Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

RealAge Test


Have you taken the RealAge Test?

I took it five years ago, when one of the Kuwait bloggers published the link and we all tried it to see how we measured up. I was shocked to learn that because I was not exercising enough, nor seeing a doctor regularly, I was actually OLDER than my age. It shocked me enough to see a doctor and take her advice.

Today I took it, and now, with regular exercise, I came out eight years younger than my age, and younger than I was the first time I took the test, Woooo HOOOOO!

The test has changed, but only updated by the newest findings. It now measures social factors, like how many people you are close to, how many you help, etc. You learn a lot about what is important just by taking the test.

I challenge you. Take the test, and tell me how you did.

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Exercise, Health Issues, Values | 3 Comments

New Yorker: Obama Watches “Superbowl”

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Humor, Political Issues | Leave a comment

Canadian Family Found Guilt of Honor Killing

From today’s AOL / Huffington Post: World:


KINGSTON, Ontario — A jury on Sunday found an Afghan father, his wife and their son guilty of killing three teenage sisters and a co-wife in what the judge described as “cold-blooded, shameful murders” resulting from a “twisted concept of honor.”

The jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in a case that shocked and riveted Canadians from coast to coast. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

After the verdict was read, the three defendants again declared their innocence in the killings of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia’s childless first wife in a polygamous marriage.

Their bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, Ontario, where the family had stopped for the night on their way home to Montreal from Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and going online. Shafia’s first wife was living with him and his second wife. The polygamous relationship, if revealed, could have resulted in their deportation.

The prosecution alleged it was a case of premeditated murder, staged to look like an accident after it was carried out. Prosecutors said the defendants drowned their victims elsewhere on the site, placed their bodies in the car and pushed it into the canal.

Defense lawyers said the deaths were accidental. They said the Nissan car accidentally plunged into the canal after the eldest daughter, Zainab, took it for a joy ride with her sisters and her father’s first wife. Hamed said he watched the accident, although he didn’t call police from the scene.

After the jury returned the verdicts, Mohammad Shafia, speaking through a translator, said, “We are not criminal, we are not murderer, we didn’t commit the murder and this is unjust.”

His weeping wife, Tooba, also declared the verdict unjust, saying, “I am not a murderer, and I am a mother, a mother.”

Their son, Hamed, speaking in English said, “I did not drown my sisters anywhere.”

But Judge Robert Maranger was unmoved, saying the evidence clearly supported their conviction for “the planned and deliberate murder of four members of your family.”

“It is difficult to conceive of a more despicable, more heinous crime … the apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor … that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.”

Hamed’s lawyer, Patrick McCann, said he was disappointed with the verdict, but said his client will appeal and he believes the other two defendants will as well.

But prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis welcomed the verdict.

“This jury found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family in the most troubling of circumstances,” Laarhuis said outside court.

“This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles in a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy,” he said to cheers of approval from onlookers.

The family had left Afghanistan in 1992 and lived in Pakistan, Australia and Dubai before settling in Canada in 2007. Shafia, a wealthy businessman, married Yahya because his first wife could not have children.

The prosecution painted a picture of a household controlled by a domineering Shafia, with Hamed keeping his sisters in line and doling out discipline when his father was away on frequent business trips to Dubai.

The months leading up to the deaths were not happy ones in the Shafia household, according to evidence presented at trial. Zainab, the oldest daughter, was forbidden to attend school for a year because she had a young Pakistani-Canadian boyfriend, and she fled to a shelter, terrified of her father, the court was told.

The prosecution said her parents found condoms in Sahar’s room as well as photos of her wearing short skirts and hugging her Christian boyfriend, a relationship she had kept secret. Geeti was becoming almost impossible to control: skipping school, failing classes, being sent home for wearing revealing clothes and stealing, while declaring to authority figures that she wanted to be placed in foster care, according to the prosecution.

Shafia’s first wife wrote in a diary that her husband beat her and “made life a torture,” while his second wife called her a servant.

The prosecution presented wire taps and cell phone records from the Shafia family in court to support their honor killing theory. The wiretaps, which capture Shafia spewing vitriol about his dead daughters, calling them treacherous and whores and invoking the devil to defecate on their graves, were a focal point of the trial.

“There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this,” Shafia said on one recording. “Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows … nothing is more dear to me than my honor.”

Defense lawyers argued that at no point in the intercepts do the accused say they drowned the victims.

Shafia’s lawyer, Peter Kemp, said after the verdicts that he believes the comments his client made on the wiretaps may have weighed more heavily on the jury’s minds than the physical evidence in the case.

“He wasn’t convicted for what he did,” Kemp said. “He was convicted for what he said.”

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Crime, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Law and Order, Lies, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Survival, Values, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Boat 1, Bridge 0

This is both very sad, and funny. What made this guy think he could make it under the bridge? Two spans of the bridge are draped over the bow:

You can read about it here.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Humor, Living Conditions, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

The Power of Introverts (!)

For my friends who – like me – are introverted. 🙂 We’re OK! From AOL/Huffpost Healthy Living, an article you will love!


Gareth Cook
(Click here for the original article  

Do you enjoy having time to yourself, but always feel a little guilty about it? Then Susan Cain’s “Quiet : The Power of Introverts” is for you. It’s part book, part manifesto. We live in a nation that values its extroverts – the outgoing, the lovers of crowds – but not the quiet types who change the world. She recently answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

Cook: This may be a stupid question, but how do you define an introvert? How can somebody tell whether they are truly introverted or extroverted? 

Cain: Not a stupid question at all! Introverts prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments, while extroverts need higher levels of stimulation to feel their best. Stimulation comes in all forms – social stimulation, but also lights, noise, and so on. Introverts even salivate more than extroverts do if you place a drop of lemon juice on their tongues! So an introvert is more likely to enjoy a quiet glass of wine with a close friend than a loud, raucous party full of strangers.

It’s also important to understand that introversion is different from shyness. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Shyness is inherently uncomfortable; introversion is not. The traits do overlap, though psychologists debate to what degree.

Cook: You argue that our culture has an extroversion bias. Can you explain what you mean?

Cain: In our society, the ideal self is bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight. We like to think that we value individuality, but mostly we admire the type of individual who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts. Introverts are to extroverts what American women were to men in the 1950s — second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent.

In my book, I travel the country – from a Tony Robbins seminar to Harvard Business School to Rick Warren’s powerful Saddleback Church – shining a light on the bias against introversion. One of the most poignant moments was when an evangelical pastor I met at Saddleback confided his shame that “God is not pleased” with him because he likes spending time alone.

Cook: How does this cultural inclination affect introverts?

Cain: Many introverts feel there’s something wrong with them, and try to pass as extroverts. But whenever you try to pass as something you’re not, you lose a part of yourself along the way. You especially lose a sense of how to spend your time. Introverts are constantly going to parties and such when they’d really prefer to be home reading, studying, inventing, meditating, designing, thinking, cooking…or any number of other quiet and worthwhile activities.

According to the latest research, one third to one half of us are introverts – that’s one out of every two or three people you know. But you’d never guess that, right? That’s because introverts learn from an early age to act like pretend-extroverts.

Cook: Is this just a problem for introverts, or do you feel it hurts the country as a whole?

Cain: It’s never a good idea to organize society in a way that depletes the energy of half the population. We discovered this with women decades ago, and now it’s time to realize it with introverts.

This also leads to a lot of wrongheaded notions that affect introverts and extroverts alike. Here’s just one example: Most schools and workplaces now organize workers and students into groups, believing that creativity and productivity comes from a gregarious place. This is nonsense, of course. From Darwin to Picasso to Dr. Seuss, our greatest thinkers have often worked in solitude, and in my book I examine lots of research on the pitfalls of groupwork. 

Cook: Tell me more about these “pitfalls of groupwork.”

Cain: When you’re working in a group, it’s hard to know what you truly think. We’re such social animals  that we instinctively mimic others’ opinions, often without realizing we’re doing it. And when we do disagree consciously, we pay a psychic price. The Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

Take the example of brainstorming sessions, which have been wildly popular in corporate America since the 1950s, when they were pioneered by a charismatic ad executive named Alex Osborn. Forty years of research shows that brainstorming in groups is a terrible way to produce creative ideas. The organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham puts it pretty bluntly: The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups. If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

This is not to say that we should abolish groupwork. But we should use it a lot more judiciously than we do today.

Cook: What are some of the other misconceptions about introverts and extroverts?

Cain: One big one is the notion that introverts can’t be good leaders. According to groundbreaking new research by Adam Grant, a management professor at Wharton, introverted leaders sometimes deliver better outcomes than extroverts do. Introverts are more likely to let talented employees run with their ideas, rather than trying to put their own stamp on things. And they tend to be motivated not by ego or a desire for the spotlight, but by dedication to their larger goal. The ranks of transformative leaders in history illustrate this: Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks were all introverts, and so are many of today’s business leaders, from Douglas Conant of Campbell Soup to Larry Page at Google.

Cook: Is there any relationship between introversion and creativity?

Cain: Yes. An interesting line of research by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist suggests that the most creative people in many fields are usually introverts. This is probably because introverts are comfortable spending time alone, and solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity.

Cook: Can you give some other examples of surprising introversion research?

Cain: The most surprising and fascinating thing I learned is that there are “introverts” and “extroverts” throughout the animal kingdom – all the way down to the level of fruit flies! Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson speculates that the two types evolved to use very different survival strategies. Animal “introverts” stick to the sidelines and survive when predators come calling. Animal “extroverts” roam and explore, so they do better when food is scarce. The same is true (analogously speaking) of humans.

Cook: Are you an introvert?

Cain: Yes. People sometimes seem surprised when I say this, because I’m a pretty friendly person. This is one of the greatest misconceptions about introversion. We are not anti-social; we’redifferently social. I can’t live without my family and close friends, but I also crave solitude. I feel incredibly lucky that my work as a writer affords me hours a day alone with my laptop. I also have a lot of other introvert characteristics, like thinking before I speak, disliking conflict, and concentrating easily.

Introversion has its annoying qualities, too, of course. For example, I’ve never given a speech without being terrified first, even though I’ve given many. (Some introverts are perfectly comfortable with public speaking, but stage fright afflicts us in disproportionate numbers.)

But I also believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.

In our culture, snails are not considered valiant animals – we are constantly exhorting people to “come out of their shells” – but there’s a lot to be said for taking your home with you wherever you go.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Character, Community, Cultural, Friends & Friendship, Relationships, Work Related Issues | 9 Comments

Winter Beach in Pensacola

We had great weather during the Doha reunion, great in that it was warm every day, and it only rained a little now and then. We had lots of sunshine, and they even got to experience a little bit of Pensacola sultriness.

The big thrill, for me, was the winter beach. I love good wave action, and a little drama in the sky. The Pensacola beach, with its gorgeous white sands, gave it to us in full:

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

Fairhope and Panini Pete’s

‘What are we up to today?” one of the Doha reunion visitors asked as we sat around the breakfast table at the Shiny Diner.

“I was thinking a drive into Alabama,” I threw out, “Or is there anything you have heard of you would like to visit, or re-visit?”

“I’ve never been in Alabama before!” one guest enthused. “I could cross it off my list!”

We dropped one friend off at the airport, said our farewells, and headed into Alabama. For those of you who are thinking it might be a long trip, Pensacola is close to the border; 20 minutes later we were in Alabama.

“Where are we going?” the remaining two visitors asked.

“I’m thinking Fairhope,” I responded, “it’s cute, and there are walks, and shopping, and cute restaurants.”

While we are not world-class shoppers, Fairhope is enticing, with it’s small boutiques and specialty shops. It’s not like the same-old same-old in every mall and strip-mall.

As we walked along the Fairhope Pier, we guessed how long it was. We saw several people doing laps of the pier – what a great place to walk, all that fresh air, the view of the Mobile skyline, the wind and the water. One of the walkers strolled along with us and told us the pier was exactly 1/4 mile, so if you walk out and back, you have walked 1/2 mile. She also gave us a recommendation for a place to eat, in Fairhope’s French Quarter, Panini Pete’s. “Be sure to eat outside,” she counseled us.

We found Panini Pete’s, and snagged a place in the gazebo, which I thought was ‘outside’.

It was a lovely location. My friends had the Reuben sandwiches with special homemade chips:

I had the house salad with grilled chicken:

We spent a lovely time dining, only to discover that we were not outside; this is what ‘outside’ is:

I did not take a photo of dessert – we shared an order of beignet. These were the big round fluffy beignets, covered with powdered sugar. So yummy!

It was a great visit, even though we never found an Alabama Starbucks cup for our visiting friend, she did get to spend time in Alabama. Next reunion, maybe we will check off Louisiana and Mississippi, the only other states she has not visited.

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | 2 Comments

Slow Moving Severe Weather

The last of my Doha friends left yesterday, not without moments of hilarity. We had a great time together, and all my concerns about visiting Pensacola in the coldest month of the year were for naught. The weather, every single day, was in the 70’s, and one of the days it almost hit 80. One friend was flying straight into severe weather, and I wonder how it affected her day – if she even got home.

We had one lovely evening when our son and his wife and little happy toddler came over, laughing and talking, and our sweet daughter in law introduced all my friends to a Pensacola specialty, Sin in a Tin. Our last stop on their last day was the market where they could stock up on it to take back with them!

I am keeping my own eye on this ‘slow moving weather front’ because it is headed our way. If you’ve seen the devastation in Dallas, you’ll know – hurricane level destruction, 90 mph winds – high winds and lots of rain, and flooding.

When I checked Weather Underground this morning, this is what it looks like heading towards Pensacola:

Scary looking, hmmm?

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Doha, ExPat Life, Food, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

Doha Reunion and Marching Madness

We just finished a five day Doha reunion, a group of us who used to gather frequently in Doha, ironically  most of us introverts, but who found gathering together forced us to exercise regularly, helped us to run our errands downtown, and helped us laugh a lot at our own foibles in a strange land. It’s not all that often you can find four women who all get along equally well with one another, but this group was that rarity, and having them in my house was a joy. We were together in worship and in friendship for several years, so having another opportunity to gather was just magical. (We also gathered in May, for a wedding.)

Yes, for those of you who are wondering, AdventureMan was here, and what a blessing he was. He cooked dinner and cleaned up two of the nights, after days when we had been out exploring all day. We could not have had so much fun without his help.  I think the other husbands were jealous; they like to be a part of the conversations, too. We always have so much fun together, and such great issues to cover, big topics, small topics, family issues, political issues, fund raising, social and cultural challenges. We share frustrations and experiences, we share resources and brain-storm solutions. For us, it doesn’t get any better, these gatherings feed our souls.

Cat-like women, they all arrived on their own time and schedule, as it would fit, so there was a couple days of total overlap, and some days with fewer. The day the first visitor arrived was also the day of Pensacola’s newest parade, Marching Madness.

“Want to see it?” I asked her? They were going to try to set a new record for the largest number of people in the world doing a line dance.

“Sure!” she said, always a good sport.

This parade was hilarious. First, it was a daytime parade, and most of the parades I have been to in Pensacola have been night parades. There were like fourteen marching bands and many floats, so it was LOUD! The Happy Toddler would have loved it. Lastly, they were generous with the beads, people were loaded with beads, and some of the beads were special!

“I’ve never seen anything like this!” shouted my friend, over the bedlam of trumpets and drums in a compelling jungle rhythm. She was dancing and waving her hands madly at the passing Krewe, hoping for a strand or two to come her way. She ended up with a LOT of beads.

It was so much fun!


This isn’t New Orleans. This was a family parade, lots of babies, lots of children, lots of grandparents, so no one was underdressed, or showing off the wares, if you catch my drift. The people throwing beads were generous across the board, especially to the babies. 🙂

Pensacola is amazing. As we walked back to the car, the street cleaners were standing by, and the street was cleaned and re-opened to traffic within an hour. How amazing is that?

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Doha, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Mardi Gras, Pensacola, Values | Leave a comment

Lunch With the Girls

Thank you, Renee, for sending this:


Lunch with the girls through the ages –

A group of 15-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner. Finally, they agreed to meet at the Dairy Queen next to the Ocean View restaurant because they had only $6.00 among them and Jimmy Johnson, the cute boy in Social Studies, worked there.

10 years later, the group of 25-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner. Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the beer was cheap, the restaurant offered free snacks, the band was good, there was no cover and
there were lots of cute guys.

10 years later, the group of 35-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner. Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the cosmos were good, it was right near the gym and, if they went late enough, there wouldn’t be
too many whiny little kids.

10 years later, the group of 45-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner. Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the martinis were big and the waiters had tight pants and nice buns.

10 years later, the group of 55-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner. Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the prices were reasonable, the wine list was good, the restaurant had windows that opened (in case
of hot flashes), and fish is good for cholesterol.

10 years later, the group of 65-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner. Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the lighting was good and the restaurant had an early bird special.

10 years later, the group of 75-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner. Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the food was not too spicy and the restaurant was handicapped-accessible.

10 years later, the group of 85-year-old girlfriends discussed where to meet for dinner. Finally, they agreed to meet at the Ocean View restaurant because they had never been there before.

January 21, 2012 Posted by | Humor | 7 Comments