Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“They’ve Got a Bit of Swagger Now”

I am sitting and drinking coffee with my friend who comes in and helps me keep my house clean, and we are sipping silently, still stunned by the unexpected win of Donald Trump.

 

“We have more police rolling through my neighborhood now,” she begins, and then takes it in a direction I never anticipated, “They have their windows half down, so we can see them, see their faces, and they look at us and they don’t smile.”

I take that in.

 

“Sort of like ‘I’ve got my eye on you?’ ” I ask.

 

“Sort of like ‘We OWN you now’ ‘, she responded. “They’ve got a bit of swagger now.”

 

She owns her own house. She works several jobs to keep her youngest son in a good Christian private school. Her children, some grown, are solid members of their communities, good sons, good daughters. It’s up to her to put food on the table, pay the property taxes, and keep up with all of life’s normal expenses. She works really hard.

 

“What do you worry about the most?” I ask her.

 

“I’m trying to figure our what I am going to do about health care,” she responds. “You know that’s the first thing that is going to go away.”

 

Health care. One of the most basic needs for all people. Blood pressure medication. Emergency care. I remember. I saw it all when I worked with the homeless and working poor; medical care was often sacrificed in the interest of more immediate needs, like keeping the car running so you could get to your job.

 

I wanted to ask if she worried about her son, 6 feet tall and 12 years old – and African American. I didn’t ask. She really told me that when she started talking about the police rolling through her neighborhood, staring. Yes, she worries. He’s a good boy, and if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it doesn’t matter.

 

We are comfortable in our silences, but she breaks the silence, as if she read my mind, and says “You know who I worry about? I worry about all the gays and trans-gender people, now. Will they roll back the gay marriage laws? Will the transgender people not be protected?”

 

I think of the celebration, just over a year ago, when gay rights were guaranteed. I think of Roe v Wade, when our reproductive rights became our own private concern. I think of the movement towards enhanced training for police forces, so that the innocent won’t be killed in a moment of fear perceived confrontation. I think of all we have to lose. There are no answers; we are going to have a tough time ahead.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Abortion Online

First, I need to tell you that I believe abortion is wrong. I believe the death penalty is wrong. Because I am a believer, I believe our lives are in God’s hands.

And.

And I also believe that every woman who faces an unwanted pregnancy has to make that decision for herself. It is not for me to decide how YOU live your life. There are circumstances when even a believer has to make a difficult decision, like a soldier facing killing on the battlefield, or a president with his finger on the nuclear trigger. People have to make unhappy decisions.

Here is an organization that gives women those options:

Abortion Without Borders


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When RA1 found out she was pregnant, she had two options: Have a baby she did not want or risk her life and face prison. 

RA, who was born and raised in Dubai, lives with her husband and two children in Egypt, where abortion is illegal, except to save a woman’s life. Women who voluntarily induce abortions face criminal charges and up to three years in prison.

“I already had a girl and a boy, so the best of both worlds,” says RA. “It’s not easy raising kids in Egypt — financially, culturally and psychologically — and I didn’t want another baby.”

RA found doctors who could help, but they either advised against abortion, insisted on surgery or were illegal “under the staircase” doctors — notorious for abusing their power over women

Instead, she scoured the internet for alternatives and found articles discussing the use of methotrexate, normally used to abort pregnancies that occur outside of the womb, a complication known as an ectopic pregnancy.

RA’s pregnancy was healthy, but out of desperation, she took the methotrexate.

“It was a huge risk, but I felt so helpless, like I couldn’t even control my own body,” she says. “I cried for days. I hated the situation I was in.” 

The methotrexate failed. RA went back to the internet in search of help. Eventually, she came across Women on Web, an online-only abortion service that conducts free web-based medical consultations and mails eligible women pills for medical abortions. It saved her life.

Since it was founded by Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts in 2005, more than 200,000 women from 140 countries have completed Women on Web’s online consultation, and approximately 50,000 women have performed medical abortions at home. Women on Web’s helpdesk answers 10,000 emails daily in 17 languages, and the website attracts almost one million unique monthly visitors.

But before Women on Web became a safe harbor, it was a rogue vessel on the open ocean.

(This is a long informative article. You can read the whole article HERE.)

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pakistan, Political Issues, Privacy, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , | 4 Comments

Doris Duke’s Shangri-La

Months in advance, my friend said “You’ll really want to see Shangri-La,” and I had never heard of it, but I looked online, and it looked beautiful. Doris Duke, one of the richest women ever to live, could buy anything she wanted. She had a good eye for art, good timing, and she bought much of what is in Shangri-La and her other residences at bargain prices after WWII. The value of her art holdings increased dramatically, and she ended up with an even bigger fortune than that with which she started.

How do I know? I am in the middle of my third book, reading about Doris Duke. The books are pretty bad. Each author seems to have an axe to grind, and one author took very little information and used it to speculate endlessly, full of gossip and mean-spirit. Altogether, Duke does not come off as a very kind person, but who can say which version of this very private person is the “real” Doris Duke?

To visit Shangri-La, you must go through the Honolulu Museum of Art. They have an online reservation system – the next two weeks are already fully booked. My friend booked months in advance so that we could attend. We got to the Museum, found a good parking place, entered the museum, receiving a lapel sticker and a wristband which later allowed us to visit the museum for as long as we liked.

We boarded a bus and watched a very romanticized movie about the life of Doris Duke, and then we were there! We were warned we could take no photos inside. What a pity! The interiors are magnificent, all marble, and tiles, gorgeous woodwork, and all kinds of Islamic Art that looks like it would go well in the Qatar Museum of Islamic Art. I couldn’t help but wonder if the newly rich aren’t trying to buy some of their cultural objects back?

 

 

HonoluluMuseumOfArt

 

Our guide ushered us into a beautiful entry, with meshribiyya and tiles and beautiful light fixtures inside. I wish I could show you.

EntranceShangri-La

 

About half way through the tour, we had a break on a terrace from which we had this spectacular view. I read in one of the books that Duke built this rock harbor without asking permission from the Hawaii government, just did it. It is lovely. The terrace also has gorgeous Persian tiles, the interior tiles are Persian and Iznik.

 

ShangriLaViewtoFront

 

After visiting the Damascus Room and the Syrian Room and the Mogul Room, we visited Doris Duke’s bedroom, bare but for a couple couches. Then, out to the gardens.

DDGarden

 

We were allowed to take photos in the gardens 🙂

 

DDGarden2

 

This is a tree at the entry to the house; the tree sends down those shoots that form new roots and new trees. It is magnificent!

 

DDTreeEntrance

 

After our visit to Shangri-La, we returned to the Honolulu Museum of Art, and had lunch. This is the market salad with salmon – Yumm.

MarketSaladWSalmon

 

As we lunched, a character went around taking selfies. I think this is a performance artist, and I think it may have been a guy.

PerformanceArt

 

Being three very independent kind of folk, we split up to see what we wanted to see at the museum. There was a special temporary exhibit on Japanese street fashion which I found fascinating. I loved some of these street fashions, which strike me as very imaginative. When I got to the Lolita section, however, little girl dresses for grown women, I found it too creepy and strange to photograph.

JapaneseFashion

 

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JapaneseFashion3

 

JFashion4

 

There is a section on Islamic Art with beautiful tiles and examples of several genres of art objects.

IslamicTiles

 

Out on one of the patios, I found this screen which reminded me of a very modern sort of tree-of-life.

TreeOfLife

 

Altogether, a grand day. My friend was right – we really enjoyed seeing this.

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Character, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Gardens, Living Conditions, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues | , , | 1 Comment

1984, A Question of Irony, and a Brief Discussion of Privacy

From yesterday’s USA Today, a very brief article in the USA Round Up:

 

Alaska: Fairbanks

The number of security cameras in Alaska schools is going up. The Fairbanks Daily News-Mirror reported video cameras are being installed in Fairbanks middle and elementary schools and it’s part of a statewide trend aimed at making schools safer.

 

As I raised our son, I was – well, most of the time – an attentive parent. I would listen, and when necessary, I would correct. It’s a mother’s job to help her children navigate the pitfalls of life, and to have a tool-box full of resources with which to cope.

 

Perhaps I did my job too well. Our son became a lawyer, and he is very particular about the things I say, especially when I use a term incorrectly, such as irony.

Here is what Wikipedia says irony is:

event characterized by an incongruity, or contrast, between what the expectations of a situation are and what is really the case, with a third element, that defines that what is really the case is ironic because of the situation that led to it.

 

I am about to use the term “irony” correctly. 🙂

 

ffdffs

 

When I read the above article, I remembered the horror of Orwell’s 1984, the book, and then the movie. The movie was terrifying, the presence of cameras everywhere, hidden, not hidden, just knowing they were everywhere and everything you did could be monitored.

The irony comes in that here we are, with cameras everywhere, and we are glad for it. The irony is that our society has slipped so far from its ideal that we cannot trust our neighbor to behave him or herself, and we protect ourself by placing cameras so as to encourage people to behave.

 

I am not so sure that our moral codes have ever worked well; I think it seems to be the nature of humanity to claim a moral code, but not to adhere strictly to it. I think of people who talk about the safety of the ’50’s, but I don’t believe that safety was truly that safe. I think children disappeared. I think wives were beaten, women raped. I think robberies and assaults happened, and I think the law was more lax than it is today.

 

But it is an irony, IMHO, that we welcome cameras today as a low-cost policing of ourselves, our neighbors, and those we fear will hurt us or take our property. We trust ourselves and one another so little that we are increasingly installing cameras. We’ve been considering installing them through our home security company; we have motion detectors, cameras are just the next upgrade. Have we exchanged a high value on privacy for a heightened perceived need for protection of life and property?

September 25, 2014 Posted by | Books, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, Family Issues, GoogleEarth, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Technical Issue | 4 Comments

No Expectation of Privacy as Qatar Installs Closed Circuit TV EVERYWHERE

This kind of gives me the shivers. I guess it is supposed to make everyone safer, but it feels so intrusive. It may be a generational thing; my understanding is that people today have lower expectations of privacy . . . I wonder how their upkeep will be; sand and humidity being hard on security cameras, not to mention deliberate interference with their use?

Qatar steps up enforcement of CCTV surveillance law

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CCTV

With reporting from Ankita Menon

Qatar’s Ministry of Interior is apparently stepping up enforcement of a law that requires businesses around the country to install closed-circuit camera surveillance on their premises.

Law No. 9 of 2011 mandates that surveillance cameras be installed in residential compounds, hospitals, malls, banks, hotels, warehouses and other locations, and is enforced by the MOI’s Security Systems Department (SSD).

The SSD was not immediately available for comment, but Qatar Tribune reports that the MOI has recently made the widespread installation of these cameras a priority.

Speaking to Doha News, a staffer at Lulu Hypermarket on D-Ring said that the store was previously told to install CCTV in its parking lot, but has now been asked to increase the number of cameras to cover the entire parking area.

Meanwhile, an employee at Lulu Gharafa said they are still in the process of installing some 300 ministry-approved cameras, following an instruction from last year. When asked why the extra surveillance was needed, he said it could help aid police investigations into incidents such as thefts from vehicles.

Additionally, the Peninsula reports the owner of a jewelry shop in the Gold Souq as saying:

“This year when I went for company registration renewal was asked of CCTV cameras are installed. Also inspectors are supposed to come to our shops and inspect if the surveillance cameras are functioning properly.

There are only very few places from which we should buy the CCTV cameras, they are very expensive and it cost me more than QR60,000 to purchase and fix the surveillance system,” he added.

However, City Center mall’s director told Doha News that though the SSD consistently comes to inspect the surveillance system, there have been no new requests for additional cameras in the past few months.

Requirements

A law governing the use of CCTV surveillance was passed in 2011. According to the legislation:

  • Businesses must have a control room and operate surveillance 24/7;
  • Recordings must be kept for 120 days, and cannot be altered before being handed over to competent government departments upon request;
  • Recording is prohibited in bedrooms, patient rooms, toilets and changing rooms for women; and
  • Those who violate the law could face up to three years in jail and fines of QR50,000, as well as the suspension or cancellation of their business license.

Last year, the law was brought back into the spotlight when the Supreme Council of Health reminded healthcare facilities to comply with the legislation and install cameras within three months, or face the loss of their business licenses.

 

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Doha, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Law and Order, Privacy, Qatar, Transparency, Travel | 2 Comments

Blinded by the Light . . .

Yesterday I had my annual eye exam. This is the South. I could hear them all talking in the back, talking about personal things, and OTHER PEOPLE! I used to run a library, and one of the very very first things I would tell my library workers was NO PERSONAL CONVERSATIONS when we had the library open. Keep your private life private! I’m not all about the library being quiet, but I am about it being not-annoying. Hearing gossip, hearing details of your last medical procedure, hearing about Maizie, bless her heart, who just lost another husband – these things are not my business, nor the library customer and are not appropriate for a discussion where the public may be listening in, even when they don’t want to be.

OK, OK, I know these are dated professional standards, but I can’t help it. Please. Do not burden me with overhearing your latest disaster unless we are friends and sitting down together over a cup of coffee.

At 30 minutes past my appointment time, I went back to see if my paperwork had been misplaced only to be told they were just a little behind and I would be taken soon. Fifteen minutes later I was in the office.

Now, when they dilate your eyes, you can still drive yourself home. It was a little bright, but I managed. Things are a little blurry.

Fast forward to last night, driving home, WOW. Every streetlight, every headlight, even the beautiful thin crescent moon had a spiky halo. It was like I had that sparkle lens you can put on your camera, only this was on my eyes.

starry-night

This morning when I got up, I thought it would be all over, but my eyes are still dilated, and still sensitive. They must have given me a wallop of a dose.

But for the drive home, it was all Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds . . . it was so incredibly beautiful, it felt sort of surreal.

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April 4, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Privacy, Rants | , | Leave a comment

Taxes and Credit Cards

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I am not superstitious, yet I felt a little shudder when my Lucky Bamboo suddenly just died, and then on Chinese New Year’s, I shuddered again when I saw that my cookie, still in its little plastic shroud, was smooshed, not just broken a little, but broken a lot. (It turned out to be a good fortune.)

Things happen; as I said I am not superstitious. I’m a believer; I believe these things are in God’s hands.

So this week we were playing catch-up, and AdventureMan gathered all the materials for our taxes. He had a few extra minutes before our tax appointment, and made a phone call trying to straighten out a charge we had that was supposed to be removed, and we did not see that it had. While the customer service agent (who was really very good) was running through the list of charges, and I was saying “Yes.” “Yes” “Yes” she started running through a list of credits and I was saying “No, there is only a credit for X” and she is reading off a list that . . . is growing.

And then she says “I need to talk to a supervisor; I will be right back” and comes back very shortly and says there is some suspicious activity on my card and the bank will be sending us new cards immediately.

Just in time, because we have to go to the tax meeting. That meeting went well, except that there were a couple pieces of information our tax person needed and I knew I could get for her, so I would call her before the end of the day.

When I got home, I went to the file where I found two of the missing pieces of information, but not the third. I knew I could find it in my August credit card statement, but it was the only one I couldn’t locate.

Went online so I could download and print, but . . . there were only four months there. Call to the credit card company again, transfer to IT who says that once that card is cancelled, they can no longer “see” the information online, but that they can send me a copy. Yes, yes, good for documentation, but that doesn’t help me with the exact amount I need to provide to my tax lady. Aargh.

It wasn’t a big deal. AdventureMan tracks things through the year and the pieces of information are long-run things, not immediate tax things, but . . . all this happening on the same day.

“It’s a good thing I have my back-up card,” I say to AdventureMan, reminding him of a card I got for just these circumstances (yes, I charged ONE item during the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas at Target, ONE item) so I always have back-up, as well as in case a hurricane hits our house and we have to live in a hotel while our home is rebuilt, yes, I am a planner . . .

And AdventureMan turns white. “Oh no,” he said, ruminatively, “I couldn’t figure out why we had that one, so I cancelled it yesterday . . . ” and then he got on the phone to straighten it out. LOL, a lot of small stuff, all of which ended well, but I couldn’t help thinking maybe I need to get better at growing Lucky Bamboo . . . all these dribbles had to do with money.

My Chinese friend just laughed when we talked today; I had told her I didn’t notify my bank about the Target charge because I figured with 12.5 million people affected, I was just a drop in the bucket. I’ve had this happen now four times, and I was tired of re-doing my automatic charges.

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“Oh!” she laughed, “You think it’s like the lottery, that you only had one chance in 12.5 million,” and she is laughing like a crazy woman – at me. Yeh. She’s right. Sometimes,it’s better to bite that bullet right at the beginning, before things get worse.

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Privacy | , , | Leave a comment

“I Make Three Times What She Makes and She Wants To Talk About Chore Charts?!”

The man in the next booth was pushing all my buttons. The truth is, we don’t want to hear about his personal life. I don’t want to hear about anyone’s personal lives unless it is me and one of my oldest bestest friends, and we keep our voices down. Private lives are PRIVATE!

He is talking with someone, maybe his co-worker, and his entire monologue is about his failing relationship with his wife. I really don’t want to hear this.

And then he says “I make three times what she makes, and she wants to talk about chore charts???” and please, I need a pat on the back, I didn’t say anything, I didn’t get up and clock him, I didn’t even blink. AdventureMan laughed, he knew I was choking mad on the inside.

It doesn’t matter what you make, big man. If you are both working, you share the household chores. You both live there. You clean up your own mess, you pick up your own dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket. You rinse your own dishes. You change the baby, you drive your son to his soccer game. It’s called teamwork.

Sure, I totally get division of labor. What I don’t get is this attitude of entitlement; like the fifties are long gone and we all work and we all share the duties of home and children and making it all work out at the end of the day. It’s never giving 50% – 50% – It’s always giving at least 75% – 75%.

We call it the Well of Good Will. If we were perfect people we wouldn’t need it, but we are people who screw up. We need mercy. We need forgiveness. So you give a little extra every day and hope that on a day when you fall short, there is enough on deposit in the well of good will that you can get a pass on your shortcomings for today.

If you are having a problem with your primary relationship, have a straight talk with that person. It doesn’t do any good to bad-mouth your spouse to a co-worker, and it certainly is not amusing to those of us forced to overhear. Ugh.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Family Issues, Marriage, Pet Peeves, Privacy, Rants, Relationships, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Driftwood Inn, Homer, Room 26 and Cabin

Homer greets us with a beautiful sunrise over the beach, and we can’t wait to get started.

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This was such a lovely place to spend some time. It didn’t hurt that from the time we left Kodiak, the weather has been gorgeous. Gorgeous is not something you can count on in Alaska. It was nice having a break from the boat, being on our own to explore, and having such a beautiful view to write notes while I did the laundry.

What was so totally cool is that while you do have to pay for the washer and the dryer, and I don’t mind that, it’s only fair, the management provides a big jar of detergent.

Have you ever been traveling and wanted to do laundry only to realize you needed to go buy some detergent, or to have change to use those machines that distribute detergent, but sometimes don’t work when you need them to? What an annoyance! I so appreciated their providing detergent; it may seem like a small thing, but it made doing the laundry so easy.

Cold country dressing is so totally different from warm weather dressing. In warm weather, you really have to do a lot more laundry, sweat makes clothes need washing more often. In cold weather, unless it is rainy, you can end up wearing the same outer clothes multiple times before they need washing. Most of what we needed to wash was socks and underwear, but also my favorite jeans and t-shirts. I had others, but you know how it is, you have your favorites 🙂

Our room, #26 upstairs in a cabin separate from the Driftwood Inn but a part of it.
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View from balcony:
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Living and reading room
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noticeboard prompting us to look for resident eagle
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Stairway going up to our room (note antlers!)
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Washer and dryer – and detergent!
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view from downstairs
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full kitchen area and dining available for use
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As promised, eagle on turret 🙂
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Eagle totally unfazed by our photo-taking 🙂
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September 7, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Hotels, Living Conditions, Privacy, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Get a Clue, Filner!

“Oh, I’m so repentant, I’ll go to rehab for two weeks and never harass another woman again” LLLOOOLLLL. Puhhhh-leeeeeez, Mayor Finer, give it up. Go. Let someone younger, more enlighted . . . oh wait . . . Weiner . . . well, just go.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (D) said he won’t resign because of sexual harassment allegations made against him, but he does plan to attend a rehab center for 2 weeks.

Filner announced his plans in a press conference on Friday, apologizing for his actions.

“Beginning on August 5, I will be entering a behavior counseling clinic to undergo 2 weeks of intensive therapy,” Filner said.

“The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong,” Filner said during the press conference. “I apologize to my staff, I apologize to the citizens and staff members who have supported me over the years, I apologize to the people of San Diego, and most of all, I apologize to the women I have offended.”

Several women have made sexual harassment allegations against Filner in recent weeks. The city’s former chief operating officer Veronica “Ronne” Froman claimed Filner once blocked a doorway, ran a finger up her cheek and asked if she had a man in her life, and the mayor’s former press secretary Irene McCormack Jackson said Filner once asked her to “get naked” and kiss him.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department set up a hotline for those who have information about alleged sexual harassment by Filner.

Both the Democratic Party of San Diego and Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) have called on Filner to resign. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said Filner needs to “get a clue.”

On Thursday, Filner was removed as the keynote speaker at an event on military sexual assault.

This story is developing and has been updated.

July 26, 2013 Posted by | Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Privacy, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment