Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Three Years to Defeat Al Qaeda

I wish he wouldn’t say things like that. Robert Mueller told  BBC News that he thinks we will see the end of Al Qaeda in three years.

To me, that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It’s a dare. I wish he would just go about defeating Al Qaeda in three years, and not talk about it until it’s done. Maybe it is superstitious; I prefer action to talk. When you talk about defeating someone, you might just be setting yourself up to eat humble pie.


The head of the FBI has said he believes the West can achieve victory over al-Qaeda within three-and-a-half years.

Robert Mueller described how his organisation is working closely with British intelligence to confront ever-more-complex plots.

Flanked by broad-shouldered security men with tell-tale bulges beneath their suits, the director of the FBI gave a rare public address in London.

As head of one of 16 US intelligence agencies, Mr Mueller is at the forefront of preventing a repeat of the September 11 attacks.

It was a task, he said, which could not be done without strategic partnerships with allies like Britain.

You can read the entire article HERE.

April 8, 2008 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, ExPat Life, Morocco, News, Pakistan, Political Issues, Social Issues, Words | 4 Comments

Emergency Service in Kuwait

I had an emergency. Now YOU may not consider it an emergency, but I have a piece of equipment, and I have a major project and a deadline, and to meet that deadline, I need that piece of equipment. And, of course, that piece of equipment began to fail me.

Not to worry. I had heard of a place in Kuwait that could fix my machine. I had that pit in the stomach feeling, like “why didn’t I do some homework and find this place before my machine needed fixing. . . ” Do you ever say things like that to yourself?

And of course, because I was desperate, when I would go into stores and ask if they knew where this place was, I was told, over and over, there was no such place.

Until one brave young Pakistani guy contradicted his employer and told me where he thought the place might be. Because of one way streets, and a convoluted traffic pattern, it took me several more passes before I spotted the place – which fortunately had one very small sign in English, as I can’t read Arabic very quickly, I still have to sound out all the letters until it sounds like a word I know. Like I am really good at “sharia” being street, but not very good at things I don’t see all the time.

And, by the grace of God, not only do I see the store, but there is – and this is truly a miracle – a decent parking spot fairly close to the shop. Thanks be to God.

I went into the shop, and there is another woman there, with her machine. I tell the man behind the counter that I have a small emergency. He doesn’t understand me, but he understands my tone, and sends a man to help bring in my machine.

It’s like the stand-off at the OK Corral. She looks at my machine, evaluating whether her’s is better, or mine. Seconds tick by, and she smiles, and the crisis is averted. She tells the man she will be back for her machine, which he sets aside to take a look at mine.

My machine is one of those simple machines, you are supposed to be able to do almost everything yourself. He does everything I have already done, and sits back, stumped. We both know what the problem is, and I know he can’t fix it. He calls a friend. He orders tea. We sit and talk as customers come in and out, checking on their machines, asking prices on new machines. We are speaking in Arabic, a language we both speak badly, so conversation often lulls. I’m not sure his friend is coming.

Finally, I pack up my machine, and of course, as soon as I get ready to leave, the friend arrives, and we need to unpack it again. Ten minutes, and my machine is good as new. He tells me what the replacement part would cost in Kuwait (if he hadn’t been able to fix it) and I gasp in horror – I will have to look for a replacement part this summer, back in the US, because I have checked online and yes, they are expensive, but cost about the same in dollars as it would in KD – i.e. $49 vs KD 40. Aaarrgh.

I’ve spent two hours sitting and drinking tea in a shop that is sort of air conditioned, but the door was always open. I am hot, and sweaty, but my machine is fixed, at least enough that I can work on my project.

This is not the way it would happen in the United States. In the United States, I might get some sympathy, but I would not get same day service. I would have to leave my machine, I would have to be served in order, and I would not get my machine back until it were fixed, if it were fixed – people are not so good at fixing old things in the United States, you have to be really lucky. Mostly, when machines break, you buy a new one.

So I am feeling really lucky, really lucky, really blessed, to have had my machine emergency in Kuwait, where things are done differently, and my machine could be fixed on am emergency basis, while I waited.

P.S. The man who fixed my machine earns KD 80 a month – $280 for my US readers.

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pakistan, Relationships, Social Issues, Technical Issue, Tools | 9 Comments

Women in Pakistan

Last but not least from today’s Kuwait Times are two articles from recent news in Pakistan, both involving women and the men who (seem to) own them:

Police Seek Pakistanis Pressing Woman to Hand Over Her Daughter

Karachi: Police are seeking ten men, including several tribal elders, accused of pressuring a Pakistani woman to hand over her teenage daughter as payment for a 16 year old poker debt, officials said yesterday.

In the latest case highlighting how conservative customs threaten women’s rights in Pakistan, Nooran Umrani alleges that despite paying off her late husband’s debt of 10,000 Pakistani rupees, she was threatened with harm if she failed to hand over her daughter, Rasheeda. The 17 year old was to be surrendered as a bride for the son of Lal Haider, the man who won the card game years before, Umrani told reporters . . . Police said yesterday that the mother and daughter were in their protection and that an investigation was opened against Haider, his son, and eight others. . .

Nooran said her husband was a gambler who ran up the debt at a poker game when Rasheeda was 1 year old. He promised Haider that he would get Rasheeda in lieu of payment when she grew up, Nooran said. . . .

President General Pervez Musharraf has vowed to give women more rights in line with his policy to project Pakistan as a moderate, progressive Islamic nation. In December, Musharraf signed into law a bill that makes it easier to prosecute rape cases in the courts, and the country’s ruling party recently introduced a bill to outlaw forced marriages, including under tribal custom in which woman are married off in order to settle disputes.

My comment: The debt was paid. And what was the father thinking?? giving away his daughter to cover his debts? I can’t wrap my mind around it.

Pakistani Sells Wife’s Kidney to Buy Tractor

Karachi: Pakistani police have arrested two men after a village woman complained that her husband and relatives had sold one of her kidneys in order to buy a tractor, police said yesterday. Although her kidney had been removed 18 months earlier, the woman named Safia only learnt it was missing after seeking treatment for a urinary tract problem in January. “She had said she was three months pregnant when her husband, Shakeel Ahmed beat her and then took her to the hospital for treatment,” said Mohammad Akram, duty officer at Noushera Jadeed police station in Punjab province. “But at the hospital, her husband, in connivance with three other people, sold her kidney to buy the tractor,” he said. Unlike many other parts of the world, including neighboring India, there is no law in Pakistan banning the trade in organs. Poverty-ridden Pakistanis living in rural areas sell their kidneys to pay off debts or raise money for their families. Sick but wealthy Pakistanis, and foreigners from the Gulf, Britain and Canada flock to private hospitals in Pakistan for kidney transplants, made possible by these donors.

My comment: Seems his wife is just another revenue-raising resource to Shakeel Ahmed. If asked, she might have even agreed, but it would be nice to be asked, not to discover it 18 months later. The news article says he was arrested. I wonder if he committed a crime under Pakistani law?

February 28, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Crime, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Generational, Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions, News, Pakistan, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment