Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Yes Ma’am, That Was For a Bus Ticket to Mexico”

“We see it all the time.”

As long as we lived overseas, AdventureMan and I never had a problem with our credit cards. I used ATM’s all over Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to make cash withdrawals when I needed what my Mom calls “jingle money,” you know, walking-around money for lunch out, for fabrics in the souks, for whatever we needed cash for. It was easy, and it must have been safe. We never once had a problem.

 

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Now, we’ve had to change our numbers several times.

This one was particularly odd, though. I got a second notice on a card I call my “hurricane” card. When you live in Florida, massive calamity can happen literally overnight. You may have to suddenly evacuate to a strange city and need funds for emergency housing, and housing the pets. No running to the bank for a withdrawal when an area has been destroyed by a tornado; it can take months for infrastructure to be back up and running normally.

The charge was made just after we returned from traveling, so my first instinct was to check my wallet, and the card was not there. Oddly, while it was my account, it was AdventureMan’s card, which has a different number. He assures me he never made the change. I believe him; I find both cards safely tucked away, unused, in a safe place.

I call the bank. I explain that we had been traveling, but neither of us think we made this charge, the only charge on this card, the card we not only never use, but don’t even keep in our wallets. The bank lady takes a look and laughs and says “Oh yes. That was a bus ticket to Mexico. We’ve seen that before.”

Long story short, this kind of fraud has become so routine that they have routine practices that go immediately into effect to protect us, to protect their other customers and to restore our hurricane card.

But when she said it was for a bus ticket to Mexico, I burst out laughing, and all my anxiety disappeared in a heartbeat. No. I did not charge a bus ticket to Mexico, and neither did AdventureMan.

It’s just so odd, to me. These are cards that have never even been in our wallets. They never leave their safe place. How was someone able to use them?

December 8, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Crime, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, fraud, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Scams, Survival, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

To Have Diplomatic Immunity, You Actually Need Diplomatic Credentials

Not only did Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Thani rent this house before he fled the USA fearing arrest for reckless driving, but now Saudi Prince Majed Abdelaziz Al-Saud rents the same house and is arrested after forcing some young woman to have oral sex. She was seen escaping the house and crawling over the wall to get away. Sorry guys. You may get away with these things in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but not in the USA. And it’s just embarrassing to claim diplomatic immunity when it’s so easy to prove you have none. We have to play by your rules when we live in your country. It’s called being a good guest. Please pay us the same courtesy. It’s our country.

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From today’s AOL News/Fox News:

A Saudi prince was arrested Wednesday at a compound near Beverly Hills in connection with an alleged sex crime after a bleeding woman was seen trying to flee the grounds.

Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested on suspicion of forced oral copulation of an adult, according to the Los Angeles Times. Police were called to the gated compound after a caretaker at the home reported the disturbance. The Times, citing jail records, reports Al-Saud was freed on $300,000 bail Thursday afternoon. LAPD officer Drake Madison told the newspaper the suspect was booked after 4 p.m.

Capt. Tina Nieto said the police department has a consul liaison that checks with foreign nations’ consulates regarding a certain person’s diplomatic immunity. Nieto said Al-Saud doesn’t have immunity in this case.

Tennyson Collins, a neighbor, told the Times he saw a bleeding woman trying to scale the property’s 8-foot wall on Wednesday. When Collins returned home from work, police followed his car through the gates and then onto the property. He said officers escorted about 20 people out of the compound, most of them staff members.

Police said Al-Saud was renting the home, which Zillow values at $37 million. Collins said different foreign nationals have been renting out the home for weeks at a time over the past year.

Earlier this month, a Qatari prince, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Thani, was videotaped racing a yellow Ferrari through Beverly Hills at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, blowing through stop signs and frightening residents. Al Thani later denied driving recklessly and claimed he had diplomatic immunity, Beverly Hills police said. Authorities consulted with the State Department and the Qatar consulate and determined he did not have diplomatic immunity, police Chief Dominick Rivetti said during a Sept. 17 news conference.

Al Thani reportedly flew back to Qatar before he could be arrested.

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Humor, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

As Others See Us . . .

“Oh that the wee wee giftie gi’e us, to see ourselves as others see us,” goes an old Scottish proverb which has haunted me my many years of living overseas.

This recent visit by our Saudi friends was one of those times, and yesterday as I was doing laundry, I thought of all the particular ways we do things, and why, and thought about how very difficult it is to be a house guest in a strange culture because on top of the profound cultural differences, there are also family cultures.

I remember visiting my parents, as an adult, and my mother carefully explaining how they do things, and why, and we would try very carefully to do what they were doing, but I often felt I was failing in some unknown way, to meet the standards.

Like us, when we do laundry, I have three drying racks, and I use my dryer only a few minutes with some of AdventureMan’s shirts, tumble drying them to remove wrinkles, then we pull them out and let them finish drying on hangers. I also dry AdventureMan’s towels; he thinks that the ones that are dried on the racks are hard and stiff and he doesn’t like the feel of them on his skin. Just about everything else dries on the racks or on hangers. It’s a result of years of living in Germany, and other places where we had utility bills, and the dryer is a huge electricity hog.

When we lived in a small village in Germany, I remember my landlady bringing my utility bill; her face was white. She said (in essence) “how can this be? You are a wasteful American and I am a frugal German and your electricity bill is half of mine!” (no, she didn’t say wasteful, but that was sort of the gist) but she had a clothes dryer that was going all the time, and I did not. I also had a very small little refrigerator, and she had a larger one. Old habits die hard; I still hang most of my clothes to dry.

We are careful with water use, as water becomes more dear, we try to conserve, so we don’t let water run, we turn it off. We must look very peculiar and very particular to our house guests.

I really only told them the basics – here are these things, here are those, this is the way this operates – more than that would have been overwhelming. Probably they were overwhelmed with the little I did share! Being a houseguest is overwhelming, too!

And I think of my youngest sister, who took me in for weeks at a time through many of the years we spent overseas, clearing out a bedroom and bathroom for my exclusive use, letting me come and go as my schedule dictated, but still, an intruder and an interruption on her own family life, God bless her. I remember one time being in the kitchen with her son, asking him if he knew where his mother kept the emergency emery board, and he looked totally dumbstruck, and said he didn’t know.

“It’s probably here,” I said, opening a drawer and pulling out the emery board. Our mother always kept an emery board in that drawer; I keep a spare emery board in that drawer, and it just seemed likely my sister would, too. I still love the look on his face as I pulled it out. “How did you know??” he asked, and I just laughed.

I wonder what tales our house guests will tell of us, and our strange ways?

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On their last day with us, I showed the 10 year old how to make Bird in a Basket, which he loved. It’s so simple, bread with a circle cut out, butter, an egg and a skillet – even a ten year old could do it. What was even better was that he loved it and was going to go home and show his Mama how to do it. One tiny piece of American culture may grow and thrive in Saudi Arabia.

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Communication, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Saudi Arabia | 2 Comments

“Come Back Soon; I Have So Many Questions!”

We wanted our house guests to experience a truly Southern experience, so we took them to Sonny’s BBQ. It doesn’t get much more down-home than Sonny’s. We saw one of my friends from water aerobics, we saw another friend from church and our son’s boss, all sitting nearby.

We all ordered barbecued smoked chicken, and the 10 year old ordered french fries and french fries for his two “sides.” He got frustrated with the knife and fork – it does slow down eating chicken – so he pretty much stuck to the french fries. As my friend from water aerobics left, she came over and hugged AdventureMan, and kept her hand on his shoulder as she met our guests.

To make it all even more bizarre (I am trying to imagine this from the Saudi point of view), we have the car seats for our grandchildren in AdventureMan’s car, so we used my car to drive to the restaurant. I drove.

It was a lot for them to absorb.

As we were leaving, our favorite waitress caught my arm and said “Come back soon! I have so many questions!”

June 15, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Interconnected, Local Lore, Restaurant, Saudi Arabia, Travel | 2 Comments

When Cultures Collide

My house guest and I are sitting at my computer, looking at airfares.

“So what do I do?” he asked me.

“This is your decision to make,” I answered. “Only you know what is most important to you.”

“I am looking for a recommendation,” he tells me.

“If it were me, I would take that early flight. It is cheaper, and by leaving at six a.m. you know it is likely to leave on time and arrive on time. Also, I would have booked it about four months ago. It’s summer. The flights are flying full. There are no cheaper tickets left.”

“Month-es?” he asked incredulously. “Month-es?” he repeated.

We decided to wait and book later, after he had given it some thought. He didn’t like my recommendation; he didn’t like the earliness of the flight I recommended, and I had known he wouldn’t.

I think the idea of booking a flight four months in advance was a double-whammy.

June 15, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Travel | Leave a comment

Houseguests and Rabies and Wedding Anniversaries

We’ve had a lot of wedding anniversaries, AdventureMan and I. Some anniversaries we have sacrificed to national security, as AdventureMan would be called to go to the field, or head out on some exercise. There are a few which have been truly memorable. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you will know that the ones we remember are probably not those that include roses, or wine and a fine meal and a beautiful gift, although we have had those.

One, we remember because we ate at a very fine restaurant, very snooty, and the waiter made a big deal out of presenting us with chilled forks for our salad course. We could barely keep a straight face, it is so far from anything we would consider a priority.

Another, and we howl with laughter – now – was the wedding anniversary when we had just arrived in Germany from Saudi Arabia, and found a lovely apartment on the top floor of an old mansion in a village I loved. When we got back to the car, AdventureMan said “Did you notice it is not furnished?” and I said we can find what we need at the re-utilization office, which is alway selling off used furniture.

Indeed, two days later there was a huge sale at the re-utilization center and we bought a dining room set, living room chairs, three big cupboards for holding clothes and some lamps, etc – all for $53. We’ve always had great luck that way. I had a lot of fun re-upholstering the chairs, and the landlord threw in a bed for us.

But as we sat in the car, on our anniversary, I said “Now, you probably need to take me to the hospital so we can get my bite looked at.” A few hours before leaving Saudi Arabia, the cat I had been feeding bit me, hard, on the arm. It ws one of those bites where the incisors went deep. I’d have liked to ignore the bite, but rabies is an ugly way to die, and I sure didn’t want to stay in Saudi Arabia to be treated.

So we headed to the hospital, and the next few hours were excruciating. Then we went to a favorite old Mexican restaurant we had known from years before, and that was our anniversary, truly memorable. We still laugh; we remember finding that lovely old apartment, and then having to go to the emergency room.

As an aside, the landlord didn’t tell us he was trying to sell the mansion, and nine months later, we were looking again for an apartment. We became very good friends with the new owners, and are friends with them to this very day.

This wedding anniversary was a non-event, we had houseguests, and their customs and daily lives are so very different that celebrating a wedding anniversary would have been far outside their comfort zone. We had a friend from Saudi Arabia and his 10 year old son.

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We received an e-mail from them saying (I will paraphrase a little here) ‘we have reservations to come to Pensacola for 26 days and we want to stay with you.’ There was more, but that was the essence. AdventureMan looked at me and said “I think we need to do this” and I was glad, because I had been thinking the same thing.

I think I have told you about our friends who welcome the stranger, so I think God had been preparing us for this visit, and for us to do it.

How did it go? It was challenging. There were times we just wanted it to be over, and there were times our friends must have found us to be very disappointing. There were continual clashes in expectations, and there was a very large well of good will out of which we continually drew. There were uncomfortable moments regarding meals, and meal times, and getting up times, and where we would go. There were also some fabulous meals and some truly wonderful conversations.

I know they were sorry to go. I know they want to come back again for another visit. We have no regrets; we are glad we did this, and we are also glad to have our very normal American lives back. We like this man very much, and we know this visit was a challenge for him, too.

But as we are hollering back and forth, we are laughing, this is one of those anniversaries we will never forget, the year we had our Saudi house guests.

We are aging, AdventureMan and I. We are no longer truly nomadic, living out of our suitcases. We have everything we own in this one house, except our other house. We no longer have other furniture in storage, and we have trimmed down a lot on the load of things we have collected. Maybe the one thing we truly fear is becoming too settled, and this visit was a wonderful way to shake things up a little bit, to force us out of our comfortable routines, and to force us to see our lives through the eyes of others.

It has given us a lot to think about.

Happy Anniversary, AdventureMan 🙂

June 13, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cooking, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia | 6 Comments

“Do All Americans Worship Idols?”

We have guests in town from another country who are living with Americans and visiting many others.

One of them asked her host “Do all Americans worship idols?” and the host was flummoxed.

We have been in private houses of the most religious Muslims, and their houses look very different from ours. They have nothing on the walls, except perhaps a picture of the Kaaba in Mecca, or a beautiful calligraphy in Arabic with one of the Surahs. To us, the houses look very plain, but they are being careful to observe carefully the word of the Lord.

We don’t consider the objects in our homes idols because we don’t worship them. When I read today’s Lectionary reading from Deuteronomy, I have to rethink what God might thing idols are.

Deuteronomy 4:15-24

15 Since you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, 16 so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure—the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And when you look up to the heavens and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, do not be led astray and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples everywhere under heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron-smelter, out of Egypt, to become a people of his very own possession, as you are now.

21 The Lord was angry with me because of you, and he vowed that I should not cross the Jordan and that I should not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving for your possession. 22 For I am going to die in this land without crossing over the Jordan, but you are going to cross over to take possession of that good land. 23 So be careful not to forget the covenant that the Lord your God made with you, and not to make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.

May 26, 2015 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual, Venice | | Leave a comment

“U.S. Women Drive Because They Don’t Care if They are Raped”

From AOL News/Huffpost/TheWorldPost:

The good news is that Saudi women know better. They don’t buy this line any more than we do. They visit America, they go to school in America. And oh yes, they DRIVE in America. The second part of the good news is that the younger generation buys this line a whole lot less than our parent’s generation, and change is coming. It’s coming faster than this historian thinks.

Saudi Historian Says U.S. Women Drive Because They Don’t Care If They’re Raped

Posted: 02/10/2015 2:03 am EST Updated: 02/10/2015 8:59 am EST
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A Saudi Arabian historian trying to justify the nation’s ban on female drivers sayswomen who drive in other countries such as the United States don’t care if they’re raped and that sexual violence “is no big deal to them.”

Saleh al-Saadoon claimed in a recent TV interview that women can be raped when a car breaks down, but unlike other countries, Saudi Arabia protects its women from that risk by not allowing them to drive in the first place, according to a translation posted online by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“They don’t care if they are raped on the roadside, but we do,” al-Saadoon said on Saudi Rotana Khalijiyya TV.

“Hold on. Who told you they don’t care about getting raped on the roadside?” asked the host, a woman who is not named in the transcript.

“It’s no big deal for them beyond the damage to their morale,” al-Saadoon replied. “In our case, however, the problem is of a social and religious nature.”

Two other guests on the show — a man and a woman — appeared to be in shock over his comments. Al-Saadoon said they were out of touch.

“They should listen to me and get used to what society thinks,” al-Saadoon said.

Since the rape argument didn’t seem to be convincing anyone, al-Saadoon tried another approach, claiming that women are treated “like queens” in Saudi Arabia because they are driven around by the men of the family and male chauffeurs. That led the host to ask if he wasn’t afraid that women might be raped by their chauffeurs.

Al-Saadoon agreed.

“There is a solution, but the government officials and the clerics refuse to hear of it,” he said. “The solution is to bring in female foreign chauffeurs to drive our wives.”

That caused the female host to laugh and cover her face with her palm.

“Female foreign chauffeurs?” she said. “Seriously?”

Saudi women face serious penalties if they are caught driving, including lashing. Two women who defied the ban on driving last year, Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi, are being tried in a court that handles terror cases.

 

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Communication, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Generational, Interconnected, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Quality of Life Issues, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , , | 4 Comments

Saudi Blogger Flogged 50 Times For Criticizing Muttawa

This man, a father of three, had the nerve to criticize the arbitrary morality police in Saudi Arabia. He wasn’t criticizing Islam; he was criticizing the ignorance and irregular actions of the muttawa. When flogged, he did not make a peep. Another blow to freedom of speech.

From AP, via AOL News:

Witness: Convicted Saudi blogger flogged in public 50 times
AYA BATRAWYJan 9th 2015 2:08PM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – A Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam was brought after Friday prayers to a public square in the port city of Jiddah and flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators, a witness to the lashing said.

The witness said Raif Badawi’s feet and hands were shackled during the flogging but his face was visible. He remained silent and did not cry out, said the witness, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity fearing government reprisal.

Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals or about $266,600.

Rights activists say Saudi authorities are using Badawi’s case as a warning to others who think to criticize the kingdom’s powerful religious establishment from which the ruling family partly derives its authority.

London-based Amnesty International said he would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks. Saudi Arabia’s close ally, the United States, had called on authorities to cancel the punishment.

Despite international pleas for his release, Badawi, a father of three, was brought from prison by bus to the public square on Friday and flogged on the back in front of a crowd that had just finished midday prayers at a nearby mosque. His face was visible and, throughout the flogging, he clenched his eyes and remained silent, said the witness.

The witness, who also has close knowledge of the case, said the lashing lasted about 15 minutes.

Badawi has been held since mid-2012 after he founded the Free Saudi Liberals blog. He used the blog to criticize the kingdom’s influential clerics who follow a strict and ultraconservative interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism, which originated in Saudi Arabia.

He was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges, but after an appeal, the judge stiffened the punishment. Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.

Rights groups argue that the case against Badawi is part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent in Saudi Arabia since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Criticism of clerics is seen as a red line because of their prestige in the kingdom, as well as their influential role in supporting government policies.

According to Amnesty, the charges against Badawi mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website. He was also accused in court of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s morality police.

In a statement after the flogging, Amnesty called the flogging a “vicious act of cruelty” and said that Badawi’s “only ‘crime’ was to exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has called the punishment an “inhumane” response to someone exercising his right to freedom of expression and religion.
In New York, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters on Friday that the U.N. human rights office was “very concerned about the flogging” and that it has previously raised concerns about harsh sentences in Saudi Arabia for human rights defenders.
___
Associated Press writer Cara Anna contributed to this report from the United Nations.

January 9, 2015 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Character, Crime, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues | , , , , | 2 Comments

Isaiah: the desert shall rejoice and blossom

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The Lectionary reading in the Old Testament today is from Isaiah, one of my favorite books in the bible, and when I read it, I think of all my time in the Arabian peninsula, in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait. I think of this land, on the route from the rift valley in Kenya where man is supposed to have originated, how earliest humans would have crossed through these countries as they moved slowly away from their origins.

My Qatari and Kuwaiti friends tell me that legends say that these countries were once lush, green and beautiful. They are still beautiful, but the lushness and the greeness is only in small pockets when and where the arid land has water. I think nothing is impossible for God, and how wonderful it would be to see these countries lush and green and fertile once more.

The King is coming, coming as a tiny baby in human form to live with us and turn us away from our wickedness. He sees things differently. He tells us to love one another, to love our enemies, to take care of one another. He makes the blind to see, the lame to leap, and the deaf to hear. Come! Come, Emanuel!

Isaiah 35:1-10

35 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.

3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.’

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,*
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

8 A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,*
but it shall be for God’s people;*
no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
9 No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Doha, Environment, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Kuwait, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Quality of Life Issues, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual, Weather | Leave a comment