Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela


The Man, the Legend….an Inspiration
1918 - 2013

          Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest human beings whom have ever walked the earth! No words can completely express the contributions this inspirational being has made for all walks of life. This much deserved Nobel Peace prize recipient devoted his life to squashing apartheid, racial segregation and improving the lives of others through peaceful transition.  
          His vision, wisdom and unselfishness are an inspiration to me. This Man and His greatness will be always be remembered!


GMarie

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!

            To some, this may be a late post but my thoughts are that Thanksgiving is NOT just about families getting together to "break bread" and bless the table proclaiming they are thankful for what they have and blessing to all of the less fortunate, once a year. We really take a lot for granted.

            Though I am away from my family since I work in Saudi Arabia, I am thankful ALL YEAR LONG for the extended family that show me more than they tell me how much they care about me. I am thankful that I have good health to continue to be gainfully employed and enjoy the liberties of working abroad.

          I am thankful for the disappointments; otherwise I would not be able to distinguish what really matters. I am thankful for those down days which make me appreciate those happy times even more. I am thankful to my naysayers and life challenges that make me stronger and a better person than I was yesterday. I give thanks to something we think is simple such as waking up in the morning. It gives me another chance to "do over". I am thankful for all the love, laughter and life.

            I end this post with an email I received from a friend (thanks Agnes!) about gratitude. I don't know the origin of these profound words but the affect they had on me are beyond words.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, bring peace for today and creates vision for tomorrow".                 

Thanks for your readership.


All the best,

GMarie

Saturday, October 26, 2013

GMarie’s Page: Ends Second Year in the Kingdom

Marhabbah (Hello),                       

            September 25th, wraps up two years living and working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Last year has really flown by.  I was supposed to be heading back to the States but my employer has not been successful in securing employment for me as yet probably due to economic situations going on there.  So while the efforts and resolutions continue there, I will continue to play in the sand here, until such time, I return home.

          Meanwhile, over 18,000 "hits" on GMarie's page and 84 posts later, my adventures in Saudi Arabia, where I actually slip sometimes and call “Home”, continues.  After recovering from a bad case of the flu, I started off 2013 with a trip to the spa and a visit to one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the area;
Olivio’s Italian Ristorante located on the fourth floor in the Radisson Blu Hotel.

               I also discovered another great place to eat called the Noodle House, located in the Centurian Mall. The restaurant serves Asian fare. The wasabi prawns and the spring rolls, that are very crisp, light and never greasy, are the best!

            I adopted two female Saudi desert puppies that I named Talia and Dalia; Tally and Dally for short.  Turns out, Dalia did not adjust very well to being socialized or domesticated. So she now lives at Dirab Golf Course. Talia, on the other hand, has adjusted fine. She’s sociable,very obedient, have a  nice demeanor and is very attached to me.         


          




            Some of us from work attended the Janadriya Festival which took place in April. The festival draws attention to the Saudi culture through art (potters, wood workers and carvers), Nabatean (ancient Arabs) poetry, men sword dances and music.


                          
            
               A few of my close friends passed away this year; Dinah White aka “Nana”, my dear friend, Margaret “Tookie” Borel and fellow blogger, Carol Fleming-Al Alroush. All great women who lived extremely full lives and were fearless trend-setters. 
 
            Some excerpts of Nana’s story can be found in a book called, Praying in the Moment: Reflections on the Election of President Barack Obama by Shauna Jamieson Carty. The New York Times also did a story about Nana. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/18/nyregion/new-jersey/18colnj.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&










            Tookie was a phone operator. In this advanced computer age many of you may not remember, that as a career field. Years ago when you dialed “0” you got someone on the line who responded,”Operator, may I help you?!” or “Operator, how can I place this call?"

           
            Then there is renowned blogger, Carol Fleming aka American Bedu (http://americanbedu.com). It was an honor and pleasure to be recognized and interviewed by such a well-known icon.  What a special woman who achieved and did so much for others.


            All were truly an inspiration to me and so many others and will surely be missed!
          
            Memorial Day weekend, I visited and spent four days in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The UAE is more conservative than Western countries but far more progressive than Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Wearing an abaya is not enforced, women can drive and there are movie theaters, night clubs and one can partake in a little libation! Each day, I was there, the weather was sunny and humid. It reminded me of South Pasadena Florida, which is where I live back in the States. 



            I also made a trip to Manama, Bahrain with some my colleagues. The drive from Riyadh to Bahrain is approximately four hours.


Manama is known for its nightlife, but we were there during the beginning of Ramadan, so music and drinking was suspended until after Eid Holiday. We went to other venues such as one of the largest malls in the area; Bahrain City Centre which had a movie theatre and to my surprise a water park!  And for those enthusiasts who love to get the adrenaline rushing through the thrill of racing, VIVA Karting Track is the place to go!

            I knew I would be faced with several challenges (i.e. culture, language barriers) but I never thought my hair would be one of them!  I have been wearing Sisterlocks (length; 20 inches) for 14 years. So after a few months in this dry desert climate, my locks went from shiny and healthy to dry and brittle. Besides the sun, heat and dust that was causing the lack of lustre and breakage it was also the desalinated water which was a contributing factor as well.

            




            So to be proactive to defeat the damages to by hair caused by this dry climate, I had to change my hair care regiment. I began to let my hair dry naturally and shampooed less often. I also use hot oil or moisturizing treatments with a plastic cap while drinking plenty of water supplemented by a good multivitamin (i.e. Vitamin A, B-Complex, Biotin, C,D and E).




            My cohort Cherryl, from Guyana, decided to let me in on some of her tasty recipes from the Caribbean. She taught me how to prepare peas and rice, curry chicken, jerk chicken and roti. Scrumptious!
        


             




            In the later part of the year, on September 11, the base memorialized the lives lost with a brief ceremony, a moment of silence for those that lost their lives on that devastating day.


           
            To wrap up the year, I played in my first golf tournament at Dirab Golf Course. I believe I played alright for my first time. I had a few balls I lost and some that I hit off into the tree lines, but the highlight of playing was where I scored a birdie on a par three on hole 16!  Also, I made second runner up (my teammate was first) on the scorecard for longest ball on hole 18!




            It was a frustrating but nonetheless a very good learning experience for me. No LPGA career in the future, but playing for fun is alright too! 

            As I continue to enjoy the culture and all that it has to offer, I will continue to share my experiences living and working in Saudi Arabia through GMarie’s Page (http://gmarieflsblog.blogspot.com). Thanks for reading!
All the best,
GMarie


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My First Golf Tournament

              This past Labor Day weekend I played in my first golf tournament. The tournament was open to those from the base, the U.S. Embassy personnel and contractors. The team was to consist of four players, so I immediately began soliciting three golfers from my office. I had four co-workers up until the final hour then one had to drop out. So our team of three would have to do.





          The night before the tournament, I made sure I had my clothes laid out and everything I needed in my golf and snack bag. I reviewed the rules for we would be playing the Florida Scramble format. This is where each player would tee off and the team would use the best tee shot. The better of the second shot is selected and all the players move their balls to that spot and play the third shot and so on until the ball is holed. So no golfer sits out from playing. We were allowed three mulligans (do-overs) per player which, we were sure, would come in handy.


            Tee time was 0700. With impatient sleep, I darted out of bed at the sound of the alarm which went off at 4:45. I got myself together and joined my colleagues for the ride to Dirab Golf Course. Once we arrived, the facilitator went over the rules then we were off to begin competing.






            I believe I played alright for my first time. I had a few balls I lost and some that I hit mostly off to the right. But the highlight of playing in the tournament was when I scored a birdie on a par three on hole 16! Also, I made second runner up (my teammate was first) on the scorecard for longest ball on hole 18!

 


         
           It was a frustrating but nonetheless a very good learning experience for me. My team scored a 71. We tied for 6th place with 2 other teams. There were ten teams in all and I was the only female golfer.  Columbus Day is the next tournament.  I plan to play. The more play, the better I can become. No LPGA career in the future, but I can dream!
All the best,
 

GMarie

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11th Memorial Ceremony

          Twelve years ago today tragedy hit where I call home, the United States. Almost 3,000 people from all “walks of life” lost their lives. The World Trade Center was struck by two hijacked planes. Another virtually demolished the Pentagon and one plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. I believe absolutely everyone can recall where they were, what they were doing and may have known someone who perished on that devastating day on September 11, 2001.



            Today in Riyadh Saudi Arabia we memorialized the lives lost with a brief ceremony, a moment of silence and lowering of the U.S. flag.


                            Gone ...always in our hearts, but certainly.....NEVER forgotten!

 GMarie

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Caribbean Cuisine in the Kingdom

          One day, I asked my co-worker Cherryl, who is from Guyana, to teach me how to prepare some of the Caribbean dishes that she bring for my lunch sometimes. She said okay and collected the ingredients that we would need. I am from the northeast and grew up amongst a plethora of ethnic groups (i.e. Italians, Puerto Ricans and Germans) but mainly Afro-Caribbean (Haitians, Jamaicans and Trinidadians) folks. So during the dinner hour, my neighborhood would be overflowing with an assortment of aromas; spicy sauces for pasta, pastelons (sweet plantains with pork) or even, apple strudel. But my favorite was the Caribbean cuisine. Cherryl taught me to prepare these dishes and decided to share her recipes.

We started off with the peas and rice. Let me tell you, this is not your ordinary, white rice!

PEAS and RICE (called “cook up rice” in Guyana)
First, pressure cook ox tails and salt meat
Add kidney beans (you can use black –eye peas, split or pigeon pea), 2 cups
Add chopped onions, 1/2 cup
Add coconut milk, 4 1/2 cups
Let simmer 10 minutes
 Add 3 cups of rice (uncooked)
 Add 2 tbsp soy sauce
Add 2 tbsp Worcester sauce
Add quartered tomato
Add quartered green peppers
1 tbsp Basil
1 tbsp Thyme
1 pkg of chicken bullion
Add salt to taste
Stir, cover the pot and allow to simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Stir to prevent burning.



Next is one of my favorites…..Curry chicken. I just love the taste of curry!

 CURRY CHICKEN

 Mix cumin, curry powder and water with:
1 onion, cut up
Garlic, minced
Ginger, minced
 Put in pot with hot oil
Add seasoned chicken (lemon pepper, chicken seasoning, soy sauce and Worcester sauce) 
Simmer for 10 minutes
Add coconut milk, 1 cup
Add 1 tomato, cut up
Add potatoes, 3 medium potatoes
Add chicken bullion
Simmer until the potatoes are tender.


If you haven’t had some Jerk Chicken, you are missing a treat. Spicy, but delicious!

JERK CHICKEN

Preheat oven to 350
Rub the Jerk Seasoning (hot spice mixture) into the chicken, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and allow marinating for one hour in the refrigerator
Place the marinated jerk chicken in baking dish
Cover with foil and put in the oven for 20 minutes
Roti is a must, to complement these three dishes!

ROTI

Baking powder, 2 tbsp
Flour, 3 cups
Water, 1 cup (add more as needed)
Mix flour and baking powder together
Slowly mix with water into soft dough.
Let stand for 10 minutes
Add small amounts of flour to firm up batter
Mix ghee (clarified butter) with cooking oil
Divide dough into equal portions
Roll each piece of the dough on a floured surface, brush with the ghee and oil mixture evenly over the surface, make a slit in the center and fold all corners. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Roll out each piece of the dough and place on hot grease roti pan or skillet
Turn the roti on both sides and brush with the ghee and oil mixture.
Remove the roti from the pan or skillet and “clap” immediately.

(“clapping” causes a ripped up, flaky appearance).
Fold and place in a bowl lined with wax paper

I am still trying to get the “clapping” part correct. That roti is hot!!

And there you have it! Loosen the belt on your pants and dig in!

“Big up and walk good”,

GMarie 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Manama, Bahrain

           A few of us from the base made a trip to Bahrain.  The drive from Riyadh to Bahrain is approximately four hours. Before crossing the King Fahd Causeway, which connects Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, we stopped in Al Khobar for a bathroom break then on to Manama which is the capital of Bahrain and also the smallest Arab nation in the Middle East. Upon entering the city, I immediately noticed the tall skyscrapers and exceptionally beautiful architecture.   

The living accommodation of choice was the Ritz Carlton. We all know that the Ritz Carlton is known for its uncompromising service and renowned lavish interiors, so we knew that we were not in for nothing ordinary at this Ritz and was not surprised by the picturesque view of the Gulf and the city of Manama. We immediately checked in so we could freshen up before having a bite to eat. As I was getting ready, I admired the night lit view of the manicured grounds from the 9th floor. I also wondered if my king sized bed covered with an antique white duvet comforter and bedding which is featured in many of the Ritz-Carlton’s, was as comfy as it looked. For now, hunger was setting in fast and I would entertain that thought later.
 


There were several restaurants located inside the Ritz. We were so famished that we just chose the first one we saw. It was called the Plums Restaurant. We were immediately seated. The restaurant was small but had a cozy atmosphere. The décor was modern, intimate and dimmed but the art deco brought the room to life with the interesting wall art of wine bottles and hats. For starters, we shared the calamari, which was very scrumptious. Since it was late, we decided to have a light fare, so I had the Caesar salad with shrimp with creamed spinach. My colleagues had the Seared Duck Foie Gras and grilled asparagus. We found out that if you ordered a steak, you actually get to select from an assortment of knives! The entrées were a bit pricey but the staff was accommodating and very attentive.

  
Manama is known for its nightlife and alcohol is legal but we were there during the beginning of Ramadan, so music and drinking was suspended until after Eid Holiday. After a great meal and shower, I had only one thing on my mind; try out the bed that looked like you are floating on a cloud. Well the looks were not deceiving because once I climbed into the bed all I remember was that the sheets were so big and soft….the rest of the evening was a wrap!


The next morning I got up early because I was well rested from my “Ritz Carlton sleep experience” and wanted to walk the grounds before it got too hot.  The view from the room did no justice as I roamed the manicure grounds. I walked along the path that ran adjacent to the hotel’s beachfront. What a welcomed sight to see green grass and blue water which is not the norm in Riyadh. So I strolled slowly and took pleasure in my surroundings as long as I could before the heat and humidity forced me to retreat indoors.





I decided to go to the Lobby Lounge located near the front desk of the hotel. The Lounge, while being very cozy with a view of the pool was a great place to sip on some tea (twenty different types) along with some scrumptious cookies, while I waited for some friends to pick me up for the day.


My friends and I decided to do some shopping and later grab some dinner.  We thought it would be too hot to shop at the Bab el-Bahrain Souk (means market in Arabic) district, which is a popular place in Bahrain. So we went to one of the largest malls in the area; Bahrain City Centre. Unlike Riyadh malls, there is a movie theatre and to my surprise a water park!  We had seen all of the movies that were playing so we decided to have an early dinner at P.F. Chang’s. Good Asian cuisine mixed with great company before meeting back up with the group I traveled with to go to VIVA Karting Track.
          
          For those enthusiasts who love to get the adrenaline rushing through the thrill of racing, VIVA Karting Track is the place to go!  The racetrack was about a 30 minute drive from the hotel. Once we arrived we went to the club house to register and pay for our racing sessions. I was a bit apprehensive to register being that I am in no way a thrill seeker of any sort. Speed and heights are just not my idea of excitement. But, I didn’t want to be the “baby” in the group, so I put on my big girl smile and slowly handed the attendant my fee.



          Next was for the ladies and gents to go to the changing rooms and “suit up”; overalls, gloves and helmets. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am so glad that we had a safety brief! This was my first time participating in this type of venue so I surely did not want to have to fake my way through this! Now it was time to get in our cars. Why did my car have to be the first car; leader of the pack!! The attendant yelled, “Take off!”  And take off, I did!! I pushed the accelerator so hard; I lost control of my car and ran virtually off the track! Once I regrouped and lined my car back forward, I decided to go a bit slower. After about 10 minutes and my group speeding past me twice, I decided to just call it quits, get unsuited and just watch everyone else race.  At the end of every race, the score is sent to your email. I came in tenth place.............I did say that speed wasn’t my thing!




I will have to go back to visit Bahrain when I have more time so I can visit some landmarks (i.e. museums, mosque and Tree of Life) and when it is not a Muslim holiday so I can check out the nightlife as well! 
All the best,
GMarie


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Margaret “Tookie” Borel

          In 2011, I wrote about my “Favorite” couple, Adrian and Tookie. They were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary!   Adrian called me last Friday and told me that his “first lady” had become ill about a year ago and never recovered. To make light of my sadness, Adrian told me that he began sorting through Tookie’s things. He said, “Tookie was always cutting out recipes. She acquired quite a collection. But you know she never cooked any of them!”

   
          Margaret “Tookie” Borel went peacefully home with the Lord on August 14, 2013 at the age of 78 having lived a full and wonderful life.

          In this advanced computer age many of you may not remember, but as a career, Tookie was a phone operator. Remember when you dialed “0” and got, ”Operator, may I help you?!” or “How can I place this call?”
With sadness, I would like to rerun their story.

“A couple days ago, I heard from my “Favorite” couple…….Adrian and Tookie! I may get the ages wrong, so let’s just say that Adrian is in his 80’s and Tookie is in her 70’s. The vitality of these two is amazing! I had the pleasure of meeting both of them at a place called Gators located at Treasure Island, Florida, not too far from Clearwater Beach. Well on Sundays, Gator’s venue is typically a Reggae band. While I was checking out the local musical talent, I spotted this mature couple on the dance floor, gyrating to the Soca and Reggae beats with rhythm and stylish swagger. They even had a couple of line dancing routines that immediately had folks learning the steps and joining in. I starting meeting up with Adrian and Tookie at Gators every Sunday and eventually attending other venues with them. It finally became official; they adopted me as their daughter!

I decided to add this spectacular couple to my blog today because in December they are celebrating their 50th (Semi centennial) wedding anniversary! Adrian wrote me and said, “On December 1st, I will be going to Las Vegas with my “first lady” to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary!” He further said (in reference to me), “40 is the old age of youth and the youth of old age”. He said I was at the prime of my life and to try everything. He concluded with, “Let me know when you can ride a camel. I hope you don’t get arrested for doing something illegal. It is illegal for a woman to drive a car in Saudi Arabia so don’t try to beat the law by riding a camel. I guess you will have to get a friend to give you camel driving lesson!”

Considered the “golden” anniversary, spending half a century in love with the special someone is a wonderful statement about the gift of married life. Having recited their marriage vows in 1961 (I wasn’t a thought yet!), Adrian and Tookie are role models for whomever believe in LOVE. I am emotional writing this piece, but I celebrate your bond and dedication to one another……”

I will miss you, Tookie,

Your adopted daughter,

GMarie