Sunday, May 31, 2009

Counting Up and Down

If you're reading this on June 1st, then you'll know that I have 11 (eleven...10 +1) days until I hit OTC soil. Yippee!! We're definately on the down hill slide here.

Of course, this means I only have 11 days to spend time with people who are leaving here. Sorta sad. Next year a whole crew of "newbies" (which, btw, I only have 11 more days to be considered a new staff member) will be leaving. Many of the teachers stay for 2 year contracts. I am not going to think about that.

If you noticed on the right side of this blog, I've set a counter just to see how many people read this blog. Okay, so a few of the numbers are from me...I haven't figured out how to edit without logging out and logging in (a summer project). But, take a look, the number is very close to 10,000 hits. Amazing.

I wonder if I will write as much next year. The "newness" of Q8 will probably have worn off and many of the people who read me ("hi") will probably get bored of reading about me bitch about the heat and try and convince you to feel sorry for me in the "winter".
We'll see.

On the right side, you may have also noticed a sidebar that shows where people sign in to this sight from. It's very interesting to see where in the world people are reading this blog (or at least looking once). I'll be giving a prize for the 10,000 person to sign in. Stay tuned for details...

What we see on our "lakes" here in Kuwait

I love these boats, and everytime I got out on the Gulf, I try and try to take a picture of one. Low and behold, in one of her last blogposts from Kuwait, my hero, Intlxpatr, posts this beautiful shot of a Dhow boat.

I'll miss her posts. But good news for PRBecca is that she (Intlxpatr) is moving to Qatar so Becca can follow her as I did.

Darn it, I'll have to find another source for my cooler photos...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Got the Beat

We were told that the Kuwaitis have a unique clap that they make in celebration but we didn't believe it until we heard it. We've tried all year to duplicate it and I don't think that David or I quite have it.

Listen to the's very unique.

These are a couple 8th graders after the completion of class.

I got rhythm!!!!

One of the Funkiest..

adventures I've had in Kuwait happened recently when the AWARE center offered a "Trip to a Unique Kuwaiti Home". As I haven't had the tutoring experiences that David has had, I haven't visted any homes. So of course I was up for the opportunity.

Little did I know it was going to be quite so unique. The owner, a fine Kuwait gentleman who has MANY interests, opened up his museum like home to a small group of inquiring minds. He describes himself as a "Collector of Collections".

I can't even begin to describe his home...12 marble busts in the front lawn (including the one of Lady Liberty herself), small fish pond, armored "guard" at the front door, 12 chandelliers in the living room, over 20 HUGE famous art reproductions on the walls (about 40 feet in the air), dozens of collections of everything from Coca Cola, to Walt Disney figurines, to steam engines, to books on Astronomy.

It was a breathtaking experience. These four pictures can't even do it justice.

I believe he is a brilliant man who likes to keep busy. And he's got the resources to do so. He's a bit shy so talking with him was a little like trying to speak to maybe Bill Gates (not that I've ever done that). You've got a lot of questions, but you don't know where to start and he's not offering to help you out!

My father, who was a flea marketer for 17 years, would have loved this experience and probably could have sold him something. My mother just would have shaken her head and said "uffda".

Thursday, May 28, 2009

One way to my heart is through my stomach

Food here is GOOOOOD. We regularily sample Lebanese, Kuwaiti, Indian, Chinese,and Thai foods. Our maid Mali is from Sri Lanka and I'm not really sure what she cooks, but it's good.

The other night we were at the AWARE center, which is an establishment dedicated to improving relations between Arabs and Westerners. If they are working on that by going for our hearts through our stomachs, then they've convinced me. Here are a couple pictures of my favorite things. I am not sure of the names but I will try and describe them to you.
Photo 1: They really know how to set a table here. I've seen more ways to use fish as a centerpiece than I ever knew possible.This is one side of a three sided buffet.
Photo 2: My favorite main dish is this one with Chicken and Rice. It's similar to a dish that I've sampled cooked by Somalian women. Before I leave, I will have the recipe, but I don't know if I'll ever own a cooking pot this big.
Photo 3: This colorful dish is my ALL TIME FAVORITE. It's "fried" cheese-not Velveeta but a white cheese. The orange is a sweet, crunchy, fiberous covering. It's served warm and I just love this. A Million ten calories but worth every bite.
Photo 4: Each meal begins with an offering of dates and sweets to "break" the fast. I like this tradition, even if I don't like dates. But they are growing on me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

From Whence I Came

This weekend I'm thinking alot about where I came Roots. Maybe it's because it's such a contrast to where I am now (physically and mentally). Maybe it's because my best friend is marrying my nephew and it's a match of two fine families from the Herman-Norcross area. Maybe I'm just slightly homesick.

To those of you who have just met me, I grew up in Herman MN (population about 496 or was 796 when I lived there). My graduation class was 36 people. No, I wasn't saledictorian or valedictorian (I don't even think I can spell those words to this day) I was class one else wanted the job. I wasn't Homecoming Queen, a fact that it took me until about 15 years ago to accept (I'm almost over it). But in all seriousness,it was a great place to grow up. I have only fond memories of the town and the people. My parents spent their entire married lives there and my brother still lives there. As do my neice, great neice and their families.

I wish I had paid attention to Mr. Magnuson's geography lessons because I wouldn't be so ignorant now about places and things. (or was it Mr. whatshisname that taught the class?)High school is wasted on the young. I'd also love to go back and learn how to cook in Home Economics (the name itself is "old school).

Recently I had a Herman moment (these are actually my favorite kind of "moments" in meeting people). Here's how it went...

I was out for an early morning walk and my "neighbor" (guy who lives in the nearby building) was by his cute Suburu car. I'd been admiring the car for sometime and so I quietly said (testing if he spoke English or not) "nice car". To which he replied: "thanks" and so we struck up a conversation. In about 30 seconds I discovered that he was originally from Morris, Mn which is about 20 miles from Herman AND his father had once owned a shoe store in Herman. We chatted, exchanged Kuwait stories and now he's coming over for supper (as we say back home) tomorrow night.

Turns out his college buddy is editor of the Herman Review (an award winning local newspaper) and so he sent me a link to the paper. Which is where I got the cool pictures of the center of good ol' Grant County.

The world is big, yet so darn small.

PS There is an actual, honest to goodness movie made about my hometown called Herman USA. It's about the TRUE story of when the town advertised for "women" business owners, which of course got picked up by news services as "Town advertises for Women". It gave the town it's true 15 minutes of fame and resulted in about 30 marriages for the local bachelor boys. Around half of them are still married (I think?) which is about the national average. It was a fun time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What I can do without for a couple months...

Dust, Noise and construction sounds outside my bedroom window, brown (brown, brown, brown) and the heat (hard to get a picture of that!)

What I Miss Most...

Green, Lakes, My Dogs and my silly lil town with a Cement Pelican in the middle of it...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Expat Writing Competition Finalist

David and I both entered a local writing contest. There were 42 entries and David was one of the top 15. Our fellow AIS colleague BVS won, so it was a pretty cool evening all is all.Here's a picture of David at the award ceremony accepting a cup of tea.

By David O. Brown

When I was getting ready to leave the U.S. for Kuwait, people said to me, “How will you be able to live there?” "Aren't you afraid of the terrorism?" "Will your wife have to wear that head scarf thingy?" “What about the war?” I am pleased to say that none of those larger issues have affected me. But rather, it has been the little, simple things. Ordering out for food, driving, using the bathroom has given this particular newbie a few surprises.

In my home town in the States when I wanted a pizza delivered to my house, I called Jimmy's Pizza and gave them my order "204 North Broadway" and 30 minutes later, it was at my door. Here in Kuwait, my first telephone pizza call will stay in my memory for a long time. Silly me- I assumed that things here were done just like in my small home town. Since the Pizza Hut was only two blocks down the street from my apartment, I thought I could tell the pizza place the landmarks of where I lived since I didn't know exactly what my address was. This was not the case. The pizza man had no idea where the landmarks were. His English was not too good, and my Arabic was non- existent. I got frustrated, and he got frustrated, and I ended up hanging up on him. I never did get my pizza and have since learned that my telephone call did not go to the local Pizza Hut but instead went to a central office that sent the order to the closest Pizza Hut which in turn would make the pizza and deliver it to my address. Now that I know the system, it makes sense in a large city like Kuwait City. It was my mistake in assuming systems are the same in Kuwait as they are in the States.

Soon after learning about pizza, I experienced driving in Kuwait. On my more cynical days, I often wonder if many of the drivers in Kuwait got their driving licenses from Cracker Jack’s boxes. One day while walking home, I was on the sidewalk waiting to cross a very busy street. There were three lanes of traffic stopped at a red light. Just as the light turned green, the car in the far left hand lane decided that he needed to make a right turn. So, he laid on his horn and cut right across two other cars who promptly laid on their horns. I have since discovered that aggressive driving and extensive use of the horn are essential parts of driving in Kuwait.

Some of my learning lessons have been a bit more private in nature. This question occurred while in the privacy of a toilet. After sitting on the toilet, why do I have to wrap my toilet paper into a neat little package and put it into a waste paper basket? In my first week, I was a bit puzzled why there was a small wastebasket in every toilet stall I went into. Bathroom habits are not something one talks about with co workers whom you have just met, but soon I broke down and asked. I was told that the sewer system cannot handle the paper, and like the pizza system, the waste basket system makes sense once you know.

Food in a different land can always evoke questions. For example, why does the Latino Cafe serve not a single taco or enchilada but rather shisha and Lebanese food? After months of eating a steady diet of Indian and Chinese food, I had a yearning for Mexican, and what better place to get Mexican food than the Latino Café! The sign for the restaurant even had a sombrero advertising Latino. Alas, my taco craving was not satisfied at the Latino Café;however, after I had gotten over the disappointment, I did have a very nice meal of hummos with bread, tabboulleh, and chicken shawarma.

Now, these questions are not life threatening nor Earth shattering, but they were certainly puzzling to my newbie brain.

I will end with my favorite "What? Really?" experience so far. In my second week here, I was looking for soccer shoes, and I was happy to find a shoe store that had five different styles of cleats. I picked up a display model I liked and tried it on - Too big, a size 45. I asked the salesperson for a size 40 and, lo and behold, every soccer shoe in all five styles was a size 45. At the time I just nodded my head and said “OK” and left. But later this question came to mind - How does a store stay in business selling only one size of shoe?

In the eight months of living in Kuwait, I have felt like I have been living on sand. Most days it's solid, and I know where I'm standing, but occasionally the sand shifts, and abruptly I’m knocked off balance. Not enough to fall but enough to lose my footing. Now, I could see this as a bad thing, but instead I choose to take it as a good thing. Many times in our lives we keep walking the same worn path we have always trod. We see the same scenery and do the same things we have always done; we think the same thoughts we have always thought. For me it has been good to stand on the shifting sands of Kuwait and lose my balance and stumble. Only then can I stumble onto a different path and see new and different things. Kuwait has certainly made me stumble onto a new path. And even though at times my new path has been frustrating, I am grateful because my experiences here have allowed me to shake away “the leaden weight of routine.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Time Flies (and other random thoughts)

This is Anna's final independent art project. She says it's a piece about how time goes too fast, puts pressure on us, makes us old, can be fierce, etc. Like many art pieces, I sometimes don't get the meaning. All I know is that she put a lot of time into this piece and her teacher was very impressed with her final presentation. Enough said.

We're in a sort of limbo right now. We leave Q8 on June 12 so it's just 19 days away. So much to do, so little energy (whine whine it's been about 115 degrees)/ Students tell me they are tired, I yell at them. Then they leave and I say to myself, "Man I'm tired, I need coffee". Except it's too hot for coffee. And I refuse to drink RedBull. (energy drink). So it goes.

Before we left for our grand adventure, I saw (and purchased) a sign that says
There will never be another Time like this one. It's been my motto to remind myself that I've got to make the most of this experience because we will never have another chance like this.

Now that's way too deep for a Sunday morning ramble (and me without a beer to further my intelligence!) so I will leave you with this thought...
When are you going to have another chance to do what you want to do?

Happy Memorial Day to those loved ones in the States. As always, my heart is with those in the Armed Services right now. Carry on, do good work.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Candy for the Brain on a Saturday Morning...

If you read your email regularily like I do (it's a way of survival for me!!)
You may have already received this one.
Thanks KMS Class of '77 for forwarding this my way.


1. You accidentally enter your PIN on the microwave.
2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.
3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of
4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.
5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they
don't have e-mail addresses.
6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is
home to help you carry in the groceries.
7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen
8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't even have the first
20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.
10. You get up in the morning and go on line before getting your
11. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. : )
12 You're reading this and nodding and laughing.
13. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this
14. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.
15. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a #9 on this

FINALLY~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ NOW U R LAUGHING at

Go on, forward this to your friends.. You know you want to!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hot Weather rants

I've written alot this past year about weather. How hot it is, how cold it is (I know some of you still want to smack me), how dusty it is.

It's just an amazing place--today it is so hot (at least I think so). I worry about my son in Iraq, where, my students tell me, it is hotter and dustier than here. The other day he wrote and told me that he was not going to buy a summer uniform because he was trying to save money.

Thisdanced around in my come they have to purchase their own uniforms?! I was angry, I was worried, I was frustrated. If someone reading this blog can tell me why US soldiers have to purchase their own uniforms, I would love to know. When all this money is wasted for armed forces purchased (the stories of the $100 hammer etc), why does these young people have to spend money on their basic needs when they are defending freedom?

After doing some checking with our Armydude friend, a wonderful young army contractor who works in Iraq but lives in Kuwait. He has taken pity on me and helps me by trying to explain things for me. AD did some checking and found a possible resource for me to spend $260 for my son's uniform. I would gladly pay for it because I KNOW HOW HOT it is here.

I gave all the information I found out to Ben, who is checking things out on his end. I am hopeful that he will find a summer cotton uniform that he can wear. I don't want him in danger of heat exhaustion with everything else.

Someone mentioned that I don't write alot about Ben. The truth is, I can't right now. Some days I can't even think about him except to pray. Hard. We're proud of him and what he believes in. If you've followed our family for the past 21 years, you know that life hasn't always been easy for our son. He's doing something he believes in and for very valid reasons (at least to him). I've learned a lot about my son during this experience. And I've learned that I can be patient as I haven't heard his voice since Feb 1st.

We had a sign in our home in PR (now it's in storage...somewhere) that says
There are two things we can give our children...Roots and Wings. I think Roots was easier.
Bless you Spud and all women and men in the Armed Services.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kuwait Golf Report

Written by David O. Brown

Spring is in the air and a young man’s thoughts turn to the golf course. Just because I’m in Kuwait living next to one of the world’s largest deserts isn’t going to stop me from playing golf.

With a little research I found Kuwait has two golf courses – one called the Sahara which is a grass course that is quite swanky. The fees were 50 Kuwaiti Dinar (KD) to play there.(note: About $175) Or there is the Ahmadi Golf Club. That course is 7 KD ($25) to play. Now knowing that I’m not the king of swank, you know which course I opted to play.

The Ahmadi Club had another attraction that made it the place for me. It was originally made for the oil workers and sits beside one of the largest oil fields in Kuwait. It has sand “greens” called browns. The fairways are packed sand. Once a month they drive a water truck with chains on the back over the fairways to groom them. The roughs have tuffs of grass growing and in the rough between 7 and 8 a very large gila monster type lizard ran past me. I was too slow getting my camera out and even though I asked him nicely, the guy I was golfing with wouldn’t reach down the hole and pull the lizard out for me.

Three other fellow teachers were brave enough to venture out with me into the wilds of Kuwait. We set out a 7:00am because the course didn’t open until 7:00 – I thought it was only a 15 minute drive but it turned out to be 35 kilometers away and the traffic was a bit heavy. Once there, we had to buy balls - packet of 3 for 3 KD(about 10 dollars) Green fees 7KD, club rental 3 KD – so about 13 KD 42 dollars later we started.

Only a couple flys in the ointment. One of our guys was left handed – any left handed golf clubs? – no! And actually he did really well as a leftie golfing right. How about 4 sets of clubs for four people? – no! So we made do with three sets. What? you want a 8 or 9 iron with that set? It’s amazing what you can do with a 5 and 7 iron.

The tee boxes are concrete with rubber mats, the fairways are a bit softer than concrete and a light brown color, the sand traps, and yes there were lot of sand traps, have lips of old tires covered with asphalt. Once you are done putting on the green, you have a large brush/broom you use to sweep off your footprints. The greens were surprisingly slow and got slower as the day heated up. The fairways on the other hand were very fast no problem here topping the ball – you get a great roll.

Our great adventure called for 18 holes but the heat is coming on fast here in Kuwait and at 38 degrees (101 Fahrenheit) by the end of 9 holes we decided that we had had enough fun for one day. Which was a shame as I was getting hot in more ways than one. I ended the last two holes birdie, par and shot a 46.

All in all what a great way to play golf . Next time someone comes over to visit us in Kuwait, I’ll take them out golfing in the sand.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Two Degrees of Seperation

You've heard me talk about this one before--the theory where you can meet anyone in the world through a maximum of 6 contacts ("Degrees of seperation"). I am fascinated by this idea and love to see it in action. Here's two examples that happened to me this weekend:

1) As I sit down by the pool next to my friend POD, who is the #2 man in the US Embassy here in Kuwait, I am holding Hilary Clinton's Biography, "Living History". Peter looks at the book and says
"yeah, I was with her two weeks ago when she was in Kuwait"
"Oh?" I say, "I didn't know she was there".
"It was kept under the radar. She stopped in while on her way to Iraq"
"How was she?"
"Nicer than I thought she would be"
--which is also my conclusion after reading her book.

2) Because I'm also fascinated by Failika Island, I found the General Manager of the hotel and had a long conversation with him about developing the island. In the course of the conversation he says,
"Oh yes, well you know that Tony Blair was here in March"
(I did know that because I read the GM's diary online)
"Yes" I said. "How was he?"
"Well he's very nice and very tall. But not nearly as nice as Prince Charles"
(The GM had presented Charlie with a falika island gift when he visited the British Embassy in Kuwait late last year)
"But actually Camilla and Denise (his wife) got along quite famously. You know they're both horse people".
I left it at that.

Sunburn Smiles and Fabulous Memories

Here's a group and couple shot taken on our way home from an overnight on Falika Island near Kuwait. I've spoken about this place before. It's our 3rd trip out there. And I think we'll return again before we leave.

Just Hangin' out on the Island

While David and friends were biking, they met up with this flock of 50 camels just strolling through the shephard, just by themselves. David tried to have an intellectual conversation with the leader. Luckily he didn't get spit on!

This was our breakfast offering...mmmmm good, homemade pastry with honey and butter. The butter was more like Lebnah (sorta like thick buttermilk) Calories? I'm sure they were taken out before it was served!

This was a bit eerie to see this book just laying among the rubble.

With Ben in Iraq, I'm not sure how I feel about this graffitti, but I felt that I had to take the picture.
For the record, I think anyone who fights in a war anywhere is a HERO.

More fun on Falika Island

The island was deserted from 1990 to 2004 when the government allowed development to begin. However, in places it looks like people just left yesterday.

I enjoyed watching this sandpiper try to avoid getting wet while searching for food. Sometimes it does a soul good to just watch the waves flow in and out..

>We went to the Tank Graveyard where there were reminants of the 1990 Invasion of this island.

This is the famous potter of Falika Island. I bought this little gem after a little bit of bargaining. Howard would have been proud of me!

Return to Falika Island

We had a long weekend so David and I went back to Falika Island with a group of friends. It was a PERFECT way to spend a relaxing time...we ate, we laughed, we rode dune buggies, we swam, we talked, we explored. And we didn't have to get on an airplane to do it!!
Here are a few pictures

Part of this adventure allowed me to swim in a pool and because of my ignorance-to get a sunburn!! So much for saying that one can't get burnt in Kuwait!

This is a group "toast" (with lemonade) to our trip. Hey, ya do what ya gotta do!

No I didn't order them. But the food WAS good!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

This is a Good Thing (I think)

Kuwaiti women win first parliamentary seats

By DIANA ELIAS, Associated Press Writer Diana Elias, Associated Press Writer

KUWAIT CITY – Kuwaitis elected female parliament members for the first time and rejected a number of Islamic fundamentalist candidates in a weekend vote that many hoped would bring stability to the country's rocky political scene.

Women gained the right to vote and run for office in 2005 but failed in two previous elections to win seats in the 50-member parliament. Four women were elected in Saturday's vote, according to official results read out by judges on state-owned TV on Sunday.

Kuwait has led the region in giving its people democratic rights. It has an elected parliament that wields considerable power, but the Cabinet is still chosen and led by a ruling family (Note: the Al Sabah family) that holds ultimate power.

Radical religious politicians have fought against extending political rights to women. And at the same time, they have pushed for full implementation of Islamic law, or Sharia, in the oil-rich U.S. ally.

"This is a message that the Kuwaiti society has started to move away from such movements that are based on hatred," said political commentator Sami al-Nisf.

Note: I think this is a good thing!

Many voters also said they were tired of years of political upheaval sparked by parliament's frequent attacks on Cabinet members, which often lead to attempts to impeach ministers.

Saturday's election was the outcome of one such confrontation, which prompted Kuwait's ruler, or emir, to dissolve parliament and call the vote, the second time that has happened in a year.

Al-Nisf said the roughly 40 percent turnover in the election, which produced 21 new faces in parliament, was a sign that voters were tired of the confrontational style of some lawmakers.

Such instability has virtually frozen development at a time when Kuwait is grappling with the global financial crisis and falling oil revenues, which account for 90 percent of government income.

"Frustration with the past two parliaments pushed voters to seek change. And here it comes in the form of this sweeping victory for women," said one of the women elected, Massouma al-Mubarak, who was also the country's first female Cabinet minister.

Her supporters celebrated with fireworks and drove her home in a motorcade of honking cars like Kuwaitis normally do after weddings.

The 62-year-old political science teacher, who once complained that she could not vote while her male students could, scored the most votes in her district.

All of the female winners have Ph.D's from the United States. Among them is economist and women's rights activist Rola Dashti, who battled in court for political rights for Kuwaiti women years before the legislature approved the suffrage bill.

The other two women are education professor Salwa al-Jassar and philosophy professor Aseel al-Awadhi.

Newspaper columnist Al-Nisf said the win by female candidates was an achievement to be proud of not only in Kuwait but around the region.

"They made it without organized political parties supporting them or a quota system. This is a huge leap forward for Kuwait's democracy," he said.

The poor results for fundamentalist Muslims, he said, represented a rejection of their efforts to push for social restrictions. They have succeeded in banning coeducation at universities and clamping down on public entertainment.

Those politicians won 16 seats on Saturday, down from the 24 seats they held in the previous house. While Islamists from the country's Shiite minority kept their five seats, Sunni religious groups lost eight seats in a sizable rejection by voters.

Meanwhile, liberal politicians who call for economic reform, more openness to the West and more freedoms gained one seat for a total of five.

Kuwait has no officially recognized parties. Candidates either belong to political groups, run independently or represent their tribes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Inquiring Minds Want to Know (part 2)

Words by Anna Leigh, Photos by NWB
When I moved to Kuwait a friend asked me "Do you ride to school on a camel?"--No, I don't

"Do you have to wear one of those sheet things"? says another friend.

"Abaya" I respond. "Yeah, that thing.
Do you?"--
No, I don't

"Will you have electricity?" asked another friend.
They seem to think this is a 3rd world country.

"Can your parents like, sell you into marriage or something now?"

"You'll still have internet right?"--
No one seems to get that this is a REALLY rich country.

"Are you forced to go to the mosque? Will they arrest you if you say Jew?" "Do they know what cars are, do they have them?"

"Aren't you at war?"

"Kuwait? Where's that?"

Sunday, May 10, 2009