Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Arab Way

My husband and I were very young when we first came to live in the Middle East, back to back embassy assignments, first in Tunisia, and then in Jordan. Before those assignments, we had spent two years learning about the culture, and my husband spoke Arabic and I spoke French. It didn’t matter. We were still woefully ignorant. (And we are still learning!)

People would call us, asking for favors, especially visas and getting their kids into U.S. colleges. We would look at each other in astonishment. How could they think their kids could get into college without passing the tests? How did they think their cousin could get into pilot training when there were other, better qualified candidates? And we learned, that with the right connections, exceptions are made.

We got smarter. We were travelling back in Germany, and wanted to stay in military lodging, but all the rooms were taken. We decided to go get something to eat, and at dinner, I said to my husband “let’s try doing it the Arab way.” He looked at me and said “Whaaaaaattt?”

“Take your orders that say we are with the embassy and on special leave” I told him. “Tell them we just got in, and just need a place for tonight.”

“But they don’t have any rooms!” Adventure Man protested.

“They always hold rooms back for special circumstances, for pilots, for emergencies,” I countered. “Make us special.”

We finished dinner, and felt better with our blood sugars back up. Adventure Man became his charming persona, and we went back to the hotel. He was inside for a bare two minutes, and came back out grinning, and holding a key.

We have learned an important lesson. Yes, there are policies. Yes, there are rules. Yes, there are the way things are done, customs, traditions, inviolable.

But there are also exceptions, and they are based on personal relationships.

Our insurance company told us they would no longer insure our Florida house, too much risk exposure in Florida. We went to a lot of trouble to try to meet a guideline that would allow us to be an exception – to no avail. Yesterday, I spent an hour on the phone with one person who was persistently pleasant in telling me it was not possible. I told her that telling me what a great customer I was, and how they valued our loyalty didn’t ring true when they would abandon us after all our years of being good customers. I didn’t blame her, personally, but neither was I buying all this pleasant stuff, when the bottom line was money, not loyalty.

I hung up the phone with a huge pit in my stomach – this cloud, this worry has hung over my head all summer, and now my worst fears had come true and I would have to seek new, less reliable, insurance. But I decided to put it off until tomorrow, no point trying to do something when you feel really depressed.

Late last night, we were in those early hours of dead-drooling sleep, the phone rang, and it was the insurance representative calling us back. Four hours after our phone call, the phone call which had been “the final answer” she was calling me back to say she had found a way, and our policy was being re-instated.

Thanks be to God! The Arab way worked, even though I wasn’t consciously using the Arab way, probably my thinly veiled anger and frustration and bottom line TERROR had gotten through to her. I thought it was over, but God was working behind the scenes, and a miracle happened.

We are still learning; we still have a lot to learn, and living in this culture helps us continue learning a new tools, additional strategies, for our tool box.

August 23, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Florida, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Spiritual | 24 Comments

GoogleEarth – and SKY!

OgleEarth, one of the best blogs in the blogosphere dedicated to Google Earth, reports a new beta version of GoogleEarth is now available for download with one incredible difference – it also has views of the heavens, a layer called GoogleSky.

I have a hard time believing Google provides so much to so many – FREE. GoogleSky is awesome.

Here is where you can download the new GoogleEarth (and sky!)

August 23, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Customer Service, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth | 2 Comments

Sex Education Trouble in India

This is from yesterday’s BBC News Asia

(Every country had differences on whether sex education should be taught in the classroom, and if it should be taught, how it should be taught. Our current political administration paid a lot of money to support an abstinence campaign, which proved a failure. So how do we best protect our young?)

Sex education runs into trouble
The Indian government’s recent attempt to introduce sex education for school children has provoked a vigorous debate. In the second of two articles, the BBC’s Jyotsna Singh considers the case against a more open discussion of sex in schools.

The decision to introduce sex education in India’s schools, aimed primarily at creating awareness about HIV-Aids, has generated howls of protests from many quarters.

Many women’s organisations and religious groups as well as several politicians say exposing children to an open debate on the subject, specially in classrooms, will make them “more permissive”.

More than 30% of Indian states have rejected the federal government-supported sex education programme.

The Secondary School Teachers’ Association in Uttar Pradesh state has even threatened to make a bonfire of books if sex education isn’t withdrawn immediately.

Several teachers and student groups have objected to the teaching aid or kit to be used for educating the pupils in the class.

One of the main objects that has drawn the ire of the protestors is a flip chart, prepared jointly by the Unicef and government-controlled National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) to facilitate the government’s adolescent education programme.

‘Too graphic’

The chart, entitled “Knowledge is Power”, contains illustrations and images dealing with issues related to growing up and relationships in the context of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/Aids.

The chart also contains a chapter on essential skills needed to prevent the disease.

But protesters say the visuals in the chart are too “graphic”.

The right-wing Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) blames “a Western mindset behind the move”.

“We run about 26,000 schools across the country. Our teachers have studied the curriculum and they find it obscene and objectionable,” RSS spokesman Ram Madhav told the BBC.

“The whole curriculum is designed to suit the lifestyle in Western countries, where there is a general free atmosphere. In our country we live with families.”

You can read the rest of this article HERE.

August 23, 2007 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Kuwait, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Social Issues | 2 Comments