Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Sleepy Little Doha

My husband used to travel in and out of Doha for years before we actually moved there. He would tell me stories about “sleepy little Doha,” before-natural gas Doha, in a country that was not the richest country in the world. The international community then was so small that they would gather at the American Ambassador’s residence on Fridays for drinks and a cook-out, casually exchanging information and gossip on a lazy afternoon. This was also pre 9-11, when the need for mind-numbing security was not so imperative.

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I received the above photo in the mail today, and I laughed out loud and showed AdventureMan. We were there when the Sheraton Hotel was “way out there” in the middle of no-where. A new mall with a Carrefour had opened near the Sheraton and was visible from the dhow parking in mid-Doha.

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Look just above the dhows, to the left of the white building with green windows and you will see a flat building and Carrefour on it.

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The pyramid on the right is the Sheraton, once the hottest hotel in Doha. To the left, you can see the white building with the green windows, which almost disappears now. I want you to notice how relatively bare the skyline is, and this is 2005.

 

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These two buildings used to be the tallest on the Corniche.

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You can see them in the lower right of this photo, dwarfed by all the new sky-scrapers. At the far left, you can see one of my very favorites, a (formerly) tall building with a mosque built jutting out in the middle. You can barely see it now; it used to be one of the most prominent buildings on the Corniche.

DohaMosqueOfficeBuilding

This is what the building looks like when not surrounded by giants.

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This is what it looks like now, almost indistinguishable from the buildings surrounding and overwhelming it.

I used to meet a friend every Tuesday morning and walk the Corniche. We watched the buildings going up, tributes to the huge amounts of cash pouring into the Doha economy and the huge egos that need to build huge towers to put their names on. As they were being built, there were constant fires, mostly electrical, which challenged the fire department and killed the low-paid laborers. American firms seeking office space brought in experts to inspect buildings before renting them, to be sure modern, safe construction practices had been used. Most of the new high rises had been built with severe deficits, unsafe concrete, unsafe wiring, failure to allow people to evacuate safely in case of an emergency and elevators that barely worked even when brand new.

We particularly laughed at the giant phallic silver building front and center.

The extreme heat and humidity of Doha is hard on even good construction, drying out sealants on the windows (allowing dust and water to penetrate), peeling facades, making buildings a mere twenty years old look dingy and severely weathered. One relatively new building had windows popping out in its first five years.

On a hot night AdventureMan and I would have dinner downtown, often at The Majlis, and then go out to the Corniche and board one of the dhows decorated with strings of Christmas lights for a cooling ride along the coastline, where the breezes would blow and Sleepy Little Doha would sparkle.

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September 23, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Building, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar | 1 Comment

The Unknown Unknowns

Gordon was rolling in and no one knew if it would come as a tropical storm or a hurricane. Trust me, preparing for a hurricane is a lot of work, and we had to make a decision whether or not to put up the window coverings (we did not), to check over our hurricane supplies, like water, batteries, towels, buckets, cat cages, etc, which we did. I even made a big fresh pot of coffee, in case it were a long time before I saw coffee again, I could even drink it cold. AdventureMan cleaned the gutters, brought in outdoor furniture that could blow around, and placed heavier plants strategically so they would damage the house as little as possible if carried by hurricane force winds. Like I said, it is a lot of work.

 

We had wind and rain, lots of wind and sheets of rain, and bangs of thunder, and bangs of electrical conduits exploding, but although the power dimmed, we did not lose power entirely. Our only leaks this storm are in the garage.

The morning dawned; continued windy and rainy and thundery. We decided to go to a nearby Italian restaurant for lunch and had to detour three times before we could get there, twice due to deep pockets of water in the road, too deep to drive through, and once due to a tree down over the road. There are lots of pockets of deep water, and several trees down. We got off easy.

Aarrgh; now for putting all the carpets back down, getting the outdoor furniture back outside and putting the house back in “normal” mode.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Florida, Living Conditions, Survival, Weather | | Leave a comment

Suitcases and a New Adventure

We are off to Seattle, taking our eight year old grandson, no-longer-baby Q, and his almost-five sister, N, for a great adventure. We have been taking them on trips for several years now, but were waiting for N to reach the magic age of cooperation before we endeavored to make a trip of this length.

I’m excited. These are nice kids, and we have a lot of fun together.

“Will we have to be quiet in the hotel room?” asks N, who is very perceptive, and has a great memory. She remembers our hotel rooms in New Orleans, and we have to keep the volume of our wild rumpuses down, and we can’t be making lots of bumps on the floor or walls.

“Yep,” I respond and give her the eye. N is a lot of fun, and loves figures of speech, as we do. Her latest accomplishment is “shooting daggers.” We can pass a lot of time at lunch helping her to shoot daggers with her eyes, and she has come close to mastering that fine art.

We are concerned about baggage. We will each have a bag, and we want to carry them on. AdventureMan and I will have to be paying attention.

Like Goldilocks, I found myself in the position of having bags that were too small or too big, and nothing that was just right, especially now that TSA is so particular about the exact size of carry-on bags. I found one:

It is exactly the right dimensions, and I added the “M” in silver nail polish to distinguish it from all the other black carry-on bags, in case I am required, after all, to check it. Another friend told me to add ribbons, so I will.

It sent me back in memory, however, years and years. Early years, traveling from Alaska, where the plane had a ladies lounge which even had seating, and cosmetics provided. We carried cosmetic cases with us on the planes. Contrast that with the 15″ ports-potties we are forced to use now, even in business class.

As we began our treks back and forth overseas, there was a baggage “limit” of two bags, and I believe there was – technically – a limit of 77 pounds. My sister and I, en route back and forth across the Atlantic to university had HUGE bags, and the kind people at the check-in never batted an eye, just told us other people were under the limit and it would all average out.

Hauling supplies to our overseas posts – things like chocolate chips, shoes for growing children, levis, all the things we couldn’t get in countries like Tunisia and Jordan in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we used huge Land’s End or LL Bean duffels, packed to bursting and strapped with luggage straps. Some held books; books are really heavy.

It wasn’t until we had retired from the military and began government contracts overseas that things changed. Maybe it was 9-11. Partly, for sure, it was an issue with human rights, and bags that were causing disabilities among baggage workers. Partly, too, I believe it was a matter of greed for additional profits among the airlines. More people squeezed in, less room for baggage.

Thus, my modest little carry-on, and the new adventure of rationing space and clothing to last the whole trip.

Each time we travel, AdventureMan and I try to spot the Arabs. It used to be easy. So many people would come to visit the USA, and we could usually spot them based on facial features and body language as well as clothing. Now, we believe there are fewer visitors, and fewer students, and they have learned to fly way under the radar. They look like us. And then again, We Americans came from someplace else, unless we are First Nation, so why shouldn’t our visitors look a lot like us?

At the YMCA there is a new cleaning lady, who says she is from Hungary, but I think maybe Bulgaria or Albania. She doesn’t speak a lot of English, but told me “the Jews took all her money” so she came to the United States. I don’t even know what to say when someone says something like that to me. What if I were Jewish? I’m still pondering how to react. I was friendly to her at the start, but something inside me turned cold when she said that. I don’t want to be anywhere near her, now. I wanted to say “this is America, we don’t say things like that,” but America has changed, has taken a very divisive turn, and we have a leader who does say things like that.

I think it has to do with the political climate, where we are quick to turn on one another, to call names, to point fingers, to assign blame – whether it is true or not. I find it disheartening. I like the safety of building networks, introducing ourselves, knowing we can count on one another for help when needed. Individually, we are all so vulnerable, but when we unite and care for one another, we are strong.

 

August 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Seattle, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel, Values | Leave a comment

The Least of These

 

Today in the Lectionary readings, we come to the Gospel and one of my all time favorite verses and personal life guide. If you claim to follow Jesus, there are some basics. You have to follow the old Jewish traditions of loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself. You have to take care of the poor, the widowed (the single mother), the mentally ill, the children. You have to welcome the stranger, for we were strangers in Egypt.

Our national policies today are taking away medical benefits from our poorest citizens, are rolling back protections against pollution and contamination of air and water and even the foods we eat. The callousness of it all appalls me. Spiritually, we pay a price. As a country, I believe we will survive, but it will take a while to undo the damage that is being done, day by day.

As a cold warrior, I am horrified, but that is not a spiritual thing 🙂

Matthew 25:31-46

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

July 18, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Faith, fraud, Free Speech, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Spiritual, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values | , | Leave a comment

USA: Democracy in Decline

On Sunday, the organist played “America the Beautiful” in a minor key. It reflected what many of us are experiencing. We love our country. We hate what we are seeing.

An excerpt from an article from the Washington Post about declining democracies in the world, this part focused on the USA, land that I love:

 

Democracy declined precipitously in the United States

The United States fell 24 places in the country ranking on liberal democracy over the past two years, from seventh in 2015 to 31st in 2017. When we compare the United States’ score in 2017 with its average score over the past 10 years, the drop is precipitous and unprecedented.


Liberal democracy in the United States: changes from the 10-year average.

Experts lowered their estimates of democracy in the United States because they began to be skeptical that the U.S. Congress will rein in executive overreach. Similarly, experts lost faith that the opposition party can contribute to overseeing, investigating or otherwise checking the majority party. The U.S. executive branch was assessed as showing less respect for the Constitution and compliance with the judiciary, two indicators that the judicial branch can restrain the executive.

For all four indicators, the score for the United States declined. The downward trend in the United States is much worse than in other countries. In terms of government compliance with decisions of the Supreme Court, the United States used to rank among the top countries of the world — but has now declined to No. 48.

I remember living in Kuwait, self-censoring my blog entries so I wouldn’t be expelled from the country, even blogging under a pseudonym. I think of the ICE officer who resigned, and was visited by law enforcement as he gave an interview to national news explaining why he (and others) were quitting ICE, disgusted and disheartened by the un-American practices they were being forced to engage in to export “illegals.” Yes, we still have freedom of speech, but we also look over our shoulders, now, never sure what new low will strike next.

July 5, 2018 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | | Leave a comment

AdventureMan Resists

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AdventureMan is hollering from his office to mine “Can I read you something?”

We all find ways to express our indignation. He writes directly to our president, our representative (he calls him Trump’s butt-boy, to me, not to him), to Pruitt. He tells them, in acceptable language, exactly what he thinks.

“I’d say ( . . . . ), but as a retired army officer, I think I am still subject to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice),” he says, and censors himself so that he is within civil boundaries.

How did we come to this, when our own national leader lies, again and again, even in the same day, and we have come to accept this as “normal?” How can we accept his calling people who are brown, and seeking a safer, better way of life “vermin” and their countries as “s-tholes?” The unthinkable has become our daily reality. It is not only the children, separated from their parents, who are becoming traumatized, it is also normal every-day Americans who believe that the American Dream is for everyone.

I think the American president is afraid of a world in which our nation is more brown than white, which it is well on it’s way to becoming. I think the thought of losing power terrifies him. I can’t imagine any other rational reason for his behavior towards the “other,” the stranger, those he labels as enemies.

So while I am startled when AdventureMan tells me he self-censors, I also understand. The unimaginable had manifested itself daily since this man was elected, and he will stop at no ends to complete his agenda. His cronies and fellow thugs will thrive, while we drink polluted water, and watch oil seep on to our shores from the off-shore drilling. We will watch our public schools fail, and our jails overflow. My heart breaks on a daily basis, watching what we, as a nation, are becoming.

I used to think the ACLU were a bunch of wackos. When the first travel ban went into effect, and we watched the stunned travelers arrive only to be told they must go back, the ACLU had tables in the airports offering free legal services. I sent my first check that night. I DO protest, via RESISTBOT (text Resist to 50409) wondering if my voice even matters. Sending checks to those who are resisting successfully gives me greater satisfaction. Reaching out my hands to “the other” gives me greater satisfaction. Building bridges and connections feeds my feelings of resistance, that together we can make a difference.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Free Speech, Interconnected, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | Leave a comment

Doha, Qatar, in Transition

I didn’t start shooting digital until 2005, so there are two years of Doha documentation I only have in prints; I was shooting film, taking it down to the shop on old Electricity Street, Karabah. I came across these tonight . . . just wish I had been able to find some shots of the old Bandar restaurants, taken down with the modernization of Doha.

What a breathtaking transition. Doha, when we arrived, was still sleepy. There were a few tall buildings in the little capitol, mostly public utilities. The airport parking was free, and the airport itself was tiny. Most people knew one another, and the expat community was small. We were in Doha from 2003 – 2006, and again from 2009 – 2010.

 

When camels still had real riders at the weekly races:

 

 

 

Souq al Waqaf

Parachute Roundabout Comes Down:

 

Making way for the new connector street from old Karaba to Souq al Waqaf:

 

Ramadan finery:

 

 

 

 

Dinner at The Majlis

 

Karabaa Mosque, now gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 6, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Photos, Qatar, Travel | Leave a comment

Ft. Bragg . . . where??? (California)

Most people, when they think of Fort Bragg, think of a military post in North Carolina. The Fort Bragg we discovered several years ago in California has little in common with the North Carolina Fort Bragg.

Our first time in Fort Bragg, as we left Cucina Verona, an Italian restaurant where we had eaten dinner, we were startled by the loud sound of hoofbeats, and the sudden appearance of two riders, galloping hell-bent down the middle of the road in Ft. Bragg. It was one of those adrenaline moments, when you wonder if you really saw what you just thing you saw, followed by all the things that could go wrong when you mix horses, highways, automobiles and high speed.

This time, one of the first things we saw was this sign:

 

But . . . it doesn’t say anything about riding horses, skateboards, or bicycles down the center of the street!

Ft. Bragg has a very laid back vibe. The town is full of couples who look a lot like us, maybe even a little older, maybe a little more hip and less retired military than we look, but relaxed, comfortable in their own skins. We love the vibe. My very favorite activity in Ft. Bragg is at the north end of the town, where they have a place called Glass Beach. Glass beach is where the old town dump used to be, a long time ago, and all the bottles dumped there broke and were washed by the waves, tumbled by the gravel and sand, and became beach glass. Most of what you find is pretty small these days; Glass Beach has been discovered, but if you venture out the the furthest inlets and rocks, you can find some larger pieces, sometimes even a green piece. I found one tiny little blue piece, the grand prize of all beach glass.

We love the North Cliff Hotel, where every room has the same view, looking out over the water at the inlet to the little bay.

We love the hot tub with a view.

 

We love the view. On the morning we were leaving, we looked out and someone had written a huge message on the sand, “Annie will you marry me?” How cool is that?!

Time is flexible in Ft. Bragg. We get up when we want to, we don’t have to drive to any destination, we can be lazy or we can just meander around, which is what we choose to do.

Love this tunnel of eucalyptus trees entering Ft. Bragg from the north:

This yard had no flower but yellow flowers, and a LOT of yellow flowers!

 

 

Just a short drive south is Mendocino, one of the most beautiful little California towns you could hope to find. We were looking for special gifts for two special people, and found them, polished carved natural bay laurel bowls, at this shop.

 

I read a recent article on how California leads the way for the American soul; it gives me hope for the future of our country. California pioneered gay rights, California champions the rights of immigrant children to education and health benefits, and Californians “welcome the stranger,” as all people of the book are supposed to do.

This was in the window of the main grocery/hardware/sundries store in Mendocino. When a woman saw me taking a photo, she asked me why, and I told her, it made me feel welcome and filled my heart with joy to know that it specifically would also make my Arab / Muslim friends feel welcome. She smiled, sternly, and said that they welcome ALL people, that is what California is all about. I was happily chastened. 🙂

 

I want the United States of America to be a safe place for all people. No wonder I love California!

Well, there is another reason to love Ft. Bragg – they have one of the world’s best ice creameries right on the major through street in Ft. Bragg. 

Cowlicks Ice Cream is never not busy. On our first trip (we went twice in one day!) I had a scoop of ginger ice cream. It was a huge WOW. On the next trip, I had a chocolate which was really chocolaty, but I wished I had another scoop of ginger.

As we sat, eating our ice cream, I overheard a stylish but somewhat-frail looking 80’ish woman tell her daughter that she didn’t want to be bothered being married again, she was just looking to have a little fun without the complications of a relationship. Such is life in Ft. Bragg. 🙂

 

June 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Martyrs of Sudan

Today the church remembers the martyrs of Sudan.

I have met one, personally, a wonderful journalist in the Sudan, who told us his story one December, just before Christmas. I have never forgotten him; we are still friends on FaceBook. He spent mot of his youth running from those attacking his village. As a child, sometimes he would be separated from his family for months. Although a treaty has been signed, the persecution continues in South Sudan, as even heavily pregnant women have to run for the swamps, or the nearest border, when the lawless janjaweed attack. South Sudan has oil.

 

The Christian bishops, chiefs, commanders, clergy and people of Sudan declared, on May 16, 1983, that they would not abandon God as God had revealed himself to them under threat of Shariah Law imposed by the fundamentalist Islamic government in Khartoum. Until a peace treaty was signed on January 9, 2005, the Episcopal Church of the Province of the Sudan suffered from persecution and devastation through twenty-two years of civil war. Two and a half million people were killed, half of whom were members of this church. Many clergy and lay leaders were singled out because of their religious leadership in their communities. No buildings, including churches and schools, are left standing in an area the size of Alaska.

Four million people are internally displaced, and a million are scattered around Africa and beyond in the Sudanese Diaspora. Twenty-two of the twenty-four dioceses exist in exile in Uganda or Kenya, and the majority of the clergy are unpaid. Only 5% of the population of Southern Sudan was Christian in 1983. Today over 85% of that region of six million is now mostly Episcopalian or Roman Catholic. A faith rooted deeply in the mercy of God has renewed their spirits through out the years of strife and sorrow.

(From the Lectionary, Martyrs of Sudan, for May 16, 2018)

This is the prayer for the Martyrs of Sudan:

O God, steadfast in the midst of persecution, by your providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: As the martyrs of the Sudan refused to abandon Christ even in the face of torture and death, and so by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest, may we, too, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

May 16, 2018 Posted by | Africa, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, South Sudan, Sudan | Leave a comment

O’Yeah, Tasty; First Meal in Seattle

A month ago I was in Seattle when my 94 year old mother suddenly came down with influenza and was hospitalized for 13 days, drifting into pneumonia twice, and suffering several small strokes. It was a difficult time, and as I was running errands for her one day, I passed a new Chinese restaurant near the hospital, O’Yeah Tasty, Szechuan cooking.

Szechuan. Near Edmonds Community College. Hope springs eternal, maybe I can get some really good Chinese food in the midst of all this emotional chaos!

(When we were moving to Pensacola several years ago, our son sat us down, looked at us very seriously and told us he had something to tell us we weren’t going to like. With a long face he stated “You need to know that there is not a GOOD Chinese restaurant in Pensacola.” We searched. We tried them all. Most were sort of Americanized Chinese, none had the good strong flavors we had become used to overseas. Longing for GOOD Chinese food is something we have grown used to experiencing.)

I had something called Mongolian Delights, recommended from the Chef’s specials by the cashier/order taker. It was fabulous, and the Hot and Sour soup I had with it was really HOT. When I told my sister on the phone where I was, she said Mom wanted some Hot and Sour soup, so I took some to her, and she ate it, claiming it was delicious. It was just about the only thing she ate that day.  A day or two later, I ordered an old favorite, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken, and I almost cried when it arrived, it was so totally TASTY, so close to what I remembered from the Taiwan Tourismo in Amman, Jordan back in the day.

So when AdventureMan and I arrived in Seattle, at lunch time (our delicious breakfast from The Courtyard had finally worn off) we headed straight for O’Yeah Tasty.

We ordered fried egg rolls, and AdventureMan ordered the Seafood Three Delights, and I ordered my all time favorite Chong Qing Spicy Chicken.

 

 

And the dish that makes me cry, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken:

 

As we ate, the restaurant filled with Chinese students from the nearby college. We got to see what they were eating, even as we enjoyed our own food. There was so much food, we packed it up and took it with us to put in our hotel room refrigerator and have later for dinner.

This is how much I love this food: when we were talking with my mother who, by the grace of God is greatly improved, and improving more every day, she said she was able to go out for dinner this very night. A part of me ALMOST said “how about tomorrow night?” because I love that Chong Qing Spicy Chicken so much, but fortunately I love my mother more and the thought was just for an instant; we quickly made plans to take my mother to an Italian restaurant she loves this night and to have our treasured left-overs for dinner tomorrow.

If you are ever in Edmonds looking for spirited and authentic Szechuan cooking, hurry to O’Yeah, Tasty.

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment