Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kodak of the Mind

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

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

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

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

Sea side Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bathing Beauties of Eqypt

"Funky" things we saw in Eqypt

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

Monday, September 28, 2009

On Top of Mt Sinai

In this staring contest, my money is on the camel

This IS a bathroom. What a view!!

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

Fun in the Sun in Eqypt

Friday, September 25, 2009

Safe from the Land of Sand

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

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


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blasts from the Summer

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

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

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

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

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

Diving in Dahab

David and Anna pose with their instructor Islam.

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


My daily prayer: Let me be like a flower in the desert and bloom in the intense heat. Amen

Okay so I can talk big and brave and laugh at others, but when it comes down to it, I am paranoid. This morning at 2darkthirty, I was awakened by stomach cramps and chills and aches--in short, I thought for sure I had the H1N1 virus. All sorts of things went through my head: should I move out of the bed so David doesn't get it, will I have to stay home from school, should I go to school and hide in my office (seemed kinda dumb); will I have to lose a day's bonus pay (if we are in school every day we get a $350 bonus on the last day of our contract); will I have to go to the hospital...etc etc.

In short, I played right into the hands of the Media and all the bellringers here who are trying to get school closed.
Damn and I thought I was so tough.

My brilliant surgeon trained husband (no I didn't marry someone else, I'm joking) deduced that I didn't have a fever (by placing his hand on my forehead) and I knew that I could get out of bed if only until 10 am when my first class was done. Fortunatly by noon I was feeling better. And I kept all the food/liquid down that I consumed (on the sly of course because Ramadan is not quite yet over)

So all in all, I'll live to write another blog. And after tonight's Senior Iftar (word for breaking the fast) I will go home, put on my jammies and spend the night on the couch with the cat watching movies (Currently: Criminal Minds season 2--very good).

Next time, "they" won't get me so fast.

Monday, September 14, 2009

IN the Ocean--Part Two

Guest Writer
David O Brown

David takes a break from paddling around Lake Lida to write about diving in the Persian/Arabian Gulf

We did it - we came back alive from the ocean (actually the Gulf). On Friday we got up nice and early, got on a small boat and went into the Gulf for 35 miles to a small island called Qubber Island. It wasn't really an island - more like a dot of sand and rock with a cell phone tower and some beach umbrellas. Apparently, it's quite a party place, but at 10:00 in the morning during Ramadan it was empty.

We got all our equipment on and Eslam our guide told us the plan. We stepped into the water and practiced things like controlled descent, clearing our masks of water, out of air partner breathing. Then we swam. It was amazing. I was not expecting much as the ocean environment has been degraded here. Just recently a sewer plant broke down and released a bunch of raw sewage into the gulf. There has been a ban on beach swimming and a warning to all fish eaters for the last 2 weeks.

At the reef I was expecting lots of dead coral and few fish, but it wasn't bad. It was like being in an aquarium. Imagine all the fish you see in a dentist's office aquarium and that's what we saw. The visability was about 5-6 yards so it was good. A couple times we lost the guide as we were dawdling looking at something - that was a bit unnerving but he would come back or we would catch up. The worst thing that happened was I was starting down and my mask wasn't on tight enough so it flooded. That made me a little nervous,but I was just at the surface so I went back up and cleared it.

We dove for about half an hour and rested on the boat for a half an hour and then back in. We practiced things we had learned in the pool and then swam for about a half an hour. Back to the boat and then anouther hour ride back to land. It was a tiring day. Saturday the same thing, but this time we had quite a strong current so for our second dive we drifted and because it didn't take so much air we went for an hour.

So now Anna and I are certified open water divers ! Next stop--the Red Sea in Egypt. I bought some underwater cameras so my next post should have some pictures.

So I say this to my ten year old self - I did it - I'm a scuba diver.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nearly In the Ocean

Guest Writer
David O Brown

When I was ten, I wanted to be a scuba diver. I am now 50 and finally I'm making that dream come true.
As soon as we got back to Kuwait, I went to a local hotel/resort and signed up for diving lessons. Anna and I spent two sessions in the classoom learning what to do. Then, we had 5 lessons in the swimming pool. This has been one of the coolest things I've done though at times it has been a bit sobering. When we were learning about nitrogen narcosis and the bends, it gave me pause that a person could die doing this.

In the pool we have learned how to get in and out of the water - it's a lot harder than it sounds. We learned how to take our masks off and on underwater. There was alot to learn - like the 5 ways to get to the surface. One of the biggest things to learn was to keep breathing. When you are underwater and hold your breath, your lungs have a tendency to collapse. This apparently is a bad thing.

This has also been fun as I'm also spending time with Anna. She's done well. She is much better at hovering than I am. -Hovering - using just the breath in and out staying at one level in the water. I kept bobing up and down.
Now all is left to do is two ocean dives and then it's off to Egypt at the end of September to dive in the Red Sea.

I knew I'd do it - I just didn't think it would take 40 years.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

LOVED THIS! Thanks Mr Carlin

Yep another glorious Lake Lida sunset...sigh

As a somewhat rebellious teenager (okay so I thought I was but I really wasn't!) I loved the Albums of George Carlin. I almost had the 7 Dirty words memorized.
My college sister Anita (of the FABULOUS HERDINA CLAN!) sent me this recently. I thought it was good words to end the summer (as in North America you're celebrating LABOR DAY right?!)

Sent with LOVE (see the last line!)

George Carlin's Views on Aging

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions.
'How old are you?' 'I'm four and a half!' You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.
You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.
'How old are you?' 'I'm gonna be 16!' You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life ! You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony.YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!
But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling.. What's wrong? What's changed?
You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone...

But! wait!! ! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!
So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and make it to 60.
You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!
You get into ! your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; 'I Was JUST 92.'

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. 'I'm 100 and a half!'
May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay them.

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.

3.Keep learning. ! Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever, even ham radio. Never let the brain idle. 'An idle mind is the devil's workshop.' And the devil's family name is Alzheimer's.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6... The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love , whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever.Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips.. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
And if you don't send this to at least 8 people - who cares?But do share this with someone. We all need to live life to its fullest each day!!

Welcome to the Family Gracee Mae

My great neice SonyaMae and her husband James, just had their fourth daughter, Gracee Mae. She is pictured on the top picture with the "first picture" of Gracee Mae taken this summer..the new 4-D sonogram process. Also in the above photo is her loving sister, Tara and one of her twins.
This makes my 14th great-great grandneice/nephew. She joins the 19 great neices and nephews and my 9 neices and nephews. Howard and Esther would be so proud!!!

In Honor of my Muslim Friends and Ramadan

Here is the evening call to prayer as heard outside our school last year. This is the last call of the evening. It's truly a beautiful sound and definately part of our culture here in Kuwait. This one's for Mohammed, Yusuf, the Duquow sisters and Miss D. Salam Allekum.

The wind in my hair and in her...

This morning, a group of AIS friends and teachers went on a boat cruise of the Arabian Gulf (now have you been following along you know there is another name for this Gulf printed on most maps outside Kuwait..if not, then you'll have to look it up)

There's only so many shots I can show you of the Gulf and the Kuwait City skyline so I have chosen two of my favorites:
The first one is me and a Dhow boat with the skyline in the background. After a year of "chasing" dhows, I was able to get several shots of one close up. Including one with me in it (thanks MF for taking the shot).
The second one speaks for itself. Marilyn Monroe would be honored.

For a Brief Shining Moment

It was Anna's friend Jack's 17th birthday last night so Anna and "the Boys" joined us for a dinner. Okay, so A, pictured with Anna in the photo, made the dinner. He's a MARH-VEL-OUS chef. His secret is that he's been helping his chef since he was a baby. His mother is a German diplomat and he's attended more schools with more initials than 10 people put together. Bright kid, gonna go places.He's also the author of the wonderful piece on the Saudi Malls and was angry that I didn't give him credit (SO THANKS ALEX!!!)

Hearing the laughter and thoughts of teenagers at our supper table last night was wonderful. Life IS Good.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Random Ramadan Greetings

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking and "marital relations" from sunup to sundown. Being a guest in the Muslim country, we are expected to do the same. Well, at least the eating and drinking part.
NOW BEFORE YOU THINK that I am going to get into WAY TOO MUCH detail about our personal lives, be assured, this is not a Dr Phil session.

I am just thinking about what people give up for Ramadan and thinking about how Westerners would do with being asked to make these sacrifices.

And I am currently using David's computer at work and found the poem he wrote me for my birthday in March. It's pretty "steamy" so maybe you shouldn't read it until after sundown...

I share it with you proudly..

Elizabeth Barett Browning once wrote a poem called How Do I Love Thee and several years ago at a fund raising event in front of 250 of Nadine’s closest friends I read that poem for my wife.
I would like to do the same again now except I’ve taken some liberties with the words of the poem.

How do I love thee?

I love thee the way you have helped me grow into a complete person.
I once was a hermit – now I can actually go to parties and talk to people

I love thee the way you have supported me.
You selflessly gave up a great job so I could go back to school to become a teacher

I love thee the way you have given me time
You give me time to play at soccer, play golf and to work odd hours in theatre

I love thee the way you have changed for me
Imagine – from a small town girl to a world traveler. When you met me at college orientation, did you in your wildest dreams think you’d be living in Kuwait

I love thee the way you are the mother of our children
Ben – what a challenge – he has taught me so much about life – though there were days – thank you for him.
Anna – what a goon – a girl was an entirely different kind of challenge.
Thank you for her.

I love thee for being my companion for 32 years
The bad times – your parents passing away – my Mom’s Alzhimer’s – a difficult move to Pelican Rapids - skiing in Colorado – my buying you a vaccum for our 1st anniversary

The good times – traveling England for an entire month – riding the train in Canada – teaching at the same school- spending time at the cabin chili beans and all

These are but a few ways I love thee and if God choose I shall love thee better after another fifty years

Hallmark doesn't even come close...

All is Well

NOTE: Due to the crazy traffic here, Mr. Brown doesn't ride a bike much, unlike his life in Pelican Rapids where you would see him on his bike 12 months a year. This is a borrowed bike we used on our trip last year to Failaka Island.

In case you were worried, my husband has made a full recovery. Now we're just sweating because of the heat!!
Thanks for caring.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When is it more than "Just" the Flu?

We're living under a real threat of closure here at AIS Kuwait due to the H1N1 virus. Some schools have closed, our pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes won't open until next week. Rumors are flying that the Minister of the Ministers (a real position) wants all schools to close until after Ramadan (September 27). Every day we're open is a "gift" in the eyes of the administrators.

I understand that this is a serious situation, please don't get me wrong. Having a pandemic that has travelled the world in this short-time isn't something to be taken lightly. What I am concerned about it the way rumors fly (I hear that schools in Saudi and Qatar aren't opening until January? Do why are we open?) AND the fact that there are parents who are keeping their children at home because of rumors and unconfirmed reports.

Friends who live in Seoul South Korea (the former Kuwait BFFs for those who follow this blog regularily) have been out of school for one week already. Not sure of when they will reopen.

We are supposed to limit personal contact, hugging and kissing, etc. This IS A CHALLENGE in this country as the accepted greeting for people is a kiss on both cheeks upon meeting (for men and women BUT NOT men AND women...although I did see some high school students breaking that tradition...still confused!). And we're supposed to wash our hands (always a good thing..remember to sing "Happy Birthday" twice through!) and use bacterial sanitizer whenever possible. (!) Oh and if we feel bad, go home, take an asprin and call your doctor.

This afternoon, my spouse, who is NOT a hypochrondriac, came up to me and said he wasn't feeling well and needs to go home. Do I worry? Do I take him in a screaming taxi ride to the clinic? Do I make him chicken noodle soup and read him stories? I really don't know.

It just makes one wonder if world wide media (and web) coverage is always such a good thing?!

What do you think???