Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Tucson, and the Great Saguaros, and Zeman’s

On our way to the interstate from Tombstone, we see our first giant Saguaro, one of the reasons we wanted to stop in Tucson. It is awe-inspiring, just growing in someone’s front yard, about two stories high. Did you know that these giant cactus only grow in a very limited environment? Tomorrow, we are going to the Saguaro National Park; we can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, we check in to our very odd Residence Inn. It is near the Tucson airport, and it looks like a resort, but when we go to use the pool, it isn’t even filled, it is being repaired. Repaired? It looks brand new.

It is in an area with a lot of other new looking hotels, near the airport, but while in other places there are usually a lot of restaurants around the airport, in Tucson, there are few, and not ones we care about.

Using our Trip Advisor research, and our Google Maps App, we find Zeman’s. Zeman’s is Ethiopian, and gets great reviews. We love Ethiopian food, and because most of what we order is vegetarian, we also know it is really good for us.

It is an easy drive into the big city, and we find Zeman’s right where it is supposed to be. We are warmly welcomed when we go in, and take a look at the menu.

00ZemanExterior

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They do something we really like; they have a combination where you can order one meat and two vegetables. We ordered two combinations, as did most of the other customers, and it was delicious!

00TucsonZemanCombination

We really loved the ground beef, which was exotic and spicy, and the collard greens, also exotic and spicy, but with different spices. I always think of Vargese’s Cutting for Stone when I eat Ethiopian food. When I read it, I felt like I had grown up in Ethiopia.

It’s in the university part of town, and most of the customers appeared to be students and faculties who enjoy good eats at reasonable prices. Zeman’s is exactly that. Tucson is blessed to have such a delightful restaurant. I understand there is another Zeman’s and even a third one in the planning. 🙂

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April 18, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Books, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MERS Virus Found to be Widespread

Thank you, John Mueller, for this fascinating article from Science NOW:

Middle Eastern Virus More Widespread Than Thought

28 February 2014 12:45 pm

 

Trail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia CommonsTrail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.

It’s called Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, after the region where almost all the patients have been reported. But the name may turn out to be a misnomer. A new study has found the virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting that Africa, too, harbors the pathogen. That means MERS may sicken more humans than previously thought—and perhaps be more likely to trigger a pandemic.

MERS has sickened 183 people and killed 80, most of them in Saudi Arabia. A couple of cases have occurred in countries outside the region, such as France and the United Kingdom, but those clusters all started with a patient who had traveled to the Middle East before falling ill.

Scientists have uncovered more and more evidence implicating camels in the spread of the disease. They found that a large percentage of camels in the Middle East have antibodies against MERS in their blood, while other animals, such as goats and sheep, do not. Researchers have also isolated MERS virus RNA from nose swabs of camels in Qatar, and earlier this week, they showed that the virus has circulated in Saudi Arabian camels for at least 2 decades.

Malik Peiris, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues expanded the search to Africa. In a paper published last year, they showed that camels in Egypt carried antibodies against MERS. For the new study, they took samples from four abattoirs around Egypt; again they found antibodies against MERS in the blood of 48 out of 52 camels they tested. But the most interesting results came from taking nose swabs from 110 camels: They found MERS RNA in four animals that had been shipped in from Sudan and Ethiopia.

Peiris cautions that it is unclear whether the infected camels picked up the virus in Sudan and Ethiopia or on their final journey in Egypt. Abattoirs could help spread MERS just like live poultry markets do for influenza, he says. “You cannot point the finger exactly at where those viruses came from,” he says. “But I would be very surprised if you do not find the virus in large parts of Africa.”

If so, that changes the picture of MERS considerably. No human MERS cases have been reported from Egypt or anywhere else in Africa, but if camels are infected, they may well occur, says Marion Koopmans, an infectious disease researcher at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “It would be important to look systematically into that,” she writes in an e-mail. “Health authorities really need to test patients with severe pneumonia all across Africa for MERS,” Peiris says.

The researchers were able to sequence the virus of one of the camels almost completely, and it is more than 99% identical with viruses found in people. “I would be very surprised if this virus cannot infect humans,” says Christian Drosten, a virologist at the University of Bonn in Germany. But the virus also shows a few intriguing differences from known camel samples, he says. “We have to analyze this carefully in the next few days, but it looks like this sequence broadens the viral repertoire found in camels,” he says. If the viruses found in camels show more genetic variation than those isolated from humans, that is further strong evidence that camels are infecting humans and not the other way around.

Anthony Mounts, the point person for MERS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, says that it is very likely that human MERS cases occur in Africa. “Wherever we find [infected] camels, there is a good chance we’ll find [human] cases if we look closely,” he says. And humans may be exposed to camels in Africa much more often than in the Middle East: There were about 260,000 camels in Saudi Arabia in 2012, but almost a million in Ethiopia and 4.8 million in Sudan, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The more human cases there are, the higher the risk that the virus will one day learn how to become easily transmissible between people, which could set off a pandemic.

The researchers also looked at the blood of 179 people working at the camel abattoirs for antibodies against MERS virus, but found none. That shows that the virus is only rarely successful in infecting human beings, Peiris says. “What we need to find out now is the reason for these rare transmissions.”

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Atlanta: Ethiopian Adventure and Macy’s

One last entry from our recent trip, a happy ending to a happy trip. This is how sweet my husband is to me.

We find Pensacola a very comfortable place to be, and have only found two things lacking. There is no Macy’s, and I do like Macy’s. There are no Ethiopian restaurants, (remember, I just read Cutting for Stone) and we like Ethiopian food. We know Atlanta has both, so we plotted our return trip with a just-enough-time-for-Ethiopian-food-and-shopping.

Isn’t life funny and wonderful? We know Atlanta has Ethiopian restaurants – several – because an almost-niece who has worked in Ethiopia lives in Atlanta, and could recommend several. Using the handy iPhone, we found a Marriott Residence Inn hidden away in a quiet neighborhood near Macy’s and not far from the Queen of Sheba. Although the hotel was full, they had a wonderful room for us, with a view of downtown Atlanta:

We found the phone number for the Queen of Sheba, called – and they were open for lunch!

When we got to the plaza where the Queen of Sheba was located, we just laughed. We were back in Kuwait!

And here is what the Queen of Sheba looks like from the outside:

Inside, daytime, the atmosphere is serene:

Nights and weekends, they have jazz and lively evenings:

We ordered the Vegetarian mix, a variety of Ethiopian vegetable/legume based dishes, a variety of tastes and heat, served on Injera, the large, pancake-like bread. When it came, it was beautiful, and it tasted as good as it looked. They gave us a tray of extra injera, and we ate almost all of it!

It was so good. SO good. We decided we would go back for dinner, after shopping. AdventureMan took me to Macy’s, and only called me twice in the hours I was looking and trying on.

Here’s the problem. I have a style, but I am terrified someone is going to recommend me for What Not to Wear, so I try to find a couple little things now and then to update my look. I have a tactic: take armsfull of clothes into the dressing room. Try on quickly. You usually can tell immediately.

Here is what you hear. “No.” “Oh, NO!” “No” “No” “No” “Hmmm, maybe” “no” “Holy Smokes, NO!” “Hmmm, maybe” etc. Then I try on the maybes, and out of twenty or thirty items, I might come out with one or two. Some young styles are just too young, some skirts just too short, some camis just too revealing. I don’t want to be one of those pathetic older women trying to be hot, I just want to look decently attractive, that’s the goal.

Meeting up hours later with AdventureMan (I know, I know, I owe him big time for this) we laugh to discover we are neither of us hungry for dinner. We decide to go back to the hotel, but dinner time comes and we are still so full from lunch that we can’t consider dinner. Even though the dishes were vegetarian, that injera must have swelled in our bellies. We can’t eat another bite!

June 10, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, iPhone, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Road Trips, Shopping | , , | 5 Comments

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Someone in my book club in Qatar mentioned this book, Cutting for Stone, a while back, and I bought it, but it has sat for months on my to-read shelf (LOL, there are actually several, but one with the most important books, and another with the ‘guilty pleasures,’ the ones I am addicted to and save as a reward for good behavior, like vacuuming.)

When a good friend said she was reading it, and that it was good, I decided to move it up in priority, sort of like taking medicine, read a book that is good for you.

Oh WOW.

First, it is a great, absorbing story. Twin boys are born, totally unexpected, to an Indian Catholic nun and an English surgeon, working in Addis Ababa. How they were conceived is a mystery. The mother dies in childbirth, the father flees in horror, the children are born conjoined at the head and must be separated. The boys are adopted by an Indian couple, doctors at the hospital, and are raised with love and happiness.

That’s just the beginning!

I’ve always wanted to go to Ethiopia and Eritrea. I want to visit Lalibela, and some of the oldest Christian churches in the world. When my father was sick, he had a home health aid from Ethiopia, Esaiahs, who told me about the customs in his church, and how Ethiopian Christianity is very close to Judaism, with men and women separated in the church, and eating pork forbidden.

Reading this book, I felt like I had lived there, and I want to go back. The author captures the feelings, the smells, the visuals, the sounds, and if I awoke in a bungalow at the MIssing (Mission) Hospital, I would say “Ah yes! I remember this!”

I kept marking sections of this book that I loved. Here is one:

They parked at Ghosh’s bungalow and walked to the rear or Missing, where the bottlebrush was so laden with flowers that it looked as if it had caught fire. The property edge was marked by the acacias, their flat tops forming a jagged line against the sky. Missing’s far west corner was a promontory looking over a vast valley. That acreage as far as the eye could see belonged to a ras – a duke – who was relative of His Majesty, Haile Selassie.

A brook, hidden by boulders, burbled; sheep grazed under the eye of a boy who sat polishing his teeth with a twig, his staff near by. He squinted at Matron and Ghosh and then waved. Just like in the days of David, he carried a slingshot. It was a goatherd like him, centuries before, who had noticed how frisky his animals became after chewing a particuar red berry. From that serendipitous discovery, the coffee habit and trade spread to Yemen, Amsterdam, the Caribbean, South America, and the world, but it had all begun in Ethiopia, in a field like this.

We live inside the hearts and minds of doctors, some practicing under the worst possible conditions, and learn how they make their decisions and why. Verghese is a compassionate author; while his characters may be flawed, they are forgivable and forgiven.

Another section I loved, the man speaking is Ghosh, the man who adopted the twins with Hema, another doctor:

“My genius was to know long ago that money alone wouldn’t make me happy. Or maybe that’s my excuse for not leaving you a huge fortune! I certainly could have made more money if that had been my goal. But one thing I won’t have is regrets. My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they’ll leave in people’s hearts. They realize that no money, no church service, no eulogy, no funeral procession no matter how elaborate, can remove the legacy of a mean spirit.”

Things in Ethiopia get sticky, politically, and one of the twins is forced to flee, implicated in an airplane hijacking only because he was raised with a young woman involved. He is spirited into Eritrea, where he awaits his ride out to Kenya, and he helps the Eritrean rebels when large numbers of wounded are brought into his area. When the time comes to leave, his thoughts will strike a chord in anyone who has ever been an expat:

Two days later I took leave of Solomon. There were dark rings under his eyes and he looked ready to fall over. There was no questioning his purpose or dedication. Solomon said “Go and good luck to you. This isn’t your fight. I’d go if I were in your shoes. Tell the world about us.”

This isn’t your fight. I thought about that as I trekked to the border with two escorts. What did Solomon mean? Did he see me as being on the Ethiopian side, on the side of the occupiers? No, I think he saw me as an expatriate, someone without a stake in this war. Despite being born in the same compound as Genet, despite speaking Amharic like a native, and going to medical school with him, to Solomon I was a ferengi – a foreigner. Perhaps he was right, even though I was loath to admit it. If I were a patriotic Ethiopian, would I not have gone underground and joined the royalists, or others who were trying to topple Sergeant Mengistu? If I cared about my country, shouldn’t I have been willing to die for it?

The book has a lot of observations about coming to America; some of which made me laugh, some which made me groan. Coming back is always a shock to people who have lived abroad for a time, but it is a huge shock to those coming for the first time:

The black suited drivers led their passengers to sleek black cars, but myman led me to a big yellow taxi. In no time we were driving out of Kennedy Airport, heading to the Bronx. We merged at what I thought was a dangerous speed onto a freeway and into the slipstream of racing vehicles. “Marion, jet travel has damaged your eardrums,” I said to myself, because the silence was unreal. In Africa, cars ran not on petrol but on the squawk and blare of their horns. Not so here; the cars were near silent, like a school of fish. All I heard was the whish of rubber on concrete or asphalt.

As I neared the end, I read more slowly, unwilling for this book to end. It is one of the most vivid and moving books I have ever read. AdventureMan has gone online to find the nearest Ethiopian restaurant so we can have some injera and wot.

March 15, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fiction, Food, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Social Issues | , | 8 Comments