Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sailing Report from Q8

Last evening, David and I enjoyed a night sail. It was beautiful, peaceful, a very nice break from all the noise and hussle we see. Well, actually we don't see that much hussle because we live in a quiet neighborhood (which, we found out, the Kuwaits view as the Ghetto!)

The story of how I actually found this sailing opportunity is, I'm coming to learn, an example of how things actually "happen" here in Kuwait. Before leaving North America, I had decided that the "thing" I would do for myself in Kuwait was learn how to sail. I have enjoyed sailing (on big boats) in the Great Lakes (Superior and Michigan, thank you) and know that it is the Ultimate in adventures (peaceful yet exciting...how often does one get THAT combination?!)

Anyway, so I contacted the appropriate resource here. And waited, anxiously for a reply. I didn't get a reply, so I contacted them again (people ARE busy right?) I waited for a reply again. So I contacted someone here at work whose picture I saw in a powerpoint about the school. The picture was taken of her sailing. Whenever I saw that picture, I would say to myself "Self, That's you sailing in Kuwait". She said she would look into her contacts.
One week later, she gave me two contacts. One email, one phone. So I sent an email. And, yup, waited some more.

By now I was getting paranoid. Thinking that maybe it was NOT in the "Cards" for me to sail, I tried one last attempt at calling the person suggested. Didn't know the chick from "Adam" but I figured what the hec-it's a phone call, no big deal. There was no answer on the other end. So I thought, somewhat downtrodden, that it just wasn't going to work out for me to sail. It's okay, I thought, I can always walk along the gulf and pretend.

Now here in Q8, most people's mobile (cell) phones don't have leave a message service. But you see that someone has called you ("missed call") and, if you want to, or if you're curious, you call that number back to see who called you. Well, SailorGirl DID call me back. I told her that I was interested in sailing, she asked how I got her number, she recognized the name (password?) and said okay come sailing with us Tuesday evening at 6, Fahaheel Sea Club, bring Chocolates.

At least that's what I thought she said. She had the most incredible English accent I've ever heard (later I find out she's from Liverpool, and they have a twist all their own--remember hearing the Beatles in interviews?!)

Long story short, a long taxi ride south, what appeared to be an abandoned sailing club later--we ended up sailing. It was GLORIOUS. Sailing in the darkness with the coastline of Kuwait City in the background, stars overhead (We found out there really are more than 2 stars in Kuwait) and the incredible feeling of peace that only sailing can give (at least to me). I even got to take the helm for over an hour. I'm thinkin' life is pretty darn good.

I start Compentent Crew lessons in two weeks. Next week we're invited back for another Social Sail with SailorGirl, MasterMark and Dasher, the beautiful collie dog. David says it's not his cup of tea (too mellow I think). But I'll be back.

Thanks to Allah, or whoever is in control over here, My prayers will be answered!

Calling the End of Ramadan

Yes there are Eid gifts, Eid cards, Eid decorations, etc etc. Here are a couple of cards I scammed off Google. The last one is an advertisement. You betcha the stores get into the "act" of marketing during a holiday here.

It's official, the head Emom (the official name of the head of a Muslim church, not a new-age name for a female on internet) saw the right thing in the moon (on the moon? by the moon?) this morning between 3-4 am and Ramadan is official over. We know this because at around 430 am, several great loud calls were heard all over the area. As I mentioned earlier, there are several mosques within seeing (and hearing) distance from our apartment. Men (of course) chant, call, (not sing--never call it a song) these beautiful, soulful invitations/reminders to pray. Usually they last about 1 minute. So it was a very surreal experience to be awakened from a deep sleep to the sound of several beautiful, baritone calls to prayer surrounding the area. It must have lasted for 10 minutes.

Now all my students can go back to a regular schedule of eating and sleeping. The poor lil honeys have been keeping a hectic schedule over the past month: go to school from 845 to 145, then go home and take a nap, then at 630, eat a large meal (think Thanksgiving every night) for a coupel hours, then go out a visit family, get to bed around 1230 am, be awakened at 330 am to eat before the sun rise and start all over again.
I didn't fast during the month, although my eating habits changed due to the restrictions. I thought I would lose weight, but alas, I don't think that's the case--maybe it's just water retention because of the heat (tee hee).

The purpose of Ramadan (from my perspective) is for the Muslims to learn patience and develop more charitable habits. Several times the comments given by taxi drivers when we would ask how much the ride home would be from the current location, they would say..."One dinar, two dinar, five dinar-it's your choice, it's Ramadan". And then they would smile (as we gave them one dinar). When I told my students I was giving them the gift of reading a story to them, they smiled and only the brave ones said, "could you give us money instead?" (yeah when they could easily buy and sell me!)

It's been interesting to be here during the holy month of Ramadan. Now we'll see what normal life is in Kuwait. Stay tuned for details.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunrise over the End of Ramadan Day 30

Again Intlxpatr (http://www.intlxpatr.wordpress.com) comes across with a gorgeous sunrise shot. I will purchase a camera this weekend so I can start posting my own pictures.

If the correct person sees the correct thing tonight, then tomorrow will mark the end of Ramadan. I don't mean to sound irreverant, but I am not quite sure exactly how this all works. But I do have a greater understanding of why the Somalian students in Pelican Rapids never quite knew when Ramadan began and ended.

This means 6 days off for us. We don't have our civil IDs (the piece of paper that states we can legally be in this country for purposes other than visiting for a short time) and because of that, we can't travel out of the country less we risk having to repeat the whole process of application (bloodwork and all) again. And no, I'm not that anxious to leave...yet.

So we'll be home taking part in various social activities, site seeing adventures and possibly painting the apartment.

There's a possibility that we could encounter (enjoy?! relish?!) our first temperatures UNDER 100F this week. That's worth staying home for!

Eid Mubarak to you all
(it's the greeting one is supposed to give wishing you a safe and happy Eid)

Wheee...It's a Wii!!

Those of you over 30 reading this blog may struggle with understanding the headline. I know I would have not that long ago. Here is a picture of the Wii remote showing the hand action. Read on for further description..

Last night, we headed out with the Bffs and other fun people (OFP) to go bowling. The OFPs said they knew of a really cheap, tacky place that would be great for bowling, and we wouldn't run into any of our students. Not that that's a problem, just, well you know, the sight of teachers "letting their hair down" sometimes frightens students.

Anyway, after TWO attempts at finding places (we found them, they just weren't open), it was decided by the collective brain trust that we would head back to the BFFs home for a night of Wii bowling. So we stopped at the local snack store, loaded up and headed off for a night of games.

Wiis are interactive computer games. To play, you hold something like a remote (more like a an umbrella handle) in your hand and then replicate the action of bowling or swinging a tennis racket or whatever game you're playing. You choose your character from a list of silly ani-may characters (or can have one custom designed if you know what you're doing) and then play the game almost like it was real.

The sight of a bunch of adults huddled near a television screen, screaming and going through motions would probably frighten most children. We had a great time. One can get quite "into" whatever sport. David busted a sweat after getting soundly defeated at tennis (maybe it's because his character was "Mary Ellen"). At least we didn't replicate the Enthusiasm one OFP did when bowling, they completely "cleared" the table of all cups, plates with one well-aimed swipe!
I found my groove while playing Darts against the male BFF.(game name Daddy-o) In fact, David left their home at 10:15 pm and I said "I'll be home right away". Well, three dart games later (I only lost the last round by 2 points!) and it was time to depart. OH WAIT now we find Wii trivia. So after three rounds of that (my remote clearly wasn't working at this point because I kept losing!), it clearly was time to retreat.

A couple years ago David bought me DD2 (Dance Dance Revolution for those of you who don't speak teen) as a great way to get exercise. It was--but it was also more fun watching our children play and also watching other adults look as silly as we did. These computer toys may not be such a bad idea. It's not quite the same as a night of gutter balls, but it was still good clean fun. I know there will be several Wii tournaments over the next couple months. (look out Daddy-o, I'm comin' for revenge...)
PS to Dootcher and 'Mos who taught me to love DDR...this one is almost as much fun!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

HEARs the Deal...

It's been a long month here. After almost a month of having troubles with my left ear,(Remember my trip to the doctor a while ago?) and almost half a bottle of eardrops (and some home remedies), I can FINALLY HEAR!! What a wonderful thing this is. Working with 6th graders is challenge enough, but when one can't hear, it's even more frustrating. Today I am thankful for the seemingly very small, but really LARGE gift of hearing.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The more I know, the more I know I don't know

Thursday night, I got the opportunity to spend some quality time talking with someone from the Phillipines. Math Woman (not her real name) is spending her second year here after spending 5 years in Taiwan teaching. She freely spoke of how she was not paid the same wages as a "White" person in Taiwan (because she was not..white). She said that here in Kuwait she is paid for her worth and not based on the color of her skin (that made me feel better).

She also talked about the Phillipine culture and how it there so much of a group mentality. This means that the culture is raised to think of the needs of the GROUP rather than the needs of the Individual (in case you're wondering, America is definately an Individualistic country!)

She was raised to always think of the needs of her whole family. Even today, her grown married brother and sister live with their father, along with their spouses and children. All meals are eaten together. All major decisions are made collectively--including those that affect one person. She mentioned that now she can buy a book and not have to think "will my sister ever read this book?"

Being ignorant (which I freely admit) I told her that the only thing I knew about the Phillipines, other than it was somehow involved in WW2, was a little about the turmoil caused by Imelda Marco and her shoes (it's the truth..okay how much do YOU know about the Phillipines?) Fortunately David was there to help save my face and show her that not all Americans are ignorant. She said that Imelda is now saying that "All Women shop when they get depressed and I was going through a depression". (If you recall, Imelda Marcos had several hundreds pairs of expensive shoes, paid for by the people of the country, while the same people were starving). She smiled when I told her that in America, you can say to a woman "Hey Imelda where did you get those shoes!?" and the person (if they are old enough) will get the joke.

We also talked about how she finally has the opportunity think for herself and live for her self, not her entire family. I don't have any idea how old she is, but I would guess she's in her mid30s. It was an amazing conversation. Oftentimes, we take for granted how lucky we are. I intend to get to know MathWoman better. She might just help me get smarter (at least about the Phillipines. About Math...don't hold your breath!)

Turning 12 Sucks (or not...)

Thursday one of our newbies daughter turned 12. She (The daughter) is having a hard time adjusting to life here (it's got to be hard on the kids!) and so her mom, also a teacher, sent out an email inviting the AIS teachers who would like to, come and celebrate the daughter's birthday. The party was held at the Hard Rock Cafe in Kuwait (pictured above)

47 people showed up to help this lil' miss celebrate her birthday. It was an amazing moment for the sweet princess and also for the rest of us. We know that we're not alone here and that if we just ask, help will come.

It was a fun night of laughter and learning about others. I got some dirty looks from the Kuwaitis in the restaurant when I started to dance to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire". (I forgot that dancing is a no-no here). I didn't even have anything to drink (obviously!)
The event was a wonderful one for the daughter. I'm taking her to a ceramics class tonight at one of the malls. No one should have to turn 12 without the proper amount of celebration!!
The whole event also cured one of my fears. That when I turn 50 in March, there will be people to celebrate (without me) in North America AND there will be people here to help me cheer, twist and shout. No one should have to turn 50 either without a hip hip hurray (before the hip, hip surgery!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Taste of Culture Shock

NOTE: This is a picture of the gulf where I walk sometimes at night. It really is pretty here. What is not pretty is adjusting to Culture Shock. Attached is a well-written piece that explains what it's like. I did not write this, but it could have been me. I thought I'd add it so you can see what we're REALLY feeling. I found it on a post for ExPats. We've experienced all what is written in this article to one degree or another. Thanks for the AWARE center for making me aware of what I was feeling.

From an anonomyous source...
When I first arrived in Kuwait, I was worn out. I arrived in Kuwait in the middle of the night.

I was ushered through the visa section as I cast furtive glances at the armed military men telling me to move to a new line in a language I didn't understand. I then walked through what looked like an intimidating gauntlet of people on either side of me. Finally, locating my driver in the crowd I was on my way to my new home.I was given a quick tour of the school facilities at night, and collapsed into bed about 2a.m.

I awoke to the call to the prayer about one hour later, but not even having a clock, I had no idea what time it was. After waiting an eternity for daybreak, I headed out to see my new classroom. My school was located inside a compound, I found myself confused and disorientated, wandering around – frantically trying to find the door to school I had seen the previous night.

Finally, dripping in sweat, feeling emotional and light-headed, I spotted a couple I had been introduced to the night before. Being the only people I know in Kuwait, I showed up on their doorstep and collapsed into tears. My new friends fed me sugar, salt and water as they told me I was suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration. I learned culture shock lesson number one: the importance of drinking lots of water in Kuwait.

Over the next few weeks culture shock grabbed me by the throat and wrestled me to the ground. I felt completely incompetent – like a child – not understanding there were two kinds of plugs; that I needed adapters for the outlets, and a different one for the phone or that the outlets had an on-off switch. I couldn't find my regular kinds of food. When I turned on the cold water, it came out hot. During Ramadan I could not get to my bank because they changed the hours drastically.

All these experiences gave me a classic case of culture shock which happens when a person travels into a place that is unfamiliar to them. They feel they no longer have control over even basic needs. When I went out I attracted undue attention because of the color of my hair. I saw women dressed in black, covering their faces and imagined they were giving me judgmental looks, since all I could see was their eyes lined in black khol. I had to get over the feeling of helplessness of being a single woman in a culture where women do not often go out unescorted. It was a tremendous jump for me.

In many cases of culture shock a person can feel the locals are hostile to them. It should be noted this is a feeling and normally the reality.Once I settled into my new home, things became easier. I took advantage of the yachting club's free day out and sailed around the Gulf for a few hours. I began walking to local stores, taking taxis' to interesting places like the Friday market, malls and gold souks. I eventually settled into my new apartment and work routine. I made friends, and began writing email daily. That was how I overcame my initial shock.

Welcome to life as an expatriate. Amazingly, that is what the experts recommend. Break out of your shell, start conversations, learn a few phrases in the local language, and develop your routines and interests. Try not to be judgmental. Don't surround yourself with expatriates that feel hostile towards the country or people.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's really safe here Mom...really it is!

NOTE: I found this bumper sticker on the side of an old building the other day. I wish I knew more about the history behind it, but I can tell you it made me feel safe.

There are those of you reading this blog whose first question when we told you we were moving to Kuwait was, "Is it safe?" Which was followed by "Aren't you scared?!" C'mon fess up...you know you said it (or thought it) when we told you we were headed to the Middle East.
Here are my first month impressions on that subject:

#1 Our superintendent told us that if it weren't for CNN, you wouldn't know there was a war happening 200 miles away. We thought he was kidding. He wasn't. We truly do not see any visible signs of a war happening in Iraq. I haven't seen anyone in uniform (although I know the troops are here-and I'm glad). I haven't seen any military vehicles. And the only gun I saw was when the Emir's guard was suggesting that I truly do move across the street (post from last week)

#2 We don't feel threatened or followed or nervous. For the overwhelming majority, the people who live here are peaceful, content people. (Except if you tork them off while driving. But that's another story). We feel safe walking around at night. Almost every night I walk along the Gulf, pitch dark (with others of course) and don't feel nervous at all. I was afraid that moving here meant I would never walk alone for two years. That fear is gone.

#3 I don't even know if people bother to lock their cars in parking lots. Some nights we don't lock the door to our apartment (but the main door is locked) .There's just a calm atmostphere all around. Friday night we went to the crowded Markets and didn't even feel threatened or bothered about people coming up to us.

#4 I've heard there are the few random beggars but they haven't made an appearance in my sightlines.


I feel that the biggest injustice that was done TO the Muslim people was the travesty of 9/11. The Muslim people I've experienced are peaceful, family-oriented, not looking to slit my throat because I'm an American (which I don't hide).

#6 I can say that growing up in Pelican Rapids has certainly prepared us for life here. The diversity doesn't even phase us, nor does the site of women in full hejabs and men in dishtashas.

#7 I think I'm getting a chance to practice what I preached. When I worked as a Cultural Collaborative Coordinator sharing Pelican Rapid's diversity with 9 area schools, I publicly stated that my biggest hope would be that kids from other schools could say "Hey I met this really neat kid from Pelican Rapids. He's fun, smart, talented. Oh yeah he's from Somalia (or Mexico or wherever). I wanted students to meet the PERSON before meeting the RACE. I am glad to say that I know fun, smart, talented people from this country who happen to be Muslim.
Thanks to my guardian angels watching over us, Life is Good here.
And yes I promise to start locking my doors--if only to make you feel better.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

SunRise, SunSet-Verse Two

Some time ago, I wrote a post entitled "One Season Following Another..." In that piece I freely lifted (thanks again Intlxpatr) pictures of the sunrise and sunset from her eyes. Well, these pictures are through my eyes.
The sunrise is taken outside our bedroom window. We don't have much for looks-as there's an abandoned (we think) building behind us. There used to be clothes hanging outside the window right across from us, but no longer.
The sunset is taken at the Avenues mall. Think Mall of America, only not quite to big. But it does have that IKEA store where I'm about to plunk down some serious Dinar once we get paid (two more days to go!)

The sunrises and sunsets are quicker here. I've come to miss the lingering sunset on Lake Lida but that, along with many, many other things, are what I agreed to leave for awhile in coming here.

It's not that it's all that different (it would be really a pity to come this far and have everything the same, right?!), it's just that one never knows when something is going to be different. And that's part of the charm and frustration. If I was looking for an analogy (and I must be) I would compare it to standing on hard sand. It's firm and you think you're safe and then all of a sudden it shifts a little. Not enough to make you fall down,just enough to say "uffda" (which I say a lot here-mostly to myself).

The other night I enjoyed a couple of wonderful skype calls home to loved ones. Great conversations and laughs. It was fun. But the next day I was cranky. I think I figured out that if I don't talk too much to people then I will be okay. I have great empathy with the Turk, who told me he didn't want to call home because it would make him lonesome. I "get it" now.

It's all a part of the process. The farm girl is doin' okay, even if there are occassional setbacks. Thank Allah she's married to the Rock of a spouse who keeps it all on even ground.

Confessions of a Cat Hater

I hate cats. As a species I find them fickle, sneaky, not very interesting creatures. But individually, I have known some great kitties.

Here in Kuwait there are literally thousands of cats. They were brought over to help cure the rat problem. I don't know when but I would venture to say that there "ain't no rats here no more" because of the sheer number of cats.

I've actually grown to respect these tough critters. There is no fancy box stuffed with rags for them to sleep in. 99% of them have probably never seen a home outside of the garbage cans or street they find residence in. They have to find their own food (although some people do feed them I suppose). They are sorta mean looking--in a "don't mess with me human" sorta way. They don't easily scare, they lie in the shade and maybe pay attention as we pass by. Maybe not. Depends on how much interest they want to show.
As a sworn dog-lover, I supposed it's in my nature to hate cats. But as I don't have any dogs to love here, I am learning to tolerate and maybe even accept these light-footed creatures.

The other day I saw the perfect "picture". But without camera, I could only snap it in my mind. I'll try to re-create it for you.
The Medan Hawalli police station is across the street from us. In the sand lot by us and in front of the police station there are impounded cars. One of the cars was a lovely green Jaguar. This kitty was lying on the hood, stretched out as far as she (he?) could be. It was in perfect alignment with the fancy Silver Hood Ornament that distinguishes Jags. The photo would have been a wonderful representation of how these cats feel about life here. OR at least in my interpretation, never having been a cat (I think).

The cats seem to have the heat and traffic and noise all figured out. I can almost imagine what they would say to me (if they chose to speak to me, that is)
"Just Chill Human, you can take care of yourself, look at me."
HHmmm ...maybe I should be taking lessons from felines.

Lest you think it's just me that thinks this way of cats, here's a piece from the Kuwait Times newspaper:
Too cool to care, the cats of Kuwait rule the streets. Residential streets, industrial areas and the beachfront are all spots that the undomesticated cats of Kuwait call home. They have a casual demeanor and a laidback attitude that is distinctly feline. These furry creatures are able to do something most animals can't; tough out the tough Kuwaiti streets; and let's not forget the lovely Kuwait weather.These Kuwaiti felines walk around like the kings and queens they are. Kuwait is their country, we just happen to live here. Being extremely territorial, each family chooses a location and builds a life. It almost seems as though our presence is bothering them at times.
The great thing about this country is that you can see all kinds of cats swaggering around the various areas. You have your tinny tiny kittens that are so skinny and cute with their little paws and that small hop in there step; I just want to pick them up and give them a squeeze. Then, you also have their mothers always close by, the type of cats you don't want to mess with; she just gave birth and she will let you have it if she feels threatened

Saturday, September 20, 2008

For Wagner Lovers only...

Here are my NEPHEWS!!! We got a chance to see them Friday afternoon by arranging a trip to the airport. The nefs had an opportunity to drive and pick up a comrade and so David and I got a ride to the airport to see them. It was GREAT! Although due to Ramadan, we couldn't go anywhere for a coffee or tea (remember-dry country no beer). But we still touched base. Ah, a shot from home. Just what I needed. It was fun to compare experiences and impressions. Now I'm hoping that I can coordinate a Thanksgiving meal (no, I'm not cooking, but I can find cooks!) for us.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Things I'm seeing in Kuwait-2

Add Image

Photo #1 This is a billboard near my house advertising a TV game show. If you get in close, you'll see the man in the center is holding American dollars!
Photo #2
At the gas station near my house, I took a picture of the price of filling up the tank. The cost is 65 fils per liter. I'm not a math whiz, but the total cost of filling his tank is about $10 US dollars. Sigh (for you!)
Photo #3
This is the Shiite mosque near my apartment. I've been told one can tell that it's Shiite(pronounced she-ite) because of the green lights shining in the windows at night. The echoes of both Sunni and Shi'te mosques surrounding our apartments are quite a marvel to hear (especially beginning at 4 am). Thanks to my favorite Kuwaiti blogger who corrected me.

Getting ready for Royalty

We live across the street from the Kuwait Blinds Association. (no they don't sell blinds, it's a place for blind people. That is exactly what it is called)

Anyway, we knew something was up over the past two weeks as they've been very actively sprucing up the place.

My favorite was when they removed the bricks on the sidewalk, hand-carried them (in a wheelbarrow) to the sandlot about 150 feet away. I was thinking they would stay there for at least a year. Five days later, at 10 pm, five large dumptrucks came roaring in with a loader and took care of the pile of bricks. From what I understand, the bricks were replaced last year.

Each year during Ramadan, the Emir (or his appointed representative) visits facilities that are under his patronage.

When we came home last night, there were several flashing police cars, armed security guards and what looked like a motorcade for someone "important". We came home at the exact moment they were departing. We were prohibited (for a moment) from walking down the street while the motorcade passed. It was fairly exciting as they departed in full speed, lights flashing, several cars as to disguise the exact vehicle the Emir was riding.

It reminded me of the time we were in London during the wedding of Chuck and Di in 1981. I wanted to see the royal passage from a tree (great vantage point) but a Bobbie (cop) made me get down. I actually said (with much embarrassment now) "I came all the way from Herman Minnesota to see this wedding".

Last night, when David suggested we move, I said "no". He then pointed my attention to the security guard standing on the corner, pointing at us, with a gun (not quite pointed at us but he had a serious look on his face) saying that we move. I said to David "I came all the way from Minnesota to see this". I was kidding. The policeman was not.

Later on, our BFFs, who have a 4th floor view of the whole event, assured us it was NOT the Emir because "there weren't snipers on the roofs". It was somebody important, just don't know who.

More Things I'm seeing in Kuwait

These are things that make me smile
Photo #1
is at the Friday market. Earlier I wrote about the incredible display at the Fabric Souk (market). There is more material than I have ever seen.
Photo #2 This is a road sign that translates to "buckle up or die". Not all K.drivers heed the warning-and yes, they die.
Photo #3 This was a sign in a nearby Bakalla (small grocery store). It seemed to speak of Cultural Diversity at it's best.

Things I'm seeing in Kuwait-4

Photo #1
Olives, Olives,
Olives..you can buy any and every kind of olive here. One of my favorite pasttimes (back home) is going out to SassodeLago, grabbing a cold Corona out of the beer fridge, going to the fridge inside and taking olives and placing them in my beer and sitting on the deck. What a great time I would have here IF there was...Corona (deep sigh!)
Photo 2: Just another lamberghini. The story behind this is that the Kuwaiti man drove up, parked right in front of the mall, got out, went inside, was gone for 5 minutes (long enough for us tourists to snap our pictures in front of his lime-green dream machine) and then came out with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts and sped away. Our mouths were still hanging open as he sped away.
Photo #3
This place is by our apartment. I have no idea what they are training for--or who they are training. If you're a suspicious sort, you might think 9/11. If you're not, then you just gotta smile at the possibilities.

Things I'm seeing in Kuwait-The Series

The good news is that I finally figured out how to download pictures I've taken onto the computer I have at work. The bad news is that my camera broke. SO these pictures will have to hold you for a while. There are 5 in the series as you scroll down.

This photo of the family was taken as we were getting ready to attend the Iftar (breaking of the Fast) dinner sponsored by our school owners. Lookin' good eh? (with a nod to the dozens of Canadians we've been hanging around for the past month!

Look on for more photos....

Things I'm seeing in Kuwait-1

Photo #1
Coffee break(not during Ramadan because one can't eat or drink from sunup to sundown).
The sight of groups of men dressed in their "Dishtashas" gathering for coffee and smart talk makes me smile (And think of my own smart talk coffee group)
Photo #2
Women who follow the muslem practice of wearing hejabs mostly wear black head to toe. However, if you could see the front of these women, you would note that their "scarves" are trimmed in sequins. I liked the young girl on the right trying to keep step.
Photo #3
This is the most beautiful woman I've seen here yet. She was stunning. Most women are absolutely beautiful, completely put together with makeup, sparkling eyes, perfect skin, etc. Her friend (also a woman) was dressed, ah, let's just say I didn't know she was a she until I got close to ask if it was appropriate to take a photograph.

Pleasantly Surprised

Wednesday afternoon I had to make a trip to see the Doctor. Nothing serious, just a plugged ear that has caused me not to hear well for a month.
I was not looking forward to making this trip. First of all, it would be my first solo cab ride; secondly, when we had to get out chest xray, it was a "Scary" experience that I would not want to repeat. Something about being in an "institutionalized" medical facility gives me the ebbie-jeebies.
But the fact was that I can't hear out of my left ear and that makes teaching difficult. So, I reluctantly made an appointment (got a name from the BFF) with the Doctor.
Surprise #1--they could see me the next day and I had my choice of times after 2 pm.
Surprise #2--the cab ride was nice (thanks to the guard at school who takes care of me and got me a reliable taxidriver)
Surprise #3--I was seen at exactly the appointed time, and the appointment took 5 minutes
Surprise #4--I received a prescription, went downstairs in the building to purchase the eardrops and the cost was less than $1.50.
Surprise #5--The appointment was $40 (total) and it all took less than 15 minutes from the time I entered the building to when I was walking out. I later found out that even if I would have to had x-rays, bloodwork, etc--it would have still remained at $40.

A TOTALLY pleasant surprise. The clinic was in a beautiful, clean building, the female doctor is a lovely Eqyptian woman. She and her nurse handle the appointments right in her office.
Not that I'm looking forward to being sick here, but next time, I will not be afraid of the appointment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bridging the Gaps

NOTE: THANKS TO ROLAND JORDAHL, Photographer extraordinaire and FRIEND,who sent me this gorgeous picture of the Rotary Suspension Bridge across the Pelican River. Lordy, I give thanks for Jordy!

I thought this was a fitting picture to publish as I try to explain how we're trying to BRIDGE our North American Experience with our Middle East Experiences.
We're finding that many things here are the same (example: the ability to purchase western products, how kids react in school, American TV availabilities-although we don't have TV) and that many, many things are different (living in a Muslim country, the extreme heat (which is getting better!), life in a rather large city).
For example: Yesterday we were supposed to be issued our bank cards , for use when we actually get paid (which will be in a week...and counting). They told us to in the school lobby at 2 pm to meet with the bank representative. We waited...and waited...and waited. We were told repeatedly that they were "15 minutes away". Finally, at 330 pm, we were told we could leave and the bank rep would come another day OR we could stay in the chance that he did show up. By now it had become sort of a "well I'm darned if I've waited this long I'm going to wait it out" game for some of us and a source of serious aggrivation for others. Some left, some stayed.

I stayed while David went to watch the Volleyball game. At 345, the manager showed up, no apologies, just "here I am". So, while none of us outwardly complained ( we are all newbies and still under the learning curve), we were not all that pleased. If this had been a cartoon strip, there probably would have been bubbles coming out of our heads saying "Well, in North America this never would have happened".

SO, Danid got his card given to him. NO-it's not a typo. That's how my spouse's name is spelled on our bank card. We don't exactly know if this will give him trouble in future withdrawls, but it is what it is. Then I waited as the manager went through all 31 other applications. AC (another newbie) and I joked about not making the team if we didn't get a bank card. Well, AC did-although they didn't have his card ready either, he only got a temporary one. AND GUESS WHO DIDN'T HAVE an account processed. Yup, lil Ms Me.

I wasn't angry (actually I was very hungry which had surpassed any thoughts of anger) I was more amused-in a sort of "how in the world could this happen in a professional setting" sort of way. Another newbie, who spent 5 years here 10 years ago (got it?), was really angry, stormed off after saying a few choice Arabic words and making a few gestures. I didn't know exactly how to react. Is one supposed to show anger? Is one supposed to be MN Nice and say "oh that's alright". We're still not sure.

"Inshallah, I will return Wednesday with your card, Miss. Sorry" is what the man said. (Remember that phrase? It means "if God wills it"). Again, not quite knowing what emotion to use, I just left laughing. Fortunately we have no money to withdraw right now anyway so it's sort of a mute point. But to be without access is frustrating-if even in theory.

To ease the pain (or rather to calm me down) David suggested we go out to eat at this Lebanese restaurant in our neighborhood. He knew that food was a prime need for me and he hoped that the walk would do me good. He was right. We had previously enjoyed this restaurant last week and the cute, very customer-service waiter, Mustafa (yeah like Lion King) remembered our order from last week. We were so impressed. It sorta restored my faith in humanity.

SO we live and we learn and we grow here in the Middle East. If there was a cartoon bubble above my head right now it would be saying "Inshallah, we will have another day with new experience which will give us yet another story".
Keep the Faith

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gurgiyan-a lesson

Here in the Middle East, they celebrate Gurgiyan, which is:
...a Kuwaiti tradition celebrated on the 11th day of the holy month of Ramadan. On that day, Children wear their traditional costumes and visit people in their neighborhoods singing, special Gurgiyan songs. Adults give children candy and nuts. In a way, it is similar to “Trick or Treat”.

Today I got my first Gurgiyan gift..a beautiful ceramic bowl stuffed with Candy and Nuts (huzzah!) The thought was far more precious than the gift...the student who gave it to me is sort of quiet, but always smiling. What a day brightener.

In the Karmaic (word made up?!) whole big Karma-you-get-what-you-need-from-the-universe-scheme of life, I really needed a lift today. I was feeling a little low and then, Voila! out of the sky my lil N* (name witheld for obvious privacy reasons) appeared shyly with this bag and card. Waaayyy Cool.

I got the pictures above from a former AIS teacher's blog. Ironically (Again maybe Karma?)-the young man who gave me the gift is pictured when he was a 1st grader). Tomorrow we're having a parade in the school with the lil' peeps in their costumes. My kids are 6th graders and of course "too big" to go on the full school parade. Think Halloween parade in any American elementary school. One student told me the story of how disappointed she was when she was in America. Apparently the people go WAY OUT on this holiday.
Also, it's the time of partying in the middle of the serious, thoughtful month of Ramadan. Everyone needs a little break, right?!
I'll let you know how the candy load works out...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happy Anna

Here's a shot of Anna and her new BFF-at least in Kuwait. AlleDrama is the daughter of our new BFFs and we do a lot of stuff together. We're thankful for the fact that Anna has someone to "hang with". Both nights this weekend, Anna also had social contacts and events which got her out of the house. So far, so good...

PS Ignor the date at the bottom of the picture-we're still having "issues" with our camera.

Inquiring Minds want to know...whose butt is cuter?

We finally did it...we booked our first flight out of here. We're headed to...
ITALY for 5 days and then to Germany to spend time with our German family. This will be our Christmas Trip of a Lifetime Opportunity.

First we will be viewing Rome, Florence, Venice...places I've seen through my work with BI and am THRILLED to be taking my family to see them. Anna has a serious budding interest in art, so it's important to get her to Florence to bask in Michaelangelo's work.

Our Christmas card will be from Florence with David standing next to THE David and we'll see whose butt is really cuter? (Reference to the headline...1000 Arabian apologies if I have offended with words or photo)

Inshallah, we will be able to meet up with a Sasso-neice who is currently studying in Florence. WOW...the fun is starting to begin.

The adventure we had in actually booking this flight is another tale, which I won't bother you with because it sounds a lot like whining. Suffice it to say that one should never take for granted the ease you all in North America have with phone service, internet and toll-free calls.

Three cheers to the Wonderful people at our favorite bank who made this happen from PR. I won't mention the name (you know who you are!) because it would be a shameless plug and I'd have to get advertising dollars from you. But then again, momma does love to travel. HHmmmm...

Divine Intervention?

Friday morning (our Sunday) I returned to the Lighthouse Church of Kuwait, a thriving, loud, singing congregation located in a complex that houses 22 church buildings and as many as 22,000 people during worship times. I really enjoy this vibrant crowd, mostly made of Phillipino, SriLankan and Indian Christians who are definately on fire about God.

What I mostly enjoy about it is the music, and the fact that I can just sing and not worry about playing the music. There's a group of very talented musicians who know how to rock a song (appropriately of course)

It's somewhat humbling to sit in a congregation where I'm in the minority (as far as skin color) and know these people (many of whom are maids and service people) are singing and giving and truly happy to be there.

In a stroke of marital generosity (and maybe curiosity) David came with me and BFF to the service on Friday morning. They had a special blessing for teachers and asked all of us to come forward. It was most of the "white folks" in the congregation. We were prayed over and had our heads annoited with oil. Fairly cool..hey when you're in the classroom, you take all the help you can get!

The minister's theme was "You are in Kuwait for a reason" and we have been placed here to do great things. As if I didn't feel enough pressure in the classroom! It will be interesting to see how those reasons are revealed.

We (only) get by with a little help from our Friends

Following the excursion to Kuwait Towers (see below) we had dinner (at Rudy Tuesdays-how American can one get?) with our fellow newbies and we purposely chose to eat with the other Minn-a-sootan, Jessie.
I was mentioning to this lovely young girl (she's about 26ish) that I admired her because she was doing this adventure as a single person. There have been so many times that I have been so thankful for David and Anna's presence on this whole new world adventure. I really don't think I could have (or would have) done it alone. It was then that I found out she had been to India and, in the category of "it's a small world" (this one's for you Peter) we found out she had taught at the same school (Woodstock) where we had interviewed (we refered to it as the Hillcrest of the Himalyas) and where Janelle Stewart (from PR) had visited as her friend works there.
This woman is also another amazing example of the adventuresome spirit that seems to run strong here.

Friday night we were out with our other "old" newbie friend CC. She's 10 days older than David (yea, really old) and this is her first teaching position as she switched careers. Even more amazing, she got the job here on August 1st and arrived on August 15. Those of you friends and family who were lucky enough to be close enough to us this summer to get "stuff sprayed on you" remember how frantic David and I were for 6 months...this chick did it all in 15 days.
CC is in danger of "going under" from too much self-imposed stress. She teaches 8th grade English (yes, she deserves a special place in Heaven) and she's working too hard at trying to figure out the systems, the grading, the swing of being a teacher and other stuff.
SO HERE I AM TO THE RESCUE (my tights and cape made the trip just fine thank you) I said "Cindy you are NOT going back to your apartment alone to eat, we're going out!" And I half-drug here down the street to a restaurant.
In this environment, we all have to save each other. I've been "Saved" a couple times and it was my turn to pay it forward.

Speaking of Uffda, yesterday I also found two other people who understand the true meaning of the word (I've decided to stop trying to explain it because people really don't get it). The world really is small. As a final note, (and I'm not kidding) our doorbell on our apartment actually plays "It's a small world after all". I'd love to meet the person with that sense of humor.

Playing Tourist

Friday night's social adventure was a trip to the Kuwait Towers-the photographic "symbol" of Kuwait. As the official website says, it is "Located on the Arabian Gulf in the area of sharq. Kuwait Towers is one of the main tourist attractions in the State of Kuwait. The towers were designed by a Swedish company and executed by a Yugoslav company. They were built in 1975 and inaugurated in 1979. The plates that cover the balls are fifty five thousand in number. They are made of Chinese steel painted in eight different colors."

I think it's a telecommunication tower..either that or a water tower.

I believe it could also be said that this is the emotional symbol of the country. When Saddem Hussein and his troops were here in 1990-91, they tried to demolish this symbol on their "way out of town". Surrounding the middle level are pictures of the destruction that the towers incurred. The fact that this structure remained largely intact is a continual tangible symbol to the strength of the American support. I didn't read these words in any guidebook, just what I've sensed.

The whole experience is similar to being up in the Sears tower in Chicago where you can walk 360 degrees and see the city from a birds eye view. As we were looking at the city (it was now dark) David remarked that it's amazing for such a large city ( 3 million people) there aren't many lights on. I reminded him that there are huge parts of this city that are still desert!

We've had the chance to drive around quite a bit over the past month (yes it's a month already!) Friday night in our excursions, we saw a pretty bad accident involving three vehicles. I don't think everyone made it. It was at that point, I put my head down and said to our driver (the BFF Vonda) "how about you drive and I'll pray".

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

For Those of you who have never seen the Arabian Gulf

Here it is.
Love, Nadine

Worth a Thousand Arabic words...

This shot was too cute not to share. We were on the boat with this family (also employed by AIS) and Ms Mona (background) was talking to them about boat etiquette. Mom is on the left in traditional wear. The oldest one has started to wear a covering for her hair. This happens at grade 5. The other two were covered for the intense sun. Ohio Newbies (hi JL!) on the right.

I'm anxiously awaiting the day I start to take sailing lessons. Oh for Ramadan to be finished...

Can any of my creative friends think of a great title for this picture?

Me and Miss Mona

This is Ms Mona Williams-she's our Social Coordinator at AIS. She takes it upon herself to plan events for all. So far we've been to an Iftar dinner (breaking of the Fast) at the AWARE Center, been boating on the Arabian Gulf, and we're headed for a tour of the Kuwait Towers (the most recognizable photographed item in Kuwait) on Friday. And a night at a nightclub, and a play...and the list goes on and on!

Ms Mona can liven up a room by just walking in. She is originally from Uganda, she's lived in the states and calls New Zealand (yeah she's a kiwi) her home when she's not planning life here for us. She's currently an elementary teacher, although she's taught all grades. In the summer when she's not hanging out with her grandbabies, she's a storyteller around NZ.
It is SO HELPFUL to have someone who can organize your life for you. Ms Mona is one of the angels sent to Kuwait for all of us newbies.

The photo was taken on the boat cruise last Saturday. If you look over my right shoulder, you can see the Kuwait Towers in the distance. I'll also send the one of me piloting the boat.

Monday, September 8, 2008

My new Heroine-Mali

We enjoy our maid but she's pretty funny. She sure knows how to take care of a house. She tells us where to put things and shows us new ways to use things. We can't find things after she's at our house, but most of the time, she's come up with a great new place to store things. It's pretty amazing. This woman was very aggressive in receiving a job with us..she called us three times in 5 days and then wanted to have the keys right away to our building.

But actually I admire her perserverance. Especially after I heard a little bit of her story.
She is from Sri Lanka and she lives here with her husband. Their two children, ages 13 and 15 are living there with her mother. She hasn't seen them in two years (and I thought 4 months for seperation from Ben was bad!) Everything they owned was lost in the awful earthquake/flood a couple years ago--remember THE sunami? Her and her husband now have jobs in Kuwait to try and make money for their children's school and to live on. Reminds me a little of some of the Somalias I knew in Pelican Rapids. (sending money home)

It's a bit odd to say "yes my maid will take care of that". We had a housekeeper in PR-a Bosnian woman who was also working very hard to help her family. But somehow this is different. Our apartment manager (official name Harres) works SO HARD to make money to send his wife and little child to Kuwait. He is waiting for this to happen-maybe this year.

As I said earlier, this country is full of HAVEs and HAVENOTs. And we're somewhere in the middle. Thankful for what we have, thankful for what we don't have and appreciative of what we can have.

Below is an article about Sri Lankan maids from the NY Times. After reading it, I can see why Mali was so forward in getting a job with teachers. It could be alot worse.

NYTIMES....After a year of thinking, 35-year-old Lalitha - who prefers that name - decided to trade her life as a Sri Lankan housewife for one as a Middle Eastern housemaid. After completing their 12-day training, she and her classmates would join a mass migration of women to the Persian Gulf's petro-lubricated economies, trading the fecundity and community of Sri Lankan villages for the aridity and high-walled homes of the Arab world.

Behind those walls the women risk exploitation so extreme that it sometimes approaches "slaverylike" conditions, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report on foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. But while attention has focused on the failure of countries like Saudi Arabia to prevent or prosecute abuses, the de facto complicity of the countries that send their women abroad has largely escaped scrutiny.

For developing countries, migration has become a safety valve, easing the pressure to employ the poor and generating more than $100 billion in remittances in 2003, according to a study by Devesh Kapur, an associate professor of government at Harvard.

More than a million Sri Lankans - roughly 1 in every 19 citizens - now work abroad, and nearly 600,000 are housemaids, according to government estimates. Migrant workers have become Sri Lanka's largest and most consistent earner of foreign exchange, out-doing all major agricultural crops.

Sri Lanka's government has become an assiduous marketer of its own people. With training programs like Lalitha's, it is helping to prepare what is by now a second generation of housemaids. It even provides a safe haven to shelter, hide and rehabilitate those women who return with broken bodies, lost minds or incipient children.

The women often leave indebted, work virtually indentured and have almost no legal redress against the sexual harassment, confinement or physical abuse they often suffer in the countries they adopt. With no absentee voting rights, they also have no political voice back home.
By one estimate, 15 to 20 percent of the 100,000 Sri Lankan women who leave each year for the gulf return prematurely, face abuse or nonpayment of salary, or get drawn into illicit people trafficking schemes or prostitution.

Many housemaids who run away from their employers are kept in limbo at Sri Lanka's embassies because no one wants to pay their way home. Last year, after their plight was publicized, the government airlifted home 529 maids who had been living for months, packed as tightly as in a slavehold, in the basement of the embassy in Kuwait.
NOTE: THE CHURCH I now attend helped these women.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Little History Lesson on Kuwait

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Kuwait's prime minister will travel to Baghdad this week in the Gulf state's first high-level visit to Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded his tiny neighbor in 1990, an Iraqi government official said on Sunday.

Kuwait Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah will meet his Iraqi counterpart, Nuri al-Maliki, during the visit, the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The leaders will discuss reparations for Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait, debts and borders, he said.

Under U.N.-imposed peace terms after the war, Iraq must pay 5 percent of oil income in compensation to Kuwait and other countries. Iraq was driven out of Kuwait in 1991 by a U.S.-led, U.N.-authorized coalition.

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein, Washington has been pressing its Arab allies to forgive Iraqi debts and to restore high-level diplomatic ties.

On Sunday, Iraq's national media centre reported that Saudi Arabia would soon open an embassy in Iraq, but did not say when.
Baghdad is also seeking forgiveness of loans Kuwait made to Iraq during its 1980-1988 war with Iran. Yet many Kuwaitis are still bitter about the 1990 invasion.
The United Arab Emirates recently waived all of Iraq's almost $7 billion obligations.

The other day David was talkng with a young female student about the women's right to vote (just recently aquired here). And they were talking about women becoming a member of parliment. And David made a comment like..."well the Emir (word for King) has to approve of this..." and this young woman said "well I was talking to my grandfather last night and he said he wouldn't have to approve this"... meaning that her grandfather is the Emir.

The al Sabah family is the ruling family here. I've got 6 6th graders with that last name. They are all sweet kids, respectful, not expecting any special treatment. I've got a set of twins boys that are a lot of fun. I'd like to invite them to visit the cabin next summer. Yes ignorant western woman truly doesn't realize what she's saying...

It's interesting to drive by the Palace (and I mean Palace) It goes on and on for about 12 city blocks...and I'm not exagerating. And I guess it's just one of the palaces. Oh well, at least there are less Million--Billionaires here than Dubai-the neighboring country. Maybe they could buy me a couple boxes of $9 Mini Wheats. Maybe they could just buy me General Mills.

The hunt continues for THAT Rich Kuwaiti who will come home with us and save the future of Education in Pelican Rapids (vote YES on that referendum folks!) I know he's out there and I'm gonna find him...

Word of the Day

extremely annoying, difficult, or the like; straining one's patience and goodwill to the limit: a trying day; a trying experience.
–verb (used with object)
to attempt to do or accomplish: Try it before you say it's simple
—Synonyms 1, 10. Try, attempt, endeavor, strive all mean to put forth an effort toward a specific end. Try is the most often used and most general term: to try to decipher a message; to try hard to succeed. Attempt, often interchangeable with try, sometimes suggests the possibility of failure and is often used in reference to more serious or important matters: to attempt to formulate a new theory of motion.

Use of the word in a sentence (or two)
1. I am trying to learn how to decipher all these codes and new systems used in the school, proper dress for the weather, understand life in a country that can't seem to find how to plug in a telephone.
2. Some days all of the above tends to try my patience AND goodwill.

We were told that Anna (get this!) should go to the Ministry of Telecommunication herself (with an adult chaperone of course) and convince them, with her winning smile, big brown eyes and blondish hair, that they (the Ministry) needed to hook up the telephone for her family. So we agreed to it, Anna was up for the adventure, and then nothing happened (the person who told her wasn't able to make it happen today)
So we get to explain to our daughter, once again, that we should just have patience and it will all work out (or not).
We are learning a lot of big life lessons here but most of all I'm learning how incredibly lucky people in North America are with the simple things in life: who would have thought that not having telephone lines would be something that makes me thankful?
Here's another sentence:
I am trying to have patience with all of this. Wish me luck

PS We'll keep you posted on how this all goes. At least it gives me something to write about.

Food Glorious Food

The Iftar (breaking of the Fast) is better than any Thanksgiving buffet-bring your favorite dish to pass-event that I' ve sampled recently. What fun eating food that you have NO IDEA what you're breaking into. The bad part of that is that if you find something you like, you don't know the name.

Next time I hope they label all the food.

I'm the one about four up on the right consuming madly...SOrry it's a small picture. I'm working on the downloading part when I don't have access to my own camera and computer. (Sigh)

Just close your eyes and remember any gathering in the past you've attended where there's food. yeah, you got the idea...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Become more AWARE

Thursday evening we went to the AWARE center- a place that has, as it's mission, to increase friendship between Westerners and Arabs. We were treated to an informative slide show on Kuwait, Ramadan and some customs. Then we pigged-out-seriously-I actually heard this term used by a local which made me smile--especially after they told the story of someone thinking that it meant the PIG was OUT of the fence. Why they were even talking about Pigs in a country where pork is a Mortal go-to-hell-if-you-touch-it Sin I'm not sure, but it was a good story.

The AWARE center gives lectures, meals, etc to all who are interested. I sat at a table with a lovely couple-he was British, she was Czech and their precious, precocious 6 year old daughter. He is an executive with a big electronics firm here. She is a "housewife" but she goes to the well known (and quite expensive) health club here. Unfortunately if one doesn't work here, I can't imagine how you meet people. I'm sure the fee (about $2700) to join the health club is worth every bit of her sanity.

We really enjoyed learning about Kuwait-- it's always good to learn about one's host countr
Last night we went to dinner at Chili's (yes the Chain that you also find in Fargo and other bright places). It was a bizarre moment to hear the Phillipine waiters and waitresses singing the dorky "this is your birthday" song. After that, we went to the heritage souk (market) to purchase (are you ready for this...a floor mop for the maid! (yea I know we REALLY know how to live it up!)

This morning we were treated to a delightful boatride on the Arabian-oops sorry, PERSIAN Gulf. It was beautiful. We were on a lovely boat-the lady Sirban-cruising with about 40 of our newbie friends and their children. The gulf is a beautiful green-blue, not many birds soaring about (it's probably too hot for them too!) and it was a pleasure to just be out on the water.

I tell you all this not to impress you with our buldging social life, but to illustrate how we are coping. We-okay I --am homesick and would give all the dinar in my pocket to see a familiar face. But I guess that's a part of this gig. I knew this would happen, it just is painful when it does.
I imagine it's a part of the roller coaster that we'll be riding all year.

David and Anna seem fine. I didn't expect David to get homesick because he is used to this lifestyle. I don't know about Anna--anyone got any tips for a 15 year old??!

She's joined the volleyball team, which is a good thing. That will keep her moving and meeting people. This morning I lay in bed enjoying the sounds of her and David bantering and laughing. Some of the good things are still here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wagners Overtake Kuwait

Okay so this would be an imaginery headline but I am proudly boasting that I have blood family in the country now (in addition to my married family). Nephews "CottieD and Nikker arrived yesterday after a 30 hour flight from the US of A. They are here courtesy of the ND Air National Guard. I have high hopes for seeing them within the next 10 days (I know I know, they are here to work, but I'm hopin'). It will be really good to see a familiar face. NOTE: These aren't my nephews but they will be dressed the same way when I see them, so what the hec? It's a good graphic!

As life goes, these boys (who are 49 and 22 respectively) live not too far from me in MN. But do I see them often? NO! However, now that they are here in the land of Sand and Sun I can't wait to see them. Before I left the US, I talked to their General and asked if I could see them. "Of Course" was the answer. Now before you think I really think I am somebody and just pick up the phone and call any ol' Air Force General I feel like it, their General PM lives in Pelican Rapids. We've taught both of his lovely daughters. He says I can call him anytime (and I have because he's also Ben's commanding officer!) His response was "the Air Force likes to encourage family members to visit whenever possible". Well honey, we're having a visit soon I hope and pray!

Confirmation: I have heard from my two nephews and they are boots on Kuwait!

A Wicked Stichin' Heaven

Over the past couple years, friends ME, JT, KB, ATH and others have assisted me in my beginner sewing attempts and helped me learn how to quilt. Last night I went to a place where you all would just (pardon the expression) DIE. If the saying "She who dies with the most fabric wins"--you all would just be happy to lie down here.

There are places (Souks) that specialize in items. I've been to the Heritage Souk, (old market) and the Friday Markets (Flea Markets gone Crazy) but last night I went to the Fabric Souk. Absolutely amazing fabrics, colors, textures, shapes, wow--I just had my mouth open all the time (not too flattering I'm sure). The brightness of the designs and the complete different patterns and fabrics were just a beautiful site. I stole two pictures from someone else's blog (handy this internet searching tool called google!)

My friends purchased fabric for a tailored coat, pants and skirt. It will be beautiful when completed. They said it costs around 20KD (about $75) to have complete outfits tailored including two fittings. The fabric they purchased (out of this world beautiful) was about $50. Not bad for a completely tailored business appearel. Of course it's not the 75% off sale at Herbergers, but for the item, it's a great deal.

Side note: The man who sold the material is from Iran. He was talking about how hard it is to get a visa into Canada (our friends are Canucks). The other woman (also American) and I had a silent agreement to not say anything about the fact that we were from America. There are times when it's good to not be wearing the red, white and blue. I don't think this man would have said anything, but it was a subtle feeling that it was just best to keep our heads down. Other than the group of college students I saw at MSU in the late 70s, (young men sent to the US by their fathers to get an education and a wife, I think was the story) this is the first person from Iran I've engaged in conversation.

I remember when the Turk lived with us last year and he was amazed when he had a conversation with our Somalian students. All these years of hearing bad things and then when you meet someone face to face, all the bad images seem to melt away. It's a small world indeed Walt.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Doin' the Ramadan Thing

As mentioned, it's now Ramadan here. That means changing one's way of eating and drinking (water) in public. There's also something else that can't be done from sunup to sundown but as this is a family blog, I won't go into details.

It also means that the shopping hours are radically changed. We were off yesterday to get art supplies for Anna only to find that the store was CLOSED from 4 pm to 9 pm (Ramadan resting and eating hours) and then OPEN from 9pm to 1 am. SO back we went at 9pm and holy cow there were people out in droves!

They were at the store that stocked art supplies for class. The store Jarir is like a combination Barnes and Noble and college bookstore. All kinds of books, in Arabic and English. I had forgotten that books published in Arabic are read from right to left so therefore, the binding is on the right side (instead of the left for English readers).

We've been told that during Ramadan, the important thing is to spend time with family. I guess they spend time until 12-1 am and then sleep until 330-4:00 am when they are woken up to get some food in their systems until sun-up and then they fast until sundown, which is around 630 pm. There's an actual calendar which tells the official times of sunup and sundown for each day. I remember seeing this in Pelican Rapids when the Somali students would fast.

It's an interesting way of life and I'm lucky to get to be a part of it. Today's humidity and heat (my glasses fogged up as I stepped out my office door!) makes it tough to not drink BUT I can do this (actually I'm still ducking under my desk or hiding with the shades shut)

It's the Little Things that seem the Biggest

This morning on the way to work, I saw a large, seemingly-wellfed cat and it made me really homesick for my girls, Angel and Zowie. Although I rationally know there is no way I should have them here, I still miss them. I cried a little and then said (in my best imitation of my Esther voice) "well for goodness sakes girl suck it up and get over it". Then I proceeded to my office where the first thing I do is check emails AND lo and behold, I had an email from Zowie

No kidding. She probably had Mrs Olson help her with the typing (her precious nails are way too long).


It made me cry (again) but this time it was happy tears. She's doing well, in fact I'll share a little of her letter with you: (she won't mind)

Alot of the people come and go alot, so I am seldom alone and they all throw balls every time they walk out. They are just ball throwing fools. To keep them happy I continue to go get the balls and bring them back. Except for the guy on the lawn mower, he has a whole compartment of balls and just keeps throwing them so I bring them up to the picnic table and stock pile them. I like him. He takes me down with him when we do horse chores in the morning and evening. I don't go into the barn I just wait outside and watch the barn cats get nervous. When they aren't around I go take a dip in the slough. It kinda stinks but I don't mind I get to swim. It's not as bad as the coon poop.

How lucky am I to have people who care enough about us and our dog to take the time to write that! Thank you Thank you Thank you to the Olson family for taking such good care of my little baby.

AND THEN when I thought things couldn't get any better, I got an email from JC who sent me an audiofile of OHarvey--this guy who takes the Paul Harvey format and talks in a very accentuated Norvegian accent. It was a hooot!! This was the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae of life!

The little things here are BIG. Cheers and may you have something unexpectedly wonderful happen to YOU!