Saturday, October 30, 2010

A glimpse of my life

This is our Sri Lankan maid, Mali. She's been working with us for three years now. She's a sweetheart if not the best cleaner. She's been using the Pelican Rapids Community Cookbook and coming up with some tasty treats! Mali lives here in Q8 while her teenage children live in her homeland with her mother. She only gets to see them every other summer due to finances. Last summer she asked to borrow the equivalent of $350 so she could fly home to see her children. How could we refuse?

Green Grass is a rare commodity here in Kuwait. We've got artificial grass installed in an area for students to relax during lunch breaks. The site of a worker actually sweeping the grass the other day made me laugh...

More Beauty

Continued shots of beauty from the Arab Headquarters Building...

This room was made entirely of beautiful carved wood imported from Syria. It's totally amazing. A lovely place to have an important meeting! I'm always fascinated by mosaic tiles. These two shots were taken in another "important" meeting room.
The reflection is off an immaculate shiny marble table. You can't tell from this photo but the shape of the table is slightly diamond-shaped so that when everyone is seated around the table, you can see all members present. Very Politically Correct!

The Arab Headquarters Building, blends modern architectural techniques with traditional artisan crafts. It is home to four major Arab organizations: The Arab Fun for Social and Economic Development. OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries), the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corportation and the Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport company. The building is a working museum and the sites are truly amazing. Recently I went on a tour of this marvel and here are a few of my favorite shots.
This beautiful crafted bronze table features a beautiful sign which says, "no smoking"
This lovely piece of antique Moroccan furniture is in the main lobby. Of course I wasn't supposed to sit on it, but I found that out after the picture was taken!

This is one of the hundreds of beautiful paintings. The amazing thing about this piecutre is that inbetween the colors are all the words of the Koran. (double click for close up)

Friday, October 29, 2010

My 2nd Favorite Breakfast place in the World

If you're around me in PR in the summer, you've heard me say that Riverside Coffee is my favorite breakfast place IN THE WORLD. It is...but I do have a close second for totally different reasons. Pictured below is the Layali Al Noor restaurant serving "Chinese, Indian and African specialities" (that's what their sign says anyhow). It's a true Hole in the Wall restaurant. A group of friends meet here every Thursday morning for the Special Indian breakfast (see below). The total cost is about $1.98 and it keeps me full for the entire day. The place is SO SMALL (how small is it? you ask) that there are only 3 tables with four chairs each. The other day we had to eat outside. So picture a table and 6 chairs in the alley to the right of the restaurant. That's where we dined. The kitchen is no bigger than a bathroom and the Otter Tail County health inspectors would probably close it down after looking at this picture. But I've not gotten sick yet and they serve the best food.
So-what IS the special Indian breakfast? Well, actually I have no clue what I'm eating (part of the charm of living overseas!) This is a picture of the Special breakfast. The dough-y looking this is like a cross between a pancake and a piece of lefse, the "soup" (which isn't soup) is made of lentil beans and something else and the tea/chai is..simply wonderful.
While I dream of Riverside Coffee and the sweet rolls, this is what keeps me content from September through June!

2010 Academic Games-AIS style

Last weekend, I the pleasure of hosting the Academic Games event here at AIS. We had teams from Kuwait (2), Alexandria Eqypt and Muscat Oman. The Oman team (pictured below in their team shirts) were a gracious group, despite the fact that we (AIS) was unable to get one of their team members into the country because of visa issues. I look pretty good considering I've got "egg on my face". (seriously it wasn't my problem but I sure felt like do-doo) This is the AIS full team. There were 3 teams of four from each school. Anna's team (AIS #1) took 2nd place overall with Anna taking first place in the Science Olympiad and coming in 2nd in the Spelling Olympiad after losing a 15 round spell-off with a boy from the other Kuwait school.
Here is Anna displaying her fine Engineering skills. She didn't win this event.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Postcard from Kuwait

Wish I could be here relaxing. Soon we'll have a 11 day vacation (to celebrate Eid Al Adha). Yesterday we found out that we're being given four more days of break. Allah must think we're working too hard.
Sorry dear ones haven't written much lately

I am up to my eyeballs in planning an Academic Games tournament

Haven't been up to much lately but work and sleep

Oh, did catch up on the new season of Dexter (great series!)

Anna and David are good...busy busy busy busy busy

Our health is good, the weather is getting better (only in the 90s now)

We're happy and sound (for now)

Love to you all

The Browns

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cul-tchure in Kuwait

Back in the teaching mode, I've been doing a lot of research for my 10th grade Introduction to Fine Arts class. I'm currently teaching a unit called "How can I find Art in my own Backyard" which is designed to have students realize that there IS indeed Art in Kuwait. They just finished a project where they researched Kuwaiti artists and gave reports on them. Very exciting stuff.

Pictured below are four pieces of the over 30,000 pieces of the Al-Sabah collection, which is art collected from Spain to China from the 1st - 14th century. The collection, started by Sheik Nasser and Sheika Hussah (members of the Royal family), was fortunately on it's way out of the country during the 1990 invasion. Most of the collection has survived (thanks largely to the Russians who kept it safely).

Monday night I was at a Art Lecture at the Dar Al-Athar Al-Ishlamiyah (the DAR for short) which is the cultural organization that manages the private collection and also has free lectures on Art, Music and other cool things. As I was listening to the lecture on Ceramics from the Middle East, I was overwhelmed by the thought that most Americans (and Canadians and maybe Germans) only think of Iraq or Afghanistan as places for war, not for the cultural heart of Islamic art that it is.

I'm learning how much Kuwait has to offer in the way of Arts, right along with my students. As my friend AH the Art Teacher said to me the other day, "See Nadine, you're not done with Kuwait yet".

I just took a minute to google "Destruction of Art during Invasion in Kuwait" for more information. Here's a bit of it for your edification:

Shaykha Hussah believes Iraqi leaders knew of the KNM and DAI collections in advance, for it took only until October for the Iraqi representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to state that according to the terms of the 1954 Hague Convention— which exhorts combatant nations to remove art and antiquities from the theater of war—most of the KNM collections, all of the DAl's, and several hundred thousand books from the library of Kuwait University had all been moved to Baghdad. (In contrast, the less well known collections of the private Tareq Rajab Museum remained successfully hidden throughout the war.)

As Shaykha Hussah and the museum's curators later learned, Iraq sent a small group of archeologists from Baghdad's Iraq Museum with instructions to pack up the art collections as quickly as possible. Lacking proper museum-quality packing materials, the archeologists bought metal trunks by the dozen in the Kuwait market and stuffed them with often fragile collections of ceramics, metalwork and glass. In the absence of foam pads, the packers used rare medieval textiles to cushion one object from another during the 500-kilometer (350-mi) ride, over rough roads, to Baghdad. Once there, the cases were opened and their contents recorded to create an inventory that was later used in the recovery effort.

Amazingly, of approximately 7000 art objects moved, only about 200 were damaged or broken. And Katie Marsh, DAI's London director who coordinated the post-war recovery, says that of these "very few, perhaps 10," were beyond repair. Especially surprising were the glass objects, which had no new breaks—although several were found to have collapsed when the intense heat en route melted the resin that had been used to mend them in the past. Most of the carpets were found in perfect condition, in part because a textile conservator had come to Kuwait just before the invasion to examine and repair each carpet and wrap it in a specially-made linen case. Somewhat paradoxically, the worst superficial damage was suffered by the hardest objects—stone architectural fragments—because they were not individually wrapped, and they jostled against each other in the trucks.

DAI's library on Islamic civilization and art, estimated at more than 5000 volumes, was trundled off with similar haste. Groups of books were tied with cord, loaded onto trucks and later stacked in the basement of the Iraq Museum. "It was heartbreaking to see how filthy they were when we found them," recalls Marsh, "but [the Iraqi archeologists] did the best job they could under the circumstances."

In contrast to the clearing of the DAI, the Iraqi treatment of the KNM collections was less systematic. Although much of the archeological, ethnographic and historical collections went off to Baghdad, some items, from wooden Bedouin bowls to ornamental weapons and silver and gold jewelry, simply went missing.

"The collection was never systematically looted," says Marsh. The director of the KNM, Fahed al-Wohaibi, agrees, and believes that such items were likely taken by isolated Iraqi soldiers. Not so fortunate was the modern painting collection: Only a few paintings were taken to Baghdad.

The KNM buildings remained largely unaffected until the last two weeks of the occupation, in February 1991, when three of the KNM's five buildings, the old dhow and the planetarium "were deliberately set on fire," recounts al-Wohaibi, citing later investigations that revealed the use of gasoline or kerosene. The fire also gutted the interior of the DAI, destroying the only work of art left there, a massive pair of 14th-century carved wooden doors from Morocco that had proved too cumbersome to remove from the building. The fire in the KNM buildings destroyed remaining archeological collections and about half of the remaining paintings; the other paintings were smoked-damaged. The only significant collection that was entirely spared, al-Wohaibi says, was one of decorated wooden doors from the houses of pre-industrial Kuwait.

*NOTE: I stood in awe of these doors on Monday evening.

In March 1991, according to United Nations Resolution 687, the Iraqis were obliged to return all property that had been removed from Kuwait. With the UN facilitating the restitution, the first items to be returned were gold bars from the Bank of Kuwait, an exchange that took place in a portable shelter at the Iraqi-Saudi border.