Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Do You See What I See?

Look at this picture really close and you will see my newest Great Great Nephew, Braden Putoff. I LOVE this picture, especially since the Great Grandma (my sister) loves to read books.
I am glad to see that Braden's mom, the Beautiful BrittBabe, is introducing her son to our Wacky Family in the right way.

Kids these days, they are just so darn smart
(Please forgive me. This is an inside Joke for the Wagner family. You'll know the accent to use when saying this!)

Pictures worth 1K words...or more: The "art" of conversation

My friend JC posted this picture of a Somali pirate on his wonderblog, 56572. I loved the picture, how it captured the features but also had a piece of soul attached.

I also love student artwork. Partially because I was never able to complete an artwork myself (guess my art is piano and theatre) and partially because I like the perspective that young people show.

Notice how the picture and the black/white ink drawing below are very similar. It's not an image we are used to seeing in North America, but it seems to be a common "pose" from the Middle East. As if the eyes told the whole story.

Anna's hardest and most in-depth class here is Art. She thinks the teacher "stays awake all night just to think up projects for us to do". The International Baccelaurete program is very intense, and in addition to complete works of art, Anna also has to keep up a daily Developmental workbook describing her work, her reflections and her self-criticism. This teacher really challenges Anna, and it's a good thing.

These three selections are not Anna's work but are rather from the recent Grade 12 Artshow here at AIS. I enjoy their different interpretations of three very familiar Kuwaiti sights.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Me and the Lil Sweetpeas

Recently I worked with these two lovely ladies on a 5th grade Exhibition piece on Nutrition. They were really fun to work with, they were all "on fire" about the big assignment and they did a nice job.

The taller one definately will be a force to be reckoned with when she gets older. Although the lil' one stood her ground quite effectively. Women are learning to be assertive here in this country where they just earned the right to vote in 2006. If these two are any indication of the future, Kuwait is in good hands.

PS yes I did get my hair cut. It's my "it's soon going to be hotterthanhell here" haircut.

At First they were Strange, Now They are Normal

There are pictures of the Amir and other members of the Al-Sabah family everywhere! This is our current Amir SABAH al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah.
Lovely boats docked at a marina. This is the place where I eat breakfast with my Smart Friends every Friday.

The Kuwait Flag is red, white, green and black. According to Google: The colours' meaning came from a poem by Safie Al-Deen Al-Hali:
White are our deeds,Black are our battles, Green are our lands, Red are our swords
Rules of hanging and flying the flag:
Horizontally: The green stripe should be on top.
Vertically: The green stripe should be on the right side of the flag.

This is a mosque near our school. Every day at 11:50 (approximately) we hear the call to prayer. If I am at school late, I also hear the calls at 530 and 630 pm. Thankfully, I have not heard the calls at 430 and 530 am (at least from school).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Deck the Halls (and other fantasies)

Picture from St. Michael's Cathedral in Brussels, Belgium taken on Christmas Eve 2008

Okay now that I've got your attention...
I'm listening to a Kuwait "Easy Listenin'" radio station and all of a sudden, What Child is This? pops on. Okay, it's probably supposed to be "Greensleeves", but it just seems a little out of place. Maybe they don't recognize Christmas songs.

So this is the part of the story where I confess that not five minutes prior, I had on my Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD, rockin' to seasonal tunes while I was organizing my next couple days in my classroom. Maybe they picked up on my vibes, maybe homeland security has my room bugged (who's paranoid?) Maybe it's just that a good song is a good song.

The reality that I've only got 42 days here is slowly creeping into my consciousness. I am terribly homesick, yet I still keep a smile on my face. I like my life here well enough, I am certainly learning a lot and having experiences with people, travel and culture. Yet I do miss GREEN, LAKES, and being to understand all of what I hear from those around me. (except if I were in the Somalian or Mexican grocery store in PR).

It will be good to take a couple months off from living in the Middle East and reconnect with loved ones and loved places. However, it's my daily challenge to keep my head in the game here. As my friend ATD says on her Facebook page, "struggling to live in the NOW".

Friday, April 24, 2009

Temperature/Reality Check

As we were walking into church this afternoon, I was complaining about the intense heat. It was H-O-T. When we got out of the car, I thought it was heat from the car exhaust but not,it was real temperature.

Anyway, as I was ranting away, he says to me:
"Touch your lips with your tongue"
Excuse me? I replied because this sounded like some kinky test of coordination

"Touch your lips with your tongue. Does your tongue feel cold against your lips?"

I tried it, and yes it did feel cold.

"well then," he says smugly, "that means that the air temperature is higher than your body core temp."

I didn't know that Farmers Almanac-like wisdom would find me here in the Middle East. But it made sense to me.
However, it was still damn hot.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A scene from my Life in Kuwait

Living in Kuwait is an adventure. For the most part, it's a good adventure. We have chosen not to have a car so we need to depend on taxi drivers, who certainly know the city better than I could ever begin to know. And David's right. This, along with many of our adventures, certainly make for good stories. I'm reminded of a well worn saying I use: Fact is definitely stranger than anything you could make up!
Prior to moving to Kuwait, I certainly couldn't make this stuff up! Now I'm living it.
The following scene, in which no facts were changed or embellished, describes my life in Kuwait. Only the names were disguised to protect the not so innocent.

Cast of Characters:
Frustrated Teacher (FT)--played by Nadine
Taxi Driver 1 (TCD1)
Taxi Driver 2 (TCD2)
Taxi Driver 3 (TCD3)
BFF Best Friend Forever--a term I use to refer to teacher friends who have saved our sanity on more than one occasion.

Scene: Late one afternoon outside the school on a main road. Frustrated Teacher is trying to get a taxi to attend a lecture at a textile museum called the Sadu House.
After 2 minutes, Frustrated Teacher is able to hail a taxi.

FT; "I would like to go to the Sadu House"
Taxi Driver 1:Where?
FT: I don't know where it is but it's on Gulf Road.
Taxi Driver 1: Salmiya? Hawalli?
FT shakes her head indicated she doesn't know
Taxi Driver 1: I don't speak English
FT: Okay bye...
Frustrated teacher walks away from cab, looks at watch and starts down the street. She calls taxi company she knows speaks English.

FT: Hello I'd like a taxi to the Sadu House please? I'm on the road and walking towards your taxi cab place now. I'll be there in 30 seconds.
Taxi Cab Driver 2: Okay Ten Minutes
FT: No I have to be there soon, I'll get another taxi. Thank you
Frustrated teacher turns around and returns to original spot on side of road to hail another taxi. She watches in shock and amusement as a taxi cab "does a donut" right in the middle of a busy street to come back and pick her up.

FT: Do you know where the Sadu House is?
Taxi Cab Driver 3: Oh Yes
FT: Okay how much? (because she has learned that one ALWAYS asks the price of the ride before getting into the taxi)
TCD3): Where is it?
FT: I don't know exactly except that it's along Gulf Road.
TCD3: Oh wait, I know I know. I take you there.
FT: Okay but only 2.5 kd fare
TCD3: Okay Okay
FT gets into cab and they start off down the road in general direction of Sadu House.

TCD3: Now you know where it is Miss?
FT:Yes it's this way (points straight)
TCD3: But where exactly?
FT whips out handydandy cell phone and calls BFF to ask for directions to give to Taxi Cab driver. BFF laughs hard at the thought of FT calling him to ask for directions to give to taxi driver. He starts to choke. Finally, between gasps, she gets specific directions to give to TCD3.

FT: Okay it's past the Souk Sharq (mall).
TCD3: Oh yes I know exactly where it is. (pause) Where are you from Miss?
FT: America. Where are you from?
TCD3: Bangeldesh.I have 6 brothers
FT: Wow
TCD3: Can you get my brother a job in America? He needs work.
FT explains that it's hard to find a job in America right now because of the economy and besides the town she is from has only 2400 people.
TCD3: Why would anyone want to live in a town with only 2400 people?

FT explains the benefits of living in small town America knowing that someone who comes from Bangladesh, which is the seventh most populous country in the world and is among the most densely populated countries with a high poverty rate, would never understand the benefits of small town life.

Cellphone rings. FT answers and finds out that Taxi Cab Driver 2 is now at her house waiting for her. She explains to Taxi Cab Driver 2 that she already has a taxi and apologizes for the confusion, although she knows she clearly told them she was getting another cab.

TCD3: Okay Miss do you live alone?
FT: (knowing that a female NEVER tells a male in this country that she lives alone even if she does) No I live with my husband and daughter.
TCD3: Oh what do you do?
FT: I am a teacher. (she continues because she knows the taxi cab driver would ask these questions) And so is my husband. And my daughter attends school.
TCD3: How much salary do you make?
FT: (pauses while trying to figure out how to be polite in responding) Ah, in my country it is not polite to ask someone how much money they make as a salary. It's considered impolite.
TCD3: (without pausing) Okay so I met a teacher once and he told me he makes KD1000 a month.(around $3750 US) Do you make that much... or more?
FT briefly explains how teachers are paid based on their years of experience and education level and concludes by saying,
I don't make that much money.

By this time, the taxi has arrived at approximately where the Sadu House is located. FT decides to quickly change the subject and starts talking about how it should be coming up soon on the left.TCD3 quickly turns at the next intersection and says something like, it's over there, I will take shortcut.
FT goes along with it because the location looks sorta familiar. They the Museum of Modern Art, not the Sadu House.
Looking at the bright side, FT is glad because she's wanted to visit this site for some time. However, not tonight. So FT tells TCD3 they are not at the right place while she notices that they are traveling down a dark alley with no street lights. She reaches for her weapon--a bottle of frozen water-just in case something "happens".

FT: Can we please get back on the main road? I don't like where we are.
TCD3: Oh nothing bad happens in Kuwait, you are safe. Don't worry.
FT now trying to remember if she told her husband where she was going and what she will do if someone jumps out from behind a parked car and starts to mug her. The fact that she's safe inside a car momentarily leaves her mind. FT is thinking about the fact that her daughter recently had her butt slapped while walking down the street in the broad daylight near their house. FT grabs bottle of water tigher and silently starts to pray.

Finally they arrive at the Sadu House, FT is grateful she has arrived safely in one piece at the intended destination. She overtips the driver because she doesn't have any smaller bills than KD1 and she feels bad she can't get his brother a job in America.

When she arrives home later that evening, she tells her husband the whole story with great detail expecting him to sympathize with her ordeal and say something manly and protective.
His response is:
Well, at least you've got a good story out of it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Well... I'll be a Monkey's Uncle

One time we were riding down the Gulf Road (main drag in Kuwait) and I looked over to the car on our right and there was a lil critter like this on the DASHBOARD of the car. I did a double take because it's not a usual site. At least in my world. Well, at least prior to moving to Kuwait.

So when a second time sighting occured, I was really glad to have my camera with me. This lil' critter was being carried around McDonald's at 630 am on Easter Morning. The owner (!?) told me the monkey was 6 months old.

It's not uncommon for Kuwaitis to aquire strange pets like monkeys, goats, etc. I've even heard of someone having a wild Cat (cougar?) as a pet. I'm not a fan of this because I do believe wild animals shouldn't be housepets. As much as I love and miss my Angel and Zowie girls, (dogs) I am really glad we didn't bring them over here.

He asked if I wanted to hold her, but I gracefully declined.

Easter Morning in Kuwait

I enjoyed (!) getting up at 4 am and going to the Sunrise Service with the BFFs. As I've mentioned before the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait has several "rockin'" churches. There were over 500 faithful people at this service. It was quite inspiring.

Failaka 2

The sign behind us says "Flex your inner beauty on the Island"

We enjoyed seeing the island via bicycles. This is our neighbor Karen with David

We were able to "Crawl" all over the island. Later Karen and I went all the way up to the top of this abandoned mosque turret. I guarantee you it's the only mosque turret I'll get inside of in Kuwait.

Yalla to Failaka

Yalla is arabic for "Go".

David is holding a discarded AK47 rifle cartridge. We found it laying on the floor of this abandoned house.

Here's what Google has to say:
Failaka Island
Failaka Island is one of the most important islands of Kuwait and is one of the most beautiful and most famous islands of Kuwait. Pronounced "Failacha" in the local dialect, it combines the ancient history of Kuwait, dating back to the early Stone Age and the modern history of Kuwait. The home of Kuwait's main archaeological site, Failaka's history goes back to the Bronze Age Dilmun civilization, which was centerd in Bahrain. The Greeks arrived in the 4th century BC in the form of a garrison sent by Nearchus, one of Alexander the Great's admirals. The remains of a temple can be found there today. Coins and seals found there point to Failaka remaining an important trading post with links to Iraq, Persia, the Mediterranean, the Levant, India and Africa. Its fresh water and strategic position favouring the Island's development.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Iraqi forces expelled the civilian population and mined the beaches. After Iraq was expelled from Kuwait in 1991, the Kuwaiti government resettled the island's population on on the mainland and compensated islanders for their property. The island has been cleared of mines, and it has been used for military exercises. Many Kuwaitis fish there and some former residents visit occasionally, but special permits are required.

We visited here one day during our recent Spring break. It was a great adventure, full of mystery (the vacated houses made it look like a ghost town), and yet it was strangely "odd" because it was so quiet. If I had a million dinar, I would buy the island and turn it into a resort because it's got a great location and some natural beauty. There are two smallish resorts there, but there's still lots of room for improvement.

Yet I enjoyed it most because of it's strange aloneness.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It must be Spring

Snow is melting in Minnesota (so people tell me) and here in Kuwait, the weather is turning Spring Like. Ha Ha--more like it's right into summer!! Temps will soon be in the 80s and 90s. And don't even start with the "oh but it feels less because of the lack of humidity". It's soon just going to be damn hot.

We are having a few of those interesting dust storms where all of a sudden, there's a cloud over everything. Flags go up around the school--yellow for mildly severe dust and red for severe warning. Kids with Asthma (more than average) stay inside as much as possible, which is sort of impossible here because our school is all open. Meaning I walk outside my classroom door and can walk right outside. There are very few interior only halls, most are directly open to the outside. Works in a country where there are no mosquitoes and lots of sunshine.

We're on the downhill slide here, meaning that we've got 30 days of school and one week of testing. Whew!

When celebrating for Easter last week, I purchased a bouquet of tulips to help add a Spring-like touch to our apartment. Then I remembered that I had these pictures (see above) They were taken last year about this time at the home of our good friends JC and the Dutch lady. While I can buy tulips here, I miss seeing them in their yard.

Our cat is also exhibiting Spring-Like behaviours, or else he's just weird, which is possible. Students are definately aware that the time is almost over. This could be the hardest part of teaching this year--hanging on until the end of the year. Hhmm, I bet my colleagues in MN are going through the same thing. Some things are just the same, no matter where the location.

Whatever your spring-like trials and tribulations, I hope that you're having a good time. Trust that we are!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thinking of you (all) while watching the sun rise

A Lovely Mini Vacation

As mentioned in an earlier post, our Easter break was spent at "home" just relaxing and taking part in local "flavor". We spent the night at a glorious resort called the Palms. It was like being in Mexico...except without the cervasa of course. We enjoyed ourselves.

I got up early (5am) to watch the sunrise over the ocean, something I've wanted to do since we arrived. It's a quick, fickle sun--nothing like what I'm used to seeing in Otter Tail county. Yes it was delightful.

There's something to be said for just taking a 24 hour vacation without getting on an airplane. We laughed with our friends, relaxed, had massages, played cards, ate well and generally enjoyed the time. Just like what one would do if they left the country. Many of our new friends went to exotic places and enjoyed themselves also. But for us, this worked out just fine.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Raindrops KEPT falling on my head

Probably not a big deal to you in North America and other places, but in Kuwait, this is a BIG THING!!!
The pictures were taken during an early morning walk, I actually got wet walking. Again, not a big deal except this is a country where the ANNUAL rainfall is 1-5 inches!

The pictures are:
"Lake" Kuwait in my neighborhood
A reflection of one of our nearby mosque's
Actually blooming cactus'(cactusi?). What also amused me was that the blooms looked like mini bananas.

Amazing what one can find to amuse one's self in the desert

Best Easter/New Thought message so far

I "stole" this from my favorite Kuwaiti Blogger (thanks intlxpatr, once again!) It made me smile and think..
Happy Easter
Pictures of my Easter coming soon
Hugs from Kuwait
(and enjoy the ham if you have it...Remember to eat it for those who can't!)

Noah’s Ark
(Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah’s Ark. )

ONE: Don’t miss the boat.
TWO: Remember that we are all in the same boat!
THREE: Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
FOUR: Stay fit. When you’re 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
FIVE: Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
SIX: Build your future on high ground.
SEVEN: For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
EIGHT: Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
NINE: When you’re stressed, float awhile.
TEN: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
ELEVEN: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Vacationing at Home

Today we began a 6 day Spring Break--that happens to also coincide with Easter. Many of our colleagues and friends are off to places like Jordan, Oman, Turkey, the Nile. We have decided to stay home and vacation here in Kuwait.

Our plans include:
**visiting the National Museum ...Completed this evening. Great place but I'll have to go back and bring my camera...even though the sign says I'm not supposed to take pictures. I've got a responsibility to report to all of you, right?!

**taking a ferry out to Falika Island, a small island about 20 km from Kuwait. It was inhabited until the Gulf War. It has great archelogical significance (at least that's what all the brochures say). Look for a report soon.

**Staying overnight in the poshest hotel we could find/afford. We're spending a night at the Palms complete with spa, breakfast, pool and beach. AND we can wear swimming suits and not have to cover up!! More from this later.

**Playing for two Easter services with the loveable all Indian Christian choir.

**Watching several movies on the BFFs big screen TV.

**Finishing painting our apartment. We're hosting a small but lovely Easter dinner for about 12 people on Sunday so we'd better get those nasty spots covered up!

**Going to check out the swankiest restaurant we can find. (are you sensing a theme here?!)

**Finding out if I can get inside this funky building that has intrigued me since I arrived here. A while ago I posted a picture of it--it was the building that has palm trees growing out of the top. At least that's what I think it is. Maybe they're fake.

Never fear, "Scoop" Brown is hot on the trail to search vacation spots within Kuwait. I'll report back--if I don't get arrested for wearing my swimsuit!!

Happy Easter Week greetings to all!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Sunrise Sunset, Verse 2"

Picture taken at my son's graduation party 2006
Brown Family Picture June 2005
This is a piece I found when I was preparing for Ben's high school graduation. It fit the moment then, and it fits my mood now as I celebrate/struggle with the news that Ben is engaged to Jolene and wants to be married this summer. It's another milestone right?! Three Cheers for young love!!

"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts.You may house their bodies but not their souls. For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.” -The Prophet

A Candid Discussion about Henna Among AUK Guests

This picture, along with others from the Al Kout Festival appears on the American University of Kuwait's webpage,
The cutline is quoted above. I love it!!!!

There are really great photos on the website of the Festival. I bow to their photographers.

Hamid bin Hussein Sea Band

Scenes from the Al Kout Festival-Part 2


Last week we went with new friends to the Al Kout Festival, a celebration of Kuwait traditional food, dance and crafts. It was very interesting. We weren't the only ones who attended as it was also visited by the American Ambassador to Kuwait, Debra Jones (she's the obvious American in a sea of dishtashas in photo #3) and Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the Minister of Information. That's the tall dude talking to moi' in the first picture. I was having my hand "hennaed" and at the moment this picture was taken, he was telling me (in perfect English) that I would become wealthy. My response ("all right") made him smile.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I'm B-A-A-A-C-K

Based on a few real life experiences I've witnessed this year, I've discovered that before people in this country will discuss anything "serious", they always have tea first. We've have some pretty serious stuff happen here this past week (see post below) and it caused me to pull the blog for awhile until I was sure that it was safe. SO just think of me as taking a long TEA BREAK. Thanks to those who cared enough to send an email and ask me what was happening.

Here's what I did in your "absence". I went to an Al Koub Festival this week celebrating Kuwait traditions. It was fun. Pictures posted above.

Also, it rained all day Friday which has NEVER happened in the 10 months we've been here. It also rained Saturday. TWO DAYS IN A ROW..unheard of.

10 weeks to go and then we return to Pelican Rapids for the summer. Wasn't it just January? When did I blink?!

Time for more tea.