Tuesday, December 30, 2008

End of Year Ramblings

Usually at this time of the year, I take stock of my life and figure out what I want to change (lose weight, stop biting my fingernails, save money, listen more, talk less) and what I have accomplished during the year (moving to a foreign country, starting a new teaching job, disposing of many of my "things") and think about what the new year will bring.(still to be determined).

My resolutions for this year are more or less the same ones as I have always had, so that hasn't changed. What I wish for next year will be different due to our experiences during the past year. I know I have "Grown up" a little bit (!) as a result of all we went through to get here and what we have experienced since arriving in August.

Recently, I was encouraged to forget about what is happening back home and start
living my life here. I think I am doing that,as best I can. It's been hard to make new
friends, find a new life, learn a new job, etc. But most days I think I am handling it. Please don't feel sorry for me, I know we asked for it.

However, to keep my sanity and "reality base", I have decided that I have a need to still keep in touch with what is "Home" to me. Writing down my experiences and thoughts keeps me centered. It also is important, I think, to have a diary of what is going on so that one day I can reflect on this part of my life and say "Wow, what did I do?!" . And I guess it's not so bad to share my diary, as long as I don't put any nasty pictures or lurid details of my life (smile!)

Some days it's hard to me to make sense of what has happened to my life. Can you imagine if I sat down at the Round table and said(read with an arrogant accent for full effect)
"Yes we travelled to Venice and Florence and then to Paris and Germany. We went to Brussels for a day, then over to the Netherlands for lunch. We stopped in Rome, but were tired and stressed so we decided to go home". Yet it was my Christmas holiday.
*the Round Table in PR is the round table (duh) in a local cafe where all IMPORTANT life decisions and conversations are made. If you grew up in a small town, you understand how this works.*

Yes, living overseas gives tremendous benefits and opportunities.

But you have to remember that what I just described is sort of like saying , "we went to North and South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin". The countries are pretty close.And the train service in Europe is so wonderful that it's quite easy to just hop on and go somewhere.

However, living overseas also means that you give up a bit of stability. What may seem boring and humdrum to you in North America would sometimes seem really nice and normal to me. I'm compiling a list in my head that's vaguely titled "Things You Take for Granted Living in North America". I'll write about it one day.

What I'm trying (in my normal, winded fashion) to say are these two things:

1) While I am enjoying this new life and the opportunities we've been given, I also miss a little bit of stability and for sure, familiarity. I know one can't have it all (I keep looking for my cake to save and eat!). Through my ramblings, I'm just trying to make sense of what this whole experience is giving us.
2) I want to say THANK YOU for reading this blog, for making comments, for sending emails, for answering our skype calls, for your willingness to learn and share about our lives. It IS IMPORTANT to know there is someone on the other end reading it. My Dinah told me yesterday "We have coffee together every morning" (love ya sweetie!). That made my day. *I'll take mine with cream thank you

I'll keep writing, posting pictures and sharing my views of what living in the Middle East is like. And know that while your life may not seem exciting (or maybe it is?!) much of the world is not stable. Be thankful for where you are.

Happy End of 2008, and Joyous Wishes for 2009. Do your part for world peace, continue to love yourselves and each other and May all YOUR resolutions come true (or at least may you enjoy breaking the ones you made!)

Your Faithful Reporter in the Middle East

Sunday, December 28, 2008

(Ahem) Can someone please give me credit?

Okay it's time I said it...many of you told me when I leave North America that I should
"Do something about the price of gas!". If I remember clearly, when we left it was around $3.99 a gallon. I said I would try.

Now what is gas in PR? About $1.50 a gallon?!

SO??!! Where's my thanks? Did I not complete your wishes? Have I not worked hard to make life easier FOR YOU??!!

Now all I have to do is take care of the World Peace thing and the finding a rich dude to take care of the educational financial woes of MN and I've got this job all wrapped up!

I had nothing however, to do with this one (Except we do have the neices and nephews of Sheik Al Sabah in our classes). This one doesn't look good for the home team... (the Q8 one that is...)

Read on..

Kuwait scraps joint venture with Dow Chemical

By Associated Press Writer Diana Elias,

KUWAIT CITY – Kuwait's government on Sunday scrapped a $17.4 billion joint venture with U.S. petrochemical giant Dow Chemical after criticism from lawmakers that could have led to a political crisis in this small oil-rich state.

The Cabinet, in a statement carried by the state-owned Kuwait News Agency, said the venture, known as K-Dow Petrochemicals, was "very risky" in light of the global financial crisis and low oil prices. The move came just days before the Jan. 1 startup date for the joint venture.

In its statement, the Cabinet said the "limits of the effects" of the meltdown on international companies cannot be forecast. KUNA said the contract was canceled by the Supreme Petroleum Council, the country's highest oil authority.

Dow Chemical said it was "extremely disappointed" with the Kuwaiti government's decision and was evaluating its options under the joint-venture agreement.

The project, in which Kuwait was to hold a $7.5 billion stake, had been criticized in the country as a waste of public funds, and lawmakers threatened to question the prime minister in parliament if it was launched.

Such a move could have led to Sheik Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah's impeachment, sparking a new political row in the country just weeks after the Cabinet resigned in protest after an effort by a group of Islamist lawmakers to question the premier over corruption allegations within the government.

Sheik Nasser was reappointed to his post though he has yet to form a new Cabinet.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Home" is where my toothbrush is

We made back safely back to Kuwait. The Traveling Gods were with us and we were able to make it safely into Rome, spend the night, and leave from Rome back to Kuwait today. The plane wasn't very full so we had lots of space to lie down and rest. Hurray.

Being back where we are currently calling home brings peace and comfort to our weary traveling souls. David will decide when the best time to return to the US to be with his dad for a while. It will probably be at the end of January.

Seeing Ben again was a welcome balm to our souls also. He is growing up into a fine young man and although I am not "happy" with his decision to volunteer to go to Iraq, I have accepted it and will support him. Someone once told me that the real test of parenting begins after the children leave home. I think I understand now.

Anna was an incredible trooper through the whole experience. Being away from her main support system (her friends) was a challenge but she hung in there and managed more than a few smiles and genuine laughs. Quite a feat from a teenager!

We wouldn't be in such good shape if it weren't for the Love and Care of our Germans, Dennis and Marion and the Schiefer families. What a blessing that relationship continues to be for us. Who knew what hosting a foreign exchange student would bring to our lives. DANKE DANKE DANKE Momma Marion and Dennis.

So now we have a few days of rest before school starts again. I PROMISE I will hook up our camera and get some pictures of the trip... after all I only took 1248 of them so there should be one or two I can share.

Stay safe, stay warm and stay connected.

Shukran (thanks!) from kuwait

Friday, December 26, 2008

Please Hold...We are temporarily experiencing..


Traveling at the holiday time is wonderful..and complicated. Especially if one (as in me) is still thinking with my North American brain and used to having "things the way they are back home" (Insert laugh track here)

We are trying to change our travel plans to return to Kuwait tomorrow (Saturday) to give David a chance to rest, recooperate (his back has gone out more than he has!) and regroup before he decides what next step to take:return to the US to be with his dad or stay in Kuwait a couple weeks then go see Charlie.

This IS NOT EASY- during the holiday-on Kuwait Airlines-In Germany-connecting through Italy.

I won't vent all over you. Someday this will make a great beer story (not in Kuwait tho, back at the cabin this summer). We (okay more specifically ME) need to learn patience and I guess my "Higher Power" (thanks Doug) is giving me plenty of opportunities to learn it. (Pause for deep zen breath)

See me learning, see me learning (picture unavailable, you will have to put on your imagination hats to get the visual)Stay Tuned for Details...
(oh and Pray for us, we're taking all the "Help" we can right now!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidaze...

Just wanted you all to know--wheverever and whoever you are--that we are well and having a nice quiet Christmas in Germany. Thank you to those of you who expressed sympathy for David's mother's death.
It is never easy but we are feeling some peace in the fact that she is, finally, at peace herself.

We have decided, in light of the circumstances, to cut our European trip short and return to Kuwait on December 27, Inshallah, and Kuwait Airlines willingness to let us change our plans.
Rome will be for another time.

Yesterday we went to Belgium and enjoyed the day in Brussels with Dennis. We saw a lot and of course, sampled Belgium Waffles! I know that Maxine would have been proud of us for enjoying a new opportunity when we could.

Wishing you all a silent and holy night and joyous Christmas day.
Frouliche Weinachten (or something like that...apologies to JC, Amanda and Frau for my horrible spelling!)

Love you at Christmas--and always!
The Browns

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One hell of a lady

It is with great sadness that I tell you of the death of David's mother, Maxine. She died of heart failure while undergoing emergency surgery in Mexico.

She was a wonderful woman, a tough cookie, someone who I could always respect. We had our good days and bad ones but there was always love and, in the latter years, a growing understanding between us.

Her natural intelligence and wit were hindered lately because of her battle with Alzheimer's but there were still moments of great clarity. There are many things I have to be thankful for in knowing her, but mainly she always encouraged me to "go for it". Her- and Charlie's-support of our move to Kuwait were amazing.

My children have great memories of their grandmother, for which I am thankful. Tomorrow on Christmas Eve, we will continue with her tradition of hiding the Christmas gifts. She will be pleased with that.

Here's to you, Lady.God Bless you and your men. We will all miss her.

At Last a word (or two) from Germany

Greetings to all as you prepare for the Christmas holiday wherever you are. We are safe, all of us including Ben, in Aachen Germany. Over the weekend we attended a wedding in Wolfach, the home of Dennis our German. It was great fun to see the traditions and nontraditions in this ceremony and celebration.

We are enjoying being on holiday and relaxing. There are stories to tell but they will have to wait until I am in the hot Kuwait sun or at an internet cafe in Rome (next weeks adventure before returning to Q8).

Off to Belgium for the day..Cheers!
Love and hugs to all

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Three Quarters of the Party is Here

Greetings from Aachen Germany, a beautiful town (arenät they all?) north of Frankfurt where we will be for the next week-more or less. We are waiting for Ben's arrival and then tomorrow we pick up Dennis (our German son) and head to Wolfach Germany for a Schiefer family wedding.

Life IS good here with the sun shining over the well maintained German neighborhood. We are even getting our dog fix as we are enjoying Marion's golden lab, Yuri.

Paris proved to be wonderful for David and Anna, thanks for cousin Nathan's hospitality and Anna's ever improving map skills. Those of you who heard something about a bomb threat in Paris, know that they were safe, although they reported seeing 'lots of police in full riot gear'.

Trier with Amanda was less 'exciting' from the riot police standpoint, BUT we did hear a fabulous Police Band perform in a magnificent Church, once the seat of Constantine's empire. Their rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem brought me to tears (maybe it was also fatigue).

Know that we are well, safe, AND having a chance to wash our laundry for which we are grateful.

Blessings to all as you prepare for the Holiday season. I am reminded how grateful we are to have our children with us and to be with almost 'family' for this time of year.
And I am also thankful for the ability to eat my FAVORITE chocolate in the world (Milka) and drink my favorite Bier (Bitburger).

It still doesn't take much to please this farm girl.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Prost Auf Freunde!

This is the town square of Trier Germany, a beautiful, Roman town in the southwest of Germany. My tour guide, ATDutcher, PRHS class of 06, gave me a wonderful tour today as we wandered through the town checking out the Christmas market, the shoppes (gotta contribute to the economy right?) and just enjoying seeing people we know and don't have to "pretend" with.

Catching up with friends is good, no matter what country you may be in.

Drinking a German bier to YOUR health (and mine..tee hee)

PS The title of this blog is "Cheers to Friends" in Germany. That ATDutchergirl is so smart, she taught me how to say this!

Safe in Trier

I made it to Trier, Germany and am staying with ATDutcher, a fabulous young woman from PR. We're about to set off and find adventure in Triereland. David and Anna are in Paris (I hope) with my cousin finding their own brand of adventure.

ATD will hopefully help me download pictures so you can see some of our adventure.

Tomorrow we'll all be safe in the arms of our German "mother" Marion. Hurray!

Final note on Italy--
It was my return after 18 years. In a previous life, I was there as a corporate travel agent planning trips for Fortune 500 companies. People were really nice to me. On this trip, they weren't as nice. It could be that it's a whole different feeling, post 9-11 and all, it could be that because I represented "money" the last time, they were fakeynice. It could also be that I've gotten older and am not as nice myself (heaven forbid!) But I have been slightly disappointed.

NOW how can anyone go to Italy and be disappointed?! This is what I have to keep in mind. I have to let go of my expectations and past memories and just go with the flow. Being here in Trier with a college student is helping me adopt that frame of mind.

the fact that I can enjoy German bier any time I want to helps everything. (Smile as you remember that I live in a dry country most of the year..no, I won't overdo it)

if you're in MN and just digging out from the blizzard I wish you well and remember not to shovel too hard and hurt your back!

love from Germany (and Paris where David and Anna are probably looking at the Mona Lisa as I write this!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Still smilin in Venice

Greetings from Venice where we are completing our 6th day of traveling in Italy.

yes, the news reports were right, there is flooding in Venice, but it comes and goes (as in with the tides). We got some boots from the hostel office and off we went.
Ive got some great pics of us in boots at famous sites, but alas I will have to wait until I can download the pics off the camera.

1) Venice is as charming as I remember it being 18 years ago when I travelled here with BI as a travel program manager. However, this time around there was no limo to pick me up or personal travel guide. Sigh! David and Anna are wonderful map readers and navigators so Iàm religated to being in charge of °documentation° meaning I take the pictures.
2) Even when one is wandering doesnàt mean they are lost. Unless of course they ARE lost which has happened to us a couple times here. Today we missed our boat gate (no comment on WHO was right and WHO was wrong...) and we rode the bus for an additional half hour. Oh well, it was great site seeing opportunities.
3) Iàm continuing on my personal mission to have a glass of Italian wine every day. And no Iàm not ahead of myself.
4) Seeing art (both classical and modern) here is amazing, although I do admit to getting a little overwhelmed at times. I just have to sit down and remember that this will have to last me a long time. Then Iàm up for another picture of the Madonna (and there are several)

Today we ventured all over the place (yes we got lost as Anna told us later--I just thought she was navigating and taking us a different way) We ended up at a flea market (hurray!) We also went over to the island of Murano which is famous for glass blowing.

Tonight we are going to a concert of Vivaldi music (The Four Seasons) We are here for the culture so might as well take as much as we can get!

Tomorrow will be an interesting day as we °split° up and go different directions--David and Anna are off to Paris and I am heading to Germany to see ATDutcher from PR.
Itàs probably time to take a little break from each other anyway.

So far weàre still smiling and talking and laughing and enjoying being here. Again pictures coming soon.

Buon Natale (Merry Christmas) from Venice to you

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The streets of Sienna

Part of the charm of this medieval city is the windy narrow streets. We spent most of this afternoon wandering through them. Anna is becoming quite a navigator! I follow behind taking pictures. David supervises us both.
So far so good!

Tomorrow, off to Venice (weàll let you know about the flooding!=)

Italy Day Two..still smiling

Greetings from Italy where weàve enjoyed two days of fun, walking, keeping out of the rain, eating, seeing museums and cathedrals, and generally having a GREAT time.

Wednesday we visited the general area of Florence which is most famous for the works of Michaelangelo, Donatello and dozens of other artists. We made it to two museums, the Accademia, which houses the David and the Uffizi, which houses hundreds (thousands) of other works. We were overwhelmed but in a good way.

That night we were met by my friend Louiseàs neice, Maia, who is studying in Florence. What a beautiful, charming, fun young women. Despite the fact that is was pouring rain, we walked throughout Florence and tried to find a restaurant that was open (can you imagine...these Italianos donàt start eating dinner-supper until 7 pm..whatàs a farm girl to do..smile)

Thursday we took a day trip to Siena, which is a beautiful medieval town in Tuscany, famous for wine. We passed several fields and quaint farms. Surprise for us, FALL has just finished so we DID get to see some leaves with color. (not just palm trees). It was a good day spent largely in their large church, the Duemo (means BIG church, the name for every cityàs largest church). Amazing architecture and paintings and frescos and marbles and,and, and. Just wait til I can figure out how to download my pictures.

Today I took so many pictures I wore out the battery on my little camera.

Tonight weàre meeting a former student, MS, from Pelican Rapids for dinner and a jazz club. Well at least the girls are going out for Jazz, Davienofun says heàs not up for it, but after a bottle of vino, weàll see who is ready for fun!!

Stay tuned for more fun.

PS to all the Sassossibs..I know our guardian Angel Lo is watching over us on this trip.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Caio from Firenze!

Picture courtesy of Google Images
This IS Florence a beautiful city.

We have begun our fabulous Italian vacation by landing safely in Florence, Italy. Our first °adventure° was when we couldnàt get out of the airplane gate. Seriously, there were a hundred people stuck at the end of the gangplank as you exit the plane because the doors wouldnàt open into the airport.

First the small guy came and tried to pry open the doors. He called someone on the telephone and left. Then the medium size guy came and tried to open the doors. The little guy came back and they both called someone on the telephone. Then the big guy came, he tried really hard to bust open the doors and a piece of the door frame came off and almost hit a passenger!

Then one of the three bears got an idea to have the guys on the other side stand up on a large trash can and use a key to pry open the manual override. Between that and TWO guys prying on the doors, we were able to enter the airport.

The two little boys by us (who could speak Arabic, Italian and English interchangeably) were all set to go in a °bust it open like Spiderman would do°. I would have paid to see that!

Please excuse the funny typos, I havenàt figured out how to navigate an Italian keyboard yet.

We arrived in the Florence train station and immediately were reminded of the joys of traveling in Europe where you have to PAY TO PEE. Fortunately Anna was smart enough to figure out where the change machine was.

Weàre staying in a cute hostel with Fredrico, our hotel manager.(not kidding, thatàs his name!)

Our evening meal was at a wonderful neighborhood restaurante where the locals dined. We were the only ones in the restaurant who had English as our first language. It was a wonderful meal of , what else, PASTA!

Tomorrow I get to show THE David (Michaelangeloàs version)to THE DAVID (my version) Itàs a dream come true!

I donàt know if I can add pictures from my camera here so just imagine two cute butts (oh thatàs probably more than you needed for the ending visual)

Da Browns (who are learning to talk with their hands already!)

Monday, December 8, 2008

One more Sleep (Sheep) before I go

Have you ever heard this expression:

"We'll be taking the trip in two more sleeps" (meaning two more nights)

I had never heard it but recently we were out to dinner with some newbie teacher friends from Canada and they said it's a common expression for defining how much long one has to wait for something. I like it and I told them I would start using it in my vernacular (word of the day!)

This morning at 500 am, we were awakened by the VERY LOUD (louder than usual) calls to prayer. Today is the celebration of Eid al-Adha (Arabic: عيد الأضحى ‘Īd ul-’Aḍḥā) or the Festival of Sacrifice is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims and Druze worldwide in commemoration of the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God.

As Google further explains:
The devil tempted Ibrahim by saying he should disobey God and spare his son. As Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son, God intervened and instead provided a lamb as the sacrifice. This is why today all over the world Muslims who have the means to, sacrifice an animal (usually a goat or a sheep), as a reminder of Ibrahim's obedience to God. The meat is then shared out with family, friends (Muslims or non-Muslims), as well as the poor members of the community. (Islam names Ishmael as the son who was to be sacrificed, whereas Christianity and Judaism names Isaac).

Eid al-Adha is the latter of two Eid festivals celebrated by Muslims, whose basis comes from the Quran.[1]"
Best wishes to my Somalian and Bosnian friends in Pelican Rapids and to my friends Dr Dave and Joan who have probably been very busy selling sheep.

Movin' on up...

David and I have decided that we've had enough of living in an apartment. This is the house we've decided to re-locate to. Please come visit, there will be lots of room.


Romance has many forms

Maybe this is what you thought Kuwait would look like. I will admit that there was a certain "romantic" intrigue about visiting a country in the Middle East. These pictures were taken at the SAS Hotel, where they are in a part of huge oil painting surrounding the dining area. We were there recently for Friday brunch.

There is a certain romantic quality to living here, even though David and I aren't supposed to hold hands or kiss in public. True story--yet it's not uncommon to see men walking holding hands or kissing each other (on the cheek) when they greet each other. It's an accepted form of expression friendship (nothing else!)

I just liked these pictures and wanted to share them with you. Enjoy.

Just a wild and crazy group of kids

Here's one of my sections. We were posing "with a crazy look". They are great kids, although they are certainly teaching me how to be a teacher (read into that whatever you want!)

I was hired to teach Middle School Drama, which means that at the end of January, I switch to working with 8th graders. Do you remember when you were in 8th grade? This is why you will understand when I tell you to start praying for me now!!

We came here for challenges...and I'm about to get one. I'll have grown so much by next summer that I'll be 5'8" (FINALLY..the exact height for my weight!!)

Developing a good program for 8th graders will be on my mind as I wind through Italy on a train next week. That, and maybe where I can buy the next bottle of vino. And then as I enter Germany, I'll have to switch and continue thinking about 8th graders but switch to thinking about what kind of beer to drink.

I find that, professionally, it's good to plan ahead!!
(of course you remember that I live in a "Dry" country, so I may only need one glass of each!)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Grand Sites

Today while we were shopping, I heard the distinct sound of bad elevator music ala Christmas carols. It was something like Johhny Matthis greatest hits of Christmas. As I was wondering through the Christmas trees, decorations, and scads of toys everywhere, I forgot for a brief moment that I was in Kuwait. It could have been the Target in Fergus Falls (a fine store).

For the past two days I've travelled to the Heritage (Old) Souk marketplace to see if I could find the perfect gift for our German wedding (the brother of our exchange student is getting married and we're invited). Of course when you really want to find something, it's not there.

But I did learn a lot more about Iranian rugs and maybe someday we'll purchase one. As soon as we save up. They're not cheap.

I got a great laugh today as we were shopping and saw several lifesize lambs for sale (stuffed toy type). Today is the first day of the Winter Eid and many lambs (real ones) Have been sacrificed for tonight's meal. It just seemed a little weird to see a "toy" knowing that the real counterpart was being prepared for the platter.

It's fits in with the general theme of "you think you've seen everything then something else surprises you."

Like yesterday we were driving down Gulf Road (that would be the one right along the Arabian Gulf!) and we saw (and I kid you not) a little monkey dressed up in a t-shirt riding on the dashboard of this large SUV. No kidding. I guess someone had been at the animal souk and decided that it would be fun to have a monkey.

Just an average day in Kuwait, when you think you've seen everything, then something surprises you.

Man of the Year

We were just notified that Ben received the Security Guard Forces Airman of the year award for the 119th Happy Hooligans Unit. Way cool. Way, way cool.

As soon as he sends me a photo of the award ceremony, I will post it.

That is as soon as I dry the tears out of my eyes so I can see well enough to post a picture.

We may not always agree or understand Ben, but we are always proud of him. He truly believes in his work with the Air Force National Guard and we are lucky enough to see him succeed.

For one brief shining moment, all is well.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Two rights, a left, one missed exit, a palace and we're home...

WE MADE IT! We actually drove home from the airport Thursday evening. We did get lost, but it wasn't really a big deal because, well it was an adventure. Finally after looking at the sites, David says "Oh I know where I am because there's Salem's palace (one of the Royals that he tutors)." So, we were home in 10 minutes.

Last night we had a sad return trip to the airport. One of our newbies was asked to go home-and not return-and so we accompanied her to the airport. International teaching isn't for everyone, and it was probably in her best long-term interest to not return to teaching 8th graders. We'll miss her greatly but know that somehow we will see her again. Inshallah..

Guess who's teaching 8th graders come mid-January ?! Yours truly.
See, I just wanted to give you all something new to pray for...(my safety and sanity!)

We've spent the past two days relaxing, reading, getting caught up on school work (David) and shopping (Nadine) in preparation for our Great European vacation. We've also been catching up with other newbies who haven't flown the coop yet. Friends are off to India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Spain and a variety of other places. We head out on Tuesday so I'll have a couple more posts before we depart.

Now I've just got to find out where I put that small suitcase...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

If you never hear from us again-

-it's because we are driving our BFFs to the Kuwait airport tonight and then returning with their car. This will be one of the biggest adventures we've had so far in Kuwait!
Think of us, send us a beam of energy (okay a prayer or two won't hurt either) and we'll hope that we'll be here to tell you the tales tomorrow. A BIG INSHALLAH is riding on this one!

On Vacation...

We are officially out of school for the year! We don't resume classes until January 4, which gives us a month to "play". And, play we are as we're headed next week to Italy (despite the flood in Venice) and Germany to be welcomed into the arms of our German family, the Scheifers. It will be good.

Today we had a silly day at school (well I thought it was silly). But the BESTEST SILLIEST thing of all was when David performed the role of the Grinch as I read "How The Grich Stole Christmas" to an assembly of 6-8th graders and staff. My 6th graders were supposed to perform a play but half of them were absent (it's okay to not come to school today..another silly thing). Anyway, I found out at 8am that I didn't have a full cast so Plan B became me reading with David acting.

It worked! Quite well I might add. We kept them entertained and it was fun to do. My children's librarian skills and David's acting skills were hauled out of the closet, dusted off and put into full use!

We enjoyed a long lunch with our principal and his wife (also from Minn-eh-soda) and then I took a 3 hour nap. It's a good start to vacation. We'll keep you posted on our progress.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Looks Can be Deceiving

While we were in the Dubai airport last week, a crowd of men wearing dishtashas (the long white robes you see in this picture) was gathered around. A photographer was taking pictures and they were all smiling and posing.
It seemed like it was important so I pointed my camera and took a picture.

I have no idea if there was someone IMPORTANT was there,(like royalty) or if it was a convention of the national Dishtasha Wearers United (DWU)or if it was a bunch of men who decided to get dressed up and take a family picture.

NO I AM NOT PURPOSELY BEING IRREVERANT (though you know I am capable!)
I'm merely pointing out that when one doesn't understand the culture (as I don't clearly understand this culture) and one sees something that looks mildly interesting (as the site of these men gathering for a picture), then the imagination takes over and "stories" are developed.

Imagine how interesting it would look to a foreigner to see someone dancing to Y-M-C-A?! Think about the things that you do and no one questions: placing our hand over our hearts during the playing of the National Anthem (a student asked me the other day why I did that) or eating Turkey for Thanksgiving or any number of "automatic" things.

Learning a culture is hard. Fitting in is hard.Making judgements based on appearances is "dangerous" and can also be comical.

For example:
Today I am wearing black pants, an orangish top and a suitcoat with pinstripes in it. I was talking to another teacher at lunch and here's what happened:
*Two students come up to us and appear to want to talk to their teacher
*NWB disappears giving the students their chance to speak privately with their teacher
Students: "Miss, what's going to be on the test today"
CC: "You mean you interrupted a conversation between me and my friend to ask me a question like that?"
Students: "Well Miss she was dressed like a lawyer and we thought you were in trouble. We came to save you."

Somedays here one just has to laugh.

Fabulous Forensics Friends

This is the AIS Forensics Team of '08. A great group of young people who taught us how to survive in airports, how to get things through airport security (only chocolates...really!) and how to be mature and fun at the same time! Hats off to them!

Fantasy vs Reality

Both of the above pictures are Snow Images. Check it out. One is real snow, and the other is artificial. One is in a natural surrounding, the other is fabricated. One costs $40 for two hours (plus hat and gloves at an additional $20). The other can only be entered by special invitation of the owners. (at least this picturesque site).
One can be attended 365 days a year, the other maybe between mid-october to mid-March (and that's stretching it)

At this moment in my life, I seem to have chosen the "Artificial" one, but the real one is never far from my heart.

Bing Crosby can still sings here, it just takes more imagination to dream.

Monday, December 1, 2008

If Wishes were Fishes...

Although living here can lead one to think that everyone needs a new Lamberguini for the holidays, I figure if I have trouble spelling it, I certainly can't drive it.

I think it means they love me

While preparing for round 2 of tests, the students created these "Instructions" (on my white board). The graffiti was outside my room.

Yes folks, we are going to Venice in the next 10 days

David says, "it's a part of the adventure". We'll keep you posted. You always knew we were adventure seekers didn't you?

From the World News Service...

Large parts of Venice have been flooded as heavy rains and strong winds lashed the lagoon city, with sea levels at their highest level in 22 years.

Ferry and water taxi services were suspended on Monday as Venice's mayor urged people to stay indoors.

Massimo Cacciari said: "These are exceptionally high waters. Don't venture out unless it is necessary."

The Centro Maree, which forecasts water levels, said sea levels in the city had risen by 1.56m - a level not seen since 1986.

The floods have left people in low-lying parts of Venice, including the popular tourist site of St Mark's Square, wading through knee-deep water.

Tourists and residents struggled to get across the city over raised walkways set up by workers as sirens and loudspeaker announcements reinforced the alert.

Under a new system, warnings and updates were also being sent out by text message.

The Centro Maree predicted earlier that floodwater would fall back to normal levels by 1800 GMT, but said another surge was expected in the small hours of Tuesday.

The entire city, which was founded on a collection of marshy islands in the 5th century and is criss-crossed by canals, suffers from periodic flooding caused by high tides.

The government has begun a multi-billion dollar floodgate project aimed at stopping rising sea levels destroying the city.

AS promised...Christmas pics from the Middle East

Taken at the Mall of the Emerates. A place that makes the Mall of America look like a strip mall.

David really did spend two hours at Ski Dubai..(an actual ski hill inside a nall)He described it as a "Ten second ride down and a 3 minute ride up". But he had a great time!

The Standard Holiday picture(s)

Here is the happy Brown family on their recent trip to Dubai. We are actually as happy as we look

Bonjour! Hallas! Uffda!

This morning at 8 am, my small group of 12 6th graders, (officially known as my Advisory Group,) began their 3 day marathon event of studying, preparing, and tackling the midterms for their required classes. First out of the shoot was French.

So picture this, the students, whose first language is Arabic, are asking me questions, in English, about what's written on the French test. I am in awe of their brain power (those who did well on the test) and am humbled by the opportunities they are presented with. Bon-jour!

Then came the time when I had to keep them in my room, and keep them occupied and sane. And, in this case, keep them from "killing" each other. (one of the students said something about the other one's mother, which you DO NOT DO in this culture). There was a grand fuss, fists almost flew (I got in the middle--tough and mighty!) counselor came, parents were called in and at the end of the day, they were playing a version of dice together. It was finished...Hallas (said with your hands crossing in front of each other)

Their second exam of the day was Math. Those who know me well understand that I am numerically dyslexic AND I have almost no Math comprehension skills. They decided that I could help them figure out the toughtest problem. Well, of course I couldn't. But it became a matter of principle,(on my part) and I ended up going to the Math teacher and asking him to explain it to me, so I could explain it to them after the test was over. Uffda! My brain is fried and I'm only monitoring the tests!

Tomorrow should be more fun with exams in English and Science. I'll probably be hallas by the end of that day.

I did get the supreme compliment today when one student said "Miss, you care so much for us, I feel at home here". And another one, trying to be sincere said,
"I thought this was going to be the most boring-gest class, but it's not. I love drama"
And the ultimate, someone has written on the wall outside my room
"Drama Roxes"

OH By the way--I spent two hours (while they were taking the tests) trying to download pictures for you to see, and for some reason, the computer and camera are still not talking to each other. Maybe Santa will bring me--US (so you can see more pictures) a better camera for Christmas. (David if you're reading this...hint! hint!)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Christmas Traditions continue

Here is a shortened version of our Annual Christmas letter, which many of you received via email. Writing this letter is something that has been a part of my post-Thanksgiving tradition for the past 27 years. I thought I should continue, no matter where we are located.

There are visible signs of Christmas here, in fact, I enjoyed purchasing a cute little tree and ornaments just the other day. The tree is more "ornaments" than tree (okay it was only a $2.50 tree, what do you expect?!) There are even tacky decorations here, which truly makes me smile. There isn't the overwhelming commercialization, but it's still evident. I'm still looking for the "it isn't our holiday but we still want the gifts" cards. I'm sure it's out there.

Abbreviated version of this year's Christmas "Sermon" below. Ignor if you've read it. I've taken out all the real personal "stuff"--just in case there are cyber stalkers ready to find my family!! (who's paranoid)

I know, I know--put pictures on this blog.
Soon, I will get camera plugged into computer to share. Inshallah

Greetings from the Great State of Kuwait, located strategically between Iraq and Iran on the Persian (oops, I mean ) Arabian gulf in the middle of the Middle East. I hope you accept the "electronic" version, to send letters would cost us DEARLY and who knows if you would actually receive it!!

The stress and anticipation of packing and organizing and leaving has been replaced by a calmer, almost stable life here centered around the school and our apartment and a small but growing circle of friends (“new family”). Teaching has proved to be exciting, frustrating, interesting, overwhelming, fun—all the same words that could be used to describe a new (and old?!) teaching job in the US. Our Multi-Cultural lives continue here with students from Kuwait, with a mixture of Lebanese, Syrian, Tunisian (and the occasional North American) thrown in for good measure.

Kuwait is—or was when we arrived--- extremely HOT. Like hotter than hec. I knew it would be, in fact I dreaded coming here mainly for the heat. And it was. Fortunately, when it’s that hot, you just learn to stay in air conditioning and not go very far on foot. It has cooled off now and I may actually wear a jacket for the next couple months. I will never, ever complain about a hot Minnesota summer day again, I promise.

The Kuwaiti people, for the most part, are very kind, appreciative and interesting. There is the occasional “jerk” who thinks they should be at the front of the line, or that should be louder than everyone else or who drives like a crazed lunatic, BUT these are things that can be found in North America too.

There is a tremendous amount of wealth in this country (which is probably why there are so many places to shop!) but there is also desperate poverty. Kuwait citizens make up less than 40% of the population—mainly there are people from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan (tho not many after the Invasion because they were backing the wrong guy, Saddam Hussein). These people are the service workers: maids, janitors, waiters, taxi drivers, etc. To live in Kuwait, they need a Kuwait sponsor, who charges them around 800 dollars a year. They then have the legal paperwork to work. Most make around 250 dollars per month, and most of that is sent “home” for families living there. Most work 6 days a week. Yet despite the hardship, they are thankful to be employed and for the most part are cheerful and helpful. The other expats here are Americans and lots and lots of Canadians. Suffice it to say that the Canadians keep up laughing.

The landscape is, yes brown and flat (we are in a desert) but there is occasional greenery. In fact, I have hardy respect for the plants that do make it here because they have to be really tough.

Living in a Muslim country has brought new perspective to our lives. The religion does rule the happenings in the country, which is a change for someone coming from America. We were expected to participate in Ramadan (the part where we don’t eat or drink in public from sunup to sundown, not the actual fasting itself), we wake every morning at 430 to the call to prayer broadcast loudly over the two mosque speakers in our neighborhood (we’re learning now to just go back to sleep). There is the occasional look of disgust when I pass by without my head or body covered but for the most part there is a live and let live attitude. (once we have accepted that the Muslims are in control). We’re learning that a true Muslim is a very peaceful and contemplative and part of me aches that, at least for the next generation, that the name of their religion will always be tied with the acts of a very few terrorists. I am glad that we have this opportunity to learn about the people more than just what appears on American television.

If you ever get to the Middle East, we’ve got a place for you to stay, a schwarma for you to eat and a cold glass of… water to share with you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Busting the Wishbone

Tonight at our Building 2 American Thanksgiving, we got into a discussion on when the appropriate time to split the wishbone was...does one wait until the next day? OR should one do it after dinner?
We had guests from America and Canada (and a wayward Canadian/Luxemborgian) but no one could come up with a real answer.
if you know the answer to this, please comment below.
I think you have to have an email address to comment.
If you are too embarrassed or feel quite strongly about it, then please post it to me via my email.
Anyway, we got our fill of turkey, sweet potatoes, pecan pie and lots and lots of other goodies. Including some first class homemade "beverages". Good stuff for all.

I read somewhere once (or maybe it came to me in a dream) that we all have psychological need to overeat during the holidays because it reminds us subconsciously of our mother's love through feeding us.
Works for me, I know my momma loved me and, if tonight was any indication, she's still at it!!

I haven't seen too much commercialization of Christmas here (saw a little bit in Dubai) but I haven't really been shopping.

Tomorrow my plan is to go purchase a small Christmas tree (something I thought I wouldn't need while planning for packing)

We'll see if Germo (the cat) can destroy all the ornaments.

Let me know your thoughts on the wishbone contraversy. It'll keep me up tonight, for sure (or maybe it was that third piece of pecan pie)

Happy Holidays to one and all from Kuwait

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The First of the Holiday Videos (as shared through email)

I wasn't sure I wanted to view this, being away from "home" and all, but it made me giggle. It's pretty darn cool. As my neice says, "watch to the end"

Hope you enjoy
PS Thanks Dinnah for making your old homesick aunti smile!

Things I've heard in Kuwait

"I love Christmas. It's such a good chance to get gifts"--from one Muslim girl to another

"Miss you're still not wearing a hijab. The boys here can see your hair"--from the persistent little Muslim girl who wants desperately for me to cover up my hair

"It's really cold today Miss, why are you wearing short sleeves?" (temperatures have dropped all the way down to ...70)

"Miss Nadine, you are wearing a long top and tight legged pants. You're becoming a Kuwaiti" (says my secretary on commenting on my new clothes purchased for a very cheap 5 KD (about 18$)

"Miss, we were good today. Where's that chocolate you promised us three weeks ago?"
(I made a bet with my students they couldn't learn a simple choreographed piece. They did it and I was out almost $40 in pocket to buy them chocolate bars. I still owe them another $40 worth of chocolate!)

"Miss, I have something important to tell you. (long pause) You have skinny legs"--young Muslim boy commenting on my long top and tight pants outfit.

Speaking Arabic

"okay, speaking english is like spreading peanut butter on the sandwich. Smooth. Speaking Arabic is like spreading chunky peanut butter-it's not smooth"

-quote from an AIS student while trying to teach me how to say "H" and "rr" and all those funky sounds we North Americans literally choke over.

Happy Thangygige

No I haven't truly lost my ability to spell..it's the greeting David and I give each other on Thanksgiving. Years ago (like 25) my neice Jennifer made a Thanksgiving greeting card for my parents and this is how she spelled Thanksgiving. We loved it and so it's been our greeting for years.

Today we celebrated by working (no rest for the wicked, and besides why would Kuwait celebrate an American holiday?) Tonight we had a wonderful Indian meal. We hopped in a cab and asked the driver where he would eat a great Indian meal. He took us to a place that was lovely and offered very good food. We will celebrate tomorrow night with American friends. And don't worry, I'm not cooking, rather bringing the paper goods.

Thanks for friend ME who sent me a recipe for chicken tortilla soup, I may be able to cook something for the three of us later in the weekend.

We have one more week of school left and then we're out for one month!

Sorry I haven't written much lately, we've been traveling and then recuperating from traveling and then getting ready for exams. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Eat a turkey drumstick for me, fall asleep on the couch while watching TV, have two pieces of pumpkin pie (with whipped cream of course) and Count Your Blessings!

And--know we are THANKFUL for you!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Postcard from Dubai

Greetings from Dubai, a beautiful emerate in the United Arab Emerates, about a 2 hour flight south of Kuwait. We are all here for a Speech tournament with schools from Cairo, Abu Dabi, Kuwait, and Dubai. I have since run into three people who are from Minnesota.

Our students are doing well, I don't know if they will make it into the finals but they are all growing and having a good time. Anna is participating in a Duet and also in a comedy solo piece.

David and I are learning a lot about speech, about Dubai (it's really pretty). And meeting some very nice teachers. Last night's dinner conversation mentioned countries that I've never even heard of (although that's not really saying much as Geography was never my strength!)

Tonight we're off to the Fabulous Mall of the Emerates where there is an INDOOR SKI HILL. David will be skiing for the family.

I'll write more later when we return...

OH THE POSTCRIPT to knowing the girl whose mother lived in Herman. The mom graduated from HHS with my sister in 1965. Too small world.Also, she used to teach on Quad Island where the Pelican Rapids Kollars used to teach. Her good friends visit the Kollars in PR this past summer.

Walt Disney really know what he was doing when he adapted that silly song, (it's a small world)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This one's for you Miquay (and our soccer sons and daughter)

The following is an exerpt from an email we received recently from our Soccer Son Miquay. He is interning in Mexico with a bank.

Work has been a good experience, for the most part. I am learning an incredible amount about financial analysis and what HSBC does and how it handles it´s financial sector. I am working with HSBC´s analyst. I have done multiple tasks such as upgrading the financial databases that are used to do analysis by the professionals. I am in charge of finding financial statements of Mexican stocks and update the databases that are used as models for our analysist. with these models, analysts do their technical analysis where they look at the graph and the stock price trends and using what they know about technical analysis they then call the clients or investors and give them an opinion as to what they should do with their stocks. Very interesting stuff... In fact, I am doing my own analysis for my Investments Class where I am applying what i have learned and the professor is impressed...let me tell you ..I AM IMPRESSED too!!!............I think working at HSBC has been the best part of coming to Mexico since it has really made me grow as a professional (even thought it hasn´t been too much ;) ).

Miquay is a 2005 graduate of PRHS. We first met him when he was 12 years old and a contributingm vital member of the 2001 U16 soccer team that took 2nd in State their first year as a team. Miguay was a shy, sensitive young man, very unaware of the world outside his family and Mexico. I have fond memories of physically dragging him out of a school van to go into a restaurant to eat.
"No Miss, I cannot go"
"Why Not?"
"No Miss, I don't know what to do or what to eat"
"We will help you. It's a buffet so you can pick what you want."
"No Miss, I can't"
"Yes...you can"

Well, he could and did and hasn't stopped succeeding ever since. He was on the honor roll at PRHS and went on to the Big Cobber Ring School and is in his senior year. We are very proud of him and our other Soccer Sons and Daughter.

In case anyone ever wonders what kind of education and experience a student gets at PRHS, just talk with one of my "kids" Miguay,Rudy, Ivan, Mario,Leo,Yusuf, Katie,Brandon--they have all taken their early years training in Otter Tail County and are making something of their lives.

I probably don't need to tell you that most of the students mentioned are not native English speakers. If their parents hadn't taken a big risk in uprooting their families, then we wouldn't have had half the good memories we have from Soccer. And the kids wouldn't have had the opportunities they were allowed in MN. Katie and Brandon would be different people too.

In fact, there was just a letter from another "son" in a recent issue of the Pelican Rapids Press urging people to vote YES for the school referendum. He was just voting in his first election. What a way to celebrate his American citizenship.

On our living room wall here in Kuwait is a picture of my original soccer family. They are all dressed up at Prom, posed smiling, with a soccer ball in the middle of the picture. I'm not sure who exactly brought the soccer ball to prom but it didn't surprise me then. Just like nothing these kids do surprises me now.

If you ever wonder what happens when a kid is given just one chance, go back and read the first part of this post. Then, this next summer, if you live in Pelican Rapids, go cheer the current U12 soccer boys. The future IS there, if we allow it to happen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Whole Dhow Load-edited for mistakes

**Ignorance is not bliss. If you read this post before, you'll note that I had the word Dhow spelled wrong. It's D-H-O-W. I stand corrected.
I mentioned in the post below that I've got a whole Dhow Load of work and wouldn't be able to post much this week. But no, here I am still writing (it's more fun than writing a rubric for an assignment next week!)
Okay Okay so I'll be brief...

Up to the 1960s, dhows made commercial journeys between the Persian Gulf and East Africa using sails as their only means of propulsion. Their cargo was mostly dates and fish to East Africa and mangrove timber to the lands in the Persian Gulf. They sailed south with the monsoon in winter or early spring and back again to Arabia in late spring or early summer. The term "dhow" is also applied to small, traditionally-constructed vessels used for trade in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf area and the Indian Ocean from Madagascar to the Gulf of Bengal. Such vessels typically weigh 300 to 500 tons, and have a long, thin hull design. Also, it is a family of early Arab ships that used the lateen sail, on which the Portuguese likely based their designs for the caravel known to Arabs as sambuk, booms, baggalas, ghanjas, and zaruqs.

A Dhow is pictured above. Please don't confuse this with Dow Jones(and we really don't want to talk about that now,do we?) I would guess that Pirates of the Caribbean featured many Dows in the water scenes.

The little blue area on picture one is, you guessed it, the outhouse. It hangs out over the front of the boat (the OUTHOUSE hangs out over the boat, not anything el..or never mind!)

We're From Herman, Couldn't be Prouder...

This weekend David, Anna and I are off to Dubai--a rich, fast growing Middle East country (part of the United Arab Emerates) for a Forensics (Speech) tournament. David and I are the AIS coaches and Anna is on the team.

So, I'm talking via email to this woman who is working at the school in Dubai, who will also be hosting us at her home, and one thing leads to another and she finds out I'm from Minnesota and so, of course, I say the Minnesota codewords "So then, whereya from?"

And, she says where she's lived (Mpls area) but that her parents are from West St Paul and...HERMAN!! My hometown, population 756 (when I lived there, I think it's about 450 now). I couldn't believe it!!

David was not surprised when I called him screaming on the phone because he says this kind of thing always happens to me.I keep telling my friends (who aren't from Herman) that all life revolves around Herman, but they never believe me. Wait til I get a picture for the Herman Review.

PS.Don't panic if you don't hear much from me this week and I've got a WHOLE DOW LOAD of work to be completed before we take off on Thursday afternoon. Ya know us Grant County girls have to get their work done before they can play. I promise lots of pictures SOON.

PPS Dubai has WINE and SWINE (red/white and pork) AND beer-- can you see me smilin' now?!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Soccer Mom (SM)-the Kuwait Version

Those who have witnessed me on the David Brown soccer field back home know that I am quite vocal for the team I am supporting. Those skills seem to have transferred to Q8 as we enjoy watching Anna play for the Lions. She's doing quite well and today assisted in scoring the 3 goals for one of her team's victory. We're quite proud of her skills (these she gets all from her father) and team.

The Lady Lions (NO we don't say Lionnesses here) are quite a fun team to watch. They only have one loss and it was in this tournament. They have three games tomorrow so I'll be spending my day watching, cheering, fretting, pacing...all the same things I did for the Tigers. I even found that the way I yell GO LIONS has the same cadence as the way I yell GO TIGERS (and yes JC I still yell get it out of there when the ball is at the team's goal).

I would have pictures of her playing but I have this weinie easy share camera that only is able to get her shoes running or her backside as she is running. Today there were some SMs with some REALLY BIG cameras. I would have been way intimidated. But I will ask our school photographer for some examples to share with you. I vowed a long ago not to spend my children's career watching from behind the lens of a camera (especially when I can get copies from another parent!)

Those of you reading this who remember the PR Tigers Olay Olay victory song after a win will smile when I tell you that the Lions sing the same song! To those who don't know the song, just picture a circle of teenagers jumping up and down celebrating teamwork, happy times and good soccer.

Life is Good!

Degrees of Seperation..an on-going saga

I am a true believer in the Kevin Bacon 7 degrees of Seperation theory. Today was just another example (this one's for you Bro...)

As I'm watching Anna's soccer game (a tournament from schools in Dubai, Doha, Cairo, Kuwait, Abu Dabi), I'm talking with another soccer mom from Doha who is also an American. We were talking about thing expats talk about (weather back home, prices, weather here, where ya from, the election) and she asks me if I voted and say yes. She says she did too.

And then I mentioned that the students and others here in Kuwait were really on fire about Obama's winning. She asks me if I voted for him and I said "Yes" and she said "I voted for McCain...I went to high school in Hawaii with Obama, he graduated 2 years before me." And I say, "well, isnt' that weird, my sister lives in Wasilla Alaska on the same lake as Sarah Palin"

Half a world away, there are still connections being made.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

If the Shoe Fits

This is sorta hard to explain and I'm not sure if you'll find it interesting, but I promised to share with you my view of Kuwait, so here's one for you to ponder.The photo shows a real "oddity" here in Kuwait (and there is more than one that's for sure)
We see these single shoes all over the place. It's the oddest thing. We don't know if there are lots of people walking around with only one shoe on, or the shoe falls out of the car as they are speeding down the highway or someone has a job to walk around and drop shoes randomly.
David says he remembers seeing this site in Turkey too. I can't say I've ever seen shoes laying on the ground. My daughter, when she was a toddler, had this habit of walking around with only one shoe on her foot but we usually knew where the other show was left.

Oh wait, I got it!! This is an example of
"Waiting for the other shoe to drop"
Okay it's a stretch?!

I've got the...

Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart.
Anyone know this song from Sunday School? When I saw this lil' one at the Harvest Festival, I couldn't resist asking her parents if I could take her picture. If only that kind of joy and energy could be sold. Well, actually if you follow the lyrics of the song, it doesn't need to be bought, it's inside you.
Down in my Heart
Down in My Heart to stay

This picture is for those who are experiencing cold, damp days. May it warm you up! I figured it was kinder to send this than the picture of palm trees and the Gulf in the sunset. (tee hee)

Church Choir Kuwait style

This is the 2008 Harvest Festival Choir of the National Church of Kuwait (one of the 22 congregations that share the compound facilities). I enjoyed playing piano for them and singing with them very much over the past 2 months. Their joy and energy was contagious. Besides, they think I can sing..ha!


We are proud parents of TWO children who have been inducted in the National Honor Soceity--Ben at PRHS in 2006 and now Anna here at AIS in 2008. That's pretty cool. Here are some pictures of the evening. She gets her brains from her father and her smarts from her mother. How's that for sharing the glory?

Germo-One Month Later

The picture on the top is Germo when we first found him. The second picture is one month later. I'm happy to report that he's doing very well and provides just the right amount of animal cuddliness. Although he bites harder than the dogs ever did. This morning I asked him if he's ever heard of the saying, "Don't bite the hand that feeds you". OMG, I just read that last sentence. Now I have lost it...I'm talking to cats. If he starts answering, then I've gone right off the pier...

Oh well, what fun is it to have an animal if you can't share pictures, right?!

Postcards from my new home

I thought it's been a while since I've added some pictures so here goes..

1) The wonderful liturgical dancers from the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait. This was one of the performances at the churches Harvest Festival last weekend. It was a good day

2) While on a walk last weekend, I spotted this beautiful "sign" in my neighborhood. I've also been fascinated my graffiti, and personally I think this one should be a postcard.

3) At the Friday market, I also try to be secretive about taking pictures. I'm sure I'll get used to the sight of women in full "cover", but there was something interestingly different about this woman, "haggling" with the man over the cost of a kitchen sink faucet. I don't know, maybe I just have a weird sense of humor.

4) This is one of the mosques in the neighborhood. I think I've shown a part of it before. While I was trying to discreetly take this picture, a man shouted at me. Oh no, I thought, I am going to Muslim hell for sure for taking a photo. Turns out he just wanted to show me a better angle. Thanks unknown Muslim man.


Monday, November 10, 2008

This is a picture of four of my great neices and nephews who live in Minnesota. Both of my neices are mothers to twins!! I like knowing that my family loves each other. Grandma Esther would be proud!!

These are grandchildren of my brother and his wife, who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Oh-did I mention that they were married when they were 15 and 17 years old!! Here's to Longevity, stubborness, and plain ol' fashioned love!

A conversation from my day

"Miss, you should really wear a hijab"
"Why do you think I should wear one?"
"Because Miss, (pause) well, you just should"
"Okay, you give me five good reasons why I should wear one and I'll consider it"
"Because you look good in one"
"thank you"
"But Miss, also because the book says you should"
"You mean the Q'ran?"
"Yes Miss the Book"
"well my dear, your book may tell you that, but MY book doesn't"
"oh but Miss..."
"No dear, your book is good for you and my book is good for me and let's leave it at that"
"oh but Miss, you really should wear a hijab"

(note: I wore a scarf covering my head to the Grand Mosque last week on a Grade 6 visit. Several students commented on how I looked and all the Islamic teachers were very appreciative. It wasn't out of kindness, we were "required to do so".)

Not your average quick run to Larry's (Supermarket)

When we want to go to the grocery store, we need to plan it because we either ride with the BFFs' or we take a taxi. Tonight, due to auditions and other fun things, we weren't able to go shopping until 830 pm. The Indian taxi driver, Robyn, told us "You people shouldn't be out past 600". I think he meant that we would encounter traffic, not that we weren't safe.

So we ended up stuck in traffic for a half an hour (and heard Robyn's life story about being a taxi driver for 30 years-it was interesting-and sad). Anyway, we got to the store and found it absolutely packed with people! People with little kids who should be in bed (that's my opinion) People buying stuff like it was a snowstorm in Georgia. When we got out of the store at 1015, I was amazed. It was like it was 430 on the day before Thanksgiving! I am still not used to the rhythms of people here.

We spend about 30 dinar a week on groceries ($100) which is about what we spent in PR. As I was pushing the cart through the (crowded) aisles, I was amazed at the selection and the variety of types of foods. We can get over a dozen types of olives. over 15 types of rice, 10 different types of milk, over 15 different brands of cornflakes (that's about all they have for cereal tho unless one likes the super hyped up choco balls of sugar) and the seafood selection is unbelieveable.

Also at the grocery store (called a Hypermarket!) we can get pictures developed, purchase jewelry, (diamonds and fake diamonds), buy a complete wardrobe (at the indian store or the Japanese "dollar" store). We could also buy shoes, pick up a cell phone or, if I was in the mood, buy a number of lovely hijabs (scarves covering the head).

When we get home, as we are putting away groceries, I look at the food we purchased and I still think "there's nothing in my refridgerator". I don't think THAT'S unique to Kuwait either.

You're a Good Man, David Brown!

Life continues on for the Browns. Instead of auditioning for students at PRHS, we've taken our talents (!>?) on the road to Kuwait where we've just finished auditioning for You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. We will be able to post a cast list soon. We have the talent here,which is very exciting for us. And, there were some little 6th graders who took it upon themselves to try out, which made the teacher in me very happy.

It will be different doing a play here, for many reasons. First, and foremost, we don't know the "ropes" of how this place works yet. Thankfully we've got our BFFs, the Roddicks, who will help us. Daddy-O will be musical director (I'm rehearsal accompaniest and David's right hand) MammaV will be producer which means she'll be doing the things I was used to doing for David (I like that!) We trust them and they have "WASHTA" which means they have "pull" and they know people who know people.

Secondly, the students (for the most part) have never heard of a quarter of the things in the play...Sopwith Camels, Sandlot Baseball Games, Security Blankets,etc. In addition to teaching the words and music, we will also be teaching slangs, giving background behind stories and expressions and in general, "Americanizing" the students. It was a big brain trip to hear the words to a well-known musical coming out of someone's mouth with a distinct Arabic accent (which means that they sometimes misprounounce the words). WAIT--they speak English a WHOLE LOT BETTER than my Arabic, so I am not making fun of or putting them down.

Thirdly, we have to be cautious of making sure that we do things that won't get censored, which could cause the play to be shut down. Sounds funny (yes this is based on the Charles M Schultz cartoon characters so it couldn't be censored right?!) However, we are definately in unchartered waters here. Any form of kissing, affection between boys and girls, etc would be offensive. (NOTE TO SELF: Never perform Romeo and Juliet or Any romance story here) We know the rules and we're trying very hard to not cross the lines. Although I did teach my kids that they should never show their butt on the stage...and they were quite shocked when I first said the word b-u-t-t.

David's up for the adventure and I'm right behind him. We're off and running...Break a leg!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sorry for the white stuff

the forecast for MY week is as follows
Saturday 75 F
Sunday 78 F
Monday 78 F
Tuesday 78 F

Oh come on, after all that heat we endured earlier in August and September, don't you think that I can gloat just a little? It has rained here more in one week than it did ALL last year. That's exciting...

A Funny Thing Happened on the way home today...

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
--Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)

Colorado Cuz sent this quote to me this summer while I was preparing to depart for the Middle East Adventure Series. I've saved it, thought of it often and today it seems to fit.

First a word about transportation in Kuwait. There is a bus service, but we aren't brave enough to figure out how it works. Now that we have our Civil IDs, we could purchase a car but again we aren't brave enough to figure out how this works either. So we either rely on friends with Cars (FWC) or we take a taxi.

Now there are two types of taxi drivers here (in my humble opinion). The kind that you can depend on and the kind that try to take advantage of you. (Just for the record, I don't think this is unique to Kuwait). We have our dependable drivers-Robin a kind, gentle Indian man who has lived here for 30 years driving taxi and Mohammed, an energetic, make things happen kind of dude. They are who we most often call if we have long distances or are going somewhere where we want to make sure we arrive safely.

Today David, CC (another newbie) and I were out shopping at the Friday Market picking up a few good deals and we decided that it was time for one more stop. Because taxis are generally cheap here and because we had packages from shopping, we hailed a taxi in line and had him take us literally around the big corner (maybe 3/4 mile) to the Iranian souk. The taxi driver (a scary looking man in the first place) tried to charge us 3 x the fee we should have paid. David (who is, as you all know a very calm person) ended up yelling at the man "Drive me back to the place where you picked me up and I will walk here for free instead of pay you that amount" (for the record, I leapt out of the cab right away so he couldn't hold me hostage!) The taxi driver ended up throwing the money back in our faces and leaving (well, excuse me!)

So we were a little leary when it was time to take a taxi home.And of course we had aquired more packages including a beautiful, inlaid, hand-carved set of stacking tables from India that cost me about a day's wages. We stood out on the road and David said, "Wouldn't it be our Karma if we got the same taxi driver again?" (no-we didn't) We held up our hands to hail a taxi and lo and behold this white little Toyota pickup pulls up along the road and asks "Would you like a ride?" We said sure (after double checking how much) We agreed on the price and hop in. As we were hopping into the pickup, a real taxi pulls up behind us. For a moment I was afraid there was going to be a fistfight but the taxi driver stayed in his car.

As we're cruisin' along the highway, I slowly realize that we are in this guy's pickup--he's not even a taxi cab driver! We don't know him from "Mohammed" yet we've trusted ourselves (and my new very nice inlaid, hand carved tables!) with this person. Thinking he could speak English well, I asked him where he was from and he didn't respond. Okay, I thought, now we're going to die because he's not speaking to us. So I asked David (who was in the front seat) to ask him where he was from.
Oh-an important part of this story is that as we are cruising down the 4th Ring Road (very very busy this time of day) I am telling our friend CC that Ben will be heading to Iraq in February and I hope he doesn't get hurt, etc. And so when our new Best Friend (as in the one whose driving skills were controlling my life's outcome at the moment) says "I am from Iraq"--I just froze. Surely I thought, we have seen the end of our lives.

Later on, David started a conversation and it turns out the driver thought we were German (so he probably didn't even hear the conversation--or else he was pretending). When he found out we were American he smiled and said "OBAMA!! Good Job!"
We smiled and our smiles grew even wider when he said "Bush-finish". We may be on opposite sides, but on this issue we are united.

Now I will tell you that Mohammed, my faithful Tuesday evening Taxi driver (he takes me to sailing lessons) is also from Iraq. His english is pretty good. We have many conversations about how our countries are fighting and how neither of us really understands what is going on. I told him that Ben would be going there in February and he said basically the same thing my Muslim aquaintances have said to me ("God will protect him").

Now, lest you think I've gone totally "PollyannaWacko" over here in the sun, I'm not naive enough to state that a taxi driver and a teacher should be solving world problems, but I think it would make a difference if those in charge could sit down together and talk things over without all the hubbub and fanfare and posturing and machismo and whatever else is involved. I don't understand War, I never will.

All I'm saying is that now that I've gotten out of my "own little corner of the world" (above quote), I have made connections with people who are supposed to be "the enemy". And they have been good encounters. Maybe we should stick world leaders in a taxi and let them drive around Kuwait for a while. They wouldn't need to go on a battle field to see their life flash before their eyes, that could be accomplished in one 20 minute taxi ride here!

BTW, the image at the top of this post is a "Bedouin Redneck mobile" (what our friends call the lil' pickups) with a couple camels in the back. I have yet to see a camel although I know they are here (someone recently told me it's too cold for them to be out in the desert so they are now in tents..THAT (to quote my friend HC) would be bloggable!
I thought the picture was cute. Although, it wouldn't surprise me if I do one day see a camel in the back of a pickup. Anything is possible in Kuwait!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Damn I Wish I'd taken that-Part 2

A while ago, I posted an entry with this title and also some fabulous pictures that, quite frankly, I "wish I'd taken".

Last night, I wish I'd had a CAMERA with me to TAKE THE PHOTO of what I witnessed. Sometimes life is too darn precious and funny. As I've said for years, "Fact is Stranger than anything you can make up".

So, as I tell my students, ""put on your imagination hats and picture this"...

I'm in my favorite taxi (the BFFs vehicle) and we're in "Old Kuwait City", a place that is, duh, older than the modern part. Construction is everywhere as they attempt to rebuild, or construct apartment/office buildings. As stated, the national bird of Q8 is the construction crane.

All of a sudden, we look to our left and we see a HUGE crane lifting a huge backhoe AND THERE IS A GUY UNDERNEATH IT guiding it with a rope. Seriously. There are four giganitnormous chains around this backhoe, it's lifted at least 10 feet in the air, hoisted up by this HUGER CRANE and it's being moved 90 degrees. I'm not sure why it wasn't just driven over there--literally it was ike picking up a toy in the sandbox with your right hand and placing it by your left hand. AND AGAIN THERE WAS SOMEONE WALKING UNDERNEATH IT guiding it. We watched in awe (and fear that we would see the too real site of a Squished Kuwaiti).

And me without a camera.

The construction "rules" here are amazing, or should I say the LACK of rules. Surely, OSHA has never made it across the OSH-EAN. Construction works stand on scaffolding or rather (and I've seen this a number of times) boards tied together with ropes. Stories and stories in the air and all they're standing on it something that looks like my 6th grade class put it together.
(and they ain't too careful, trust me!) There are no hard hats, no safety harnesses, no yellow vests, no steel toed boots. I think they must sell steel toed sandles--at least that's what these guys have on.

I'll start carrying my camera and see if I can capture the moment. At least I'll make sure there isn't a crane above my head before I take the photo.

While the hilarity of this scene stays with me, so does the reality. Just 20 minutes earlier, as we sat in the Outdoors in the Old Souk (Market) eating a lovely meal, we were approached by a young man from Palestine who showed us his injuries and was asking for money. He'd been injured in a construction accident, and, as there's no insurance or workman's comp (things we just take for granted in North America), he was reduced to begging. It was sad. This was no scam, he truly was injured and unable to work. He flashed through my head as I watched the crane swinging in the air.

So many times, in North America, I have bitched about regulations, rules, safety seminars etc. No longer, The ability to even have rules, guidelines and regulation is being added to my ever-growing list of "THINGS THAT ARE TAKEN FOR GRANTED BY NORTH AMERICANS list. Unfortunately, the list is quite long and I've only been here 3 months.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

No appropriate words

In every election there's a winner and a loser. People gather around the winner and applaud and cheer. People gather around the loser and give hugs of support and tell them they did their best.

While the candidate of my political choice won (unbelievable!), I am saddened by the news that the Pelican Rapids school referendum vote failed by 33 votes!!That means well over $1 million dollars will have to be cut from the PR school budget next year. This past year over $770,000 in cuts were made. We felt those cuts very deeply and personally. It's why we are in Kuwait.

When we agreed to move, I knew there would be times when I would give everything just to return for a death or the loss of something. It's one of those times when I wish I could be there for friends.

I know so many people worked so hard-the administration, the school board, the various committees in the district. People who care about the future of the students--even those whose own children have long since graduated worked very, very hard.

It's hard to stomach the outcome over here, I can't imagine the pain those in Vikingland are experiencing. When I found out this afternoon (thanks Marguerite for the email) I let out such a loud gasp that my students thought someone had died. Well, in way, it is a death of dreams, hopes, wishes and for some, employment.

When people vote with their pocketbook and not their heads, it's disappointing. I haven't heard the facts yet (hoping to soon) but I can imagine that there was a certain percent of the voting population who "killed" the vote. Granted,I don't know all the facts, I'm thousands of miles away. However, I can tell from here what the future will be. And it's not pretty.

Personal Soapbox time:

People who work in education don't do it for the money. Oh yeah, those of you not involved can make all the comments you want about "three months off, every holiday, no weekends, etc". And you'd be right, those are great perks. But everyone I know well who is in education has a great deal of passion and heart for their job and when it comes down to it, they are there because they love children and believe in their responsibility to help make the future better by working with children.
We were willing to pay additional tax $$ and we won't even be there for a couple years to see the direct benefits.

If you see an educator, thank them. If you see an educator from PR, offer to buy them a beer (or coffee) and listen to their story. And, give them the encouragement they need to face the students whose very lives will be affected by the decision to not support education.

Here's a hug from Kuwait. To those of you who voted YES, thanks for the support. And to those who voted NO...