418: Whipper-snipper and other local colloquiliaisms

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Today in Panama, outside my office window, I heard the unmistakable sound of a two-cycle internal combustion engine, commonly used to operate motor scooters and lawn trimming machines: weed whackers, weed eaters, whipper-snippers, and other imaginative names for a fairly functional device. Taking a peek out the window confirmed the sound – seven, count ém, SEVEN men, dressed like Muslim women in pants (completely hijabéd in fabric from any contact with grass – in 95 degree weather) were busily mowing, by hand, with these weed eaters, an area of ground I estimated conservatively at five ACRES.

While this is a fairly common sight in Panama, it would be a very uncommon sight in America. In America, where the minimum wage for a laborer is over 7 bucks an hour and rising, there is the impetus to mow maximum grass in minimum time, and equipment is acquired which facilitates that aim. This is not a concept that has penetrated the Panamanian psyche. In fact, maximum work in minimum time is not a concept that has even introduced itself to the Panamanian psyche, much less cozied up to it and taken it to bed. Panamanian work psyche is still virgin territory, totally unpenetrated by anything approximating a work ethic – much less an ethic of efficiency.

It is perfectly reasonable, when you pay a worker twenty dollars a day (or LESS), to give him the cheapest piece of equipment you can find (I have seen men cutting grass on the roadside with machetes – I kid you not), expecting it to take him three or four days to mow what one Kubota triple-swath tractor could cut in two hours.

This attitude of it takes as long as it takes, using the cheapest equipment we can find, permeates this society. It is one reason I ride to and from work in a 20 year-old reconditioned BlueBird school bus, shipped down from America once it was retired from school service there, smartened up with a wild coat of paint (Jesus and a busty, suggestively posed bikini-clad girl jostling for the prime space on the back), tricked out with flashing neon lights and outfitted with a blasting turbo-charged horn, since that is what Panamanians drive with, anyway.

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Well. It does make life interesting, in a drop-your-jaw and stare sort of way…………

 

 

 

 

 

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406: The Good About Islam…sort of

I am compelled to speak up on behalf of all of the Muslims I know, following the post I just made describing the scriptures of the Koran. I don’t know any radical Muslims. Every single one I have met (hundreds upon untold hundreds), so far as I know and have experienced, is a kind, decent, family-oriented person who has basic respect for other humans, regardless of their differing faiths. These are the majority of Muslims world-wide.

I want to share some American history with you. In the mid-to-late 1700’s the vast majority of Americans were content living under the rule of the British king. A small minority of radical terrorists (freedom fighters??) are responsible for the American Revolution that established the United States of America. That is FACT. Therefore, taking that and other examples from history, it is entirely irrelevant that the majority of Muslims are peace-loving, when they will not, themselves, muzzle the rabid dogs amongst themselves, and declare once and for all that Mohammad’s teachings that call for the death of all non-Muslims are outdated and are hereby, once and for all, abolished.

What boggles my own mind is how can someone peaceful belong to a religion whose scriptures so clearly call for war (violent, killing jihad) with the rest of the entire world? Not to CONVERT the world by persuading others that Islam is the superior religion, but by brutal, outright murder. I could respect conversion. That is an individual’s choice. That is NOT how Islam is going to take over the world, by persuasion. That is not how they are doing it this very minute in countless countries they already rule. There, they are systematically exterminating all who are not Muslim, in much the same way that Jews, gypsies, Catholics, homosexuals, and those considered “mentally deficient” were exterminated in the mid 1940’s.

WWII was supposed to be “never again.” What is the truth is that it “never ended.”

405: The Trouble With Islam

Muslims are followers of the religion of Islam, as explained by the prophet Mohammed. He made it up, modeled after the Arab life in the desert which was all he knew. Muslims are born into Islam, not necessarily converted into it, or choosing it. If your parent (either one, but especially your father) is Muslim, ipso facto, you as their child are Muslim – like it or not. There is no such thing as leaving Islam, or converting to (choosing) another religion other than Islam: the penalty for such is death. EXACTLY like the Mafia. Once you are in, you are in, period. The teachings of Islam are clear – Islam is the superior religion, and trumps all others.

And, very much like the Mafia, Islam has a very clear set of “us versus them” rules, set forth by Mohammed verbally (he was illiterate and could not read and write Arabic, his own language), and codified by his followers into holy scripture, called hadiths, or laws, which together, make up the rules of Sharia law, the code under which which Muslims live in Islamic countries. Mohammed is regarded as the perfect man (just like Jesus) only there is no claim that he actually was divine – he is just treated as such by his followers. Nothing he said, or that others wrote that he said, is questionable, under penalty of apostasy (blasphemy) and death. ANY negative or critical talk or questioning of any sort of Mohammed (or of any scripture of the Koran) is apostasy, punishable by death. No questions allowed. If your religion is so superior, why can it not stand up to the questions of others seeking to understand? What are you afraid of?

Many Muslims themselves are ignorant of what their scriptures actually say – except for what the imam (the “priest’ at the mosque) tells them. This is because Muslims accept no translations of the Koran – it must be read in Arabic – and Arabic Muslims have conquered a lot of countries that they now rule whose native languages are not Arabic. I studied Spanish for years in high school and college, and I still am at the beginner intermediate stage of literacy. The same is true for lots of Muslims, who cannot read the Arabic the Koran is written in, so they don’t know all of what it says. Even among Arabic speaking countries, there is a very high illiteracy rate, and even native speakers often cannot read the language – or the scriptures.

There is no such thing as the Christian’s Golden Rule in Islam, which says treat others as you wish them to treat you. Nothing about basic respect of human life. In fact, there is its exact opposite: one set of rules for how to treat fellow Muslims, and another set for how to treat everyone else who is non-Muslim. Guess what Mohammed had to say about everybody else not following his version of religion? Kill them. That’s right, the writings of Mohammed’s sayings record that the prophet, this ‘perfect’ man, said to kill all unbelievers (or just enslave them if they are useful to you), and that no Muslim can punish any other Muslim for this act. Marching orders and absolution (forgiveness) and praise for the act be unto him who follows this hadith. Mankind can be grateful that most Muslims have basic humanity, and choose not to obey the prophet on this law – but it IS A LAW. And there are plenty of Muslims who do choose to follow this law.

In fact, Muslims are obligated by hadith to lie to non-Muslims to help spread the religion of Islam world-wide – but allow no such talk of, or spread of other religions in the lands they control. It is a one-way street. If Islam is so perfect a religion, surely all people who learn of it will embrace it, and convert, right? No? Maybe the religion is not as perfect as you claim it to be?

There are 35,213 Koran verses, hadiths, Sharia laws and other Muslim scriptures commanding and encouraging killing, war, annihilation, corporal punishment, hatred, boycott, humiliation and subjugation for Muslim followers, which are aimed mostly at non-Muslims (Darwish, 2008, p. 219). And we, those of us who are non-Muslim, at whom most of that hatred is spewing, are supposed to believe Islam is a religion of peace. Muslims view the ‘peace’ happening only after the entire world is under Islamic rule and law, obviously, and all opposition to Islam is crushed. If the god of Islam is so all-powerful, why does he need mere humans to do his dirty work? Surely a god is powerful enough to smite his own enemies, as has been demonstrated and proved by the God of Abraham that the Jews and Christians worship. What Islam is, is a religion of tyrant men who want to take over the world, just like the cartoons on Saturday morning TV. Only these guys are serious, and they are not funny.

359: Opinion? Everybody’s Got One…..

…and, like most assholes, they are usually full of shit. Yeah, I know the old joke – that really isn’t a joke. It does appear that most people today ardently believe that other people’s opinions (read: other people’s opposing opinions that don’t agree, lock-step, with mine) are full of shit. Scatology aside, it is fair to say that some people are pretty crappy, and you would expect that their opinions would naturally follow suit.

Still, just because someone does not agree with your view of the world and the rightness of things in general does not, ipso facto, make them shit-carriers. It is possible *gasp* that they could actually have the right of things and YOU are the stinky one.

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I commented on Facebook lately to a former student, now grown into independent adulthood quite well, thank you, that he was flogging a dead horse by trying to convince a liberal DemocRAT to change their opinions by presenting them with facts and logic. Liberals recognize nothing that is not on their previously conceived and accepted agenda – all facts to the contrary. They call you ugly names for even trying. And the worst part of it is that they are very, very similar to radical Muslims.

Don’t throw rocks at me. I know Muslims who are decent, hardworking family-oriented people. In fact, praise God, I don’t actually know any Muslims who are not reasonable, rational people, but I read about them all the time in the news, unfortunately, so I do know that not all Muslims are the sort I know. And liberal DemocRATS are like the WORST sort of Muslims. They are rabid about their agenda like fanatical Muslims are about any imagined slur towards the Koran or the prophet Mohammed – and behead all unbelievers.

Notice how violently, aggressively and rabidly the liberals and their complicit cronies, the liberal-oriented press, attack and vilify anyone who has any criticism whatsoever of officially accepted liberal policies or leaders – or who has anything to say in support of what used to be thought of as traditional American values. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!! This is fanaticism of the worst sort – that refuses to believe that the opinions (morals, values, ethics whattheheckeveryacall it) of others have any validity at all…not even based on the right to be human and think for oneself. Heck no – behead the unbelievers!!

It is tough enough thinking for yourself without someone who supposedly believes in the sacredness of the individual berating you for doing it. Stand your ground, and persist. Be the boulder in a liberal’s path, and make them GO AROUND. You are important, and so are your opinions…articulated aloud or not.

 

 

354: Retiring…..in MOROCCO????

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Published February 25, 2014, in the Herald Leader, Fitzgerald, Georgia (USA) weekly newspaper.

Lately, most Islamic countries have been pretty much OFF the list as desirable places to live, work and retire. Political unrest is not attractive for those in the market for a place to live. This black eye, however, is undeserved in several cases, and Morocco is close to the top of the list as a pleasant place to consider living. Morocco is located in the upper north-western corner of the African continent. Morocco and the United States share a companionable history – did you know that Morocco was the first country to officially recognize the fledgling USA as a nation? Morocco is an Islamic country in that Islam is the official state religion, and the majority of its citizens are Muslim, but there are people of other faiths here as well, and tolerance is the theme, espoused and endorsed by Morocco’s progressive king, Mohammad VI, as well.

A lot of Morocco is hot, often too hot to be comfortable without expensive air conditioning. After all, the Sahara Desert begins in eastern Morocco, and hot was invented there!  However, Morocco has mountain ranges that run lengthwise down the middle of the country like a backbone: the Middle and High Atlas Mountains. In the Middle Atlas, you will find the lovely little city of Azrou. Azrou is a little less than a mile high in elevation, and has a comfortable climate that is much cooler than other locations in Morocco, even seeing some snow during the winter months. There is a ski resort in the neighboring town of Ifrane (10 miles away), which incidentally, is home to Morocco’s only English-speaking University (Al Akhawayn University). For those who enjoy winter sports, there are African slopes waiting!

And, unlike some other places, Morocco enjoys excellent water. Several brands of bottled mineral water originate near Azrou, and water here is delicious straight from the tap. Being in the mountains does no damage to the views, either! There are lovely, rolling hills all around Azrou, and the drive to either of the larger cities nearby, imperial Meknes (UNESCO World Heritage site) or imperial Fez (UNESCO World Heritage site) includes some breathtaking scenic spots begging for your camera. Meknes is surrounded by vineyards, and local wine produced there and elsewhere in Morocco is both tasty and relatively inexpensive.  There is a good selection at prices less than 10 USD a bottle. The extensive Roman ruins of Volubilis (yet another UNESCO World Heritage site) are a little over an hour’s drive away from Azrou.

Morocco 034Azrou adjoins one of Morocco’s National parks, and there are Barbary Macaques (monkey), that make their home there who are accustomed to being fed by park visitors, though for your safety consider photos only. Hiking, biking and camping opportunities abound nearby in nearly any direction, including being able to explore some nearby extinct volcano calderas and some lovely waterfalls. Outdoorsy people will find plenty to do.

My husband and I moved to Morocco knowing not a word of Arabic or French, the two most common languages spoken in Morocco, and we have done just fine here for three years. The Moroccans are lovely people, helpful and generous, and many speak enough English to be able to transact business, even for us Americans, and are appreciative when you do your best to learn and speak Arabic. Azrou is primarily a farming community, with a few tourist shops featuring handicrafts thrown in for good measure.  The weekly souk (farmer and flea market) here is on Tuesdays, with inexpensive,  fresh produce, all manner of household goods, clothing and livestock sold weekly, but anything you might want is also available from small shops all over town any day of the week. There is also a fish farm in town that sells smoked or fresh fish, dressed fresh to your order. Restaurants in town range from inexpensive sandwich shops (where you can eat for less than two dollars USD), to dining experiences featuring the finest in French cuisine, without the expensive European price tag.  Medical care and dental care both are good and inexpensive. My husband’s recent oral surgery cost us 125 USD, and his bridge will be made by a Boston University-trained dentist, for thousands less than what the identical services would have cost us back home.

Our two-bedroom, two-bath rooftop apartment, with a balcony and a private roof terrace, sets us back 1,500 Moroccan dirham a month, which is 176.50 USD.  Water, gas, electricity, phones and Internet run about 500 dirhams more a month: 63 USD more. We can do just fine here on much less than a thousand USD per month – our living expenses alone run about 650 USD, without including the costs of our small car, which accounts for the rest of the thousand per month. We bought the used car for our occasional trips around Morocco and to Spain, which has two toeholds, nice little cities, five hour’s drive away from Azrou along Morocco’s northern coastline.  Morocco has excellent, inexpensive bus service and the trains are quite nice, too, as well as inexpensive, for those who’d rather not maintain an automobile.

For those considering locations around the world for potential retirement, Morocco has a low cost of living, a good standard of living even on a limited budget, and a very nice proximity to vacationing in Europe, while not paying Europe’s often higher costs of living. A small, but efficient, regional airport in nearby Fez serves cities in Spain, Italy, London, Paris and more, on one of several low-cost carriers. Seasonal fares can be so low we can actually afford to fly to Rome for just the weekend, occasionally. Try THAT in the US! We had high hopes for Morocco when we made the decision to move, and it has certainly fulfilled them. If you are looking at international locations, consider exotic Morocco!

Resources:

Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook (2nd ed.), Bacon, Andjar and Benchehda, 1999. Lonely Planet Publications, ISBN: 0864425864.

Moroccan consulate in New York: http://www.moroccanconsulate.com/, requirements for Moroccan visas and other information for travelers to Morocco.

US Embassy in Casablanca, Morocco: morocco.usembassy.gov/news.html, has hours of operation, directions, visa, passport information and more resources.

Friends of Morocco website: friendsofmorocco.org/, friendsofmorocco.org/

Above: Site has MANY useful links all about Morocco, in English – including links for learning Moroccan Arabic.

Learn Arabic free online: learnarabicfree.info/, learnarabicfree.info/

Above: Free Arabic lessons online. For beginners – starts with the alphabet!

Learn French free online: www.lsfrench.com/beginners2.html, http://www.lsfrench.com/beginners2.html

Above: Free online French lessons for beginners.

Map of Morocco: http://www.journeybeyondtravel.com/news/travel-morocco-map

335: The Green Monster

Fluff-man is insanely jealous.

My neighbor across the lawn rescued three calico female kittens from a dumpster, and I took photos, made up a flyer and posted it at our 400+ student school, hoping to help get them adopted out. No such luck. Not a single nibble. So, I took one.

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She is a cute little seven-week old, frisky and loving little lady, who attacks my hand in play fights while I am reading on the couch, and then licks the places she play bites in apology. She’s such a sweetie I named her Dulce – the Spanish word for sweet. She and I are getting along just fine. Caruso, my man-kitty buddy, a chunky, handsome tiger-striped brown boy, is fascinated with her and wants to play – but he’s a little big and she is scared of him still. So, he contents himself with lying nearby and watching her antics. Fez, my champagne and white regal lady kitty, is disdainful, but she contents herself with growling under her breath, and occasionally hissing as she strolls majestically past the little interloper.

The problem is Fluff-man. He is INSANELY jealous. Whenever he spots her, he distorts his handsome kitty face with the evilest-looking hiss (issued repeatedly), and he growls so furiously and loudly at little Dulce that it is almost howling. You can hear his mental wheels turning loud and clear – that little s*&$ is getting pets from MY MAMA, and I HATE HER GUTS. I came home from work yesterday to find Dulce mewing piteously, sitting forlornly on top of the drapery rod, just beneath the ceiling, where she had obviously climbed to escape Fluff-man’s furious swats.  Fluff outweighs her 10 to 1, so this is a real issue for the little girl.

Today, I set her up with food and water bowls and a private kitty potty in the unused second bedroom, and I shut the door. Her ”I am abandoned” wails were difficult to hear, but I’d rather she be a little lonely than hurt. My unrepentant, furious Morocco boy kitty is acting like a Muslim meeting a Jew for the first time. It’s not pretty.

I am hoping that time will temper the fury and I can convince Fluff that this new little furry face does not mean I love him any less.

291: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em……

There has been quite a bit of fuss in the news about abuses by the TSA who are physically inspecting passengers far more rigorously than common sense would dictate. A grandmother (quite elderly, not one of these fifty-somethings) and a three-year-old-toddler in a wheelchair come to mind. Well – if you can’t beat them, join them.

Currently, a woman dressed in a burka (a full-length concealing robe that hides the entire body except for a slit that is meshed for the eyes) is allowed to be searched only on her head and neck. Not her body cavities, like normal people.  Idea for a new-multi-million-dollar business: make burkas and sell them to women planning a flight.

Nothing says you have to be Muslim – religion is not listed ANYWHERE on your passport. So – buy and wear a burka if you are flying, and prevent legal rape by your own government. My mama didn’t raise no fool.