Monday, June 29, 2009

Pelican's Do NOT Like Bread

Gosh. If I could get DH to get his priorities in order... The "new" camera still has yet to be downloaded on the computer. I will ask him to show me how to do it - all I need to do is watch him do it, and take notes, and then I can do it myself. None of this waiting and waiting and waiting. And, nagging and nagging and nagging. All I can surmise is that he truly likes to hear me nag no matter how shrill my voice may be. If it bothered him - obviously, it does not - then the photos would be on the computer by now. But, nooooo. Golf. He is playing golf today. In his defense he did have to work yesterday - but not until two o'clock in the afternoon. [Yes. Of course I asked him to do it - again yesterday!]

On our last day of going into ports, be
fore getting off the cruise ship in Instanbul, we were in Mykonos [Greece]. We went on the tour of Mykonos that morning - it was like a five hour tour - and it was wonderful! [More on that when the photos are finally - FINALLY - downloaded, provided I can learn how to get them to post here. Far too many interesting things to share not to get them on the blog. Perhaps I should practice with the Singapore pictures. I never got them on here because I cannot figure out how to get to the file. Don't ask. Just a very technically-challenged middle-aged blonde woman. That should explain the "why."] Anyway. After the five hour tour, we were left on our own to explore and meander - down maze-like, very, very narrow passage ways. The design of this maze was not by coincidence. It has to do with the strong winds that Mykonos gets and so this was how this little area of the island protected itself from them - by doing a maze of buildings and alley ways and walk ways. Interesting. You can get lost in minutes. Doesn't even take that long, actually. I'm sure you'd get used to it if you lived there, but for a stranger - a tourist - forget it. They should have passed out maps on the tour bus - they did not. No matter.

So, we're doing our walking an
d meandering - we did a lot of that - both - and we come upon this pelican. Everyone has their camera out and is snapping shots of him [her? how do you tell?]. Naturally, I was a part of that "everyone" crowd - but I had the "new" camera. There is a crowd around Mr. Pelican - and all of the sudden one of the shop owners yells out, "Be careful - sometimes he pecks." Okay. Thanks for the warning. That is all it took to get all of us tourists to clear a path for Mr. Pelican so he could continue on his journey - and he waddled away from us and walked into a shop like he owned the place.

DH and I continued our afternoon tour through the maze and about the time we decided that we had had enough for the day happened upon yet another cafe [surprise, right?!]. We're sitting - enjoying beverages - Mythos for DH and "votka" and soda for me - and guess who waddles up RIGHT NEXT TO ME? Mr. Pelican. We had food on our table - Tzatziki - and bread. [Really, I could not get enough of the Taztziki, it IS that good.] Mr. Pelican opens up his long billed, hooked-beak mouth as if to say, "I'd like some of whatever you're having." So I broke up a piece of bread and aimed for his mouth. Missed. Broke off another - and got much more brave - placed it in his open mouth and quickly pulled my fingers back before he could clamp that long beak back together. Have no idea how much force a beak like that has - and have no intentions of ever finding out. Oh - and if you've never seen the beak of a pelican up close - there is a severe hook at the end which looks like it could do some damage to skin if it wanted to. Again, I will never have the opportunity to find out. [The bottom of a pelican's beak isn't really a beak - but loose, fleshy, skin which expands and contracts - depending on the amount of food that he / she is trying to swallow - whole.]

So, Mr. Pelican sat with us for a time - probably a good fifteen minutes or so - and preened himself. I still have feathers in the burlap bag that I carried through Greece and Turkey, thanks to Mr. Pelican [memories]. A couple tables over from us was a large group of tourists and they were all eating either a very late lunch or a very early dinner - full plates of food were being brought out - many of them were fish. One of those sitting there dining said, "He probably wants fish, not bread." Then give him some of yours - I was there for the Tzatziki - not fish. Several people from that large table then came over next to us [Mr. Pelican didn't leave my side - awww - how sweet is that?] and tried to feed Mr. Pelican some of their fish. Mr. Pelican wanted nothing to do with it.

Finally Mr. Pelican decided he was fed up with the whole lot of us and he went around me, down to the front of the entrance of this outdoor cafe and waddled up the entire aisle separating the two sides of tables and str
aight into the kitchen. He, obviously, has been doing this for sometime and was no stranger to the kitchen. A short time afterward, one of the cooks came out holding a whole, raw [gutted] fish in his hand - holding it up and out at arm's length. Mr. Pelican was practically running after him. The cook went over to the open area - right next to us - but where everyone could see and held the fish up - and waited. He was waiting for everyone to get their camera's out so that we could get pictures of the pelican getting his early dinner. It was quite comical - watching this huge pelican race after the cook to get his fish. And, of course, I didn't snap the picture quite as fast as I should have - to get the fish being dropped - but Mr. Pelican got what he was looking for. We all clapped, the cook took a little bow and went back to the kitchen:

Mr. Pelican came back over and plopped down next to our table as if he knew there was an animal lover in the crowd and that he would be safe, sunning himself next to me, regardless of the fact that we had nothing for him - by that time the Tzatziki was gone - and since we already knew he wasn't going to eat bread...

In The Sandbox, Yesterday and Today

A couple has been sentenced to jail and lashings for abducting a newborn baby from a hospital. Pretty stiff sentence for the man - not so stiff for the woman - and it looks as though she was the one that did the actual kidnapping. Go figure. That's the way things are done, here. When I got my second speeding ticket on our compound, DH was the one who got in trouble for it [let me tell you he was NOT all to pleased with me, either!]. The man, who is not identified by either name or nationality, has been sentenced to 15 years in jail and 13,000 lashes. That is 5475 days in jail - 15 years times 365 days a year - and 2.37 lashes per day. Severe. The woman, on the other hand, who did the actual taking of the child from the hospital has only been sentenced to three years in jail and 1500 lashes - works out to be about 1.37 lashes per day. I guess, in a society where men are held to be responsible for the women, that this is just one of the consequences.

In a case still before the courts, a man has been charged by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, for being in the company of two teenage girls and a young boy - that he was not related to. Sounds to me, from the report, like a story of a good Samaritan trying to help some homeless children and now, the man is in trouble for it and may spend a month in prison. The man was a former neighbor of the two girls and one boy and he took them "into his home while attempting to find them suitable care through official channels" after their uncle abandoned them - their father is in jail and their mother has since remarried [and wants nothing to do with her own children?!?]. The charge is "khilwa," which is the "illegal seclusion with non-related members of the opposite sex." [Also spelled "khulwa?"] Moral of the story? Don't help anyone not related to you. Hopefully the court will see the good in the man and not punish him for trying to help.

Do teachers' unions protect teacher's from violence? I know that in the States the teachers' unions protect teachers from being fired and from actually teaching... Perhaps a teachers' union is needed in The Sandbox [sarcasm, off]. An awful lot of violence against teachers. Reading the article you'd think you were reading about something taking place in Chicago or Baltimore.

This is just mind-boggling. Mind. Boggling. A court has sentenced a "runaway divorced woman to four years in prison after finding her guilty of adultery." Here is just one of the reasons why I say that it is mind boggling: What about the man involved? How come he has not been punished, too? The woman "gave birth to an illegitimate child." Okay. But it takes two to tango. Where is the father of the woman's illegitimate child, and how is it that he is not being forced to accept some responsibility? Interesting that the woman could have received the death penalty for her - ahh - indiscretion - but because of "special circumstances" [which were, what, exactly? the article doesn't clearly state what the "special circumstances" were] she was granted some leniency, regardless of the fact that "the prosecutor demanded capital punishment as the woman in question had been married." Oh - and if she had NOT been married, she would have received 100 lashes as well." Guess she should consider herself lucky, then, with her four-year prison term.

An article about illegitimate children and shame, here. Although it gives an outsider a glimpse into a certain mindset that is part of this society, I just don't have the time, or the desire, to comment on it paragraph by paragraph, today.

An innocent three-month-old baby boy was drowned by his own mother. Thank goodness the father showed some common sense and notified the police. The mother of the baby claimed "that their little boy had gone missing." Sure. Because we all know that a three-month-old baby can either just get up out of his crib and walk away, or ride his bike, right? The baby was found "floating dead" in a pond and the mother has been arrested and sent to a "mental hospital." A case of postpartum depression, maybe?

What's the count? No idea. Will figure out what it is another day... But here is another one. The man, a Saudi national, was executed beheaded for killing his wife.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Water Boarding

You're doing it wrong.

Saw this first at Wild Thing's place.

Is There No Other Earth-Shattering News?

All Michael Jackson. Every channel. Even in the papers in The Sandbox.

Is there nothing else news-worthy happening in the world? Nothing else going on? Is it that big of surprise that Michael Jackson's life ended so early? I think not. And, that there were drugs found in his system - prescription or otherwise - is hardly a shock.

With the amount of coverage this is getting you'd think that this is the only news in the entire world. I, for one, have had more than enough. It is over. He is dead. Sure, no one wishes death on another, and I didn't wish it on him. Sure, there are three children involved and we have to have some sympathy toward the situation insofar as his children, and his family members, as well, are concerned. But come one. Enough is enough. 24/7 coverage on ALL of the English-speaking news channels is just too much. I realize it is the weekend and all, and that the "Crap and Trade" bull-hooey was just a little "glitch" that happened on Friday [little "glitch," yeah - right - get ready to bend over America! we're about to be butt-screwed like we've never been before - without so much as even a kiss, first!!!]...

Am I the only one who does not think that the death of Michael Jackson is earth-shattering news? Good grief, I hope not.

Tzatziki. Best Dip, Ever!

[Pronounced Zet-zee-kee.]

Tried something new during our vacation that I absolutely luv, luv, luv. Oh. My. Gosh! It is absolutely delicious!!! Going to make it today. Thankfully the ingredients - so simple, really - are all readily available at our Commissary.


2 cups strained full-fat yogurt
1 medium cucumber
4 cloves of garlic, mashed to a paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of pepper
A little vinegar
Fresh dillweed, finely chopped
A few ripe olives

Grate the peeled cucumber on a coarse grater and press as much liquid as possible out of it. Mix the cucumber with the rest of the ingredients. Garnish with olives.

Light, summery, tasty - tasty beyond yummy. Goes very well on pita chips, pita bread, french bread, crackers... And goes best with a nice stemmed-glass of "grape juice."

Once introduced to Tzatziki while on vacation, not a day went by when I was not craving more. The first day I tried it - I had it twice - at two different restaurants. That is how good it was. I know I said it goes well on pita chips or bread - but I can eat this with a spoon right out of the bowl. It is THAT good.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cruise Ship Pool-side Barbeque

[All you can eat snow crab legs!]

[How did they get this little Wilbur to smile, I wonder?]


Friday, June 26, 2009

Underwear Still In the News

When the issue is finally resolved - as to whether or not women should be the ones selling personal under garments to other women - it will be a good thing. I have said before - I just won't buy any of my under garments here in The Sandbox. I had the one experience - years ago - when I went to purchase a strapless bra and the man said that he did not have my size, but that another size would be the same thing. Ahh. No. It isn't. The campaign for women to be working in the stores that sell such items has been a long one. There are some very nice stores, here. I can't put links to the sites because they are blocked; La Perla and La Senza are two of them. Nice, and extremely pricey. [A bathing suit I liked at La Perla cost 700 and something riyals - that is more than $187.00 for a bathing suit! No. Of course I did not buy it. And, the MAN who was working the store wanted me to buy it without even trying it on first - there is a NO RETURN policy. No way!] A group of women, here, have just completed a training course on "how to fit, stock and sell underwear." It was a 10-day, 40 hour course attended by 26 women, and it was also "the first course of its kind to be offered in the Kingdom." How is it then, that men have been able to sell these items up until now - and they continue to be the only ones allowed to do so - if they have never been trained to do what is required to, specifically, "fit" women for such personal items? I do have sympathy for the women here, in this regard. It is both embarrassing and humiliating to go into a store and have some man - a man you do not know - a complete stranger - trying to tell you what size you are or are not. The sooner the men are out of these stores, the better. Good luck on this one, ladies.

A Saudi man has been executed beheaded for raping a child. Have to give the newspaper credit for reporting the nationality, which is more than often left out unless the nationality is any other than Saudi. The situation involved a five-year-old boy and his three-year-old sister. Absolutely sickening. At least the man will never be able to do what he did again, ever, to another child. Compare that to the man in Oklahoma - David Harold Earls - who raped a four-year-old girl [and possibly her five-year-old bother, and allegedly his own daughter when she was eight-years-old]. He was sentenced to ONE YEAR IN PRISON! He is scheduled to be released in September of this year. So he can do it again? Just so wrong on so many levels. If there was ever a kind of case for the death penalty, David Harold Earls is the poster boy! No, I do not agree with the way executions are carried out in The Sandbox - death by lethal injection just seems so much more humane. I do, however, strongly support capital punishment, and believe that if the United States took just as tough of approach to dealing with criminals as other countries do, then crime statistics there would rapidly decline. Just my opinion... Oh, and by the way, I have no idea what the count is up to, at this point. I have lost track. Still behind last year.

Interesting story. A group of men here, mostly Filipinos, have been arrested for cross-dressing. A group of men - 67 of them! Must have been some party. They should go to San Francisco. They'd fit right in. And, since the United States is getting ready to open its borders to anyone - oh, wait, it already has...

A "psychologically disturbed" ['ya think?] man has "cut off his own male member with a knife in an apparent suicide attempt." Good grief. Could he not have thought of a less gruesome method? Lorena Bobbitt was unavailable for comment.

Cronicles in Kusadasi

Our day in Kusadasi [Turkey] was completely and totally unstructured. Somehow we missed the cut-off deadline to sign up for any of the scheduled excursions - even though I signed us up for one - so we had no particular, specific plan. We knew that there would be things to see and do and that we were quite capable of exploring on our own. So, we did. Mostly we wandered about with no particular place to go. We did not go to Ephesus, like you are supposed to, if you are a tourist. DH made the decision that we'd already spent three days visiting "ruins," and that he did not want to spend an entire 'nother day seeing more "ruins" while we still had a week of planned "ruins" that we were going to see. [We have spent many vacations seeing "ruins."] I was fine with that.

We had a leisurely breakfast, and then got off the ship, which was docked at a port, instead of anchored, like it had been in Santorini. The ropes they use to tie ships to the docks are massive - as big around as my arm, if not bigger. As we were walking by the ship, I noticed these "round thingy's" that are at the tops of the ropes. They were rumpled and looked like cardboard - they are metal - they've just been banged around some, and I asked DH what they were for. He said it was to keep rats from being able to climb the ropes and get on-board the ships. [He is so smart, my DH. He knows everything!] It was DH who pointed out that on the ship across from ours that the "round thingy's" had cats painted on them. Ha! That'll keep those nasty rats off! These are the kinds of things that amuse me... And the things that I need to take pictures of:

Took a lot of pictures of the city - Kusadasi - but most of them are on the "new" camera [and STILL have not been downloaded to the computer - I have nagged and nagged!]. Here is the one photo I have of the city of Kusadasi:

And, because no day would be complete without a photo of a dog:

We spent much of the afternoon at a fabulous little cafe, right on the beach, where DH enjoyed the local brew - Efes - and I enjoyed local "grape-juice." When we had been out and about earlier, I had checked at a couple of the little local stores to see if I could find clove cigarettes. [I checked several places in Athens and several places in Santorini - and throughout the entire rest of our trip I continued to look for them.] I don't know why I thought that clove cigarettes would be something so easy to find in Greece, or in Turkey, but surely those are countries where they must be, right? Wrong. Never found them.

Back to sitting at this little cafe on the
beach... I was just looking and gazing off over the water when a little girl - three, maybe four-years-old - and her big brother who was maybe eight or ten-years-old - came running over to the rocks in front of us. The little girl was carrying a doll - looked like a Cabbage Patch Doll - that was only slightly less than half the size of the little girl. These two children - one of them, just a tyke - are out playing by the rocks right next to the water - without an adult in sight. Well, that's not really true. There were plenty of adults - but none of the adults that were in sight were the parents of these two kids. I just started telling DH that I guess there are some cultures that just are not quite as paranoid about little children being so close to water with no supervision - because these two kids played in front of us for a short time with absolutely no parent looking over them. I tried to get a picture of the little girl, carrying her doll, and of the bigger boy that was with her and this is the one I got:

I'm glad I snapped it when I did, because as they were headed to this wall - a retaining wall, maybe - and just as I got up to go and try to get a better photo, the little girl dropped her doll and then whipped her little britches down and squatted in the sand, right there, and did her little business [not "real" business - but the "quick" business]. Then, just as quickly she pulled up her little britches and went delightfully squealing and running back to the rocks - doll-less. The boy, immediately grabbed the dropped doll, and went running after his little sister. It was so sweet. This boy, was obviously charged with keeping and eye on and caring for his little sister. Shortly afterward, the boy in the red shirt disappeared and an even younger boy appeared. Now there is a six-year-old in charge of his three or four-year-old sister. Yikes! The two of them realized that I was trying to take their picture, and with glee and big smiles, they posed for me:

Just the way the little boy was so good about looking after his little sister - and the fun that they were obviously having - and making, for themselves, wading into the water, playing on the rocks. Heart-warming. Brings a smile to my face, right now, just thinking back on it. It was a good two hours or so before a woman with several other children in tow - two older ones, a young teenage boy and a younger teenage girl, along with the brother in the red shirt and one baby in a stroller - appeared. The young teenage girl was pushing the stroller where a baby - say, nine or ten months old, was eating a piece of bread. I am just hopeful that the baby did NOT belong to such a young girl and that it was the older woman's. Where they were the whole time, who knows? I know they were out of sight as I never saw them. And I also know that as a parent, I can tell you that when my son was that young, I did not allow him out arm's length or sight when we would go to the beach.

Earlier - about the clove cigarettes - as we were sitting during our long afternoon a
t the little cafe on the water, I asked our waiter if he knew where I could find clove cigarettes. In very limited English, he gave me directions to a store, not far away, and pointed me in the direction I needed to head. As I was rising up out of my chair - he gestured for me to sit back down. He called out to the young boy who was working at the cafe - he couldn't have been more than ten, maybe eleven or twelve, and in Turkish told him to go and get the cigarettes for me. Apparently, the waiter told the boy to get a pack of Marlboro's for him, too, and he fished some money out of his pocket and gave it to the boy. The boy, who earlier, had been working the cafe as the busboy clearing off the tables of their dirty dishes and empty bottles, etc., emptying and cleaning the ash trays and then cleaning the glass tables with Windex, went scurrying off at a quick pace to get cigarettes for me and for the waiter. He was gone a good ten or fifteen minutes, maybe a bit longer. He got back and you could just tell by the look on his face that he was distrought over not being able to complete his mission. I don't know what the boy said to our waiter - again - you could just tell by the look on his face that he was expecting to get yelled at - or something - for not getting me cigarettes that even I had not been able to find. The waiter came over to our table and explained that there were no clove cigarettes. No problem. I had my Kool Super Longs and the clove cigarettes were just something I was hoping to find. As we were paying our bill, and getting ready to leave the cafe, I went to find the boy who had tried to get the clove cigarettes for me - I wanted to make sure to thank him, personally, and give him a little something for his trouble. He was very, very pleased with the "little something" I gave him and I asked him if I could take his picture. He looked to our waiter - as if asking for permission - and when the waiter heartily said, "Sure, sure, of course, yes, yes" the young boy sat and posed - with a big smile:

DH and I left the cafe and again, headed out to meander through the side streets of the city. Here's the thing. When you spend a couple of hours sitting at a cafe consuming liquids... Eventually you are going to have to find a place to eliminate them. Sometimes you just can't be fussy about the facilities. You just have to do what you have to do:

We spent the entire glorious day doing absolutely nothing of any importance but enjoying it. Those days can be just as enjoyable as the ones where you are out and about visiting "ruins" and seeing the sights. As we headed back to the port, strolling casually through the city, I came upon a sign - really it is nothing of any significance - but for the fact that there was NO dog anywhere in sight:

That was our day in Kusadasi. When the "new" camera photos are finally downloaded, I'll post more of what we saw in the city while we were out and about.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rest In Peace, Farrah Fawcett

Who - man or woman - was not a fan of Farrah Fawcett? What teenage boy didn't have that famous poster of her on their bedroom wall? What teenage girl didn't run straight to a salon to get the famous Farrah Fawcett cut? [Yes. Of course I did.]

Sad news. Your suffering is over Farrah. May you rest in peace.

Spoiled and Grateful

A month or two ago, I decided that I was not going to be so nit-picky with Inom, the man that works for me and cleans my house.* Somehow I've managed to keep my word and I've stopped saying "Don't do this," or "that," or "do it this way," or "I told you not to..." and he has done a good job. I am very guilty of forgetting how grateful I need to be for gifts, such as being able to have a houseboy - although I am not particularly keen with using that term, "houseboy." Inom is not quite ready to be promoted to the term "household assistant," soon, though, if he keeps up the good work.

We got home a couple of days ago, from a wonderful vacatio
n in Greece and Turkey, and one of the things I noticed was that the back door - the screen door - was propped open with one of the patio chairs. It was in the wee hours that we arrived and the man who house-sits and babysits The Kids for us, Mr. M., was asleep [as he should have been] on the couch [I have told him to feel free to use our bed - and this is another small favor that I am grateful for - that he chooses instead to sleep on the couch - we do not have a second bedroom or a guest bedroom]. No doubt our coming in the door at the time that we did - it was three, or three-thirty in the morning - was a bit startling - when you are in fully asleep. Back to the door being propped open... It was the screen door, and the wooden door was closed and locked. I just thought it was odd. But I did not say anything about it, then.

Mr. M., our fabulous sitter, got up and collected most
of his things and I told him to come back around five in the evening so that I could pay him and that he could gather up the rest of his belongings. That was fine with him. When he came back to the house at five I asked him why the door had been propped open - and he told me that when he would let The Kids out that The Boy would not come back in when he was called [typical behavior with The Boy] so he would leave the door open for him to come in when he was ready. Okay. That explains the layer of dust on the table in the kitchen and covering the kitchen chairs. I didn't realize that this was how Mr. M. was getting The Boy to come in - but I guess if it works, it isn't that big of deal to have a layer of dust covering everything in the kitchen - not like there was open food on the counter or anything - and that is why I have Inom.

What is a big deal is that yesterday morn
ing I killed three bugs - I have no idea what they were - but they are the same bugs that I see in the in the pool filter area clinging to the thermometer string when I lift the cover to check the temperature of the pool. Are they water bugs of some sort? If so, what are they doing in the house? Are they just regular bugs that don't like water - explaining why they cling to the string - if they can - instead of swirling around the water in the filter whatchamacallit? These are the bugs:

If someone has any idea what this bug is named, please do share. I killed three of them. No. I do not want them in the house, thank you very much.

Later, while I was sorting the mountain of laundry that I have to do I saw a much, much worse bug. It was one of those giant cock roaches - the kind that is big enough to carry off small children - and eat and entire kitchen full of
food in nano-seconds. Oh. No. Ut-uh. I tried to kill it with one of the suitcases - I didn't have shoes on - and no, I didn't actually want to kill it - because I didn't want to hear the crunch of it's bones and then have to clean up the squished mess of blood and guts. But I also do NOT want Mr. Massive-Size Cock Roach in my house, either. I missed him with the suitcase - twice - and he scurried off into my mountain of sorted laundry - into the pile of darks where he could hide and blend in:

...the pile in the top left corner. Great. Now what do I do!?! "Honey! Come here, you have to help me, right now!!" DH came in and asked what I was screaming at him for. "You have to find it and kill it, right now!" He was busy getting his cooler ready so he could go play golf and he told me he'd help me when he finished. Oh No You Don't Either, DH. Finding Mr. Massive-Size Cock Roach is a whole lot more important that filling your cooler so you can go play golf. I don't care if you have to pick up each and every piece of laundry and take it outside one piece at a time to shake to find Mr. Massive-Size Cock Roach.

Seconds later, Mr. Massive-Size Cock Roach scooted out of his hiding place in the dirty dark-colored laundry and raced across the floor and started crawling up the wall by the buffet in the dining room. "Honey! He is on the wall. Quick! Get a paper towel and kill it. Right Now!" DH complied, grabbed Mr. Massive-Size Cock Roach in a paper towel and flushed him down the toilet. Phew. Here's the thing. You know if there is one cock roach there are others lurking - just waiting to attack! I was on the phone, immediately, dialing the three digit number for any and all maintenance and told them I needed pest control to come - indoor pest control. The nice lady that answered my call asked me what kind of pests I had. I told her that we had one huge cock roach and that I had killed three smaller bugs that I have no idea what they are - that I see them outside in the pool filter - but this is the first I've seen them inside.

Probably not a coincidence that I've got these outdoor bugs inside, now that I know that Mr. M. is propping the back door open so The Boy can come and go as he pleases, right? Ditto for the gigantic cock roach. No matter. The nice lady said, "We can schedule an after hours appointment for today, or I can schedule an appointment for tomorrow morning." As much as I wanted to say, "Send them immediately, right away. After hours, if not sooner." I didn't. I said, "Tomorrow morning, first thing will be fine." They are due to come any minute now.

Sure enough. Ten minutes early. Can count on it, here, with maintenance. If they say they are coming at 8:50, they will be here at 8:40. If not earlier. I can recall only one time when someone has been late - in six years. Another small favor to be grateful for. No sitting around waiting for the phone company or the cable company like in the States - where they give you a window. Here? A specific time is set and you can pretty much be guaranteed they will be early. Mr. Indoor Pest Control says that the small bugs I killed are Rust Beetles. They are not water bugs... What are they doing in the pool, then? They fly around at night - they are attracted to light - so they are committing their own suicides by flying to the pool light - which is, of course, under water. I don't mind the Rust Beetles. The lizards need to eat, right? I just don't want the Rust Beetles in my house. But, with Mr. M. propping the door open so that The Boy could come and go as he pleased, we may as well have left out a welcome mat. At least, now that I know that they are only beetles, I'm not quite as concerned about them. The gigantic cock roach, on the other hand, I am very, very concerned about. Mr. Indoor Pest Control told me that because the sewer man-hole cover is so close to our house that that is where the "cocka rochas" are coming from - he asked me if it was brown or black? Umm, brown, I think. Does it make a difference? He was dark and shiney and huge! He also said that the house next door and the house behind us was having a problem so he is going to send Mr. Outdoor Pest Control on Saturday to spray the sewer man-hole for the "cocka-rochas." Oh, thank you, Mr. Indoor Pest Control!

So, anyway, this morning, knowing that pest control would be coming, as soon as Inom got here, I started rattling off "we need to do this, this and this" to prepare. Inom immediately went to work and started pulling things from against the walls - the moveable furniture - and picking up all the toys under the furniture - The Baby's tennis balls tend to collect under the chest in the hallway - and we took all The Kids' things - toys, toy-box and their tables - outside... In our study DH keeps all of his flight bags under a glass credenza against a wall, along with his weights, and Inom moved everything, then quickly vacuumed - since you cannot vacuum after pest control. Inom did the same in the bedroom with The Kids' crates. All in very quick order. We did the same for the hallway closet - and the pantry in the kitchen. The house is now in total disaray - but I wanted the entire place sprayed for any of Mr. Massive-Size Cock Roach's relatives.

I know it was extra work for Inom, and he had to move quickly - much quicker than he usually does - and for that I realize how spoiled I am, and how grateful that I need to be that I am fortunate enough to have Inom to help as much as he does. My life, once we leave The Sandbox, will be a very different one. I will not have Inom. I will not have Appuk [the Gardener], I will not have one of Rev's guys cleaning my pool for me three times a week. I will not have cheerful, patient driver's who take me to run errands, and carry my packages. I will not have the two grocery-cart guys who always push my cart to the truck and unload my groceries for me. I had none of those things - none of these men - when we lived in the States that make my life so much easier, like I have now.

Truly I am so thankful that Inom was here to help me this morning get everything done so that we could be ready for Pest Control. And I am thankful that he was here yesterday to clean the layer of dust that was covering everything because Mr. M. props the back door open. For all of my moaning and groaning sometimes, about how miserable my life can be here, at times, it really isn't all that bad. I have a good life. And for that, I am both thankful and grateful! I have become very, very spoiled... Pampered might be a better way to put it...

*By the way, Janice , you owe me. You lost the bet. I lasted much longer than you ever thought I would!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Santorini and the Poor Donkey's

Absolutely beautiful. Words alone cannot describe how pretty this little Greek island of Santorini is. Even the color of the water - truly an aegean blue, if there is such a color and it is not just a sea name. Weather was so perfect - bright blue sky, light breeze, sunshine. Most of the houses are painted white. [I don't know if they have to be painted white in Santorini or not, but I learned that in Mykonos it is the law. You can paint your shutters and your door any color you want, but the house must be painted white. Who knew?!] It was such a pretty island. We did an excursion tour of the whole island with a tour-guide on a bus pointing out bits and pieces of history - much of which I can't remember, already, things like the oldest house, the oldest chapel, the industry [tourists!], the different parts of the island, etc. Every half hour or so we'd pull over and get off the bus to go explore this or that... Many of the little streets are not traveled by cars at all - they are too small - unless you have one of those Smart cars - and we saw a lot of those. Most people were on scooters or motorcycles, though. The trucks - that cannot get through to all of the little cafes and restaurants and hotels - must park in certain areas and then hand-truck [with one of those dolly-type things] cases of water, pallets of sheets and towels, etc. Everyone works. The island was so clean. You wouldn't even think about throwing a gum wrapper on the ground, or a cigarette but - or at least I wouldn't. It was impossible to take pictures while the bus was moving. And, as I said yesterday, most of our photos are on the "new camera" which I have already asked DH to unload onto the computer three times, now. [I'll keep nagging at him until he does it though.] Here is a sampling of photos, though, from "my" camera.

As we were walking the little street
s/pathways, this bar was too cool looking not to get a picture of:

It was dark inside and the flash on the camera has rather ruined it - the picture - for the effect of the bottles all lit up. The flash is automatic - I'm sure there is some way to turn it off - and I did figure it out - later, much later - when I needed the flash. But of course.

We sat at a little mostly outdoor cafe overlooking this spectacular view:

And ordered off of this menu - which I had to have a picture of because of the way "votka" is spelled:

Here is the sign for the bathroom at the cafe:

And the bathroom. It was functional and basically clean. At that point, after a couple few "votka" and soda's, that is all that mattered:

Walked through the little streets and pathways - me, snapping photos of random dogs - there were a lot of them - all looking fit and fed. At one doorway there were two big mixing size bowls set outside both full of kibble - looked as if dogs could just come and go and help themselves as they pleased and since it was mid-day and the bowls were full, apparently none of them were particularly hungry. I will not spend a whole lot of time worrying about the stray dogs in Santorini [Istanbul, though - will worry about that situation]:

Kept walking - my gosh we did some walking on this vacation! And went to see "ruins" of the oldest chapel in Santorini - of which nothing more than the brick foundation remains [the photo has been cut in half - DH was standing in the very middle - and since I am not allowed to show him on my blog...] - on the bottom which would have been the right side of the photo - guess it isn't really bricks, but more like stones [but what a view - on the top which would have been the left side of the photo]:

[I tried very hard to get these two pictures to post side by side and use left and right - it just didn't work.]

I liked the sign to this Mexican r
estaurant - until I realized how literal it really was:

What was really odd was the amount of white paint necessary! Even the trees were painted white. I kept seeing them - the painted trees, and kept wondering why on earth would anyone go to the time and trouble to paint just the bottom of the tree trunks white? It was only later that I found out that it is not paint, it is lime - and it is used to keep pests from attacking and eating and killing the trees - just as it was used centuries ago, before paint, as a disinfectant houses to keep disease from wiping out entire villages - one of the little tid-bits of information I do remember:

These little purple "thistly" type flowers [no idea what they really are] were all over. I did not do them any justice at all with this picture:

This disturbed me, greatly [not as much as some of what we saw later, though!]. Donkeys in unprotected fields - and there were more than just this one little pen of them - that were tethered. Look close. You'll see that their legs - one front and one back - are tied together. Some had only a tether on the left side, some - obviously donkey's that did NOT want to remain where they were - had tethers on both the left and right sides. Sure. Fine. You don't want your donkey's running off. How about a barn, then, where they can get a little shade, a way to have clean drinking water and a fence to keep them from running off. Poor little donkey's:

Just in case you can't see the tethering - here is a close-up:

At some point the bus left us - and the tour guide said, "From here you are on your own. This is how you get back to the port to take a tender to the ship. You either walk - it will take you a half an hour or thirty minutes [yes - a half an hour or thirty minutes is what she said - twice - like they are not the same], or you can take the donkey's down the winding stepped path [not a chance - did I blog about our trip to Petra, Jordan, and the donkey and horse abuse we witnessed? it was absolutely horrifying!] and that will take approximately ten minutes, or you can take the cable cars and they are at such-and-such a point and that will take approximately four minutes." I wanted to continue exploring the island - and see the sights., Surprisingly, DH saw this little museum and said, "That looks interesting. Let's go in there." Huh? Are you serious? It is an Archaeological Museum - do you realize that all you are going to see is "ruins?" [I think - although he has never admitted it - that he wanted out of the sun, that's all - and that's why we went in.] No matter. I really liked this marble-carved boar's head:

And, from now on, I am going to start drinking grape juice out of a glass like this marble chalice - and even it if isn't a marble chalice - I want to duplicate the size:

After a bit more wandering around, we decided to go catch the cable-car to get to the port [tickets were included in our excursion - so why not - the donkey tickets were included - it was an either or thing and walking almost vertically straight down a steep stepped path in platform sneakers that is the very same path the poor donkey's use - no, I think not]. This is only one photo down - I should have taken more - but we video-taped the entire trip down on the "new" camera [wherein I can be heard the entire trip down saying "get the donkey's - oh my gosh - those poor donkey's"], if I can figure out how to get it here, to the blog, and uploaded to play, I will post it, but until then... Only this one picture of the steep, straight down decline - with the stepped-path behind the rock wall and the unpainted trees:

When we were at the bottom, and milling about, looking for yet another cafe before catching our tender to our ship, I caught this cat sleeping on someone's luggage:

I went to check out a sign - and looked up and saw the donkey's. More poor donkey's - from the door you could only see a few - but from the cable car coming down we could see a hundred of them - if not more:

This is the sign - actually there were two of them - one in English and the other in Greek:

I only took a photo of the English sign and this is what it says:

Santorini Donkey Taxi's...

- They are strong, capable of carrying up to one fifth of their body weight.
- Most of Santorini's working animals are mules with body weights of more than 500 kg, so they can easily carry a person whose weight does not exceed 100 kg.
- Each animal makes the upstairs/downstairs circuit 2-3 times a day with rest intervals between each journey.
- There is a shelter in the port where the animals wait for their passengers, and where they can rest and drink water.
- A new shelter is being built at the top of the steps, leading from the town to the port.
- Before each summer season begins, these animals receive an annual check up by the veterinarian (including vaccinations and de-worming), and if they are fit for work, are issued a documented, clean bill of health and a license to work.
- Veterinary inspections take place throughout the entire season.
- Animals that are beyond working age, wounded, or sick, are not allowed to work.
- 4 times per year the animals have additional inspections by a Dental Technician who checks on the condition of the teeth and mouth cavity and a Farrier who checks on the condition of their hooves and legs, which is very important for the animals to work safely on the steps.

Sure. Poor donkey's!

We left - as the tender pulled up - before we could have a chance to sit at one of the cafe's down at the port. No worries. There were plenty more cafe visits during our trip... We spent quite a bit of time at a really nice little cafe on the beach in Kusadasi [Turkey]. I'll post on that, next.

Back in The Sandbox

Yesterday was our first day home - we got home at three in the morning. I got two hours of sleep... Got a full eight hours last night, though. So I am refreshed and ready to get back to real life. Still "rocking." It is worse sitting down. If I am up and about, I don't notice it as much. My gosh. How long does it take for the "rocking" feeling to subside?!! We've been off the ship for four days now. Enough is enough. It is an incredibly strange feeling that cannot be described other than to say it feels as though you are constantly swaying. Weird.

In the news yesterday...

Cookies tainted with E. Coli. Nice. 48 different kinds - all varieties of Nestle refrigerated dough. Dayum. I buy the packages of Nestle Toll-House cookie dough - the ones where you break off the little squares - and have fresh, hot, delicious chocolate chip cookies with walnuts in a matter of minutes. If and when I see them at The Commissary I buy a half dozen packages. Who can honestly admit to NOT eating a piece of the dough when you open the package? I know the package says not to, but come on. Glad I saw the article. No more raw cookie dough for me.

Swine flu cases are up to 39 confirmed in The Sandbox. Has absolutely nothing to do with pork. Could they not have called the H1N1 virus something else? Getting bacon and ribs and pork roasts across the Causeway from Bahrain is an almost near impossibility because of the Swine flu's name. Call it bristly-hair flu, or Wilbur flu. Something. But not swine flu... I had an interesting conversation at the outdoor lounge at our hotel in Istanbul with a Muslim woman. She was drinking her wine and says that although she considers herself to be devoutly religious, she does not think that drinking is so bad - she enjoys her wine - and that she has eaten pork. Her reasons for not eating more of it have to do with the fact that she just does not care for the taste - because she was not raised on it - but not because she considers it to be any worse than alcohol. I'll post more on her, later. Along with her picture, which she gave me permission to post.

An Egyptian man who ran over a boy has been pardoned by the boy's father. Most graciously, if you ask me. The little boy was seven years old. What was he doing where he could be run over in the first place? Where was the mother? The father? The maid/nanny? Who lets a seven-year-old child go outside to play in the traffic by himself? The accident happened twenty days ago. Do not recall seeing it in the paper - but then - there are far too many "road accidents" to be published. PCRC and all that. The Egyptian man, no doubt, would have been sentenced - beheaded? - or at the very least required to pay a sum of blood money that he would never have been able to raise and probably kept in jail for the rest of his life. The Saudi father has asked for nothing, but that man "pray for our lost child." It was an accident for goodness sake! No one intentionally runs down a small child.

President Sarkozy is in for some back-lash. 'Ya think? He says that the "Islamic burka (Abaya) is 'not welcome' in France..." I have my own views on the black bags we are required to wear. Without getting into the religious aspects of it - in Saudi Arabia - where temperatures are 110-125° every single day from May through October - nothing says comfort like wearing a full-black covering in the sun. [And who decided the men can wear white? A heck of a lot more comfortable in the sun than black, that's for sure!] Having just spent several days in Istanbul - another predominantly [98%] Muslim / Islamic country - we saw very few women wearing full-black coverings. Very, very few. Which is not to say that we did not see women who were following their customs by covering their hair and dressing modestly - we saw many - almost all of the women in Istanbul were covered. They were modestly dressed - no bare arms or legs - and had scarves on, covering their hair. But only a minimal amount of women covered head-to-toe in full-length black...

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, a grand mufti here, has says that "temporary marriages are forbidden." Creating a bit of a stir. Apparently these temporary marriages are more advantageous to women than I thought. And, here, all along, I've been thinking they were mostly advantageous to men. The mufti's "verdict" on these temporary marriages "was contrary to a fatwa delivered by 60 Islamic scholars..." There is confusion and misunderstanding about the issue and the mufti says that his "answer was regarding temporary marriages with the intention of divorce." Excuse me, but if a misyar marriage is only temporary - how else to you end it if not by divorce? Just curious. No matter. As I said, women are happy participants in these temporary marriages due to circumstances that allow them to have a marriage to a man - because you MUST be married to be in his presence - but not to have to have all of the obligations of a traditional marriage. Well. Okay, then.

In the news today...

More swine flu. Great. [I can't tell you how many thermal imaging cameras we walked through going on and off the ship into different ports on our trip. They are everywhere!]

A passenger arriving from an international flight attempted to "smuggle into the Kingdom quantities of opium and heroin." Are you crazy? You are likely a Saudi [as no nationality is reported] - and you know the rules, here. The signs are very clearly written in both Arabic and English that anyone caught smuggling drugs into The Sandbox will be executed - by beheading! So you - whoever you are - had opium hidden in a plastic container in the bottom of a bag, and heroin hidden inside of toothpaste tubes and sole of shoes. Ut-oh. Someone's in big trouble.

The pressures of her work are attributed to another maid trying to commit suicide by swallowing washing powder. She was unsuccessful. The problem is one that is not limited to only The Sandbox. While I was sitting in the airport in Qatar reading the local paper I read about a maid who threw herself out of a moving car in traffic in an attempt to kill herself. Her attempt, was successful.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Taste of Athens and Three Bathrooms

First things first.

The Doha, Qatar, airport ladies'
restroom in the Qatar Premium Terminal:

The sink is not particularly functional. You can't control the water flow [or the temperature, either] to wash your hands - you have to wave a hand under the special fountain faucet - then it trickles slowly out in the most minute little stream [think someone using an eye-dropper to release water] and doesn't go where it is supposed to go - like in the drain. Always clean though - there is a full-time attendant there to clean up after each person's use. Imported labor. Wonder what the attendants get paid per month?

I should have taken more photos of the lounges at the Premium Terminal of Qatar [which is my favorite airline - and does an exceptional job - except, of course, for the one trip from he11! where we were surrounded by a baby, a toddler and two young children and cursed with a flight attendant who hated me from the moment we took off until we landed and who I hope will never be allowed to fly again after the eight-page letter I sent to the airline...]. It is a beautiful terminal building. Business Class lounge is just slightly different than the First Class lounge - and dayum if I didn't have SIX HOURS there yesterday and did not take a single picture! Oh, well. I'll get them the next trip - for which we already have our tickets...

A couple of random pictures taken in
Athens at the Acropolis, this one because I liked the columns:

And this, because as is typical for us, we never visit a country to see "ruins" that are not being restored - happened in Jordan, happened in Singapore, happened in Italy - can't think of a single trip we've taken where many of our photos in far-off locations do not have either some historical building or site which is covered in scaffolding, like this:

Most of the important pictures of "ruins" are on the "new" camera - the one I don't know how to use. "Ruins" is in quotes for a reason. DH is not particularly thrilled that we MUST go to see ALL of the "ruins," which is what he calls them. "You've seen one amphitheater, you've seen them all." Says, DH. When I say, "Honey, we're going to see the Acropolis," he says, "Oh, great. More 'ruins.'" We saw a lot - and I mean a lot - of "ruins" on this trip!

I wanted my camera to have the photos of the stuff you don't see in picture books or encyclopedias. Like this dog [there were several of them]:

Just lolling about on the marble steps which lead to the top of the Acropolis. Never bothering to get out of the way - all the tourists could just walk around them. Some have collars. Many do not. Some have tags on their ears. Many do not. A lot of them do not seem to belong to anyone in particular. I will say this for the dogs in Athens - they all appeared to be fairly well nourished. And, that is a good thing.

Walking away from the Acropolis "ruin
s" we came upon a few things... Like this "Toilets" on the outskirts of a park. I did not go in - photos from the outside are going to have to suffice:

There were scooters and motorcycles galore. All over the city - like the preferred mode of transportation. Thought this three-wheeled one was interesting - it has two wheels in the front and only one in the back:

Time for refreshment - and a sit - before continuing on. We stopped at a really pretty little outdoor [indoor, as well] cafe and had beverages [the photo has been cropped for obvious reasons; DH does not want to be a star on my blog and I have promised him he never will be]:

Because I am now making a point to do so - I had to get a photo of the facilities. To get to them you had to go down the narrowest little circular staircase I think I've ever been up or down - and unfortunately I have nothing in the photo as a point of reference to see how narrow it really was:

The bathroom was older and only so-so clean:

We left the cafe after an hour or so and continued our walking tour of Athens where we saw a group of policemen huddled together - and these dogs - just laying on the sidewalk:

[It was warm in Athens - not unbearably hot - and certainly not nearly as hot as it gets here. Most of the dogs we saw were all in nap position - so perhaps it was too hot for them.]

After I snapped the dog I went and asked the police
men what was going on across the street... There were all sorts of news-station trucks outside and reporters with cameras and microphones. Of course I had to know what was happening. Typical tourist, don't 'cha know. Had no clue we were directly in front of the Prime Minister's Residence where Guards were marching back and forth doing their jobs protecting the Residence:

Nothing says full-out protection like a Guard in a short, fully-pleated skirt, wearing white tights and clogs adorned with big pom-poms. It was really quite interesting to watch [better pictures on the "new" camera of this particular ceremony - the two Guards marching back and forth - shooting their legs up at an angle and then straight out in front of them - like a Rockettes kick or something]:

The two Guards - one stationed on each side of the entrance - continued their methodical marching while the Prime Minister spoke to a bunch of reporters about something:

That was much of our first full day in Athens... More tomorrow.
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