Saturday, November 30, 2013

Belgium Day 368: Gobble Gobble- An Expat Gathering

Belgium Day 367: The Replacement

About 10 day ago, I posted about my frustrations regarding Belgian appliances. Click here to see that post.  Today, the dead washer finally was hauled away and this beauty was installed.  It can only do cold water because Belgians don't have hot water plumbing for appliances (and sinks besides the kitchen).  Still, there's something comforting in knowing I have a brand new, non-Belgian appliance.  So the dishwasher and washing machine have both been replaced.  The hot water heater had parts replaced.  Now I just need the dryer to be replaced and the October issues will be resolved.  Whew!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Belgium Day 365: gobble gobble

ESL students often have a hard time keeping straight two words: kitchen and chicken.  This results me in bocking/flapping/pecking in class and drawing to help them remember we cook chicken in the kitchen.  
Today I did the grocery shopping for thanksgiving.  This meant I had to go to 6 stores to procure the ingredients.  This would have been one stop shopping at Whole Foods or Central Market.  It felt like I've divorced America and America got sole custody of Whole Foods/Central Market.  This turkey greets you as you walk in to the shop on the Airbase.  Creepy?   Cannibalistic?  Either way, be grateful for all the simple pleasures in life like well-organized grocery stores. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

100 Books!

I have been really nervous the last week or so because I am obviously getting down to the wire with goals- time is running out.  I was also worried I wouldn't have enough to read to meet the goal, but thankfully some really old orders finally arrived in the mail today.  Whew!   As always, you can click on the titles of the books to see their details on    86 down, 14 more to go!

1.  Little Princes by Conor Grennan (highly recommend- about Nepal)
2.  Passage to Istanbul by Joseph Kanon (meh- slow spy novel, not very much culture, do not recommend)
3.  Desert Queen by Janet Wallach (you have to be in the mood- about British inventing modern Iraq)
4.  Tales from the Expat Harem by Anastasia Ashman (highly recommend)
5.  Apples are from Kazakhstan by Christopher Robins (recommend- great explanations of Soviet transitions)
6.  Rebel Land by Christopher de Bellaigue (recommend- historical background via stories of different kinds of people in Turkey including Kurds and Armenians)
7.  Crescent & Star by Stephen Kinzer (not a narrative- just historic information- dry)
8.  SOLD by Zana Muhsen (highly recommend- about Yemen)
9.  My Forbidden Face by Latifa (highly recommend- about Afghanistan)
10.  Princess by Jean Sasson (highly recommend- about Saudi Arabia)
11.  Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are not for Sale by Rachel Loyd (recommend- about child enslavement in New York)
12.  Leap of Faith by Queen Noor (highly recommend- captures the recent history of the Palestinian peace process and of course Jordan).
13.  Murder in the Name of Honor by Rana Husseini (highly recommend, about Jordan & the world)
14.  A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (highly recommend, fast and compelling read about South Sudan)
15.  The Woman Who Fell From The Sky by Jennifer Steil (recommend- about Yemen, expats, journalism)
16.  Survivors by Allan Zullo  (recommend- about Polish Children who survived Jewish camps in WWII).
17.  Friendly Fire by Alaa al Aswany (recommend- fiction collect of short stories about Egypt)
18.  Last Night Another Soldier by Andy McNab (fiction- about British troops in Afghanistan)
19.  Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay
20.  A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kasghar by   Suzanne Joinson (Fiction)
21.   The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized America Cuisine by Dave Dewitt
22.  Finding Fish by Antwone Fisher (Highly recommend)
23.  Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art of War by Robert Coram (HIGHLY recommend- military history, US history, AF history, Marine Corps history, and the story of a man of character)
24.  Knickers in a Twist by Jonathan Bernstein
25.  Britannia in Brief by Banker & Mullins
26.  A Woman in Jerusalem: A Passion in Three Parts by A.B. Yehoshua (Fiction)
27.  Princess Sultana's Circle by Jean Sasson (part 3 of the trilogy- see no. 10, highly recommend about Saudi royalty).
28.  The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization by Thomas Friedman (recommend, but like World is Flat better). 
29.  The Quran (in English) 
30.  Building Moral Intelligence by Michelle Borba (highly recommend for ALL parents)  
31.  Culture Shock: London by Orin Hargraves
32. Religions by Philip Wilkinson (great photos but really disappointing overgeneralizations of beliefs)
33. Mormons & Muslims by Spencer J Palmer (highly recommend)
34. The Art Journal Workshop by Traci Bunker (highly recommend- she describes purposes, processes, materials, methods, etc, VERY useful and inspiring)
35.  Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (crass, full of laughs, highly recommend- but not for everyone)
36.  Culture Smart!  Britain by Paul Norbury (recommend- a little dry compared to the others of similar purpose and scope)
37.  Brit Cult: A-Z of British Pop Culture by Andrew Calcutt (informative but VERY boring)
38. Sorry!  The English and Their Manners by Henry Hitchings (meh, Kate Fox was better- see no. 39).
39.  Watching the English by Kate Fox (Highly recommend- entertaining and accurate)
40.  Netherlands: Culture Smart!  by Sheryl Buckland (recommend, very informative)
42.  Anne Frank's Tales from the Secret Annex by Anne Frank (her short stories, some true some fiction)
41.  The UnDutchables by Colin White & Laurie Boucke (Thank you Alexander)
43. Vincent van Gogh and his letters by Leo Jansen (no link)
44.  Tired of London, Tired of Life: One Thing to do a Day in Londonby Tom Jones (heavy on drinking suggestions, not as interesting if your socialization doesn't center on alcohol consumption.  Still had some worthy suggestions.)
45.  Princess Sultana's Daughters by Jean Sasson (recommend, but not for everyone- 2nd in the princess trilogy- see numbers 10 and 27.)
46.  For the Love of a Son by Jean Sasson (About Afghanistan, highly recommend but prepare to read about the extensive human rights violations that dominate tribal culture)
47.  Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel (fiction.  faster read than Life of Pi but not quiet as captivating)
48.  Driving the Saudis by Jayne Amelia Larson (recommend, but not highly)
49.  Three Women of Herat by Veronica Doubleday (highly recommend)
50.  Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks and Jm Haskins (recommend)
51.  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossieni (highly recommend- Thank you Udgoon)
52.  Arn't I A Woman: Female Slaves in the Plantation South by  Deborah Gray White (academic, but recommend)
53. Divided by a Common Language by Christopher Davies
54.  Mission Al Jazeera by Josh Rushing (recommend)
55.  Moisture of the Earth by Mary Robinson (highly recommend- about racial stratification in the south, union organizing)
56.  The Cypress Tree by Kamin Mohammadi
57.  The no. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (fiction-thank you Donna)
58. Afghan Tales by Oleg Yermakov
59.  Cinnamon City by Miranda Innes (British expats in Morocco- Recommend)
60.  Across Many Mountains by Yanzom Brauen
61.  A Woman Among Warlords by Malalai Joya
62.  The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah (Afghan/British expat in Morocco- Recommend)
63.  Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (Slow read, but really valuable perspective on TB and poverty globally- Recommend for those in the mood for heavy social topics)
65.  Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (I've only read the first 3 chapters before, so I'm looking forward to reading the whole thing).
66.  Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi (Highly recommend, particularly for feminists.  About an Egyptian woman executed for slaying her pimp)
67. Cities of Salt  by Abdelraham Munif (meh, some parts dragged)
68. A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving by Godfrey Hodgson  (dry but informative)
69.  A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said by  Omar Ibn Said (interesting but do not recommend unless you are realllly interested in Slave history- a bit dry).
70.  All I Did Was Ask by Terry Gross
71. Memoirs of a Woman Doctor by  Nawal El Saadawi
72. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
73.   Perfect Soldiers by Terry McDermot (HIGHLY recommend- about the attackers as individuals involved in 9/11)
74. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander
75. A Stone in my Hand by Catharine Clinton
76.  Code Talker by  Joseph Bruchac (Recommend- about Navajo Marines- good for older kids, too.)
77. Quiet by Susan Cain (Highly Recommend for all introverts and recommend for those living with introverts)
78.  Christmas: A Candid History by Bruce David Forbes (dry but informative- explains what parts of Christmas celebrations came from where/when and how it is different in various nations)
79. Don't forget to Tape the Toilets by A Anonymous (lots of typos, but highly recommend for expats considering life in the Gulf countries and those interested in Saudi culture).
80.  Mondays in the Middle East by David Cross
81.  The Origins of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly (Highly recommend- explains about Christology and the early authors of Christian texts)
82.  Culture Shock! United Arab Emirates by Gina Crocetti (Highly recommend for anyone interested in Gulf culture)
83. Love in a Torn Land: Joanna of Kurdistan by Jean Sasson (highly recommend- a glimpse into the Kurdish genocide in Iraq under the Baathist party).
84.  Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar by Emily Ruete
87.   The Prophet Muhammad: A simple guide to his life by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (glosses over the history of how Quran was actually assembled and the language change that occurred- original verses were in a different language than  the current Quranic Arabic- but does emphasize that terrorism is totally unjustifiable in Islam, that Islam is a religion of peace and that Mohammed is an example of that non-violent ethic- the only justifiable violence is in direct/immediate self defense).  Worth reading, but I wished the info about the origins of quran were a bit more specific/accurate.  It does mention his praying in the cave but not about how the content of the two portions of the Quran came to be.  
88.  Sharon Osbourne: Extreme by Sharon Osbourne (gives a lot of insight into the business and her family.  Interesting!)
89.  Yasmeen's Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage, and Survival by Jean Sasson (This book is not for the faint of heart.  Really powerful account of systemic rape within an Arab nation).

Currently underway:

64.  The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner (fiction)
85. A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan by Christiane Bird (explains how Turkey values kurdistan land for the coal and Iraq values kurdistan for the oil and Iran values kurdistan for the shia population, so no one wants to see Kurdistan reemerge as a nation-state.)
86.  Towers of Stone: Battle of Wills in Chechnya by Wojciech  Jagielski (meh, it drags but good info about Russian impact on slavic nations and the dynamics of Islamic extremism in Chechnya)
92.  South from Barbary: Along the Slave Routes of Libyan Sahara by Justin Marozzi

Up next:
90.  To Live or To Perish Forever by Nicholas Schmidle
91.  Some Far and Distant Place by Jonathan S. Addleton

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Belgium Day 357: the land of disappointing appliances

I have probably already told you in person all the jokes about Belgium-Belgiqueistan and it being more developing-nation than developed.  One problem is that it takes 6 steps/appointments to get an ATM card when you open a new bank account.  Another is that the roads are not well maintained and the incessant rain results in horrible potholes.  And the roads are essentially pavement over cobblestone, if not just outright cobblestone.  Cobblestone hurts your car.  And your feet.  It looks cute, but its a disaster in terms of transportation.  The water isn't cleaned the way that it is in the U.S., so hair, showers, laundry, and dishes become calcified quickly.  People have frequent problems with kidney stones here.  It is recommended to drink only bottled water that is imported from afar.  Electrical problems are frequent.  Plugging in appliances results in light bulbs blowing, circuits blowing, etc.  This tends to happen when it is dark/snowy/freezing out so when your electric goes, you must fumble around with 3 fuse boxes in the dark and hope to get the heat back on quickly before you or the plumbing freeze and burst.  

Appliances don't work well.  Microwaving something like a cup of water in the U.S. usually takes 30 seconds- 90 seconds.  Here you need to plan on 3-5 minutes to accomplish the same task.  The convection ovens are crap.  The temperatures aren't nearly as high as the US and basically nothing cooks in the center so you have mush in the middle of whatever you are making.  As a bonus, when you open the oven, you get blasted by hot air which escaped, thus prolonging the cook time for food.  The oven is half the size of one in the U.S., so pans, cookie sheets, and baking dishes according to U.S. specs don't fit inside.  

While I was in Turkey in October, I found out that my rusty dishwasher needed to be replaced, the hot water heater was leaking and needed a valve replaced, and that the washer and dryer were dying.  The dryer is incompetent.  Imagine washing your clothes for a 90 minute cycle.  Now imagine taking that same load of clothes and running it through the dryer 5 or 6 times (2.25 hours per cycle) to try to spin out some of the water saturation. This means a typical load of laundry takes an entire day to accomplish.  A load of laundry might be a single bed sheet, t-shirt/jeans/socks/undies or pj's with a towel.  Awesome.  Remember it rains constantly so there's not a prayer that hanging things to dry will be effective.  My washing machine likes to go on walks.  It's too heavy for me to move without risking injury.  It is really heavy.  And insane.   The appliances, like the house, are provided to me by the military.  I am not supposed to have the cost of replacing them, but I have to wait on a list until a set used by another household becomes available when they rotate back to the U.S.  The man in charge of replacements wants me to pay a fee for the dryer because he believes it is working fine.  I don't want to get arrested, so I refrained from sharing my true thoughts on this topic.  I know someday I will find this predicament to be really funny, but when you are struggling through it is difficult to see the humor of it all.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Quick Trip to London: Day 3

Me to clerk: Don't judge me
Clerk: it's REALLY hard not to! 
Me: It's not all for me
Clerk: you've only got 9. Let's make it ten then.

Hamza, the clerk.

Quick Trip to London: Day 3

Quick Trip to London: Misc Videos

Quick Trip to London: Day 2 Part 1 Breakfast @ Harrod's

Eggs Florentine 

The receipts from 3 people eating just 1 meal.  Harrod's is a bit intense.

My first London Taxi ride

Impressed with the Taxi

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Quick Trip to London: Day 2 part 3

lovely hair

Amy's vandalism

In the criminal act

two kids harassing us as we exited the train

you had to be there.

escaping leprechaun

two lost mittens that don't match, so close- but yet so far.  

Our server brought me water and then asked Yvonne if she wanted some and then poured her a glass.  Then he abruptly put down the pitcher near Amy and left her high and dry.   She has to pour her own water.  

love them

Sa-kurity- sleeping on the job

still love them!

contemplating G.B.

Concentrating on lamb-cutting.  

Birthday love!