Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Madam, This is MY Job”

I had all kinds of ideas for my new garden – new climate, new challenges. Yes, I had been told that the climate was too hot for orange trees, but I want to give it a try. Yes, my gardening friends haven’t had much luck with lavendar, but maybe I will have better luck. I toted huge pots and bags of fertilizer, clipped bougainvillia and started more plants, wanting that half/half color, rising early to work in the cool of the day. Rosemary! Basil! Lemon trees! As soon as the weather began to cool, I planted my seeds to see what would sprout, what I could transplant, what would thrive. I’m willing to risk a little failure, but I was hoping for some spectacular results.


Inside once the sun had risen, having a glass of water, my front doorbell rang. Who could it be at this hour of the morning? I checked the security peephole, and it was the compound’s chief gardener. With him was the man assigned to take care of our house. He really didn’t know a lot about gardening.

“Madam,” the chief gardener started, with a wave of his hand indicating all the new potted flowers on my entry stairs, “this is MY job.”

I stood there, looking stupid.

“Madam, your job is to tell us what you want. You don’t want to take our work from us.”

I was stunned. People who garden, all over the world, share a sheer love of getting our hands dirty and watching gardens grow and thrive, we love the patterns, we love the floozies who get all the attention, we love the characters who give depth and texture, and we create the backgrounds, the stage, on which they dance.

Slowly, slowly, we worked out an arrangement. I would bring in pots and plants, the gardener would actually pot them – but I would show him exactly how I wanted it done. From time to time, I would pot one up myself, late at night when no gardeners were around, and he would pretend not to notice. I would do the starts from seeds, he would tend them. On a hot afternoon, he would occasionally drop by and take a rest in the garden, and I would pretend not to notice.

cape_honeysuckle_tecoma_capensis_small1jpg.jpg bougainvilla_and_star_jasmine_smalljpg.jpg

I didn’t achieve spectacular. I had some failures – lavendar and orange trees. I sometimes wonder whether we form the garden, or the garden forms us? My results were not what I had envisioned, but it had its’ own beauty.

Working together, the gardener and I created a lush paradise, a backyard retreat where my husband and I would sit in privacy and enjoy the bougainvillia, and the lemon trees, the pots of rosemary and basil and jasmine, making the garden aromatic as well as beautiful. The Qateri cat would enjoy the marvellous smells, and track the occasional bird who dropped by.

With the cooling temperatures in Kuwait, my hands are just itching to get dirty. 🙂
P.S. Those are illustrations, not my real garden.

November 6, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar | , , | 11 Comments

Cretan Olive Oil

This response is to a post I wrote October 25th on The Olive Oil scandal, that even when you buy a brand you have thought is reliable, you may not be getting what you paid for. For me, it was particularly horrifying to discover they were adulterating the olive oil with hazlenut oil – I don’t have a severe allergy to hazlenuts, but they make the insides of my ears itch. I avoid hazlenuts!

I keep getting such good responses to the post – and I have a partiality (disclaimer!) to small producers of anything, from olive oil to soap to pecans . . . I love buying from the entrepreneur.

Which is why I have taken this response from the comments page and made it an entry. Thank you, Mr. Sassone, for your thoughtful addition to this subject:

It is indeed a shame that the majority of the olive oil on the American and world market has been adulterated by unscrupulous sellers looking for enormous profits.

That is why I started growing olives on the island of Crete, making extra virgin olive oil-EVOO, and importing it to the US. I personally observe all steps in the process from the time the olive flowers bud on the tree until the EVOO goes in the can. I know it is the cleanest, freshest, highest quality, and most healthful EVOO you can buy at any price.

I also offer all customers copies of test reports from independent laboratories that show the exact quality. Acidity is 0.17%. Total polyphenols are 165ppm. Peroxide value is 6. Nothing can compare at any price.

When people buy EVOOs that are labeled as a mix of oil from several countries, they must take this into account: How clean was process to gather the olives? How clean was the factory that processed the oil? How clean were the trucks that transported the oil to the ship? How clean was the ship that transported the oil? You can see where this is going. At any one or more of dozens of steps in the process, contamination can occur. Some of the olive producing countries do not have food the safety standards like the European Union or US Food and Drug Administration.

My curiosity got the best of me. Recently, I sent samples of 13 EVOOs sold in the US for lab testing to find out just how good or bad they are. I dont have a web site just yet, but will publish the results as a comparison to my oil. So long as I keep complete control of the entire process, I can improve the quality of my oil each year.

My EVOO is now available in the US. It is the finest quality and most healthful EVOO you can buy at any price. Send me and email if interested. Thanks. Tony

November 6, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Entrepreneur, Health Issues, Hygiene, Shopping, Social Issues, Technical Issue | , , , , | 7 Comments