Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Antarctic Ice Melting Faster Now than Last 1,000 Years

Found this morning on AOL News; this is not good news.


Summer Ice Melt In Antarctica Is At The Highest Point In 1,000 Years, Researchers Say

Reuters | Posted: 04/15/2013 2:39 am EDT | Updated: 04/15/2013 6:36 pm EDT

CANBERRA (Reuters) – The summer ice melt in parts of Antarctica is at its highest level in 1,000 years, Australian and British researchers reported on Monday, adding new evidence of the impact of global warming on sensitive Antarctic glaciers and ice shelves.

Researchers from the Australian National University and the British Antarctic Survey found data taken from an ice core also shows the summer ice melt has been 10 times more intense over the past 50 years compared with 600 years ago.

“It’s definitely evidence that the climate and the environment is changing in this part of Antarctica,” lead researcher Nerilie Abram said.

Abram and her team drilled a 364-metre (400-yard) deep ice core on James Ross Island, near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, to measure historical temperatures and compare them with summer ice melt levels in the area.

They found that, while the temperatures have gradually increased by 1.6 degrees Celsius (2.9 degrees Fahrenheit) over 600 years, the rate of ice melting has been most intense over the past 50 years.

That shows the ice melt can increase dramatically in climate terms once temperatures hit a tipping point.

“Once your climate is at that level where it is starting to go above zero degrees, the amount of melt that will happen is very sensitive to any further increase in temperature you may have,” Abram said.

Robert Mulvaney, from the British Antarctic Survey, said the stronger ice melts are likely responsible for faster glacier ice loss and some of the dramatic collapses from the Antarctic ice shelf over the past 50 years.

Their research was published in the Nature Geoscience journal.

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Paul Tait)

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Environment, Experiment, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Locard Exchange Principal, Weather | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dancing on Graves?

I trust that it all happened exactly as it should. Don’t we all believe God is in control?

Friends and family are asking me why I have been silent about the raid, capture and execution of Osama Bin Laden.

9/11 and the celebrations televised around the world were equally horrifying to me. Pointless killing. Pointless celebration.

We don’t celebrate the deaths, not even of those who have caused us harm. It’s not who we are, and it only invites retribution, and keeps the pointless violence, the pointless arguments going.

Jesus told us that it is easy to pray for our friends and family, but that we are to pray for our enemies as well. It’s really really hard. And it is one of the few gates that will open the door to true change, which has to come from the heart.

There is no guarantee that an operation will succeed, no matter how talented, trained and intelligent the operators are. Well done, Navy SEALS. Well done, those who gathered the information, who confirmed the information, and who chose to execute surgically, rather than a bomb which would kill without positive identification. Well done, gathering all the computers and flash drives, hopefully full of information which will give insight into future plans which can be thwarted.

Osama’s death doesn’t bring back the thousands killed in the 9/11 attacks. It does send a message that attackers will be hounded until they pay for their actions. That’s not a pass for dancing; it’s a grim tally in the world of hard-ball politics.

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Counter-terrorism, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Locard Exchange Principal, Political Issues | 11 Comments

It’s Easy To Tell a Spy

This story interests me because I grew up in Cold War America, and when I was going to high school in Germany, we were surrounded by propaganda urging us always to be careful about anything we said, in public or even in private.

“It’s easy to tell a spy” the public service announcements would go, and show someone in a cafe, or in line waiting for a bus, or in the library giving out information on where her husband or father was deployed or when such and such a unit was going to the border, and a nefarious person writing it down to send back to their leaders, always the dreaded Russians.

They’re back. Did they ever go away?

NEW YORK -Nine people charged with operating as Russian spies entrenched in American suburbia were making long-shot bids to be released from jail pending trial Thursday, even as authorities scoured a Mediterranean island for an alleged co-conspirator who disappeared after he was granted bail.

Hearings were set for federal courts in Boston, New York and Alexandria, Va., for all but one of the 10 people arrested over the weekend by federal authorities in the United States.

Police searched airports, ports and yacht marinas Thursday to find an 11th person who was arrested in Cyprus but disappeared after a judge there freed him on $32,500 bail. The man, who had gone by the name Christopher Metsos, failed to show up Wednesday for a required meeting with police.

Authorities also examined surveillance video from crossing points on the war-divided island, fearing the suspect might have slipped into the breakaway north, a diplomatic no-man’s-land that’s recognized only by Turkey and has no extradition treaties.

In the U.S., Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, of Cambridge, Mass., were scheduled to appear Thursday at a federal court in Boston. Mikhail Semenko, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills, all of Arlington, Va., were set for a hearing before Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Defendants Richard Murphy, Cynthia Murphy, Juan Lazaro and Vicky Pelaez were to go before a judge in New York.

All have been charged with being foreign agents. Officials said the suspects will all eventually be transferred to New York, where the charges were filed.

Not due in court Thursday was Russian beauty Anna Chapman, the alleged spy whose heavy presence on the Internet and New York party scene has made her a tabloid sensation. She was previously ordered held without bail.

Eight of the suspects were accused by prosectuors of being foreign-born, husband-and-wife teams who were supposed to be Americanizing themselves and gradually developing ties to policymaking circles in the U.S.
Most were living under assumed identities, according to the FBI. Their true names and citizenship remain unknown, but several are suspected of being Russians by birth.

Heathfield claimed to be a Canadian but was using a birth certificate of a deceased Canadian boy, agents said in a court filing. His wife, Tracey Foley, purported to be from Canada, too, but investigators said they searched a family safe deposit box found photographs taken of her when she was in her 20s that had been developed by a Soviet film company.

Juan Lazaro had said he was born in Uraguay and was a citizen of Peru; he was secretly recorded by the FBI talking about a childhood in Siberia, according to court documents.

Two, Chapman and Mikhail Semenko, were Russians who didn’t attempt to hide their national origin, FBI agents said, but they had a similar mission: blend in, network and learn what they could.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said the U.K. was investigating whether Foley might have used a forged British passport. The British spy agency MI5 is also investigating the extent to which Foley and Chapman had links to London, and will likely seek to find out whether either attempted to recruit British officials as informants.

There is evidence that at least some of the alleged agents had success cultivating contacts in the business, academic and political worlds.

The criminal complaint alleges that either Heathfield or Foley sent messages to Moscow talking about turnover at the CIA that was supposedly “received in private conversation” with a former congressional aide. Other messages described Heathfield establishing contact with a former high ranking U.S. national security official, and with a U.S. researcher who worked on bunker-busting nuclear warheads.

Moscow thanked Cynthia Murphy for having passed along “very useful” information about the global gold market and instructed her to strengthen ties with students and professors at Columbia University’s business school, where she was getting a degree, according to the FBI.

Among other things, the Russians wanted “detailed personal data and character traits w. preliminary conclusions about their potential to be recruited by Service,” according to one intercepted message.
Clare Lopez, senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy and a professor at the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security and a former operations officer for the CIA, said the alleged plotters might have someday been able to produce valuable information, if left in place long enough.
“Their value is not just in acquiring classified information,” she said. “There’s a lot that goes on that’s not simply stealing secrets and sending them back to Moscow.”

Metsos was charged with supplying funds to the other members of the ring.

Cypriot Justice Minister Loucas Louca on Thursday admitted that a judge’s decision to release him on bail “may have been mistaken” and said authorities were examining leads on his possible whereabouts.

“We have some information and we hope that we will arrest him soon,” Louca told reporters, without elaborating.

Cyprus has for decades been a hotbed of espionage intrigue as spies converge on the eastern Mediterranean island at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia.

More recently, former CIA agent Harold Nicholson, in prison for espionage, recruited his 24-year-old son Nathaniel to meet with Russian agents in cities around the world from 2006 to 2008 to collect money owed by his former handlers. One of those cities was the Cypriot capital, Nicosia.

July 3, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Biography, Bureaucracy, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Generational, Interconnected, Law and Order, Lies, Living Conditions, Locard Exchange Principal, Political Issues, Relationships | 4 Comments

How To Be a Southern Lady

You’d think moving back to your own country would be a piece of cake, wouldn’t you? We nomads know better. Young people who travel to other countries to go to school know better. Military people know better. Missionaries know better. Diplomats know better. Anyone who has spent time living abroad know that it works both ways – you have an impact where you are living, and where you are living has an equal impact on you. You may go back, but you are never the same.

With this move, AdventureMan and I have been too busy trying to get settled and to take care of the incredible amount of bureaucratic detail it takes to relocate. Even with AdventureMan ‘retired’, the days are flying by, and we don’t know why we are so busy.

For one thing, I am doing my own housework, and I am finding I am not very good at it. Like I am good at getting laundry done, and even folded, but I haven’t ironed in a long time, and the things that need ironing are stacking up. I have bought a beautiful new ironing board, and a beautiful iron . . . and some starch, the liquid kind I like, not the spray kind. . . but I haven’t set it up, and I haven’t ironed, not a thing. I have discovered that all my packed things looked a lot better after hanging in the closets for a week, most of the wrinkles fell out, lucky me. But . . . the day of reckoning is coming.

The worst part, for me, is cleaning my floors. My floors are supposed to be beautiful; wood and tile floors. They actually ARE beautiful, maybe two days a week, the day I clean them and the next day, but five days a week, they need work. I wish I had asked my cleaning lady in Doha how she got my floors so beautifully clean. I wish I had paid more attention. I keep looking in the store for some miracle, a machine that will clean them in a heartbeat and make them all shiny. . .

The wonderful thing about moving into this culture – and it truly is a different culture from the one in which I was raised – is that we have our wonderful son and his wonderful wife to give us hints on what to do and not to do, and we have his wife’s wonderful family.

Mostly, I try to keep my eyes open. Southern women admire things extravagantly, and after living for so many years in the Middle East and Gulf, learning to admire extravagantly goes against all my instincts.

In the MIddle East, when you admire extravagantly, you can make people nervous. Some people worry about attracting “the evil eye” of jealousy, evil intentions, people who envy you and wish you harm. Some people, if you admire something, will give it to you! It’s true, those stories, it has happened to me. So now I have to un-learn my lessons in retraint and learn to appreciate, if not extravagantly, at least enough to be polite.

One of my wife’s relatives gave us a house-warming gift, an iced-tea maker, with a darling card that states Rule #1 is that every Southern Hostess knows that a pitcher of iced tea is a MUST for all occasions. I like iced tea, but I have never kept it on hand to serve, and I guess I need to start!

Her second rule was one that made me burst out laughing – “A Southern Lady, the most interesting ones anyway, know that rules are made to be broken.”

“Just be prepared for people to leave your home saying “Bless her heart, she must be getting forgetful. There was no iced tea!”

And then rule #3 – “The only correct and acceptable way to criticize anyone is to add ‘bless his/her heart!’ and then, anything goes!”

At a party at her house this weekend, I learned a couple more – the first rule being that when you are invited to a great big family dinner, bring dessert! Thank God, I did take a little guest gift, but now I know – bring dessert! And it had better be sweet!

The next rule is would make any Kuwaiti or Qattari feel right at home – spare nothing in making our guests comfortable. This Southern Hostess had seating areas inside the beautiful air conditioned home, and also seating outside for those who don’t mind a little heat. She had a big basket loaded with all kinds of insect repellents to keep her guests from being bitten. She took time with each guest, and although she was running her little bottom off getting everything organized, she made it all look easy, and as if she was having a good time. I have a sneaking suspicion the truly was enjoying having all the people around and that her great big heart loves taking care of the crowd. She was the essence of gracious hospitality. Did I mention she has also lived in Kuwait?

Dinner was “Perlow” an old Southern tradition, made in a huge old kettle from her husband’s mother, and hung from a tripod over a roaring fire to cook. The actual cooking was the men’s work as they sat outside drinking iced tea:

Home grown peas and beans mix – delicious!

Serving up the perlow:

My Middle East / Gulf friends would be comfortable eating this meal – Perlow is a variation of Pilaf, and very similar to Biryani. No alcohol served. No pork. Lots and lots of fabulous sweet desserts.

It’s funny, I used to tell people in Kuwait and Qatar that it was a lot like Alaska; when the weather got too bad, you just stay inside most of the time. When the weather gets good, you go outside as much as you can. When it’s too hot/cold, you run from your air conditioned/heated car to your air conditioned / heated store or movie theater, or restaurant, and then back to your air conditioned / heated car and back to your air conditioned/ heated house.

In the same way, I am beginning to wonder if the South and the Middle East know how much they have in common? In Pensacola, on Saturdays, we have the religious people on the corners shouting at passing cars, not a whole lot different from the volunteer morality police in Saudi Arabia. In the South, as in the Middle East, ‘family’ isn’t just blood, it’s also who you’re married into, and there is a lot of emphasis on family getting together and spending time together. In the South, as in the Middle East, men tend to gather in one area, women in another.

In the South, they drink iced tea; in the Middle East, it’s hot tea. Both have passionate patriots, fundamental believers and a tradition of gracious hospitality. Both have a passion for hunting and fishing. Nobody much likes obeying the rules in either culture. Maybe I’m still in the MIddle East?

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Civility, Cold Drinks, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Hot drinks, Humor, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Locard Exchange Principal, Marriage, Middle East, Moving, Qatar, Random Musings, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Values | 8 Comments

Baking Cookies for Palestine

When I was just starting out my own life, I had an idea what kind of life I wanted, but I had no clue how to get it. When AdventureMan and I met, we had the same vision, it was so cool, so unbelievable. We married, and this amazing life has unfolded.

Not everyone is born to move. You have to be good at change. Change can be daunting. Some people are better at staying in one place, sinking deep roots, developing lifetime relationships. Some people – like AdventureMan and me – have a need for stimulation, and we get it by changing locations. We feel so blessed.

It is always painful leaving the place we have been living, pulling up roots is just plain painful. The transplantation process takes time for the organism to adjust, for new roots to develop and take hold. Sometimes, the plant fails. In our case, we have had our failures to thrive, but for the most part, every move has helped us to learn and grow in new ways. We feel truly blessed; we have the lives we were born to lead.

Arriving back in Doha, I called my good friend. We have never lost touch, with e-mail and visits we have stayed in contact, and now I am calling her so she has my new number in Doha.

“You must come Tuesday morning!” she enthused, “We are baking cookies for Palestine!”

This wonderful woman was my teacher for reading and writing Arabic, and she did a great job. I read and write about as well as a five-year-old, but I can sound out words, and can write my name. Best of all, I adored this teacher, and when she called and asked me if there was something I could teach her daughters during the long hot Doha summer, I said “yes” and a new adventure began.

One of the things that happened is that I learned I never really knew what the day might bring. Getting to know her, her daughters, and her family better, I learned now ignorant I am of how totally differently others live their lives and see the world. I was learning all the time, and most of it was from the daughters. On one occasion, the daughters called me at 6 in the morning – they are never up at six! They asked if I would take them to the hospital to see their mother, and I sleepily said “Yes, of course,” and asked what time they wanted to go.

“Now!” they replied, joyfully, for this was a birth.

My sweet daughter-in-law was visiting, with our son, and so the two of us rushed over to pick up the girls, who came loaded with carafes loaded with coffee, boxes of finjan (tiny Arabic coffee cups) and sweets, loading up the car with goods and joyful laughter. When we got to the hospital, we had a quick visit with the Mom and then – the guests started arriving.

First – the room. Our friend was in a king sized bed, surrounded by lush curtains which could be pulled. She had a marble floor and a marble private bathroom with private shower, and a small dressing room. There was a visiting area with velvet covered seating for around 16 people, and mahogany paneling everywhere. This is the poshest maternity ward I have ever seen.

Many of the guests were stopping on their way to work. “When you visit someone in the hospital,” the girls informed me, “a thousand angels pray for you, for having made this visit.” These visits are de rigueur, an absolute must. We were there an hour, a constant stream of women came and went, staying around ten minutes, each receiving a small coffee. Then, the girls told us we could go, that they would stay to take care of serving the coffee and sweets.

The entire episode, we never had one clue as to what we were doing, or what was going to happen next. I learned just to go with whatever was happening, stay quiet, watch and learn. Sometimes, I ask questions, if there is a quiet moment.

So when my friend says come bake cookies, I go. I remember when she first baked her first cookie; she called me to come. She didn’t have a mother, growing up, and there were gaps – like how to bake cookies. We spent a morning learning how to make mamool, and it took me three days to get the smell of butter out of my hands. It was so much fun.

As I entered the workroom twenty pair of eyes looked up at me. Everyone was neatly dressed in aprons and headscarves, but my friend wasn’t there! I found my friend, we exchanged greetings, and she came to workroom to get me started. I had my own apron with me, and they provided me with a headscarf; we all looked a lot alike, little baker women. As a beginner, I got to put out the dough, later put the date paste on each piece of dough, later roll the dough around the date paste and put a hole in the top.

Most of the women, vastly more experienced than I, were using little tweezer tools to crimp the dough into the fabulous tiny ridges you can see in the photo. My friend explained that one of the women’s husbands had made the special tools for making the holes in the dough, and the table for them to use packing up the cookies and wrapping them, another had provided a portable oven for baking the cookies, another donated semolina (the flour) and another the dates.

Working once a week, making these beautiful cookies, (biscuits, if you are British trained) the women have built two wells in Palestine, and are currently building a bakery. They took their grief and outrage over Al Raza and turned it into the most amazing effort for good. They feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, they clothe the poor, they take care of families whose men are imprisoned.


“You must come back!” one woman says as I am heading out the door. “You are a good worker!”

I wouldn’t miss it for the world. 🙂

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Character, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Fund Raising, Hygiene, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Locard Exchange Principal, Qatar, Relationships, Women's Issues | 9 Comments

Sunrise In Doha, Green for Daggero

Daggero wrote on my Rav4 post about how GREEN Doha looked. It wasn’t Doha. I think the photo was taken in England, but the car looked just like my beloved little Rav4, so I used the photo.

But it got me thinking – my little spot in Doha IS green. And you have mentioned taking sunrise in Doha . . . my blind side of the house faces the sunrise, but this morning, I took some sunrise photos for you.

During the week, the sky in Doha is mostly white, I don’t know why. On Friday and Saturday, it was a brilliant blue. Sunrise, most days of the week, is a sort of non-event, like it’s hard to tell where the sun is!

But here are some photos of the sun through the trees in the early morning, and my little section of green in Doha.



There are some treats – the dual color bougainvillea I planted five years ago is growing lushly against the garden wall. The two lemon trees are taller and lusher. Some other new plants were given to my by my departing friend from her garden, and so my garden doesn’t have that sad, barren look. When the cooler weather comes, I will plant basil. 🙂


June 10, 2009 Posted by | Doha, Exercise, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Locard Exchange Principal, Photos, Qatar, sunrise series | | 7 Comments

Icons Challenge, The Locard Principle 2: The Middle East and Me

The best thing, the very best thing about blogging, for me, is what I learn from my commenters. The old Locard’s Exchange Principle is a constant in life – with every interaction, a part of you rubs off on me, and a part of me rubs off on you. It’s why we’re careful about the people, books, movies, blogs and ideas we spend time with. . . we either feel better for hanging around them, or slightly uncomfortable. Sometimes, hugely uncomfortable. The internet is a microcosm, good and evil all mixed in together and we make our choices.

Fragonard:  The Reader

Fragonard: The Reader

Above: that is me. That’s pretty much who I am. I am quiet, I am a reader. I still get input, from newspapers, books, e-mails, the internet, friends, groups, etc.

What I love about blogging is that I throw something out, and you throw something back. Many many times, what I get back is unexpected, and forces me to re-examine my assumptions. Many times, I have to force myself to stop. Not to respond. I have to force myself to let the new information, new point-of-view sink in, percolate, settle. Minds don’t change in an instant, but . . . they do change. New information brings new, often surprising, perspectives. When I find myself getting angry, I have to step back and ask myself “what is going on here? What are you reacting to?” It helps me to know myself better, and it helps me to understand whatever-little-corner-of-the-world-I-am-living-in better, too.

There are about six different blog entries radiating out like a spider’s web from the thoughts I am now thinking, fed by your input and comments, and behind the scenes e-mails back and forth with new thoughts.

So here is my challenge for today. I’ve shown you one of my life icons, this Fragonard paining, The Reader.

Your mission, your challenge – identify / find a piece of art that shows us who you are. Post it on your blog and link here with a comment, or send it to me, and I will publish it.

(No graphic violence or pornography; I won’t publish it and I will break the link if you publish it on your blog and link to me.)

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Blogging, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Locard Exchange Principal, Random Musings, Relationships, Spiritual | 7 Comments

The Doha Museum of Islamic Arts – first visit

It’s Friday afternoon, and I can hardly believe it. We are here. Now THIS is my idea of a romantic getaway – please! Keep your chocolates (although I do love chocolate!) and your roses, keep your long lingering dinners and fabulous wine, but take me someplace where I have really wanted to go, and I will be your slave forever. You da man, AdventureMan. You know how to win my heart. 🙂



It is a glorious day and the museum has just opened. There is a huge parking lot and little carts ferrying the older people and women with small children to the entrance, but it is a nice walk, not a hard walk. Families are streaming in, and (gasp!) admission is FREE! You have to go get a ticket; I guess maybe that is how they keep track of admission statistics, but this beautiful museum, floating out over the gulf, all white and clean and gorgeous, filled with priceless objects of art, it’s free? Amazing.

We decide to start with the Beyond Borders exhibit, a special collection of art that integrates Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions in an art collection. There are so many pieces that make me gasp in awe. I see one, and I can’t resist, the camera is out of my bag, I see others snapping photos with cell phones, but I know the rules . . . hmmm. But there is nothing posted here saying “no photos!” I ask the guard if I am allowed to take photos and he tells me “You are welcome, madame, all through the museum, you may take photos.”

I am in total shock. All through the museum? I can take photos?

Here is the piece that moved me so much that I gathered up the courage to ask. It is a Madonna, painted in Aleppo, Syria, I believe, and it has an Quranic sura written in her halo:



The museum is my oyster, and my battery is dead. I didn’t bring another. Some things happen for the best, and I tuck my camera back in my purse and AdventureMan and I try to absorb what the Doha Museum of Islamic Art has to offer.

It is an impossible task. There is SO much. Not everything is well documented, and then there are sections which are amazing. There is so much to learn, and so much beauty in this museum.

If I had to choose my favorite thing of all, it would be some tiles from Kashan. In an earlier post, commenter Daggero mentioned that the word for tile used in Kuwait is “kashi” and now I know that it comes from these tiles, made in Kashan around the 1300’s (Gregorian calendar) which were famed for their intricacy, their interlocking designs, and their high quality. There are also Iznik tiles in the museum, which are thought to be greatly influenced by these tiles from Kashan.

I had no idea, but the tiles just blow me away. I would love to create some tiled rooms back in my Seattle house, with reproductions of some of these amazing star shaped tiles. For me, that was the highlight of this trip. I know there will have to be many more – this museum is filled with treasures. Free – for all the people. And yes – the gift shop is awesome!

February 14, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Iran, Leadership, Living Conditions, Locard Exchange Principal, Qatar, Travel | , | 14 Comments

Schism vs Fitna

On the front of the Friday Kuwait Times (kind of the weekly tabloid edition) there is a headline article about Saudi Blogger Raed Al Saeed, who made a 6 minute video picking out verses from Samuel, Numbers, Deuteronomy, etc. to illustrate horrorific illustrations from the Bible, to parallel Geert Wilder’s movie, Fitness, which picks out verses from the Qura’an to illustrate the violence of Islam.

He says” It is easy to take parts of any Holy book that are out of context and make it sound like the most inhuman book ever written. This is what Geert Wilders did to gather more supporters to his hateful ideology.”

He’s right. It’s easy to point fingers, and to create fear and hate. It’s a whole lot harder to try to build bridges of understanding and compassion, to find similarities, to find ways to respect one another, to work together, to try to build a better world, and to agree to disagree when our books take different directions.

April 11, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Character, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Locard Exchange Principal, News, Poetry/Literature, Social Issues, Spiritual | 6 Comments

Online Friendship

Recently, my blogging friend Macaholiq8 posted a question asking “Do You Take Online Friendships Seriously?” The question pops up often, along with the “can men and women be friends?” question.

I like questions like that. You think the answer is easy, you have an automatic response, and then you find yourself days later re-visiting the question, pondering the question. That’s a good question, isn’t it, when it comes back and haunts you and makes you think some more?

In social environments, my mother trained me well. I know how to be pleasant, how to make small talk, how to amuse people with anecdotes that are short and funny. I know how to mingle, I can put people at ease. I have a wide range of connections; I have a lot of friends, i.e. people I know socially.

Only one of these friends knows that I blog.

There is another level of friend, friends with whom friendship has developed slowly, and usually cemented by some event during which we connected at a deeper level. I know one blogger, for example, face-to-face. I liked her anyway, but when my Father died, she sent me her real name and phone number and told me to call her. You know how wary I am – her compassion and grace, her trust, brought me to tears. She is the one exception to my “stay anonymous” rule; she broke through the barrier by her one act of grace – and by her body of work, which helped me to know her temperament and her character.

Most of my friendships occur online these days, but through e-mails keeping me up to date with those whose friendships I have cherished over the years:

* My college friend
* My childhood-live-across-the-creek-in-Alaska friend
* My Chinese-Mormon-Army Wife Friend
* Several mentors, hobby-buddies, church buddies, expat-abroad buddies, as well as family members, some of whom are also buddies!

AdventureMan is my very best buddy. When we met, my sister was getting married in the Heidelberg castle, and there was a lot to be done. I didn’t have a license to drive in Germany, and AdventureMan would come and get me and take me places like the florist’s or the officer’s club or wherever I needed to go to run an errand that needed to be run. We weren’t dating; he was just very kindly ferrying me around. As he would drive, we would have good conversations. The night my sister got married, he looked at me and realized he wasn’t going to see me again if he didn’t ask me out. We’ve been best friends ever since.

Friendship, deep friendship, doesn’t always mean you’re going to agree, in fact sometimes it is only your very best friend who can give you bad news and make you listen. When friends tell me about big fights with other friends, I tell them (whoa! when did I become a mentor???) that fighting and even hatred is not the opposite of love, disengagement and indifference and not caring is the opposite of love.

I have a good friend now in Kuwait who is helping another friend walk through a terrible situation. The friend gets really really angry with her, and even says behind her back (and to her face) “I hate it when people try to tell me how to live my life.” Because the helping friend is loyal and committed to the friendship, she persists. It’s like dealing with an animal in pain, when we are in emotional pain and don’t want to hear something, we might strike out at the person bearing the message. It takes a very special friend to stay the course, to be committed through that kind of emotional pain.

As I see it, there are an infinite number of levels of friendship, and different friendships for different times in your life, and different needs.

In times of crisis, when a friend needs someone to talk to who can keep her mouth shut, I’m there. If you are my friend and want to spend a lot of time with me, you’re going to be disappointed. If you need me to head up a project, I’m there. If you need me to head up a group – no way. Some people, mostly introverts, find me a great friend, and others, those who are good at hanging out, find me lacking.

I DO think you can be friends with bloggers and never meet them. In the days of snail mail, people had pen-pals who lived in distant places. They might write for decades and never meet, and yet there was a lasting and genuine relationship that I would call friendship. We meet in a realm of ideas and experiences. Meeting in person, the differences might overshadow that which we share in common.

You might think I am just blah-blah-blah-ing, but there is a method in my madness. I think we relate to one another and influence one another in ways we are just beginning to realize. I think there is great value in what we gain from our online friendships.

Later I will post on a hotel AdventureMan and I stayed in, a hotel I would never have known about or heard of were it not for the recommendation of a Kuwaiti former blogger (one who I hope will one day blog again) Gastronomica who now owns and operates The Slider Station and who hasn’t blogged for quite a while. His posts were so educated, so interesting and so reliable that I truly miss his presence in the blog world.

I am guessing that the secret to maintaining friendships is to understand who the friend is and what he/she is capable of. One of the great pitfalls is expecting more from the relationship than the friend, or the relationship can merit. Different friends bring different gifts to the table; I think you need them all to some extent, and it is up to you to determine to what level YOU want the relationship to go, depending also on the capabilities and needs of the other.

January 7, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Locard Exchange Principal, Relationships | 14 Comments