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Women Make the World Go Round

Traveling the world, one gets the sense that the treatment of women may be the most dramatic cultural difference from country to country.  It would be easy for one to generalize that women are treated with more respect and dignity in more developed, economically advanced societies, but unfortunately, that is not always the case.  I have found that there is usually something positive to be learned from nearly every society’s approach to women, even if it is not so obvious, as was the case in the countries of the Persian Gulf where I lived and worked.  I have also found that nearly every society, no matter how developed, is lacking in some way or another in its appreciation of women, their place in society, the dignity they should be afforded, etc.  This may be partly due to my bias on the subject and partly due to the fact that there is no monolithic, “correct” approach to gender issues that spans the globe and humanity.  But I can certainly speak to the women of my family and the importance they hold in my life and the life of my other male relatives.

It’s easy in a family like mine to under-appreciate the value of the women in our lives.  It is not because of any shortage of women, they are the dominant sex by numbers in every living generation.  But possibly, for that very reason, it has become easier to cloister ourselves, as men, in our own little world of male ignorance and ineptitude.  I do not want to give the wrong impression of my family, because we are not a family that disrespects women and we certainly do not view their place in the family or society differently than the average American family, but that just might be the problem.  Where does the average American family place a woman’s value and importance in the family and society?  These thoughts are more acute now as I watch as my wife manages pregnancy with brilliance and poise.

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Rather than answer the fluid question above, I would rather focus for a moment on what I know.  I have been married for nearly two years now, and my wife has given my life the missing sauce.  Yes, that’s right, I am like tasteless pasta.  I have come to appreciate the women in my life in a different, more complex way now that I am married and expecting a child.  They challenge us to think differently, colorfully is probably the best way to describe it, and without the cold ordered insensitivity that rules our thoughts.  I guess I should not use the pronoun “us” too loosely, as my feelings and thoughts on this subject are likely not those of “us” men as a whole.  But what has brought me to this gender-based topic is the flurry of life events my family has experienced in recent years.  From pregnancies, as mentioned before, to surgeries, career changes to engagements, and unfortunately, even death, our family has had its share of, “Oh wow! Seriously?” moments.  Each of these moments has been punctuated by the magnificence of the women in my family.

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Español es Una Montaña Rusa Para Mi

The tools of the trade.

The tools of the trade.

As diplomats we are given the chance to learn languages as rare and unknown as Quechua and as common as French.  This opportunity is at once a rare luxury and a humbling mind warp.  More than two years ago, when I finished studying Arabic and headed off for the Persian Gulf to serve in Bahrain, I thought that most likely I would head to another Arabic or English-designated posting for my second tour, but I fortunate enough to receive Spanish training for my consular assignment to Honduras.

Unlike Arabic, I immediately found Spanish appealing.  Arabic was a struggle the whole way through, with deep periods of disappointment, as it seemed I would never be able to communicate with any degree of comfort.  It’s true that today, if someone asked me if I speak Arabic, I would be dishonest to reply with anything more than “A very little bit, nothing more.”  Spanish, on the other hand, I soon discovered, was all around me in Washington.  If I wanted to I could completely immerse myself in the language without feeling distant from where I live here and now.  I was very excited about all the Spanish I would be speaking and the people I would be speaking Spanish with in the District.  That feeling faded about a month in, when I realized it was not going to be all pupusas and cerveza on the way to learning the mother tongue of Miquel de Cervantes, nor was I going to be speed-reading Don Quixote anytime soon.

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There’s Something Different About This House

With a view like this how could anyone complain?

It has been quite a while since I last posted and intended on doing so the past two weekends, but time and energy have been in short supply as of late.  But another problem has plagued me as well: what should I write about that I (and others) might find interesting beyond 2012 (assuming we make it past the Mayan calendar end date).  This blog’s purpose is in part to entertain (when possible) and in part to inform and finally yesterday, I finally decided on something that might be interesting years from now: how my living quarters in Bahrain differs from what we have come appreciate (or take for granted) back home in the States.

On the surface my apartment is not dramatically different than an apartment one would find in any large city across the U.S.  It sits comfortably on the fourth floor of my seven story building and has a nice balcony.  There are doors with locks that make sense, a kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and a dining room.  The furniture provided by the embassy is all pretty standard, and despite being a bit outdated (design name = modern colonial), it is perfectly acceptable.  But, that is about where the similarities stop and the differences begin.

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