Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer


The Kuwait Times crime editor has come across a new term, and now he is using it every chance he gets. It is driving me crazy.

See if you can pick it out:

Policeman Injured
A policeman was injured after his patrol vehicle jackknifed when he lost control of the steering with the car coming to a rest upside down in the road. The officer managed to use the car’s radio to call for assistance and emergency services were quickly rushed to the scene, rushing the injured policeman to hospital.

Unless the police officer was driving a sectioned vehical; a car towing a trailer, a truck carrying a connected load – something that can be BENT, FOLDED, like a jackknife –

– then it is NOT a jackknifed vehicle. Most police vehicles are sedans. A sedan cannot jackknife.

This is the explanation from Wikipedia:
Jackknifing means the accidental folding of an articulated vehicle (i.e. one towing a trailer) such that it resembles the acute angle of a folding pocket knife. If a vehicle towing a trailer skids, the trailer can push it from behind until it spins round and faces backwards. This may be caused by equipment failure, improper braking, or adverse road conditions such as an icy road surface.

Jackknifing is not very common and usually only happens to an empty vehicle. Most truck drivers are skillful enough to correct a skid before it becomes a jackknife. It would be an exaggeration to claim that jackknifing accounts for a large number of tractor-semitrailer accidents since in many cases it is the collision that would have caused the vehicle to jackknife and not vice versa. Radio stations often report jackknifed trucks because people phone to tell them, but more often than not, the truck has not technically jackknifed; it may be stuck in the snow or damaged in a crash.

June 30, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Just Bad English, Kuwait, Language, Living Conditions, Words | 10 Comments

The Qatteri Cat’s Five Under Five

As told to me by the Qatteri Cat:

1. The sound of Dad’s key in the door when he comes home.

2. Tuna water

3. Sleeping on my back in the last remaining spot of sunshine

4. Cat mint! Cat grass! Catnip!

5. Snuggling up to Mom on a cold winter day.

June 30, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pets, Relationships, Tag | 6 Comments

Five Under Five Tag – You’re It!

It’s a slow summer day, not a lot going on, so let’s play.

I was making the Pasta Melanzane and added some sun-dried tomatoes when the smell suddenly reached my nose and I was caught by the sweet intensity of the smell. I thought to myself “so much flavor! and at so little cost!” and it started a whole train of thought.

What gives your life pleasure and doesn’t cost much? Here are the rules – the cost of your pleasure must be under 5KD (under $20 for my USA players). See if you can think of five. If you find more than five, you can list those too, if you want – the rules here are pretty vague. so – give me five!

Here are mine:

1. The sound of my husband whistling – it means he is feeling peaceful, even happy.

2. Moments with my family when I suddenly realize how special they are, and truly treasure our time together.

3. The intense flavor of sun-dried tomatoes.

4. The sound of waves crashing onto the shore.

5. The smell of the sea, cloves, lavender, baked apples, roasting meat, a fresh pine Christmas tree,
the first rain in a dry, dusty country.

Bonus: The smell of Comfort fabric softener on laundered underwear. 🙂

The sound of my friend’s voice when I don’t expect a call from her.

June 30, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Relationships, Tag | 4 Comments

Crown Relocation Marketing

I found this on my doorstep, as a neighbor is moving out:

And this is on the flip side:

I totally love it. Brilliant marketing.

First, it purports to be an apology for any inconvenience. How thoughtful, right? What great customer service, innoculating against negative perceptions by apologizing humbly in advance.

And, what a brilliant way to get attention and drum up customers. Wouldn’t you want a company who is so polite? So caring? After all, they start by apologizing for any inconvenience, before you turn the page over to read about the services they offer.

Last – no misspellings, uses good English, uses economical language and lots of white space. Well done, no annoyances, and leaves a positive impression.

I love it. Well done, Crown Relocation Services.

June 29, 2008 Posted by | Customer Service, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions | | 11 Comments

Grin for the Day

I am still scurrying around, catching up, trying to get life back to normal, but this morning I took a moment to catch up with I Can Has Cheeseburgers, and I found this. I hope it makes you LOL, as it did me:

more cat pictures

Followed by this one, which makes my heart sing:

more cat pictures

June 29, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Family Issues, Humor, Pets | 4 Comments

AIDS and Africa

Listening to BBC yesterday, I learned that in Ghana, men forbid their wives to get HIV testing. If the wife tests positive, it makes public his own shame, carrying HIV, and they don’t want people to know they are infected. They will even resist being treated rather than confess to having HIV.

Recently a Ghanian man divorced his wife for testing positive, even denied he was infected. She states he is the only man she has ever been with. He said she is bringing shame on him, going public.

What tragedy. What folly. Life enhancing, life prolonging drug treatments are available. First, you have to acknowledge you are infected. And, of course, if the women do not get tested, the dreaded disease passes along to the babies.

The newspaper recently published an article that 129 Kuwaitis are HIV positive. I imagine the problems here are similar, that people would prefer it all be kept very private. Is that possible? Is confidentiality respected? Do couples have blood tests before getting married?

June 29, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Social Issues, Statistics | 6 Comments

Khadra and The Swallows of Kabul

While waiting for our luggage to be offloaded, we were passing time, visiting with our greeter / expediter, asking about his family, his life in Zambia.

“How does this work, travelling with your son and your daughter-in-law?” he asked us. “Do you like her?”

Nothing on earth could disguise the delight on our faces as we both said “Yes!” We truly adore her.

When our son was only seven years old, a Christian speaker passing through said that if you have children, it is likely that their mates have also been born, so to start praying now for the unknown mate your child would choose, and we did.

When our son called us from university, and told us there was someone he wanted us to meet at graduation, and graduation was still months away, we knew, we just knew, that this might be THE ONE.

We were so delighted when we met her, we liked her immediately. What parent isn’t happy to see his/her son/daughter happy, and choosing well?

“But!” our meeter/greeter added, “how do you like her family?”

And we laughed again! We love her family! Her father is smart and very funny, and her mother is kind and practical, and we all share the same values on family and friends and living our lives. She comes from a large rowdy family that gathers when they can, and so do we.

And YOU are thinking “what does all this have to do with The Swallows of Kabul?” but I am getting there.

On the trip, we all had books for our quiet time, and I could see EnviroGirl deeply engrossed in this book. When I asked her, she said she had gotten it from her father’s wife, a woman with whom I often talk books, and that she (EnviroGirl) was trying to finish it so that she could leave it with me.

And thank goodness that she did! I couldn’t put it down!

First, you think it is written by Yasmina Khadra, but that is a pseudonym. The real author, Mohammed Moulessehoul, was Algerian army officer, and he used the pseudonym to avoid having to submit the manuscript for approval by military authorities. That got my attention right away.

The book is about Taleban era Afghanistan, and starts out with utter hopelessness, describing the deterioration in life brought about by the arbitrary imposition of religious rule, as interpreted by men who have memorized the Qur’an, but have a poor understanding of what they have memorized. Women lead a dismal, limited life, at the mercy of men who treat them as detestable if they are seen in public, even totally cloaked.

His language is beautiful, poetic and compelling, even describing despair and desolation.

We meet two couples, Atiq, a jailer, and his wife, Musarrat, who risked her own life to save his life back when he was seriously wounded and left for dead, and Mohsen, former member of a moderately successful merchant family, married to the love of his life, Zunaira, who is beautiful, educated and from a wealthy background. These men love their wives, and have a strong, genuine connection to them. Their ability to maintain that connection, and to stay connected to their own values, withers in the dry, dusty context of fundamentalist rule.

Their lives and relationships have been changing gradually, increasingly limited and undignified under the stress of Taleban rule, and the novel follows a rapid spiral of deterioration and folly. The steady decline of their lives speeds when Mohsen makes a terrible impulsive decision, has to live with the consequences, and confesses to his wife.

Atiq, too, faces dismal consequences. Even though we know he is limited, he becomes a sympathetic character. His hardness of heart covers a genuine grief that his wife is dying, and he can do nothing to stop it, nor to alleviate her pain.

We all face hard times. In our family, when someone lashes out unjustly, we often ask “is it something I have done, or am I just the nearest dog to kick?” It always gets a laugh, and it puts things back in perspective, puts us on the same side. Sometimes we can’t always vent our frustrations against those people or events creating the frustration, so we take it out on those we love – and who love us. It’s not right, it’s not fair or just, but it is very human, and once you get that out on the table, it is easier to discuss the real issue.

When Zunaira ends up in jail, Atiq’s world is shattered as if by an earthquake – the earth moves under his feet, all his understanding of life is shaken.

“As he cleans up, he cautiously lifts his eyes to the roof beam looming over the cell like a bird of evil augury, and his gaze lingers on the anemic little lightbulb, growing steadily dimmer in its ceiling socket. Screwing his courage to the sticking point, he walks back to the lone occupied cell, and there, in the very middle of the cage, the magical vision: the prisoner has removed her burqa! She’s sitting cross-legged on the floor. Her elbows are on her knees, her hands are joined under her chin. She’s praying. Atiq is thunderstruck. Never before has he seen such splendor. With her godess’s profile, her long hair spread across her back, and her enormous eyes, like horizons, the condemned woman is beautiful beyond imagination. She’s like a dawn, gathering brightness in the heart of this poisonour, squalid, fatal dungeon.

Except for his wife’s, Atiq hasn’t seen a woman’s face for many years. He’s even learned to live without such sights. For him, women are only ghosts, voiceless, charmless ghosts that pass practically unnoticed along the streets; flocks of infirm swallows – blue, yellow, often faded, several seasons behind – that make a mournful sound when they come into the proximity of men.

And all at once, a veil falls and a miracle appears. Atiq can’t get over it. A complete, solid woman? A genuine tangible woman’s face, also complete, right here in front of him? He’s been cut off from such a forbidden sight for so long that he believed it had been banished even from people’s imaginations. . .

Atiq has a friend, Mirza, who thrives under Taleban rule, as a soldier, and also running illegal businesses highly profitable under the current regime. He encourages Atiq to abandon his cancer-striken wife, to get rid of her and to find a fresh, young wife. He offers Atiq shady business opportunities, and tells him a wise man bends with the wind. Ignorance and chaos benefit Mirza, and he has no wish to see the good old days return.

In spite of the bleakness, the desolation, the crushing arbitrariness and inhumanity, there is hope, love, and compassion in a thin, steady stream throughout the book.

Once I started reading, I had to finish. It was a great book for the long trip back to Kuwait, one I am eager to pass along to the next avid reader.

June 29, 2008 Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Marriage, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual, Women's Issues | , , , | 5 Comments

Pasta Melanzane

I first had Pasta Melanzane at a wonderful restaurant near my home in Wiesbaden, Germany. We were always looking for the best Italian restaurant we could find, and when we found Marcello’s, we stopped looking. No matter what we ate there, the food was delicious. Melanzane, by the way, means eggplant, or aubergine. I always use that word because a lot of people think they don’t like eggplant.

I tried hard to duplicate Marcello’s Pasta Melanzane, but the more I added, the weirder it would get. In the end, my very best results came from keeping things simple and fresh:

Pasta Melanzane

1 fairly large eggplant, cut into fingers about 1/2 inch, like french fries
6 – 10 cloves of garlic, peeled, chopped
olive oil
2 packets / small cans tomato paste
1 Tablespoon (1 large glop) finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
(red pepper flakes – optional)
water to thin

Put the eggplant fingers in a colander (bowl shaped strainer) and sprinkle with salt. Leave half an hour, rinse with water and dry with paper towels. You do this because sometimes eggplant can be bitter, and this takes away the bitterness.

Put some olive oil – maybe 2 Tablespoons – in a deep frying pan and heat, add chopped garlic and heat until garlic is softened. If you are using red pepper flakes, add those in now, too, and let them soften with the garlic.

Add the eggplant fingers, turn the heat way down, add a little more olive oil and cook slowly until the eggplant is also softened all the way through.

Meanwhile, mix the tomato paste, chopped sun dried tomato pieces, and some water into sauce.

(If you are in a place where you can legally use red wine, you can use a cup or so in place of some of the water. I have also used pomegranate juice, but it is not quite the same.)

Add the sauce to the eggplant, put on a spatter guard (You can find them at the Sultan Center and sometimes in the souks – they are a round screen with a handle that keeps sauce from splashing all over your stove) and turn the gas down to the very lowest it will go.

Set the timer for 30 minutes, and go about your business. Keep checking every 30 minutes, give it a stir, add a little more liquid if it needs it, give it a taste.

When it is ready, turn the burner off. This sauce just gets better and better as it mellows.

When it is time to serve dinner, boil a pot of pasta and re-heat the melanzane sauce at the same time. Because it is a strong sauce, you can use strong pastas, like penne, to serve it over.

June 28, 2008 Posted by | Cooking, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Germany, Kuwait, Recipes | , , , | 6 Comments

Chongwe River Camp, Zambezi, Zambia

I used to be such an organized person. I had a responsible job where I juggled many important things. I had meetings and messages, and events and proposal deadlines, and somehow, I did it all, and I did it well.

Now that I have somewhat less to handle, I don’t handle it as well. I am too relaxed. I don’t obsess about details, I don’t wake up in the middle of the night gasping about something I may have forgotten, I don’t even keep a notepad by the side of my bed to write things down that wake me in the night.

When I was making arrangements for this trip, AdventureMan said to add on a few days at the Chongwe River Lodge, so I told the travel guy at Robin Pope Safaris to book us at the Chongwe River Lodge. Then, I just paid what the invoice said and never thought about it again. If you go to the RPS page, it will show you Chongwe River HOUSE, and that is where we thought we were staying. When we arrived, we were a little disconcerted to discover we were at the Chongwe River Camp, not the house, but our tent/cabin faced a pod of hippos, and we were immediately enchanted, and sometimes things happen for a reason, you know? We knew we were there for a reason, and just relaxed and enjoyed what the camp had to offer.

And oh, WOW, what the camp had to offer. First, every tent is situated to have a fabulous view, and the front of the tent is all clear net, you CAN close it if you want to, but you don’t have to, you have absolute privacy with on one looking in. They have a wide range of activities, lots of water sports, fishing, kayaking, hiking, fly camping . . . so much to do! Or . . . you can do nothing at all, too.

Our view overlooked a pod of hippos. All day and all night long, we could hear hippos. In the middle of the night, a hippo mom and a baby hippo were grazing two feet from the entrance to our tent – when I got up to watch, they quickly slipped back into the water.

That might disturb some people, but it totally enchants me! I was told some people get grumpy because they can’t sleep, that they request earplugs . . . I cannot imagine. I love the sounds, and somehow, it makes me feel safer inside knowing wild things are roaming around at night. I’ve always felt human beings were the far more dangerous threat than the animals.

So I will bore you with a bunch of photos, and you will see the things I love – details of the tents and lounge and dining areas, and photos that I wish had sound attached so you could be lulled to sleep by the laughter of the hippos.

This is the Chongwe River airport:

This is the airstrip we flew into – you can see elephant dung all over the strip, but there were no elephants on the strip when we flew in:

Zambia was experiencing a huge airplane fuel crisis while we were there, so flights were being consolidated. One night, there was NO fuel at any of the major airfields. Here us the fuel storage at Chongwe:

This is my idea of camping – king size bed, good sheets, a great bathroom and a great view of hippos:

The bathroom! Can you see why I enjoy camping so much? The shower has a European style flash heater – so practical, and you get hot water in a heartbeat without burning a lot of trees.

Storage/clothing shelves in the bedroom. Rooms come with flashlights, insect repellant sprays, and a whistle in case you feel in danger:

Dining in the bush – and the food was great. Because it is the middle of winter in Zambia, nights can be chilly, and we had charcoal braziers between diners at night to keep us from shivering. It was toasty warm! When we would get back to our tents, there would be hot water bottles warming our beds, so we could just jump in.

The coffee/tea/hot chocolate bar, with French press Zambian coffee, yummmmm:

This is how the camp would look at night when we would come back from a game drive or a boating trip – purely magic, with all the twinkling candles. The camp offers fishing, hiking, game drives, kayaking, all kinds of activities, or . . . just chilling:

This is the lounge area and library in the daytime:

These are “my” hippos – oh, this just made my time at Chongwe River Camp, hearing their laughter, hearing their arguements. Just up the river all the animals would come down to drink at dusk. I could sit and take photos and never intrude on them – warthogs, impala, elephant, waterbuck, geese, heron, egret, ibis . . . and lots of baboon.

We saw everything on our game drives, but I will start with the great Kudu, because finding a male kudu not shyly running away is a great treat:

I think this lion finds tourists boring – he and his wives endured our presence for about 45 minutes before ambling off to another shady glen:

This was a great thrill for me – an elephant swimming to one of the Zambezi islands. Don’t worry, I was using my great telephoto, I was not that close. We did not bother the elephant, we kept our distance.

Here is the big guy safely on his island:

And just look at this guy! He was a big as a HUMMER! Our guide said he had seen even bigger on the Zambezi. (gulp!)

June 28, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Photos, Travel, Weather, Zambia | , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Zambia Adventure Begins

AdventureMan and I were watching Kite Runner, which we thought did a really great job on an amazing book, when we could hear our VOIP phone ring. I ran, because I broke the message-taking phone, and if I don’t get to this one by the fifth ring it goes to a message place online that I have trouble accessing.

It was our son, from the Atlanta airport, en route to Lusaka with his beautiful bride, just calling to let us know he is on the way.

We went back and watched the movie, but I had one of those nagging thoughts that just wouldn’t leave me alone.

As soon as the movie ended, I turned on the computer and checked our trip folder. . . hmmmm. I thought we were all meeting up in Johannisburg, but it seems like they are leaving awfully early. I check, and sure enough . . . I have totally screwed up. They are arriving in Johannisburg a day before we are! I have only made reservations for one night!

I quickly call our son back, and as he answers, I can hear someone in the background saying “I need your passport” and I quickly tell him the situation, and to my great surprise, he just laughs. “I need for you to be flexible,” I say, “I am going to try to contact the hotel and the Robin Pope Safari people to make sure you have a room when you arrive, but we won’t be there! Find a shuttle to the Taj Pamodzi and I will do everything I can to make sure you have a room waiting there!”

Again, he laughs and says they will be fine.

I can’t believe it. I’ve just told him he is going to a totally strange city and he doesn’t know the city and may or may not have a hotel room waiting and he just laughs. He is boarding the plane when we hang up, en route on a grueling Delta Airlines flight that leaves Atlanta for Dakar, Senegal en route to Johannesburg, South Africa.

When we all finally meet up in Lusaka, they tell us the whole story.

The night before they are to leave, our son gets a call from CheapTickets telling them they no longer have tickets. The flight they were on from Pensacola to Atlanta was rescheduled, and somehow, it caused all the reservations to be cancelled.

Smart guy that he is, he grabs his bride and they hustle to the airport to deal with Delta directly. A very kind and patient woman re-writes and re-issues the entire ticket, and the next day, they are on their way, but not without some very bad moments between being told their tickets are no good and finding the good Delta woman who can fix everything.

Meanwhile, I write to both the hotel and Robin Pope Safaris grovelling in mortification – it is totally MY fault that I didn’t get the dates right, not their problem, but I sure could use their help. By the next day – the day we are departing – I hear from both, telling me that a room will be waiting for them. Al hamd’allah, we breathe a sigh of relief, and hope that all the plane connections go smoothly.

RPS has a great guy, Dave, to meet us on arrival at Lusaka and to help us get our visas and to get as quickly as possible to the hotel, so we can meet up with our son and his bride.

It is such a relief. When you plan a trip like this, there are no guarantees everything will go smoothly – and it doesn’t. That’s a big part of the adventure. When son and bride got to Johannesburg, they were told they did NOT have seats on the flight to Lusaka, but at the very last minute, they were sent Business Class. We are sitting in the bar, whooping with laughter as we hear all the near misses, all the . . .hmmm. . . “adventures” that went into us all experiencing this miracle, the four of us in Lusaka together.

You know me and photos:

Lusaka International Airport

Lusaka at night

Lusaka by day

Taj Pamodzi Hotel

And you know how I like signs to capture the flavor of a place:

One little postscript – I often use Trip Advisor when planning a trip, especially chosing hotels or places to shop or sites to be sure to visit. If I had listened to Trip Advisor, I probably wouldn’t have stayed at the Taj Pamodzi; several reviewers were very negative. Our experience was just the opposite. People could not have been more friendly, more helpful. They were equally friendly and helpful to our son and his bride the 24 hours they were there without us. The front desk people were efficient and professional, the restaurant and bar service was supurb and we were very satisfied.

June 27, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, Travel, Zambia | 4 Comments