16 January 2017

Ushaiger Heritage Village

Old mud villages are everywhere in Saudi Arabia.  The first restored section of Diriyah should be opening in a few months and if you drive in pretty much any direction, you'll find a town with an old mud section in varying states of dilapidation.  They really weren't abandoned all that long ago but these buildings need constant maintenance so they fall apart quickly.  They're a bit like ghost towns.

It seems that you can go poke around these places whenever you want to and no one minds.  Historical preservation in general isn't a major priority here and no one owns the buildings.  I love going to these so I've been suggesting for a while that we go to Ushaiger because the people there have restored part of their old town and it sounded interesting.  And it was.

There are several museums and restored homes that open for tourists, especially tour groups.  We were there on a weekday morning so nothing was open except the main museum. If you go, try to budget some extra time for tea and chatting with the man running the place.  He loves it.  But other than that, you can wander wherever you like.  There are larger homes, several mosques, squares and courtyards and nicely paved streets, and farms and fields and wells around the edges.  We spent a couple of hours there without seeing everything, but I want to go back with some of the boys because I think they'll like it too.

It's just two hours from Riyadh.  You can go northwest out of the city or down the escarpment and north from the first exit toward Dhurma.  Go one way and return the other.  It's also a nice way to see the escarpment.

In some of the photos below, you can see a restored home with a spot where a fire could be lit inside, plus ruined versions of the same thing.

06 January 2017

Camel Trails and the Escarpment

The Tuwaiq Escarpment runs for about 500 miles down central Saudi Arabia from al-Qassim to the Rub al-Khali.  It's about 20 minutes west of the edge of Riyadh and is pretty sheer near the city.  The first time I saw it was when we were driving out to go four-wheeling and I had no idea it was there.  I love it.

But it's a pretty big impasse if you're trying to get from Riyadh (or Diriyah before Riyadh) to Mecca, and lots of people were trying to do that.  There's a road now, about thirty years old, that zips you up and down, but before that you had to go south toward al-Kharj and then head west to access (I believe) a wadi that cuts through the escarpment (around Dirab - I need to explore this one more). That's a much longer trip on a camel.

So some enterprising people built camel trails down the escarpment.  There are several of them although most have crumbled away.  But the one you can see best, that expats call Camel Trail #1, is actually climbable all the way down and that's what's in the photos below, if you see a trail.  We haven't done the hike yet but I plan to very soon.  It has a bit of a developed area on top with some stone picnic benches and more people go there. The road is also fairly good, except for the washed-out parts.  This one is south of the main road.

North of the main road, you can try to find at least three more.  We've been to the top and bottom of several of these and I don't think any are still climbable, but we'll keep exploring.  The photos below with the pinnacle are near camel trail 4.  The pinnacle is called Faisal's Pinnacle and you can climb it.  We hoped we could climb part of camel trail four if we got to the bottom, and we had the coordinates for the trail, but I don't think it's possible.   Also, there really aren't a lot of roads along the bottom of the escarpment but it's very interesting to drive down there.  No matter what, standing at the bottom of the escarpment or the view from the top is worth the trip.  If you go along the top, there are fenced-off quarries but camel trail 3 (or the spot marked that but there is not a trail left maybe but hiking down to the edge is very cool) is not fenced.

These are all very conveniently marked on google maps if you want to try finding them yourself. Also, there are geocaches.

05 January 2017

Wadi Mawan

I read about this place a few days ago while I was looking for interesting places to go outside Riyadh.  The photos looked cool and I conceived my husband to drive me out, but I had no idea it would be so wonderful.  The things I'd read talked about bouldering and rock climbing and didn't really focus on the fact that this is a little slot canyon.

It's a little more than an hour south of Riyadh from the edge of the city.  There are several different routes and my favorite is along 5399 rather than 509 or out toward Al Kharj.  After that, the new road toward Howtat Bani Hamim is quick and easy. The slot canyon part of the wadi is about half a kilometer long and maybe 30 feet deep at the most.

04 January 2017

Al Ha'ir

We came back through Al Ha'ir after one of our jaunts into the desert. People who aren't from deserts might say that oases are what they think make deserts livable, and there are some in Saudi Arabia (although many are disappearing because there's so much more demand for water now), but it's really the wadis that matter here.  It's an entirely different world in a wadi and Al Ha'ir is no different.  It was interesting to drive through a mud town that's still being maintained.  

Al Ha'ir also has the dubious honor of having the country's largest maximum security prison nearby.  We drove by on our way out and were trying to decide if it was a military installation designed to keep people out or a prison designed to keep people in.  Here's an interesting article about it.  

03 January 2017

Tuwaiq Escarpment

Saudi Arabia really does get so much better when it's not hot, and since we live on the edge of the city, we can get out of town quickly. Right now, our favorite place is the Tuwaiq Escarpment. We've found several places along the edge that only take 30 minutes to get to and they're perfect for dinner over the fire and some stargazing with the telescope.  

The escarpment is totally fascinating and I'll have more posts about it.

02 January 2017


I've been to Diriyah a couple of times now, near al-Bujairi Square.  It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and undergoing restoration (the first part should be open in April!), but for now, it's still a pleasant and interesting place to visit.  Depending on when you go, there will be lots of picnickers.  There's also a museum and other things I haven't seen yet.  I love poking around to see what we can find and one time I went with a friend and her preschoolers and they enjoyed it too.

31 December 2016

Goodbye 2016

So.  This wasn't the best year ever, mostly because of the five-letter word, but let's focus on the good parts, okay? At least mostly.

Last year's list:
  • Finish Washington DC.  I don't want to have a lot of things I wish I'd done. I'll be back, but it probably won't ever be both as easy as it is right now to see all the things.
  • Have school go well for everyone
  • Get to Saudi by train and ship and not so many planes (at least with a few trains?)
  • Figure out how to live in Riyadh reasonably well by the end of the year
  • Moderation in all things 
  • Write something?
This wasn't a long list and I was only moderately successful. DC was great and I feel like we did got as much out of our time there as possible.  I'm certainly not finished, but it was enough this time.  Also, I loved doing the field trips with my son.  

Some of us are getting the hang of Riyadh.  The weather makes a HUGE difference, and so does getting out of the city more often.  We've been having a lot of fun exploring (and I really need to get caught up on those posts). 

I could spend more time on Arabic, but I'm at least taking a class twice a week and I'm moving forward even if it's not very fast.  I have definitely remembered how much I like the language and that makes a difference.

We weren't able to be creative with getting to Saudi because of work schedules, but that turned out to be a wonderful thing because we stopped in Europe and met up with my sister for a day in Germany.  That was one of my favorite things ever and now I want to meet up with all of my sisters and their families in lots of interesting places.  Those almost-24 hours was the best day of the entire year.

So, 2017.  It will be an eventful year no matter what.  Some of these are inevitable, others are hopes.

Oldest child graduates from high school and second child ready to go in 2018
Line up an amazing place to move next
Student loans paid off
Do something good for our 20th anniversary 
No moves
Travel more 
Do a big refugee project
Figure out other good ways to oppose Trump
Lots of histories and history
Explore Saudi and try new food
Buy a condo?

20 December 2016


The top photo is normal sandiness in the air, the bottom is moderate sandstorm.

I have things to post about but we have to get organized with the photos.

There's Diriyah, Wadi Hanifa, the Tuwaiq Escarpment, Batha market, and some more things.  Hopefully all the photos can be gathered into one place and we can find the camera so they all get taken from one place again.

03 December 2016


Today I went an entire hour's drive outside the city.  That's the furthest I've been from my house since we arrived.

We had something else planned this afternoon so we couldn't do anything that took too long or that might have gotten us into a pickle so we decided to go to see the old mud brick ruins of Raghba. I wasn't able to find a lot of information about the place, but it's supposed to have been around since the mid-1600s.  There used to be watchtower on the west side of the ruins (as recently as a couple of years ago), but it was a heap today. 

You can still go inside the mosque and climb up the minaret to get a view over the ruins.  Don't miss that.  There are also some buildings with some interesting decoration inside.  You could poke around diligently for a couple of hours, but I'd suspect most people wouldn't stay more than an hour at most.

It's easy to get here from Riyadh. Go northwest out of the city on King Khaled Road (535) and just keep on going till you get to Raghba. There are plenty of signs along the way in Arabic and English.  It's about an hour from the time you leave the edge of the city. When you get to the circle at Raghba, the ruins will be to your left.  Turn left at the circle and drive down into them.

These were not the best ruins we have ever seen, but it was so nice to get out and they were interesting enough for an hour's drive.  I loved looking out the window and I learned lots of new Arabic words along the way.

23 November 2016

Old Riyadh

Riyadh has a small old city south of the current center.  Masmak Fort is there, along with some old mud brick homes, a few city gates (the walls no longer exist), and some reconstructed mosques.  There are lots of squares and souqs too, including one of the few souqs with souvenirs and handicrafts.  Not much demand for that here since there are so few tourists, but since it's one of the few places to go, there's not as much competition.   We went to one souq a couple of weeks ago to get some Christmas shopping done and it was fun to be there.

I think there's a lot more poking around to be done in old Riyadh.

22 November 2016

So.  There are some things to not like about Saudi Arabia, but there's a lot I do like.  I'm happy to be here even though the transition has been hard (and even that can largely be blamed on Trump).

I love being back in the Middle East. It's been such a long time since I've been here.  And part of that is speaking Arabic again.  It's so nice to go back to a language I can do something with.  I love my Arabic class.  I love having Arabic all around me.  I love being in a Muslim country again.

I really like our neighborhood.  Now, I'd rather live in a real neighborhood where I could walk to a couple of little grocery stores and stop at the bakery, but since that's not an option, I'm glad we live here in a diverse neighborhood where you don't have to wear an abaya but they're not banned either. The setting is lovely too and I count it as a real blessing that I can bike or walk for miles a day in an interesting place without an abaya or finding someone to give me a ride.

I love seeing and talking to people from all over Africa, Asia, and the Middle East every day.  I love eating food from all over those places too.  I love hearing so many languages when I walk down the street.  I've learned so much already from so many different people.

And finally, there are interesting things to do here.  I'm working on a list and I'm going to start posting about my plans and hopefully we'll be able to start chipping away at the list.

I decided to put my serious concerns about Trump in a different post below on around November 9th, depending on your time zone.  I'll keep adding to that post until he is no longer a risk to the US.

So.  Moving on up here.  Kabsa is everywhere in Saudi Arabia.  It's similar to many of the other rice dishes you can find all over the Middle East and Central and South Asia with meat and spices and maybe some vegetables.  Here, you can go to a kabsa place and get enough food for everyone in the family for less than $10.  There's also plenty of biryani too.  They give you a piece of plastic for you can dump the rice and meat on.  After everyone has eaten, you just gather up the plastic and toss it.  Easy.

We can zip over to one of the real neighborhoods near our house and it's an easy and yummy meal

13 November 2016

The Media Didn't Make Me Do It

There have been several times now in the last few days that people have told me that the media misrepresented Trump or told me to feel a certain way about him.  It's hard to separate Trump from the media because he's so intricately connected with it.  There was also almost no traditional information about Trump like a well-articulated and comprehensive campaign website.  In the end, my opinion was formed by what he told me about himself.

Before Birtherism, I didn't have much of an opinion about the man. He seemed like a rich guy from New York who spent too much time in the tabloids. Not a great recommendation, but hardly the worst things ever.

Then Birtherism happened. I know that didn't bother some people, but the media didn't have to tell me it was a problem. I know in my heart that it is not right that Trump demanded that Barack Obama had to prove his citizenship in a different way than any other past president. Maybe you think that Barack Obama's race was incidental to that, but either way, Trump demanded a different standard and I know that was wrong.

Then Trump announced his candidacy by saying awful things about Mexicans. Again, I know that a lot of people weren't bothered by that, but I was living in Mexico then and I know it was wrong. The media didn't have to tell me that. In fact, I wish they hadn't played it over and over because I hate watching that statement so much. It hurts every time.

Then Trump kept saying things about all sorts of people, mocking them, belittling them. The media made sure we all heard about them, over and over, but they didn't have to tell me it was wrong. I knew for myself.

Then Trump said he would ban Muslims from entering the US. This time, it wasn't just liberals and the media being appalled. The LDS Church, which almost never makes political statements, released a statement against Trump's proposal. Paul Ryan and so many other Republican leaders did too. But even then, I knew in my heart that he was wrong all by myself.

And after all that, he attacked the Khan family. He said a US judge could not do his job because of his Mexican background. And more. I knew he was wrong.

The media did not create a story about Trump as someone who espouses racist and bigoted things. He told me himself.

09 November 2016

You know, I have voted for the losing candidate before.  It's not pleasant but it also wasn't devastating.  Generally it was about policy differences and it's okay if people don't agree on policy.

This is completely different.  Trump wasn't appealing for our votes based on any altruistic or noble principles. If he were truly the voice of Americans who feel overlooked and ignored, he would have a diverse group of supporters because it isn't white men who have been oppressed and abused in the US.  Instead, he told white men to vote for him by blaming everyone who wasn't white for their problems.  Refugees, Mexicans, immigrants, civil rights activists, so many people. It is the blaming and demonizing that I despise.

I have never been so disappointed in the US. 

For now, I'm going to be fighting as hard as I can to make sure refugees are still welcome in the US.  What are you going to do?

ETA that I'm going to make this a spot to write down things that Trump or his cronies have said or done that I think are totally unacceptable. Today is 11.22.2016

Trump has tweeted several times complaining about constitutionally-protected expression and demanded apologies.  He has referred to this expression as "unfair" and "harassment."

He has appointed or is considering a number of highly concerning people as advisers.  The only decent person who has even been floated as SoS is Mitt Romney and he has zero foreign policy experience. The others are far worse.

His chief strategist is Steve Bannon.  He ran the self-proclaimed platform for white nationalism. The best spin you can put on that one is that he's using white nationalism for his political benefit, but he's not a white nationalist himself.  Even that is appalling.  If Obama had tried to appoint as his chief strategist the producer of black nationalist media (even if they were just in it for the money), it would be like this.  How would that have gone over?

I am very worried about the anti-Muslim sentiments of many of his appointees.  I do not have much hope at all that Syrian refugees will be allowed into the US after January 20th.  I don't know about Muslim refugees from other countries. I think visas for people from most of the Middle East are in serious jeopardy.  These people have said that Islam demands them to commit terrorist acts.  They call Islam our enemy.  If Obama had appointed several women who called Christianity our enemy and said that it drives people to kill, how would that have gone over?

Also, the immigration policies several of his people support are far too harsh.  They have defended cities who try to implement statues banning landlords from renting to undocumented people.  There are so many problems with laws like that that I don't even know where to start, but I'm sure it appeals to some people.

Several of these people have either stated that they are okay with waterboarding and worse or that they wouldn't rule it out.  How can they even think that is okay?

The prospective Attorney General does not seem to know the definition of sexual assault and he was not approved to be a judge 30 years ago because of self-admitted blatantly racist statements.  One of the most important responsibilities of the AG is to protect voting rights.  How can anyone not be concerned about that?

Trump has, one time, said "Stop it" to people who are doing mean things in his name.  He hasn't ever bothered trying to separate himself from being connected to white nationalism.

31 October 2016

We went out for a quick evening adventure in the car again.  This time we drove around Wadi Hanifa a bit and decided that there's a lot more exploring to do there. Here's an article about it. http://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/201201/a.wadi.runs.through.it.htm

On the way home we stopped at a couple of bakeries I'd been curious about near Takhassousi Street.  One turned out to be a tandoor bakery! They said it was Pakistani, but it's probably really Afghani tamis.  Anyway, it was so nice to eat hot tandoor bread again.  You cannot recreate the smell and flavor of tandoor bread any other way.  I need to do more research to find out about the word origin.  The baker had a rolling bread stamp that he zipped over the dough really quickly and the bread baked quickly too.

Also, I'm getting a lot quicker at the grocery store and sometimes I have time to wander around a bit while I'm waiting for the other people in the car.  Today I found the bakery cookies.  There were lots of tasty-looking ones that we'll have to try.  I got some cashew cookies and some Indian salted cumin cookies.  They were amazing.  http://www.cookwithmanali.com/cumin-cookies-jeera-biscuits/

Refugee Blog and Facebook Page

I've created a blog and Facebook page to help get information out about specific things people can do to help refugees.



If you are interested, I'd appreciate it if you could like the page on Facebook and share it with people who also might benefit from it.  The focus will be on how to help.

30 October 2016

Why I Could Never Vote for Trump

First, a bit more about the emails since they're back in the news after I wrote my last post.  This does not change my vote for Hillary.  We apparently won't even know what is in them before the election and I think it's mostly likely that Hillary will still win. I certainly very much hope so. Even if the worst hopes of House Republicans come true after she wins and these emails describe all the bribes and murders Hillary is supposed to have done, I could live quite happily with the consequence of a Tim Kaine presidency, thank you very much.

Anyway, I've already voted and it was and still is the very easiest election decision I've ever made.  Not because Hillary Clinton is my favorite nominee ever (although I love some of the things she advocates for), but because Trump is the worst major-party nominee I have ever had a choice of voting for. In my mind, Hillary Clinton is so much better than Trump that I cannot not vote for him.  I would vote for almost anyone else over him (and if the other nominee were as bad? I.would.not.vote.) Here's why I think that. 

Announcement.  Hillary Clinton's first campaign speech in June of 2015 talked about her life-long advocacy for children and the many different people she wants to help in the US. Trump announced in June and called Mexicans horrible things (except for some that he "assume[s] are good people.") I was in Mexico when he said those things.  I knew I'd never vote for him, but I also though he'd never get through the primaries because of all of the junk he kept saying.  

Primary debates. Trump has never, in any debate, shown any sort of grasp on policy or an understanding of how the presidency works.  He'd run out the clock without saying anything.  He didn't seem to listen if the topic didn't interest him or specifically involve him.  He'd say he'd do things that the president can't do.  He'd make personal attacks that had nothing to do with anything. He didn't seem to understand terms that presidents should understand.

Interviews. As in the debates, Trump has also shown very little interest in or knowledge about a great many topics that presidents need to know about during interviews.  He says even less than your typical politicians when he's trying to avoid a question.  He managed to completely bungle a question about punishing a woman for getting an abortion and spout a view that no one, not even the most ardent pro-life groups, agree with.  Had he never thought about the topic?   When he was asked about Ukraine, it appeared that he either didn't realize that Crimea is part of Ukraine or that he didn't think Russia was involved there.  Either one is highly concerning in a presidential candidate.  His comments about nuclear proliferation, if they can be taken literally, are terrifying. And if he didn't really mean them, why in the world did he say that he thinks more countries should have nuclear weapons?

That takes me on to two related points - the idea that presidential candidates don't need to know everything and that Trump doesn't seem to be trying to educate himself.  Trump supporters often say that Trump will surround himself with smart people who fill in his gaps in knowledge.  That's great- even Hillary Clinton who is one of the most experienced presidential nominees ever can't know everything and needs good advisers.  But throughout the campaign, Trump has shown very little inclination both hire capable people and take their advice.  His first two campaign managers were not great choices and ended up leaving.  Kellyanne Conway, his current campaign manager is brilliant but she has made it clear that he hasn't taken her advice.  I think Trump could have won this thing if he had listened to her for the last two months of campaigning, but he has proven that he is unwilling to consistently listen when there is a smart person advising him.

When The Atlantic endorsed Clinton a few weeks ago, one of the most damning statements against Trump was "he appears not to read."  Now, reading is not the only way to educate oneself, but Trump has shown no evidence that he is any better versed now on important topics than he was a year ago.  If you don't know what the nuclear triad is in a debate, you find out and make sure you can talk about it competently later.  You learn about the conflict in Ukraine.  You figure out what the limits on the president are. And so many other things.

He does seem to have learned to not talk about things he doesn't know about, which made the real debates a little tricky for him, but earlier he spouted a lot of ideas that simply aren't acceptable.

I'm still horrified that he proposed banning Muslims from entering the US.  Yes, he has apparently softened his position, but the statement is still on his website and he refuses to give details about which countries would be affected by his proposed ban and whether everyone from that country would be banned or just Muslims (which would still make it a religious test).

I'm still horrified that he proposed killing the families of terrorists.

I'm still horrified that he would even consider bringing back waterboarding, much less anything else.

And even when he does seem to have a position that appears to have been thought through, he's still really short on detail or understanding how the details would work in the real world.  His plan to get Mexico to pay for the wall would have a seriously negative impact on Mexico-US relations.  We know he's supposed to be pro-life, but his only suggestion is stacking the Supreme Court and that hasn't worked for 40 years.  I have no idea how he's going to make things better for veterans.  And he'll renegotiate trade deals, but what does that mean?  All of them?  Will he  be personally involved in the negotiations?  And what about tariffs?  Does he fully recognize the negative impacts those can have? I'm not at all convinced that he does.  And how in the world can you propose spending increases based on your projections that the economy will have "tremendous growth"?

He tells us we must vote for him because only he can fix the problems he sees in the US even though he cannot tell us how he would fix those problems.  It's the typical strongman appeal.  He also almost never appeals to our better selves, but demonizes people who aren't like him to stoke fears in his supporters.  Immigrants, especially Mexicans and refugees, are the problem.  Muslims are making us less safe.  America used to be great, apparently when it was whiter.  The media is corrupt and out to get him and his supporters.  China is the enemy because it's all about money.  There is almost no altruistic reason to vote for him.

And then I just plain old don't like a lot of the things he says.  Black lives do matter.  Guns are not my thing and I want schools to remain gun-free zones.  Immigration is what has made this country great and I am very opposed to deportation.  I am not a populist or anything like unto it. Cutting taxes for the wealthy is not my thing either.  Climate change is real and it will have serious impacts on all of our lives, but especially people in other countries with few resources to mitigate those consequences and we need to prepare for that. I think the EPA should stay. Stop-and-frisk is wrong, wrong, wrong. What would Putin do is not a wise guiding principle.  A free press is vital in our country.  Eminent domain should be used carefully.

How about temperament?  Yeah, right.

The very few times we've seen him try to do something presidential or altruistic haven't been very encouraging either.  When he raised money for veterans, he illegally used his own foundation to accept the donations and didn't donate his promised million until he was hounded by the press.  Then when he finally made the donation, he admonished the press for hounding him rather than praising him.  His trip to Mexico was not handled well, but he said it was successful because someone in Mexico was kicked out of the government afterward.  Trump, that is not a sign of a stellar diplomatic mission.

And he's continued to attack people in rather awful ways and say things I think are appalling.

I'm still horrified that he even talked about the Khan family after the convention, much less attacked them in any way.  There was absolutely no point in doing so and it was just plain mean.

I'm still horrified that he said a judge who ruled against him didn't like him because the judge was Mexican-American.  Like Paul Ryan said, that's the textbook definition of racism.

I'm still horrified that he threatened to sue all of the women who had accused him of sexual assault after he bragged about sexually assaulting people.

I'm still horrified that he would dismiss bragging about sexual assault as "locker room talk."

And my final reason?  He has lied about the refugee vetting process throughout the campaign.  Straight out lied.  And he is using those lies to make people in the US scared of refugees.  The president does have the power to set the number of refugees entering the country.  Last month he even threatened to deport Syrian refugees. 

I can *only* vote for the person who will keep him from being the President of the United States.  For me, anything else would be immoral.

28 October 2016

Hillary's Negatives

I wrote a bit ago about why I'm supporting Hillary Clinton instead of just voting against Donald Trump.  I mentioned at the end that you have to be able to live with the negatives of whatever candidate you choose and that includes my vote for Hillary Clinton.  This is going to be about why I can live with her negatives, especially when so many people see her has being even worse that Trump.  This will be a very long post because people dislike so many things about her.

I changed my mind about Hillary in 2007 and 2008.  I grew up in a very conservative area where the Clintons were hated in the 90s.  I certainly did not vote for Bill Clinton in 1996 - that would have been unthinkable.  But in 2007 I knew I was beyond finished with the Republican Party so I needed to look at Hillary and Obama and I was surprised to discover that I actually liked a lot of things about Hillary Clinton and that many of my previous assumptions about her were wrong.

She was pilloried early on in Utah in 1992 when she said that she didn't want to stay home to bake cookies and have teas.  Everyone reported this as an anti-SAHM thing, but she wasn't asked about being a mother, she was asked about being a political wife.  Wives of male politicians and other government officials have very often been expected to fulfill certain unpaid traditionally female roles like baking cookies and having teas.  Why should a wife host teas because her husband is a governor?  Why is it okay to require a SAHM political wife to take time from her children to do these things?Why should she quit her job because her husband is a governor (especially since being a governor isn't necessarily stable or lucrative employment?)? We need wives in these positions to challenge these assumptions instead of everyone hating wives who do that.

And then the investigations began.  So many investigations.  Millions of dollars in investigations.  Either Hillary Clinton is the most brilliant criminal ever who has been able to cover her tracks for a long list of crimes, including bribing and murdering people who get too close to the truth, or she's really hasn't done all of the things she's been accused of.  I think she's smart, but I don't think anyone is that smart.  I'll go with the exonerations for all the different investigations.

Then there are the more recent anti-woman accusations, including her defense of a child rapist and allegations that she threatened women accusing her husband of assault.  First, it is a good thing that even people accused of the most horrible crimes get decent legal representation.  That isn't a job attorneys enjoy, but it must be done and it's part of being an attorney.  I think it's undemocratic to criticize her for doing that.  For the second, I looked up how she threatened these women.  While I believe that the women accusing Bill are likely not making up their stories and that they did feel threatened, I haven't been able to find any credible evidence that Hillary Clinton threatened them in any way.  Did she enable Bill Clinton?  Maybe, as much as any other woman victimized by her cheating husband.  (For this one, you also have to compare her to Trump.  His threatening to sue all the women who've accused him of assault makes his attacks on Hillary quite inappropriate.)

Next, Benghazi.  This one happened after 2008, obviously, but it's another example of how an intense investigation didn't turn up anything.  I am especially bothered by this one because the State Department often does not have the budget it needs to carry out its mission and blaming that on the Secretary of State is ludicrous when Congress appropriates funds.  Also, I know a woman whose husband is a Benghazi survivor.  It was a horrible event and many things were mishandled up and down the line, but she in no way feels that the blame can or should be placed on Hillary as squarely as Congressional Republicans seem to want to.  She is a Hillary supporter and that says something to me. I am not willing to blame Hillary for Benghazi any more than I am willing to blame Powell or Rice or Albright for deaths of diplomats and US government employees under their watch.

The Clinton Foundation.  If anyone can show me actual evidence that she did something wrong here instead of insinuations, I would be happy to listen.  

And then the emails.  I think she made a serious mistake using one email address through a private server.  But I also believe the FBI is a credible organization that investigated her properly and concluded that even though she was incredibly stupid, and she was, that she certainly was not doing anything criminal.  I also appreciate that she has apologized.  This is her biggest negative in my mind and it might have been enough for me to not vote for her if she had been running against a competent opponent. But she's not, and I cannot figure out why Republicans nominated Trump when they hate Hillary so much.

Anyway, those are a lot of the biggest negatives people see in Hillary Clinton.  There's also the fact that she's been around forever and that she's old and that she's part of the political elite.  She is unwilling to explain a lot of her sketchy-looking actions in a clear and reasonable way to the media which would help resolve issues more quickly.  And she's a politician through and through.  I'm not sure we could have had the first woman major-party nominee not be a lifelong politician with all the baggage that entails.  No woman could be taken seriously as a candidate with Trump's credentials, for example.  Hillary has to be eminently qualified and completely politified (new word) to get where she is.

Another set of negatives for some people are her policies.  Obviously, if you've always voted Republican, you're not going to like a lot of her policies.  That's why we have parties.  But let me talk about the main issue that people use to try to make it sound like Trump is the only option for conservatives: Abortion.

I, like pretty much all Americans, do not like abortion. I think it's immoral. There's really not a pro-abortion lobby and Hillary Clinton isn't pro abortion.  She doesn't say it now, but the best statement I've ever heard about abortion is to make it legal, safe, and rare and that's what I look for when I'm deciding what candidate to support.

First, the legal and safe part. We can't ban abortion outright.  It is a necessary procedure in some cases.  I personally know a woman who had to terminate a pregnancy just a week before her baby was viable because neither she nor her baby would have survived until then.  It was the most terrible decision of her life, but I am so grateful she had the choice.  Even though it wasn't a moral decision because her baby died, I think it was the right decision and that it would have been immoral to have her die too.

As much as I dislike abortion, I do not think it is moral to force a woman to create life.  It is a process that has an major impact on her for the rest of her life and is not something any woman should be forced to do without her consent.  While I cannot envision any situation where I would ever terminate a pregnancy, I would be furious to not be able to make my own choice to continue the pregnancy if I had been raped.  I think it is immoral to not allow abortion in the case of rape or non-consent to sex. One of the main argument that the pro-life movement makes is that the women did have a choice about whether she got pregnant, but in too many cases for a lot more reasons than the way most people think of rape, women are not truly consenting to sex and all its consequences.

And no matter whether I agree with the reason a woman gets an abortion or not, I never want her to undergo an unsafe procedure.  Never.

Now for the rare part.  This is what really matters. I want to vote for a candidate who proposes concrete ideas unrelated to overturning Roe v Wade (which is the *only* thing Trump has proposed) to reduce the number of abortions.

I think the two most important questions here are why abortion rates have been dropping steadily for 25 years and why women choose to have an abortion.

There is a lot of good evidence that the main reason abortion rates have dropped is because access to affordable birth control has been constantly improving over the last 25 years.  There is no doubt that contraception is the best way to avoid abortion.  If you believe that birth control isn't moral then that doesn't help you, but in my mind there is no doubt that birth control is muchly much much better than abortion. I want to vote for a candidate who wants to make it easier to access birth control.

Looking at the reasons why women do have abortions is also very important to reducing them.  We can't tackle the problem until we know why people are having abortions. The numbers I'm using here are taken from this study done between 2008 and 2010.  Most women listed more than one reason why she got an abortion, but these are the major influences.

40% cited finances
36% cited timing (usually that she didn't feel ready or the pregnancy wasn't planned)
31% cited concerns related to her partner
29% cited a need to focus on her other children
20% cited future plans
19% said they weren't emotionally prepared to have a baby (which is obviously tied in with timing above)
12% cited health reasons, either for the mother or baby
12% didn't think they could provide a good life for their baby

First off, it's easy to see how birth control could continue to lower abortion rates because so many women said the timing was bad or something related to that.  Next, I will vote for people who want better financial support for mothers so they feel they can afford to have a baby.  I think it is appalling that the pro-life movement has spent so much money and energy on legal solutions rather than legislation that helps women become more financially stable.  There are so many benefits to that, not just reducing abortions.  I believe it is immoral that there is so much income inequality in the US that any woman feels she cannot afford to continue a pregnancy.  Women need to feel they have access to decent and affordable health care, to affordable child care, and to education so they can get a job that will support her family.

The majority of abortions would never happen if women felt financially secure and had better access to birth control.  These are two real things we can fix.  Republicans have been promising for decades that they'll overturn Roe and it has not happened.  I don't think it's likely to happen anytime soon even if Trump were elected, and like I said above, that's his only idea for reducing abortion.

Reducing abortion is an issue I think about when deciding who to vote for and I believe a Hillary Clinton presidency would reduce abortions more than a Trump presidency.

24 October 2016

After three months, including six weeks with the car sitting in the garage, we finally have our Saudi license plates so we can drive. Well, so my husband can drive me around.  Last night we went out after dinner to poke around a bit.

My number one reason for loving to live outside the US is exploring a new place, but that is so hard to do here.  Transportation obviously makes things dicey, but I also stick out and there is nothing I can do about it.  Even if I wore a niqab, it would look very strange for me to be with an American man.  Any other headcovering, or not using one at all, is also very noticeable but at least I can walk with my husband that way. However, sticking out here just means you're stared at which is saying a lot.

The biggest problem is that there are so few acceptable things for women to do here. Malls and shopping are always an option, but neither of us much like malls or shopping.  You can go to a restaurant, but we're street food people, not restaurant people.  The street food/fast Arabic food places here don't usually allow women in them (although they often have a window in the glass front of the building where women can order without going inside but then you need to find a place to eat).  Or you can go to private events.

So last night we drove around a bit in Yemeni neighborhood and then parked and walked down the street for a while.  There were carpentry places and upholstery shops and little grocery stores and places with couches inside whose purpose I know not and lots of places to eat.  My husband went in one to get a grilled meat kebab and we found a couple of places where we want to try getting kabsa to bring home for lunch or dinner.  There were falafel and ful places but I didn't see any shawarma last night.  And there was a mutabbaq place too.  I'd had plenty for dinner since it was pancit canton so I didn't want to eat anything, but at the very least I think we can try eating different things around the city even if we have to sit in the car to eat.  Maybe I'll try to rope my husband into a street food of Riyadh project.  I'd have to have his complete cooperation to do that since he'd have to drive the car and deal with the food in most places but it literally is all I can think of to do in the evenings that doesn't involving shopping or socializing with other people.

It was really nice to get out.