Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Abortion Online

First, I need to tell you that I believe abortion is wrong. I believe the death penalty is wrong. Because I am a believer, I believe our lives are in God’s hands.


And I also believe that every woman who faces an unwanted pregnancy has to make that decision for herself. It is not for me to decide how YOU live your life. There are circumstances when even a believer has to make a difficult decision, like a soldier facing killing on the battlefield, or a president with his finger on the nuclear trigger. People have to make unhappy decisions.

Here is an organization that gives women those options:

Abortion Without Borders

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When RA1 found out she was pregnant, she had two options: Have a baby she did not want or risk her life and face prison. 

RA, who was born and raised in Dubai, lives with her husband and two children in Egypt, where abortion is illegal, except to save a woman’s life. Women who voluntarily induce abortions face criminal charges and up to three years in prison.

“I already had a girl and a boy, so the best of both worlds,” says RA. “It’s not easy raising kids in Egypt — financially, culturally and psychologically — and I didn’t want another baby.”

RA found doctors who could help, but they either advised against abortion, insisted on surgery or were illegal “under the staircase” doctors — notorious for abusing their power over women

Instead, she scoured the internet for alternatives and found articles discussing the use of methotrexate, normally used to abort pregnancies that occur outside of the womb, a complication known as an ectopic pregnancy.

RA’s pregnancy was healthy, but out of desperation, she took the methotrexate.

“It was a huge risk, but I felt so helpless, like I couldn’t even control my own body,” she says. “I cried for days. I hated the situation I was in.” 

The methotrexate failed. RA went back to the internet in search of help. Eventually, she came across Women on Web, an online-only abortion service that conducts free web-based medical consultations and mails eligible women pills for medical abortions. It saved her life.

Since it was founded by Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts in 2005, more than 200,000 women from 140 countries have completed Women on Web’s online consultation, and approximately 50,000 women have performed medical abortions at home. Women on Web’s helpdesk answers 10,000 emails daily in 17 languages, and the website attracts almost one million unique monthly visitors.

But before Women on Web became a safe harbor, it was a rogue vessel on the open ocean.

(This is a long informative article. You can read the whole article HERE.)

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pakistan, Political Issues, Privacy, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , | 4 Comments

Pregnant Pakistani Woman Stoned by Family for Marrying for Love

From AOL Breaking News:

Pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death by family

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) – A pregnant woman was stoned to death Tuesday by her own family outside a courthouse in the Pakistani city of Lahore for marrying the man she loved.

The woman was killed while on her way to court to contest an abduction case her family had filed against her husband. Her father was promptly arrested on murder charges, police investigator Rana Mujahid said, adding that police were working to apprehend all those who participated in this “heinous crime.”

Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, and hundreds of women are murdered every year in so-called honor killings carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behavior.

Stonings in public settings, however, are extremely rare. Tuesday’s attack took place in front of a crowd of onlookers in broad daylight. The courthouse is located on a main downtown thoroughfare.

A police officer, Naseem Butt, identified the slain woman as Farzana Parveen, 25, and said she had married Mohammad Iqbal, 45, against her family’s wishes after being engaged to him for years.

Her father, Mohammad Azeem, had filed an abduction case against Iqbal, which the couple was contesting, said her lawyer, Mustafa Kharal. He said she was three months pregnant.

Nearly 20 members of Parveen’s extended family, including her father and brothers, had waited outside the building that houses the high court of Lahore. As the couple walked up to the main gate, the relatives fired shots in the air and tried to snatch her from Iqbal, her lawyer said.

When she resisted, her father, brothers and other relatives started beating her, eventually pelting her with bricks from a nearby construction site, according to Mujahid and Iqbal, the slain woman’s husband.

Iqbal said he started seeing Parveen after the death of his first wife, with whom he had five children.

“We were in love,” he told The Associated Press. He alleged that the woman’s family wanted to fleece money from him before marrying her off.

“I simply took her to court and registered a marriage,” infuriating the family, he said.

Parveen’s father surrendered after the attack and called his daughter’s murder an “honor killing,” Butt said.

“I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” Mujahid, the police investigator, quoted the father as saying.

Mujahid said the woman’s body was handed over to her husband for burial.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that some 869 women were murdered in honor killings in 2013.

But even Pakistanis who have tracked violence against women expressed shock at the brutal and public nature of Tuesday’s slaying.

“I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed outside a courthouse,” said Zia Awan, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist.

He said Pakistanis who commit violence against women are often acquitted or handed light sentences because of poor police work and faulty prosecutions.

“Either the family does not pursue such cases or police don’t properly investigate. As a result, the courts either award light sentences to the attackers, or they are acquitted,” he said.


May 27, 2014 Posted by | Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Pakistan | , | 2 Comments

Taliban Says Malala ‘Has Done Nothing To Earn Prize’

Mr. Taliban, did you see Jon Stewarts interview with Malala? (See below) All she wants is an education. She wants an education for herself, but also for all children in Pakistan. Your children, too! She wants them to have that opportunity, that’s all. And she has paid the price for her courage speaking out, and she bravely continues to state the obvious – there is nothing in Islam against educating women.

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan: The Pakistani Taliban Thursday said teenage activist Malala Yousafzai had done “nothing” to deserve a prestigious EU rights award and vowed to try again to kill her.

The European Parliament awarded the Sakharov human rights prize to the 16-year-old, who has become a global ambassador for the right of all children to go to school since surviving a Taliban murder attempt.

Malala survived being shot in the head by a TTP gumnan on October 9 last year and is seen as a leading contender for the Nobel Peace prize, to be announced on Friday.

“She has done nothing. The enemies of Islam are awarding her because she has left Islam and has became secular,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“She is getting awards because she is working against Islam. Her struggle against Islam is the main reason of getting these awards.”

He repeated the TTP’s threat – made numerous times in recent months -try again to kill Malala, “even in America or the UK”.

Malala and moved to Britain in the wake of the shooting for treatment and to continue her education in safety.

Feted by world leaders and celebrities for her courage, Malala has addressed the UN, this week published an autobiography, and could become the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate on Friday.

Her autobiography “I am Malala”, written with journalist Christina Lamb, has gone on sale in Pakistan and Shahid warned the Taliban would target bookshops stocking it.

“Malala is the enemy of Islam and Taliban and she wrote this book against Islam and Taliban,” he said. (AFP)

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Free Speech, Generational, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pakistan, Poetry/Literature, Social Issues, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Pakistan’s Swat Valley Women Fight Back with Jirga

I love this. Women are using technology – and the traditional system – to persist in seeking justice for women who are often little more than slaves to their husband.

From BBC News:


Women in Pakistan’s Swat valley are making history, and perhaps some powerful enemies, by convening an all-female jirga, a forum for resolving disputes usually reserved for men. Some readers may find details of this report by the BBC’s Orla Guerin disturbing.

Tahira was denied justice in life, but she continues to plead for it in death – thanks to a grainy recording on a mobile phone.

As she lay dying last year the young Pakistan wife and mother made a statement for use in court.

In the shaky amateur video, she named her tormentors, and said they should burn like she did.

Tahira was married off at the age of 12 and died last year following a suspected acid attack

Tahira’s flesh was singed on 35% of her body, following a suspected acid attack. Her speech was laboured and her voice was hoarse, but she was determined to give her account of the attack, even as her flesh was falling off her bones.

“I told her you must speak up and tell us what happened,” her mother Jan Bano said, dabbed her tears with her white headscarf. “And she was talking until her last breath.”

Tahira’s husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were acquitted this month of attacking her with acid. Her mother plans to appeal against that verdict, with help from a new ally – Pakistan’s first female jirga.

Under the traditional – and controversial – jirga system, elders gather to settle disputes. Until now this parallel justice system has been men-only, and rulings have often discriminated against women. The new all-women jirga, which has about 25 members, aims to deliver its own brand of justice.

It has been established in an unlikely setting – the scenic but conservative Swat valley, formerly under the control of the Pakistan Taliban. We sat in on one of its sessions in a sparsely furnished front room. Women crowded in, sitting in a circle on the floor, many with children at their feet. Most wore headscarves, and a few were concealed in burqas.

Probing injustice
For more than an hour they discussed a land dispute, problems with the water supply, unpaid salaries, and murder. The only man in the room was a local lawyer, Suhail Sultan. He was giving legal advice to jirga members including Jan Bano who he represents.

“In your case the police is the bad guy,” he told her. “They are the biggest enemy. ” He claims the police were bribed by the accused, and were reluctant to investigate the case properly.

The jirga tackled land disputes, water supplies, and murder

The jirga is making history, and perhaps making enemies. In Swat, as in many parts of Pakistan, men make the key decisions – like whether or not their daughters go to school, when they marry, and who they marry. And oppression starts early. Tahira was married off at just 12 years old, to a middle-aged man.

“Our society is a male-dominated society, and our men treat our women like slaves,” said the jirga founder, Tabassum Adnan. “They don’t give them their rights and they consider them their property. Our society doesn’t think we have the right to live our own lives.”

This chatty social activist, and mother of four, knows that challenging culture and tradition comes with risks. “Maybe I could be killed,” she said, “anything could happen. But I have to fight. I am not going to stop.”

They glued [my daughter’s] mouth and eyes closed. Just her face was left, the rest was flesh and broken bones”

Taj Mehal
As we spoke in a sun-baked courtyard Tabassum got a disturbing phone call. “I have just been told that the body of another girl has been found, ” she said. ” Her husband shot her.” She plans to investigate the case, and push the authorities to act.

“Before my jirga women have always been ignored by the police and by justice, but not now. My jirga has done a lot for women,” she said.

There was agreement from Taj Mehal, a bereaved mother with a careworn face, sitting across the courtyard on a woven bed.

Her beloved daughter Nurina was tortured to death in May.

“They broke her arm in three places, and they strangled her,” she told me, putting her hands to her own throat to mimic the action. “They broke her collarbone. They glued her mouth and eyes closed. Just her face was left, the rest was flesh and broken bones.”

She speaks of her daughter’s suffering with a steady voice, but grief is wrapped around her, like a heavy shawl.

“When I looked at her, it was like a piece was pulled out of my heart,” she said. “I was turned to stone. I see her face in front of my eyes. I miss her laughter.”

Women are a rare sight on the streets of Mingora
Nurina’s husband, and his parents, have now been charged with her murder, but her mother says that initially the courts took no interest.

“Whenever we brought applications to the judge he would tear them up and throw them away,” she said. “Now our voice is being heard, because of the jirga. Now we will get justice. Before the jirga husbands could do whatever they wanted to their wives.”

Women are little seen or heard on the bustling streets of Mingora, the biggest city in Swat. Rickshaw taxis dart past small shops selling medicines, and hardware supplies.

There are stalls weighed down with mangoes, and vendors dropping dough into boiling oil to make sugar-laden treats. Most of the shoppers are men.

‘No justice’ at jirgas
When we asked some of the local men their views on the women’s jirga, the results were surprising. Most backed the women.

“It’s a very good thing,” said one fruit seller, “women should know about their rights like men do, and they should be given their rights.”

Another said: “The jirga is good because now finally women have someone to champion their cause.”

The response from the local male jirga was less surprising. They were dismissive, saying the women have no power to enforce their decisions.

Most local men who spoke to the BBC expressed support for the women’s initiative

That view was echoed by the prominent Pakistani human rights activist Tahira Abdullah. “I don’t see it as more than a gimmick,” she said. “Who is going to listen to these women? The men with the Kalashnikovs? The Taliban who are anti-women? The patriarchal culture that we have?”

Ms Abdullah wants jirgas stopped whether male or female. “The jirga system is totally illegal, and has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It can never be just. There are several extremely notorious cases where we have noticed that women do not get justice from jirgas, neither do non-Muslims.”

One of those cases took place last year in a remote region of northern Pakistan where a jirga allegedly ordered the killing of five women – and two men – for defying local customs by singing and dancing together at a wedding.

And there are regular reports of jirgas decreeing that women and young girls be handed over from one family to another to settle disputes.

But for some, like Jan Bano, the women’s jirga is bringing hope. Every day she climbs a steep hill to visit Tahira’s grave, and pray for the daughter whose voice has still not her heard. Her video recording was not played in court.

July 26, 2013 Posted by | Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Pakistan, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

100 Lashes Each for Illicit Relationships in Qatar


100 lashes for illicit relations

By Nour Abuzant in today’s Gulf Times
Two Asians – a man and a woman – have been sentenced to 100 lashes each and subsequent deportation for maintaining illicit relations.

The father of the woman told the interrogators that he saw his 21-year-old daughter leaving the house in the morning of April 15, 2009 and boarding the car of her 26-year old lover.
The father also said he opposed their marriage and that he had planned his daughter’s marriage with another compatriot man.

The Doha court of first instance heard that the father found three mobile phones, belonging to her lover, in his daughter’s possession.

The accused Pakistani nationals confessed in the court that they were in love. The court said that the 100-lash penalty came in line with the Sharia rules, as both the accused were Muslims and unmarried.

That’s some angry father – turning in his own daughter to be jailed, humiliated in court and then subjected to the additional humiliation and pain of 100 lashes. Cannot imagine what that will do to her marriage prospects “with another compatriot man.”

Some people ask why I run these articles about expats. The truth, as I see it, is that any one of us who is not Qatari falls under these laws. We are ALL expats. The laws can be applied to any one of us at any time.

January 11, 2010 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, News, NonFiction, Pakistan | 5 Comments

William Dalrymple: The Age of Kali

Having read and loved In Xanadu: A Quest by William Dalrymple, and having received recommendations by friends who say they read ALL of William Dalrymple, I started on this second book, The Age of Kali. I didn’t like it, not one bit. I am proud to say I read it all the way to the end, because often if I don’t like a book, I will say to myself “I don’t need this!” and toss it, but I didn’t, I stuck with it. I am proud because it isn’t easy to stick with a book you don’t like, and I didn’t like this book.


In Xanadu, Dalrymple was wryly funny, hilariously funny, and most of the humor was directed at himself. In The Age of Kali, there is nothing funny.

The Age of Kali is a series of interviews and adventures in India and Pakistan. The author did these interviews and took notes (some are published in slightly different forms as magazine articles) over a period of ten years and then strung them all together to form this book. There is little or no linkage from one to the other. They are grouped geographically.

Here is what I like and admire – this man achieves the most amazing interviews, many times just by asking the right person at the right time. He insinuates himself, asks easy questions, and then sticks in a hard question. He doesn’t seem to flinch from putting himself in danger, and he doesn’t stand on respect when asking his questions. I admire that he went difficult places, interviewed difficult people, and wrote the interviews up without fawning over the celebrity status of his interviewee.

What I don’t like is that he doesn’t seem to like anybody very much. There are no funny anecdotes. By the end of the first interview, I began to get an impression that he doesn’t like India very much (and I believe that is NOT true, as he lives part-time in Delhi) and that India is not a place I want to visit. He interviews corrupt politicians, descendants of the moghuls, Benazir Bhutto – and her mother, Imran Khan (the cricket player) and many others. In each and every interview, he maintains a distance that tells us he doesn’t like these characters very much.

Here are some quotes from early in the book:

These days Bihar was much more famous for its violence, corruption and endemic caste-warfare. Indeed, things were now so bad that the criminals and the politicians of the state were said to be virtually interchangeable: no fewer than thirty-three of Bihar’s State Assembly MLAs had criminal records, and a figure like Dular Chand Yadav, who had a hundred cases of dacoity and fifty murder cases pending against him, could also be addressed as the Honorable Member for Barth.

As he interviews Bihar politician Laloo Prasad Yadav:

I asked Laloo about his childhood. He proved only too willing to talk about it. He lolled back against the side of the plane, his legs stretched over two seats.

‘My father was a small farmer,’ he began, scratching his balls with the unembarrassed thoroughness of a true yokel.

OK, that was funny. I had to read it aloud to AdventureMan. One of the things that still unnerves me living here is that the men are always touching themselves – something so totally forbidden in my culture as to be simply unthinkable.

In his section about Pakistan:

These people – the Pathans – have never been conquered, at least not since the time of Alexander the Great. They have seen off centuries of invaders – Persians, Arabs, Turks, Moghuls, Sikhs, British, Russians – and they retain the mixture of arrogance and suspicion that this history has produced in their character. History has also left them with a curious political status. Although most Pathans are technically within Pakistan, the writ of Pakistan law does not carry in to the heartland of their territories.

These segregated areas are in effect private tribal states, out of the control of the Pakistan government. They are an inheritance from the days of the Raj: the British were quite happy to let the Pathans act as a buffer zone on the edge of the Empire, and they did not try to extend their authority in to the hills. Where the British led, the modern Pakistani authorities have followed. Beyond the checkpoints on the edge of the Peshawar, tribal law – based on the institutions of the tribal council and the blood feud – rules unchallenged and unchanged since its origins long before the birth of Christ.

When I read this, I think of recent headlines about the problems Pakistan is having maintaining order, fighting the status of “failed-nation”, and the chaotic administration of tribal “justice.” The old ways have endured – but as we learned in Three Cups of Tea, there are villages where villagers are eager to have modern schools, eager to educate their daughters, and they, too, are victims of the fanatics who burn the schools and throw acid on women attending school.

The author is told, time and time again by Indian citizens, that India has entered The Age of Kali, “the lowest possible throw, an epoch of strife, corruption, darkness and disintegration.” The book reflects the darkness, corruption and disintegration the author found. I only wish there were some moments of relief, of lightness, hope or humor to encourage the reader on his/her way, but the documentation of this lowest throw was relentless.

April 8, 2009 Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Law and Order, NonFiction, Pakistan, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Women's Issues | | 1 Comment

In Xanadu: A Quest by William Dalrymple

This book was on my (huge) “Read Me” stack, and I picked it up for a change of pace. As I started reading, I wondered “how did this get there?” My first instinct was it was a recommendation from Little Diamond. As I was reading, however, I came across a segment that was what our priest had read in church around the Feast of the Epiphany about the birthplace of the wise men who came seeking the Christ Child after his birth. I wrote down the title and ordered it from (which has some copies used from 72 cents).


William Dalrymple wrote this book when he was a mere 22 years old. He and a travelling companion took off to trace Marco Polo’s journey from Jerusalem to Xanadu, where he was taking oil from the sanctuary lamp to Kubla Khan.

In a world where we have all been taught to be so careful, they take incredible risks. They travel on the cheap – staying in fleabag hotels, sometimes sleeping “rough”, i.e. out in the open. They travel any way they can – an occasional train, but more often a truck, a bus, whatever is going their way. One very long segment they travelled on top of a pile of coal.

They travel from Jerusalem up through Syria and into Turkey, then turn east and cross Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan to China. They have some amazing adventures, see some astounding scenery and because of their mode of travel, have a lot of time to talk with their travelling companions or people in the cities where they are staying.

I am blown away that an unmarried couple would cross Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I guess they told people they were married to share a room (they were on a budget) and they were only friends, not a couple, but what a risk. I am astonished that they were never asked to produce a marriage license or any proof of marriage when they stayed in hotels. I am astonished at the girls (one left in Lahore and another joined him, but these are girls who are friends, not anything more) would travel on the backs of trucks full of men, and never blink an eye.

The book is occasionally hilarious. Most of the hilarity results from foods they have to eat – sometimes it is the only food available – or from misunderstandings because of lack of a common language, or due to their frequent bouts of diarrhea, what I really liked about the author was that he was rarely pompous, and when he is funny, it is usually about some conversation he has had, or some mistake he has made.

One of my favorite parts of the book happens in Iran:

As we sat waiting for the bus to Tabriz, the next town on Marco Polo’s itinerary, we watched the mullahs speeding past in their sporty Renault 5s. Iran was proving far more complex than we had expected. A religious revolution in the twentieth century was a unique occurence, resulting in the first theocracy since the fall of the Dalai Lama in Tibet. Yet this revolution took place not in a poor banana republic, but in the richest and most sophisticated country in Asia. A group of clerics was trying to graft a mediaeval system of government and a pre-medieval way of thinking upon a country with a prosperous modern economy and a large and highly educated middle class. The posters in the bus station seemed to embody these contradictions. A frieze over the back wall of the shelter spoke out, in the name of Allah, against littering. On another wall two monumental pictures of the Ayatollah were capped with the inscriptions in both Persian and English:




We had expected anything of the Ayatollah. But hardly that he would turn out to be an enthusiastic ecologist.

The challenge of this journey is to follow as closely as possible the path Marco Polo took, but two segments of the journey go through off-limits areas. They find a way into one, to discover later it is an atomic testing area, and the second, at the very end, around Xanadu, they find receptive Chinese officers who take them to have a brief glimpse of the ruins of Xanadu while booting them out of the area. As they stand in Xanadu, they repeat a poem that every American child grows up with in English Literature:

In Zanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of gertile ground
With walls and twoers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills.
Where blossom’d many an incense-bearing tree:
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

I liked this book. Dalrymple is a history major, and often quotes from historical – even obscure – texts to illuminate what he observes. I think I may look at a couple more he has written since.

March 9, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Biography, Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Humor, Iran, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pakistan, Travel, Turkey | , | 7 Comments

More Three Cups of Tea

The timing couldn’t be better. Thank you, Phantom Man, for sending a link to this New York Times article on Three Cups of Tea, from the July 13th New York Times.

Published: July 13, 2008

Since 9/11, Westerners have tried two approaches to fight terrorism in Pakistan, President Bush’s and Greg Mortenson’s.

Greg Mortenson with Sitara “Star” schoolchildren. Photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Mr. Bush has focused on military force and provided more than $10 billion — an extraordinary sum in the foreign-aid world — to the highly unpopular government of President Pervez Musharraf. This approach has failed: the backlash has radicalized Pakistan’s tribal areas so that they now nurture terrorists in ways that they never did before 9/11.

Mr. Mortenson, a frumpy, genial man from Montana, takes a diametrically opposite approach, and he has spent less than one-ten-thousandth as much as the Bush administration. He builds schools in isolated parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, working closely with Muslim clerics and even praying with them at times.

The only thing that Mr. Mortenson blows up are boulders that fall onto remote roads and block access to his schools.

Mr. Mortenson has become a legend in the region, his picture sometimes dangling like a talisman from rearview mirrors, and his work has struck a chord in America as well. His superb book about his schools, “Three Cups of Tea,” came out in 2006 and initially wasn’t reviewed by most major newspapers. Yet propelled by word of mouth, the book became a publishing sensation: it has spent the last 74 weeks on the paperback best-seller list, regularly in the No. 1 spot.

Now Mr. Mortenson is fending off several dozen film offers. “My concern is that a movie might endanger the well-being of our students,” he explains.

Mr. Mortenson found his calling in 1993 after he failed in an attempt to climb K2, a Himalayan peak, and stumbled weakly into a poor Muslim village. The peasants nursed him back to health, and he promised to repay them by building the village a school.

Scrounging the money was a nightmare — his 580 fund-raising letters to prominent people generated one check, from Tom Brokaw — and Mr. Mortenson ended up selling his beloved climbing equipment and car. But when the school was built, he kept going. Now his aid group, the Central Asia Institute, has 74 schools in operation. His focus is educating girls.

To get a school, villagers must provide the land and the labor to assure a local “buy-in,” and so far the Taliban have not bothered his schools. One anti-American mob rampaged through Baharak, Afghanistan, attacking aid groups — but stopped at the school that local people had just built with Mr. Mortenson. “This is our school,” the mob leaders decided, and they left it intact.

You can read the entire article in the New York Times by clicking on the blue type.

July 16, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Building, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, NonFiction, Pakistan, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 7 Comments

Three Cups of Tea

My best-friend-from-college and I were chatting the other day and I asked her “what are you reading?” because we have always exchanged book recommendations back and forth.

“I’m reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt,” she started, and I groaned, because most of the time biographies don’t interest me that much. “And I am reading Three Cups of Tea . . . “ and I interrupted her (rudely) to exclaim “so am I!”

Three Cups of Tea is a must-read in the US. It was actually published in 2006, and has sold more and more books every month, and has been on the New York Times best seller list almost since it was published.

The book begins with a failure. A mountaineer, attempting a climb on K2 runs into problems, including evacuating two severely injured fellow climbers from the mountain. Exhausted, and devastated by his failure to capture the summit, he gets lost on his way back to the base camp, and ends up in a village where the people are very kind to him. He is treated as an honored guest, he regains his strength, and on his last day in the village, learns the children have no school. He rashly promises to come back and build a school for them.

One of the great redeeming features in this book is Greg Mortenson’s endless humility. He has a co-author, to whom he gave a long list of people he could talk with, including all his enemies and people who thought he was crazy. He’s that kind of guy. He talks about his life’s personal failures and his toughest moments, and he moves on.

He doesn’t take credit for the dogged persistence with which he keeps his promise, in spite of daunting obstacles. He doesn’t take any credit for the good will he builds.

Several years ago, I read another book which has changed my life, The Purpose Driven Life (which, by the way, the hardcover is $9.99 and the paperback is $10.19, go figure) in which the basic premise of the book is that we are each created uniquely, individually, by a loving creator, for a purpose. As I read Three Cups of Tea, I thought this man is greatly blessed; he discovered his purpose and nothing kept him from fulfilling it!

The book deserves every single one of it’s Amazon Five Star ratings.

I had a hard time putting the book down. Even though my life is full of other demands, once I had the chance, I spent an entire afternoon finishing this great book.

Greg Mortenson isn’t discouraged that his first school takes three years, and first he has to build a bridge. His second, third and fourth schools take just . . . three months! He has a gift for inspiring others, and people give what they can. The villagers give their time and their efforts, and western supporters donate funds.

By the end of the book, 24 school have been built, in the very poorest mountain villages in Pakistan, where money from the government for education doesn’t trickle at all, until near the end of the book. He doesn’t build the schools himself – he meets with the villagers, they donate a plot. He buys the materials, and together, they all build a school. These villagers are hungry for their children to become educated, to have a chance for a better life. Mortenson learns to focus on the girls.

He learns that as the boys become educated, they leave the villages for the city, but as the girls become educated, they come back, and like yeast, they raise the standard of living for the entire village, providing health care services and information, providing education for the newest crop of children, learning new skills, bringing them back and sharing them.

One of Mortenson’s gifts is that he isn’t interested in changing these mountain people into westerners. He likes them, and he learns from them, just the way they are. He dresses like them, he prays with them, he learns their language, and he has no western agenda for the curriculum in these schools. He also helps the government schools – building an additional room here for an overflowing school, paying a teacher’s salary there – his goal is to educate children. That’s it. No political agenda. The people of the villages love him for it, and give him their full support.

You cannot undertake a project like this without a lot of help. Mortenson had some extraordinary experiences, experiences that to me look like the grace of God, that drew together teams of people to help build and supply his schools.

“I looked at a sign in front of the school and saw that it had been donated by Jean Hoerni, my cousin Jennifer’s husband,” Bergman says. “Jennifer told me Jean had been trying to build a school somewhere in the Himalaya, but to land in that exact spot in a range that stretches thousands of miles felt like more than coincidence. I’m not a religious person,” Bergman says, “but I felt I’d been brought there for a reason and I couldn’t stop crying.”

A few months later, at Hoerni’s memorial service, Bergman introduced herself to Mortenson. “I was there!” she said, wrapping the startled man she’d just met in a bruising hug. “I saw the school!”

“You’re the blonde in the helicopter,” Mortenson said, shaking his head in amazement. “I heard a foreign woman had been in the village, but I didn’t believe it.”

“There’s a message here. This is meant to be,” Julia Bergman said. “I want to help. Is there anything I can do?”

“Well, I want to collect books and create a library for the Korphe School,” Mortenson said.

Bergman felt the same sense of predestination she’d encountered that day at the school. “I’m a librarian,” she said.

After struggling for many years, seeking donors who would help to build a school, Mortenson now has a foundation eagerly supported by many Americans, and especially the mountaineers, who continue to build schools. At the end of the book, the foundation is moving into the poorest sectors in Afghanistan, and building schools there. They have children’s programs in many of the schools in the United States, where children donate pennies to help pay for books for the schools, and for the teacher’s monthly salaries, where salaries are not reaching the teachers. You can donate to the school building fund, teacher’s salaries and books using your credit card, online, at the website Three Cups of Tea. You can order this book there, too, as well as music CD/s and learn more about the work being done.

July 14, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fund Raising, Health Issues, Living Conditions, NonFiction, Pakistan, Relationships, Social Issues | , , | 15 Comments

Georgia Man Kills Daughter for Honor

This is a sad story. When police arrested him, you get the impression he was really sad he did it, and caught up in something he regretted.

Georgia Man Charged in ‘Honor Killing’
Posted: 2008-07-08 22:21:56
Filed Under: Crime News, Nation News

ATLANTA (July 8) – A Pakistani man is charged with killing his 25-year-old daughter in Georgia because she wanted out of an arranged marriage, police said.

Chaudhry Rashid, 54, of Jonesboro, an Atlanta suburb, appeared in court Tuesday afternoon to face murder charges in the death of Sandeela Kanwal, according to court records.

He was arrested early Sunday, after his wife called police at about 2 a.m. She reported that she had been awakened by screaming but couldn’t understand the language, a Clayton County police report said. She said she was afraid and left the house to call police.

Officers found Kanwal dead in an upstairs bedroom of the home, according to the police report.

Rashid’s wife told authorities Kanwal recently had been married in Pakistan — an arranged marriage, she said. The young woman’s husband was living in Chicago, Illinois, police said, but Kanwal remained at her father’s home and worked at a metro Atlanta Wal-Mart for a brief time.

You can read the rest of the story on AOL News by clicking here.

July 9, 2008 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Law and Order, Marriage, Pakistan, Social Issues, Women's Issues | | 12 Comments