Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last minute thoughts

I loaded this photo a day or so ago and remembered that I didn't say anything about WHY I uploaded it. Each day, while eating with our group, I would be disgusted with the hugely filled plates of food, half of which was left uneaten. Most disgusting though was how the table was left. This is a typical table after lunch. Folks just dump their bones, their trash, their left over food items on the tablecloth. They eat and spit seeds, bones out of their mouth on to the table. NO sense of keeping things neat and on days when there are tomatoes or curry, the table cloths are stained badly. Arghhh...

I am home and baking, cooking, wrapping and enjoying my husband and doggies. Never going to be gone again in December. I have missed the holiday season, the music, the Christmas candles and smell of all things Christmas like. NOT enjoying the freezing weather and the snow. Dogs can pee in 15 seconds and be back in the house.

Alex gets in tomorrow morning and looking forward to seeing him and catching up. Weird to have NO kids at home anymore. Nice, but sad.

Realized that I still have some Christmas gifts in my suitcase which I haven't unpacked yet because the clothing goes back to Florida. Have almost everything under control. Love this time of year despite the crappy weather.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last days, last comments...for today

Our last training day was interesting. I taught, but we had quite the celebration with several dignataries coming to speak in support of anti-corruption and in support of strengthened media. And I was invited to speak to the group, which I did, but with a bit more emotion that I would have liked. Hani was not asked to speak which I thought a bit rude. Here is our esteemed group.

This photo is of our last lunch and you will see how the women seated themselves at the back of the room so Samira could remove her veil while eating. I generally started eating with the men and then, would end up at the ladies' table.

These guys can and did pile their plates full and often would fill up two or three plates at a time and just demolish them.
Nabiha is one of the ladies who spent the day with me and here, she is presenting both Hani and me with a bouquet of flowers from the group in thanks for our training.

While training, I always give examples and often, they are examples of husbands and wives, employees and their bosses etc. I want to introduce you to my two "husbands" who were tapped to humorously make some male/female/cultural points from time to time. To the left is Essa and to the right, Hamdi. Essa presented me with the flower arrangement and a couple of the men came to tell me that though I am "old" as I often say, they thought I might make a good wife. I assured them they should speak to my REAL husband.
Sitting in the Istanbul airport writing. Long flight to NYC. Security was very heavy for the folks getting off the flight from Yemen. I was asked for my itinerary. Another photo ID other than my passport, my business card, proof that I stayed in the Sheba Hotel and proof of who paid the bill while in Sana'a. And I got off easy. The Yemeni men were really getting a grilling. Guess this is good, but really, my business card? And then, this young 25 year old woman wanted to know why I have my own business and who pays my bills. Unusual.

Last day in Sana'a

I have been waiting for one photo to load here for 20 minutes...will try it later. Read on.

Below, you will meet Samira, one of the women in our group. Do scroll down to see the Samira I saw at lunch each day; but whose face, none of the men ever saw. She would flip her veil back when a man, including the waiters, would walk by. She asked me if I would like a picture of her face and this was a very special gift to me. She knows I am blogging and indicated that I could share her photo. Essa made us a special CD of many photos and all of the participants and I told him/them that this was a wonderful rememberance and gift...and Samira gave me a very warm and personal gift of her smiling face.
This huge peacock is a wall hanging just inside the entrance way at the Taj Sheba, our hotel. There was a nice sitting area right next to this where I would often work on my computer while Hani was training.

Today, our last day, Hani and I walked over to the National Museum where we saw this incredibly wonderful door. The key to the door weighs about 15 pounds. And we saw an ornate 500 year old Quran and items from 1000 years B.C. Islam came to Yemen in 629 A.D. and there were examples of stones with the Zabur script for the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. There were six floors, which OSHA has never visited. Hani commented on the fact that handicapped cannot see anything in this country. The steps alone are a hazard as you climb the stairs.

I wasn't to take photos or we would have to pay "baksheesh," a bribe to one of the workers so I stopped taking photos, much to his dismay. And, I really wanted a photo of the three stuffed lions which the president donated to the museum. HUGE

This is Samira, one of our women participants who had her photo taken with me. She always presented herself veiled but would unveil to eat, with her back to the men. I had seen her face while she ate but today, in a very unusual gesture, she took her veil off so I could see her face and remember her.

I was talking with the women today after the session and before my interview and they were filling me in on the regional differences and I again asked about the men wearing the "skirts" of plaid, stripes and with decorations along the edges. One of the ladies told me that they wear these in the hot regions because they, "need to keep things fresh under there." The women in the warmer regions of the country also have their arms uncovered.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Leaving on a jet plane....soon

Hani and I had gone out to the souk and when we came back there were huge numbers of men on the street buying everything from used suits to shoes and, of course, Qat. The sky looked awfully ominous, but I was assured there would be no rain for a few months, and, there was no rain.
I am enjoying getting out and showing folks their country. Today, I was talking with one of the men about the President's Mosque and how the women's side was so ugly in comparison to the men's side. He was fairly impressed that I had managed to see both sides...he had never been in this Mosque. So, I sent him some photos and he concurred...not equitable treatment at all.
This is a Christmas party that I observed the other day from my room. "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" was playing and I looked out. Note the snowmen and the bells and all of the Muslim women scarved and veiled. Quite a hoot.

Today as I was clapping my hands and saying, "yela, yela" one of the participants indicated that while he had served in the army, he had never had someone quite as strict as I. We all laughed. He saluted me and I returned the favor.

Held a "development communication" workshop for UNDP folks and it was quite an international assembly of folks working here with the United Nations Development Programs. I thoroughly enjoyed the extra work and getting to meet such a diverse, committed group of people. They work all day! Think about that.
And tomorrow, I am going to be interviewed. I have been kidding the participants because when Hani finishes his presentation, they clap for him. One of the women has been calling him Dr. Hani, a term of respect but not calling me Dr. Teresa. She stopped the Dr. title but because Hani, an editor in chief at a digital newspaper in Cairo was interviewed by one of the papers, I am going to have the same opportunity. We are working on equitable and fair treatment of all as a concept. Can't wait...should be a hoot. Like I can keep my mouth shut or be appropriate for more than five minutes at a throw. We shall see.
Oh and one of the guys that I thought was texting today was actually video recording my talk. He hadn't asked permission and I suggested that that is most appropriate for journalists to do first and besides, this is a country where one does not photograph women without asking permission. He stopped and came by later with hand over his heart, many apologies and a request that I still like him and respect him. I suggested that all was fine but I better not see myself on Facebook or YouTube and he was appalled. No Yemeni would do that and several echoed that sentiment. We laughed together. I also suggested I didn't want that to go to the ministry of public information either. I do want to come back one day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Souk, camel tuk tuk and more

For our walk, Hani wanted to head to the souk, but I had in mind to try the camel tuk tuk today. So we first found the camel man and then, after we laughed our butts off, we walked to find the souk. This photo was me being thrown forward as the camel was directed to lie down. Way off kilter.
Now, the souk is a maze of alleyways, streets and dead ends. Thankfully, Hani speaks Arabic because there is NO chance I could have walked in, gawked, shopped and actually found my way back to a main street. As it turned out, we had a clerk walk with us...more on that below. I saw this little munchkin leaning against a souk wall and thought I should take her photo. The little kids here are gorgeous and are dressed like little princes and princesses.
After training today, Hani and I took a walk aiming for the souk, the traditional marketplace so we could people watch. While there, I found some beads for a friend who likes to make necklaces and bracelets and I bought a few baubles. After purchasing a few more items, I found a vendor who had some very nice stones of some sort but by then, I did not have enough money with me. NOT a problem said the young man with a wad of Qat in his cheek. He would go with me to my hotel, wait while I changed my US dollars into Rials and he would return to the shop....and this is what we did. I had my bag of stones I was buying in hand and I tore off alone to the hotel because Hani and the clerk are rather short legged...but I had the goods, and off I strode. I had the money changed and ready by the time the clerk arrived at Taj Sheba, our hotel and I gave him a little tip. He walked a good 15 minutes each way to collect what amounted to about $12 for the sale. Customer service, no? Can you picture that happening anywhere in the US?

More ladies' day stories:

I mentioned we went to the Old Sana'a Heritage house and this is a cool room. They kept their water and anything needing to be cool on the side of the building that the sun did not touch. Air blew through the small holes chilling juice or water.

And then, we went to lunch on Ladies' Day out at a local restaurant, Al Shabani, which has several branch restaurants around the area and whose food was outstanding. It was a typical, eat with your hands type restaurant but they did bring us some utensils because I was with them. We often get different service because it is so obvious that I am a foreigner. Note the fish head on the table. He was huge and grilled and his head came attached. How we eat here is a bit different in that any bones, seeds, heads, or anything you don't want, get thrown aside on the table. Here we were given a plastic, "table cloth" to cover the wooden table below...the Yemenis near us did not get this special service. They just spit the seeds out of their olives, dumped the bones on the table or on the placemat and everything is then cleaned up and cleared off. We are not concerned with neatness here...only with the eating and enjoyment of good food in good company. There is a lot to be said for that!
Hoping to ride a camel today...if so, photos later.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Various and sundry thoughts....

I went out to dinner tonight with a man I met on the airplane flying into Sana'a well over a week ago. He had given me his business card and we chatted through the night about his home country but also about England, where he and his family hold dual citizenship. He had assured me that I was in for the time of my life and tonight...I was able to laugh and share my experiences with him. All of what I am doing/hearing/seeing was anticipated by Khaled. He took me out to a wonderful restaurant with an outdoor courtyard and a huge fountain and we enjoyed chicken schwarma together. A good guy...and I am hoping I will have time to go to his home and meet his parents. His wife and two teens are living outside of London and he flies back and forth for work.

On girls' day out, I forgot to mention that Nabiha was a crazy female driver who had some Arabic female singer on the radio and the three women, with music cranked up on high, were laughing and singing aloud. We passed the police, men, beggars and all were laughing with us...I was reminded of this when Heidi and Kristin sent their travel video to me. Crazy women...beware of 'em.

When I went to the old Sana'a Heritage house, I saw a reenactment of a traditional wedding. Apparently, in the old days, the grooms wore a green head dress of vines/leaves which has been changed into a flower head dress which I posted the other day. Green was worn to keep away the evil...the evil eye is worn here like in other parts of the world. When we were in the jewelry store the other day, I saw a ring with the evil eye symbol on it. Throughout the world this is worn to ward away the evil.

My lady friends took me to see a celebration of a new birth. The woman who just gave birth was dressed all in gold, including a sharp looking hat; make up was perfect and she was covered on her elevated sofa by a gold throw. Below her on the floor with pillows were at least 100 women and girls and there were more in the next room. All of the women were dressed to the nines, had make up on, no veils, few scarves and most were chewing Qat. One never sees women chewing in the streets, in cars or in stores. Only men do this in public. It is verboten to take photos at these female celebrations...and I know why. The women were very seductively dressed, some with see through clothing or mesh at the midriff. It is a private woman's celebration. Never saw the baby...he was sleeping. We only stayed about an hour but the new mom, sat very still and no one talked with her...she was pretty. Everyone else was partying.

After the new birth party, we went on to the women's wedding celebration where the bride was gorgeously dressed in an elegant white off the shoulder dress, hair and make up perfect. Her family is part Ethiopian and part Yemeni so this party had older women teaching the younger how to dance with their shoulders, shimmy and the Yemeni elders were teaching Yemeni wedding dances. 300-400 women and girls were in this huge hall, again dressed spectacularly, in tight dress, high heels and chewing. Everyone was laughing, eating and chewing. NO photos. I wish I could describe the dresses these women wore...and as we left, we watched some young teens in dresses I would never have allowed my girls to wear, stop, pull on the long black dresses, wipe their faces with baby wipes and wrap a scarf over their hair so they could exit onto the street.

Just before ladies' day out, we had been discussing strategic and operational three friends laughingly said that I needed to help them write a strategic plan to find a husband.

Photos not uploading tonight...another day!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The President's Mosque

On the way to Bait Baws, the Jewish settlement I wrote about earlier, we ran into this young lady who was herding her sheep down the road and I thought it lovely that she was carrying this little guy in her arms. It seems the baby wanted to suckle and it was holding her up.
And on the road back into town, we passed this Egyptian War Monument from the war of 1962. Egypt was and is an ally of Yemen.
As we proceeded down the main drag, we ran into the President's Mosque which is open for all to use. In fact, as we approached, afternoon prayers were letting out so we decided to stop in and visit the Mosque.

This is the ceiling in the men's side of the Mosque and it is very ornate as you can see. Hand inlaid stone work, marble, alabaster windows, some stained glass and gold everywhere. The men's side will hold about 20,000 men and it is full usually on Fridays.
Rich and poor are welcome here and all pray together...well, men together and women elsewhere.

Columns and glass lighting everywhere...again, on the men's side of the Mosque which cost in excess of $120,000,000 to build. The average Yemeni earns less than $2 per day and that is before he buys his Qat!

And here, looking like a cow in this photo, am I! This is the women's side of the Mosque...note any differences here? This side holds about 2,000 women and they can see through some woodwork what is going on in the men's side. As we were entering, hundreds of completely covered, veiled women were leaving and I asked, "How do the men know which woman is his?" Men were shoving and looking but not calling out to their wives or sisters. Answer? The woman finds her man.
On the women's side, I had to wear a scarf. When we went to the men's side, I had to put on a complete black thop, which is not a pretty sight to see!!

And here is the President's Mosque which is causing quite a stir because the historical mosque in the old city is Old Yemen, the pride and joy of Sana'a. This new monstrosity took years to build, cost a ton of money and has only been open for a couple of years. The money spent, many have told me, could have been used for health, education, electrical power and more. Instead, there is a monument to the President.

Ladies' Day Out

The building of this Jewish "colony" was a priority in the 1920's and 1930's but with civil war raging, the Israeli's went home, in the late 40's, leaving this pile of construction to fall apart. While there are some Jewish people and some Christians here, this is primarily a Muslim country.

An travelling companions' names have significance. Arabs use names have meaning: Mahassin, means "good manners"; Nabiha means, "intelligent woman;" and Arwa was named after an early queen. I was told the fact that there was a queen meant that this was pre-Islam. Cannot happen today. Names are given in hope that the child will become that characteristic.

Bait Baws, which humorously translates into "Kissing House," is an old Jewish settlement outside of Sana'a and was the first of many stops we made yesterday. This is the entrance to what is now a ruin site but which the government is planning to restore. The Jews all left in the late 1940's and it is all falling apart. About 20 families, all Yemeni, now live on the grounds but there are no amenities. And interestingly, "beso" in Spanish means, "kiss;" and "bosa" is kiss in Arabic and "baws" means kiss in Hebrew...or so I was told. Similarities in language.

Another photo of Beit Baws...this place is built atop huge rock outcroppings and some of the buildings are three stories high.

A couple of odds and room is quite nice but the bedspread has to weigh a good 40 pounds and it is not easy to flip off or on. Takes a two arm pull to cover up. I got around to thinking about bedbugs last night...was almost asleep and realized I should have checked but hadn't. Now, if there were bedbugs after more than a week, I would have been bitten. So, what did I do? Got up and bedbugs or bugs of any sort.

The unusual becomes normal...

There are tons of ferral cats here but, the other day, on the way to the Rock Palace, we encountered this group of cats rummaging for food. Someone had gutted something and put the entrails out so these scrawny cats could eat. Like in many countries, there isn't enough food for families to eat, so pets aren't widespread. I might add that Qat gets bought before food for many families!

The mundane for the average
Yemeni, I am finding so special here. The other day, Hani and I went to the souk, the local market place, because Hani wanted to buy some jewelry for his wife. Outside of the shop, nearby, were a group of men conversing. All of a sudden, more men joined and each brought a pot or bowl of food. The men quickly squatted down to share their lunch. I watched lunch materialize in about two minutes and was looking to see what was being served/eaten. The men waived me out and invited me, via gestures, to join them. Now, look at this group...not a woman in sight. Yet, they cheerfully encouraged me to join them. When I declined, one of the men broke off a huge piece of bread and dipped it in some spread and gave it to me to try.

More later...I have all the photos to share from yesterday but loading photos is taking about 30 minutes per picture. Arghhhh....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rock Palace, outside Sana'a

A natural window built into the Rock Palace. This young man was seated, gazing out at the countryside and he encouraged me to take his photo. I cannot begin to share the warmth, generosity and humor the Yemeni people exhibit. I walk by the youngest of children and they immediately say, "Hello. How are you?" Hani was a bit exasperated yesterday...he is Egyptian and although he looks very different in many ways than the Yemenis, when he addresses someone in Arabic, they try to respond to him in English. He is an Arab who speaks perfect English and he ended up buying a Jambaya, the traditional daggar and wore it on a belt, trying to be one with the people. People still tried to speak English with him.

In so many ways I am delighted every day. I have been invited to sit and eat lunch on the street with men and women don't do this. I have been asked to try Qat on the street, which women also do not do. Oh, they chew, but not on the street.

For those of you who know how apparently easy it is for me to fall on my face while walking on the straight and look at these rock steps that lead up the side of the mountain and into Rock Palace. Not only are the steps crooked and uneven, the height of the steps varied by a half foot in some places. Akram, who is here in traditional garb and talking on his cell as we exited the Palace, indicated that the stairways are so very wide because all of the food, clothing and necesseties needed by the servants and the Imam and his family, had to be carried up the stairs by camels and donkeys! Think...six floors of uneven stairs navigated by a camel.

Atop Rock Palace on the roof, looking out over the very bleak, yet gorgeous countryside, are situated these chimney which vent the kitchen below. I haven't been to our Grand Canyon but this countryside is how I picture those canyons and gorges....going to go soon. How horrid to travel the world and have not yet seen all of our own country.

Here is a stained glass window that actually shimmered as we entered. Several rooms in the palace are closed off like in a museum so you can see how elegant the furnishings were for the Imam and his family of several wives. Each wife had her own wing, kind of like the TV program, Sister Wives of today!

This palace was indeed very unique...built in the 30s but entirely traditional. The kitchen was on the side of the mountain not touched by the sun with meathooks hanging from the ceiling. Sta

This was the ultimate destination for our tour yesterday and, while Hani could not climb to the top of the mountain palace, I was. We are already at fairly high elevation in Sana'a and climbing wasn't easy especially on all of the uneven stones.

The Rock Palace was built for the Imam Yahya, who reigned here in Yemen from 1904 until he was assassinated in 1948. This summer palace was built atop a huge rock outcropping outside of Sana'a in the 1930s.

Yemeni's celebration

Akram took Hani and me to see the Rock Palace the Palace built for the Imam Yahya which I will share soon. But the highlight of my day was our stopping to see wedding celebrations on our way out of the city. Men and women celebrate the wedding day, all day, but separately. Men and boys celebrate outside with dancing, eating, chewing, music and lots of traditional dress and customs. The women are doing likewise, all together but in a home with family and friends.

Dancing is a way to pass along traditions and this drummer was beating with thin sticks and at a pace and rhythm I have never heard.
These are two grooms...they celebrate often together because of expense but also because this is a huge country of millions but, yet very small and closed. The grooms wear flowers and out of the hundreds of men, this is how you can tell who is who. These boys are about 17 and getting married!

Everything is traditional, the colors, their swords which no one else carries and notice their Jumbaya? (sp) that they carry at their waists are decorated while the young man to the right's is not.

And the elders, note the man in the red headdress, shows the younger how to do the wedding dances. This is a circle dance and the man to the left, leaning forward is about 20 and was slowly following the steps of the old man.
Interestingly, there was not another woman in sight so I was being very concerned about not being too obvious (look at them and then, think, Teresa) and they waived me in and gestured for me to join the circle dance which just isn't done. This is a warm and welcoming people.
The drum closest to you is a traditional drum made out of goat skin. For some reason, the photo of the young man carrying a rifle is not uploading but as we approached, firecrackers and guns were shot off...not in response to our arrival but to signal the start of the dancing.
Tomorrow, I will go with three of the female trainees to see how women celebrate this occasion. This day, so far, has been another gift from Akram, who, while with us, was missing being with his family.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Odds and ends...yup, more of them!

Now, in Latin America one takes a moto-taxi or a tuk tuk. This is a camel tuk tuk but only built to accomodate one person at a time. I was walking alone so quite afraid to hop on this guy and not be able to communicate with the sales person (see him lying against his buddy, the camel?) and find my way back OK. But, I plan to try this before I leave here.
Saw this building while out walking with Hani today. I ran a bit over my alloted time today and Hani had about an hour with the trainees before lunch. They decided they would eat and leave and not have more training afterwards. Never have I seen such an attitude. Hani is much nicer than I. I would have pitched a fit and they would have had their training.

I may have mentioned that my room is cleaned very well every day by some men. Something wrong with underwear are washed out by me and hung to dry and they see that and even rearrange how I had them draped to dry! And, apparently one doesn't place sets of shoes side by side. What is preferred is to stack them one pair on top of the other. Must be a space issue at home?
Finally felt a need for chocolate last night and went on a search for my peppermint bark which I brought along. Couldn't locate it and was very concerned someone had eaten it...yes, paranoia. Found it and had a bite while listening to Christmas music. Soothing.
I had to get someone up to show me how to get the TV to function. The remote "power" button is only for turning the TV off. The TV sleeps and all you do is punch in the channel you want and it pops on. Whoduthunk that?
There are many beggars on the street but the saddest sight today was a stump of a man nestled in a wheelbarrow all alone in an alley way. Many people come out and sleep in the warm sunshine and I assume they keep moving at night to keep warm.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Odds and ends...

I mentioned that there is an area where donkeys are sold in the market...this brass/metal sign is the entrance to this particular area. Now, the other areas had plain metal/steel type signs: for furniture, woodworking, Qat, vegetables etc. Very, very important, these donkeys because they are the work horses of this country and it is an honor to be called a donkey here...means you are a very hard worker. Think of calling your boss a "donkey."
Men buying and selling Qat and there are apparently areas on this street in the market where one knows one can buy lesser or better grades of product to chew. Many have told me this is not a drug...however, it clearly has an addictive quality and one feels withdrawal because these guys get antsy if we move past Qat time. Kinda like Miller time?

These next two photos should have been done in reverse. The story is...yesterday, when the participants arrived, two of the women below had on purple scarves and my top had purple in it. We laughed and I told the other two women they must have missed the memo saying it was "purple day." So, we decided that today would be "brown day" and everyone wore brown. Now, my lady who is veiled and all in black, I knew would not participate. WRONG! She had on the usual solid black from head to toe but under her gown, she had worn a brown long sleeved sweater and had rolled up her black sleeves so she could be one with the sisterhood! We were giving each other high fives and thumbs up. Her photo isn't here because she prefers that only photos, if necessary, be from afar.
I was invited out on Friday by three of the women to eat at a Yemeni restaurant, go to a woman's club to try Qat, or see it, watch women dancing and attend a Yemeni wedding. I am going...there won't be many photos because it is just wrong to photograph women, in general. My ladies in this group have given me permission to photograph them and they know I am sharing their stories but without names often attached.
All five of these media professionals are not married and one said that she is what we would call an "old maid" because she is now 30 and should have had several children by now. But, in Yemen they all said, it is difficult to find a man with an open mind, who wants a woman who can think, and who will allow professional freedom. So, they have elected to not marry...for now. They are hopeful but honest.
One of the men from the Yemen Times sat with three of the women for lunch and I wondered how that was going to go because our veiled lady eats with the women and takes her veil down to eat and drink and eats with her back to the rest of the participants. As soon as she approached, he jumped up and said, "I am leaving you, NOW." They laughed and he made it comfortable for her. He is from another Arab country where the veiling is not an issue and which he dislikes intensely. I liked him very much for considering her first.

Monday, December 6, 2010


These are my sidekicks here in Sana'a. Hani is the man to the left and is conducting the news portion of our training for UNDP. Akram is my translator and also a well known TV personality here which is amazing because he has one program broadcast every Monday. Both men are quite enjoyable and have great senses of humor. Akram generously took Hani and me around the old city after today's training and this after his arriving in town in the wee hours of the morning.
Dinner tonight: seeds roasted by this young man in the market, followed by a granola bar, washed down by lots of water.

At lunch, I sat with a group of men, one of whom speaks English. Akram was talking with some other folks but after awhile, I decided to go talk with the ladies. They sit together and Akram, passing our table and noticing that I was there, said, "I cannot be with you and the ladies." One of the women indicated that it was because Safiya is veiled and she takes it off to eat so she cannot be near men. We talked about the veiling and she indicated she is very uncomfortable in situations like training where men can/may see her. Along the same topic, while out seeing the old city, I saw women with scarves over their head, not the mesh piece over the eyes like I saw in Iraq. This was like our old fashioned head scarves, patterned, ornate but not sheer. No clue how these women can see where they are going. And I fall on my face with nothing covering any part of my head.

We also discussed the life of the woman at home, which is much more free. There are also clubs here for women where they can sing, dance, chew Qat (which I thought sounded like "cat" but is more like a guttural "cut.") and wear make up. Women do wear make up...just not in the work world. At home, at parties and at close friends' homes, this is appropriate. It seems that one of the ladies may take me to see this... and Hani asked if we could try Qat. Not so sure I am that adventurous. Legal here and apparently it is graded...rather like coffee beans. Good, better and best!

Ah...a good story from training today. There is a magazine which sells very well to men throughout the country and which someone tried to suggest was poor journalism because the photos were not sourced. There is no balance and doesn't reflect the audience. This was in response to my "reading" their products and pointing out that though I cannot read Arabic, I can tell that x photo was stolen from the web and there were no bylines for many articles. Graphs clearly well done didn't come from these small papers but there was no mention of where they came from. Bylines were lacking and in one magazine supported by USAID funds, there were picture of blonde mothers and their children. The content may be relevant but the photos wouldn't speak to Yemeni mothers.

I suggested that this men's magazine, though popular and probably a great idea in terms of making money was not trying to pass as journalism and their products were. Many laughs. Akram is going to find me a copy of this...can't wait to see it.

I mentioned in the previous post that men clean the hotel rooms...forgot to mention that it felt a bit weird to c

Old Sana'a

Today was a super great day. Training went well. Akram, my permanent translator arrived and he took Hani and me for a tour of the old city. During our walk in old Sana'a, we encountered this camel. Yes, he is real but resting. He had been walking around that big press right behind his head and grinding palm seeds to make oil all day. He makes about 5 liters of oil per day and this guy was so tired and so skinny, I just wanted to hug him. Green stuff on the steps is Qat and the two young men who were running this store and minding the camel were chewing away.
Notice the bulge in the left cheek of the man with the white head dress on. He is chewing Qat and everyone does it here, men and women. We had been asked to finish our sessions early so people could pray and chew but I learned that it is "normal" to chew from around 7 years of age til death, and at least three times per day! Supposedly this is an upper but I am not seeing the resultant energy. What is amazing is not that they chew...this legally goes on in African countries also. What is unique for me is actually seeing it chewed and the size of the ball bulging out their cheeks is incredible.
Because Hani and I have been sick the last couple of days, we have been hanging out in the hotel in close proximity to toilets. So, getting out, walking and seeing some of the city was a welcome gift from Akram, who lives in the old city. Hani and I could not have navigated the market and found our way out. Apparently, the old city was built so that families could move between the buildings without exiting and so it is a maze of alley like passages that are filled with walkers, motor bikes and cars. Traffic jams in a passage that barely accomodates one person and a small vehicle.
The market place was organized...kinda. There was a food area, spice area, metal and wood working areas, donkey purchasing area (not far from the food being sold), clothing, daggar row, shoes and jewelry. Today was not a shopping day but I saw a couple of items that are on next year's Christmas "gotta have" list.

We tried some Yemeni homemade sweets that were swarming with bees..very yummy. And we tried some seeds that we could not find a name for, but which reminded me of pumpkin seeds. Akram bought us a sesame seed treat of some sort, followed by a Yemeni bread. All good but one or two nibbles was enough for me.
We saw so many things today and with walking and gawking, I couldn't also write as I went along. Lots of little children tried their English out on me...couldn't go past hello and how are you but so charming.
I finished my training a bit early today, around 11:15 so that Hani could catch up from yesterday. I came up to the room and found two men cleaning my room. Women don't do that type of work here, and in general, don't work outside of the home. And while I understood this hotel is owned by Indians, that is inaccurate. It is owned by a Yemeni who has contracted with a bunch of Indians for four years. One of the guys who makes sure everything is going well, Rajeesh, told me that the Indians live in a colony somewhere here in the city and they all know each other. He said all a cab driver has to do is see him and he knows where to take him.
Some training humor...I saw street vendors on the sidewalks and saw that vendors were selling at stop lights but there aren't any anywhere else. So, I said, " a suggestion might be to put vendors in the highly populated areas to increase sales." Nabiya, one of the women indicated that isn't how they do it. "Ok, if it isn't illegal and if we could sell more and make more money, shouldn't we give it a try?" She said, "That's not easy." Mean Teresa suggested that I really wasn't here to tell them easy tricks, but how to grow their revenue. They laughed.
And then, Hani wanted to have some group work and he had them count off one, two, three, and repeat to make groups. The conversation that occured from that was amazing...we had a chat about how the groups were being formed, why they had to be done that way etc.
More later....this is getting way too long.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


This is Medina, Sada City and we just drove by. Am hoping in the next few days I can get out and see something. One of the women and another man have offered to show me some things after we are done with training in the late afternoon. And I will be going to see a newspaper here...should be fascinating.I visited with my teams at their papers in Rwanda and like there, these are 3 and 5 man/women groups. Small but passionate. We were discussing competitive thinking and she wanted to know if it is OK to compete and do unethical things? I suggested that might not be a good way to go.

Training appears to be going well. Although, I almost called Hani this morning to see if he could do the whole morning session himself. I was up all night with the pukes and the trots. As it turned out, Hani sent me a note around 9:30 a.m. and said he wouldn't be coming down...he is very ill. Hoping we are over this all by tomorrow.
Abdulkareem, also known as Flat Stanley was talking with my ladies today. Come to find out, they have a character like him but called Hamvala. Ham-va-la. Safiya, the lady with the blue scarf showed me her necklace with Hamvala on it. He has no face but he does good deeds.
Weather here is lovely...very cold in the night and early morning and warms up during mid-day. However, this is a very very dry cold and every time I blow my nose, I have nose bleeds. And I have developed a dry cough. Drinking a lot of water. NO liquor stores here but one may buy a glass of wine at some restaurants. I haven't even tried...just feeling punk.