Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Arte Y Pico Award

My friend Lofter, over at Life at the Foot of the Stairs has honored me with the Arte y Pico Award, “given to those who are creative and have a penchant for art.” I am truly honored, Lofter, and I thank you.

There are responsiblities that go with this award:

1. Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog.
3. Each award winner (upon acceptance) should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award.
4. Show the link of Arte y Pico blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5. Show these rules.

So here are my selections:

1. Suresh Gundappa and Meditation Photography. I don’t know how I found this blog, but I find myself returning to it often. We don’t share the same religion, but we share similar values. His photos knock my socks off.

2. In a move of flagrant nepotism, I choose my niece, Little Diamond, at A Diamond in Sunlight because she also has lots of photos, describes daily life in the turbulence of Beirut living, and did I mention she is my niece?

3. Because they are also here, there and everywhere, writing about any and every interesting thing from technology to food to sky photography, and because they have only been blogging since October and have had amazing response, I choose Some Contrast, with bloggers Yousef and Mishary.

4. The Queen of all Kuwait Bloggers, Jewaira because her Jewaira’s Boutique delicately manages to introduce controversial topics without setting the blog-world aflame, because she has the most amazing headers and because she is smart and savvy and a great writer.

5. This last one is a stretch, but I select Purgatory because, like VanGogh, he is an original, people don’t always “get” him, I don’t always get him, but he does original works of art, he thinks way outside the box, and he lets Jacqui give him a new, and usually very artistic look from time to time.

Again, thank you, Lofter, for selecting me for this award.

May 31, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Blogroll, Community, Photos | 19 Comments

Sunrise: Wait Five Minutes

Continuing to jet lag, wide awake for the first call to prayer. Suddenly, there are more calls to prayer in my neighborhood. I don’t see any additional mosques, but maybe they are upping the volume on the calls to prayer. It isn’t loud, it is only that I used to only hear one, and now I can hear several. Maybe an atmospheric thing. Maybe I am not often awake at that time of the morning!

This is what the real sunrise looked like, barely able to break through the clouds:

But an hour later, as I am finishing up my e-mails, everything changes (don’t you just love clouds? They change everything!):

Just when I think it is all together, ready for a post, it changes again:

When I saw this photo, I though I had photographed through a dirty spot on the window, but no, it is the shadow of clouds from sky down across the water.

Wait five minutes and a totally new photo appears. What a great day!

It’s 90°F/ 32°C at 0600, heading for a high today of 109°F / 43°C. 😦

May 31, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 3 Comments

Customer Service, Travel and Travelocity

Recently, to my great surprise, over a year later, I received an apology and some customer appreciation miles because I wouldn’t stop complaining over what I thought was gross lack of customer service on the part of an airline. It made me so mad that nobody would answer my complaints that I just kept complaining. Finally, someone listened. That was all I really wanted, for someone to say “we screwed up and we’re sorry.”

Travelocity did a recent survey of travel satisfaction and is working on new ways to guarantee you don’t show up at the airport for a flight that has been delayed or cancelled, that your hotel room or rental car really IS waiting for you when you show up, etc.

From The New York Times: you can read the entire article by clicking here.

Published: June 1, 2008

FRUSTRATION with the fluctuation in the cost of airline tickets. Disappointment with airline reward programs. Annoyance with airport security searches and long checkpoint lines. Dropped hotel bookings.

These traveler complaints among others dominated the discussion of a focus group last month at the New York office of Travelocity, the online travel agency. Customers were invited to a bright conference room to vent, gripe and complain. As they spoke, Travelocity’s chief executive, Michelle Peluso, fastidiously took notes, regardless of whether the problem was the fault of the company or simply a consequence of the chaotic state of air travel today.

When an issue arose that the company, which is based in Southlake, Tex., could have mitigated — like the flight departure alert that came early, leading the designer to believe his flight left without him, or the bank manager who booked a room in the adults-only section of his resort only to end up, as he put it, in “the kindergarten area” — Ms. Peluso deftly defused any possible tension with a quick apology, an acknowledgment of the inconvenience caused (“That shouldn’t have happened in the first place”) and a promise to do better.

Partly to garner loyalty with their customers, but also to make sure the struggling airlines don’t drag them down with their mess, various players have been working on ways to pick up the slack in customer service.

The New York meeting, which brought eight of Travelocity’s frequent customers together over wine and cheese, was part of a larger effort by the company to get input from travelers on what the overall industry needs to do to improve the travel experience. Throughout the first week in May, Ms. Peluso and other Travelocity executives also visited call centers to listen in on calls and address customer needs.

When something goes wrong in your travel experiences, write a letter (or an e-mail) and tell them what went wrong and how it should have gone. Expect to be treated with respect. You paid for a service – you should get what you paid for. Be a squeaky wheel.

May 30, 2008 Posted by | Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Travel | 1 Comment

Grilled Portobellos

My friends, this is not my recipe. This is what happens when you are up at 4 a.m. and there is no one around to play with. I have never checked my Amazon blog before, I’ve never even noticed it at the top of my page, but I saw I had two new entries, and I clicked.


Another book I never knew I needed. This recipe sounds to-die-for. Every single ingredient is available in Kuwait, and lucky lucky you if you are growing your own basil!

It’s easy to expand your barbecue menu with these mouth-watering mushrooms from the BBQ Queens (the recipe’s from their book The Big Book of Barbecue, which is available from Harvard Common in both paperback and hardback, depending on how you like your books served). The hard part is deciding which cooking method to use, as the Queens disagree in this instance–barbecue style can be a bit divisive even within the tightest cooking teams. You can check out Judith’s way and Karen’s way in the directions below, and then choose your mushrooming option.

Serves 4

4 large Portobello mushrooms
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled or cubed (can also substitute feta cheese, Boursin, Gorgonzola, or Brie)
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Kosher or sea salt for seasoning

1. Remove the stems from the Portobello mushrooms, then brush both sides of each mushroom with extra virgin olive oil.

2. In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic cloves; the goat cheese (or feta cheese, Boursin, Gorgonzola, or Brie); the toasted pine nuts; and the chopped fresh basil leaves.

Karen’s version: Place one-fourth of the mixture inside each mushroom cap. Season with kosher or sea salt to taste. Place the mushroom caps directly over the hot fire and grill with the lid down until the mushrooms are soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

Judith’s version: Grill the mushrooms gill side down for about 4 minutes with the grill lid open. Turn the mushrooms, fill them with the goodies, and season with salt. Close the lid and grill for another 4 minutes. Serve hot.

–A.J. Rathbun

May 30, 2008 Posted by | Cooking, ExPat Life, Food, Kuwait, Recipes | Leave a comment

Sunrise May 30, 2008

As we approach the Summer solstice you have to be up early to catch the sunrise. I am up so early, with my jet lag, that I am waiting for the sun to rise!

It is a beautiful day. That hideous humidity that plagued Kuwait along with the dust when I arrived is gone. The night air is sweet, there is a breeze off the sea this morning – it would be a perfect morning to be out fishing.

There is a thin band of clouds just above the horizon, but nothing like those thick bands of pollution that give us headaches – and worse. The temperature today is only expected to reach 104°F / 40°C.

I hope you enjoy your Friday, my friends, and have a sweet day of rest and relaxation.

May 30, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Travel, Weather | 4 Comments

Yousef’s Blonde Joke

If you think my blonde jokes are funny, you’ve got to see Yousef’s Blonde Joke.

May 29, 2008 Posted by | Humor, Joke | 4 Comments

Saved by a Scream

This woman had a close call. I am re-assured that the family was taking her to Saudi Arabia to kill her; it implies that the climate in Kuwait does not support honor killings. Another tidbit from the Arab Times:

Screams help officers thwart bid to kill girl for soiling family name

KUWAIT CITY : The Saudi immigration officers manning the Al-Riqei border post are said to have reportedly foiled an attempt by an unidentified GCC family to kill their daughter to save their honor, reports Al-Watan Arabic daily.

According to a security source the parents with the daughter and another sibling traveled to Salmi post and to prevent the ‘victim’ from screaming for help the family’s relative who allegedly works at the post hurried through the process of stamping the passports to help the family cross into Saudi Arabia as the family waited in their car.

When the girl reached the Saudi border post she screamed for help and told the immigration officers that her father planned to kill her.

The family was temporarily detained at the post until the Saudi authorities contacted the authorities in Kuwait. After the family was returned to Kuwait under guard, the relative who helped them at the Salmi post was arrested and detained for interrogation.

The daily said it is a case of ‘honor killing’. The girl was reportedly involved in an affair with an unidentified youth inside an apartment in Salmiya and she became pregnant.

Meanwhile, the Al-Anba daily added, when the girl was in police custody the brother grabbed his younger sister and threatened to shoot her in front of the building of the Criminal Investigations Department.

He was demanding the release of his other sister who was caught having fun with the youth inside an apartment after a missing person report was filed against her.

A police sniper shot the man in the arm and rescued the younger sibling.

I can’t imagine her life will be easy, if she is pregnant, unmarried, and has a family who wants her dead. I can’t imagine that Kuwait has social services that can help her negotiate a path. Life will be difficult, but it sure beats what was about to happen to her in Saudi Arabia.

May 29, 2008 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cultural, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, News, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Women's Issues | | 9 Comments

Woman Receives Allowance

Sometimes, it’s a little article that has a huge impact. This little article, about a recent court decision in Kuwait, has potential for such an impact;

This is from today’s Arab Times:

Court orders allowance for woman

KUWAIT CITY : The Constitutional Court Wednesday received a petition filed by a Kuwaiti woman, requesting the court to declare the second paragraph of Item No. 2 and fifth paragraph of Item No. 3 of Cabinet decision No. 142 /1992 unconstitutional.

The court then declared the two paragraphs unconstitutional.

In her lawsuit submitted by her lawyer, Attorney Khaled Al-Hamdan, the woman said she was appointed as a lawyer at the Fatwa and Legislation Department in December 2000 and was promoted to ‘Lawyer A’ in December 2006.

The woman was surprised when she learnt her male colleagues were receiving housing allowance of KD 200 for the bachelors and KD 300 for those who are married. She then filed a case as she has not received any housing allowance since she joined the department.

The session was presided over by Judge Rashid Al-Hammad.

By Moamen Al-Masri
Special to the Arab Times

Pretty cool, huh? Wooo Hoooo on Judge Rashid Al-Hammad! Woooo Hooooo on Lawyer “A”, who fought for her rights – and WON. Wooo Hoooo, Kuwait!

May 29, 2008 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

Beating Jet Lag: Don’t Eat

Just in time – well, actually, not just in time or I wouldn’t have eaten – a new study reported on BBC Health News finds that if you want to re-set your body clock, fast. If you fast for 16 hours – like no eating en route from the USA to Kuwait – it helps you adjust faster and minimizes the effects of jet lag.

They seem to find something new every year, and then another study comes along and fails to confirm the findings. I do my best, but it usually takes me a week to get back to sleeping during normal hours.

May 29, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Travel | 2 Comments

Sunrise 29 May 2008

Holy Smokes – where did May go? 2008 is slipping through my fingers; I have so many plans and ideas and I don’t know how much will l really get done?

AdventureMan kept me busy and talking until I collapsed around nine last night, and did not sleep all that well. I finally gave up around 4:30 ayem and ended up getting some very Turneresque pre-dawn shots. Had to go out on the balcony to take them because my windows are all smogged with the humidity and smeared with the dust and rain from yesterday.

Going out to take a photo on the balcony requires feeding the Qatteri Cat back in his room, then running to the kitchen and shutting the door, then opening the balcony door. We know QC knows there is fresh air out that door, but we don’t want him to discover the balcony and all the dangers it represents to a logic-challenged cat.

Well, it’s not really dramatic enough for Turner but it has those dramatic elements of opalescent sky, translucent waters and hazy horizon that reminded me of Turner:

Moments later, we had sunrise:

And even some surf this morning:

We have a break in the weather today – only 109° instead of the 111’s and 112’s predicted for later on:

May 29, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 5 Comments