Friday, April 30, 2010

If It's In Print, It Must Be True

Every Friday, I wake up early and go to breakfast with colleagues. David wakes up later, then walks to the local bakkala (store) to purchase a copy of the Arab Times. Reading the newspaper keeps us up to date with Kuwaiti and world events. It's filled with world news, pictures, etc. Once there were even pictures of flooding Fargo.
But, by far, the best part is the writing style of local events. Below are,
verbatium, a couple of my favorite articles from today's edition. Enjoy!

A Kuwaiti man who was mercilessly beaten and suffered a deep cut on the head, was admitted to a hospital. According to reports, there were misunderstandings between the man and his wife and she summoned her relatives and brothers to settle the dispute. The wife, after a heated argument, left the house and returned with her brothers.
Police have summoned his wife, her relatives and brothers for investigation.

Hawalli (a suburb of Kuwait city) security men arrested an Eqyptian man and his Sri Lankan girlfriend for committing immoral acts in the basement of a cooperative society. As soon as the Operations Room* received information, police raided the place, arrested the couple redhanded and referred them to authories. The duo will be deported.
*NOTE: We have no idea what the operations room is. It could be police headquarters, it could be the headquarters of the Kuwaiti version of the CIA, it could be like in the 60s comedy, Get Smart, where people have to enter several levels and talk on their shoes. It IS however, an IMPORTANT place because they are forever responding to things.

Security men have arrested seven homosexuals for wearing indecent clothes while sea swimming in Sharq (A suburb). After receiving information on a group of homosexuals clad in indecent clothes, the security men rushed to the location and found some of the homosexuals swimming and others on the seashore. They were referred to authorities for the necessary legal action.

Two Kuwaiti youths filed a complaint accusing the police officers of stealing their air gun and a bird's cage while checking their car at a checkpoint. The officers however denied the accusation.
The case has been referred to the Abdulla port police station for further investigation.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Creative License

This is a story written by Anna for an assignment. She has taken liberty with some of the facts. I'll let you decide what is fact and what is fiction. Overall, I'd give her an "A" for thinking outside the box.

by Anna Leigh Brown

As I recall one of the greater fears of my childhood was 'family time'. My elder brother and I lived a life of almost barbarian freedom. Now, that is not to say my parents didn't love us and care a great deal about us, but they were busy with other things. The result was that my brother and I came to see family as those people you bump into in the mornings when you're both trying to get to the fridge. Thus, it was with both apprehension and confusion that we viewed 'family time'. Now, before we get too far into this, let me set one thing straight. I LOVE my family, I do. And in those spare moments of interaction in the time it takes us to sort out who wanted milk and who wanted butter, we get along splendidly. However, when you force four independent creatures to sit down around one table and "talk about our day", nothing good is to come of it.

I suppose in many ways I had the typical white bread American family, gruff father, sullen teenage brother, and doting mother. However, the added dose of insanity to each of my family members made our weekly 'family time' seem particularly tramautic.

One event which still burns vividly in my memory was the occasion when my mother stole the Monopoly board and locked herself in the bathroom for six hours.

The evening began like any other, my brother in the basement, lurking; my father out on the porch, reading; and I in my bedroom, talking to crayons. However, from the morning all of us knew what was coming. My mother's frequent hints that 'we hadn't really seen each other in forever, and wasn't it nice to gather around as a family?' left little room for doubt in our heads. But in a manner of stubbornness that would have made any New Orleans civic engineer proud, we all refused to see the coming crisis. We each took our refuge and hoped that the storm would pass us by, ignore us and leave us alone and safe in our puddle of isolation. My mother is a crafty hunter though and knows the ways of her prey well. She managed to lure us all out by turning on the television in the living room to The Simpsons, as show much beloved by my father, brother and I and merely tolerated by my mother. At the first commercial break she muted the television and the realization that we had been trapped descended upon us all.

"Well, here we are gather together as a family," if you listened closely enough you could hear the sinister laughter under my mother's words, "wouldn't it be nice to play Monopoly?" Monopoly. It sounded like a cell door slamming shut. When the sentence was cards, or even a puzzle, you could be certain of an escape in an hour, maybe less. But Monopoly was a different story altogether. My mother loved Monopoly with a fanatical passion that would have frightened the most fundamental of Jesus Freaks. She proudly raced around the board as the race car, charging exorbitant rent and pulling off business deals that could only be described as blatant usury. In former life, I am certain that my mother was a loan shark. The worst part for the rest of the family was not her inevitable triumph, we had long grown accustomed to that. It was that she never allowed any of us to give up, we had to go bankrupt in a "proper rule abiding fashion". Practically speaking, this meant that any game of Monopoly was sure to go on until at least 2 am, usually later.

My father was able to develop a tactic my brother and I were never able to quite master. While he bought many properties and never appeared to take any risky moves he somehow was able to manipulate his dice rolls to always land on the properties owned by my mother, and usually those with the highest rent. He managed find his refuge around 10 usually. My brother's method was to simply buy only two properties, the two most useless properties in the game. His income nonexistent, he simply meandering the board waiting for the slaughter. I could never quite take the defeat though, and even though I intellectually knew my mother was going to win, I refused to give up in the same manner as my brother and father. My defeat was always long-drawn, bloody and humiliating.

Until this night. I had been planning. I had been waiting. In fact, I had spent those hours in my room discussing the game plan with my crayons.

My mother distributed the tokens, handing the dog to my father, the top hat to my brother and as she began to reach for my usual shoe I stopped her. Instead, I reached for the cannon and set it on GO. She understood my challenge and smiled with menace placing her race car next to my piece.

From the first roll of the dice, we all knew this game was going to be different. Within 15 minutes my father had gone bankrupt, and his properties found themselves under my control. My brother was eliminated soon after. The battle raged until just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. My mother rolled, an 8. She slowly moved her race car, trembling with the terror at the approaching square. Park place, $200. My mother said nothing at first, she didn't even move. Then with a terrible cry of agony she grabbed the Monopoly board and ran into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. I merely collapsed on the table, I had won. My mother's regime was over, Long Live the King.

It was the last time Monopoly was ever played in our house, and when we left America and came to Kuwait my mother left the game in the attic. Fortunately, she had discovered a new passion, The Friday Market.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shining Stars in the Universe

This week I discovered two things about former students

1) AD, one of my favorites and a true star in life, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Germany next year. I have known that ATD had the certain spark of life that only few have since I first worked with her in 4th grade as "Dorothy" in my production of Wizard of OZ. She was remarkable then and continues to shine. Congrats girl... I am so proud of you.

2) On a much sadder note, KW, a true, unique bright witty, smart, one of a kind gal, died of a sudden illness. KW was the kind of student that always makes teaching exciting--you are never quite sure what will come out of her mouth. I loved her in the classroom and although I didn't keep up with her life following graduation, I always thought highly of her.

Both ATD and KW were in attendance at the "Now that you're 21, you can buy Mrs Brown a beer" party that I hosted for former students at the cabin last summer. (see photo above)

Students never truly know what a mark they leave on teacher's hearts. Glad that I got a chance to chat with KW last summer and glad that ATD still keeps me in the loop of her life. And I'm also glad that the former students pictured above thought enough of me to return for a social call. Looking forward to having the sequel party this summer.

Sympathies to her family and friends back in PR. Continue to be bold, KW and thanks for sharing your brilliant light with us, if only briefly.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Making a Difference

As a part of our school's CAS hours (Community, Action, Service) each 11th grader is required to put in so many hours working on a project of their choice. I've had several students work with me on various projects so that they could see what's all involved in the planning and execution of a school event instead of just participating in it.
Today, Anna and friends (including me) helped make Kuwait a better place. At least for a couple hours.
It's no secret that Kuwait's standards of cleanliness in their parks and streets are, ah, not exactly the same as North America. To be blunt, there's trash everywhere. One sort of gets used to it, which isn't an easy thing for me to stay. I appreciate that people have different standards of living but I will never understand why people can't throw garbage in the garbage cans when provided.
So for her project, Anna decided to clean up a park that she spends a lot of time in with her friends. She even encouraged four friends to help her. Two of the friends actually helped, the other two weren't quite able to manage the act of picking up garbage and placing it in trashbags. They believed their skills were put to better use getting coffee and water for the rest of us...for two hours! Oh well, everyone has a different way of looking at life, I guess.
Actually, I only lasted two hours myself...the "excuse" I had was that I have grades to do (which I STILL DO and shouldn't be writing on this blog instead!)
When they were finished, I know they were proud. There was a considerable difference in the park.
I am very proud of my daughter. Proud that she had the idea to make a difference. Proud that living in this lifestyle/attitude of "Why should I bother with cleaning it up when there are people who do that for a living" hasn't fully affected her. And I'm proud that she was able to work at it for four hours when her mother whimped out after two.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

10000 words

Below are but a few of the pictures from our Spring Break to Jordan. Of course, as with any trip, the pictures never tell the true story. But the ones listed below give you a good idea of the wonder of Jordan.
Unfortunately, we were having camera trouble and so some of the really good shots I COULD have had, didn't turn out. So they are logged in my memory as Kodak of the Mind shots. It was a good personal lesson though, to understand that it's not always important to take a photograph to have the memory.
...and if you are able to travel in your life to Jordan, I HIGHLY recommend it!

Jordan Part Final

I was literally hanging on the side of a cliff to get this shot, but it was worth it!

Jordan Vacation Part Three

Anna poses with a mannequin...modeling a distasha (what the males wear)
The view of the Promised Land that Moses supposedly saw

Amazing temples and carved sandstone

These are two Bedouin's my National Geographic photo moment.

Vacation Pictures Jordan Part Two

This is one of the smaller groups that wanted to have their picture taken with "Anna-the movie star"
This is a view into the vastness of Petra. David, friend SV and I sat here for two hours in utter silence except for donkey braying and Bedouin children in the far off distance. Amazing. The Bedoins lived here for several years but were resettled (sound familiar to North Americans?) Some families have returned.

Kuwait friends AD and SV along with David and our new Bedouin friends. Note SV holding up the Jordan travel manual. It's good to have a guidebook.

The Family in Jerash, site of several dozen Roman ruins. Note: I am really not that short, David is standing on a pillar, I am on the ground!

Jordan Part one- The Photos

The dreamsicle like walls of Petra caves are amazing to see.

In the foreground, you can barely see me on a donkey (family members-Note the "Esther" wave). In the background is one of the MANY carved temples throughout Petra.

Anna relaxing in the Dead Sea. A very surreal experience. Isreal is in the background.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Full Vacation story Jordan Easter break 2010


We flew into Amman, which looks a little like San Francisco, lots of hills and lots and lots of people. No where in any of my trip reading did it mention that this was a hilly city. Good thing I like to walk up hills!
We stayed at a modest hostel, which turned out to be perfect for us. What a good way to introduce Anna to hostel life which offers inexpensive housing, friendly interesting people and a way to see many things in a short time.

After looking around Amman for a day, which is very different than Kuwait in a more-alive sort of way, we had dinner with my friends from Kuwait. They were in the same hostel, which was serendipity not planned. It was good to see familiar faces.

We visited Jeresh, a fascinating city of Roman ruins. It was my first experience with Roman ruins (if you don't count the Roman Collesium in Rome) and they were fascinating. I know I mentioned this in an earlier blog but I'm still trying to get my head around the experience of Anna being followed around the place by Arab school girls who seems absolutely intriguied by my white daughter.

"Hello, can I take your picture?" "what's your name?" "You are so pretty".
After about the 10th time it was funny, after the 20th time it got a little scary. I asked Anna if she resembled some famous hip hop singer I was unaware of. We befriended (and somewhat adopted) this fine Canadian lad who was on a 45 day trek around the Middle East. He was in need of some parenting (so I thought...okay so he was Ben's age and I had a weak moment). It ended up that he was with us for the next 3 days which was fun. He's hopefully headed off to Japan next year to teach and as Anna has proclaimed that's her next destination, it's always good to have a contact!

The next day we headed off on an all day adventure which took us to Madaba (city of Mosaics), Mount Nebo (where Moses saw the promised land), the Dead Sea (yes, you really do float and not sink), Shobruk castle (a truly interesting stronghold on top of a mountain with a spectacular view), tea with a very fascinating older bedoin man ( who got my husband up dancing!) ending in Wadi Musa, home of Petra.

We regrouped with the friends from Q8 and spent the day wandering through the desert and truly unbelieveable caves and carved sandstone structures in the valley. The pictures don't do it justice, but I completely understand why it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World (at least according to this website I found). Our friend Aaron decided that he wanted to see Aaron's tomb (his namesake) which was a 3 hour trek into the desert, so off we headed. Fortunately (for me) after about 2 hours of walking, his wife decided she was way too pregnant to continue (she's a PE teacher who is in great shape but she had a moment of wisdom). David gallently elected to stay back with her and I joined in to provide some female bonding. (ha...I was tired of walking too!)

So Anna, Jake (Aaron's son) the canadian and Aaron continued to climb up and up and up to eventually see the tomb. Guess it was pretty cool. While they were gone, the three of us enjoyed two hours of almost complete silence other than the occasional sound of donkey's braying echoing off the cliffs and random bedoin children playing. It was an eerie, magical time.

We returned to Amman the next day via a public bus which was quite the experience. Public buses in Jordan don't leave a destination until every single seat in the bus is filled. And if that means that we all CRAM TOGETHER, then so be it. David struck up a conversation with an intelligent, somewhat boring Dutch guy and I pretended to sleep and not get sick from the fast moving bus, unairconditioned bus. Anna dutifully buried her nose in a book. She's an amazing traveller who can put up with almost anything silently.

Our last day in Amman, Anna and I had the Turkish Spa Experience complete with soaking in a steam room, getting our dead skin scrubbed off and a full body oil massage. It was okay, maybe they were a little too exhuberant in scrubbing off the dead skin for me. But now I can say I've had the experience.

Jordan is a wonderful place full of diversity both in the land and people, with enough Biblical history to be amazing and enough variety to keep even the hardened traveller excited. It was truly the perfect place to be on vacation for me. I needed a real rest of body, mind and soul after an exhausting three months of work. It was just the medicine I needed.