Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Grabbing a Half Day

While most of my time has been spent joyfully grandmama-ing, I was feeling increasing anxiety about one thing. I am flying back to Doha to pack, and then I am flying back to Pensacola to close on the house, and wait for AdventureMan to join me, and then all our furniture and household goods that have been in storage a lifetime – twelve years – will arrive.

Oh oh. Where do we sleep until our bed arrives? We COULD invade our dear son and his sweet wife once again, but don’t you think enough is enough? Would you want your parents and in-laws living with you, week after week, with all our well-intentioned advice, and stories about our son when he was young?

No? LLOOLLL, me neither!

So yesterday, I took an afternoon to myself.

First, I had learned that the Pensacola Quilter’s Guild was having their bienniel (once every TWO years) show this weekend, Friday and Saturday. There is little that can take this adoring grandmama away from her most adorable brand-new grandson, but I will admit it – a quilt show – that is beyond temptation. I had to go, even just for an hour. I went, joined the guild, hurried through the exhibit, which was GLORIOUS! and then I went furniture shopping.

Furniture shopping is not what it used to be. I have some lovely furniture in storage, but not a huge amount of it. Some of it we sent off with Law and Order Man when he went off to law school and needed some basics. Some of it is just outdated – like televisions from the 90’s! I figured I would just look for the basics – bed, mattress and table and chair. We will have a place to sit when we are not sleeping, and we can buy the TV’s together, later, with our son’s help. We need the help of the high-tech-savvy to get us up to speed on what we will be needing, phones, TV’s, cable connections, phone plans, internet connections, oh, it is as bad as buying a new car!

When we were still in the military, we found a dining room table and chairs, gorgeous, at an auction, for $169. We found marble topped antique oak nightstands, gorgeous, at the flea market in Metz, and paid $60 for the pair. We found a gorgeous buffet/credenza in a used furniture shop in Leavenworth, KS for $50 + $10 for delivery, all these are furniture pieces we still treasure. I am telling you this so you will understand what sticker shock I get when I go to look at new furniture.

I am quick and clear about what I want and need, but the prices require me to summon all the courage I can summon when I go to write the checks. I am good at saving. Letting that money go is so HARD. It took me the entire afternoon to find pieces I knew would work for us.

Here is where you will sleep, the guest room bed, when you come to stay with us:

It was on sale. I love it because, with the inlay, it sort of reminds me of the Middle East, of Damascus:

I also bought mattresses. It was difficult, too, because I don’t like these pillow tops. We like a good, firm bed, and I like to sleep cool, I can’t get to sleep if I am too warm, and these pillow tops are too warm. It took me a long time to find a good, firm mattress set for the bed.

Then I went looking for a table and chairs for the family room/ casual dining area. I knew what I wanted. My long-time Chinese friend told me the best table for families is the round table, no one sits at the head, everyone is equal. My sister Big Diamond (Little Diamond’s and Sporty Diamond’s Mom) has a HUGE, gorgeous round table, and I have seen how people love to gather there. So I knew I wanted a round table that would be inviting and comfortable, but not so grand as my sister’s. I have been looking online, checking out a lot of models. When I found one here in Pensacola, at a reasonable price, I was hooked. It is light teak – light in color, heavy in weight. OOps. Then she reminded me I would need chairs. Aaarrgh.

There weren’t any other customers in the shop at the time, so we took our time. As I learned from you, my Middle Eastern friends, we dickered a little, comfortably and amiably – and she gave me a discount, and free delivery.

The chairs are amazing. You would not believe wood could feel so comfortable. The table and chairs together remind me so much of all our times camping and in lodges in Africa, in Zanzibar, in Zambia, in Botswana, where the furniture is both comfortable and well made. But I almost choked, writing the check. Some things are just worth buying new; sturdy, comfortable furniture is one of them.

Here is the guest bathroom:

It has a spa tub and a walk in shower. ๐Ÿ™‚

Last but not least, I found some farewell gifts for friends I have had in Doha for a long long time, and a bolt of muslin for a friend who knows I am coming back with suitcases almost empty. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a long day, and a fruitful day, and I am resting easier knowing all these little details are coming together.

Today, however, my son and his wife are taking me to the kinds of places I LOVE buying furniture! The Waterfront Mission Store and Loaves and Fishes! Wooo HOOOOO!

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Relationships, Shopping, Values, Zambia, Zanzibar | 6 Comments

Keep Another’s Confidence

This is from a wonderful website by by Rick Warren, who writes about the Purpose Driven Life and who sends out daily inspirational messages. I love this one.

Connect be keeping someone’s confidence
by Rick Warren
“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13 (NIV)

If relationships are going to work, we have to be confidential with information.
Are you the kind of person that someone can trust with confidential information? We tend to think of gossip as one of those little sins, a misdemeanor sin. But when God talks about gossip, He puts it on a list with things like sexual immorality and murder.

Why? Because it is incredibly destructive to relationships.

What is gossip? Gossip is talking about a situation with somebody who is neither a part of the solution nor a part of the problem. And if we’re honest with ourselves, what we’re doing is making ourselves feel a little more important at somebody else’s expense. We’re talking about their hurts and their problems, but in a way that makes us feel a little bit superior to them. That’s the danger and the hurt of gossip.

There’s a story in the Old Testament about a family that struggled with gossip. Moses had a sister name Miriam who one day got caught up in gossiping about Moses amidst the rest of the people. God called them together – Moses and Miriam. He spoke with Miriam and told her what she’d done wrong and immediately He gave her leprosy.

But look at what God did next; he invited Moses to pray for Miriam’s healing – to pray for the one who gossiped against him.

Some of you have been deeply hurt by gossip. The story of Moses and Miriam suggests God would say to you, “Pray for that person’s healing, the one who gossiped against you. That way you can be released from the hurt that’s come into your life.”

Perhaps you’re the one whose been gossiping. You’ve been the one talking about other people. This story is in the Old Testament to remind us how serious gossip is, how hurtful it can be to people no matter what side of the situation you’re on.

The truth is, when you keep confidences it makes your relationships healthier. It enables you to keep connecting with others in positive and genuine way.

What is so interesting to me is that Islam has the same prohibitions against gossip, called back-biting, and puts a high level of prohibition against it. The prophet Mohammed warned against it repeatedly.

I love it that Rick Warren puts it into context by warning that it destroys relationships.

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Character, Charity, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Thing Younger, Act Younger, BE Younger

A couple of my friends and I were trying to figure out why we were friends. What goes into making friendships? One thing that surprised us was that we tended to choose people with some risk-taking behaviors – people who look ‘normal’ and conservative on the outside, but are thinking outside-the-box on the inside. They are thinking all the time, observing and analyzing and making choices that set them aside from others. For one thing, here we are, all living in Qatar – and that is a choice. Our lifestyles are a choice.

Most of my friends are a lot of fun – you would like them. And it might take you a while to figure out we are all total nerds, very uncool people. One of the very coolest sent me this. On the inside, this woman is into EVERYTHING! On the outside, she obeys the conventions. On the inside, she is thinking all the time. ๐Ÿ™‚

This study, from BBC News Magazine is amazing. But don’t believe me! Listen to the broadcast! See the movie! Imagine yourself 20 years younger (please! not those of you in your 20’s!) and start acting YOUNGER!

In 1979 psychologist Ellen Langer carried out an experiment to find if changing thought patterns could slow ageing. But the full story of the extraordinary experiment has been hidden until now.

How much control do you have over how you will age?

Many people would laugh at the idea that people could influence the state of their health in old age by positive thinking. A way of mitigating ageing is a holy grail for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry, but an experiment by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer three decades ago could hold significant clues.

Prof Langer has spent her entire career investigating the power our mind has over our health. Conventional medicine is frequently accused of treating them as separate entities.

“Everybody knows in some way that our minds affect our physical being, but I don’t think people are aware of just how profound the effect actually is,” she says.
In 1979, Prof Langer conducted a ground-breaking experiment – the results of which are only now being fully revealed.

Prof Langer recruited a group of elderly men all in their late 70s or 80s for what she described as a “week of reminiscence”. They were not told they were taking part in a study into ageing, an experiment that would transport them 20 years back in time.

The psychologist wanted to know if she could put the mind back 20 years would the body show any changes.

The men were split into two groups. They would both be spending a week at a retreat outside of Boston.

Ellen Langer in 1979 and today
But while the first group, the control, really would be reminiscing about life in the 50s, the other half would be in a timewarp. Surrounded by props from the 50s the experimental group would be asked to act as if it was actually 1959.

They watched films, listened to music from the time and had discussions about Castro marching on Havana and the latest Nasa satellite launch – all in the present tense.

Dr Langer believed she could reconnect their minds with their younger and more vigorous selves by placing them in an environment connected with their own past lives.

And she was determined to remove any prompt for them to behave as anything but healthy individuals. The retreat was not equipped with rails or any gadgets that would help older people. Right from the off she was determined to ensure they looked after themselves.

One man discarded his walking stick

When they got off the bus at the retreat, Prof Langer did not help the men carry their suitcases in. “I told them they could move them an inch at a time, they could unpack them right at the bus and take up a shirt at a time.”

The men were entirely immersed in an era when they were 20 years younger.

Understandably, Prof Langer herself had doubts. “You have to understand, when these people came to see if they could be in the study and they were walking down the hall to get to my office, they looked like they were on their last legs, so much so that I said to my students ‘why are we doing this? It’s too risky’.”

But soon the men were making their own meals. They were making their own choices. They weren’t being treated as incompetent or sick.

Pretty soon she could see a difference. Over the days, Prof Langer began to notice that they were walking faster and their confidence had improved. By the final morning one man had even decided he could do without his walking stick.

As they waited for the bus to return them to Boston, Prof Langer asked one of the men if he would like to play a game of catch, within a few minutes it had turned into an impromptu game of “touch” American football.

The experiment took the men back to 1959

Obviously this kind of anecdotal evidence does not count for much in a study.

But Prof Langer took physiological measurements both before and after the week and found the men improved across the board. Their gait, dexterity, arthritis, speed of movement, cognitive abilities and their memory was all measurably improved.

Their blood pressure dropped and, even more surprisingly, their eyesight and hearing got better. Both groups showed improvements, but the experimental group improved the most.

Think younger, feel younger?
Prof Langer believes that by encouraging the men’s minds to think younger their bodies followed and actually became “younger”.

She first published the scientific data in 1981 but she left out many of the more colourful stories. As a young academic, she feared this might taint the experiment and affect the acceptance of the results.

Now after over 30 years of research into the connection between the mind and the body and with the confidence and conviction of a Harvard professor, she feels she has a fuller story to tell.

“My own view of ageing is that one can, not the rare person but the average person, live a very full life, without infirmity, without loss of memory that is debilitating, without many of the things we fear.”

Richard Wiseman, professor of public understanding of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, thinks the results of Prof Langer’s experiments are fascinating but the big question is what’s causing them. “I think there could be multiple things going on here and the question is which explanations really hold water.

Why some people age faster than others is mysterious
“Part of it could be self perception, for example if you get people to smile they feel happier. The same could be going on here, by getting people to act younger they feel younger.”

Prof Weisman believes another factor could be motivational, the men are simply trying harder by the end of the week, or it could be similar to hypnotism, where people do better on memory tests because they are told they have a better memory.

Whatever the cause he believes there is a place for the type of positive thinking shown in the study.

“If you take something like heart disease positive thinking can have a role, because while it won’t heal your heart on its own, positive thinking will feed into positive actions like healthy eating or exercise which will help.”

In any event there is likely to be more interest in the 1979 experiment. The retelling of the study has been snapped up by Jennifer Aniston’s new production company, with Aniston tipped to play Prof Langer.

Horizon: Don’t Grow Old is available via iPlayer and will be repeated at 0250GMT on BBC One on Tuesday 9 February)

February 27, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Relationships, Social Issues, Statistics | 3 Comments

The Most Beautiful Baby Ever (Photographer makes the difference!)

There is a woman in Pensacola who has studied how to photograph babies. The photos she did of our grandbaby made tears come to my eyes:

She takes wonderful, joyous photographs of babies and families. She welcomes your visits and comments to her blog:

Arielle Langhorn’s Photography Blog

February 27, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Photos, Technical Issue | 19 Comments

Operation Hope: Kuwait

From: Sheryll Mairza []
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 8:01 AM
To: Operation Hope
Subject: Yard Sale Announcement

Dear Friends – near and far,

I invite you to attend the Operation HOPE – Kuwait Spring Yard Sale on Saturday, March 6, 2010 at Rumaithiya, Block 9, Street 92, House 23 from 8 – 11 am. Lots of nearly new treasures will be found including living room furnishings, kitchen table/chairs, appliances-large and small, kitchen ware, toys, baby furnishings, children’s clothing, shoes, ladies hand bags, and much, much more! Mark your calendar to support the work OH – Kuwait endeavors to do. Please pass this invitation on to everyone in your Kuwait email address book ~ we need your support! If you live outside Kuwait would you please forward this email on to those who DO live in Kuwait as you are our best means of advertising!

PS: If you have items you wish to donate, please bring them by before March 4th.

I thank you for your support!!

Sheryll Mairza
Operation HOPE – Kuwait

February 27, 2010 Posted by | Charity, Kuwait, Social Issues | 6 Comments

Qatar Starts Work on Railway

I love public transportation, when it is good. When it is modern and clean and orderly, it is good for citizens, good for the community, good for the country and good for the environment. Woo HOOO on Qatar, and on an Emir who says (I paraphrase) to let nothing stand in its way, to remove all obstacles. Wooo HOOOOO!

Work starts on railway projects
Web posted at: 2/25/2010 6:51:1

DOHA: Preliminary work on the ambitious multi-billion dollar metro and ground rail projects has begun and once the networks are ready trains could be moving at speeds of 80 to 350km per hour.

The projects are to be completed in phases between 2010 and 2016 and will take into consideration Qatarโ€™s bid to host the football World Cup in 2022.

The three mega railway projects (the metro network within Greater Doha, the over-ground railways covering entire Qatar and eventually linking it to the rest of the GCC region and cargo trains) are expected to cost an astronomical QR133.5bn.

This was disclosed by the Qatar News Agency yesterday. It said the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, briefed the Heir Apparent, H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, on the railway and various Ashghal projects at the Emiri Diwan yesterday.

Senior Qatari Diar officials handling the railway ventures and Ashghal (Public Works Authority) functionaries made the presentations.

According to QNA, the Premier briefed the Emir, H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, on these projects on February 2 and was asked to refer them for review to the Heir Apparent.

The Emir also asked the PM to remove any obstacles facing these ventures and added that the projects be forwarded to the Advisory Council and the Central Municipal Council (CMC) as well for revision.

Qatari Diar officials told the Heir Apparent that the metro rail project will cover a total distance of 354km and the trains will run at speeds of 80 to 160km per hour.

The ground rail network will, on the other hand, cover a total distance of 345km and traverse the entire country and passenger electric trains will be running at between 220 and 350km per hour.

This network will be linked to the GCC railways by 2017. Cargo trains covering major economic centres in Qatar will be running at 120km per hour.

Ashghal officials briefed the Heir Apparent on current and future infrastructure projects.

They put the total cost of the various road, sewage and groundwater collection projects at a whopping QR70bn and said the ventures are to be ready in five to eight years.

The possibility of hiring international consultants to handle key public projects was also discussed so that smooth traffic flow on arterial roads was ensured during the execution of these ventures.

A pipeline is to be installed that would collect rain water from the north and other parts of the country and bring it to a reservoir in the south.

And the capacities of the three major sewage water treatment plants are to be increased, said Ashghal officials.

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Community, Doha, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

To Kuwait: Happy Liberation and Independence Days Celebrations

Wishing all my Kuwait friends all the blessings of liberty, and independence.

I always remember February in Kuwait as being one of the nicest months of the year – so how is it this year? My friends in Doha tell me they are having a heat wave!

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Doha, Events, ExPat Life, Holiday, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Weather | 4 Comments

Bayou Sunset

You know me and water. I love the sun coming up over water. I love the sun going down over water.

On the Bayou, when the sun starts going down, the air gets all pink. I can’t even capture it with the camera. I see it, but the camera does not see it.

It has to do with a magical quality of light; I will probably be trying to capture it to my dying day.

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Beauty, Florida, Photos | , | Leave a comment

Thanks Mom: Bread and Eggs / Pain Perdu

Sometimes when my daughter in law is nursing, she gets very hungry. So while she is feeding the baby, I spoon or fork-feed her. It is a wonderful time for me, to be able to nurture and nourish this dear woman who loves our son and bears and nurtures his child. This morning, it was Pain Perdu with little slices of cantaloupe. (I had to look up ‘cantaloupe’ twice. I had no idea spelling cantaloupe was so difficult!)

Thanks, Mom. Bread and Eggs was a big hit. (I also notice that the majority of entries under Pain Perdu look more like what we call French Toast than bread and eggs.)

When I was little, we always loved it when our Dad went away on a trip because he hated eggs, and when he left, Mom would make Bread and Eggs, something they used to make in her family to use up bread which may have gone stale and hard.

It is delicious, but you would not want to eat it often. You start by melting butter – I used about half a stick of butter – and sautรฉing small bread cubes at a moderately high temperature. Throw in some fresh chopped parsley, or cilantro, keep stirring until the bread cubes are browned. It will smell delicious!

Meanwhile, mix four eggs with a little non-fat half and half, and when the cubes are browned, turn down the heat to moderately low and pour in the eggs. Let them cook for a good minute before you stir things around, and I even use a pancake flipper to flip entire portions while the top is still liquid, so the bread cubes get entirely encased.

Serve when fully cooked.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Recipes | Leave a comment

Change of Plans

When we were planning this trip, it all sounded so simple . . . greet the grandbaby, buy a house, quick, fly to Seattle, fly back to Pensacola, kiss the grandbaby and fly to Doha to pack.

Not quite the way it turned out. When we got here, the grandbaby was 11 days overdue. We got to be here for the birth. While our son and his wife labored, we went out with the world’s most wonderful real estate lady and actually, we did find a house.

Three years ago, we found a house. When I talked with the mortgage people, I said “We just finished paying off a mortgage with you; isn’t there some kind of short-cut you could do with me?” and they did something called “fast track” with me, and it was so easy I can’t even remember the paperwork; I think I filled it out on my computer – online – and that was it. My son handled the closing. It was so easy.

Things have really changed. This will be our third mortgage with the same company, but you would think we are potential deadbeats. We have high credit scores, an impeccable payment record – I would think they would want to have us as customers! It’s like pulling teeth. Papers don’t get to us. Additional verifications are required. Appraisers actually enter the house and verify square footage.

Between chasing paper and soothing the newborn, my life has been very full. It doesn’t sound very exciting, when I tell you about it, but here is the truth – I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now. It’s an amazing feeling.

Today, I spent a lot of time with the baby. At some point, I realized I wasn’t going to make it to Seattle this trip, and it’s OK. I can go to Seattle later. For right now, I have enough on my plate.

I had forgotten, too, how chaotic life with a newborn can be. His needs take precedence, and sometimes we all run around trying to guess what those needs might be, simple as they are . . . clean diaper? swaddling / soothing to sleep? Mother’s milk? Today was a really good day, where he took the diaper changes with grace, dropped right off to sleep after every meal, and was keenly alert for maybe a half hour after feeding before napping. He loves patterns and fabrics. I am having SO MUCH FUN!

A part of our life is ending, the nomadic part. AdventureMan and I have had a lot of fun, once our son got through college and law school, we were on our own again, living in Europe, living in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar – we have had a great adventure. We travelled to Botswana, Namibia, Zambia (several times), South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and spent a wonderful week on Mnemba Island off the coast of Zanzibar. We have wonderful friends, mostly from churches and interest groups. I would think, knowing us, that we would be sad leaving all this, but instead, we are racing toward our new future, being more settled, being near our son and his family, and his wife’s great big family. ๐Ÿ™‚

For one thing, the world has changed. With e-mail and VOIP phones and people who jump on a plane at the drop of a hat, we expect to stay in touch with those we love and treasure. We expect they will come see us. It’s kind of fun settling in a place with white sandy beaches that everyone wants to come visit. ๐Ÿ™‚ Cooler than Kuwait and Qatar in the summer time, too! Nice warm winters, well, not this winter, brrrrrrrrrrrr!

Thought you might want to see a photo of my little darling grandson:

February 25, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Aging, Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, France, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Geography / Maps, Germany, Kenya, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Moving, Qatar, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Seattle, Travel | 7 Comments