Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

When Will Ramadan Start in 2015?

You know I am a planner. When it comes to travel, it pays to know the dates well ahead of time. Vacation spots fill up, flights in and out of a country are fully booked. Ramadan comes earlier every year – it’s time to start thinking about your Ramadan travel plans yesterday!

The following is from “When Is?” a site with national and civil dates from all over the world.

Ramadan in 2015 will start on Thursday, the 18th of June and will continue for 30 days until Friday, the 17th of July.

Note that in the Muslim calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will celebrate Ramadan on the sunset of Wednesday, the 17th of June.

Although Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Ramadan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not.

The dates provided here are based on the dates adopted by the Fiqh Council of North America for the celebration of Ramadan. Note that these dates are based on astronomical calculations to affirm each date, and not on the actual sighting of the moon with the naked eyes. This approach is accepted by many, but is still being hotly debated.

December 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Famous Foods in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Here’s the problem. We really like good food, and we know there are a lot of good places to eat in Lake Charles, but we are starting to feel a little fooded-out, a little stuffed. We decide on a nice plain BBQ for this night, and the desk clerk at our hotel knows just the place, Famous Foods.

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When we get to Famous Foods, it is self serve, and there are three lines full of people. Some people are ordering to eat in, but others are ordering food to take out, and others are ordering bulk food – they sell prepared food, but they also sell Cajun meats, boudin, sausages, all kinds of foods. It is a learning experience for us, but we finally get in the right line and order.

I order chicken, and ask if I need to choose sides, and the cashier just laughs and says “Oh no, all the sides come with it!”

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When they call our name, we get our food, served in fast-food containers, nothing fancy or pretentious about this place, it’s all focused on the food. So much food. Again. This time, I make a mistake, I try the rice. It is rich. It has a spicy sausage in it; it is absolutely delicious. No, I don’t eat it all, but I probably eat more than I should. I only have a bite or two of the potato salad, it’s not my weakness. The baked beans have a peculiar taste, not bad, but I am guessing, as we are in cane country, they are sweetened with cane sugar instead of molasses, as I am used to. I can pass on the beans; so I stick to the chicken (delicious) with a sneaky bite of this fabulous rice now and then.

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AdventureMan has the smoked brisket and pulled pork, and again, all the sides just come with it. He says it is pretty good.

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Many of the folks coming in and out as we are eating are buying Cracklin’s, which I think are made with deep fried pig skin, and I just can’t even give it a try. I might even like the taste, but the whole idea is just so repugnant to me.

The food at Famous Foods is GOOD!

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Death and the Expat

After four years, this settling down thing still chafes. As one fellow expat says “it’s like being squeezed into a box that’s too small” and she is talking about returning to her own community after several years abroad.

I think I wasn’t wired for settling down.

Even changing the furniture around, which I start doing after a couple years in one place, doesn’t really satisfy that urge for new challenges, new ways of thinking, a need to be on your toes, to be observant of all around you because nothing is the same as where you came from.

But one thing about settling down is a huge challenge – death.

When you are living in Expat World, death barely touches you. For one thing, you’re in a working environment, which implies you are young enough and healthy enough to be working. If someone dies, you fly back home and grieve the person, then fly back to where you are working and life goes on. That person isn’t missing from your daily life. You are distracted from grieving by the differences; there are not so many things around to remind you that the person is no longer there.

Being settled, it is an entirely different story. You get used to people, and then, often suddenly, that person is no longer around. You’re still going to all the places you used to see that person, but that person is not there, and never will be again. You think “I’ll just call so-and-so” and then you realize she’ll never answer your call again.

This is all new. Sure, expats move away, but there is always that chance you will run into them again – happens all the time in Expat World. You can call and make plans to meet up somewhere, you can gather for kids weddings. In settled-down world, death puts a big stop to that. It’s a screeching, endless dead-end.

I lost a friend this week, a woman who has been kind to me since the day I walked into the church. She made me feel welcome and she made me feel loved, and like I belonged there. It wasn’t just me, she was kind and welcoming to everyone, and a lot of fun to be around. I hugged her the day before she died as we had a quick greeting in the Parish Hall. I adored her, and I admired her, and she leaves a big hole in my heart.

I don’t wish her alive again; she lost her husband just months ago, and I know in my heart that my grief is my own, that she is happy to be with her departed husband. But this death stuff is painful. It makes me want to run get on a plane and go somewhere else, to go away from this infinite feeling of loss. To my chagrin, I also think this is a piece of growing up that I ran away from for a long time, and am learning later in life than most people.

We are still grieving the loss of Pete. He is buried in the butterfly garden, so he is nearby. We second-guess ourselves all the time, going over our choices, regretting having caused him any pain and anguish as he lived his last week. I hear the tinkle of his little name tag and forget it can’t be Pete; my husband steps over where he would lie in the hallway, equidistant between our offices. This death stuff is hard.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Distressed Travellers?

We had never heard this term before, but yes, yes, we are the ‘distressed travellers’ sent to this hotel in which we have never stayed while our room in Juneau goes unused, even though paid for.

They are so kind. We don’t have our luggage with us. Thanks to a previous trip, so many years ago my son was a small child, I always carry something to sleep in (I don’t what to sleep in my clothes, and the thought of sleeping in underwear and having to wear it the next day gives me the creeps) and a fresh pair of undies, my brush, make up and any medications I might need. We are both recovering from bad colds. They give us toothbrushes and toothpaste, give AdventureMan a tiny deodorant, enough, wonderful.

Although it is only ten in Seattle, it is midnight our time and we have been waiting for flights for hours. It’s just one of those things, severe weather hanging over Dallas, the sweet, patient airline counter woman re-did our tickets several times until we just ran out of connections at the end of the day, and she put us in a hotel for the night.

When we got to the room, it was even better. They gave us a suite, a beautiful suite, on the quiet floor. The atmosphere in the suite was very zen. AdventureMan took a shower, I took a long bath, and we tumbled into bed – not for all that long; we were on the first flight out in the morning,.

With the time change, we arrived in Juneau in time for breakfast and a hike around Eagle River before we collapsed until dinner with an old friend of my Mother’s who still lives in Juneau.

June 17, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FitBit Gone Wild

Today this showed up on my dashboard:

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No, that is not 54 stairs, that is 54 flights of stairs. I got a badge for it.

I don’t know what is going on with FitBit, but I did not climb 54 flights of stairs. I cannot imagine what FitBit is thinking. I did get on and off a bus a few times, but no, there were no where near 50 flights of steps in my life today.

What I am enjoying with the FitBit (the healthy activity nanny thing just doesn’t work for me) is that it tells me I sleep better than I thought I did, and even just thinking I am sleeping better than I thought helps me to sleep better.

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Qatar World Cup Will Not Be Held in Summer

LOL, it took them three years to figure out how hot it gets in Qatar in the summer??? From AOL News:

(Reuters) – The 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar will not be played in the summer months, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said on Wednesday.

“The dates of the World Cup will not be in June or July. I think it will be played between November 15 and January 15 the latest,” he told France Inter Radio.

“If you play between November 15 and, let’s say, the end of December, it’s the time when the weather is the most favorable,” Valcke added.

“You play with a temperature equivalent to that of a rather hot spring in Europe, you play with a temperature of 25 degrees (Celsius), which is perfect to play football.”

In October, FIFA delayed making a decision on whether to play the tournament in the winter saying it was setting up a consultation process to decide when the finals should be held.

At the time, soccer’s world governing body announced it would reach a conclusion sometime after this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Valcke’s surprise announcement on Wednesday comes more than three years after Qatar was originally awarded the tournament in December 2010.

The average temperature in the summer months in Qatar can be around 35C (95 Fahrenheit) and 45C (113F).

January 8, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving on the Beach

An assortment of photos from Panama City Beach:

Walking off Thanksgiving dinners . . .

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“They Must Not Be From Around Here . . . ” kids playing in the surf while all the rest of us are in long sleeve shirts and jeans, LOL!
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Round 2 “They must not be from around here” these kayakers caused a lot of comment, LOL

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00PCBeachBoatRide

00BeachCombers

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December 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Minor Miracle

A couple years ago, when I was at the dermatologist (and if you have lived under the hot strong sun in the Middle East, you might want to have an annual skin-scan, too) she asked “anything else?” and I wailed “What is happening to my skin??”

 

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I’ve always had good skin. All of a sudden, I felt like the Portrait of Dorian Grey, like all my secret sins were catching up with me and manifesting on my skin. You could see my pores! I was getting little brown spots. I am not an abnormally vain woman, but I will admit that the sight of my skin going bad overnight was a staggering blow.

 

She laughed. “I have a magic potion that will keep your skin looking pretty good,” she said, and wrote me my first prescription for Retin-A.

 

It’s not a fountain of youth. It’s not like it gives me the face I had in my twenties and thirties, even into my forties. But it holds those brown spots at bay, gives my skin light and sparkle again, and tightens up those pores. I don’t know how it does it, I don’t care. It’s a little bit of magic and helps me handle the inevitability of the aging process.

 

She also gave me a coupon that made it less expensive. Still, I gasped the first time I went to buy it, and neither of my health insurances covered it. A little goes a long way, so I’ve only had to renew the prescription twice.

 

This last time, when I walked in to the pharmacist, I asked the cost first. He told me that for the name brand it would be eight hundred something and for the generic it would be five hundred something.

 

You could feed an African village for a year with five hundred dollars. I couldn’t do it. I walked away. I spent a week in stunned disbelief, then went online and found a coupon that promised a sizable discount.

 

When I went back to the pharmacy yesterday, they said the coupon wouldn’t discount much, but this time the girl took the initiative to check my insurance and said “the coupon doesn’t help, but did you know that your insurance will pay for all but $5. if you take the generic?”

 

“There must be some mistake,” I thought to myself. My insurance has never covered this before.

 

“Are you sure?” I asked her, not really wanting to, wanting to hand her five dollars and run out the door, but also knowing that if it were a mistake, that the pharmacy would be stuck holding the bag.

 

“Yes, ” she responded, “I’m sure. Only thing is, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to pick it up, we don’t have it in stock.”

 

Oh ye of little faith . . .

 

This morning, still thinking they have made a mistake, I called to ask if it had arrived, not wanting to make a trip in vain. The pharmacist left me on hold a long time and I just knew something was not right. I knew it couldn’t be this good. You don’t get a $500.+ medication for $5.

 

Then he came back on the line. “It’s in,” he said, “Come and get it!”

 

I feel so blessed. I’m aging, my skin is aging, and the Lord is merciful on me, a sinner. He allows me a small vanity, caring for my skin, and for only $5. I still can’t figure out if this is the new Obamacare or some Medicare benefit, or a prescription benefit change. I don’t even want to investigate, I am so grateful for this mercy.

 

And no. I would not have been able to justify it at $800. Or even justify it at $500. There is just so much need in the world for the basics, for food and shelter and clothing for the poor. But $5? For me, it is a minor miracle.

 

(In a study published in the UK Telegraph, researchers found women think negative thoughts about their appearance an average of 36 times EVERY DAY.)

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Four Men Convicted of Fatal Gang Rape in India

See these related stories

 

NEW DELHI — An Indian court convicted four men Tuesday in the deadly gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus, a brutal crime that galvanized public anger over the widespread – yet widely tolerated – sexual violence faced by Indian women.

As word of the verdict filtered out, protesters outside the courthouse chanted “Hang them! Hang them!”

The men were convicted on all 11 counts against them, including rape and murder, and now face the possibility of hanging. The sentences are expected to be handed down Wednesday.

Judge Yogesh Khanna said in his verdict that the men, who tricked the 23-year-old rape victim and a male friend of hers into boarding the bus they were driving, had committed “murder of a helpless person.”

The parents of the woman, who cannot be identified under Indian law, had tears in their eyes as the verdicts were read. The mother, wearing a pink sari, sat just a few feet from the convicted men in a tiny courtroom jammed with lawyers, police and reporters. The hearing lasted only a few minutes, and the four men were quickly led from the courtroom by policemen after the verdicts were read.

Speaking before the convictions, the father of the victim called for the four to be executed.

“For what happened with her, these brutes must be hanged,” he told reporters as he left home for the courthouse. “Nothing but the death penalty is acceptable to us.”

Protesters called the Dec. 16 attack a wake-up call for India, where women have long talked quietly of enduring everything from sexual comments to public groping to rape, but where they would often face blame themselves if they complained publicly.

“Every girl at any age experiences this – harassment or rape. We don’t feel safe,” said law school graduate Rabia Pathania. “That’s why we’re here. We want this case to be an example for every other case that has been filed and will be filed.”

Lawyers for the men have insisted they were tortured – a common occurrence in India’s chaotic criminal justice system – and that confessions, which were later retracted, were coerced.

A.P. Singh, who at times has worked as a lawyer for all the men, said they were innocent.

“These accused have been framed simply to please the public,” he told reporters. “This is not a fair trial.”

The men were identified by the young woman’s friend, and police say they could be seen on security cameras near the bus.

The men, most of them from a crowded New Delhi neighborhood of hand-made brick shanties filled by migrants from poor rural villages, were joy-riding around the city in an off-duty bus when police say they came across the woman and her friend waiting at a bus top. The pair – by most accounts they were not romantically involved – were heading home after an evening showing of “Life of Pi” at a high-end mall just a short walk from the courthouse where Tuesday’s verdict was read.

It wasn’t late. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood. The bus, by all appearances, was just a way for the two to get home.

Instead, the attackers beat the friend into submission, held down the woman and repeatedly raped her. They penetrated her with a metal rod, causing severe internal injuries that led to her death two weeks later.

The woman, who was from another poor migrant family, had recently finished her exams for a physiotherapy degree. Her father earned a little over $200 a month as an airport baggage handler. She was, the family hoped, their path to the bottom rungs of India’s growing middle class.

The defendants also came from poor and ill-educated families. One, Mukesh Singh, occasionally drove the bus and cleaned it. Another, Vinay Sharma, was a 20-year-old assistant at a gym and the only one to graduate from high school. Akshay Thakur, 28, occasionally worked as a driver’s helper on the bus. Pawan Gupta, 19, was a fruit seller.

With them were two other men. Police say Ram Singh, 33, hanged himself in prison, though his family insists he was murdered. He was the brother of Mukesh Singh, who was convicted Tuesday. Another man – an 18-year-old who was a juvenile at the time of the attack and cannot be identified under Indian law – was convicted in August and will serve the maximum sentence, three years in a reform home.

Facing public protests and political pressure after the attack, the government reformed some of its antiquated laws on sexual violence, creating fast-track courts to avoid the painfully long rape trials that can easily last over a decade. The trial of the four men, which took about seven months, was astonishingly fast by Indian standards. The men can appeal their convictions.

While many activists heralded the changes that came with the case – more media reporting on sexual violence, education for police in how to treat rape victims – they note that women remain widely seen as second-class citizens in India. Girls get less medical care and less education than boys, studies show. Millions of female fetuses are statistically “missing” because of illegal sex-selective abortions.

Victims of sexual assault, meanwhile, often find themselves blamed by their families and police, who deride them for inviting attacks. Activists say most rapes are simply kept secret, even from authorities, so that the woman and her family are not seen as tainted.

“We can celebrate this particular case. But total change is a much larger issue,” said Rebecca John, a supreme court lawyer and prominent advocate for women in India.

“As we celebrate this case, let us mourn for the other cases that are not highlighted.”

The victim’s family was, in many ways, far different from most in India. Her parents had pushed her to go as far as possible in school, and even encouraged her to leave home for a better education, both seen as highly suspect in the conservative village culture that her parents were born into. They had saved for years to help pay her school fees, and made clear that her brother would not be favored.

And when she was raped, the only people they blamed were her rapists.

Their pain has been staggering.

“I always told my children: `If you study hard you can escape this poverty.’ All my life I believed this,” the mother told the AP in an interview earlier this year. “Now that dream has ended.”

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eid Mubarak 2013!

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May all your fasting and sacrifices be acceptable! May you receive the blessings of this long, very hot month of Ramadan! May you and your family have peace and the blessings of love, understanding and abundance!

August 8, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment