Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dancin on Day One

We survived (hear strains of Gloria Gaynor's song "I WILL SURVIVE" in the background?) the first day of teaching intact. We are both standing and smiling (wearily) after our first day with the students. These kids are great, they seem ready to learn and we were prepared. Hurrah!

We're exhausted but happy. Now it's time for a nap zzzzzz

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The $9 box of MiniWheats

One of the assumptions about our move to Kuwait is that we will be making lots and lots of money. Well, we really aren't although our expenses are paid by the school so I guess we'll be okay. Unfortunately we don't get paid until the end of September. We are living on the reimbursement from the medical and luggage expenses we had in the states.

So it's kinda like when we were first married and I wasn't working and so we had to ration our spending. Today I went to a place where we could get more variety of food products rather than our local Coop (which we love but we wanted more than cornflakes for breakfast).

I purchased the following items: 1 box of Mini Wheats, 1 box of Granola bars, one dozen wheat bagels, 30 plastic hangers, 15 hooks for pounding in cement walls, 1 picture frame for Anna's beautiful picture of our Angel, 3 Lean Cuisine lunches (Ramadan is coming), 1 small bottle of orange juice, 6 postcards, 2 birthday cards and the bill was 19.45 KD which is the equivalent of ...$73.18. I only had 20KD with me and I was getting a little nervous as the items were being scanned at the checkout. Poor Anna wanted to buy a school bag and three soups-and we couldn't.

If you are reading this and thinking Oh the Poor Browns, don't feel sorry for us. We know how to budget and if we're not livin' the high life, we'll be okay. I have seen people here that get by on a lot less.

But if you are energetic and feel like sending a care package, you can send mini wheats for David. He won't be getting anymore until October.

Feelings Right Below the Surface

This morning at 8am (midnight Mn time) we were able to talk with Ben AND he clicked on his webcam so I actually saw my "baby". I burst into tears. Here I thought I was doing so well (and i told you all I was doing so well too) and there I am just a mess of wetness and snot. Fortunately (inshallah) he is doing well --except for the bats in his apartment. Don't ask.

The moderness of the world makes this stint not too bad. We've been able to talk to people on skype-computer communication tool--for free for those who have it loaded on their computers and for $.02 per minute for those who do not. Last night, we were trying to call anyone (it was noon in MN) because we had some time. It was frustrating when no one would answer,but who am I to think people should just be waiting by the telephone?! Life does and will and should go on.

I am thinking and praying for this couple in Pelican Rapids, Bob and Kathy Hanson. Two years ago today they lost their son not too far from where I am, in Iraq. This weekend in Pelican Rapids, a shelter is being dedicated in Josh's honor at Maplewood State Park, where Bob works as Park Ranger. Two years ago I stood, with my children,along the streets of Pelican Rapids at 11 pm, surrounded by a 1000 of my colleagues, neighbors, friends and fellow PR people, silently watching, praying and crying when they brought his body home. I played at the funeral (and sang with the Catholic singers) when his service filled our school auditorium. The Governor attended. The Patriot Guards lined the streets. Thankfully, no protestors were there. I sat with my son, dressed and proud in his Dress Blues (Air Force) Uniform at the Memorial Day service where Kathy became a Gold Star Mother (designation for women whose children were killed in wars)--a club no one wishes to belong to.

Ben is only miles away, I can communicate with him. I should be happy and thankful. I can't hug him but I will soon. I've got to remember that and keep it all in perspective.

We never, ever, ever should take anything or anyone for granted, but we do (guess that's why we're human). Although I don't know Bob and Kathy very well, and didn't really know Josh, I still cry for them. And the other parents who have lost children. Be appreciative and even when they bug us (as Anna just did with her phone call demanding to know why I hadn't done something for her)...just love them.

Dog Days of Summer

We are very very glad we didn't bring the dogs along on this adventure. It's so incredibly hot here, it wouldn't seem fair at all. We don't have any grass near us. The large parking lot we cross on the way to the school (we only live about 3 blocks away) is so scorching, it would not be at all nice for them to walk on. We've seen a lot of feral (wild) cats everywhere. I call all of them by names of friends and family as I see them. Pete, Phil and Ben are the cats I see all the time at the school. I've heard stories of a teacher who had cats falling from the ceiling (really, no tall tales). I am on the second floor (directly about the ceiling that had the cats) so here's hoping...
And now for the name thing
I was talking with another teacher asking about PhyEd (as in sweatin' and showering) and he thought I meant Fayed, a student. We weren't going anywhere until I realized the miscommunication. It was the belly laugh of the day for sure.

Lots to learn for this lil farm girl. The fun has just begun.
School starts tomorrow. Stay tuned for details.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chandeleers and Wii Games

Last night I went with the Roddicks to a mall-not the fancy type that have been designed with Westerners in mind. This one, (the name I can't pronouce except it sounds something like "rehab"), was designed for the MAN in mind. I say that because it only had three things for sale: Lighting Fixtures, Blankets and Electronic gaming supplies. Amazing. But maybe a female perspective is needed here.

Now, we're not just talking your basic light bulbs here folks. Amazing chandeleers over 5' tall in shades of blue, red, purple, yellow..just eye popping. Sorta like the ones pictured at the top of this post.
The blankets (and rugs too I guess) were lovely and the gaming supplies, I'm sure necessary, but I still can't get over the lighting fixtures. Of course, it wouldn't seem appropriate to have a Chandeleer over 5' tall (taller than me!) in my humble apartment, which leads me to think that there must be some motherhuge homes here.

Right before we left the US, our lil' brother Peter was working on remodeling his home. So one day he and I hoped in his lil Camrymachine and took off for Fargo (or those of you who don't live in the area...Far--goe.) Anyway, we only hit three places ( a lighting fixture store, Menards and the coffee shop that we were told had really cool lights) and we were maxed out on overload. (This place would make your head hurt before you even got in the door Bro'!)

It makes me wonder how much money these people really have? And what kind of time would you have to have to select chandeleers for each room? Maybe I'll start another blog and entitle it "The house that Nadine would build if David (And money) would let her".

Nah, I'm just fine with what we've got. But I will save it for future thoughts...Be thankful when you click off your little light fixture tonight. Some places don't even have electicity.

Oh, for your learning, a parting comment on Chandeleers

A chandelier is a branched decorative ceiling-mounted light fixture with two or more arms bearing lights. Chandeliers are often ornate, containing dozens of lamps and complex arrays of glass or crystal prisms to illuminate a room with refracted light.
The earliest candle chandeliers were used in medieval places of assembly. They generally took the form of a wooden cross with a number of spikes on which candles could be secured, the whole assembly being hoisted to a suitable height on a rope or chain suspended from a hook.

More pictures, less words

Here are a couple more of my "stolen from the internet" photos to give you an idea of what it's like over here. (Besides hot)
1) This is the Sharq Mall. I don't know why it has the name. It's located right along the Arabian Gulf (Persian if you're looking at a map not in the Middle East). You boat up, shop, have lunch, shop some more and then return to...wherever. Nice deal
2) Water is a basic fact of life here in the Middle East. Public watering spots are provided often. Some of the folks have gotten creative. David and I will personally be trying to find this one.
3) I couldn't resist when I saw this one, yes, it's an example of a car wreck. Common place.

Pictures are worth 1000 words

As you've heard me whine, we're still without internet at our home. This seriously gets in the way of adding pictures to this blog (the writing I can do from school until they shut me down). So I've resorted to what every good blogger does now and then, "stealing" pictures from the internet. I hope you enjoy them.

1) Another newbie commented the other day that the national bird of Kuwait is the Construction Crane. We see them everywhere.

2) Mosques are also everywhere. It's a little like living in Pelican Rapids where there are 7+ Lutheran churches (maybe more) for 2500 people. There's a mosque every 2 blocks or so here. It's a very interesting sound when they all give calls to prayer over the top of another.

3) I have actually seen this place while driving along the highway. It's amazing. I think it's someone's (as in one family) house but then a blog said it can also be rented out for private parties.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And I (used to) think driving during WeFest is Bad!

I know I've made comments about driving in Kuwait. This is written by the author of the site Kuwait,Kuwait. I enjoy his (her?) perspective. Although I've got my eyes on a beautiful Blue BMW to purchase next year (only $3750 says the owner!) I doubt we will drive. It's just WAAAYY too much of an adventure. However, never say never...

Getting Around:
Driving (always) and navigating (at first) can be quite dispiriting and the kamikaze nature of Kuwaiti driving standards should never be underestimated. The good, wide roads look deceptively easy to the novice until he has his first near miss (within five minutes of taking the wheel) and his first crunch (probably within his first month).

Most British expats find that driving on the "wrong" side of the road is the least of their problems (it’s a strange day when you don’t see the aftermath of at least one accident). Road signs are in Arabic but most have English subtitles, however most of these do tend to be located at turn offs, rather than just before them, making last minute maneuver an everyday occurrence.

The "slow" lane on a three-lane road is the middle one, also making for interesting negotiations as traffic merging from the right immediately crosses two lanes of faster moving traffic. Unlike Saudi, women are granted the privilege of mobility but they still value lives very lowly and regular sightings of children on the dashboard are the norm (we call them "interactive airbags").

Seat belts are compulsory, though few locals wear them as can be seen by the huge number of wrecks along the major roads with holes in the windscreen. All cars here are air conditioned, most with automatic transmission, rental cars tending to be Japanese compacts or American tanks, the only exception apparently being Avis who offer Opel Vectras.

There is no restriction on purchasing your own vehicle, new or second hand, and prices are extremely cheap but remember to get fully comprehensive insurance. Cars over three years old require an MOT which an absolute farce.

As in most middle eastern countries there is a pecking order when it comes to apportioning the blame of an accident, i.e., A Kuwaiti is never to blame, even if he/she rear ends you! However if a westerner runs into the rear of say, an Indian, then the Indian is at fault - totally unfair, but true.

Petrol stations are open 24 hours to provide the local boy racers all night entertainment. The price of petrol without UK duty etc. is a laughable 60/65 fils per litre (12p ish). NOTE: this is about 60 cents per gallon!

The road system is fairly Americanized, being based around blocks and it is difficult to get lost with the exception of Ahmedi - an oil town that looks like American suburbia. The motorways are numbered in intervals of 5s, radiating South from the city centre, which is on a Northerly point on the coast, and are intersected by ring roads, of which there are seven (the fourth should be avoided in rush hour). Areas bounded by these main roads are subdivided numerically with major streets being named and smaller ones numbered, thus a residential address might be "Salwa, Block 4, Street 3, Building 987, Floor 3, Apartment 6".

Speed camera housings are in abundance, however the cameras and film are not, so you will often see cameras moved around each week, sometimes turned on without film, so they flash, but do not take a picture - beware of "Traffic Week" though - this is usually announced the week the film arrives! A new idea has just arrived in Kuwait - mobile speed cameras. These are mounted in the back of small Suzuki Jeeps, pointing out of the rear window. The advantage of these over fixed cameras, is that the driver stays with the camera to ensure it is not shot at (I kid you not - the locals don't like them one bit).

Coming Next Week-the Ramadan Diet!

A picture from a Kuwait mosque (courtesy of google images. I am not allowed to enter a mosque (Christian woman and all) without a host.
This is how we will begin our school year: Ramadan. We have a seperate schedule: school runs from 8:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.

A feature of the Hejira calendar is the holy month of Ramadan which according to the lunar cycle should run for 28 days. During this period Muslims are required to fast by day, however they make up for this by partying all night, and Ramadan can be thought of as a month of Christmases.

The fasting is taken very seriously and in public places, which includes offices, even non-Muslims must abide by Islam which means no eating drinking or smoking (although due to a Sept. 1995 law all public smoking is now illegal) during daylight hours, although for the expat a room is normally set aside for meals, hidden from normal view. Yes we will have a seperate room at our school. I've been instructed to "duck down under my desk and grab a drink of water in the three minutes between classes".

So this would be enough to make a person want to drink right--but NO, read on:

When attending meetings, or any social gathering, it is considered discourteous to refuse tea (chai) when offered.As Kuwait is an Islamic state, the importation, production and sale of alcohol is prohibited. (But it still happens) and it is considered discourteous to show the soles of one’s feet.

KKO-this one's for you!

Today's lesson is about social customs in Kuwait. Thanks to the website Kuwait, Kuwait for this information. I'm living this (so far so good)
Social Customs:

The lack of provision for social life arises from a basic cultural difference in Arab life in that they are extended- family-orientated and have fewer social contacts outside the family circle, whereas the reverse is true for Westerners. The Arabs spend most of their time visiting family members’ homes and have less need for external provisions for social life of the kind we would take for granted.

A further, direct consequence is that social contact between Arabs and Westerners is largely nonexistent, no matter how friendly they are in work. Another constraint on social life is that a bachelor is considered a dangerous man to an Arab and as such is a threat to his wife and daughters. He is therefore to be avoided socially. Such social gatherings that do exist are segregated into "families" and "bachelors", often by simply restricting bachelors to the most unpopular times of day or week.

Some of the more enlightened clubs and hotels are free from this practice. Segregation of the sexes is a fact of life and Arabs will defend their opinions on the subject with all the fervour of someone who knows that not everyone agrees with it. Even in relatively liberal and cosmopolitan Kuwait, some are required to wear the veil and many wear the obayah. In court, the testimony of one man is as good as that of two women.

The effect of this on Western women is less than in some other Middle Eastern countries since possibly the average Kuwaiti is more tolerant and in any case, he is outnumbered by more liberal expats. It is not so vital for women to cover up legs and arms, although some discretion is needed and one would not venture into the more traditional shopping areas like the souks or into a Co-op clad in shorts (then again neither should men).

Conversely, in the hotels and more fashionable suburbs, the range of clothes worn is almost of Western standards. Western women never, however, feel entirely comfortable in the presence of a majority of Arab men as the latter’s upbringing probably gives them some strange notions about women, particularly non-Moslem ones. It is suspected that inside the Arab home, women play a much more dominant role than outside; this gives them a curious advantage in that they are treated to a Westerner’s eyes, with an exaggerated old-world courtesy.

Hospitality and generosity are usually deeply ingrained and genuine, and considered high virtues. A person who regularly practices these virtues gains the respect and reputation of not having been negligent in assuming his or her responsibility.

Perhaps because of their extensive contact with other cultures while trading and schooling abroad and because of the potentially potent mix of diverse ethnic and religious groups, Kuwaitis have a long tradition of tolerance. Kuwaiti culture and domestic politics are able to accommodate citizens and groups whose ethnic homelands may be rivals. The tolerance extended to these and others, however, must function within the bounds of Arab traditions, Muslim ideals, the security of the entire group, and respect for public honour and face.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Me vs The "Wall"

NOTE: Here is the group of people we're in this Adventure with. Notice that I am in the front row (second from right) LAUGHING. Remember this as you read this post. It's not all Sobs and Sniffles here.
Well folks, it happened. Your chipper, perky aunt/friend/sister/chicka had a BAD DAY today. It's finally hit me that we're here to teach (a collective "duh" would be appropriate here) and I was totally overwhelmed with all the new initials (MYP, DP,IBO, etc) that I am expected to know plus put together all the things necessary to get a class going next week PLUS learn how to survive in the heat and make sure Anna is alright, blah, blah blah. My morning just plained sucked.

Then we came to work and ran into another newbie couple who have two children ages 1 and 3. They just arrived here 4 days ago because (get this story)... their child fell coming out of the airplane and required emergency stiches then they couldn't leave Canada until he was partially healed. Needless to say, they are on overload. I was priveledged to be trusted enough for the Momma to have a complete sobbing breakdown in front of me (sincerity intended). I realized that we have so many things going for us that I have no right to w-h-i-n-e (maybe not even that is allowed here!) about my life.

So tonight, we're in the school (like we've got a social life?!) looking through items and trying to figure out what the @#$% is going on. About the same thing we would be doing if we were teaching in the states.

And the momma, who lives above us, came down with her 3 year old and said things were going better. She came to thank me for "being there". NBD-We're all in this together!

One day, one hour, one moment at a time. I've got the "balls" to handle this job (hugs to Peter and Rita who get the inner meaning of this comment) AND I will succeed. Just think of me in front of that lil' engine...I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

PS I've determined if you swear when it's really hot, it doesn't count because it evaporates just like sweat. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Didn't get my head chopped off!

Today while walking around the neighborhood, the heat got to me so I took off my first shirt (the one that actually covered my shoulders) and walked around in my tank top. Scandalous!! After spending a week observing people (especially women) I have come to the conclusion that almost anything goes. At least I'm going to risk it for now.

Two Days Off

We made it through the first week and now we've just completed two days "off". Our weekends are Friday (the Holy Day) and Saturday.

Friday morning I attended a church service with the Roddicks, our new BFF in Kuwait. David slept in (the heathen soul) and Anna was, being Anna. The service was a "rock and roll" version, for this in PR, it would be like going to the 830 Trinity service. For those who aren't in PR, it was a service that had lots of modern Christian "rock" songs, lots of hands held high (no this doesn't happen in Trinity..I think) and a inspirational message. For me, who has only basically attended church services where I was the organist/pianist, it was a nice change to just sit and sing for a change.

Friday late afternoon, we were treated to the Heritage Souk-think flea market with 100s and 100s of booths. It was, clothes, food (fresh fish and meat), shoes, etc etc etc. It was quite entertaining. For those family members reading this, if there is a heaven for Howard and Esther-this would be it!!

We didn't purchase anything--although God (and Allah) knows the shop owners sure tried to sell us something. "Miss, I have this for you," "Hello my friend, come this way" etc. Mostly we were there to check things out because I know we will return (can you say frequent shopper?)

We spent time eating a delicious meal and people watching. I have some pictures that I will post as soon as I get access to my computer.

Saturday I made a solo trip to the largest mall-the Avenues. The Mall of America in Mpls has nothin' on this place. It was H-U-G-E! Again I'll have photos later. It was beautifully clean and offered a wonderful selection of everything from fine tobaccos, food, clothes, perfumes and even a store for my Macintosh computer, should anything go wrong.

In the afternoon, we walked around with another newbie Cindy, who was getting tired of not hearing human voices in her apartment. We checked out the neighborhood "bakalas" --small corner stores to get immediate needs. David and Anna found a coop. It's good to know the neighborhood. You could tell we were definately the "Fer-in-neers" because we were walking around in the heat (oh I think it was about 117F). All the smart natives and accliminated ex-pats were inside.

We've been here one week. And we like it.
Let's see what next week brings.

Thanks for all your prayers, comments back on the blog and good thoughts. We KNOW THAT WE ARE LOVED!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Kuwait (teacher) Graduation 08

We have completed our first week of orientation..and no one has run back to the airport (yet) It's been an amazing week where we've learned everything from how to properly pee at school (see earlier post) to the basics of getting along with Muslims to where to buy the best pillowcases and schwarma. (great food).

We ended our week at a lovely Lebansese restaurant where we had fabulous meal and got to smoke a sheesha (-she did this with our approval).

We're still smiling
More details to follow and photos soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Teaching Tolerance--Living it instead of Reading about it

Our learning adventure for today was centered around what we can and CANNOT bring,say, do etc as to not offend the Muslim community and the Ministry of Education. Very, very interesting. Bottom line: It's their country and we have to respect their beliefs, no matter how different it is from our own.

Here's a brief synopsis from the Ministry's Censorship Department:
1. It is not permitted to expose students to topics, rferences, or textbooks that embody criticism or misconceptions about the Islamic Religion.
2. Referebnce books abuot religion in general, Islam in particular, should not be used unless they are approved by the administration.
3. Avoid discussions of sectarian nature and comparisons of the various religious beliefs.

Books and references that express any appreciation or sympathy toward Israel should not be used. The world "isreal" shoudl be struck out from all resouces and replaced by the word "Palestine". I'm not sure why but once I figure out who to ask, I'll get back to you.
Written or verbal criticism of the policies, values and traiditions of the State of Kuwait and its sovereignty is not allowed. (But it is okay to attack George Bush...I think)
Pornography, pictures of women in swim suits, discussion of sexual relations is prohibited. David and I can hold hands in public, but that's it. And that might be questionable...

ALL MATERIALS that are used in the classroom must be sent for approval to the Ministry. No kidding, no fooling, no way out of it. So much for the two suitcases of textbooks, etc that David and I hauled across the world.

In case you're wondering, standards for a K-12 private school in Kuwait are much stricter than they are for public books sotres and private homes. Books mya be available in Kuwait but not allowed in a school. Parents may allow their children to read books that may not be allowed for use in school.

This Is what David and I signed up for, we knew this before we agreed to the jobs. But, as with much in life, it's still different living it than reading about it.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Blast Furnace

No matter how much I read and thought about it and prepared for it and bitched about it, there was no way I was prepared for how hot it is here. Yesterday it was like having an oven surrounding me. I had such a headache and cold then I walked home (3 blocks) crying the entire way.

It was probably as low as I've been since deciding to make this move.

Now--before you all grab kleenexs and weep a tear of empathy/sympathy for me...know that it was just temporary. (the feeling, not the heat-that's here to stay!)

To make life more interesting, this morning we experienced humidity (in the desert-go figure!). Those who live here assure me it's only temporary.

We're actually doing quite well. Got the apartment all spiffed up, pictures, momentos surround us. Yes I know we are loved and I've got YOUR pictures and cards up to get me through this time.

I haven't been around the area enough to give intelligent comments on the life or people. However, yesterday I had a VERY interesting experience. (NOTE: if you're bothered at all by talk of body functions, this next comment is not for you. Skip over if you wish)

First of all, there is a basic problem with sewage and the basic capabilities of the Kuwait sewer systems. So in the school, we are requested to not flush the toilet paper we use (yes folks we are asked to put it in the wastebasket). Then there is a little nozzle next to the toilet for those who want to "spray" instead of using paper. It' interesting experience.

Yesterday, while waiting to have more bloodwork done, we were in the Ministry hospital (think holocaust with men and women seperated. The women in our group (teachers) were too LOUD so we had to move to another building (imagine teachers talking too loud). The bathroom was a..squatter (Canadians told me this term I'm not sure if it's termed that in Q8). So, I practiced my very best "I grew up on a farm and learned to pee anywhere" skills and attitude. I survived, I didn't fall in, I didn't get my underwear wet and I'm still smiling! Who knows, I may develop even stronger thigh muscles.

Okay enough potty talk...on to higher learning. I promised my new principal I wouldnt' fall asleep in the video today (talk about making a bad first impression...)

THANKS for your comments and emails. Here's to you--and wherever you are, don't you DARE complain about the heat!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Right to Left-not Left to Right

While trying to access my blog this morning, I came upon the Blogspot signin page. Not only was it in Arabic (wow!) but I realized after a couple failed attempts that the information is read right to left so the spot where I sign in was switched. I know there's NO WAY I'll ever be able to read Arabic, but at least I can guess which spot I access!

The same applies for traffic only you have to look right to left, then left to right, then again and for your life. We were told that "they seem to make a sport of driving to scare drivers".

The call to prayer (5 times a day) is an interesting experience if you've never been in a muslim country. The caller (cantor? singer?) who is directly outside our apartment has a beautiful voice. It's a wonderful sound to hear. The same cannot be said about the guy who works (?) near the school. He's flat and it sounds like he's holding the microphone too close. (always a critic right?)

We are in Day 2 of workshop, and so far so good. Here's a quick update on the adventure so far:

**Flights were great, we arrived on time and so did all our luggage!
**Our apartment is wonderful, large, clean, marble floors, huge beds and it's about a 3 minute walk from school.
**We are being treated very well by the administration and staff. The new teachers are fun, open minded and glad to be here
**Oh yeah, it's hot...damn hot

Russ McLean, the superintendent, told us at our interview that we should bring little momentos from home in order to make the transition better. He was right--I am so glad I packed all those refridgerator magnets and photographs.

Pictures to come--it's definately a whole new world!
Massalama (goodbye)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Killing Time in ORD (Chicago O Hare)

How does one creatively spend 7 hours in an airport?
Here's what I've done so far
1) Find the nearest bathroom-take my time
2) Leisurely stroll down from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 (or was it 2 to 1?) Watch people in a hurry give me dirty looks.
3) Ask my family to stop and wait while I find a book (Of course I forget the book I had been planning to read for a month at 204 north broadway). Get dirty looks from family.
4) Find a safe landing space for family. Leave them while I stroll to bookstore on my own.
5) Leisurely look through bookstore. It's been said that there aren't libraries (or at least good ones) in Kuwait. Contemplate starting a Used Book store in Kuwait.
6) Purchase three hardcover books (something I never do in the US!) Contemplate charging higher prices for book in new Used Book Store.
7) Leisurely stroll back toward gate where family awaits (they are busy reading and don't even notice I'm gone)
8) Purchase outrageously expensive Tylenol PM and camera batteries. A more organized person would have done this before hitting ORD. A more organized person probably wouldn't have moved to Kuwait.
9) Contemplate paying outrageous prices for an authentic Chicago Hot Dog. Decide I'm not THAT hungry.
10) Call credit card company and tell them I am moving. Cute, but not so bright, representative tells me they will call me if there's a problem with strange charges. Obviously she didn't understand the part about moving to Kuwait.
11) Feel kinda stupid when I find out that husband has already brought along Tylenol PM. A less independent person probably would have communicated with their spouse on such matters.
12) Feel not so stupid when I  find out that daughter has purchased sleep aid tablets. Laughout loud when I learn that daughter has purchased caffeine alertness tablets.
12) Sit down with computer (as family has already purchased internet time) and write on blog. 

Only 6 more hours to go.
I promise I won't write every hour (unless of course something terribly exciting happens)

The Adventure begins...Thanks for spending time with me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

DejaVu (all over again)

Note: A small corner of our kitchen. Now you can see how much "stuff" I had to move or remove! It's all gone now.

 My first post on this blog was on February 13, 2008. The title was "Mama wouldn't let me do this". In that blog, I questioned my sanity and remarked how much we had to do before we moved. I also lamented finding homes for our dogs.

Well, here it is: 612 pm on August 14 and in 19 hours we will board a plane for our new life.

If you're just joining the blog, welcome! You can catch up my scrolling down the page and clicking on "older posts". There's some information on Kuwait, some whining and fun pictures (how's that for self-deprecation?!..Word of the Day!)
If you've hung in there with me on this journey, thanks. I feel your support (gees that sounds dumb but I do!) 

It's okay to comment on the bottom..thanks  to neice Di, Colorado Cuz, ChucksBobby, and the Lancerettes who have commented.  You know who you are.
STOP RIGHT HERE FOR FURTHER EXPLAINATION NOTE: I've learned from reading other blogs that people are given "titles" so as to not fully disclosed the identity of the person the blogger is writing about. Last night when I mentioned this to my Core PR group, someone said 
"Oh we know who you're talking about". Guess I'm not very good at disclosure. I'll put on a burka and try harder.
And by the way, if you're reading this and thinking "How can she have time to write a blog and pack?" Well, now you've just become a part of my procrastination and denial efforts!

Keep reading. My next post will be written somewhere in the Middle East.
Pray for safe travels on all Luftansa airlines Friday Aug 15 and Saturday August 16.

Family is Forever

The David Brown and Charles Brown families gathered for family photos at their Lovely Lake Lida home. These may have to last us for a  while. 

The Core

You've heard me go on and on ad nauseum about how important my friends are to me. Well, here's a picture of the people who have "had our backs" in Pelican Rapids for the past 14 years. They gathered one last time (for this year) at the cabin last night for burgers, beers, laughs (and yes, limacello and grand marnier).  

There aren't enough words to thank them or praise them. I tried to last night (and didn't cry). They know how we feel. They will be waiting for us to return to them.  

Recently Colorado Cuz sent me a youtube listing for Christian the Lion. A lion was raised by these two men, he was returned  to the wild, a year later they went to see the lion. The humans were told the lion wouldn't recognize them. In the video, you see the lion slowly walking and then running at full speed toward his humans and leaping (literally) into their arms. If you wish, check out the video on youtube at
(if that doesn't work, check out Christian the Lion)

When I first saw the video I thought, "this is how I'm going to feel when I return from Kuwait". The above group is whose arms I will be leaping into!

God Bless you, My Pelicanites. Continue to do Great Work in Loddawadder.
And know that you are loved!

Things I've learned from Moving...Part 2

Yesterday we "hit the wall" at 630 am when I was yelling at David for packing these "five important angels that I had been saving to take to Kuwait". He patiently reminded me that he he told me he was packing up the bathroom and I should have saved them before. And, he added, if I wanted him to, that he could tell me where exactly he put them (Note that he didn't tell me exactly where I could put them!)

I said "wait a minute", I took a deep breath and then said
"No, it's okay, I don't really need them in Kuwait"

I can let go.

After that adventure, we proceeded to the school where we entered the back parking lot and saw the "Boys of Summer" (our wonderful, efficient and well-respected janitorial staff) throwing away a number of items that David had been saving for the Theatre over the past 14 years. We exchanged a friendly banter, although you could tell they were a little uneasy because we "caught" them throwing out stuff.

I heard David breathe and say
"It's okay, I can let it go"

SO the lesson we've learned in packing is that we CAN let go and that things really are just things.

 The fun ending this story is that we will have one angel in our Kuwait. Favorite (smile) Neice Deb gave me a Troll Guardian Angel. (If you're over the age of 40, you've got to remember those ugly plastic troll dolls). I was quite honored with the gift because I know she values them, and I remember playing with them.

We've nicknamed this one the ConTroll Angel. It's not the angel pictured at the top of this post but I wanted you all to know that I've still got my sense of humor!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I get by with a little help from my FRIENDS

Photo: sunset over Lake Lida on the way home from having a beer on the deck of JC and the Dutch Lady. They answered my cry for"a beer and some peace"last night.

Over the past few days, we've been getting some very encouraging emails. Here's some examples: (the names were changed to protect their innocence-or something like that)

"This is really happening isn't it? We are down to the wire?! The whole things seems kinda surreal. Just remember our prayers are with you and as I told my son and husband when they were deployed, Keep your Head down. If God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it."

"Hi. Hope you appreciate this. You're my FIRST!"
-my HSBFF. She just sent her first ever email--to me--in preparation for communicating with us.

This one has to be read with a Scandinavian accent (think Prairie Home Companion for those of you who don't live in OTC or MN)
This is from my girlfriend Sister Lena. In our next lives, we are going on the road as Stand Up Comics (move over Lutheran Ladies here we come)
Dear Olga
I made a casserole, jello salad, fresh bread and a blueberry pie in honor of  you tonight. Me and the old man had supper together, I, in my apron and he in his bib-overalls. We ate without talking except about the weather and how the kids were doing.  We pet the dog, watched the news and said, "Well I supposed Nadine, David and Anna are busy these days. Can't imagine how they can do it, but if anyone would be them." Den we said ourselves a little prayer that God would bring you safely there and safely home. Then we found our way to bed and rested knowing that God would take care of you."

Uffda I feel so BLESSED!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goodbye, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

Pictured are the Three Musketeers--son Ben (right), "Brother" Peter Sasso-Lundin and second son Phil/Meister (son of Peter and my Pelican Rapids best friend Louise).  Peter and Phil have been the significant "other males" in my Pelican Rapids life-especially for the past two  years as we all grieved and tried to figure out a new path after Louise was tragically killed in a car accident.

Like my David, Peter also comes from tough stock. His parents, Lynn and Miriam Lundin, took their five children to Sweden on a teaching exchange in the late 60s and then again in the mid-70s. What courage, guts and strength that must have taken (Snella-you are more than a woman!) to be dropped in a country with five children and given a chance to make your way. Uffda! it's a good thing you come from Scandinavian bloodlines.

The Sasso-Lundins and Lundins live at a place we affectionately call "Sasso de Lago" (lake Sasso) in honor of Louise. It's my safehouse; with 166 acres, a private lake, cold beer, great fish and ample opportunities for good snackin' and smart talkin'. Being there has saved my sanity more than once during our time in Pelican Rapids.

There's lots of reasons why Peter and Phil are among our favorites. They are kind, nice, fun, creative, crazy, warm, smart men. There's other words too but I can't publish them on a "family" blog.

Peter has been our best supporter  as he reminds us how much fun we're going to have on this adventure, what opportunities lie out there for Anna and that, of course, he'll keep an eye out for Ben for us (So Then-who's really going to be watching out for who?!)

These are the boys that will be taking us to the airport on Friday, and watching us lug 12 suitcases into the terminal and waving goodbye (or aloha-however you want to phrase it).
I am dreading that moment. But they're be the same ones who will pick us up next June when we return. Life continues on and we don't have to live in the same place to stay close, right?

Be good boys. I know it will be "tough" without your social coordinator but you'll manage. And-in true Scandinavian fashion, in case you don't know it, I love ya so much I almost told ya!
EOBI Hugs (sorry's code) 

If you see this Kid, keep an eye out for him (for me)

I used to sing this song to Ben when he was a baby. The words continued to "stick" as he grew up. As we leave him here in MN to keep us safe (with the Air National Guard), I will definately be leaving a part of my heart.
Here's to you Spud-your momma loves you!
Picture 1: Ben and his beloved, Jolene
Picture 2: Ben on an adventure, age 3

Excerpt from Child of Mine by Carole King
You don't need direction, you know which way to go
And I don't want to hold you back, I just want to watch you grow
You're the one who taught me you don't have to look behind
Oh yes, sweet darlin'
So glad you are a child of mine

The times you were born in may not have been the best
But you can make the times to come better than the rest
I know you will be honest if you can't always be kind
Oh yes sweet darlin', so glad you are a child of mine

Monday, August 11, 2008

A goodbye gift from my neice who "understands"

Today I got a beautiful picture from my "Favorite Neice" Di (okay for all my neices reading this, you know I would also call you my favorite).

It's a picture she took of a barn and a silo (all you farm kids would understand the significance of this) and the saying...

Something Good Will Come Out Of This...and it Will Be Me!!

I tried to download it so you all could see but the bloggerGods were not allowing this ( I'm still in the technoweinie stages). SO use your imagination --or insert your favorite scene for the saying.

Thanks Di, as always, for coming to the rescue. Your quiet, efficient manners are appreciated.

"Don't Know What You've Got Til It's Gone"

There is no alcohol in Kuwait. This summer, in preparation for living in a "dry" country, I have imbibed in more alcohol than I have in the previous 15 years! I wonder if I am trying to be like a camel, storing up liquid in my hump. For those of you who are worrying, I never drink alone and I always stop before I get stupid. (okay so skinny dipping at 2 am in Lake Minnewaska may not sound like an intelligent thing to do, but it seemed like a good idea at the time the other night!)

Pelican Rapids used to be a dry town. The Brown Girls, David's great aunts (may they rest in peace), were very fanatic Women's Christian Temperance Union leaders in this community. I purposely placed myself in a local restaurant the first day they served liquor..not to spite the Aunts, who I loved deeply, but rather to celebrate ah... progress.

In communicating with my new Best Kuwait teacher friend, Vonda (you will hear more about her in future blogs) she assures me that there is homemade "hooch" made from a variety of things. And that Dubai is only a short plane ride away for weekend junkets. Recently, I spoke with a US Army serviceman who tried to tell me that the Hard Rock Cafe serves liquor. I smiled politely but doubted him deeply.

SO, here's the deal...if you are reading this, and are one to enjoy a "bump or two" now and then, have a drink for me. I will report on the variety of homemade brew I come across in the next two years. Officially in Kuwait, "Fermantation is recognized as a scientific process".

It will be a tremendous burden to have to research this subject, but I'm up to the task. "Scoop Brown" is on the story...

CHEERS to you!

NOTE: Pictured are the FINE PRHS Students cheering their boys on to victory this winter. It seemed appropriate for this post.

The following in an excerpt from an email written to us by David's high school (Lakenheath England) Theatre Teacher:

Guess you folks are all set to begin your "Grand Adventure" in a few days. We have every confidence that you will have a wonderful time both personally and professionally. Feel certain that for the most part you will really enjoy yourselves, Anna as well. It is not ALL going to be perfect all the time and you will probably get depressed, home-sick and frustrated at times and wonder, "What the hell have we done?" But just keep on keeping on and all will be well. Know you have some concerns and maybe even fears (we did way back when we went to Germany the first time), but lean on each other for support and love and all will be well. You will come to LOVE the whole experience. We both just get excited when we talk about it. Keep your blog going and we will enjoy your time there vicariously from here. Have fun!!

Gordy and Sharon Albert have been our role models for years. We truly appreciate their letters and now especially this encouragement.

When I was younger, I couldn't figure out why teachers bothered to keep in touch with former students. Now as a teacher I "get it". There's tremendous satisfaction in following the lives of students (especially the ones you really like) and in feeling that maybe, just maybe, you've contributed to their continued growth.

SO-here's to the Alberts and all other former teachers of ours. May you be proud of us as we carry on the tradition, values, ideals, love of the profession, that you've instilled in us.

And here's to our former students reading this blog. Whether you are in Mexico City, Germany, Africa, Pelican Rapids, Minneapolis, Duluth, Moorhead, Marshall or wherever...know that we are living vicariously through you too! Keep in touch and know that we are PROUD of you.

Although there are those who would frown on this, I think it's appropriate to say (now that we've all graduated)
We Love you!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Five Generations of Strong Women

On Sunday I took a trip to my hometown, Herman, MN, for a baby shower for my new great-great neices. My great neice Tara gave birth to twins Kamryn and Kailyn 8 weeks early. THANK GOD (Amen!) the girls are doing great and have been out of the hospital for 2 weeks already. They weren't even supposed to be born for another 2 weeks!

Also pictured are their twin cousins, Halli and Rylie (born to great neice Sonya-sister of Tara) 8 years ago. These girls were also born at 32 weeks. Amazing. Big sister McKenna is also in the picture. She was one year when her sisters joined the family (yes you can say uffda!)

My neice Brenda was a mother at 18 and a grandmother at 39. Her momma, my favorite sister in law Linda, was married at 15, a mother of 3 by the time she was 19 and will celebrate 50 years of marriage to my brother next week. (again with an uffda!)

Aunti LuEtta (representing the 5th generation) was widowed at age 60 after 40 plus years of marriage. Luetta, my mom's sister, has carried on alone with the help of friends, family and many activities for the past 20 years. Uncle Sid was a great guy and we still miss hearing him sing and play the guitar.

I'm a VERY PROUD AUNTI and will truly miss gathering with the Wagner-Aanerud-Larson clans when I am gone. Hopefully they will keep in touch with me via email (HINT HINT for those of you reading this!)

Oh--and Halli (sitting on Brenda's lap holding Kamryn-I think) said I should say
"this picture is of my wonderful neice and her cousins"

Another generation of strong women is well on the way!

Lookin' Fine at 49

In this picture are 6 members of the HHS class of '77. We gathered for one last hurrah Friday evening at the lovely home of "Dinger" and her doc spouse Scott (THANKS!! especially for the late night med rescue!).

This group of women may be from a small town (our graduating class was 36) BUT they are a mighty bunch. These women have endured and survived (Among other things) divorce, death of parents and siblings, near bankruptcy, depression, loss of vision, alcoholism (personal and spousal) miscarriage, vandalism, and a variety of other tragedies. We haven't gathered all together for at least 10 years. Listening to each of them tell their story (as the spotlight was equally shared) I was in awe and humbled by their strength, sense of humor (in tact!) and humility.

These women are also FUN! They are the group I used to party with in high school. We had some wild times back in the day (No, I am not sharing those stories--it's none of your business what we did!) They can still make me burst out laughing with just a mention of a few key words and they still make me smile as we share chapstick, beers and stories. These are the people I grew up with and as I travel the world, their down to earth advice and support will keep me going. (thanks also for the great cake and t-shirt!). It's good to have a group that can ground you.

Getting together with these chicks was a PERFECT way to end my Long MN Goodbye tours. Thanks ladies for all the memories in the past--and for new memories as we gather again next year. Next time maybe we can get Seib out of bed to join us and we can all go skinny-dipping!

The (Final) Long MN Goodbye Tour-Part 4

I did it! I saw EVERYONE that I needed to see before departing for Kuwait and said what I needed to say. I feel GREAT! along with loved, awed by friends/family and their support, and a little tired for all the travel.

The last part of the tour was what I perceived to be the hardest (saying goodbye to 94 year old Aunti Ethel) but it turned out to be the most upbeat. Aunti is lookin' MAHVELOUS, feelin' spunky and taking matters into her own hands by purposely checking out assisted living so she can get on the list("You know sometimes it takes up to 2 years to get in!) The only meds she takes are 1 asprin a day and she just purchased a new Postupedia bed (a significant investment!)

Her famous quote to me when I finally got up the nerve to tell her I was leaving was
"Well you gotta do these things while you're young, because when you get to be my age, all you do is spend time looking for a bathroom!"

Along with these wise words of wisdom, I found a new saying that will be my new "Motto"

Though we travel the world over to find beauty
We must carry it with us
or we find it not

Here's a few pics of the trip
Picture 1: Aunti Ethel, her children, me, my sister, her daughter, my other sister's son and family
Pictures 2 and 3: Dr Bob and LMA-my first non-blood Brother and Sister. Also my friends, mentors, beer drinking pal (DB), fashion and spiritual advisor (LMA) for the past 33 years

Ya Gotta See It

If you haven't done so, get yourself to a movie theatre and see Mamma Mia! If you enjoy love stories, great music, hysterical scenes (some - not all) and appreciate it when you see good actors on the screen looking like they are having a GREAT time, then this is movie for you!!

Grain of Salt Warning: My friend the Dutch lady, says it wasn't her cup of tea. My Spouse has seen it twice. Take it or leave it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Song Dedication

While hangin' out with my Friday night pals, this song came up on Peter's ipod. Brother (and local 56572 blog hero) JC dedicated it to me. Thanks for the boost.

While You See a Chance by Steve Winwood
Stand up in a clear blue morning
until you see
what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning,
are you still free?
Can you be?

When some cold tomorrow finds you,
when some sad old dream reminds you
How the endless road unwinds you ?

While you see a chance take it,
find romance fake it
Because it's all on you

Don't you know by now no one gives you anything
Don't you wonder how you keep on moving
one more day your way
When there's no one left to leave you,
even you don't quite believe you
That's when nothing can deceive you

Stand up in a clear blue morning
until you see
what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning,
are you still free?
Can you be?

And that old gray wind is blowing
and there's nothing left worth knowing
And it's time you should be going

Capturing the Moment

I fancy myself as a pretty good photographer. The Sanders, Dilly and Rath families all consider me as their official paparizzi for their family functions. I enjoy taking pictures of people, happenings and lately have tried to become a "nature" photographer. Spending the morning with our local Ansel Adams, ROLAND JORDAHL, gave me a greater appreciation of what it exactly takes to be a Pro--patience, timing, a good eye-and a really big lens.

This morning, I took Dogs Angel and Zowie on what will be our last walk together (sniff--get a kleenex now folks) I found there is a wonderful nature trail at the edge of our town (where the hec have I been for the past 14 years?!) We went on it yesterday and I walked along saying "click" "Click" when I saw things that I wanted to remember.

SO today I grabbed the girls, the camera and set out for a final ramble at 610 am. A mysterious fog had settled over the town. PR is located on a river so that may have contributed to it. Or maybe the Kodak Gods (sorry to bestow trademark rights) wanted to provide me with a glorious photo backdrop.

We had a great time taking pictures. I think I got some good ones, I believe a couple of them would garner an Oooh! and Awe! and Wow! if you could see them. (see bottom of post for details).

Yet, as life would have it, I couldn't capture the exact shots I really wanted to have as a final momento of my life with Angel and Zowie--I couldn't get them LEAPING up in the tall grass looking for each other, I couldn't capture the look them give me when they run off down a trail and then stop and make sure I'm following, I couldn't snap the way the water looks as it flies off their backs when they shake after swimming.

I did get one that made me cry (okay so I'm hormonal and I'm leaving in 9 days--give me a break). They stopped in mid-run and both looked at me as if to say "We're on our way mom but we wanted to make sure it's okay with you." It's the picture I will enlarge and hang on my wall in Kuwait to remind me of what they gave me. I had another perfect shot and of course the battery went dead on the camera. As I was walking, I was composing a whole blog post in my head about how, in life, our batteries go dead and we are forced to just carry on. It was deep. I'll save it for another time.

Loving dogs is stupid. Okay, that was written by the German side of me who doesn't want to admit that I am totally, stupidly, completely in love with these girls and leaving them is about the hardest thing I will do. (Other than saying goodbye to my boys Ben, Peter and Phil, but that's another blog)

These girls have given us love, laughter, unconditional affection and joy. They have also caused us to lose sleep and extra cleaning time and money. Zowie has chewed her way through underwear, shoes, a cellphone (don't ask) and damaged my work computer with her toenail.

But they have been worth every ounce of energy. I feel bad that I can't take them but it's really for the best. I know they are both going to wonderful homes and that is a great gift. THANK YOU THANK YOU to both Olson families for coming to our rescue.

As Uncle Doug once told me, May We Become the People our Dogs Think We Are.

PS as soon as I figure out how to add a link to photos (my blog assignment) I will download some shots from the nature trail walk. And as soon as my battery is charged, I will add a couple at the top.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Things I've Learned in Preparing to Move

Moving out of one's home and cleaning every single nook and cranny of our house has given me new insight into some things.

#1 Photos should be placed in albums on a regular basis, not left in a box until a move or emergency situation. I just finished 15 years of photo organizing. Uffda

#2 We have too many clothes. In trying to cram the next two years of my basic needs and wants into 4 suitcases each (our goal for the trip), I have decided I really don't need four different red short sleeved shirts.

#3 I've had to separate my possessions into piles: 1) Take along 2) Store for at least 2 years 3) Give to friends to "babysit" )(will they think my precious possession is just junk? 4) Too precious to risk losing in flight or being ripped off by a wayward airport employee 5) Throw. Going through this process has reinforced what David has said all along: we have too much STUFF.

#4 Does bringing a lot of stuff from your former life leave any room for new stuff from the future?

#5 (...and this is the most important) While all these possessions, clothing items, pictures, etc are carefully packed into 12 suitcases weighing under 50 pounds each, they still aren't what's important. I am bringing tangible items to remind me of the intangible. Except for the dogs and Ben, I will have everything I really need sitting next to me in the airplane and in my heart and soul.