Monday, December 28, 2009

And they will live Happily Ever After!

Mr and Mrs Ben Brown enjoying a quiet moment after the reception. Despite a snowstorm two days before, all went well. The bridal party (pictured in the second photo) gave it a big THUMBS up!
Pictured are Jolene's brother, Ian and mother Vicky, the happy couple, Phil and Peter Sasso-Lundin-our "pseudo family" members. The wedding was at Phil and Peter's house. It was a beautiful day.

Wedding Bells

Scenes from the beautiful wedding day and reception. It was a beautiful day and reception. We are so blessed that Ben has found Jolene as a life partner. I'm very proud of both of them (as the top picture shows) although I was a bit "teary-eyed"! My second son, Phil was there for support during the service. Friend JE did the officiating and a beautiful job she did for us.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

All is calm, All is Bright

Thankfully the snowstorm seems to have dumped it's blessings to the north and south of Pelican Rapids and we're digging out nicely here. Wedding and reception are still on as scheduled...if you're reading this, come on out to Ohe's Barn tomorrow from 1-3 pm for a wedding reception!
It's going to be a nice celebration of love, happiness and optimism! (can I buy decorations for that?!)
Being here with Ben and Jolene and seeing their love and their care for each other has calmed many of my mother fears. It will all work out, they've got love...the rest are "details" right?!
Keep your fingers crossed for a clear day on Sunday and for the power of snowblowers to make all this white stuff negotiable!
..God Bless us Everyone!

Friday, December 25, 2009

What to do in a snowstorm...

Growing up in MN has given me plenty of opportunities to experience snowstorms. Before global warming (no political comment intended, just that it seems like there WAS more snow when I wa younger), we would have at least one "don't leave the farm for three days" sort of storm a year. The wind would blow, snowbanks would pile up outside the picture window (great for sledding) and we would hunker down for long winter's naps and lots of TV watching.

Currently I am safe here with my son and his bride to be, their two cats, lots of opportunity for TV watching and a very expensive wedding dress. As I'm typing this I am trying to figure out if we should bundle up the cats and the dress and make a run for it getting us at least to Pelican Rapids where we could be ready for the wedding. Maybe it's God's way of making me laugh because I'm the one who pushed this issue about getting married while I was home. Maybe it's just a fact of nature--of course it should snow in December...get over it Nadine.
Maybe we can push the reception back to 3-5 pm Sunday giving more of a chance for everyone to dig out and recooperate.
Maybe we could have a reception in July and I could donate all the food to the food shelf.
Maybe I should just stay put and not worry because I can't control it anyway.
Maybe I'll have another bowl of oyster stew and an answer will become clear.

Anyway, hope this finds you safe and warm and not trying to deal with life's big questions. Or if you are, may you have loved ones around you and a friendly animal curled up on your lap. It does help.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Minne-SNOW-dah

Just a short post to wish all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I am with my son Ben and his soon to be wife and we're enjoying a simple but warm holiday. Have travelled many miles to be here and this is what I wanted from Santa. Also been able to see many family and friends so i am all warmed up "inside" too. Just to make life interesting, there is a bunch of snow forecast for this area. Oh well, makes for a great story.
I just dodged the East Coast snow bullet last weekend, I was in JFK on Friday and on Saturday they received over 14 inches of snow. Uffda!!
Sunday is the small wedding (very private with only parents and sponsors) and then a little larger reception. Being able to be here with the kids to get things done has been a blessing and it makes me feel a part of the festivities. I am thankful that Ben has someone who loves him and who he loves. Everything else is just details right?!
Hope this finds all of you healthy, happy, warm and safe this holiday season.
YES I know pictures are needed. Stay tuned for details.
Love from the Desert Teacher with a snowball in her hand!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Different Prophets: Same God: Same Shopping Opportunities

I've been re-bitten by the Christmas bug and so I've been out Christmas shopping recently.

Friday I visited the Friday Market (which actually goes Thursday-Sunday) and was able to flirt with my old Jordian boyfriend (still dont' know his name, nor he mine, but he does know me)
"oh my dear, it is so good to see you" (he says and then immediately goes to buy me tea)
"Please sit here (on a box) and take your time. I know you will make a good choice" (as I'm digging through his boxes of "Treasures"
Part of the reason why I enjoy visiting this man is that I truly believe he's my father reincarnated. Also, he's got good "junk" and he doesn't mind when I sit down to dig through his stuff. Sometimes I don't find any goodies (as my dad used to call them) but most often I do.

Friday's "find" was a beautiful rug for my office. Not the fancy kind that was really expensive (and this area of the world is known for their beautiful rugs) but the basic, rugged kind that I don't feel bad placing on the floor (and not on the wall). It goes perfectly with my new office. Also I found some prayer beads for my WWB canoe gals from this summer. These are old beads and I know they've gone through many prayers. Just what I wanted.

As I left my friend said "you are happy, I am happy. I know I will see you again". What a great way to say goodbye to someone.

Sunday evening found me with another older gentleman, this one the owner of the Gift store outside of the Shiite mosque. I know, I know, the shiite are supposed to be the "bad guys", but I really like this man and he's got good stuff. I patiently waited while he was making deals with three moslem women. I didn't laugh when I saw the young boy with them try on a t-shirt with the face of the prophet "blocked" (Muslims do not believe that their prophet should be personified). I was very polite when he offered me tea (a custom here) and I even ate the dates he offered to me (I've actually begun to like them).

When the Muslim women left, he gave me his full attention. I motioned to some prayer beads in the corner and he shook his head
"no, those are junk. Here you want these".
and he proceeded to bring out lovely prayer beads, varying in shapes, sizes, colors and of course prices. It was a very interesting conversation even though few words were spoken.
After finding just what I wanted, I asked about jewelry.
Again, he shook his head over where I pointed and told me he would bring me
"good stuff".
He dug around in his shelves and pulled out this box which, for all the world, looked just like a fishing tackle box to me. However, inside there was beautiful silver jewelry with lovely gems. I thought I was in trouble when he brought out the silver scale (which determines the price) but we were able to arrive at an agreement on a beautiful necklace and bracelet (Merry Christmas to me!)
Just then his daughter and grandson came into the shop. His daughter spoke fluent English which lived up the conversation but took away some of the charm of "speaking" with this wonderful gentleman.

As I left, I then noticed posters of the Ayatallah (the one that the Americans are supposed to hate) and again realized that I could never/possible would visit this shop if it were in North America.

I try hard not to let politics get in the way of my thinking here. I stick by my discovery last year that 99.99% of muslims are peace loving, good people regardless of what may be on the media.

This morning I got a lovely Christmas card from one of my students, a very devout muslim. I was very touched, by her thoughtfulness and her warm wishes. The fact that she honored my holiday was very nice and it reminded me of what I'd like to believe is God's wish for all of us: Peace on Earth, goodwill to all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Day the Grinch became Santa

My Spousal Unit is not exactly "into" the Christmas spirit. It's sort of the family joke that he truly is the Grinch. But he was able to move past that image last Thursday as he became Santa Claus for our AIS Holiday Party. Other than the fact his stuffing started to come out, his beard almost came off and his "big butt" was sliding down as he exited the stage, it went really well. The kids were satisfied that Ol St Nick had made an appearance even though it seemed like he was being mobbed as he entered. One parent commented that it was the Arab children who were more excited to see him than the North Americans. The parents got lots and lots of photo opportunities (thanks U and A for this photo of your lovely lil girl) and we got a great story for our blog! Life continues to amuse us here in the Middle East.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Forensics, Flowers and Food

This is our speech team for 09. David and SP, another drama teacher, did a fine job with this group. It grew from last year and we were pleased with their progress. They were a great group of kids and did a great job of hosting other students. Anna is pictured on the top row and David in the front. They are "dressed down" because it was the last night banquet and we were tired!!
To thank you for my hard work on the tournament, the other coach, SP gave me flowers. Not just any bouquet, but a HUGE bouquet of roses, orchids and greenery. I've never been given any gift so large. It sure brought a smile to my face...even if the orchid aroma did become very overwhelming after a while.

This culture is very very good about arrangements, both flowers and food. Recently when we were feeding the 1250 people at the teacher's conference, the lady in charge of catering came up to me and said:
"You know what these people do? They EAT the fruits!!! And they wreck the arrangements. Int this country, the fruit is for display...not for eating!(Unfortunately, a whole arrangement tipped over when some misguided soul took an apple from the bottom of the pile instead of the top)
We are definately all about the show here!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Peerless Leaders

I just finished working with a fine group of AIS staff members to plan and execute the Professional Educators Around Kuwait (PEAK) meeting. On Saturday, there were 1300 teachers in our school for workshops, networking and lunch. I was in charge of facilities and stage management stuff. It was a huge amount of work, but fortunately the TEAM that put it together was outstanding. We worked hard, we discussed and argued in a spirit of teamwork that I've never witnessed and STILL we kept smiling.
Oh yes, we always kept our sense of humor.
-Even when HH had to go to rescue a box of books from customs and the man from our school who is charge of transportation asked her if she knew where they were because he was lost.
-Even when we were scared to hold the banquet outside despite the 20% chance of rain. Kuwait had an unusual three day rain last week which resulted in flooding in several areas. We were nervous.
-Even when the tables arrived for the vendors and they were nothing more than small ratty pieces of plywood and steel frames, with stained table clothes. (we made it work)
-AND ESPECIALLY when we discovered at 5 pm the night before that the beautifully set dining area was set up for 300 people NOT 1300 as we had ordered. (Lesson learned..."get it in writing!")...It all worked out.
The sun shined brightly on Kuwait, people came, learned, laughed, ate well and stay around to enjoy each other's company. The biggest problem we had was a room change. And the tables and chairs were all arranged by lunch and everyone had a place to sit.
Hats off to all of you! Let's do it again (but...let's rest up first!)

Singin' Christmas Carols in my Sandals

I found this picture online earlier this year and i laughed and laughed. It's fitting backdrop for our Christmas 09. Enjoy. PS what do you think she's thinking?!!

We went to a wonderful Christmas concert Saturday evening. The music was lovely, the selections were tasteful and fun and the group was entertaining and energizing. There were even several opportunities for audience participation, which is always fun.

We had friends who were singing in the concert. I had worked hard for the past 3 days planning and executing a conference for 1250 teachers in Kuwait and I was tired. No, not tired...exhausted. Anyway, we went because when friends are singing, you go and support them. Especially here where there's no family members to fill the chairs. I was fearful of falling asleep so we purposely sat in the front row. But not once did I yawn. It was splendid.

I took darling photos (on friend TC's camera) of grown up adults and little children of several nationalities in santa hats, dr seuss hats, reindeer hats--even a snowman hat singing Christmas Carols. Contrary to what you might think, Christmas is acknowledged here in Kuwait, there are lights and displays in the malls, Christmas trees for sale and plenty of gift opportunities in the malls. Although I have yet to see a manger scene in a spotlight along the side of the road, I would imagine they exist within Christian churches here.

This Thursday we are having a Christmas staff party complete with David playing the part of Santa (YES there will be pictures!)
As we were rehearsing carols tonight, my friend TF says, "Can we SING that song? (O Come all ye faithful) and I said it's CHRISTmas, TF. She reminded me again that she is a very faith based Catholic girl and I didn't have to tell her twice the true meaning of Christmas. (she even taught at a catholic school for 14 years, silly me!)

At the Brown hacienda, we've got a cute little Christmas trees and a cute manger display safely tucked away from the cat. Today I got my first Christmas gift (from my secret santa!) I will write my Christmas cards on the airplane back to Minnesota and hopefully mail them upon arrival.

Christmas IS Happening in the Middle East, it's just not the biggest show in town right now like it is in most of North America. And for us, the holiday season is pretty much the same except to a lesser degree. With one exception: I truly don't think I've ever worn sandles to a Christmas concert before. I'll add that to the list of "firsts".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thoughts from the Mother of the Groom (MOG)

Soon Ben will be marrying his love, Jolene, in a small private family wedding. It's a wonderful feeling to know that my son has someone in his life that he loves and who loves him in return. We are very happy that they have found each other and welcome Jolene to the Brown family.

While we are happy for them, we are also nervous for them as they begin their lives together. We have fears, concerns, plenty of advice, etc ...BUT then we have to laugh at ourselves and remind ourselves that our parents probably had the same fears for us, and so on and on throughout the generations. What is important is that there is love and that they believe in each other and completely support each other. They are also friends, which is a very important key to a relationship.

There have also been a few tears of sadness of my part because my parents and David's mom won't "physically" be a part of this celebration. I know they would all be happy for Ben. Maxine had a chance to know Jolene, and liked her alot. Oh well, they'll just have to do their jobs as Guardian Angels.

I am very thankful that Ben and Jolene are waiting until I return to MN so I can be a part of the celebration. I think I've found the right outfit to wear.

Wait, I think my mom is "sending" me a message...
--Note to's not about's about them!!!

Your prayers of good wishes for the happy couple,
and for patience and good humor for me are always welcome!

Sunrise, Sunset

The Brown and Walbridge Families
Invite you to an Open House Reception
Celebrating the Marriage of
their children
Sunday the Twenty-Seventh of December
Two Thousand and Nine
From 1:00 – 3:00 in the afternoon

Ohe’s Barn
Rural Pelican Rapids

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spending brief moments in a cave

Catching up on sleep, relaxing in front of the TV, snacking, napping...these are the things that I've been busy with lately. It's a good feeling to completely vegitate yet I am glad that I don't make a habit of engaging in this activity.

While I am an extrovert, I find that I need times like this where I hibernate at home. We have enjoyed being hosted over the weekend at Thanksgiving dinners, post thanksgiving dinners, movie nights and casual gatherings. While I enjoy giving heart and soul to this job, it's the people who make life here bearable and fun. We're in a transition cycle now where people are deciding whether or not to stay for another year. It's a tough time to be watching this part of the Circle of life in an international school.

We'll be staying one more year through Anna's graduation so our next 18 months are planned out for us. We aren't sure of what's beyond that, life in PR is a little unsettling right now due to the failed referendum vote. It's an interesting time, to not really know where the next step will take us.

So for now, we find what we can here to keep us happy, to fulfill us, to humor us, to make it through the tough times. And for now, it appears that I got what I needed through various forms of introversion. But I'll be back soon, frolicking through the halls of AIS, seeing what kind of trouble I can get into. As the sign in my kitchen says, "life is good".

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recent Sightings of UFOs

Possible definitions of above:
Unidentified Food Objects; in this case it would be HAM. We were graciously invited to an American thanksgiving through one of Anna's soccer friends and these people work for contractors on a base, so they can get H A M. Mmm it was so tasty... All i needed to complete the day was to fall asleep in front of the TV set watching a football game.

Unidentified Falling Objects: It's been raining here in Kuwait on and off for a week, which is really REALLY odd. It's been chilly enough to wear sweaters. Didn't stop my boy Davey who was out at 630 am with work colleagues golfing on Kuwait's fine sand golf course. You remember the one from last year where one carries their own turf. He returned and brought 4 new friends. He shot a 97 for 18 holes which was, in his words, "pretty darn good"

Unidentified Feliznavidad Ornaments: (Okay, so this was a stretch.) We are starting to see signs of Christmas here, although certainly not as the quantity that you are in North America. It just dawned on my Wednesday that Christmas was right around the corner. Happy First day of the Christmas shopping season in North America! I am thinking of all of you who braved the shoppers to get the bargains, and also those of you who did online shopping.
Tree goes up tomorrow, right on schedule.

Uninterrupted Fluttering Opticals (again a stretch): Finally we have some moments of unplanned rest and relaxation here at the Brown house. The forensics tournament is done, my office is back to normal and I have been enjoying napping and catching up on Videos. I just finished watching the last of Season 15 of ER (loved that show!)Starting on Dexter season four part two and Brothers and Sisters. Gotta love the video man.

Unexpected Friend Obligations: We were going to Qatar to visit BeccaP and Tim but things didn't work out as we had planned. Certainly by easter we will visit them. We had no plans on Tuesday and by Wednesday evening we had two Thanksgiving dinner invites, one birthday party for TD and dinner with the SuperRuss and Sheila. Also a massage with BFFAD Lori and a lovely breakfast with the new smart group. Life is good here.

Utilizing Flying Objects: Anna went out today with friends today to Fly a Kite. Seriously! I don't know how they were going to do that in the rain, but I never underestimate my daughter and her friends.

Hope everyone had a great turkey day and ate too much and received too much love! In 20 days I'll be back in the land of 10,000. Yes I am counting the days!

Happy Holidays

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some things to be Thankful for

Proud Parent Update: Anna Leigh recently took first place in the Eastern Meditterean Activities Council Forensics (speech) meet in the Serious Oral Interpretation category. We're very proud of her!

Nadine planned the Forensics event (but didn't do the judging less you think there's something fishing going on here!).There were over 120 students and coaches in our school, staying with our students and enjoying themselves. All went well, even though there was a fire in the school which caused an evacuation in the middle of the tournament.

I got to fulfill one of my fantasies (being a traffic cop) to keep nosy Kuwaitis from coming to see what was happening. Highlight was when I single handedly stopped a firetruck from going over our barracade and flattening their tires. Scary moment was when the firetruck then turned into the next road almost causing a head on collision with a car of nosy Kuwaitis.

The organization and involvement of this tournament has been my reason (excuse?) for not writing much on the event. Now I'm happy that it's over, it was successful and I can have a life back again.

David was one of the coaches for the AIS team. We saw a significant improvement in our teams' abilities to "play with the big schools" from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Cairo.

REAL HIGHLIGHT of the past week was that we received a brief visit from our good friend Colonel MR who is stationed in Iraq. He was in Kuwait on a brief stopover and, thanks to our armydude friend BR, we were able to break MR lose and he stayed with us. It was so good to see a familiar face, especially someone who is so dear to us. MR has been our friend since our Mankato days. He and his wife, Gorgeous (not her real name but what I call her) have remained true friends. Our friendship began when MR delivered Anna Leigh back in Feb 1993, Yes, he was the first one to sing "Mrs Brown you've got a lovely daughter". (seriously he did sing that when she was born)

Now on to five days off (Celebration of Eid Al-Adha)...which means I have no excuse not to write!! And we can finally spend time with the cat who has spent way too many nights alone lately. See the sad expression on his face.

Happy thanksgiving to all
-We had our thanksgiving dinner already at our superintendent's home last weekend. Although I don't think it was a Jennie-O brand, it tasted mighty good!!

Be thankful for what you have. I know I am....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction

FACT: Approximately 52% of Kuwait marriages are between first or second cousins.
Unknown: It is reported to be a much higher percentage among the Royal Family.

While at the doctor's office recently, I was answering a questionnaire regarding my family health history. Unfortunately cancer runs in my family especially colon cancer. Both parents had it and my mother died from it.

So when the doctor read the information he asked me
"are your parents related?"

and I looked at him, paused for a minute and said
"Well they were married"

He patiently asked me again if they were related to each other.

It took me a beat (or two) to realize that this sort of question is not uncommon where I live.

I wanted to say something nasty like "no I'm not from West Virginia either", but that would have been way too rude. He was just doing his job and looking at things through his "filters".

But I did hear the old country western song "I am my own grandpa" playing in the background.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

KSAA Champs for the Second Year in a Row!!

Anna's soccer team captured the local Kuwait Schools Athletics and Activities Varsity Girls Soccer Championship last week with a 7-0 win over their opponent. Anna scored the opening goal in the first 15 seconds of the game.

The team is off in Abu Dhabi this weekend vying for the Middle Eastern championship. We couldn't go (work got in the way,,,bummer) but we are certainly cheering for them in our hearts.

L-I-ONS--LI, LI, ONS, let's GO LIONS (it's a cheer from you...duh, bet you figured that out!)

The lady pictured with Anna and the Banner is her coach, SVD. Tough chick, great coach, good friend.

Fashion Decisions

Trying to decide what to wear to Ben's upcoming wedding and reception, I am debating over these fashion statements...The suit might be a little chilly but certainly would be memorable (photo taken in Eqypt, not bad for 50 right?)

The second outfit is from today's (Nov.11) Wacky Tacky Wednesday, a part of our Spirit Week at school. I'm pictured here with our BritSon, Jake. We were both in the "spirit" of the moment.

As you can tell, even if we don't write as often as last year, we are doing well here in the Middle East. Even if our fashion sense may be a bit questionable!!

Cheers from the Sand!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dressing for Success: Kuwaiti style

Today I went out for some retail therapy with girlfriends H, C and K. We hit a couple antique stores near our school and then headed down south to an older part of Kuwait.

On the way there, we were laughing about how we were dressed like we would be in any other summer day in North America for women in their mid-30s to late 40s (I was the oldest) . Meaning that some of us had short sleeves and others were sleeveless. None of us had shorts on. Our destination was in a southern part of Kuwait City which is known for being conservative. As we got out of the car, we took about 15 steps and discovered we were WAY underdressed...meaning that we were the only women who weren't wearing black abayas and hejabs. A majority of the women also had their face and hands covered.

As we were walking, H says to K--hey we're getting stared at. And K replied:
That's because I have a sleeveless top on AND I am blonde...duh! ( she was the ONLY blonde we saw in the hour)
It was a bit disconserting. We weren't hassled, just stared at.

We went about our business and enjoyed a lovely lunch. However, we noticed a few inconsistencies to the standard conservative mindset. Like the site of the woman who came into the restaurant and then took off her abaya (clothes on underneath of course) while she ate. Normally, women remained covered up until they are in the privacy of their own homes. We also were surprised to see women smoking...not a common site at all, other than shesha pipes. (hubbly bubbly).

As we were leaving, a car drove by and this man had a huge grin on his face and put his thumb in the air, kissed it and waved to us (as if to say "thumbs up babes"). K said "okay I've had enough of being misinterpreted as a whore today, let's get out of here". K is a lawyer by profession and she is definitely NOT what you would describe as a loose woman. She just happens to be from Western Canada with the prettiest blue eyes and curly blonde hair I've ever seen.

This is a strange place. I still feel safe, so safe in fact that sometimes I forget that I really don't live here. I now know what it must be like to be dressed in an abaya in North America and stand out as you walk down the street. After a while, you just ignor the stares and carry on with your business. That is, until someone points at you and brings attention to the fact that you really do stand out.

I own an abaya but I haven't got the courage to wear it because I am afraid I will stand out. Now I have learned that because I DON'T wear one, I stand out. Guess it's time to try it out. I'll let you know how it works next time I am shopping.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Update on the Browns

Dateline Kuwait
November 5, 2009

YES we are still alive! NO we aren't sick! No, we haven't been stricken by h1n1! NO I am not wearing a burka..

We are well, we are just up to our eyeballs in work and events.

Anna's soccer team won the Kuwait Girls championship on Monday evening! She kicked the first goal within 15 seconds of the game starting.

David has been coaching the Forensics team (speech). We had a meet today with another Kuwait school. unfortunately Anna's duet partner is recooperating from an emergency appendix operation. We are hoping he will be well for the big competition in two weeks.

Nadine has been busy coordinating the big speech meet in two weeks. I am learning more about Visas, Immigration, Embassies etc than I ever thought possible. Again, remember our comment about standing on sand. It appears that if I don't like something, I just have to patiently wait for a couple days and the sands shift and things change!

Pictures to follow of soccer and other fun stuff.
Thanks for your patience in keeping checking this site.

PS after a few "liquid refreshments" tonight, our friend JL called me boring (okay so I was yawning like crazy and almost fell asleep in his comfy big chair) It could be true that Kuwait is working me to sleep but BORING...I don't think so...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Things you wouldn't find in Pelican Rapids (or would you??)

From Middle East News Services
Thanks Intlxpatr for still keeping me "in the know"

KUWAIT CITY, Oct 3: Police have arrested a Sri Lankan housemaid who allegedly duped a Kuwaiti man in his 70s, and lured him into selling his home, reports Al-Watan Arabic daily.

It is reported the woman, who was working for the old man, induced him to sell his home, and then took the money from him. She is said to be worth about KD 120,000. She has also built a mansion in her home country.

A security source said the man’s mother, who is about 108 years old, and his family have lodged a complaint at the police station. However, the maid claims the man had given the money to her of his own free will.

KUWAIT CITY, Sept 28: Eight Kuwaitis have filed complaints with the Al-Shaab Police Station accusing a compatriot and his Arab wife of cheating them, reports Al-Rai daily. The complainants said they bought apartments overlooking the sea from the compatriot and the wife received money on behalf of the husband. The complainants said each of them paid KD 100,000 in advance upon receipts and contracts only to discover the apartments have been sold to other people. The daily did not say in which country the complainants purchased the apartments.

DOHA: Qatari divorcees are entitled to free government housing only if they remain unmarried (after divorce) for five years in a row, so many of them with no job and children to support are urging the authorities to review this rule.

The divorce rate being very high in Qatar and many divorcees taking custody of their children as well prefer to live away from their parents in rented accommodation.

And since not all divorcees are employed and financially independent they struggle to make ends meet with meager monthly maintenance amounts they receive from their former husbands.

Government housing rules in the country specify that Qatari women who remain unmarried up to the age of 35 are entitled to free state housing.

One of the divorcees told Al Sharq on grounds of anonymity that life for her and her children had become miserable as the monthly rent she had to pay for the rented accommodation was quite high.

Living off meager maintenance amount, she said she was finding it extremely hard to make ends meet, especially as children’s education is to be taken care of which is an expensive affair.

“We, therefore, want the government to review its housing rules and consider our plight on humanitarian grounds,” she said emphatically.

“More than the spinsters, we need a government house because spinsters can anyway stay with their parents,” said the woman.

According to her, living in rented accommodation with children for five years consecutively after divorce is near-impossible due to the fact that the maintenance amounts given by their former husbands are fixed while rents have been going up.

With Love from the Desert

Photo taken at sunrise in Eqypt, fall 2009

Hello one and all...I am sorry for lack of communication. Almost 10 days without a post is too long. I will try to update you on our lives...

GOOD NEWS is that nothing is wrong, we are all healthy, happy and working...hard.

ANNA is busy with soccer, Academic Games (She heads to Abu Dhabi tomorrow for the weekend tournament),Forensics (speech) school and life. We went shopping last night for some clothes (the second time this year! As in 2009, my lil one is not a shopper girl) It was productive and provided us with some good bonding time.

DAVID is busy with school (we just finished a report card period here so lots of midnight oil) and soccer. He helps out occassionally with Anna's team (they are 3-0) and keeps a bit of spending money flowing by reffing. He's also coaching the Forensics teams so has lots of after school practices.

NADINE is busy with her new job (getting things ready for Anna's team to go to Abu Dhabi) and also preparing for the hosting of the Forensics meet here next month. Also I've started teaching piano lessons so a bit of spending money is flowing that way. I've got five students--four young men and one very excited young woman. It's fun, a stretch and interesting. But also exhausting.


David and I went bowling last weekend. We did it to check out a possible team activity for Forensics. It was great fun and reminded me of our college days.I almost beat David with three strikes at the end, but still couldn't score more than my usual 107.

I rode the Kuwait Public Transportation Bus system last week for the first time. I was a little freaked out, but found it to be fast, clean and very affordable. We don't own a car in Kuwait so rely on taxis and friends. The bus could be an option for us more in the future.

I'm getting a colonscopy on Saturday (yeah we are hard up for fun if this is on the list right?) The Wagner genes pre-dispose me to the "c" word so I'm getting it checked on. Suffice it to say, I won't be writing a blog about my experiences. Although last time I had a colonoscopy I woke up from the anesthesia with my cellphone in hand and noticed that I had made 5 calls.
Don't remember them...if I try to call YOU, do not answer!!

sorry for the delay in writing. I'll try to have more fun things to tell later.

Weather is beautiful, wish YOU were here!!
Love from the Desert
The Browns

Sunday, October 11, 2009

That Darn Cat

Germo rests in the sun after a hard night

Our lead story tonight
The little Kuwait family of four almost became three when Germo, the Arabian Mow street cat, disappeared for approximately three hours this evening.

Mrs Brown, kind hearted but not always so bright, domestic goddess of the Brown home explains it like this:
"Well, I often open the kitchen window so Germo can sit out on the ledge and look longingly at the street cats gathering below. As he is declawed, he would never survive in the outside of the apartment life, so I feel sorry for him and allow him on the ledge once a day while I am doing dishes or other domestic duties".

Tonight however, Nadine got careless and left the window open. Her cold hearted husband David, who has admitted in the past to not ever liking the cat (although he has been seen often with the cat on his lap!), shut the window at approximately 8:30 pm.
The family got involved in their regular nightly routine and it wasn't until about 11 pm when Nadine noticed the cat was missing.

After a thorough search of the apartment, and all 8 floors of the apartment building, Nadine set off on foot around the building, not even daunted by the fact that the local Kuwaitis and neighborhood teachers would be amused by the site of her in her old football shirt and striped pajama pants.

Alas, no luck in searching. Finally the Grinch, aka David, remembered that he had shut the window to the kitchen and he opened it and looked below. Sure enough, there was the cat calmly resting on the roof of the storage shed about a half story below.
Nadine climbed into the kitchen sink, stuck her body half way out the window and talked to the cat while David and Anna found a tall ladder and climbed up on the roof to rescue the cat.

Germo's only comment was that there wasn't any catfood on the roof and that the great excape only proved to remind him how lucky he truly is to live in the style to which he's become accustomed.

When asked for a comment, Anna said "Stupid Cat. This should teach us all a mighty lesson about leaving windows open."

2008--Zowie the dog chanting that age old rhyme "Dogs Rule, Cats Drool"

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Photo taken in Maplewood State Park on a glorious day in spring 2008 spent with my favorite PR Photoman, Jordy

As I read on 56572, there are snow flurries expected in my homeland. It's not even Halloween!! This hardly seems fair for people who never ever got much of a summer.
So what I want to share with you today is
the Minnesota Blessing...

I first came across this when our mother died 14 years ago. We actually made a copy of it and placed it with her body. She would have loved it. I have a beautiful framed copy, purchased at the Great Minnesota Get Together, which is with me here in Kuwait.

May the Ruts in the road fit your pickup

May the Wind be always off the lake

May the sun shine warm upon our lefse

The show fall soft upon your roof

And until we meet again

May God Save You from unnecessary uff-das.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Logically Apologetic

Sorry I haven't written much lately. Now I remember why I didn't want to become a journalist even though I have the training. I didn't like the "pressure" of writing a daily column or story. As you can tell, I haven't written as much this year as last year.

Part of that is logical--there isn't as much "newness" to my life. I'm not going out and seeing new things every two seconds as I was last year. I don't walk around with my camera in my pocket as was the case 12 months ago.

Also I've been given bigger responsibilities/opportunities (you know God never gives you anything you can't handle) with my new job as Activities Director. I've got some pretty heavy stuff (in a mild sort of way) happening in my life now and I don't have as much time to write.

Today's battle included a trip to the United Arab Emirates embassy to find out that because two of my students are from Bangeldesh and Indonesia, they would have to pay $220 just for the "opportunity" to travel to Abu Dhabi for a tournament. And after paying that money, it can't be handled here in Kuwait, but rather in Abu Dhabi which means sending passports, money via courier to AD, getting them back, etc. Let alone explaining to the parents of the TWO Bangeldeshi children who are going on the trip (yes, your math is correct-$220 x 2 =$440) that even though they are doctors and have experienced a "free pass" for travel, that the rules were changed on OCTOBER 1st.

It was an interesting day.
But another opportunity to learn something.

So please don't think that it's because I'm not interested in what's happening back home. Please don't think that I've become a total work snob and am not interested in what's happening in Kuwait anymore. Far from it, I'm actually not seeing myself as so much of a tourist but rather as someone who does live here. I think the term is RESIDENT.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Critical thinking

I am currently trying to teach my 9th and 10th graders the fine art of critical thinking--thinking outside the box. There is a popular book, "How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci" which has been a useful text. Now, even in North America it's hard to young people to think creatively and to develop those skills that will lead one's brain to think of not just the easiest or obvious solution, but to really reach and brainstorm for all possibly solutions.

Here (in my humble opinion) it's a little harder because a majority of our students are used to have people who do things for them (nannies, maids, drivers) and they can literally even buy homework done at a place called the Homework Souk (market). Don't even get me started on that--although I'm proud to say that our teachers are smart enough to know the difference between what "Johnny" could have produced and what was purchased through an outside source (I say Johnny because there are no Johnny's here--seriously!)
Anyway, as I was in a full rant at my class for getting them to think OUTSIDE the BOX last week, one frustrated beautiful 9th grader who had been trying so hard to think in a critical, creative fashion finally put her head down and sighed and said "oh Miss, thank God for the Box".

Gotta love it!

Sounds like a good plan to me

Friday, October 2, 2009

Nadine took the Which color is your aura? quiz on facebook and the result is green
Here we are back in 2005. I am WEARING green if that helps!

Greens are balanced, harmonious, and peaceful personalities. They need harmony in their life and prefer to live in a natural environment. They are the most balanced people in the color spectrum. They also have a powerful connection with nature. Living in the country, next to a forest or park or close to a lake or ocean is important for these friendly and heartfelt personalities. Greens are open, extroverted, expressive, friendly, communicative and heartfelt. Greens perceive life through their heart. Their primary motivations are contentment and harmony. They judge their successes by how close they are to their friends or nature. Greens are content personalities. If they are in power and have found their place they need very little to be happy or feel needed. Their inner happiness and satisfaction is important to them and is fulfilled without much expectation.

okay so I don't know whether to laugh or be impressed!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kodak of the Mind

I have posted several pictures from our Eqyptian vacation. I admit that I carry my camera almost everywhere and as you can see from the previous posts, I even take pictures of bathrooms (remember my biffy shot from Italy last year?)

Anyway, there were several times when I didn't have my camera and perfect pictures would appear right in front of me. When this happens, I say "click" so that I can attempt to capture the moment in my brain instead of taking a picture. I call it Kodak of the Mind.

Here's a few of the pictures that you won't see on this blog but I will try and describe them to you.

First day on vacation and I see a lonely camel walking along the path in front of our resort. It reminds me of the cows coming home along the path, as each camel seems to know the way there and back. I smile amusedly at the site of the camel making it's way back to "home". Suddenly a small image appears on the saddle. A very small boy (about 4?) was laying across the saddle either sleeping or trying to get people to take a picture and get money. As he looked around to see if anyone was watching, he put his head back down and went back to sleep.
Two women in bathing suits walking along the shore crossing in front of two Muslim women, in full covering, walking to begin their daily hunt for octopus' in the sea.
The site of several dozen young Eqyptian men walking along side their camels going up the side of Mt Sinai at 3-6 am as we were trying to ascend the mountain on foot. The question "Camel, Camel, you want camel?" was asked to us at least 25 times. One enterprising young man actually said "Taxi?".
The most gorgeous man I have ever seen (no offense David) walking up beside me on Mt Sinai. He was a monk, getting ready for morning devotions (so I gathered because he had a "audio speaking device" strapped to his belt--at least that's what the bag said). I thought it could have been a reincarnation of Jesus. I would have confessed anything to him. He must have been between 50-60 years old, with wonderful colored skin and beautiful eyes. Maybe it was a hallucination because Anna says she didn't see him. It would be worth climbing back up the mountain to see him again.
In Dahab, it was a common thing to catch a ride with vehicles passing by on the road. Hitchhiking is still in fashion although the drivers do expect to receive some kind of pay for their troubles. As we were getting ready to travel up to Mt Sinai, we needed our paperwork stamped by the Tourism Police. As our van pulled up, a small Toyota pickup roared up and I noticed that 13 people (I counted) got out of the back of the Toyota. How they all got in there, and the pickup could still drive without the oil pan scraping off, I will never know.
As we boarded the plane, I noticed a man carrying 10 passports (again I counted) and behind him was an entourage of two women, two nannies, 4 small children and two teenagers. We couldn't figure out if it was a Muslim man with two wives or two families traveling. However, the truly interesting thing about this group was that the man had on a surgical mask (H1N1 prevention) and he sat in first class while the rest of his party had no masks on and they sat in coach. The same group was on our return flight, and the father/husband/caretaker? still had on his mask and his family was still unmasked. Someone should really explain how germs travel, but it wasn't my job on this trip.
The site of my daughter and husband playing "war" with rocks and trying to ruin each other's sand castle. I did get pictures of this but it doesn't capture the sounds they were making in trying to defeat each other. It was one of the unforgetable family moments where even having a camera doesn't completely capture the memory. Don't worry, this one will be in my brain forever.

Sea side Adventures

This entry is for my Friend Ms Dianne Kimm who is celebrating her birthday October 1st. If you see her in PR, give her a hug from me!

Sitting on the beach one day in Eqypt, I noticed a gathering off to my right, just off the beach property. It appeared to be a Muslim woman and her family escaping the heat of the sun under the safe covering of a water cooler on an abandoned property. I watched as the littlest one kept trying to run towards the sea and the second to youngest one kept running after him. For a brief moment, I tsked them as an unwatched family but then I caught myself wondering how many large families have done the same in other countries.
The mother, I had met on the first day we were there. I learned it was her job to capture octopus for the local restaurants (cost $1 each) She was wading through the shallow waters and the children, I'm guessing, were assigned to watch each other and stay out of trouble.

The images of these darling children playing and their mother wading back and forth in the sea in full abaya dress were so wonderful, I desperately wanted to take pictures. But I was trying to mindful that most Muslim women do not want their pictures taken and also be respectful of the children as minors.

Soon I noticed that two children started to search the beach area, getting closer and closer to where I was sitting. I figured that they had been either been sent out on a "dare" to see how close they could get to me without harming themselves or they were on a mission to see if I was safe before the other children came. It took about five minutes until they approached me with huge smiles on their faces, showing me a starfish they had captured. I smiled and talked to them, still not wanting to take my camera out. But when they bent down to talk to me and smiled, well, the camera just naturally jumped into my hands and I took their picture.

Soon all of them came over, with the oldest one carrying the youngest one on her hips. I learned their names (which I am embarrassed to say I forgot), found out that they spoke English quite well (certainly better than my Arabic) and that they were waiting for their mother as I thought. They also said "yes all of us who were old enough go to school". At least that's what they told me.

Suddenly the oldest one smiles at me and says, "I come tomorrow and you bring me clothes". Just like that. I was shocked and asked her why she needed clothes. She said "for school of course". Immediately I thought of what I could bring out of Anna's suitcase but then I decided that wouldn't be fair to the others (nor probably not a great idea as far as my daughter was concerned). Certainly I couldn't go to the Dahab WalMart and purchase clothing for the entire family. So I came upon the idea of paying them to have their pictures taken. They readily agreed and so snap, snap, snap went my Canon taking several shots. I paid them the equivalent of $2 for the priviledge of placing their images here for you.
As the oldest girl, Nour (I remembered her name!)left she said, "come tomorrow at 10 o clock and I will bring you present. You bring me present too?". Of course I said and immediately thought of what I could bring her.

When I told David and Anna about my adventure, they couldn't believe that I would trust the girl to appear the next day. Well, I said, "the worst thing that could happen if she didn't show up is that I got more time to sit down by the beach." Secretly I hoped she would show up, but like them, I had my doubts.

So for the next 22 hours I thought about what I could bring for a present? Again, I wondered about the fairness of bringing one gift for 5 children. And as there was no WalMart in Dahab (maybe not in all of Eqypt, I'm not sure) I didn't have access to ready shopping opportunities. We were about five miles from town and somehow giving them my week long collection of seaglass didn't seem appropriate either.

The answer came to me the next day at breakfast when I saw the overflowing plate of sweets set out for our buffet. So, trying to look oh so innocent, I went to the buffet table and took 5 chocolate covered rolls. David thought I had gone off my diet for sure. He really thought I'd gone over the edge when I returned and snatched 5 gingerbread cookies off another platter.

Wrapping the sweets up after breakfast, I set off to my location and waited...and waited...and waited until about 11 am. I tried not to get too upset when they didn't show up. Oh well, I told myself, it's not like they could get in the car and drive down to the beach.Maybe it's too windy to catch octopus today.

Soon my husband and daughter, who must have felt sorry for me, came down and we started to build sandcastles. Half way into our construction project, two young teenage girls, wrapped in hejabs, came up selling beadwork (a common thing for teenage girls to do in this area). I started to barter with them ( as much as my conscience allowed!) and suddenly the taller girl says, "Don't you remember me my friend, I am Nour from yesterday". I was overjoyed at seeing her again and told her that I had a present for her and her friend. I didn't mention that I had grabbed gifts for the rest of the family because I knew the sweets would not last longer than it took for them to walk the remainder of the beach.

Nour and her friend were delighted at the sight of sweets and hungrily ate one of them. They wanted to make sure that it was fair deal so they each gave me one gift after I purchased 4 items from them-2 each. Don't ask me what I am going to do with six beaded bracelets, I'll find a use. (Ms D--one is going to you at Christmas!)

Pictured below:
The family as they played and worked by the shore
The search team
The whole family ages 1 to 12
Nour, her friend and I by the beach the next day

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bathing Beauties of Eqypt

"Funky" things we saw in Eqypt

Yes these are goats. There was a herd of about 60 wandering the streets.
An Honest to Goodness Minnesota Twins hat...was I ever excited!! Until I learned that the lil one was Canadian and his parents bought the hat at a discount store. Oh well, it was the thought
As open minded as I am, I doubt that I would have ever tried to eat here!

Monday, September 28, 2009

On Top of Mt Sinai

In this staring contest, my money is on the camel

This IS a bathroom. What a view!!

On top of the World, 547 am September 21. 2009

Fun in the Sun in Eqypt

Friday, September 25, 2009

Safe from the Land of Sand

Just a quick note to tell you we're back from Dahab, Eqypt where we enjoyed a wonderful vacation. Later on I'll write and tell you about climbing up Mt Sinai to see the sun rise (I think I saw Jesus...really!), and driving four wheelers across the desert, Anna and David's diving adventures, camel riding along the Red Sea, spending every morning watching the sun rise and looking for sea glass, but right now I'm just too tired. And the thought of a bath and a nap sounds too inviting.

Thanks for all of the wishes for a safe trip (I felt them across the ocean and desert) And boy oh boy have I got some great pictures to share with you.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blasts from the Summer

Here's a couple of pictures from my summer that I thought I'd share with you...

Photo #1 is from my trip to Chicago this summer to see longtime friend JJS. The photo was taken by a Kuwait colleague. True story..JJS and I walked into a shoe store in Chicago and there was JL, a teaching friend from AIS, smiling at me, taking my picture on his cellphone. Unbelieveably small world.

Photo #2 is from the WWOB Camping/Canoeing adventure in the Boundary Waters. Truly a great time. When I showed this picture to my students, they couldn't believe that 6 women could survive on a trip without any men.

Alas, yes, there is so much work to do here...

Speaking of small world, I wonder who we will meet in Eqypt...tales to follow.

Diving in Dahab

David and Anna pose with their instructor Islam.

We'll be on vacation this week in honor of Eid al Fitar. David and Anna will be diving now that they are certified Scuba Divers (CSD). I'll be hanging out on the beach with a good book and a beer (BGBB). We'll be flying into Sharm El Sheik Eqypt (you all know where that is, right?!) and then heading north to Dahab. It's near Mount Sinai so one of my goals is to journey to the top of the Mountain. We can either take the sunrise or sunset tour. Personally I'm going to look for the "tackiest" momento--either a broken ten commandments key chain or a Jesus loves me at Ramadan bumper sticker. I'll let you know how the hunt goes.

I'll write more next week when we safely return, inshallah.

Eid Mubarak (appropriate greeting for the end of Eid which will be Saturday-inshallah)