Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bloom Where you are Planted

Somewhere I read that when taking pictures, you should take a couple pictures of something that you see everywhere, even if it's not that exciting, because when you look at the picture, it will remind you of the place.
Well, we see lots and lots of Brown Sand here. So, I took an opportunity to write a postcard-like note in the sand and take a picture. Someday I'll look at it and say "wow, that's Kuwait." Funny thing is that it looks a lot like the sand shot I took in Belize, and the sand shot I took in Australia, but you get the idea.

I love taking pictures of desert flowers. The incredible heat in the summer and the relative (I said relative) cold in the winter time must be really hard on the plants. I have to admire anything that can grow here...I guess including me.

I've finally made my mind up that I'm going to stop being angry with Kuwait for what it isn't (that would be North America) and try to love it for what it is! Wish me luck.

PS I'm told this is a normal stage in the Culture Shock schedule. The next stage is acceptance and appreciation. I hope I'm inching towards that on a daily basis.

Emotional Times and Signs

These signs stirred up a whole range of emotions within me. The evacuation sign is within walking distance from our house. I'm still not sure if we are supposed to run there in the event of an emergency--invasion or bombing. It's actually just a parking lot. But it was good to know that there is a plan in place. (sorta)

Two of our newbie friends volunteered to be a part of an Evacuation Exercise a couple weeks ago. They had volunteers pretend to be wounded and the plan was to partipate in a full blown drill on how to evacuate in the event of a real emergency. Unfortunatly, as the Arab "Big Whigs" were in town for the Gulf Summit, they couldn't actually use any air space. But they had a good time and said that it was quite an experience. I hope I only hear about these things as "drills", not the real thing.

The other sign is on the road as we drove to the desert last weekend. It's the road that all US soldiers (soon to include my son) drive on to get to Iraq. We drove within 50 miles of Iraq on Saturday. I gotta tell you, it was a really weird feeling.
Who would have thought that the entire Brown family would end up in the Middle East?

Yesterday, our Middle School's secretary's husband (got all that?) had surgery. She's Muslim and keeps an eye out for me when I do something or say something wrong. This wonderful woman was quite nervous about the surgery and so I took a risk and asked her if it was alright if I prayed for a speedy recovery for her husband. She looked at me, smiled and say "SURE-Pray all you want. I really appreciate that".

Wouldn't it be nice if it were that easy in other matters?

While Walking Around the Neighborhood One Day

This is a picture of an establishment near our apartment. We are not quite sure what it is. Someone once told us it was a place to get pictures framed, then someone else told us it was a brothel. I highly doubt the second one, but I am confused because it never appears open.

Last night we walked by around 8 pm and lo and behold it was open. I still don't have any idea what it is although there was a guard at the front door, all the lights were on and it sorta looked like it could be a salon of some sort.

Salon is the word for beauty parlors. There are Women's salons and Men's. Actually, most of the time the signs say Women's Saloon. (no that's not a typo, they mostly are called Saloons.)

It's a unique experience visiting a woman-only hair saloon, I mean salon. Of course, you realize that they are women only because that is the only way that Muslim women could uncover in public if it was guaranteed there would be no men in the place. Signs actually say "No Men Allowed".

Whatever it is, I love the Camel sculpture out front. I want to bring it to our apartment, but David is against the idea. I swear, some days that man has no sense of adventure!

Between "Iraq" and a Hard Place

Sorry for the awful pun, but I couldn't resist! These pictures show the type of scenery we see in Kuwait. Either ocean or desert and there's not much inbetween.

We got a new Canon Rebel Camera for Christmas. We bought it in Germany for a fairly good price. We were the smart consumers, purchasing the camera for a fraction of what we would pay here in Kuwait (where electronics are very expensice). We were the embarrassed consumers when we realized that the instruction booklets were printed in German, French, Italian and Dutch--no English. We were slightly frustrated consumers until we realized that we could download English instructions off the internet.

Ah, Go Fly a Kite or Better Yet Jump off a Cliff

I haven't flown a kite since I was a kid. Here in Kuwait, it's actually a fairly popular pasttime. Pictured above are two types of kites-one is the simple kind that you run behind and hope it gets into the air.

The other one was shown to me by JeanPaul, a new aquaintance, as he was trying to get enough air so that it would lift him off the group. The "real" way you're supposed to use this kite is to jump off a cliff and then float for as long as the winds allow. We were fresh out of cliffs on the day in the desert, but it was still fairly cool to see this.

It just goes to show you that you're never too old to be a kid.

No I don't have my head in the sand...just my feet!

Sorry I've been so late in writing. My only excuse is that I've started a new semester with 8th graders and I've been working hard to make sure that they don't get the best of me. So far, so good.

This past weekend, I did get a chance to go to the "desert". On Friday afternoon, the BFFs, David and I took a drive up the road to see what we could see. It was my first experience really driving out of Kuwait City towards the desert, or, actually, towards Iraq.

All I can say is that I hope I never get lost out there because it is miles and miles of nothing but brown sand.

On Saturday, I was with a group of funseekers as we were celebrating EmbassyPeter's 60th birthday. We drove even farther than the point I reached on Friday. We even found trees!!

A tasteful, fun picnic sprang up and we had a great time. AND I actually got to see REAL Camels, not the ones on cigarette packs or the ones in pictures. Off in the distance, in the desert, was a group of wild camels walking along. It looked like a scene in a movie. Pretty cool.

In all the literature one gets about Kuwait and Things to Do, there's always a small paragraph that warns one not to stray off the beaten path because there are still a number of landmines that haven't been detonated. I thought about that as I wandered away from the group towards the abandoned house to take pictures. But, like other risks here, it was just a passing thought. The only time I got spooked was when a car appeared from out of nowhere. Well, there was a village about 1/2 mile away from where we were, but it really seemed like the car came out of nowhere.

I still don't know why there aren't any cactus' here.If I find out, I'll get back to you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Weeelllll, that's....Different

This is a picture I took at our IKEA store a couple months ago. I was actually looking to buy a new pillow when I stumbled upon this wonderful typo. I almost bought the pillow if it would give me that kind of support!!

Somedays, when I am feeling like a perfectly snobby American, I think my other career will be as an English proof reader in Kuwait. It's amazing how badly the English language is misused in "published" items, like the above sign. For example, we recently bought a devise that allows us to get television signals. I had to re-read the instruction manual a couple times to make sure I understood what they were instructing me to do without laughing.

Now that I've sounded like the perfectly pompous American, I acknowledge (humbly) that their English is much better than my Arabic. If you can imagine having to train your brain from learning Arabic (see picture of my friend Marisol's name)to learning letters as we know it, I would probably need a lot of "god support".

Once when my nephew Goose (family name) was visiting us in Minneapolis and we were driving through a very "interesting" part of town. He said "Look at all the weird people Aunti" and I reminded him that it wasn't "weird", just "different". That's my challenge here, to not immediately say "oh weird" or "how odd" but to learn to simply smile and say "well, that's different".

I'm learning, slowly.

Have I shown you pictures of my family?

Here's a couple more shots from our Christmas vacation. Lookin' pretty darn good, I'd say

A couple of Monas for your day

Pictured above are three pictures of Mona. The first two are of the most famous one, Mona Lisa. But they are not in museums, rather out in public. The top one is on a mural at the American School of Dubai, where we visited in November. The second one is on a portapotty in Italy.

David and Anna travelled to France in December to see the Real one, located in the Louvre museum in France. I have also been fortunate to see "her". Actually, it's a bit of a letdown because the painting is not much bigger than a ledger size piece of paper. And now she's behind glass so it's a little harder to see her.

David says he got a bigger kick out of watching people look at the painting, rather than looking at the actual painting itself. I felt the same way the second time I saw Michaelangelo's David in Florence.

The third picture is our Miss Mona, an AIS teacher who I've spoken about before. She schedules our fun outings and was the chief organizer behind the Obamarama party Tuesday night. She's not as famous but she's a favorite of mine because of all she does to help us appreciate the culture of Kuwait and to get up off our couches and "HAVE FUN WHILE YOU ARE HERE".

Out of the Mouths of Babes

"Mrs Brown, can I ask you a question?"
"Yes Abdullah (not his real name), go ahead"
"Do you know if Mrs Clinton is Jewish?"
"I don't think so, why do you ask?"
"Well if she's Jewish, then she will be more sympathetic"
"And did you know that the Palestines knew that with Obama in the White House that they would be in trouble so they did all the bombing they could while Bush was still in office and then they've stopped with Obama?"
"Oh. (pause while I try to recover and think of something intelligent and teacher-like to respond with) Well, I'm amazed that you know more about what is happening in America than.."
"..Kuwait" replied his mother with a sad look on her face. I could tell she clearly was uncomfortable with his son's thoughts and desire to talk American politics.

It was an amazing, almost surreal conversation. I could see the interest, the passion and yet all I could think about was that in some countries, not too far from where I am now, young boys the same age, are given guns to fight with, instead of smart words.

On a chipper note, the conversation ended with the young man asking me out to breakfast. I think I'll go someday, but not before I do a little research.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Liberty and Justice for All

I just returned from the AIS Auditorium where cheering, happy souls gathered to watch the CNN coverage of the Inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th President on the Large TV screen. Even our school owner was there- a Lebanese born woman whose father was granted Kuwaiti citizenship by the Emir. She cheerfully dressed in Red, and Blue (close) and applauded along with us. The Canadians got into the act, cheering and clapping too. I smiled to see my new colleagues--Christine from France, Anne from Nova Scotia and Mariamme from Eqypt, enjoying the moment almost as much as the Americans.

We had balloons, flags, cake, coffee and lots of loud and happy cheering. We all stood and placed our hands on our hearts to sing the National Anthem. We hooted at Michelle's wardrobe (smart look girl) swayed with Aretha and listened with all of our attention to the Speech.

This is the first inaugural I've ever watched on TV. I'm not political at all but I must say that I am proud right now of America. I was especially moved as I sat next to Sally, an African American woman from New Jersey and Luke, a young African American man from Chicago, and could see the tears running down their cheeks. I will never be able to totally understand the magnitude of this Presidency because I've always been "accepted" and never been denied anything because of my color.But you can bet they (Sally and Luke) understand it only too well.

Although this day is joyous and historic, I know there are tough days ahead. As the mother of a son about to go to Iraq, I know what I would like to see as his President Obama's first agenda priority. But there are a few other issues on his plate I'm sure. Like the whole economy situation. I'm not embarrassed to say that we would like to return to the US one day and work as teachers. Here's hoping that there will be that opportunity for us in the distant future.

It's an odd feeling to be congradulated for electing a president. Yet, many people came back from Christmas break with stories of people around the world actually saying words of encouragement about the US election results. The world view of the US may not have been the brightest but it's sure on a roll right now. May that feeling of optimism and hope continue.

Tales from the original hometown

Many of you know that I am fanatical about my hometown, Herman, MN (population about 450). I usually take any opportunity I can to brag about it or make a reference to it. And, the fact that I met someone in Dubai whose mother grew up in Herman was pretty much the END OF ALL for me.

I'm not necessarily proud of the following news article but, it provided me with a laugh and a headshake. Can anyone say Darwin Awards for this dude?


Herman man arrested for growing pot

information from Grant County Sheriff’s Dept.

Living in a house without sewer service can have expected, as well as unexpected, consequences, as a Herman man found out last week.
Ryan Osmun, who was living at 304 3rd Street East, had continued to stay at the house even though a notice was posted by Public Health on December 19 stating that no one was to occupy the residence until the sewer was hooked up to the main Herman sewer line and then verified by the City of Herman to be in proper working order.
Grant County deputies had information that Ozmun was still at the home and after checking on the residence early last Wednesday about 1 a.m., they found Ozmun, 21, inside. Ozmun had refused to leave the residence, and he was then arrested for a violation of a Public Health Notice.
While there, deputies could smell the strong odor of marijuana in the house. A search warrant was obtained and executed later that same morning. An in-door marijuana-growing operation was found to be in operation inside the house. Approximately $10,000.00 worth of marijuana was seized, along with growing equipment and other items used in a marijuana-growing operation.
Ozmun was charged with two felony counts of Controlled Substance in the 5th Degree and also a misdemeanor for Hindrance of Enforcement Relative to a Public Health Nuisance.
Ozmun made his first court appearance in Grant County Court on Friday, January 2, 2009.Bond was set at $25,000, and Ozmun is currently being held at the Otter Tail County Detention Facility.
There are two other suspects in this case. They have been identified, and the Grant County Sheriff’s Office is currently trying to locate them.
Assisting the Grant County Sheriff’s Office in this case is the West Central MN Drug Task Force and the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Royalty and Wealth-a different perspective

A little Bling found in Italy. As we travelled through Italy, we saw lots and lots of gold jewelry. Kuwait has the like I've never seen it.

I used to envy people with wealth and power. But I'm not so sure as I have started to observe it more here. For example, recently Kuwait hosted a Gulf Summit with Middle East Leaders here. We didn't notice much difference except the roads were closed down during certain parts of the day, and I didn't see a lot of airplane traffic. The Emir played host and I haven't read the newspaper yet to see if there was any resolution. One thing for sure, things they are a changin' here in the Middle East too. I just heard that possibly two more large US corporations aren't having their contracts renewed. HHmmm, maybe it won't the the place with all the money!?

I watched the Emir (on television) greet all the heads of state as they arrived on their private planes. I'm sure this is standard procedure for that sort of thing but it made me smile. How would you like to do this job?
1) Meet the important people as they leave the planes
2) Depending on how much you like them and vice versa, you give them two air kisses or a hand shake
3) Walk down the red carpet (placed new for each person) smiling and waving to cameras
4) Sit with the other important person, with all "your" people on one side and all "their" people on the other, smile and make small talk while the cameras photograph you for the respective country papers. Make sure the coffee and tea keep flowing--at least in public.
5) Go back and do it all over again for each person who arrives.

This country is very BIG on protocol and being seeing doing the right thing. Sometimes it's hard to get a straight answer from the kids because they all know what they are "Supposed" to be saying in response (Well, I guess that's really not any different than back home) but here it's practiced throughout the classes.

Recently I met a 5th grader who is part of the Royal Family. While he is only 10, his responses and social courtesies far outweighed most adults I've met for the first time. It's amazing what is taught as such an early age.

Speaking from experience I know that someone who comes from a simple background has a greater appreciation for the spectular. But I've never thought of it in reverse--as coming from "have" to "have not".
For example while showing my class the Movie "Annie" (it was one of the few movies that was actually approved by the Ministry of Culture--all movies and plays have to be), there came the scene where Annie enters Daddy Warbucks house for the first time. As I've watched the movie and directed the play, I always perceived that anyone watching this scene would also be impressed by Daddy Warbucks wealth, servants and general lifestyle. As I'm showing this movie here, I'm realizing that some of my students live in the same style home and the sight of many maids and staff is nothing new to them.
BUT...I bet theirs don't sing and dance. At least to Broadway-style music.

Fortunately, the movie was a hit with the kids (few had seen it) although the concept of coming from little or nothing sure didn't strike home as much as it does for others.

Just a reminder that the "Rose Colored Sunglasses" that many people look through here certainly cost more than I'm used to spending.

Farewell Grade 6..on to Grade 8

My teaching assignments will shift after this week when I move to teaching Drama to Grade 8 here at AIS.
The 6ers have been a great ride--a lot like a rollercoaster, sometimes "UP" and sometimes "DOWN". I will have to say they helped me learn alot about teaching and also were patient with me when I messed up, which I did. We sorta grew on each other and I will miss their smiling faces and energy.

Now I'm entering into serious Hormone land with the Grade 8s. We'll see who's left standing at the end of the year... (ha ha ha)

Sorry I haven't written much lately, I'm not sure if it's winter blahs (I know I know, I am not really experiencing winter except on the calendar) or the energy it takes to return to work after a month of vacation (again I know, no sympathy given from any of you). I THINK I've conquered it and am back on top of the world (or at least the Middle East anyway).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dining out --Kuwaiti Style

THANKS to superKuwaitblogger, Intlxpatr, for this tip and the "use" of her photos
We've started something we call Adventure Dining. Once a week, we get into a taxi with friends and ask the cab driver where he would go if he was eating say Chinese, or Indian or whatever. It's been quite fun and we've been treated to some great new restaurants.

Last night's Adventure Dining took us to a place recommended by another expat on her wonderful blog. So we convinced the BFFs to drive us there.

We were treated to a lovely Kuwait style dining experience featuring very "old Kuwait" decorations and overall feeling. The old Kuwait means that there were lots of Bedouin embroideries and the color scheme was along the lines of being out in the desert. (Complete with twinkly lights in the ceiling to imitate the stars)

First of all, Bachelor Men are seated on the first floor and families and women were seated on the second. We only had to wait about 10 minutes for a private cabin. As we were the only Westerners in the restaurant, I was worried that we might not have enough "Washta" to secure a seat, but after 10 minutes, they showed us to our booth.We enjoyed having a cabin all to ourselves. It was an enclosed, privacy booth. Very special, very nice.

The real reason it's enclosed is so that Muslim women can eat and take off their abiyas (the covering they use over their faces). The waiters knock each time they enter.There are cushions on the booth seats with a lovely fullwindow view of the shopping mall across the street. Almost like sitting in the front window seat at Riverside Coffee in PR, but not quite.

As you can see, the menu was quite extensive. I ordered the dish that had mutton and rice. The rice was very similar to Somali dishes I've eaten before. Loved it! David had a curried chicken dish which he said was good.

The meal began with pickled carrots and parsnips (they love to serve pickled vegatables here) and a "salad" which looked like the tops of parsley leaves. Of course, we were supposed to eat it with our hands (it was the Bedoin way after all). There were also some "spices" which David tried. He immediately grabbed his glass of water but he was it was "interesting."

The main meal included humas (my new favorite thing), salad, our main dishes and then was followed by a plate of sweets. Some things were VERY sweet, like divinity and then there was a caraway seed cookie which seemed like it didn't have any taste at all until the last bite.

It was a delightful time. Unfortunately it will be a limited time that we can dine out with our BFFs as they've accepted a new position in Seoul South Korea. Alas, such is the International Teaching life.

I'm deinately learning to Live in the NOW!

Friday, January 16, 2009

This morning I read a magazine called SAYIDATY which is combination fashion, gossip, and full of incredibly bad spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (I can say that because I am married to an English teacher and know all about these things!)

My favorite article in the magazine is about Camel Milk helping fight infection, cancer, diabetes. But, the REAL benefit is (and I quote)

"...Many men in the Gulf region also use camel milk as an exceptional and natural sexual booster. They use the milk as a secret virility potion to keep their wives satisfied, especially after they turn 40." (it didn't say if it was after the WOMEN turn 40 or the men)

Now, for sake of modesty and I know there are readers of this blog who are under 21, I will not continue with the article, but I will save it and bring it back this summer because it is truly a must read!

Oh, as a teaser, here is the last paragraphs: (Again, this is a direct, unedited quote)

"...Noura Al Rashidan said women do not tolerate camel milk and it is impossible to drink. But, she likes it because it has several benefits. Women are fond of the idea because the milk gives their husbands strength and energy. This is important during times like these, which are loaded with stress, socio-economic problems and multiple diseases.
...Many women who are well-off provide their husbands with camel milk and some buy it on a daily basis. But, they will keep it as a secret to keep their husbands to themselves."

Now, if teaching doesn't work out for us, I could always open an export business?!...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I remember...

that the best way to get through a MN winter is to laugh about it. Well, bitch about it first then find something to laugh about. I have found that there aren't any comments here about the weather. Oh there probably are, but it's not like in MN where the weather is a constant conversation piece. I remember the old joke about the most boring job in the world is being a weatherman in Hawaii because every day would be "85 and sunny".

While I don't actually miss the weather (my yahoo told me that PR is -25F today...God love you!), I do miss jokes and comments about the weather.
SO, in the spirit of wintersisterhood (or something like that) I share these jokes with you.

(at least they made me laugh)

Thanks JC for posting this on your wonderblog

A winter statistic


Thanks Gorgeous for sharing this one
It's winter in Minnesota
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour
At thirty-five below.

Oh, how I love Minnesota

When the snow's up to your butt
You take a breath of winter
And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful
So I guess I'll hang around

I could never leave Minnesota

I'm frozen to the ground!

OKAY So I'll try my hand at a second verse
describing my life...

It's winter in Kuwait
and Minnesota, it ain't
While the winter breezes blow
it's just "pretend", don'tchaknow

The dust blows around the corner
and fakes it as a storm
I look out on the horizon and
watch gentle white clouds start to form

The temps, they may be a bit chilly
but 45F sounds so much sweeter
The reason it's so cold I've found
is they don't have any heaters

I've traded "white" for "Brown" I guess
Lost Sweet spring and beautiful fall
So I'll go outside and reach on the ground
and throw you a...Sand Ball?

It's a Small World-Part 2

When travelling, it is always fun (and necessary) to have connections in cityes. Especially when travelling in a foreign country. We were lucky to have connections in Florence. Pictured above are two former students from the Medici School of Art in Florence, Italy. These beautiful women also have PR connections.

Picture #1 is of Anna, myself and MS, a 2005 PRHS grad who was spending time learning more about Art and other good stuff. We met up in Florence for a grand time which included a truly Cosmo moment. The three of us went to an Irish Pub, in Florence, and saw (on video) a performance by an American singer subtitled in German. It was fun and mmmmm the Bellini was good!!
*Wikepedia says: A Bellini is an internationally well-known long drink cocktail that originated in Italy. It is a mixture of sparkling wine (traditionally Prosecco) and peach purée often served at celebrations. It is one of Italy's most popular cocktails. I first met up with them 20+ years ago when travelling through Italy. I've been hooked ever since.
Picture #2 is of David, Anna and MT, the neice of my dear LSL. MT is also studying in Florence (tho' she didn't know MS). LSL's sibs have been very gracious and loving to me in her absence and I feel like I've got a whole new set of pseudosibs through them. MT gave us a great tour of the Duomo and helped up wander around Florence.

It was exciting to meet up with both young ladies and learn about life through their eyes.

Part of me wishes I had the travel experiences they are having at their age. But I guess everyone gets what they are ready for when they are ready for it (wow, that sounds awfully smart, one would almost imagine I had a beer in my hand...NOT)

It's a Small World, after all-Part 1

Pictured above are former teacher and student, now friends. ATD, PRHS 2006 graduate is studying in Trier, Germany. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit her before Christmas and was delightfully treated to her hospitality, domestic skills and general smartstuff. It was a great visit.

We parted ways not sure when our paths would cross again.

Then lo and behold, 10 days later, we ran into each other in the Frankfurt Hahn airport. I was walking when I heard this voice say "Ben Brown!" Shocked to be recognized, we turned and there was Amanda and a friend waiting to catch a plane for a fun weekend. Imagine our surprise and delight. Actually running into her was a blessing in disquise because she gave a great diversion which prevented me from having a total meltdown at the thought of saying goodbye to Ben for who knows how long.

We just had time enough to grab a snack, talk "smart" about life in Pelican Rapids, agreed that how we didn't miss the snow and then board our planes. It was a great delight to see her again.

Just for Fun..let's go to Europe

Here are a couple pictures from our Christmas trip. They were taken in
1) Aachen, Germany
2) St Michaels Cathedral in Brussels, Belgium
3) Lunch with the family in Belgium
4) Wolfach, Germany home of the Fabulous Scheifer family

It may help those of you experiencing the extreme cold this winter stop thinking about the weather and just smile.

Oh I've been thinking over my comments and I will now officially stop commenting about the "cold" in Kuwait. You all should have told me to take my schwarma and put it where the sun...
Take Care
Stay Warm

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ship it

For my dear people in MN who are enduring an unseasonably snowy and cold winter this year..I am thinking of you! (yeah like that does a lot of good right?)

All these Canadians who we were in contact here tried to tell us that it gets cold here but NOOOOO, this hardheaded MN German/Norwegian was toooo stuupid to listen and bring the sweaters they told us to bring. Purchasing sweaters here is a little like purchasing one ply toilet paper--it looks like the real thing but when you got to use it, it just doesn't cut it. So I am going to have to put David on a shopping mission when he returns home for an 8 day visit to his dad in February.

My list has already started..he's going to have to purchase:
*Sweaters, turtlenecks and a down vest (HEY, 45 is cold when you live in a country with no central heat and work at a school with no heating system....)
*Lots and Lots of paperbacks. I have been reading up a storm (pardon the pun if you're reading this in a blizzard!) and in desperate need of something other than the romance novels that accumulate in the staff lounge (who says teachers only read textbooks?!)
*Diet coke with lime. A harmless addiction I picked up two years ago and I've been cold turkey since August 15. sigh...The diet coke here tastes different in general-see reference to one ply toilet paper.
*Get ready WalMart Photo Center, here I come. Photodeveloping leaves a little to be desired here in Kuwait so David will have to make a special WalMart run to pick up pictures. Who would have guessed that I could download pictures in Kuwait and pick them up in Fargo?
*Red Licorice. Best comfort food ever.
*A drain stopper for my sink. Who would have thought that such a simple little home item would have caused the search of the century?

Otherwise, we can purchase almost anything else here, it just might take a little looking to find it. Oh-not cottage cheese. There are about 45 different kinds of cheese, from a number of countries, but no cottage cheese. In fact, I got a very strange look from the lil guy at the big grocery store on Saturday when I tried to find it. I kinda think he thought that "cottage" was a country because he showed me the Holland Cheese and the French Cheese, etc.

Dear 4H friend Banner sent me two boxes of Miniwheats recently. Thanks babe-, they That was SO COOL. I shared them with some of my students and once they got past the strange look on their faces (c'mon, they do look like little bales of cotton), they thought they tasted okay. More than okay, they ate half the box before I cut them off.

If I think of anything else. If you see anything you think I need at Winter Clearance sales (they must have the summer wear out by now right?!) pick it up for me. I'll pay ya back...

Dontcha Know?!

I have always loved Ole and Lena jokes. This one came to me via email and I laughed til I cried. With apologies to my friends and relatives who have ND ties, this one's for you... And Thanks SL, I really needed a laugh today...

Ole is a farmer in Minnesota . He is in need of a new milk cow and hears
about a nice one for sale over in Nordakota (that would be North Dakota
for you non-Scandahoovians out there).

He drives to Nordakota, finds the farm and looks at the cow. He reaches
under to see if the cow gives milk.
When he grabs a teat and pulls...the cow farts. Surprised, Ole looks at
the farmer who's selling the cow, then reaches under to try again.

He grabs another teat, pulls, and the cow farts again. Milk does come out
however, so after some discussion with the cow's current owner, Ole
decides to buy the cow.

When he gets back to Minnesota , he calls over his neighbor, Sven, and
says, 'Hey, Sven, come and look at dis ere new cow I yust bought. Pull
her teat, and see vat happens.'

Sven reaches under, pulls the teat...the cow farts.

Sven looks at Ole and says, 'You bought dis here cow over in Nordakota,
didn't yah?'

Ole is very surprised since he hadn't told Sven about his trip. Ole
replies, 'Yah, dats right. But how did yah know?'

Sven says, 'My wife is from Nordakota too.'


I am very happy to say that my computer is back working properly (at least for today) so I can post pictures again. Remember, things are not always under my control here in the Middle East (well, actually a lot of things aren't under my control)and one has to "Bend like a Willow".

This picture, shown earlier in minature, was taken outside of Aachen Germany. It's my whole famdamily including the Germans. I love this picture of all of us.

Today I got MAIL with postage stamps and everything. It's amazing how much it means to me that people took the time to write a letter (remember those?) and then found their way to the post office, purchased overseas postage and then mailed it! I am thankful to cousin Bev, Aunties Ethel and LuEtta (aren't aunties great?) and friends Westbys, Moerkes and Stotesbury's along with those who sent mail before Christmas (you know who you are).

At the risk of broadcasting, here is my address if you feel like sending me something Snail Mail.
me (As in my name)
American International School
PO Box 3267
Salmiya, 220033, Kuwait

*Sorry to be so literal at the beginning, but I work with 6th graders and if I had put that on the board, about 1/4 of them really would have written
"Me (as in my name)"

Anyway, now I can post Germany pictures and other things...until the computer goes down again (inshallah this won't happen)

hope you are all having a great day
(And I am trying to send you warm weather from Kuwait)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Update from my couch...

Sorry I haven't written in a couple days. I seem to have caught a nasty cold bug and spent a couple days sniffling and laying on the couch. All is well now, just in time to complete grades!!

Weather is back to a bareable 65-70F (hey, don't yell at me, I don't control the weather, I just live here!)

The BIG news is that we finally have TV. I can see 20 English speaking channels and over 250 (no joke) Arabic and other language channels. Okay, that sounds very weak and whimpy, but believe me it sure does help to hear what's happening from home. Even if it's not the most positive news. (hang in there everyone!)

The best part is to catch what I know as familiar things (Bugs Bunny cartoons, sitcoms) with the Arabic dubbing. Foghorn Leghorn just doesn't sound the same without his extended Southern accent. But they do try to imitate the vocal qualities which is quite funny too. Imagine a "southern" Arabic accent.

AND my true personal favorite is to watch the Infomercials dubbed in Arabic. You know the guy with the pony tail and the baseball hat who tries to sell the exercise bike where you stand on it and pretend to run back and forth? He sounds GREAT in Arabic!

Also, on a more serious note, I can watch live footage from Gaza on several different channels. This is a BIG DEAL over here and the newspapers are filled with very graphic pictures and reports.

Okay, I'll get off the couch now and go back to a real life where I grade papers and figure out how to teach the Middle Eastern future theatre tactics. As if there isn't enough "drama" over here already?!

Yours til we fight over the remote...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Important Knowledge Travels

This morning I was reading the Pelican Rapids Press online and the picture with all the snow came up. I was showing the students who were in my room what it was like in my hometown.

Here's the conversation that followed between two lads:
"Wow, that's a lot of snow"
"I've never seen snow before"
"Oh I have, once in my life"
"Yeah but I know the most important thing about snow"
"Oh, What's that?"
"Don't eat the yellow stuff"

So--even this far away, in the desert, where they hardly, if ever, see the stuff, they know the MOST IMPORTANT thing.
How funny (and true) is that?!

Monday, January 5, 2009


Venice is my favorite city in Italy, possibly all of Europe. The fact that there was a little extra water in this city of water, just made it all the more fun.

Brown's Christmas Vacation Part 5

We looked at a LOT of Art. It amused (and amazed me) that in the Uffizi, there was SO MUCH art that they had to cut the door out of the artwork.

The Brown's European Christmas Vacation Part 3

was everywhere in Italy. The top photo is a Michelangelo piece (CT-you would know the name) but the middle one and bottom marble were in churches somewhere. If you are an art lover, you NEED to go to Italy

The Brown's European Christmas Vacation Part 2

Florence and Sienna
1) The Siena Duomo (Catholic Church) built in 1196.
2) The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge over the Arno River. These are shops along the outside. Originally they were butcher shops, now they are filled with jewelry. We checked some out but decided that it was more important to eat rather than purchase a lovely gold piece.
3) The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo (Catholic Church). Construction started in 1296 and finished in 1436.

The Browns European Christmas Vacation Part 1

Here we are in Florence and Venice Italy. Looks we're having fun, doesn't it?

This one makes me shudder

This is an article from the Kuwait Times on Morality Police-something new for this country. I thought you might enjoy it because it will make you understand how "different" things are here. Enjoy!!-NWB

Kuwait’s illegal morality police
Published Date: January 02, 2009
By Jamie Etheridge

Two female students were attacked by two youths this past week in Hawally, reportedly for not wearing the hijab. The girls were standing outside their school when two bearded young men jumped from an SUV, whacked them with a stick and then jumped back into their truck and took off. The incident sparked outrage and triggered discussions across Kuwait about the self-proclaimed morality police encouraged by a radical Islamist cleric Mubarak Al-Bathali.

In late December, Al-Bathali announced that he had established a voluntary committee for the “Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” along the lines of the dreaded Saudi mutaween. The mutaween are a sort of religious police that patrol the streets in the villages and cities of Saudi Arabia, ensuring that women are covered from head to toe, that men go to the mosque to pray and that unmarried men and women do not mix in public. They also enforce other important moral strictures, like no mixed dancing or playing rock and roll music.

Al-Bathali said that his ‘vice’ squad will patrol the Sulaibikhat area first and then slowly spread out to other areas. It’s not clear who was behind the attacks in Hawally. Some have argued that it might have been just a couple of youths having fun and playing a trick on the girls by whacking them like the mutaween in Saudi do.

Let’s hope it was a bad joke by bored teens. God help us if random groups of men suddenly start forming ‘morality’ patrols and beating women on the streets of Kuwait. A Kuwaiti mutaween would create a host of problems.

First, the morality police would be trying to enforce a brand of radical Islam and ideology many in Kuwait - both citizens and expats - do not follow. Many Muslim women in this country do not wear hijab and there are no laws that require them to do so - despite the best efforts of the fundamentalists in parliament.

Second, Kuwaitis are highly protective of their female family members and few are likely to accept strange men whacking their mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and aunts in public areas. Following the 1990-1991 Iraqi invasion and occupation, some radical Islamists tried to establish a religious police and had begun even stationing ‘officers’ outside the Co-ops in Jabriya, Surra and elsewhere.

These mullahs carried short sticks and would strike women coming out of the Co-ops who they deemed to be dressed inappropriately. The women, of course, immediately called their male relatives who then rushed to the Co-ops and attacked the mullahs for attacking the women. The resulting chaos led to the banning of the self proclaimed morality cops.

Third, an ad hoc security force running loose around the country poses a real and present danger to the forces of the Interior Minister and by extension, the stability and security of Kuwait as a whole.

Nearly 20 years later, the radicals have reemerged and wider popularity - as evidenced by the fundamentalists victory in parliamentary polls - has encouraged them to reassert their plans for greater social control.

Success for the mullahs will mean failure for Kuwait’s experiment with democracy. Unlike the rest of the Gulf Arab states, Kuwait isn’t just beginning this experiment. For nearly half a century, this diminutive Muslim country has balanced tribal mores and religious identity with the Islamic and democratic ideals of freedom, dignity and self respect. Allowing roving bands of self appointed religious police to patrol the streets of Kuwait will undermine all of the country’s efforts toward balancing tradition
and modernity.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Brown Family Christmas 2008

Here we are outside Aachen, Germany...the whole famdamily including our Germans. It was a great time! I know the picture is small, still struggling with the blogger. Pretend we've turned into smurfs!

Learning Metric-New Year's Resolution #1

Earlier I wrote about what my New Year's resolutions will be. They were the standard ol' boring "lose weight, blah blah blah". Well, I've had some time to think it over and I've decided that THESE are my Foreseeable Future New Year's Resolutions (or, the FFNYR)

I am going to learn Metric. Most of the world is able to tell what temperature it is or how far distances are or other important stuff like that. I am tired of depending on other people for these basic needs. It's not my fault that I didn't learn it in 5th grade (oh about 1970) when they were "Threating" to teach us. (Those of you in Canada and Europe reading this can "tsk tsk" me. I deserve it!)

I am going to start to purchase things (and/or aquire) that will make my life comfortable. For the first four months of our life here, we were living an almost college like existence with furniture and other necessities lower on our list. Now I'm going for a comfortable couch (ours is like a board) AND I'm getting TV. But if I get the comfortable couch I maybe will spend more time reading.

This one may be harder, but I am checking into a personal trainer. If Oprah can do it, so can I. Okay, this sounds pretty haughty, but actually there's a guy who lives two floors about us who is trained in doing it. And it might be my chance to make that other NYR come true (the one about losing weight).

After hearing stories of others vacations in India and the Filipines and other places, I will stop whining about my life here. Really, I have a lot to be thankful for. At least we don't have to pay to pee, like in Europe!

I can't control my son's immediate departure for the Middle East. But I can learn to accept it. And remember that my mom didn't see my brother but every two years when he was living in Kansas, California and Kansas. There are people who don't see their children every week, month or even every year. I will stop feeling sorry for myself, put on my big girl pants and deal with this (read that last sentence and think of me with my hands on my hips stomping my feet!)

There--that's a long enough list. Oh FFNYR #6-I'm also going to stop making long lists that may look good on paper but are unrealistic in their ability to be accomplished. You should have seen this list before I edited it (smile)

Same Writer, Different Look

Happy New Year to all!!

Life is good here in Kuwait where it's (don't laugh or pick something up and throw it at the computer) Actually COLD here. Okay, okay I've turned into a wimp who can't stand the cold temps. It's probably about 40 degrees. Yes I can hear you all snickering all the way across the Atlantic and can almost read your minds "She has turned into such a lil' wussie. We never should have sent her to the desert". Guilty on all charges.

I am trying to find out what has happened to my blogedit page so forgive the lack of pictures. Really, really I am trying. I spent over 2 hours yesterday trying to add photos. I'm even reading the bloghelp pages. JC-you would be so proud of me!

But, alas, as you can tell, it's not worked yet. So I decided to change the look of the page. What do you think?
I've also changed the opportunity for you to respond. If you would like to comment, just click the comment below. AND you should be able to respond without signing up or anything. Maybe this will help you Debber, and all others who have told me they tried to respond. Maybe not, but it's worth a try.

Meanwhile, we are preparing for the arrival of students tomorrow after a month of vacation. Yippee!! Some friends returns were delayed because of the "S" word back in North America (you know, that white stuff you all have been shoveling). We are starting to see familiar faces and hear their vacation stories.

One of my smartguys breakfast pals just stopped by my room to say he's about to realize a lifelong dream and go to film school this summer in Paris. He's over 40 and will be leaving here to take a job in Shanghi next year. So he's going for it!

SO I decided that I will start to make my life of Life Long Dreams and continue to tick them off. As many of you know, one of my dreams was to travel to all 50 states before I turned 50. AND, unless I get sent over to New Mexico for training before 3-16, I will not make that dream.

Two things have come out of that failed realization:
1) I made a list of countries I've visited. And I'm at 26 after our Christmas vacation. Not bad for a MN farm girl. Hopefully (Inshallah) that list will grow as we live here.
2) I've also decided that I get to stay 49 until I visit New Mexico! SO THERE...

Still workin' on the photos...stay tuned