Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Statistics Anomaly

Yesterday, I had over two thousand hits on the blog, after a year of sliding statistics, which I attribute to being less interesting now that I no longer live in exotic locations, post the Kuwait sunrise (I used to have a loyal clientele of Kuwaiti students off at university who loved seeing the sunrise in Kuwait every day), and that blogging is not so new and exciting. I’m not blogging as conscientiously as I used to – I don’t have the time I used to have.

This morning, as I check the blog, I can see I have almost as many hits by nine this morning as I had yesterday. It makes me smile – here is what the most hit-upon posts are:

Ramadan is coming! Ramadan Mubarak, Ramadan Kareem to all those waiting so eagerly for Ramadan to begin.

Last night we had a big dinner for my Mom’s birthday, and got to hear a shred of conversation I wanted to share with you. I was sitting next to an old family friend, famous for asking questions that will start a conversation that could last the rest of the evening, and across the table was Little Diamond, my niece, actually now Professor Diamond. 🙂 If we were German, we would call her Professor Doctor Diamond 🙂

Our friend asked her what had surprised her the most about teaching on the college level and she answered that as she is teaching her culture classes, she brought up plural marriages, and it was simply a non-issue. She said there are a couple of shows, Sister-Wives and Big Love, and all the kids have seen them and know what plural marriage is all about – at least in the United States. She said it was a big change, that plural marriage used to be a hot topic, but now, not-so-much. It was fascinating.

July 31, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Blogging, Events, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Seattle, Statistics, sunrise series, WordPress | Leave a comment

Waking Up Cold

I shivered as I woke up; about a thousand gulls screaming past, up from the water, circling the town, loudly gossiping. It is a shiver of delight – I can sleep with the window open, no air conditioning needed, and the morning air is very cool. I am in heaven, also called Seattle.

It is so totally different coming in from Pensacola. As I showered the night before, I was thinking “about now I would be landing in Amsterdam, with several hours wait for my next flight. Being able to sleep in my own bed, get up early in the morning, five minutes to the airport, a breezy check-in and then a bare half day of traveling – so easy.”

Er . . . almost. I still trip the full inspection triggers, and got the complete pat down yesterday. The TSS lady was very professional, although much more thorough than ever before. It is annoying, but on the level of swatting a mosquito away; one minute later you’ve forgotten all about it.

Flight leaves late out of Pensacola, I have to RUN in Atlanta to make my connection, but it’s good to get some aerobic exercise in the middle of a long day of flying. 🙂 Unfortunately, my bag doesn’t make it, so when I reach Seattle they tell me it will come in on the next flight and they will deliver it. After all these years of back and forth, I have learned to have a nightgown and a change of clothes with me, and there are stores where I can pick up mascara and small things I need short-term. The bag arrives in the early evening, so all is well.

As I entered the Seattle airport from the A-concourse, I had a big grin. Where am I? This looks so much like Doha; there is a roundabout near the airport with the same collection of water gourds:

Seattle is cool and beautiful, and has rolled out a sunny day for my arrival. It’s always a thrill to see the Seattle skyline, and even more of a thrill when the roads are dry:

I pick up lunch on my way to my Mom’s, Ivar’s, as is our tradition, oh yummmm – halibut and chips for Mom, and a Salmon Ceasar for me.

I guess I’m a little more tired than I thought – it was an early flight. I grab a quick nap, and I feel like myself again. Mom and I head out shopping – we have a week of errands and appointments ahead of us, and some fun stuff too. Mom turns 88 this week – something to celebrate!

July 28, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Doha, Exercise, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Seattle, Travel | 9 Comments

The ExPat Dilemma

A short while back, I told you about a book I read and loved, Cutting For Stone. You know it is a really good book when, months later, you are still thinking about it.

What I am thinking about today is how the main character writes about when he got to New York, and was homesick for Ethiopia, a country where he was born, but was always an expat. He spoke several Ethiopian dialects, he ate Ethiopian foods, he was affected by Ethiopian politics – but he was never Ethiopian. He was an Indian expat, working in Ethiopia, with Ethiopians, but always an expat.

He is in the US, and is desperately homesick for Ethiopia, and at the same time, he wryly notes that he is homesick for a country-not-his-own.

We’ve been away from Kuwait for two years now, but every now and then I am disoriented, missing Kuwait. It is hot now, for one thing, and it is so hot on some days that it feels like Kuwait. There are times my mind slips, and I am crossing the street near the Afghani shops, heading into the Mubarakiyya.

Today I am working on a new quilt, and I need a purple. I see just the right one, lurking on my purples shelf, and as I unfold it, a note falls out, from my good friend, and it says “(Intlxpatr) With love I dye this for you.”

I never cry, or hardly ever. I’m not crying now. I am in that fragile state where I COULD cry, my throat is a little thick and my eyes are a little watery, and I never saw it coming. It totally caught me by surprise.

I miss my friend. I miss Kuwait. I am home, and yet, I am homesick for a country-not-my-own, and a life I used to have.

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships | 10 Comments

Jerry’s Drive-In, Pensacola

We pass it all the time. Jerry’s BBQ Drive-In. People kept telling us we had to go there, everyone goes there. When we were asking about the best hamburger in Pensacola, the word came back: Jerry’s.

When people tell you about Jerry’s it’s like in Qatar when people tell you “it’s near where Parachute Roundabout used to be,” because it isn’t a drive-in anymore, and they also don’t seem to have a lot of BBQ. Jerry’s IS like a time capsule, you walk in, you wait about 15 minutes for a table at lunch, or you try to find a seat at the counter, and it’s like you’ve walked back into the 1950’s. But it isn’t a theme restaurant, it’s just that nothing has changed. When we looked at the menu, we got a big shock – we don’t even remember prices like these. It would be hard to spend $20 on a lunch for two, unless you toss back a beer or two, and we saw a few people doing that.

It seems like a place where people are known – like people eat there all the time. We heard a many greeted by name. AdventureMan said if he were a widower, he would probably eat there all the time. It looked like the kind of place where you could get a good meal and a kind and friendly greeting.

Service was prompt, efficient, courteous and friendly.

AdventureMan said it was one of the best hamburgers he has ever eaten. He compared it to Red Robin and said it isn’t so big, and it doesn’t look so fancy, but it is the perfect size, perfectly cooked and he thinks it is hand packed, it had a great texture. He ordered it with ‘the works’ and was surprised that ‘the works’ doesn’t include a slice of onion, but it did include lettuce, tomato and pickle.

I had the BLT, which came on toast, with lettuce and tomato, nothing fancy, just a BLT, but a good BLT, generous on the bacon:

We ordered sides of hush puppies, baked beans and cole slaw, so we could see how they compare. Hush puppies were like AdventureMan used to eat when he was a kid, the kind people make at home, no surprises, no corn, no jalepenos, no sugar, just plain hush puppies, exactly in character with this slice-out-of-time. The cole slaw was wonderful. I am not a fan of mayonnaise-y cole slaw, and this one was a little vinegary, just what I love. The baked beans were divine. Not a lot of chunks of anything, just plain beans, baked to melting in a sweet tangy sauce. The best of the ’50’s.

They are undergoing renovations to add more seating room and waiting room – business is good, and they need more space to handle their many loyal customers. At the corner of Perry and Cervantes, in East Pensacola Heights, right at the stoplight. AdventureMan says this is the kind of restaurant they feature in Southern Living magazine, or Garden and Guns, one of the hidden gems of Pensacola.

July 24, 2011 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola | 2 Comments

Answered Prayer: Please Lord, Don’t Let it be a Muslim

In the aftermath of the horrific events in Norway, I was praying along with all my immigrant friends – “Please, Lord, don’t let it be a Muslim.” It wasn’t. Just another hater, this one has blue eyes and blonde hair and seems to be a Christian conservative. This one hates for his own reasons. It doesn’t matter much what those reasons are, does it, to the grieving families whose children were slaughtered, or the grieving nations whose peace is destroyed?

From AOL/Huffington Post:

The 32-year-old Norwegian man who allegedly went on a shooting spree on the island of Utoya has been identified as Anders Behring Breivik, according to multiple reports.

The Daily Mail and Sky News were among those to report the suspect’s name. According to witnesses, the gunman was dressed as a police officer and gunned down young people as they ran for their lives at a youth camp.

Police said Friday evening that they’ve linked the youth camp shooting and Oslo bombing. Breivik is believed to have acted alone.

Norwegian TV2 reports that Breivik belongs to “right-wing circles” in Oslo. Swedish news site Expressen adds that he has been known to write to right-wing forums in Norway, is a self-described nationalist and has also written a number of posts critical of Islam.

A Twitter account for Breivik has surfaced, though it only has one post, this quote from philosopher John Stuart Mill: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests.” The tweet was posted on July 17.

On a Facebook account that Norwegian media outlets have attributed to Breivik, he describes himself as having Christian, conservative views. He says he enjoys hunting, the games World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2, and lives in Oslo. He also lists political analysis and stock analysis as interests.

July 23, 2011 Posted by | Character, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Political Issues, Social Issues | 18 Comments

Garlic and Onions for Your Good Health

I found this article on the health benefits of garlic and onion on AOL Health News / Huffington Post, where you can also find references to articles and studies that support the article:

What Makes Onions and Garlic Special?

Some scientists believe the components in onions and garlic called allyl sulfides and bioflavonoids may be key to the research observations of generally lower incidence of cancer and heart disease in people who consume large amounts of garlic and onions, compared with those who eat less.

Nutritional Support for Cancer Prevention

A study from the National Cancer Institute found that eating 10 grams (approximately two teaspoons) or more of garlic, onions or scallions a day was associated with a statistically significantly lower risk of prostate cancer for the participants in the study.

A study conducted at Case Western Reserve University indicated that garlic may help reduce the occurrence rate of pre-cancerous tumors (polyps) in the large intestine.

Garlic and Onions for Detoxification

Many cancers are thought to be caused by damage to DNA, often induced by environmental toxins. A study conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that eating a teaspoon of fresh garlic and a half cup of onions per day increases the levels of a key enzyme for removing toxins in the blood cells of healthy women. The authors of this study believed that men would require a higher dose on average for the same effect, because of their larger body size.

Read Why You Need to Detoxify 24 Hours a Day

Another study, conducted in Scotland, found that eating sautéed onions increases the resistance of the blood cells to DNA damage.

Garlic and Cholesterol

While a highly publicized clinical trial at Stanford University found that garlic did not lower cholesterol levels in healthy people with moderately elevated cholesterol, previous studies have indicated that garlic is more likely to produce beneficial effects on cholesterol in women than in men, and in patients with diabetes or heart disease than in healthy individuals.

News reports of this negative trial failed to recognize that the cholesterol-lowering effects of garlic are not the same for all people and that any trial containing a large percentage of healthy men could miss an effect that might be found if the people studied were patients with diabetes or heart disease.

In addition, while there is so much focus on the connection between cholesterol and heart disease, the benefits of garlic in preventing heart disease are probably due to factors other than changes in cholesterol.

In particular, clinical experiments have shown that regular consumption of garlic decreased calcium deposits and the size of arterial plaque in coronary arteries, prevented unhealthy blood clotting and improved the circulation of the subjects who were studied.

How to Add Garlic and Onions Your Day

The minimum effective amount is generally two teaspoons a day of garlic or two tablespoons of onions or scallions, chopped or crushed.

When shopping, look for the freshest bulbs. Onions should be very firm with an intact outer layer. For garlic, look for a bulb with tightly packed cloves. Pick scallions that are bright green and skip any that are wilted.

In the kitchen, chopped onions or garlic are the starting point for many cooked dishes. They also add robust flavor to main courses, soups and omelets. A sprinkle of chopped scallions or chives makes a perfect garnish to add flavor to dips, sandwiches, salads and grilled dishes. Cooking does not diminish the protective effects of garlic, onions or other alliums.

July 23, 2011 Posted by | Food, Health Issues | 2 Comments

Touched the Hem of His Garment

From today’s lectionary readings, one of my very favorite readings. Probably one reason I am a believer is because Jesus treated women with respect and concern and love. He really listened, and heard what their hearts were saying.

Mark 5:24-34

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’29Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Spiritual | Leave a comment

Ramadan for Non-Muslims 2011

Ramadan is coming, coming with a vengence, it is almost here. Ramadan is expected to start with the sighting of the new moon on August 1st. I am feeling happy – a friend has asked me to help her find special Eid dresses for her daughter returning to Saudi Arabia. I know what she is looking for, and I am at a loss as to where they might be found. I will check tomorrow with friends who have lived in Pensacola for a long time and see what they have to suggest.

Meanwhile, as is my annual tradition, I will reprint an article I wrote in September 2007, Ramadan for Non Muslims. Even better, go back to the original Ramadan for Non Muslims and read the comments – I’ve always learned the best information from my commenters. 🙂

Ramadan for the Non Muslim

Ramadan started last night; it means that the very thinnest of crescent moons was sighted by official astronomers, and the lunar month of Ramadan might begin. You might think it odd that people wait, with eager anticipation, for a month of daytime fasting, but the Muslims do – they wait for it eagerly.

A friend explained to me that it is a time of purification, when your prayers and supplications are doubly powerful, and when God takes extra consideration of the good that you do and the intentions of your heart. It is also a time when the devil cannot be present, so if you are tempted, it is coming from your own heart, and you battle against the temptations of your own heart. Forgiveness flows in this month, and blessings, too.

We have similar beliefs – think about it. Our holy people fast when asking a particular boon of God. We try to keep ourselves particularly holy at certain times of the year.

In Muslim countries, the state supports Ramadan, so things are a little different. Schools start later. Offices are open fewer hours. The two most dangerous times of the day are the times when schools dismiss and parents are picking up kids, and just before sunset, as everyone rushes to be home for the breaking of the fast, which occurs as the sun goes down. In olden days, there was a cannon that everyone in the town could hear, that signalled the end of the fast. There may still be a cannon today – in Doha there was, and we could hear it, but if there is a cannon in Kuwait, we are too far away, and can’t hear it.

When the fast is broken, traditionally after the evening prayer, you take two or three dates, and water or special milk drink, a meal which helps restore normal blood sugar levels and takes the edge off the fast. Shortly, you will eat a larger meal, full of special dishes eaten only during Ramadan. Families visit one another, and you will see maids carrying covered dishes to sisters houses and friends houses – everyone makes a lot of food, and shares it with one another. When we lived in Tunisia, we would get a food delivery maybe once a week – it is a holy thing to share, especially with the poor and we always wondered if we were being shared with as neighbors, or shared with as poor people! I always tried to watch what they particularly liked when they would visit me, so I could sent plates to their houses during Ramadan.

Just before the sun comes up, there is another meal, Suhoor, and for that meal, people usually eat something that will stick to your ribs, and drink extra water, because you will not eat again until the sun goes down. People who can, usually go back to bed after the Suhoor meal and morning prayers. People who can, sleep a lot during the day, during Ramadan. Especially as Ramadan moves into the hotter months, the fasting, especially from water, becomes a heavier responsibility.

And because it is a Muslim state, and to avoid burdening our brothers and sisters who are fasting, even non-Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, touching someone of the opposite sex in public, even your own husband (not having sex in the daytime is also a part of fasting), smoking is forbidden, and if you are in a car accident and you might be at fault, the person might say “I am fasting, I am fasting” which means they cannot argue with you because they are trying to maintain a purity of soul. Even chewing gum is an offense. And these offenses are punishable by a heavy fine – nearly $400 – or a stay in the local jail.

Because I am not Muslim, there may be other things of which I am not aware, and my local readers are welcome to help fill in here. As for me, I find it not such a burden; I like that there is a whole month with a focus on God. You get used to NOT drinking or eating in public during the day, it’s not that difficult. The traffic just before (sunset) Ftoor can be deadly, but during Ftoor, traffic lightens dramatically (as all the Muslims are breaking their fast) and you can get places very quickly! Stores have special foods, restaurants have special offerings, and the feeling in the air is a lot like Christmas. People are joyful!

Again, click here and go to the original article to read the comments. People were so helpful and so informative; it’s an easy way to learn about the meaning of Ramadan.

July 21, 2011 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Pensacola, Ramadan, Saudi Arabia, Shopping, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Sign of the Times in Pensacola

Pensacola, with its mild climate, attracts a lot of the nation’s homeless. In an area with high unemployment and where the housing crisis has wreaked havok with the economy, people still find it in their hearts to be generous and compassionate.

There are united efforts to clothe and feed the homeless, and efforts to help them get off the street – if they want to get off the streets, and a lot of them don’t.

I wonder what funds Krispy Kreme gives – bus tickets home? A donut and a cup of coffee? Help with a mortgage payment? I thought it might give a glimmer of hope to someone down and out.

July 20, 2011 Posted by | Charity, Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, Living Conditions, Pensacola | 3 Comments

Credit Card Blues

“Because your name and card number are on file with us, it is possible that your card information has been compromised. While we employ the strongest encryption processes, it is possible that a motivated and persistent hacker could access your information. For this reason, we suggest that you inform your credit card company and explore the possibility of closing your current card and starting another.”

I don’t even have a pit in my stomach this time when I get this message. This is our third change in one year on one card. One of the changes was due to our card company shifting its business to another company, but two were due to possible compromises of our information, which had nothing to do with anything we had done except to use our credit card.

In Saturday’s paper, we read that there has been a huge shift in the restaurant business. An owner said that ten years ago cash customers and credit card customers were about 50/50, but now, 90% of all customers use credit cards. (We’re in the 10% who use cash, but it’s because of all our years living overseas.)

The new cards have arrived, and I spent the day going to all the sites that bill me automatically, and monthly, and to my car rental people, and airline reservations people . . . all those automatic charges that would bounce if I didn’t get the correct new number to them. Even as I am sending out all this information, I cannot help but be aware that 1) It is the companies storing my information that make me so vulnerable, and 2) in some cases, there are no alternatives. Credit cards are the accepted way of paying these days.

It’s been a long journey. I remember my first eye-opening experience; I was back from Qatar, re-opening a mobile phone account and I handed the sales person a hundred dollar bill, and she just gaped. “No one ever pays in cash anymore,” she said, “I don’t even know what to do!” As it turned out, they didn’t have change, so I had to charge it, but it went against my grain – we use our cards, but selectively, and pay them off in full every month.

And we only really use one card. We have a couple back ups, but we never use them.

I can’t help but feel that we are all increasingly vulnerable by our reliance on the credit card system. Hackers are the least of the problem – I also worry about those heaps of paragraphs in 2 pt type that we have to ‘read’ and sign, because do you really read them? I know I scan them, but there are words in those agreements designed (I believe) to make you tired of reading, big words, lots of them strung together. They probably have some meaning, but although I am not stupid, reading financial disclosure statements makes my head spin.

What kind of vulnerability do we have to our banks with these cards?
What are our obligations that we don’t even know about?

While we were waiting for our cards, I had three pre-orders with that failed. I wrote to them, suggesting that because I was a good customer, a shareholder, and a faithful buyer with them almost from the very beginning, that maybe they could send them anyway (especially the new Song of Ice and Fire volume by George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons,) but no, they would not. This is not the I used to know, who sent me a coffee cup for being a faithful customer, back in 1997. No, I had to zip up the road to Barnes and Noble, the old fashioned way.

On the other hand, our mail-order-pharmacy people were just great. I had an automatic order and when I explained the problem and that we were waiting for our new cards to arrive, the customer service lady just laughed and said “We’ll send it out and bill you later.” How very very civilized. (ExpressScripts – YAYYYYY)

I used to know my credit card number by heart. We had the same card for almost 20 years. I even memorized my next card, but not this one. I have little faith it will be good for all that long.

July 19, 2011 Posted by | Books, Communication, Crime, Customer Service, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Shopping, Social Issues | 3 Comments