Tuesday, December 30, 2008

End of Year Ramblings

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, living overseas gives tremendous benefits and opportunities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Faithful Reporter in the Middle East

Sunday, December 28, 2008

(Ahem) Can someone please give me credit?

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

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

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

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

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

Read on..

Kuwait scraps joint venture with Dow Chemical

By Associated Press Writer Diana Elias,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Home" is where my toothbrush is

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe, stay warm and stay connected.

Shukran (thanks!) from kuwait

Friday, December 26, 2008

Please Hold...We are temporarily experiencing..


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidaze...

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

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

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

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

Love you at Christmas--and always!
The Browns

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One hell of a lady

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

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

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

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

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

At Last a word (or two) from Germany

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Three Quarters of the Party is Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Prost Auf Freunde!

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

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

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

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

Safe in Trier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Still smilin in Venice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon Natale (Merry Christmas) from Venice to you

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The streets of Sienna

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

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

Italy Day Two..still smiling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for more fun.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Caio from Firenze!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 8, 2008

One more Sleep (Sheep) before I go

Have you ever heard this expression:

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

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

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

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

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

Movin' on up...

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


Romance has many forms

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

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

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

Just a wild and crazy group of kids

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Grand Sites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man of the Year

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

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

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

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

For one brief shining moment, all is well.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2008

If you never hear from us again-

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

On Vacation...

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Looks Can be Deceiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somedays here one just has to laugh.

Fabulous Forensics Friends

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

Fantasy vs Reality

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

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

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

Monday, December 1, 2008

If Wishes were Fishes...

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

I think it means they love me

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

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

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

From the World News Service...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AS promised...Christmas pics from the Middle East

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

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

The Standard Holiday picture(s)

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

Bonjour! Hallas! Uffda!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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