Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 12, Jackson Hole to Bozeman through Idaho

I have a Swedish sausage with my breakfast, because of Swedish descent as I am, I have never had a Swedish sausage. I like the taste, but not the consistency, which is kind of loose and crumbly. Great coffee, great muesli and love those berries. 

Very hazy day, trouble with allergies and breathing due to particulate matter from raging forest fires

Gas leaving Jackson Hole is $3.99 a gallon at the cheapest station.

I take a photo of the motel we stayed more than forty years ago, just outside Jackson Hole, when we were traveling across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus en route to Monterey, CA for grad school and language school and knew we couldn’t afford to stay inside Jackson Hole. We were right across from the Elk reserve, and once we got our little baby to sleep, we sat outside and watched the enormous herd of elk as they munched and wandered. It isn’t so far outside Jackson Hole, now, and I am glad it is still there. 

This is the second day where we experience haze. We drive up over the mountains into Idaho, and spend a couple hours on very rural highways sharing the road with large combines, harvesters and all kinds of farm equipment. 

The scenery starts to change when we near Big Sky and the Gallatin River. Lunch was apples with peanut butter alongside a road with trucks whizzing by.

Marriott Residence Inn

Once again, our hotel room is not ready. As we wait, another man gets the same response and also that he will not be on his requested floor. He is very angry, says he reserved a month ago (!) and wants to be accommodated. Later I ask the desk clerk if they are having problems with finding people to work and she says yes, that it is a problem everywhere in Bozeman. I suspect that they have closed off the top floor and are also limiting the number of people they can serve until they can guarantee the ability to take care of them. 

I am thinking that this has a lot to do with demographics, and problems with finding good, reliable, safe child care, and finding jobs which will protect their workers and also provide benefits. We can see that many of the hotels are now offering health insurance and educational benefits to the people they hire. I am thinking the labor market has a little leverage, and they are using it to better their conditions. 

And yes, that may inconvenience business owners and managers, and inconvenience customers, like us, but for the greater good, perhaps we can find a balance where everyone wins?

Our room is lovely, and quiet, and spacious. 

We have reservations for dinner at Blacksmith Italian, a restaurant we both found intriguing. Bossy Lady totally screwed up getting us there, sometimes she doesn’t really know everything, but she got us close enough and we figured out the rest. 

The minute we walked in, we knew we were in the right place. It was full of local people. The plates coming out looked very fine. The smells were delicious.

We split a platter of meats and cheeses; it was full of delicate tidbits, duck and Italian sausage and tiny pickled peppers filled with ricotta, etc. This came with crispy tasty triangular bread, a little salty, very tasty. AdventureMan had mussels and a side of pasta as his main course, and I had calamari with a Putenesca sauce and a side of pasta. The sauce was fabulous; I didn’t even need the calamari, the sauce was so engaging. The wines were equally good; I had a Barbera and AdventureMan has a Lacryma Cristi white wine which was so good, I ordered it the next night.

Calimari with Puttanesca Sauce
Side order of pasta

Yes. It was so good we reserved for the next night, too. It would be our last night in Bozeman, might as well end on a high note.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Work Related Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Florence Nightengale Made a Difference

Today, in addition to the readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and Gospels, the Lectionary celebrates Florence Nightingale. I had no idea how influential this woman-ahead-of-her-times was in making hospitals safer places in which to treat our wounded and sick. She observed, studied and documented sanitary practices and how changing small things – like changing the linens on beds between patients, clean latrines – could make a big difference. She brought order out of chaos, truly a Godly woman.

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE

NURSE, RENEWER OF SOCIETY (12 AUGUST 1910)

 
Florence Nightingale The commemoration of Florence Nightingale is controversial. On the one hand, she doubted or denied many of the central articles of the Creed. On the other hand, she believed in God and devoted her life to His service as she understood it.

She was born in Florence on 12 May 1820 of upper-class English parents travelling through Italy, and named for her native city. (“Florence” was not an accepted first name at the time. Her sister was born in Naples and named “Parthenope,” the Greek name for that city.) Florence was reared in the Unitarian Church, but later joined the Church of England.

In her diary, an entry shortly before her seventeenth birthday reads: “On February 7th, 1837, God spoke to me and called me to his service.” She did not know what the service would be, and therefore decided that she must remain single, so as to have no encumbrances and be ready for anything. With this in mind, she rejected a proposal of marriage from a young man whom she dearly loved. She suffered from “trances” or “dreaming” spells, in which she would lose consciousness for several minutes or longer, and be unaware when she recovered that time had passed. (Could this be a form of petit mal epilepsy? No biographer of hers that I have read uses the word.) She found the knowledge that she was subject to such spells terrifying, and feared that they meant that she was unworthy of her calling, particularly since she did not hear the voice of God again for many years. In the spring of 1844 she came to believe that her calling was to nurse the sick. In 1850 her family sent her on a tour of Egypt for her health. Some extracts from her diary follow:

March 7. God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for Him, for Him alone without the reputation.
March 9. During half an hour I had by myself in my cabin, settled the question with God.
April 1. Not able to go out but wished God to have it all His own way. I like Him to do exactly as He likes without even telling me the reason.
May 12. Today I am thirty–the age Christ began his mission.
Now no more childish things. No more love. No more marriage. Now Lord let me think only of Thy Will, what Thou willest me to do. Oh Lord Thy Will, Thy Will.
June 10. The Lord spoke to me; he said, Give five minutes every hour to the thought of Me. Coudst thou but love Me as Lizzie loves her husband, how happy wouldst thou be.” But Lizzie does not give five minutes every hour to the thought of her husband, she thinks of him every minute, spontaneously.

Florence decided that she must train to be a nurse. Her family was horrified. In her day, nursing was done mostly by disabled army veterans or by women with no other means of support. It was common for nurses of either sex to be drunk on the job most of the time, and they had no training at all. It was common practice never to wash or change the sheets on a bed, not even when a patient died and his bed was given to a new patient. Florence was told to go to Kaiserswerth, Germany, to learn and train with the Lutheran order of Deaconesses who were running a hospital there. Back in England again, she used the influence of Sidney Herbert, a family friend and Member of Parliament, to be appointed supervisor of a sanatorium in London. Under her able guidance, it turned from a chamber of horrors into a model hospital. The innovations introduced by Miss Nightingale were, for their day, little short of revolutionary. She demanded, and got, a system of dumb-waiters that enabled food to be sent directly to every floor, so that nurses did not exhaust themselves carrying trays up numerous flights of stairs. She also invented and had installed a system of call bells by which a patient could ring from his bed and the bell would sound in the corridor, with a valve attached to the bell which opened when the bell rang, and remained open so that the nurse could see who had rung. “Without a system of this kind,” she wrote, “a nurse is converted to a pair of legs.”

While working in the poorer districts of London, Miss Nightingale encountered a Roman Catholic priest, Henry Edward Manning (later Cardinal Manning), who was working among the poor of London. She was impressed by the assistance he gave to many who had nowhere else to turn, and they became friends for life. She was greatly attracted by Roman Catholicism, but rejected much of its theology, and so reluctantly decided against joining it.

Florence Nightingale attending patientsThen war broke out in the Crimea (in Russia, on the north edge of the Black Sea), and Sir Sidney Herbert, now Secretary of War, obtained permission for Florence to lead a group of 38 nurses there. Of these, 10 were Roman Catholic nuns, 14 were Anglican nuns, and the remaining 14 were “of no particular religion, unless one counts the worship of Bacchus.” They found conditions appalling. Blankets were rotting in warehouses while the men did without, because no one had issued the proper forms for their distribution. The lavatories in the hospitals had no running water, and the latrines were tubs to be emptied by hand. But no one emptied them, since official regulations did not specify which department was responsible for doing so. The result was that the hospital had a foul stench that could be smelled for some distance outside its walls. Far more men were dying in hospitals of infection than of wounds. The chief concern of many of the Army doctors was that the nurses might usurp some of their authority. Florence gradually managed to win the doctors and other authorities over, and to reform hospital procedures, with spectacular results. Once the medical situation had ceased to be an acute problem, she turned her attention to other aspects of the soldiers’ welfare. For example, most of them squandered all their pay on drink. She noted that there was no trustworthy way for them to send money home to their families, and she set up facilities for them to do so. First, she undertook to send money home herself for any soldier in the hospital that wanted it sent, and the soldiers brought in about 1000 pounds a month. She asked the authorities to set up an official service to do this, and they refused. By appealing to Queen Victoria herself, she overcame opposition to the idea, and the men sent home 71,000 pounds sterling in less than six months. She established with her own money a reading-room with tables for writing letters, and the men used it enthusiastically. She imported four schoolmasters to give lectures, and the halls were filled to overflowing. All this was done despite opposition from officers who said, “The men are hopeless brutes. You cannot expect anything from them.”

At night, she would often patrol the wards, carrying a dim lamp, to make sure that all was well and no one was in need of help. She became famous as “the Lady with the Lamp.”

Florence Nightingale, "The lady with the lamp"In April 1856 the war was over, and by mid-July the hospital was emptied and her work in Crimea over. She returned to England a national hero, with a great welcome prepared for her; but she slipped into the country unnoticed and went to a convent that had supplied some of her nurses. There, she spent the day in prayer before coming out to face the public and beginning to lobby Parliament for suitable legislation. She wrote pamphlet after pamphlet, pointing out by pie charts, for example, that the major cause of deaths in the Army was not wounds caused by enemy action but disease caused by lack of proper sanitation. She is perhaps the first person to use pie charts and similar graphic devices to convey statistical information. She obtained the formation of an Army Medical Staff Corps and a Sanitary Commission to oversee military health conditions.

Throughout these efforts, she relied on the help of Sidney Herbert, insisting that he must work hard and long to get the legislation she needed through Parliament. When he protested that she was asking too much, she would not listen. His health broke, and he died in August 1861. Florence prayed God to raise him from the dead, explaining that she needed him for the job. When God failed to comply, her faith was badly shaken. She wrote a book called, Suggestions for Thought: An Address to the Artisans of England, in which she explained that God was less of a Person and more of a Cosmic Force than is generally supposed by Christians. (But note that she was working on this book before Sir Sidney died, and one cannot call it simply a response to his death.) Advance copies were given to a few friends, such as John Stuart Mill, who praised it highly. However, it was never published (I have not seen it, and neither the Library of Congress nor the National library of Medicine has a copy, nor any other library in the United States that I have been able to learn of), since Florence kept revising it — arguably, because her beliefs on the nature of God were simply not internally consistent. Eventually, it seems, God spoke to her again and said, “You are here to carry out my program. I am not here to carry out yours.” She wrote in her diary, “I must remember that God is not my private secretary.”

Before his death, Sir Sidney had gotten her involved in Indian affairs. She served on the Indian Sanitary Commission. In May 1859, she decided that there were insufficient data available in England on conditions in the Indian Army, and she wrote to 200 military stations there, asking for copies of all regulations and all documents relating to the health and sanitary administration of the army. The reports that came back filled two vans. She read them all and summarized them for the Report of the Commission. Her conclusion was that the death toll from disease in the Indian Army was appallingly high (69 out of 1000 annually), and that this was largely due, not to the climate, but to lack of sanitation, and that preventive measures included sanitation not just for army posts but for neighboring villages and, in the long run, for all of India.

She was a friend of General Charles George Gordon, who captured the British imagination when he and his troops were beseiged at Khartoum in the Sudan, and finally captured and killed. After his death, Florence wrote to a friend that suffering, disappointment, and lack of success are the tribute which it is the soul’s greatest privilege to present to God. In Gordon’s death, she wrote, we see “the triumph of failure, the triumph of the Cross. With him, all is well.”

She met the scholar Benjamin Jowett, who was translating Plato into English. They became fast friends, and she contributed to the translation. She also began an anthology of mystical writings, called “Notes from Devotional Authors of the Middle Ages, Collected, Chosen, and Freely Translated by Florence Nightingale.” It was her contention that mystical prayer is not just for monks and nuns, but should form a part of the every-day life of ordinary persons.

Under the strain of ceaseless overwork, her own health broke, and she was an invalid for the latter half of her life. On Christmas Day when she was sixty-five, she wrote: “Today, O Lord, let me dedicate this crumbling old woman to thee. Behold the handmaid of the Lord. I was thy handmaid as a girl. Since then, I have backslid.” She wrote a manual called Notes for Nurses, and a set of instructions for the matron in charge of training nurses, emphasizing the importance for a nurse of a schedule of daily prayer. A few years before her death, she was the first woman to receive the Order of Merit from the British government. She died at ninety, and, by her directions, her tombstone read simply, “F.N. 1820-1910”.

Florence Nightingale died on 13 August 1910, and is commemorated on this day on the Lutheran Calendar. The Episcopal calendar commemorates Jeremy Taylor on 13 August, and accordingly has shifted the commemoration of Nightingale to 18 May. I am not sure of the significance of this date, but it is the date (or nearly) of the opening of the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in 1860. [Note: the current date in the Episcopal Church for her commemoration is 12 Aug.]

by James Kiefer

August 12, 2021 Posted by | Biography, Customer Service, Experiment, Health Issues, Hygiene, Lectionary Readings, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Spiritual, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Afghani Interpreters Begin Arriving

First group of evacuated Afghan interpreters arrives in US

from BBC News

(This morning, Adventureman’s heart is lighter. He is a Vietnam vet, and for many years has carried the guilt of our country having left behind so many people who worked with our forces so loyally, and suffered terribly when we pulled out. While we believe Afghanistan was not a winnable war (just look at history), he had anxiety that once again we would leave our allies behind.

We have a soft spot for Afghanistan. While we worked with the Department of State, way back before the Taliban, Afghanistan was considered by many to be a great post. The Afghani people were educated, and had a long and fascinating history. Afghani food is delicious. Day trips around Afghanistan opened people’s eyes to new ways of thinking and doing things. Even the Afghan clothing was comfortable and loose, perfect for the great heat of the summers. Friends who had served in Afghanistan shared wonderful stories and memories, and would gather for “Afghan Night” where they would prepare food for 100 of their best friends, of which we were honored to be included.

So to read that the first flight of interpreters and their families have arrived gave us great hope. Hope for a new group of citizens in our country who will work hard and share the gifts of their heritage, hope for their wives and daughters who we know to be amazing women, and hopes that one day there might be an Afghani restaurant in Pensacola!)

An Afghan interpreter with the U.S. Army's 4th squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment helps to question a villager
image captionAn Afghan interpreter with the US Army seen speaking with a villager

About 200 Afghan interpreters and their families have arrived in the US – the first of a group of 2,500 Afghans being evacuated as the Taliban advances.

The interpreters are being resettled under a visa programme for those who worked with the US during the recently ended 20-year war with the Taliban.

They arrived in the early hours of Friday morning and were taken to Fort Lee military base in Virginia.

They are expected to stay there for around a week while they are processed.

In a statement, US President Joe Biden called the arrivals “a milestone” and “the first of many” as US authorities work to relocate eligible Afghans out of harm’s way.

Afghans eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) will be transported either to the US, American facilities abroad or to third countries while they finish their applications. The most recent arrivals have already completed an extensive vetting process.

On Thursday, the US Senate approved more than $1bn (£719m) to pay for the evacuations, including housing and transportation.

The bill would also loosen applicant requirements and allow for 8,000 more visas in addition to the ones already allocated for.

The Taliban have been advancing Afghanistan following a decision by Mr Biden to withdraw the remaining American troops from the country.

With those advances have come danger to those who worked alongside US troops during the two-decade conflict.

Since 2008, approximately 70,000 Afghans have been resettled in the US on an SIV .

Last week, a senior state department official said that the total number of visa applicants now stands just over 20,000. About half have yet to complete the first steps of the process.

Those yet to go through the process face potential threats in attempting to secure a visa. Mike Jason, a former US Army battalion commander who was deployed to Afghanistan, told the BBC that travelling across Taliban-controlled areas with the documentation needed for SIVs puts interpreters in “mortal danger”.

“That’s basically an entire confession that you’re an interpreter working for the Americans. We’re asking them to travel with the evidence,” he said.

Not-for-profit group No One Left Behind estimates that at least 300 Afghans or their family members have been killed for working with the US.

The Taliban were removed from power by the US-led invasion in 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.

Fighting between the insurgent Taliban and Afghan government forces has increased over the past two months as international troops pull out of the country.

July 31, 2021 Posted by | Afghanistan, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Leadership, Political Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

“Keep it Superficial!”

AdventureMan grinned as he said it. He had just asked how we were doing, to which I replied “Fine!” We are both focused on projects that need doing but are neither stimulating nor particularly gratifying.

Have you ever noticed how long you can think about something, and then when you do it, it takes mere minutes, and you realize you’ve invested a lot of thought when you could have just done it and then not given it another thought?

When we bought this house, my thoughtful daughter-in-law left me paint cans for some of the rooms. In one bath, there was a line at the bottom of a wall that needed re-painting. It was such a tiny line, but it caught my eye every time I saw it and I resolved to fix it. And then I didn’t fix it.

So this morning, I found the right tiny paint brush, found the right piece of cardboard to shield where I don’t want the paint to go, gathered a little newspaper and moved some paint from the larger can to a smaller bottle. That took about as much time – maybe five minutes – as it took to also paint in the area that bothered me, and paint over places where time has bruised or nicked the paint, since I was working with that paint anyway. Total time – maybe ten minutes, maybe fifteen. A drop in the bucket, given all the times I had thought of doing it and didn’t do it.

There are things I just don’t really want to do, and it is so easy not to do them. AdventureMan is changing the cat litter; who ever WANTS to change cat litter? The joke in our house is that when I got pregnant, many years ago, I showed AdventureMan an article about some terrible thing that can happen if pregnant women handle cat litter, and it was around thirty years later when he asked me when I thought I might be able to scoop litter again.

While I am all about equality, there are some times when dividing up the labor makes sense to both of us. And then, there are tasks that you just do because they need doing. When he asks how I am doing, he doesn’t need to really know how I feel about painting a small line, and I don’t need to know his thoughts about the cat litter. it’s shorthand for “I love you; I care about you.” A “fine” will do.

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Character, Civility, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Exploiting Foreign Labor: Qatar and Kuwait

Living in Qatar and Kuwait was a life-changing experience. We loved the stimulation of living in an environment where little was as we expected it to be. The sights, sounds and colors were stronger, attention-getting, and learning to think in different ways kept us alive and young in ways we never anticipated.

There were also challenges. While as white Americans, we were high in the pecking order, we also realized we were high in a secondary category; there were the nationals, and there were all the others. We qualified, along with all the other imported labor, as others. We lived a great life, and we never forgot that we were “the other.” We were blessed with friends whose families had been living there long before our own country was even imagined. It gave a new perspective to our lives.

On the downside was the treatment of labor. Here are a couple of my own photos:

Traditional scaffolding

High rise window washers

Working on a new building, these laborers are more than 12 stories up. There is no elevator, and this is their solution to accessing a location without climbing 12 stories in the 115 degree F. heat.

That breaks my heart is the statement that all these deaths are within the expected range. The laborers are treated with callous indifference. Most came hoping to provide their families with a better life, they lived in squalor and sent most of their salary beyond meager subsistence, back to their home countries. The employers held all the cards. They had a choice – take this terrible risk or go home.

I found this on AOL News and it said it was from Yahoo News.

Report: More than 6,500 migrant workers have died during Qatar’s World Cup prep

JASON OWENSFebruary 24, 2021, 11:34 PM

More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar amid the nation’s preparation to host the 2022 World Cup, The Guardian reports.

The report cites government data from the home nation of migrant workers including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The data have been compiled since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010, working out to an average of 12 deaths per week, according to the report.

FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar despite widespread concerns over human rights violations and treatment of migrant workers that have only been exacerbated since. Amnesty International has documented conditions of workers being “exploited” and “subjected to forced labor.”

“They can’t change jobs, they can’t leave the country, and they often wait months to get paid,” a report from the human rights organization states.

According to The Guardian, 2,711 workers from India, 1,641 from Nepal, 1,018 from Bangledesh, 824 from Pakistan and 557 from Sri Lanka have died working in Qatar since 2010. The Guardian estimates that the actual death toll of migrant workers is “considerably higher” since the data it cites is limited to the listed countries.

The nation with a population of less than 3 million is depending on 2 million migrant workers to build its labor force. The Philippines and Kenya are among other nations to send migrant workers to Qatar, according to the report.

The listed causes of death include electrocution, blunt injuries due to a fall from height and suicide. Most of the deaths are listed as “natural” while citing heart or respiratory failure.

Daytime temperatures in Qatar can approach 120 degrees during the summer. Normally played in the summer, Qatar’s World Cup will be held in November and December because of the oppressive heat.

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Workers walk towards the construction site of the Lusail stadium which will be build for the upcoming 2022 Fifa soccer World Cup during a stadium tour in Doha, Qatar, December 20, 2019.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Workers walk towards the construction site of the Lusail stadium which will be build for the upcoming 2022 Fifa soccer World Cup during a stadium tour in Doha, Qatar, December 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Nick McGeehan of labor rights organization FairSquare Projects told The Guardian that World Cup construction accounts for much of the death toll

“A very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup,” he said.

Qatar has built or is building seven new stadiums in addition to significant infrastructure upgrades including roadways, hotels and an airport in preparation to host the World Cup. The opening and closing matches will be held at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, a city being built from the ground up ahead of the World Cup.

Qatar: Death toll within ‘expected range’

Qatar’s government didn’t dispute The Guardian’s findings and characterized the death toll as “expected” in a statement to publication.

“The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population,” the statement read. “However, every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country.”

FIFA also provided a statement to The Guardian.

“With the very stringent health and safety measures on site … the frequency of accidents on Fifa World Cup construction sites has been low when compared to other major construction projects around the world,” the statement reads, per The Guardian.

FIFA did not provide The Guardian with data to back up its claim.

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers seek employment in Qatar to escape poverty and unemployment at home. It describes dirty living conditions with eight workers living in a single room one they arrive. Workers are sometimes promised one salary only to be to be provided a lower wage once they arrive.

The group spoke to workers who paid anywhere from $500 to $4,300 in recruitment fees to agents that leave them in debt before they begin working in Qatar.

February 25, 2021 Posted by | Building, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

USA: Democracy in Decline

On Sunday, the organist played “America the Beautiful” in a minor key. It reflected what many of us are experiencing. We love our country. We hate what we are seeing.

An excerpt from an article from the Washington Post about declining democracies in the world, this part focused on the USA, land that I love:

 

Democracy declined precipitously in the United States

The United States fell 24 places in the country ranking on liberal democracy over the past two years, from seventh in 2015 to 31st in 2017. When we compare the United States’ score in 2017 with its average score over the past 10 years, the drop is precipitous and unprecedented.


Liberal democracy in the United States: changes from the 10-year average.

Experts lowered their estimates of democracy in the United States because they began to be skeptical that the U.S. Congress will rein in executive overreach. Similarly, experts lost faith that the opposition party can contribute to overseeing, investigating or otherwise checking the majority party. The U.S. executive branch was assessed as showing less respect for the Constitution and compliance with the judiciary, two indicators that the judicial branch can restrain the executive.

For all four indicators, the score for the United States declined. The downward trend in the United States is much worse than in other countries. In terms of government compliance with decisions of the Supreme Court, the United States used to rank among the top countries of the world — but has now declined to No. 48.

I remember living in Kuwait, self-censoring my blog entries so I wouldn’t be expelled from the country, even blogging under a pseudonym. I think of the ICE officer who resigned, and was visited by law enforcement as he gave an interview to national news explaining why he (and others) were quitting ICE, disgusted and disheartened by the un-American practices they were being forced to engage in to export “illegals.” Yes, we still have freedom of speech, but we also look over our shoulders, now, never sure what new low will strike next.

July 5, 2018 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | | Leave a comment

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

“She shows us the same things,” you might complain, and again I say “I write this blog for myself and for the love of writing about the things I love. You are welcome, all are welcome, and if you are not happy, you are welcome to go elsewhere!”

I’ve lived an odd life, a life I would’t trade with anyone. I grew up in Alaska, on an island with a lot of native Americans as my fellow students in my little elementary school. I grew up with Alaskan art, Indian artifacts, masks, baskets, and the hand made costumes, red and black images, sparked with trimming of white shirt buttons. I went to high school in Germany, traveling far and wide with my family or with friends through that continent, visiting more than a few churches and museums, even making special trips to see an exhibit or two.

Then a big change, life in the Middle East and Africa, where I learned to see things through a very different set of eyes and experiences, but something strange started happening, as I noted the differences, I could also see amazing similarities.

I love women’s handwork. I love the nomadic textiles, often made on very narrow looms that could be mostly a couple sticks and yarn from sheep or goats you’ve raised and slaughtered, died with whatever you could get your hands on. And, oddly, the weavings and patterns from Native American baskets and weavings have a lot in common with weavings from the Middle East, West Asia (the ‘Stans) and Africa. There is a love of working with black, white and red, for example, and a similarity to the structure of the animals, even when the animals themselves differ.

If you are interested in the work women do with their hands, you never lack for conversation wherever you go. There are always groups where women are teaching one another new techniques. I’ve met wonderful, creative women in Germany and in Kuwait and in Tunisia, all finding new and innovative ways to create, and also exploring preservation of early and ancient techniques.

So this Museum, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum was richly rewarding for both AdventureMan and myself; it was rich in history, in interviews and movies showing early salmon runs, for example, and interviews with early Native Oregonians. It was also rich in exploring the techniques of early basket making and cooking techniques, preservation of salmon by drying and salting, etc. We spent hours in this museum, and we heartily recommend that you do, too 🙂 It is also a very gorgeous museum, rich in sensory impact, unforgettable.

I will show you pictures, and every now and then I will put in a little explanation.

Below is a dugout canoe, created from one very large cedar tree trunk, carved out by hand

There were really Direwolfs? GOT didn’t make them up?

Look at the motifs on these baskets! African? Azerbaijani? Kazakh? Kuwaiti?

For grinding chestnuts into paste, then the paste is cooked into a kind of meal like oatmeal. The morter and pestle is the same in so many places.

The round cooking stones, heated in fires, dropped into the meal, fished out once they start losing their heat, washed, reheated and put in again until the meal reaches a boil, all in this tightly woven basket.


Activity in the Children’s exploration area

We love the creativity and persistence of humans who preserve our heritage and traditions for future generations. It is particularly delightful when the preservation is in a museum conceived and manifested with beautiful elements and natural materials.

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

You Gotta Love the Mormons

I am not Mormon. Yes, I say good things about the Mormons, and that is because the Mormon people I know are smart, savvy, and hard working. They make time in their life in a structured way, to take care of those around them. They feed the poor, they welcome the stranger, they clothe the naked, they visit the prisoner, they take care of the widow and the orphans – all the things we are told are important to do in order to show the world our love for God and our love for one another. The Mormons have made a science of it, including teaching and learning foreign languages, and sending their young out into the world to spread the word, but also giving them an opportunity to develop a broader perspective, another point of view, living in a foreign country.

AdventureMan and I have a food-truck-turned-settled restaurant we have recently found and love, Taqueria El Asador, on North Davis in a Shell station. You’ll know it by the cars parked all around it as people get to know just how good the food is. My favorite is a burrito Campechano, and AdventureMan loves the Pollo Platter.

It’s outdoors. Mostly we take out. While I was waiting for our order, I saw this among all the ads looking for people to frame, do masonry, or to clean:

We are surrounded by immigrants. Many of the workers are in paint stained clothing, many are in overalls, many in scrubs from the nearby hospital and clinics. The prices are reasonable, and it’s lunchtime. This “ad” is in Spanish, offering free English lessons to those who want to learn English, and how else are you going to get ahead, to fit into your new home, get a better job? The Mormon church is giving exactly the kind of hand-up that will help them find the better life for themselves and their families, and it is offering this tool for free.

Someone more cynical might think they are just trying to convert more Mormons, but anyone who is in the helping business knows that helping doesn’t mean you will get an anticipated response. I would be willing to bet, however, that the kindness doesn’t end there, that the Mormon church has structures in place to help the English learners with clothing, maybe with better jobs, maybe with people who can explain customs, take them to interviews, explain benefits, etc. I would be willing to bet that it isn’t the services offered, but the pure kindness behind those offers that can change hearts. I may not be Mormon, but I can admire the way they do God’s work.

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Charity, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Food, Interconnected, Language, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Work Related Issues | , | 2 Comments

“They’ve Got a Bit of Swagger Now”

I am sitting and drinking coffee with my friend who comes in and helps me keep my house clean, and we are sipping silently, still stunned by the unexpected win of Donald Trump.

 

“We have more police rolling through my neighborhood now,” she begins, and then takes it in a direction I never anticipated, “They have their windows half down, so we can see them, see their faces, and they look at us and they don’t smile.”

I take that in.

 

“Sort of like ‘I’ve got my eye on you?’ ” I ask.

 

“Sort of like ‘We OWN you now’ ‘, she responded. “They’ve got a bit of swagger now.”

 

She owns her own house. She works several jobs to keep her youngest son in a good Christian private school. Her children, some grown, are solid members of their communities, good sons, good daughters. It’s up to her to put food on the table, pay the property taxes, and keep up with all of life’s normal expenses. She works really hard.

 

“What do you worry about the most?” I ask her.

 

“I’m trying to figure our what I am going to do about health care,” she responds. “You know that’s the first thing that is going to go away.”

 

Health care. One of the most basic needs for all people. Blood pressure medication. Emergency care. I remember. I saw it all when I worked with the homeless and working poor; medical care was often sacrificed in the interest of more immediate needs, like keeping the car running so you could get to your job.

 

I wanted to ask if she worried about her son, 6 feet tall and 12 years old – and African American. I didn’t ask. She really told me that when she started talking about the police rolling through her neighborhood, staring. Yes, she worries. He’s a good boy, and if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it doesn’t matter.

 

We are comfortable in our silences, but she breaks the silence, as if she read my mind, and says “You know who I worry about? I worry about all the gays and trans-gender people, now. Will they roll back the gay marriage laws? Will the transgender people not be protected?”

 

I think of the celebration, just over a year ago, when gay rights were guaranteed. I think of Roe v Wade, when our reproductive rights became our own private concern. I think of the movement towards enhanced training for police forces, so that the innocent won’t be killed in a moment of fear perceived confrontation. I think of all we have to lose. There are no answers; we are going to have a tough time ahead.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu

I saw this today on the NPR Books section, and as one great admirer of librarians, I wanted to share it with you. These librarians are my kind of badass! They are providing a service to humanity.

Timbuktu’s ‘Badass Librarians’: Checking Out Books Under Al-Qaida’s Nose

 
Handout picture dated 1997 and released in 2012 by the UN shows ancient manuscripts displayed at the library in the city of Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda has destroyed ancient texts it considers idolatrous.

Handout picture dated 1997 and released in 2012 by the UN shows ancient manuscripts displayed at the library in the city of Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda has destroyed ancient texts it considers idolatrous.

Evan Schneider/AFP/Getty Images

For hundreds of years, Timbuktu has had a place in the world’s imagination. Located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, the city flourished as a center of Islamic culture and scholarship in the 13th through 16th centuries. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988, recognized for the University of Sankore, which had as many as 25,000 students who studied the Quran, as well as the historic Djingareyber and Sidi Yahia mosques.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

by Joshua Hammer

Timbuktu was a center of the manuscript trade, with traders bringing Islamic texts from all over the Muslim world. Despite occupations and invasions of all kinds since then, scholars managed to preserve and even restore hundreds of thousands of manuscripts dating from the 13th century.

But that changed when militant Islamists backed by al-Qaida arrived in 2012. The hardline Islamists didn’t see these texts as part of their Islamic heritage, but as idolatry, contradicting their interpretation of Islam. They set about destroying important cultural icons, including 15th-century mausoleums of Sufi Muslim saints. Librarians feared the city’s prized medieval collections of manuscripts would be next.

Librarian Abdel Kader Haidara organized and oversaw a secret plot to smuggle 350,000 medieval manuscripts out of Timbuktu. Joshua Hammer chronicled Haidara’s story in the book The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. Hammer spoke with NPR’s Michel Martin about how a librarian became an “operator.”

 


Interview Highlights

Why these manuscripts were so important

These volumes — and we’re talking hundreds of thousands of them — at the point at which al-Qaida invaded Timbuktu, there were something like 370,000 manuscripts amassed in libraries in Timbuktu. And they portrayed Islam as practiced in this corner of the world as a blend of the secular and the religious — or they showed that the two could coexist beautifully. And they did in this city.

So it was tremendously important for Haidara and those who supported him to protect and preserve these manuscripts as evidence of both Mali’s former greatness and the tolerance that that form of Islam encouraged.

On Abdel Kader Haidara’s background

Abdel Kader Haidara was a son of a scholar and he grew up in an intellectual environment in Timbuktu. He was not a wealthy person. After his father’s death in the early 1980s he inherited the family’s centuries-old manuscript collection.

So in 1984 the head of the Ahmed Baba Institute, the government-owned library in Timbuktu, called on Haidara and said, “Hey, we’re having trouble getting off the ground, we need to find manuscripts. We know they’re out there, they’re hidden away in the desert, in river towns. Can you undertake this job of traveling around northern Mali, tracking down these manuscripts that have been lost — buried, disappeared — over generations? Gather them up, we’ll give you money. And we want this library to be splendid. We want this to be something that people from all around the world will come to visit. So go out, do your best, find books for us.”

He was reluctant at first, but the call of duty and the curator’s constant pressure prevailed. And in 1984 he began this what turned into a 12-year really amazing quest to ferret out these manuscripts all across Mali.

How Libya changed Mali

In 2011, the Arab Spring breaks out. Gadhafi’s downfall, the arsenals of Libya — in the chaos of Gadhafi’s murder and the disintegration of the Libyan state — are opened for the taking. Then you’ve got these various rebel groups in Mali. You’ve got Islamic radicals all descending on Libya — on these arsenals. Walking in, loading up their pickup trucks with heavy weaponry, driving through the dust across the desert back to Mali. And so these heavily armed rebels sweep across the desert and in three months have captured two-thirds of the country.

Why he decided to do what he did

The first thing that Abdel Kader was worried about, frankly, was looting. In the first few days after the rebels took over Timbuktu and the army and the police had fled, there was total disorder. That’s when he kind of began to scheme — “Hey, the great treasures of Timbuktu are being held in these very ostentatious libraries.” He said, “These are going to be targets.”

The looting subsided pretty quickly. But as it subsided, you had this growing radicalism, you had Islamic police roaring through the streets, stopping people, throwing them in jail, grabbing cigarettes out of their mouths, whipping them in public. He just foresaw that this was going to get worse, and that the manuscripts, which as we already said expressed values that were anathema to fundamentalist Islam — to Wahhabi Islam — were in danger. That sooner or later, these manuscripts are going to be held hostage. They’re going to become political tools, they could be destroyed in an act of vengeance, caught up in military action. We’ve got to protect them.

So that’s when Abdel Kader and a small group of his supporters, friends, relatives got together and began what ended up being a three-stage effort to protect, and essentially smuggle to safety, all of these manuscripts.

Becoming a ‘badass’

Let’s remember that Abdel Kader was more than a librarian, this guy had spent 12 years as a badass explorer, as an adventurer. He was traveling on camels across the Sahara, on riverboats, going to small villages, finding these manuscripts. So he was an operator. So when the time came, he just knew what to do.

He said, “The first thing we’re going to do is get them out of these big libraries. We’re going to take trunks, we’re going to pack them into trunks at night when the rebels are asleep. And then we’re going to move them in the dead of night by mule cart to these various houses — safe houses, scattered around the city. We’re going to stick them in there and hopefully they’ll be safe for the duration of this occupation.” Which of course, nobody knew when that was going to end.

Why it’s important

One of the things that I think is important to draw from it is to realize that there is this whole strain of Islam that is moderate, that celebrates intellectuality, that celebrates culture, that celebrates diversity, secular ideas, poetry, love, human beauty. I think that is lost in this debate that’s going on. We tend to really kind of turn against Islam because of the actions of this particularly violent group.

But I think in fact that the Islam represented by those in Timbuktu and the badass librarians is in fact more representative of what Islam is. And these people [who] were the real victims of extremism in this part of the world are fellow Muslims. They were the ones who really suffered. They were the ones who had their hands and feet chopped off, who had to live through the horror of daily occupation.

For the most part, we see this from afar, but these people are on the front lines and they are living through the horror of radicalism every day and every minute.

Where the manuscripts are now

He hopes that he’ll be able to return them to Timbuktu. They are in about a dozen climate-controlled storage rooms in Bamako, the capital of Mali. And as far as moving them back, he’s waiting. I mean, these are very hard people to root out. But Timbuktu is a ghost town — tourists aren’t going there, flights aren’t going there. It’s very sad. And I don’t know and he doesn’t know if those glory days can ever be recaptured, given the strength of the Islamists — the terrorists in that area, in that part of the world.

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Work Related Issues | , , | Leave a comment