Saturday, February 28, 2009

One Foot in Each Country

Sorry I haven't written in a couple days. We've been off of school for the celebration of National and Liberations Days. It was a fun time, very relaxing and enjoyable. I'll post pictures tomorrow when I can get brain + camera + computer all together in one place (my classroom).

In the meantime, here's a picture of David and one of our dearest friends KKO (right) along with smart lady Sal from Pelican Rapids. David is enjoying a visit back to MN (despite the "wonderful" weather). I love the look on K's face..that's what friends are for! (to love, adore and tolerate you, right?!) Thanks JC for forwarding it to me.

Truly this week my body is here but my heart is in MN.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Song for A Tuesday in February


Thanks to LE back in PR, I now know that I didn't "make up" this phrase (I really thought I did folks!) There's quite a few references on google (duh!) but LE points out that this is actually the title of a song by Gaelic Storm. I can't hear it right now (computer with itunes doesn't work right now, don't ask, that's ANOTHER story) but I would like to share the words with you because they are cute. Thanks again for the heads up!

On a steamer bound for Baltimore
I said, that's no fun, I've been there before
So I jumped ship in Singapore
With a cook from Mexico
Got a bowl of shark-fin soup
Ducked into a bar for a couple a scoops
Played some Texas-stud with a circus troop
And they cleaned me out of dough
At dawn they all went back to bed
I went to Borneo instead
Had a hair-of-the dog for my shrunken head
With the Sultan of Brunei
Had a small bit of a seizure
On the way to Micronesia
Got a bad case of amnesia
And forgot to say goodbye

Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story
No harm, no foul, no crime
Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story
It'll get 'em every time

Stopped in Tajikistan on the way to Iran
Took a break in Jamaica to work on my tan
Swam from Cayo Fragoso to Carriacou
I climbed Machu Pichu in darkest Peru
Had a pint with the pope and played pool with the queen
She's good with a stick, if you know what I mean
I once had a job riding bulls in Montana
I taught Jimi Hendrix the Star-Spangled Banner
I've been to Morocco, Malawi, Macau
I know how to fly, but I won't tell you how

Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story
No harm, no foul, no crime
Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story
It'll get 'em every time

Bought an ice cold Coca-Cola
From a Congolese high-rollah
Got deported from Angola
To a castle on the Rhine
Ask anyone that knew me
The Emir of Bahrain sued me
I was in a Blockbuster movie
And I didn't make a dime

Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story
No harm, no foul, no crime
Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story
It'll get 'em every time

Potluck Kuwaiti Style

Today we had a Potluck. Although it wasn't called that, rather it was a "tell your maid (or mom) to make some National Dish and bring enough to share with 100 people". I really enjoyed this opportunity to find out the name of things I've been eating for 6 months.

Photo 1) cakes, raesh (very sugary cubes) and arabic dumplings ( a little like donuts). The Kuwaitis do love their sweets. I've tasted some fabulous desserts. Unfortunately there is a high incidence of diabetes in this country.
2) Machbous Diyay: rice with Chicken. There's also raisins, coconut and other fabulous spices. This is my favorite dish.
3) Tamr: dates. Kuwaiti meals traditionally begin with dates and tea (especially at Ramadan time, dates are eaten first to break the fast). I've not aquired a taste for them, although I have tried. Actually I've seen several meals begin with dates but never actually seen someone eat them. Maybe I'm wrong, but it reminds me of fruit cake--where you have one but no one actually eats them.

Okay-this is the part where you can turn up your nose in disgust, but it's just a fact of life here
We have our maid, Mali, cook for us once a week. She's Sri Lankan and comes up with all sorts of interesting things to eat. So far my favorite thing has been Eggs, Onions and Potatoes. She cooks the potatoes, puts fried onions on top and fried eggs on top of that. Don't knock it until you try it. Somedays I am not sure exactly what I am eating. Momma Esther taught me well, I always try something before I say I don't like it.

Smile! You're on Camera

These wee ones were engaged in a fierce game of hockey when I asked them to pose for the picture. As you can tell, Kuwait's colors are red, white and green. They were way too cute!

PS I would bet none of them have ever see ice but they do weild a mean stick!

National Day Celebration at AIS

Here's pictures from today's National Day celebration. We have two days off this week in honor of February 24 National Day (celebrating the 1961 Independence from Britian) and February 25 (Celebration 1991 Liberation from Saddam Hussein). It's a two day party as far as I'm told. I'll keep you posted if I decide to go out in the frenzy.

The young men are wearing a Dishtasha-traditional male clothing. The young girl in the picture with me is wearing a traditional Kuwaiti scarf. I'm wearing a traditional holiday covering (borrowed from a student). The young man in the AIS hoodie is just being silly.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Learn About Your World

Thanks to my PseudoFather, the Mayor of PR, I have had fun playing this game (see below) Before moving here, I wouldn't have scored as well. With the help of students, I've managed to learn a bit more. Maybe you will do better than me. Let me know how you did!


Go to this website (Copy and paste this url in another window)
Drag the country's name onto the map. There is no humbling score or time
limit, but rather this exercise is a learning tool. Don't be afraid to
make an error, and once you finish the puzzle, you will be far more
educated about this very intense part of our world.

Big Red X means - try again..very educational for all of

Smile of the Day

We all get these forwarded emails telling us to be thankful, trust God, etc. And sometimes I read them, sometimes they are helpful, sometimes not. But this one from cousinB simply made my day! Enjoy...

Inner Peace

If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can get going without pep pills,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

..Then You Are Probably The Family Dog!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Just another way to do business"

Almost every day I am amazed at how very different things are here. I can't imagine what it would be like for a student from this school to fit into a small town in Minnesota. Besides the obvious weather-related challenges, there are so many differences.
**For example: the sports here are good but they don't receive the importance of small town USA
**It is a very common site for male students to walk down the halls arms in arm. The accepted way to greet one another is to give a kiss to each cheek. No one even thinks twice about this. It's a supreme expression of friendship.
**Entitlement comes at an early age here. Children have had a maid, nanny and driver since they were born. They are also used to giving them orders. When children get to school, they assume the teacher is also filling the "servant" role. It's a site to see a 4 year old throw their trash on the ground and then turn around and yell at the teacher to pick it up. (of course the teacher "Corrects" them)

Even business tactics are different. The whole "Kuwaiti time" concept (note: It's very similar to Hispanic time which I dealt with in PR) of not showing up on time for an appointment or an event. And when you are expecting something to be completed by a company (like a bank) they will always say "You'll have it tomorrow, Inshallah". I know it's part of the Muslim belief system, but sometimes I do want to say "Just tell me if I'll have it tomorrow, yes or no".

BUT here is my favorite example thus far. This is an email we received from one of our vice principals:

All teachers:
Some of you have received notices on your apartment doors (in Arabic) stating that the water and electricity will be shut off if the bill is not paid. Please note that this is nothing to worry about. The Ministry of Water and Electricity do not issue their bills (sometimes for up to 5 years). When they decide it is time to pay, they place these signs on people’s doors. This sign is a cue to come and pick up the water and electricity bill. Please be assured that the school has the bill and has paid it.
Just another way to do business

Remember my motto:
Ya Gotta Love Kuwait!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story

Picture taken in front of business place described below

If you've known me for more than a minute, you know that I love to tell stories. David and I live by the motto that when we get to the end of our lives, we want to be able to say that we've got good stories. I guess that's why we're here is to gather and live new and different stories.

If you've spent more than an hour with me, you've also probably heard me utter this phrase (see headline above). Sometimes (though never intentionally) a better story is told if the truth is embellished. NOW we would never do this, but we know people who do (wink! wink!)

Believe me when I tell you that the next story is absolutely true, every single word.

A couple weeks ago I placed a picture of a place with an eifel tower-sorta thing on top and a bronze camel in front. I said that I didn't know exactly what the place was but that I had heard it was either a place to get pictures framed OR a brothel.
And of course I promised to check it out as I AM Your Eyes and Ears in the Middle East!

SO, recently I was walking by this place on one of my workouts and the place was open. Being "Scoop" Brown, always anxious for the truth, I bravely marched in determined to get to the bottom of the story. This is the conversation that followed:

Nadine (N): Excuse me, do you speak English?
Lovely Muslim Woman (LMW): No
N (not easily swayed) Well, can I ask you a question anyway?
LMW (as she gets up from behind her desk and motions for the security guard to join her): yes?
N: What is this place?
LMW (with hand gestures): Women come and (pause) take off clothes
N; OH! And they go to a Spa or Facial?
LMW: No, they take off clothes
N: Oh, thank you

As I high-tail it out of the building now thoroughly convinced that I've found THE Brothel in Kuwait (and so close to where I live), I almost run over my personal trainer. We get about a block away and I burst out laughing because I truly can't believe what I've just heard.

Two weeks go by and I finally get up the courage to ask our secretary (a truly Lovely Muslim Woman) and another teacher who has lived here for 7 years. The poor secretary's eyes almost popped out of her head and the teacher looked at me like I had two heads. Conversation as follows:
Smart Teacher Ronda (STR): I've been there
N: Excuse me?
STR: It's not a brothel, it's a place where a Lebanese man has a designer clothing business. You walk in and there's a totally golden room with all white clothes. You do take off your clothes only when you try on the dresses he's designed to see if you like the style or fit in the size. I went there when I was looking for a wedding dress a couple years ago.
N: So, there's not a brothel there?
Secretary now takes out her Koran and starts to pray...okay I made that part up
STR: NO, but the Lebanses man is quite animated and quite into himself. He was all snappin' his fingers around like a high fashion guru (She demonstrates snapping her fingers around her head). And he said to me "Oh, you Large!" And I said to him "Yes I am!"

it's not a brothel, it's a fashion designer place run by a Diva-like Lebanese designer. Oh well.

**But you wouldn't believe how I held the 8th graders attention with this story today! I also think I taught them a new English word (brothel) So if I'm shipped out of the country at midnight, you know why!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Next Picasso!

This is an example of Anna's growing art talent. This is an self portrait she completed for a recent Art Show here at AIS. I'm jealous because I never could get the art thing right. We're proud of her. She's currently working on some cool black and white portraits.

Shots from Eqypt Part three

For those of you (myself included) who have never seen the Meditterean Sea, here's a lovely shot taken by David in Alexandria.

Anna celebrated her 16th birthday by visiting a 3000 year old Roman University. Here is a picture of her and David. Imagine that memory!! Double click for a close up of how well they both look!

Eqypt pictures- Part two. Life on the Streets

As we've often commented, traffic in Kuwait is really something to behold. However, after returning from Eqypt, David says traffic here is mild compared to there. He took a couple pictures trying to show the traffic. The donkey and cart are not uncommon sites on the streets. He also says the taxi drivers are heros (or insane) for how they drive and what they drive through. Hanging from the mirror are prayer beads, a very common site in Muslim countries.

As promised, pictures from Egypt Part 1

Being a former librarian, I was thrilled to see these pictures of the "new" library. I didn't know before recently that the Ancient Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, was once the largest library in the ancient world.The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, an institution intended both as a commemoration and an emulation of the original, was inaugurated in 2003 near the site of the old library. David says it's unbelievably huge. Surrounding the library is a wall with every known language inscribed on the wall. Wish I could have seen this.

A Note from Germo

Today, another guest writer signs with his perspective on life in Kuwait
Hi Everyone:

I'm at home with some extra time on my claws and as Nadine is really busy, she asked me if I would write a few lines. It's not my first time on the computer as I'm always trying to bite Nadine's fingers when she types. She thinks she's so fast but I can get in a bite almost every time.

First of all, I'm recooperating nicely from my surgery, thank you for asking. Actually I had two surgeries, one for de-clawing (yes it hurt) and the other for something Nadine called "de-manning". Not sure what exactly that meant, but I know I have no yearnings for female felines anymore. The first days were a little woozy (must have been the drugs) but I'm back to my old tricks now. Except I can't claw the furniture which makes jumping up on things a little hard.

My day begins at 530 am when I bite Nadine to wake up and feed me. Sometimes she tries to hide under the blankets, but I can always find some part of her to nibble on. After eating, then I hop in the shower with David. I don't really bathe, just sit on the edge of the tub and watch and maybe get a little wet. Then it's time to play chase the chicken. I've got this really neat stuffed chicken and I'm rather proud to tell you that I can play "fetch" just as well as any d-o-g.

After David and Nadine leave, then I bother Anna for a bit until she goes to school. Everyone is gone by 730 am, so that gives me the day to relax. I sleep, wash myself, sit in the window and watch traffic and take care of business. The maid comes two days a week, she's nice but I can't speak Sri Lankan and she can't speak cat, so we have limited conversations. It's a good thing the maid does visit as Nadine says I am a messy cat. Hey- I'm doin' the best I can considering the small litter box they've given me.

I wish I could get a poker game going with the other cats in the building (I think there's about 6 others) but mostly we just stay at home and wait until someone comes in the door.

Seems like Browns are always gone. I hear them talking about how this "Charlie Brown" thing is keeping them so busy and since I don't see another human being other than the Browns I know, I can only imagine it's something at the school. All I know is, they don't come home to see me until after 630 pm, sometimes later.

When someone does manage to come home, then I get fed (again) and petted and spend a lot of time snuggled up to Nadine on the couch cat-napping which is what I do best. Sometimes we have another round of fetch, and sometimes I run around the house jumping on all the furniture just to keep in shape.

At 930 pm, they start moving towards the big bed. The bed we sleep on is way huge to me, but even Nadine says she can sleep North and South and East and West and not touch David. All I know is that there's plenty of room for the three of us, even if David does throw me off every chance he gets.

While My life may sound too exciting, I know it's better than life on the street, trying to get food out of dumpsters or trying to fend off the larger cats who stole whatever food I found. I also am a lot cleaner now. And I don't have to worry about fast cars or obnoxious young boys throwing rocks at me.

I'm doing my best trying to be a good pet. I've seen pictures of those black things, Angel and Zowie. While I will never be a d-o-g,I try my hardest to be loving and snuggly. Nadine says I'm the best cat she's had, but I also know I'm the only cat she's owned since she was 8 years old.

So, thanks for reading my "mews" (ha, see I've picked up a little bit of wit living with the Browns) Take care. And save the fish for me...


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentines Day! XOXO

Sending love and hugs and good thoughts your way today! I decided not to download a valentines card but I sure do appreciate those I received (thank you-you know who you are)

THE list

From time to time, I've mentioned my anguish and joy over turning 50 in about 30 days. This morning, as I was eating my daughter's Reeses Puffs cereal..(hey it was a balanced meal, as chocolate is a food group right?) I read the back of the box which included this list. I pass it along to you for your education, enjoyment and edification. All items are typed directly from the list except where I've made comments. And FYI, If I have accomplished anything, I've placed a * by it. How many did YOU make (PS FYI I didn't do any of these by the time I was 18 )

18 Things to do Before You're 18

1. Ride the world's largest rollercoaster. Dare to keep your eyes open and hands in the air for the whole ride.
2. Bungee Jump! Scared? AT 700 feet, the Bloukran's river bridge in South Africa is the biggest
3. Score the winning goal/basket. Remind all your friends at every given opportunity
*4. Win an award, trophy or prize. Write that acceptance speech and thank the world
( when I taught speech I used to teach how to give an acceptance speech)
*5. Learn an instrument. No air guitar
*6. Go backstage at a gig. It'll be something you'll boast about for years to come
7. Meet your idol. Being a celebrity stalker might not do down too well
8. Play a part in your favorite TV show. Be an extra and learn to speak without talking (ah, in my class we call that pantomime)
*9. Meet someone with your own name. With a world population of 6 billion, it should be easy
10. Make a discovery. Whatever the discovery, make sure it's named after you
1. Get away with the perfect pracitcal joke. Be careful or retaliation, it could end in tears
*12. Own a pointless collection. One person's junk is another person's prized possession
13. Invent a word that makes it into the dictionary. Make it part of your crew's lingo
14. Conquer your biggest fear. If you're too scared, try hypnotism
*15. Raise money for charity. Get some exercise by singing up for a charity road race
16. Pass your driving test the first time. Go straight to the next task
17. Complete a road trip coast to coast.
*18. Reach 18 years of age-yes!! Embrace old age (I'm not kidding, it really said that)


As I was looking through my recent posts, I realized that I made a serious mistake. (well I've probably made more than one, but this was pretty stupid)And I apologize for misleading you all.

In the picture of the two people walking in the desert (posted a couple days ago) I now realize (after closer examination) that it was a man AND a woman, not two men. These darn dishtashas and abayas make it hard to tell one from another.

My apologies...

Friday, February 13, 2009

One Year Ago Today

I've been blogging for one year now. I don't know if any of you saw this first post, but for posterity sake, here is where I was one year ago today.

David and I have just signed a two-year contract for Theatre teaching positions at the American International School in Kuwait City, Kuwait. WHAT ARE WE DOING?! We've spoken with the important people in our lives and they have been encouraging (except Ximenia who said "Everytime I hear of something in Kuwait, I will think you are dead". We're taking that as a supreme sign of affection.

We have so many details to figure out ranging from what do we do with our dogs (our biggest worry) to how will we gracefully exit Pelican Rapids for two years. This has been something that has been on our List of Things To Do (doesn't everyone have one of these?) for the past 15 years. But it's amazing to think that it's actually going to happen.

The process began with attending the Overseas Job Fair in Waterloo Iowa during Feb 1-3. It was an amazing experience-mostly humbling,. We truly "accidently" ran into Russ McLean, superintendent of AIS in Kuwait and 3 hours later we have a contract in our hands.

I intend to post things as we get our life together, slowly.

Here's hoping all goes well.

It's amazing to see and feel how much my life has changed. Thanks for your continued reading. And yes, I'll still continue to add more pictures...

Guest Columnist David tells of his trip to Eqypt

Recently David and Anna went to Alexandria Egypt for a Fine Arts Festival. David brought back some great pictures and commentary. Pictures coming in about 24 hours
It's a great example of how much we North Americans take travelling for granted. Here when one travels, the passport is the KEY to everything!

David writes..
This was my second trip out of Kuwait on a school trip. The first being to Dubai for a Forensics (speech tournament).
Getting to Egypt had a few bumps but not bad. We got to the airport 30 minutes late. Going through customs one of our students did not have his visa piece of paper. Darrell our fearless leader said - "so how do we fix this in 15 minutes." It turns out Jesse had an extended visa in his passport that worked Then we stopped at Mcdonalds. Anna went to the counter leaving her passport on the table un-guarded so Darrell snapped it up and I had a firm word with her and then another student did the same thing but it was gone from the table. A little panic moment there as we searched for it. His brother had grabbed it. Then a different student was unhappy that we could not bring food onto the plan so he set his passport on the counter, wolfed food and stomped into the plane - on the plane he said "I have to go back" and started to scramble but Darrell had snagged the passport at the gate. Once in Egypt we had to buy visas for 15 dollars, but I had changed all my dollars to pounds so Darrell had to pay for mine and Anna's. One of our guys got stopped and we never found out why his passport went into a back room but 15 minutes later it came back and we were on our way.

The drive into Alexandria was my first impression of Egypt. There are lane lines painted on the road and perhaps they could save money by not painting the lines as the lanes are optional and fluid. There are as many lanes in the road as there is space in the road. In a three lane road there are usually four lanes of cars. This is not a country for the faint of heart or the considerate. Horns, brakes,flashing headlights and acceleration are the most important aspects of the car.

Being a very large vehicle also helps, but with the narrowness of the streets being big has some drawbacks. We took a motor coach bus to a dinner one night and the driver several times fit his 8 foot wide bus into spaces that were 7 feet 11 and 3/4 inches wide. He was amazing and fearless. The one difference between Alexandria and Kuwait streets is the roads in Alexandria are narrow and bumper to bumper so the accidents are fender bender while here in Kuwait the cars can go faster and so the accidents are more spectacular.

My next impression was of the Schutz American School - A very beautiful campus with great trees. It was started 100 years ago at the edge of the city, and then the city grew around it. Now it is a green oasis in desert of concrete and humanity. The staff and students were wonderful, and the event was very well run.
The event was a Fine Arts Festival. Theater, band, choir, and art students from 4 schools come together with their teachers and as a diverse group create art that is presented in a Gala performance at the end of the festival. It was fun to work with 17 students - all who are talented, motivated and creative. It was also exhausting since we as teachers had to match the students with the same energy they were producing. In the end we created an interesting play about the Americanization of the world.

I must admit that I enjoyed the festival more than the Speech competition. I did not have to try to explain to a student why she came in last place after all her hard work. Judging art into first, second, and last seems so arbitrary and a festival works better for me.

Apart from the festival, we had some nice cultural opportunities. We went to a nice Roman ruin of a theater and attached Roman university that is still being unearthed.The group sang Happy Birthday to Anna there, which was pretty cool. We went to see a Chinese orchestra at the Opera House. We saw the Alexandria library- well actually the famous one burned down awhile ago. They just finished building a new one and one of the things the guide talked about was the elaborate fire control system they now have. With any luck the Romans will not come back and try to burn it down again.

The trip back was relatively uneventful. Experiencing seeing upclose poverty and how I dealt with it is still a bit unsettling for me. Seeing horse and donkey drawn carts in a big city is odd for me. Would not the cost of feed be expensive? While in the airport I carried my bag to the x-ray machine, set it down to empty my pockets of metal and a guy set my bag onto the conveyor belt and promptly started to whisper money, money, money. Now comes the quandry - I have money - giving him a dollar wouldn't kill me and might mean a lot to him. But what service did he do for me? Pick up a bag and put in a machine. At what point does a dollar here and there turn into real money for me? Ah well something to consider.

The only real excitement was when at passport control one of the kids said " I don't have my passport" They tried to get back on the plane,but the cleaning people found it and returned it to them. It was the brother of the student who lost his passport just before we left to go to Alexandria.
Overall a good trip - exhausting as I was working for 14 straight days without a break - but don't feel sorry for me as this was one reason we came here - to get experiences like this.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two Priceless Pics

Many of you reading this blog know that my first REAL job was with International Dairy Queen, Inc. I worked in the Communications and Marketing departments. Great job, learned lots, met great people. Anyway, I've been sort of a Fast Food Freak ever since, keeping up with franchise news and factoids. When I saw this Burger King in the middle of the desert, I had to take a picture because I had to applaud the energy and force it must have taken to build it and make sure it was exactly what a franchise store should be. If I had walked into the store, I would have expected to be served everything I could buy in the US. Oh, with the exception of the pork sandwich/bbq ribs on their menu.

The other picture was just too priceless because it was definately something I "dreamed" I would see here in the Middle East. These actual site of two men walking in their winter dishtashas (black robe that Muslim men wear) through the desert was just too good to be true. About five minutes earlier, I saw a herd of camels walking far off in the distance.

It's always amazing when I see real images of the pictures I had in my head of this country before we moved here. One of my most common sayings is "oh look there's a (insert stereotypical image of the middle east)---and me without my camera!" Then there are some times when I see things and I'm glad I don't have the camera with me because it seems almost too intrusive or unbelievable.

Hard as I try, it's almost impossible for me to preserve everything that I am seeing or experiencing on film or in writing. I'll try my best to post images of Kuwait and life elsewhere for you. But I hope you understand when I say that sometimes that the "Kodak of the Mind" is the best way to capture a moment. Click.

In the Eye of the Beholder

One of the pasttimes here is desert camping. I admit that I am still trying to get my head around the idea of going out into the middle of nowhere and setting up a tent (or better yet, paying someone to set it up for you) and staying overnight in the middle of a sandpile.

It is said that Kuwaitis do this to help them think about their bedouin culture and returning to their original "roots" where they were nomads and travelled from camp to camp. Apparently they also purchase goats and sheep and attempt to live as simply as possible. There are dozens of these camp communities throughout the desert north of Kuwait City. The tents are certainly larger than anything I've ever camped in, these tents each look like they could host a party of 100 people.

However, as the picture of the items piled onto the truck shows, not everyone just grabs the sleeping bags and heads to the desert. Apparently, there are those who pack EVERYTHING. (I guess this is also true in Lake Country) There are different versions of "roughing it" in every culture. True story-- I did see a satellite dish next to a tent, but I was too busy staring to take the picture.

I imagine that the idea of spending the night in a mosquito infested, tree-lined dark forest by a lake with the sounds of crickets and owls is a foreign a concept to someone from Kuwait as sleeping on the hard sand in a dark desert with potential snakes, lizards and nothing above you is to me. Maybe I'll get up the courage venture out on a desert overnight (we were invited this weekend, but respectfully declined).Right now, I'm too scared of snakes,total darkness and things that could go bump in the night. But, I'm not saying I'd never do it. Maybe I'll go find that guy with the satellite dish and snuggle up next to his family.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Agent Orange? Or a Melted Dreamsicle?

This is the color of the sky today in Kuwait. No, you don't have to adjust your computer monitors, it really was this orange. It's desert dust. We're under a dust storm watch.

It's really weird, you see the dust off in the distance come rolling in. This morning outside of my classroom, I watched it cover our apartment (about 2 blocks away) and then 2 hours later, the sky was this color. (Thanks intlxpatr for the picture. I haven't had a chance to run home to get my camera)

Dust settles over everything. As our school opens to the outside on all sides, this morning the school workers had to clean up about 1/4 inch of dust that settled over the floors and walls. By 1:30 pm, the orange haze had enveloped everything and the dust was back. Tonight if there is more wind, I can only imagine how things will look.

It's like being in a blizzard except the sky is orange and it doesn't feel cold. It's suggested that one put on a dust mask or use a scarf to cover their nose when breathing. Certainly a new experience for me?

Just another normal event in our abnormal week here in Kuwait!! Seriously, this place is never dull.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

At last, a "Normal" day at AIS

Today, we survived quite nicely without a bomb threat, or evacuation, or anything else that made our normally straight hair curl. However, after talking with the HS secretary, she said it wasn't exactly normal for her as many parents called in to express their frustration, concern, fears, etc. I can't blame the parents, it was a frustrating time. And, as I mentioned, this is quite a dramatic culture.

I will admit there weren't as many absences as I thought there would be, so I am grateful for the parents continued trust. I am glad most were willing to return to normal as quickly as possible so the students can see that we are a functioning school and that we have serious teaching and learning happening here.

The local website mentioned in yesterday's post has several postings about the event, including someone pretending to be one of our teachers (not at all funny to him) and someone pretending to be a Vice Principal at our school (which we don't even have!). Again, a reminder that what you read in a blog isn't always real (ah, I do tell the truth in mine..most of the time..except when I want to overexaggerate, which I never, ever, in a million years would not

The blog also featured a "leaked" picture of the device, which made me wonder how they go it, because as far as I know, immediately after it was found, the device was taken into the administration office. SO I wonder if the "bomber" took the picture themselves, then "leaked" it (quotes intentional folks) OR if there's someone who was "selling" the picture.

In North America, children in the 21st century have possibly become immune to words like bomb threats, lock downs, code red,school shootings. All words that didn't exist when I attended school in the 70s. The biggest prank that was ever pulled at HHS was when the "girls" (minus me because they left the party without me) drove across the lawn on the night of our graduation. The driver got caught and had to go to court. The funniest part of the story is that today she is a lawyer!! Probably her last criminal brush with the law.

This whole situation has made me realize that the students here, while they may live close to a war situation, have a certain lack of knowledge about this sort of pranks and realities. I think that's maybe a good thing.

Today, one of our owners, who was a Colonel in the Kuwait Army before his retirement, spoke to our high school students in Arabic .tThis is to indicate the seriousness of the situation. He told them that we are a school of learning, this is not funny, they have an idea who is it and when they are caught, it will no longer be a fun prank. Students seemed to take it seriously, but what really got their attention, was when it was "threatened" that we would have school on Saturdays to make up for the lost time.

I applaud the administration and teachers here who have gone through two tough days. I sympathize with the parents who may be wondering what "is going on" here. And I pray for patience and understanding. Having gone through a real-life trauma last April at PRHS, I know what it is like when there's a true tragedy. Give me this "fake panic" any day.

I was going to place a picture of the device-taken from the local blog that published it, along with several false postings. but I didn't want to add anymore reality to the situation. Suffice it to say, the device looked homemade. I still agree that the whole situation had to be taken seriously. For my part, I'm trying to get back to normal(whatever that may be!) And, because I'm a nice teacher, I postponed my planned test until next week.

Monday, February 9, 2009

How Was Your Day Honey?

FYI--David's office can be seen in this picture.(second floor, third from left)

from a local Kuwait blog
Yesterday the American International School of Kuwait had a bomb scare when they got a phone call from someone in Spain telling them there was a bomb in their school. After all the students were evacuated it turned out to be a hoax. Today they had another bomb scare. It isn’t confirmed yet if it was another phone call but the rumor is, and again I want to highlight the word RUMOR here, is that a school teacher found the bomb today on the way to the bathroom and that’s why they were evacuated. Hopefully that doesn’t turn out to be true and stays a rumor.

It's been an exciting couple of days here in the neighborhood as we've had two days of bomb threats at school which caused an evacuation both days.

Now, before you lose your breath or really think that I'm living in a war-torn place (I'm not, really) let me explain.

Sunday, the school received a phone call indicating that there was a bomb in our school. As any administrator and teacher knows, one has to take these things seriously and not blow them off. SO the police were called, the bomb sniffing dogs brought in and the students were secured in a safe area within the school. By noon, after our kids had been patiently (and I do mean patiently) waiting, we were told to send them home. This provided with the only mildly chaotic spot of the day when all the parents came in their big vehicles and tried to enter our small parking lot at the same time.

This morning, Monday, two students found a device in one of the bathrooms that made a ticking sound. Of course, again, the police had to be called. Only this time, we had the BIG OFFICIAL Bomb Squad van with the real SWAT guys. I was in the auditorium with the 8th graders, who were taking a test. We didn't sense anything was wrong (although one could probably smell brain cells burning as they were furiously working on the Standardized Math Tests). Anyway, this time the decision was made to dismiss the students and have them cross the street to a vacant sandlot and have the parents again be called to pick them up.

This time, it got a little crazy as teachers were trying to lead students across two busy roads (Kuwaiti drivers are not known for stopping for pedestrians, in fact, I swear I've seen them actually speed up when I am trying to cross the road). Parents were understandably upset and this time, a little scared. One of my kids told me there was a text message going around that four people had been killed at our school. Rumors can really fly in this highly dramatic society and this gave them an opportunity for great stories.

Fortunately, all went smoothly and I only had to comfort one crying mother who was visibly upset about her child. (hhmm, I wondered, if she had put this much effort into her son at other times, would he always be on the detention list?!)

The owners and the administrators are viewing it as a hoax and once they get "their hands on the little minds that came up with this prank", it will not be pretty.

Unfortunately in this country, the police are not known to be nice and understanding of juvenile pranks. We recently had an incident where the police were called in and the five youths involved are not only had to spend some ugly time in jail, but they are banned from attending school ANYWHERE in Kuwait. In short, they don't mess around. Especially if you aren't from this country.

Hopefully the "Dramah" will all be over tomorrow and we can begin the process of returning to normal--whatever that is. Stay tuned for future developments...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hallmark Would NOT be Pleased

NOTE: This lovely statue is in a church in Trier Germany. The picture is supposed to remind you of Cupid, who would be very sad about the article below. When I took it, I didn't know what I would use it for, but it's seems appropriate for this newsbite. I know, it's a stretch to go from a marble angel in Germany to an article from a Kuwait newspaper, but use your imagination!!!

This article is from the Kuwait Times. (thanks Intlxpatr for sharing once again)
Ban Valentine’s Day Celebrations
KUWAIT: MPs have spung to action earlier than usual. They have urged the government to ban any form of Valentine’s Day celebrations on February 14. Lawmakers have asked the MInister of Commerce and Industry to see it that Kuwaiti traditions and values are fully observed, reported Al Watan. Speaking in this regard, MP Mohammed Hayef al-Mutairi urged the Commerce minister, Ahmed Baqer to ban the import of merchandise related to celebrating the “heathen occasion” (allusion to Valentine’s Day). He also warned local companies against displaying any of these goods for sale.

“This is against Islam and misleads our youth” he said. MP Abdullatif Al Omairi said that celebrating this day was a ‘blind imitation of the West.’ It is something that does not belong to us, something that is completely alien to our society, morals and traditions,” he warned. He urged the government to interfere and preserve Muslim values. “There are only two Eids in Islam. We should not celebrate Christians’ festivities because they do not celebrate ours,” he said.

Final Note: Our school must have missed this memo because we are having a Valentine Bash dance and the National Honor Society is selling roses for Valentines Day.Somedays, it's just amusing to see what the Government will try to ban next.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Not Currently or will never Be a Fashion Diva

Living in a Middle Eastern country has given me a totally new perspective on fashion. The styles and fabrics are so different here. I can't bring myself to spend money on what they consider a sweater or t-shirt because they are so "thin". And I only wish I had to figure to wear the tight long shirts and leggings that are so popular. Well, maybe after more workouts, I will.
Recently on Yahoo, there was an article Entitled the Eight Essential Wardrobe Finds. So, trying to be a savvy chick, I read it with interest.

In case you missed that article, here are the EIGHT things every fashionable chick should have in her closet (according to who wrote the article)
Cashmere Sweater, Pencil skirt (what is that?), Black Flats, Black Dress, Black Suit, Black Pumps, White blouse, and a Trench Coat. I've got five of the 8 covered, so I didn't feel so bad.
What I did feel bad or enraged or shocked about was that in the article, the clothing items they used for the photos were outrageously expensive (at least in my taste, maybe I'm still a farm girl on this one). The total cost of the 8 items pictured was $4,064.99 (The pencil skirt was $39.99 Maybe it's made of pencils?) Come to think of it, I haven't spent that much on my total wardrobe. It just goes to show there are people out there who live a whole lot differently than me!

Getting it Together

In 6 weeks I turn 50 (gasp!) Now I know that it may not seem like that big a deal to some of you, and to others, you are trying to figure out how I could be that old, right?
I've been trying to get my Act together because I think that a person who is "that old" should know that they want to do with their life and should have an idea of what they enjoy right?
For the most part I do, but I've been giving a few things some consideration.

For example:
As a gift to myself, I've been working out with a fabulous personal trainer who I will call Studmuffin. Now before you think I'm having the great Kuwait affair, let me say that Studmuffin is in a very happy relationship and I have no interest in starting over with a new person! But he is in marvelous shape and he is an inspiration to me. We work out at the school gym and also on walks throughout Kuwait. The best thing I like about him is that he makes working out fun. And he never lets me get bored. Yesterday, we walked to the local cash machine (I owed him money) and on the way, we worked out by throwing cement blocks, tires, running up and down hills and dashing around paving stones. (Remember, in Kuwait, one has to make their own kind of fun..sorta like growing up in Herman!). Anyway, when I think I've made significant process, I'll post a picture.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Where my Head (and heart) is right now

This is a picture of pictures that we have in our living room. It expresses where my thoughts are right now...Anna's turning 16 on Friday (and she'll be in Eqypt with her father for a Fine Arts trip) Ben is off to duty on Tuesday, Maxine is gone (pictured with Chuck on our wonderful Black Hills trip in 1996) and I wish my "boys" could all be that little again. (small picture of Howie the dog, Ben at age 4, David and my Howard (father). I wish time would stop and I could turn back the clock to that day.

But I can't, so as my friend Gorgeous reminds me "Just suck it up and move forward girl!"

yes maam, workin' on it!

The Beat Goes On

Dear Anna Leigh:

Congradulations for making it to your 16th year! What an exciting time for you. I'm sorry I can't be with you, but I imagine that being able to say "Hey I turned 16 in Eqypt" will be a great icebreaker for you one day. It certainly beats my "hey when I was 16 I was in the hospital with ulcers" story.

Your world is so different from mine at your age. You have such poise, such self confidence, such a strong sense of self. You don't seem to be bothered by what people think or what the popular thing to do. You are content with yourself and your friends and your studies.

You also seem to be blessed with your father's metabolism which makes you a physical beauty as well. It makes your father and I nervous when you go out at night but you seem to be able to handle yourself well and not be bothered by some low-life who may try to comment. I've seen your icy stares and know that not much gets past that look.

I'm proud of you, in awe of you and a little jealous. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to be 16 again for all the money in Kuwait. As I watch you, I see so much of myself in you (which makes you crazy to hear this, I know). Having said that, I know that there are certain life lessons ahead that your personality and stubborness will not always be your friend. Oh well, I had to learn them and so do you.(that's what your father would say.) You know me, I'd rather take all the bumps for you. Well maybe not, you seem to be able to handle them just fine)

So my advice (which again you didn't ask for) is to keep on marchin' to the beat of your drum girl. It's a great rhythm for you and I'm happy to be at least nearby to watch the band as it goes by.
Your Momma who loves you.

Ben in Brussels

This is a short video I took in Brussels. The blue lamps were supplying a lovely bird song (okay my daughter hated it). I love the ending mainly because it's the newest liveaction footage I have of my son.

If you've never been to Brussels, I recommend a trip. We had a lovely experience.

If you've never been a parent, then I apologize for shamelessly placing the image of my son in this video.

I Love This!!

For someone who lives in a dry country, this is not only music to my ears but to my soul!! Enjoy