Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gearin' up for Conferences

One of the truly important parts of teaching is Parent Teacher conferences. And it's NEVER TAUGHT in college. Thanks to the good staff at PRHS, I've had a little training in these grand adventures.

I'm about to embark on the MOTHERLOAD whirlwind tour of conferences---33 parents/students in 2.5 hours. We host the conferences in our rooms so here's hoping that I can enjoy a meaningful dialogue in five minutes with these parents. Hopefully their children will come along to either translate OR at least remind me who I'm talking with (with 130 students, different last names and all dressed in white and blue each day, they sorta blur together!)

Important Rules: Don't shake hands with a man unless he offers first. If the woman offers her right cheek, it's a sign that you (me!) should give a light kiss on the cheek. (When I get to know them really well, it's a kiss on each cheek). Don't show the soles of my shoes (seriously) and make sure you can back up what I'm saying. After all, they are paying about $12,000 for the pleasure of their child's education. Per year. Per student.

Uffda I hope I don't screw up. If I'm on a plane at midnight, it means I've offended someone.

Monday, October 27, 2008


There is a different rhythm here in Kuwait. I'm speaking literally--the rhythm that is made when students clap at an assembly or in class is totally different than I've ever heard before. And they clap ALOT here--for almost everything. And cheer. And yell. Showing appreciation is not a problem in Kuwait.

I wish I could make an audio file so you could hear the rhythm. It's syncopated, some clap on the 1 and 3 and others clap on the 2 and 4. Some clap two longs and a short, others clap rapid short claps. It's fascinating--and hard to duplicate. The older boys also do this imaginative "thing" while snapping their fingers which results in a loud "pop" sound.

When there is an assembly or sports gathering, it's definately an attractive sound. When one is trying to get their attention over the rhythm, it's frustrating.

David is trying to learn to finger pop thing. It's a challenge to him because he has no natural rhythm. I'm not being mean,it's true--ask him, he'll tell you he has, (ackward pause and offbeat clap) NO rhythm at all. He does dance a mean polka tho' (see-he can be trained!)

We are trying to learn the rhythms here-both in the classroom and in life. Some days we're in sync and others, we're not. But we keep trying and that's what's important

Snow News is Good (?) News

These pictures arrived from friend JC with news of a mini-blizzard back in good ol' MN. Picture A is when it started and Picture B is the finish. Sorry I missed out on the fun. WAY Sorry for my pal JC who runs PR's bus service. Days like this make for sleepless night.

Although I am concerned for my friend's wellfare, I still smiled and let out a little laugh because the only snow I will see this year will be in pictures. I teach children who may have never seen snow (well, some have a chalet in Switzerland so I imagine they have some opportunity to see the big flakes).

Growing up in MN helped foster my vivid imagination. Building snowforts and snow sculptures, having an army of snowmen, playing breakup with the ice, these things helped grow neutrons (neorons?) in my brain. C'mon when it's snowing for three days straight, one Has to be creative in order to keep your sanity. I have fond memories of being stuck on the farm with my neices and nephew and how we played paddleball with our breath (okay, you had to be there). I also have fond memories of the time I got snowed in with my 5 girlfriends while my parents were on the only trip they ever took. Hhmmm, my children will probably never hear that story.

I also believe that people who live in four season climates are "mentally healthy" because we (they?) can use the weather as a great excuse to bitch about things. That way it gets all the stress out of your system complaining about the bad roads, the lousy cold, etc etc. And you can handle the big issues of life better.

My MN friends in PR (and Fargo and parts around the area) were all probably releasing their "inner anger" recently when the snow came down...before Halloween even. I will miss the opportunity to complain (at least about the weather).

Here-it's supposed to be cold. 68 F...with a chance of rain. Too bad I left my winter coat back in the closet.

I truly don't know how these children grew up without the chance to play in the snow--hey they don't even get a chance to have a SNOW DAY (one of the great pleasures of life in a four season climate as far as I'm concerned). Although I have heard that we could get a DUST Day (it could be too hazardous to go outside if there's a high wind). And, if it does rain and the drains can't handle the water (which does happen) we could get a rain day.

Alas, one thing I do know. If we do have a day cancelled for weather, I won't be making a Marguarita run before getting stuck at friends house.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Caught in the act

Here's proof that a man CAN change
Pictured above is David snuggling with Germo,our new kitty, while watching a movie.
After I took the picture, David yelled, "Don't show anybody"
I promised him I wouldn't
(tee hee...don't tell!)

I see the Moon..

...The Moon sees me. God Bless The Moon, and God Bless Me

When Ben and Anna were little, we would say this rhyme with them often. Sometimes when I look up at the moon, I can't help but think that it looks different on this side of the world (David just laughs at me). I saw this at the Friday Market and I thought of the rhyme. It was just tacky enough to buy, but Hitler (David) didn't think that we should. So I took the picture.
See below for more market photos

Come with me to the Friday Market

There is a WONDERFUL part of Kuwait and that's the markets. I've talked a little bit about the Souks (shops) where you can buy computers (at the Computer Souk)or Jewelry (at the Jewelry Souk) or plants (yeah you guess it at the plant souk, etc.

BUT the Friday Market has EVERYTHING! I enjoyed a trip there Friday with David. Our goal was to "Wander, just wander". We had a good time seeing sites. Of course, we bought something.(see post #3)

I was thinking of all of you as I took these photos

Come with Me to the Friday Market Part 2

Come with me and Buy a Carpet Part 3

We bought a medium size carpet. Nothing fancy or handmade (we're saving up for that) The selection would blow your mind away. As we were walking by I commented to David-"well it's not Johnson Furniture, that's for sure!" (former carpet store in PR). We tried to negotiate but I guess My Guardian Angel Howard wasn't paying attention to me at that time. The seller, Omaur, said "I give you the best price already madam". We got a beautiful red, black and gold one. (not pictured)

Come with me to the Friday Market Part 4

Know that for each picture, there were at least 10 more stands selling the same things! (and of course more!)

Come with me to the Friday Market-Part 5

You can buy EVERYTHING from an ATV (for a 4 year old!) to prayer beads (you'd need them if you let your 4 year old drive an ATV!) to...well, you name it!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Haven't fallen into the gulf

It's been a long week here in Kuwait. With grades due, two recitals (I played piano for two students), a memorial service for a worker, and hosting two girls from Dubai (vball tournament in town) we're barely had time to turn around. But we did get to the Friday market and as soon as I get to a computer that is faster than mine, I will post pictures.

BIG DAY here rained. About 17 sprinkles, but for a country that hasn't seen rain in over a year, it was a big day.
We also saw BLUE SKIES and white clouds. Usually we see nothing but a dust-rose colored haze. .

The cat is well and we're all adjusting to having a little furball at our feet. David had it on his lap last night. I took a picture as proof that he doesn't totally hate the cat.

Painting is almost done. We went from all white (ugh) to some lovely shades of deep red and yellow (think Riverside coffee for those in PR) and a convuluted shade of tan (after combining several colors).

I know this post sounds like a neutral postcard from a bland vacation, but it's all I have the energy for right now. The cat and I are headed for a nap...don't tell David.

Monday, October 20, 2008

To Be or Not To Be... (somedays that's enough of a Question!)

Teaching 6th graders takes a lot of energy. These students are bright, fun, energetic and willing to learn. Some days, however, are better than others. Currently I am teaching them how to not be afraid of making mistakes on stage. I'm also trying to show them how to become better audience members (let's just say they are a "Chatty" bunch!)

The Kuwaiti audiences are, ahem, louder than us NorthAmrkans are used to! They are "participatory" to say the least. The other day in class, a student did something very well and the class reacted by laughing hysterically. Another student stood up and yelled at the acting student "Do it Again, I missed it". (and that's considered acceptable behavior!)

David and I are attempting to teach them that, when they leave Q8, other cultures will think they are RUDE if they continue to make noises, talk back and engage in loud personal conversations during the performances. However, I do know that this is not unique to Kuwait (been to a movie lately in North America?) Has TV wrecked our ability to be a good audience? Or do we think we have a God(Allah) given right to comment on every action we see others do--even if they are performing.

Having said all that, I know that it's not totally unique to the Middle East. When David worked at the Guthrie Theatre, I heard a story of audience "participation". Peter Michael Goetz was one of the Acting Ensemble and had been for a number of years. He was a very familiar face to audience members at the Flying G. One night a couple of older ladies came a little late to the play, saw PMG on stage and walked right up to him and asked him where their seat was (yes, in the middle of his performance). Being the gracious man he is, he stopped his performance, helped the ladies to their seats and then continued on with his acting (much to the delight of the audience who gave him a rousing round of applause).

Being a good audience member is important and so is being QUIET. God Give Me Strength as I attempt to pass along this Nuggest of Wisdom.

Worth a 1000 words

(Insert Theme from JAWS here)

Kuwait has a WONDERFUL aquarium where you can get very close to the fishies. I heard the famous da dum da dum dadumdadum theme in my head while aiming the camera.

Scenes from the Arabian Gulf

Along with other couples, David and I went for a walk on Friday afternoon along the Gulf. It wasn't very crowded. Okay, so it was around 101 degrees and most smart locals were home taking a nap (Friday is the Holy Day). We enjoyed the exclusivity.

Announcing the Arrival of...

Germo the Kitty Cat
He's quicker than a flash (of a camera)
Cute and Polite (for something that spent his first 30 days of life in the street)
Momma and Cat are doing fine

"I've told you a BILLION times"...

Stop exaggerating!!
I stand corrected
RE: Earlier post about India's population
It's 1.1 Billion people, not 11
So what's a decimal point among friends?!
Thanks, as always, JC for keeping me in line
(I miss arguing with you!!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Time out for a message from ObnoxiaMomma, the one who is PROUD of her daughter(s) and son:

Update on Ben:
He is doing well in school, having just enjoyed a two day break. He's still dating Jolene, and doing a nice job visiting Grandma and Grandpa in Wadena. He will be taking a break from school in January as he will be deployed to Iraq for six months as a part of the Air National Guard (Fargo 119th)deployment. We're not sure where he'll be.

Yes you can pray for him...and me!

Update on Anna:
She has just been named to the AIS National Honor Society. Along with that, she's playing JV volleyball (never played before!) AND Varsity soccer (scored a goal the other night. Papa was soooo proud)AND she's involved in the speech team (called Forensics here). Oh yeah, and she's got a social life. She's currently struggling with Arabic classes (gee-can't imagine why) but school is going well. She loves her art classes, although she believes the art teacher stays up late all night to plan assignments that are HARD.

You can pray that Anna continues to do so well because that makes it alot easier to be in a foreign place. We have newbie friends whose children are not adjusting so well, and it's tough(er).

Update of the "Girls"-Zowie and Angel
According to their new keepers, they are doing well. Both dogs have made trips to the vet for various reasons, but they are well. I imagine that Zowie loves the farm and has probably had more than her share of adventures with the horses and cats and raccoons. I know Angel is living the good life curling up to SmartWoman's back and trying not to torment her cats.

You can pray that they will forgive us...see post below

Confessions of a (Reformed) Cat Hater..Part 2

Okay, you may have seen this coming.I know I didn't. We are now the owners of Germo, a small, cute as a bug's ear, kitten. As is C-A-T. As in, I hate cats.

It went down like this...
Anna has been enjoying Kuwait a lot (meaning she's got quite an active social life) which also means that we don't see her alot. And that leads to feelings of separation (on my part, not necessarily hers). So when she called me the other night and said "Mommy (that always gets me)..I'm sitting here at Pizza Hut and this really cute kitten just came to our table and he has a hurt foot and he's really cute and can we keep him...pleeeease?"
Well, what could a mother say but "yes darling daughter".
she brought the cat home and proceeded to make it a home.
In the mean time, David was having a horrible, no-good, very bad day (just a typical 'I'm overworked and underloved and got too much to do before the next day' teacher day). By 9 pm he was ready to leave the school (after a typical 14 hour day), I mentioned to him "Oh by the way darling, your daughter has a cat at home". He was NOT happy.David hates cats more than I do.I knew we were in for more "Family dysFUNction.

Half an hour later when I got home, Anna was in her room, door shut, David was out reading his book,and there was no cat in the house. David calmly, but coldly, told me of his general displeasure with me, our daughter and the cat. Anna tells me that she followed Dad outside, found where he placed the cat, took him up to our roof (it's a protected area up there) and the cat would hide there during the day and she would bring the cat down when Dad wasn't home.

SO the daughter and I proceeded to carry off this plot for a day and a half (David knew what was going on, I think, he just choose not to acknowledge it). Then Friday evening there was a party on the roof and the cat couldn't be there, so the cat spent 5 hours with me. David was gone tutoring, Anna was gone-(of course, remember-social life and all)SO it was just me and the 2 pound ball of energy.

I started out thinking of ways the cat couldn't climb on things or poop in the living room. For kicks, I tried to get a photo of the cat, but I couldn't because he was running too fast around the apartment. The darn thing ended up curling up by my neck and purrrrring and sleeping and nuzzling and generally working it's way into my heart.

End of story? Nadine found she liked the cat.Nadine even cried when it was time to give up the cat to the local Humane society (the first "family compromise). Anna smiled and said she just "assumed" all along that she would win and we would keep the cat. And David?
Well, he sighed and said he could "live with the cat". I think I've found another reason why I love that boy.
Stay tuned for obnoxious cat pictures.

PS Please don't tell Angel and Zowie--they will never forgive us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Random Thoughts on Degrees of Seperation

---with Apologies to Paul Harvey (and those of us who grew up listening to him in the barn on the radio), I am stealing his idea of grouping a bunch of random thoughts into one posting.

***Page One
Recently at my 8 am Friday morning Breakfast Club,I had a truely surreal multi-cultural moment. As we (the two BFF Canucks, TenneseeBrain, WallaWalla guy and I ) were enjoying our usual stimulating conversation and the view of the gulf complete with yachts cruising by,the group of waiters and waitresses (all Phillipino) approached a nearby table with a birthday cake lit with candles and launched into song.
The slightly offkey version of Happy Birthday was okay, but then when they broke into a version of "It's Your Birthday" to the tune of "La Cucharacha" (works well btw) and ended it with "Olay!"--I knew I had crossed over the line.

*** Page Two
This country has less Kuwaitis (40%) than expats. The country depends on the expats for work, for income and maybe for a little variety.
***. According to Google,"Approximately 96% of Kuwait's population is urban. The State of Kuwait's current population is estimated at roughly 3-3.5 million people; counting both locals and foreigners. Roughly 1 million (or nearly one third) of Kuwait's population is local, with 2-2.5 million residents registered as foreigners/non-locals. It is estimated that one in every 3-4 people in Kuwait are of Kuwaiti citizenship.[citation needed]
The foreign population of Kuwait mainly consists of Egyptians followed by Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Filipino and Sri Lankan residents. Other foreigners consist of European, North American and Northeast Asian communities - but these are negligible."
Considering above, we get a chance here to sample MANY cultures. For example, Friday night there was a HUGE talent show in our auditorium (packed to the gills with 1400 people) for Indian singers. Not just India talent show finalists, but those from a specific region of India. It was explained to me (in terms I could understand) it would be like having people from Minneapolis have their own language, customs, jokes etc. So while they are many, many people from India living here in Kuwait, they might not even all speak the same language. And it's not like a Minnesota dialect and a southern dialect either-it's a whole language. Amazing-I never knew that.

Oh I just looked up India's population on Google, and it says there are over 13 BILLION people. I guess one or two different languages would make sense (gees I feel so culturally ignorant sometimes!)

***Page Three
On another note, I have had people ask me if I know "so and so who is from America" (as in I know someone from Colorado do you know this person?) You may laugh over there in North America, but I have had several Rotary Norwegian foreign exchange students tell me that Minnesotans would assume that the student knew their relatives in Norway. "Oh I'm norwegian, do you know my relatives the ...(insert your favorite Scandinavian name here).The students always thought that was funny and then they would always end with "These people are NOT Norwegian just because their relatives came from the country 150 years ago."

***Page Four
BrotherPete was always amazed by how many people we knew or by the connections to so and so who knew so and so. He would always tell us that by knowing us he was "one degree from brilliance" (thank you sir). It became a game (for me) to see who I could meet and make a connection and then tell him. The second day here, we met someone whose mother taught with David's father in Germany about 25 years ago.I think that by moving here, we're just taken the game to a new level.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Open Brain, Insert Knowledge

This is a LONGER, DEEPER post than I normally print but I believe it is a good read for those who are interested in world issues and how other cultures think. I wish I could be with my Smart People Coffee/Beer Group to discuss this.

*Thanks to the Arab Times, Intlxpatr for keeping me (and my friends) updated on world issues and Wikipedia for helping me understand the Big Words.

Words you will need to know for this reading
Shia Muslim:
Shi'a Muslims attribute themselves to the Qur'an and teachings of the final Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and in contrast to other Muslims, believe that his family, the Ahl al-Bayt (the People of the House), including his descendants known as Imams, have special spiritual and political rule over the community[1] and believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad's cousin and husband of his daughter, Fatimah, was the first of these Imams and was the true successor to Muhammad who was appointed by God as his prophet, and thus reject the legitimacy of the first three Rashidun caliphs.[2]

Sunni Muslim
Sunni Islam is the largest denomination of Islam.The word Sunni comes from the word Sunnah (Arabic : سنة ), which means the words and actions [1] or example of the Islamic prophet Muhammad


Conflagration is an uncontrolled burning that threatens human life, health, property or ecology. A conflagration can be accidental or intentionally created (arson).


Sectarianism is bigotry, discrimination, prejudice or hatred arising from attaching importance to perceived differences between subdivisions within a group, such as between different denominations of a religion or the factions of a political movement.

The ideological underpinnings of attitudes and behaviors labeled as sectarian are extraordinarily varied. Members of a religious or political group may feel that their own salvation, or success of their particular objectives, requires aggressively seeking converts from other groups; adherents of a given faction may believe that for the achievement of their own political or religious project their internal opponents must be purged.

Nw you can begin the Article
From the Kuwait Perspective...
An interview with Osama Al Sayegh, an official with Awgaf, a Kuwait Think Tank (I think)
Q: Elections took place, and some months have gone by since the new government and Parliament took office. How do you assess the situation in Kuwait?
A: From my point of view, Kuwait has been affected by the meltdown in the US economy, and the worldwide repercussions because of it. Most of the countries are affected by this turn of events, and Kuwait cannot be isolated.

Probably, as of now it is not that bad, but in future Kuwait will also be hit hard, I fear. The price of oil is coming down, as consumers around the world are beginning to rationalize their consumption, while inflation is still high. These factors will affect the people of Kuwait, creating a financial squeeze, which in turn will have political fallouts.

Q; How strong is the Shia-Sunni division in politics?
A: The division between Shias and Sunnis dates back to 1400 years. And the rivalry had been acerbic through out the centuries. However, towards the beginning of the last century, the lines had blurred and the intensity of the differences had waned between the two sects. But with the coming of the Iranian revolution in the late 70’s and the ensuing Iran-Iraq war, the clock has been turned back, and the sectarian spirit among people in the Middle East has been revived.

Now, in that context, Kuwait is a tiny country wedged between a Shiite Iran, a Sunni Saudi Arabia and a mixed Iraq, where an intense battle is raging still, with a marked sectarian perspective. We shall be very careful, as the fire in our neighborhood can spread to us also. And going by the size of our country, even a minor spark can burn down the nation.

We have to focus on factors that unite the two sects and stay away from getting deep into our differences. The basics are all the same between us. Our God is Allah, our Prophet is Mohammed (PBUH), our book is the Holy Quran and our Qibla (the direction of prayer) is the Kabah. Other peripheral things have to be kept on the sidelines.

Q: How alive are these sectarian tendencies in Kuwait?
A: As I said things were quite normal until the late 70’s. When the revolution swept through Iran, the government of Kuwait feared that the revolution might get imported into Kuwait through sectarian influences. And therefore to counterbalance Shias in the society, the government allowed Sunni foreign nationals to immigrate into Kuwait. However, some of these new immigrants came from very fundamentalist schools of thought. In reaction to these events some Shias in Kuwait took to extreme ideologies, giving rise to sectarian tensions in the society. Fanatical groups in both these sects are only a small minority and not mainstream. Yet, in a small country like Kuwait, it is enough to start a communal conflagration.

We have to understand that Islam is a religion of peace. Its fundamental aim is peace, and there is no force in religion. Yes, there are principles and practices, which we believe have to be followed and adhered to. For example issues like segregation in educational institutions and so on … we believe these have to be followed, but we should not force them on anyone. These have to be abided out of one’s own will. NOTE: OUR SCHOOL IS NOT SEGREGATED

Q: You seem to be adopting a very soft stance even in matters of religion, for example, while you were talking about segregation you said it should not be enforced but only offered as a choice. Are you taking religion too lightly?
A: See, the religion is very clear; there are ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ that have been spelt out very clearly. Basic principles of religion such as the ban on drinking, where there is consensus, have to be enforced. But in matters where there are differences of opinion, and where we engage with other people as humans, we have to be soft. We should not think ourselves morally superior to judge others; it is only Allah who has the right to judge humans, because only he knows what is in their hearts.

I believe there is much to learn from each other. The Vatican church is known for its charities all over the world across religious or ethnic divides. For example, Christian charities worth millions of dollars poured into disaster areas like Indonesia during Tsunami, Iran during the Bam earthquake or Lebanon during the recent war, and so on. Though the motive behind these charities is often alleged to be religious conversion, we cannot deny the fact that those acts of kindness draw sympathy towards the Christian faith.

Though we don’t believe in such conversions, acts of charities like these will definitely help in breaking the ice with other communities and making them open to the message of Islam.

Q: Is Kuwait sitting on a time bomb? Can there be an outbreak of a sectarian violence any time?
A: No, no. The situation is very much under control. The government is doing an extremely good job on that front. They are acting prudently, and making sure no community is made to feel deprived of justice. Whenever there are any communal embers flaring, they put it off with iron hands, and do not allow such things to spread.

Q: What in your opinion are the priorities of the government?
A: I think Kuwait should focus on education and health. We shall think of improving our infrastructure and manpower in the health sector, so that we wouldn’t have to spend millions of dinars in sending our patients to Europe or America for better treatment. Let’s bring experts from outside, I think even that will work out much cheaper.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gulf Therapy

I've just returned from my first night of Competent Crew Sailing class. It was heaven! To be out on the water, in the full moon with six really interesting people, learning something I've wanted to know about for the past 24 years is just amazing. Being on the water once a week will definately cure whatever is ailing me (and even if there isn't something ailing me, it will be great!)

I didn't bring a camera (didn't want to see like a dweeb on the first night) but I will capture some Kodak moments during the next 10 weeks I promise.This photo is "lifted" from yahooimages. But you can pretend it's me..

Tonight, among other things, I finally figured out the different between Port and Starboard. Okay, give up? You drink your PORT wine with your left hand while you are pointing up at the STARs with your right hand. I made that up while sailing (okay so it was a little quiet tonight and I had some time to daydream). I also learn other useful things which will help me get my crew certificate.

Along for this adventure are LiverpoolLady, the captain's wife and organizer of the training; KuwaitOilGuy, who works not in the oil fields but in research-he's Canadian/Slovokian; Kuwait AirForce Guy-he's a hoot! About my size, originally from Wales. Great accent and funny as hec; Adonis-the hunky (but way too young) Columbian guy who is a scuba diver. He's about 25 and his smile can cause any young girl's heart to spin; and there's Robotech guy, another AIS teacher. I don't know him well, but his classroom is two doors down from mine so we'll have bonding time every Tuesday night.

However, the best member of the crew is definately Dasher (the only real name given in thie blog), the beautiful collie. She really owns the boat. She walks wherever, whenever and if she's laying on a rope then, too bad, you don't need the rope. While we were taking down the sail, she lays right below our feet. She's part of the natural hazard of sailing on the boat. She's also great therapy for me with my two "girls" still back in the states. I'd go just to be nuzzled by her each week.

What a great, unbelieveable opportunity. I promise I won't fall off the boat (remember there's no wine here). Thanks for one of my favorite 4HBuddies, JimiJoe, who got me hooked on sailing 24 years ago. Maybe you can join me on the gulf sometime.

Monday, October 13, 2008

10,000 Arabik Apollogys for me bad Spelin

I've been reading a few of my recent posts and have noticed quite a few typos. The part of me that has the Mass Communications Writing degree and has worked for publications (The World of DQ and Golden Skillet today mind you!) is shocked. Signe (IDQ) and Ellen (MSU), if you are reading this, you must be amazed and somewhat embarrassed. I know I am.

By way of explanation, I have limited time on the computer. I'm supposed to be teaching Kuwait children to be better actors (an awesome responsibility for sure) most of the day. So I have to type quick and add photos if I want to impress you with Kuwait culture. I get in a hurry and type faster than my brain can edit. When I go back in to correct my errors, I get distracted by the sounds of 12 year olds happily running to my classroom yelling "Oh Joy we GET to see Mrs. Brown today!"At least that's what I think they're saying in Arabic...

When I am using the computer at home, sometimes it freezes or the (borrowed from the neighbor) connection goes out. I admit I get easily frustrated with electronic telecommunications snafus happening. The other day, when I almost threw the computer at the wall because it froze on me for the 5th time in a row, David calmly said, "Why are you so frustrated by that?"

I explained that, for me, the computer (through Skype and emails and this blog) are the only thing that allows me to keep in touch with my reality (back in North America) and that keeping in touch with that reality is the only thing that allows me to venture forth in my new reality here. I think he understood. At least he "talked me down" and got me to let go of the computer and sit down quietly.

But my craziness in dealing with Q8's craziness doesn't excuse good English or spelling. After all, I do have a large sign in my classroom that states, "Never Expect Less Than The Best". Guess I'm not practicing what I preach.

So I'll try harder but if I occassionally sckrew up, I now you'll fergive me.
I know how to spel. I don't slep with an englishh Techur for nothin'

One Ringy Dingy

For those of you over the age of 45, you've got to remember Lily Tomlin's hilarious Laugh-In routine of Ernestine, the telephone lady. "Is this the party to whom I am speaking?" (snort snort).

I think of that occassionally when we make a telephone call back to the states. Fortunately, we are able to take advantage of a wonderful online calling service called Skype. It costs us $.02 per minute to "reach out and touch". (**Unless I'm calling Alaska and that's $.05 per minute...not even sure what that's about!) SKYPE helps the dispel the lonelies, helps sort things out when emails would just complicate matters and is the best way we know to keep in touch with David's parents--who are doing better, by the way!

UNFORTUNATELY (at least on our home computer) is that we also get a lot of unsoliticed "calls" during the time we are online. Lately we've been "called" by (and again, because fact IS stranger than fiction I am not making any of these names up:)
MissHotLips, HairlessHousewife, WetComeGirl, BreathlessOne and an assortment of other names using letters, numbers and signs. Once David almost clicked on one of them because she had the first name "SlickyVicki"

"No" I screamed at David as he said 'hey it's your cousin trying to contact us'," that's NOT my cousin, it's one of THEM!"
I guess that's the Price we pay for not having a filter on this computer...we're just happy it works. (ocassionally)

Fortunately we're not that lonely so we haven't been tempted to reach out and touch-them. (I'd have to take a shower afterwards)

SO unless you are reading this and are using a fake alias, we'll assume that none of them are YOU. It does make life, ah, interesting at times. To think we came all this way only to have SPAM follow up.

'Scuse me, MrMarineMan99 is waiting to speak with me...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Oh Canada!

One of the facts about this job is that we hang out with a whole lot of Canadians (eh?!) I may learn a little about Kuwait, but I'm gonna learn a whole lot about Canada before this adventure is through. And I don't think that's so bad.

We got invited to two Canadian thanksgiving dinners--they seemed real similar to the US "eat way too much turkey and all the fixin's and then take a nap afterwards" events that I'm familiar with. I have asked several Canadians what they were supposed to be celebrating and all most could say was "another excuse for a holiday?" ( this should be read with the speech emphasis going "up" on the end of the sentence to correctly impersonate a true Can-add-er.)
Whatever ever you all celebrate in that great country, I'm glad you're in my life. Here's to you Keen!
This slightly out-of-proportion flag hangs in the AIS hallway, along with several others. It makes the Canadians here burst out laughing. Apparently it's NOT QUITE the Maple Leaf that should be on the flag.
So the REST OF YOU are you're in the know--Canada Day is officially Monday, October 13.
As an inside Joke to the Canadians reading this: I've almost learned all the words to Stompin' Tom Connors "The Ketchup Song". Will you let me cross over if things get really bad in the US?

Bless You REAL Good!

I've included several pictures of my trip to the Grand Mosque below. This picture is a tad bit irreverant (yes folks, living in the Middle East still hasn't changed that part of me!)

This is a Kleenex (circle R Trademark) box with the motif of the Grand Mosque pictured on the front. I sooo badly wanted to ask if this was Halil (officially blessed by the Emom) tissue. Forgive me, but I'm bettin' that the Vatican has their own brand of tissue also.

Anyone want to make a stab at what that might be called? (for those other irreverant people reading this blog, comment below!)

Grand Mosque Tour Part 3

This is another Newbie Friend JL. Just to give you an idea of the size of this "lobby"-John is 6' 8" tall!
These ladies are Muslim so their dress is "normal" for them.
A small example of the incredible detail in the architecture (this one's for KJCD and X-try and design that in your next building!)

More Mosque Fun (Grand Tour Part 2)

This is a picture I took in the Mosque. I thought of all my Somali Muslim students as I looked around here. This is their Holy Book-the Qu'ran. The calligraphy is beautiful.
Newbie HH and I posted in our "Cover Up you Heathen Christian" outfits. The "manager" of the Mosque had just yelled at me for not having my entire head covered up. We were laying on the floor taking a picture of the dome of the mosque (hey the tour guide told us to do so!) As you can see, the outfits aren't all that flattering. NO I really haven't gained that much weight (remember-no beer here!)
This lady made me smile. She wore her baseball hat the whole time she was in the mosque. She didn't speak English so I had to "sneak" a picture of her. It made me smile.

Grand Mosque Tour Part 1

The inside of the Mosque main prayer room (for men only) Women pray upstairs behind the wooden walls to the upper right.
This is an outside shot (Taken from a book) of the scope of the Grand Mosque.
Of course when one goes to the mosque, one takes off their shoes!! These shoes must be special prayer shoes because they were all lined up waiting.

Saturday morning, the Newbies took a tour of another Kuwait Must-See: the Grand Mosque. This is the holiest of the holiest places in Kuwait. During Ramadan, 170,000 men and women and children from KUwait and all across the globe attend the Grand Moaque for prayers. It also contains a 250 square metre library of Islamic reference books and documents.

The Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the State of Kuwait. Located on Arabian Gulf Road opposite Seif Palace. Its area spans 45,000 square metres, out of which the building itself covers 20,000 square metres. The Main Prayer Hall is 72 metres wide on both sides, has 21 teakwood doors and lighting is provided by 144 windows. The Dome of the Grand Mosque is 26 metres in diametre, 43 metres high and is decorated with "Isma Al-Hosna", the 99 attributes / names of God.
The Grand Mosque can accommodate up to 10,000 men in the Main Prayer Hall and it has a separate Daily Prayer Hall for men also. A Ladies’ Prayer Chamber is located on a level above, which can hold up to nine hundred and fifty female worshippers.

I tried to convert the metres into feet for you Americans but it was taking too much time (and I have 130 tests to correct!) SO just know that this place was BIG.

Rice is NICE

I've never seen so much rice in my life as I've seen here in Kuwait! There are over 15 types of brands in the grocery stores. I admit, previous to living here I could only think of Wild Rice, Minute Rice and Rice-a-Roni (the San Fransisco treat!) Oh yeah and Brown rice, the healthy one.
Whenever we go to the grocery store, I am constantly amazed at the types and varieties of rice. Mostly they vary by country. I've seen Eqyptian Rice, Indian Rice, but alas no Wild Rice (but I have my hopes!)
However, this is a picture of my newest favorite Rice. I think I'll buy some for my next party.

Palm (on) Sunday

Here are a few pictures I've taken of my temporary "Green" replacements. When one doesn't have maples, one does what one can! Enjoy!!

Palm Trees fascinate me. I think it's because we don't have a lot of them in Minnesota (ha). Well there is the cool neon ones by the small, unique plant store on Highway 108 (a couple miles past the Park headin' towards Perham for those of you in OTC).

Anyway, in absence of fall here, I've started photographing palm trees to keep myself from missing the change of colors here.

I really don't know much about Palm trees. During Easter time, I never really thought about the fact that some SUnday school superintendent probably worked very hard to secure palm leaves for the Entrance Hymn on Palm SUnday! And, in later years, whenever I see them I think Vacation and Beach and the Jimmy Buffet song "Wasted Away (again) in Marguarittaville". So, to improve myself, I went to my friend, and yours, GOOGLE.
Here's one small thing I learned:

Human use of palms is as old or older than human civilization itself, starting with the cultivation of the Date Palm by Mesopotamians and other Middle Eastern peoples 5000 years or more ago.[15] Date wood, pits for storing dates, and other remains of the Date Palm have been found in Mesopotamian sites.[16] The Date Palm had a tremendous effect on the history of the Middle East. W.H. Barreveld wrote:
"One could go as far as to say that, had the date palm not existed, the expansion of the human race into the hot and barren parts of the "old" world would have been much more restricted. The date palm not only provided a concentrated energy food, which could be easily stored and carried along on long journeys across the deserts, it also created a more amenable habitat for the people to live in by providing shade and protection from the desert winds (Fig. 1). In addition, the date palm also yielded a variety of products for use in agricultural production and for domestic utensils, and practically all parts of the palm had a useful purpose."[15]
An indication of the importance of Palms is that they are mentioned more than 30 times in the Bible[17], and at least 22 times in the Quran.[18]
Arecaceae has great economic importance including coconut products, oils, dates, ivory nuts, carnauba wax, rattan cane, and raffia.

WELL, I certainly didn't know all that!! I will never just think about Marguerittas again!

Here the palm trees are pretty much everywhere. I've seen palm trees by the gulf, palm trees decorated with neon lights, palm trees cut off at the top so that only the brown trunk shows and my personal favorite, a palm tree bent in half (and it was still growing!)
When we were in Belize last year, we learned that palm trees can bend all the way to the ground and not snap. We saw many examples there of trees actually out of the ground with the roots exposed and still growing.

In making an analogy (which I like to do--thanks MDMC for teaching me that!)
I used to say that we have to be flexible and Bend like the Willow
I think I'll start saying that one needs to be flexible like the palm tree and keep growing even if you're bent in half!

Here's one last thing we should think about when praising palm trees:

The southeastern state of South Carolina is nicknamed the Palmetto State after the Cabbage Palmetto, logs from which were used to build the fort at Fort Moultrie. During the American Revolutionary War they were invaluable to those defending the fort, because their spongy wood absorbed or deflected the British cannonballs.

Hhmmm, bet you didn't know that! Class dismissed...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sunset at the Mall (ooh and awe)

My Favorite Kuwati Blogger (FKB?!) is running a contest for sunrise/sunset pictures in Kuwait. I've posted a couple of her shots.
Here's a new entry to the contest . Because I appreciate good photography AND because I have actually been to this place, I want to share it with you.
This is the Souk Sharq..or the Sharq Mall. It's got a beautiful Marina in front of it. Actually last night I sat at the Second Cup of Coffee (Canada's answer to Starbucks) and enjoyed a first cup and looked over the boats (yachts) here and thought about how life has changed for this MN farmgirl.

When we took our boat trip last week, we departed from this very place. The big boats in the foreground are the type of yachts we launched (or whatever the appropriate word is).For a person coming from the Land of 10,000 (or more) Lakes, it's always exciting to be on the water or see pictures of it.

Enjoy and thanks again Intlxpatr and blogger Someday (Red) for making MY day!

No News is Sometimes Okay

We've chosen not to have a television. We actually own a television but we've elected not to pay for the TV service here as a cost saving measure and to see if we can get along without it. We do however watch DVDs--a guy comes around our apartments and sells them to us for 1 KD (about $3.75). We can watch most new releases-- in fact, we could have watched Death Race the day after it hit the movie theatres (yes you guessed it, someone videotaped it and made a copy). Sometimes things are censored (I didn't get to see all of the latest Batman movie, but what I saw was enough)

Anyway, the news I know is either from friends (thank you for all the Sarah Palin posts btw) or from whatever is on the frontpage of the Yahoo! homepage.

Today there was a classic headline (and I am NOT making this up)


--tell me I'm really missing something by not having news from the US

My Kids

Here is a photo on one of my classes. Obviously I was asking them to "ham it up". No need for translation..they got it when I said "okay make a crazy face!"

As David says, "Kids is Kids"