Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Insh’allah

One of today’s readings in the Lectionary always brings a smile to my face. I can hear my teacher at the Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam (where I was studying Arabic in Doha, Qatar) saying to me “don’t you know your own book? It tells you never to say you are going to do something without adding Insh’allah (God willing) because we never know even what the next minute will bring.”

James 4: 13-17

Boasting About Tomorrow

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

It’s a perfect reading for the last day of a troubled year, preparing for a year in which we have no idea what joys or troubles are in store for us.

Today, I look back with gratitude to that whole period in my life where I lived in the Middle East and was forced to confront my own ignorance. I was not only ignorant about my Muslim neighbors, I was equally ignorant about my own religion. My years among the Muslims motivated me to learn more about what I believed, and why.

This month, my religious mentor died. She had an enormous influence on my life, on bringing me to where I am today. When I returned to the United States, understanding how little I knew about my own religion, I enrolled in a four-year seminar in theology through an Episcopal Church program called Education for Ministry. It was life-changing. The first-year students read Old Testament, the second-year students read New Testament, the third-year students read Diarmaid MacCulloch’s book Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, and the fourth-year students read a variety of theological perspectives.

(MacCulloch’s book is thick and intimidating – and surprised us all with how much fun it was to read.)

My mentor was a skilled counselor and guide; she led us through all-year discussions of our weekly readings, so in the four-year program, we not only were reading our own year but giving input on the other’s readings. The discussions were lively and provocative. Slowly, even without realizing it, the students bonded closely with one another. We learned a very important lesson – how to disagree with people, especially when you felt strongly about an issue, and remain respectful.

It has served me well, living as I do in another alien culture. Although I was raised in a hunting culture (Alaska), when I lived there people kept their weapons locked away when not in use. There was no open-carry. As kids, we were lined up at school and given vaccinations, which we accepted as being necessary for our own well-being and the well-being of the community. I don’t believe we had a single black person in town, but we had the original inhabitants, Inuit, Haida, Tlingket and we all went to school together peaceably. My father worked for the government, he served. Service to country is a tradition in my family. I am aghast at elected officials who mistake staging political drama for good governance. I struggle to achieve civil discourse about issues about which I feel strongly.

And so I am thankful for all the years living among others; among the vanquished in Germany, among the desert people of Tunisia, and among the people of Abraham’s other son, Ishmael. Their patience with me taught me so much about myself, and that even my strongly-held convictions may not be nuanced enough to capture what passes for truth. It serves me well to this day, and, I hope, will continue to humble me as we enter this coming new year, Insh’allah.

December 31, 2021 Posted by | Alaska, Biography, Books, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Doha, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Stranger in a Strange Land | , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year: Welcome 2015

It’s been a scramble. I say I am not compulsive, I say I am not superstitious, but when it comes to entering the New Year . . . . I am. Clean house. Christmas put away. Bills paid. Money in your pocket. Doing what you love on the first day of the year 🙂

Last night, AdventureMan knocked my socks off. He found a recipe for an Oyster casserole, mille feuille top, and he hit it out of the ballpark. AdventureMan, you ROCK. Happy New Year to all, to all our friends in so many different countries, we wish you all the very best of all this new year has to offer.

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January 1, 2015 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Food, Living Conditions | , , | 2 Comments

Rose-Colored Sunrise 31 Dec 2008

When we got up this morning, it was DARK, at a time when it is normally lighter. When I looked out my window, there were heavy clouds, everything looked dark and sombre:

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Minutes later, the sun begins to break through and the clouds look less substantial:
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And then – the light! The sun breaks through!
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And, a short time later, the day shimmers in silver and gold:
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All that drama, and the morning is yet young! Wooo HOOOO, what a day this might be!

These are funny days, December 29th – 31st, days in which those who follow the Islamic calendar are already in the new year, and days in which we are still waiting. Tomorrow we will all be back on track, starting off a new year. In Kuwait, schools this week reported 85% absenteeism. Schools were open – but the students didn’t come!

AdventureMan and I briefly reviewed our year 2008 before praying this morning. For us – even though our financial investments are (on paper) in the depths – this has been a very good year. We have each other, and we have our sweet Qatteri Cat.

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We have been greatly blessed to have had more time with our son this year than any year we can remember in the last ten years. We love our time with him, and with his wife. We have had weddings, and lots of family times with my family. We have had wonderful times with our friends, old and new. God has blessed us abundantly.

In every way that really matters, life is sweet. We thank God for 2008. We thank God, even for the challenges that 2009 will bring.

Brothers and sisters, we wish you peace, peace in your spirits, peace in your families, peace in your nations, and a desire to meet all obstacles with peaceful intentions. We wish you peaceful times with family, and peaceful resolutions of any conflicts. May your New Year be filled with unexpected blessings!

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, sunrise series, Weather | , | 17 Comments

Fresh Start

I always get a burst of energy between Christmas and New Year’s. Truly, for me, new hope has come into the world. It doesn’t have to be rational, it’s just the way it is for me. I get all kinds of old messes cleaned up, I sort, I organize, I throw out or I hem/mend/ cut down to make something useful once again.

It made the dark months of winter pass more quickly in Seattle and in Germany, where many days go from black to dark grey and then back to black again. Here in Kuwait, with all the sunshine, it is just so much easier. Every day dawns in blues and pinks – how can life be bad when a day starts so beautifully?

There is one sharp sword hanging over me – taxes. *gnashing of teeth* I am pretty good about keeping receipts all in one place all year, but taxes for xpats can be complicated, and our tax guy sends a worksheet – like 14 pages – for us to fill out every year. It really isn’t that hard, but I dread it.

Over a year ago, the US government changed the way expats are taxed. Even worse, they snuck it in as an amendment, I think to a military appropriations or budget bill, and no one was aware of the implications until it was a done-deal. It is a nightmare. In one year, we went from qualifying for refunds to owing a burdensome debt of taxes. Aaarrgh.

I have a list of projects I want to do this year, some challenging, some just fun. Some projects left over from previous years I want to get done once and for all. I see 2008 as a great luxury, all those days, an entire year, stretching out before me in which I can get these things done. Woooo Hooooooo!

December 29, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues | , , , | 10 Comments