and they were very good bowlers. They were also on the admin board of the league, and were in charge of the prizes, which they often won. Texting back and forth with my sisters today, I learned that they served on that committee to insure that each of the daughters received an identical crystal cookie tree, which my Mother won each year in the final tournament. Post-war Germany was a wonderland for Americans who lived there. I’m not ready to let this go. One sister let hers go long ago, the other is using hers to hold her jewelry.

I know I should let this pot go – I think it is a fish poacher – and I can’t. We bought it in the Souk al Hammadiyya in Damascus. I can tell I have cooked in it once or twice in the forty years I have owned it, not enough to make it valuable for its utility. The reason I can’t let it go is because of the artistry of the handle. Not even that it looks so beautiful, but the bird handle fits perfectly in your hand. It feels GOOD. I’ve never had any pot or pan that had such a sensuously lovely handle. Someone who made this handle really knew what he was doing, and created it with heart.

When my husband came home today, the first thing that happened when he saw the pot was that he reached for the handle, and then asked “are you thinking of parting with this?” I said “No, I can’t.”

I wish you could put your hand on this bird handle. It’s that special.

We have a family message thread with my son and his wife, who are moving to a larger home as we move to a smaller home. I often take photos and say “would you like this?” maybe with an explanation, and they say yes or no.

This time, AdventureMan texted back immediately: “Not the Kuwait Teapot from the Blue Elephant!” and I immediately packed it to take with us. When we first got to Kuwait, he planned to take me out for Valentine’s dinner, not realizing that it was one of the hugest date nights of the year in Kuwait. On Valentine’s Day, he called everywhere looking for reservations, but there were none to be had.

Being American, we like to eat earlier than Kuwaiti people, so I suggested we dress and go to the Blue Elephant, a favorite restaurant at the Hilton Hotel on the beach, where we were known. When we got there, there were only a few other couples.

“So go in there and beg,” I suggested with a grin, “Tell them we will eat quickly and be out in an hour.” I think he did exactly that. I don’t know what he said, maybe a little money changed hands, but very soon we were ushered to a table, and reminded that we needed to be out by eight, when the table was reserved.

We had a lovely dinner, at the end of which he bought me the little elephant teapot. What I love is that I am not the only one who can’t let go.  🙂

 

 

May 11, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Germany, Kuwait, Marriage, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Tunisia | , , , | Leave a comment