Friday, December 31, 2010

May You Make All the Right Moves in 2011

thanks JWK for this photo! Love it

It's December 31st here in Kuwait and as usual, I am pondering my year in recap. Here are some of the highlights from 2010:
* Completed year two in Kuwait and started year three. Life at AIS is very good for us all. If someone would have told me back in 2008 that I would be here a total of four years, I would have laughed in their face. It's true what they say-Never say Never!
*Anna had a great school year complete with lots of "victories" in her sports and academic adventures. She's having a bit of a struggle trying to decide where to attend university but I know she will make the right move for her.
*Ben and Jolene are living happily in Alexandria. Jolene is working and Ben is finishing up his degree in Law Enforcement. They've had their share of ups and downs (like any newly married couple) but he seems to be happy and content. Humdullah!!
*David seems to be enjoying teaching Drama more each day. He works hard (that's nothing new) on getting the right material, presenting the right information. I am so thankful that he decided to be a teacher back in 1991. That was DEFINITELY the right move for him!
*Our passports have new "Decorations" after this year with trips to Jordan (3 times for me), Oman, Spain, Gibraltar (it's a separate British colony but they didn't stamp the passport),
Germany, Holland. On deck for next year (inshallah) are Canada, Indonesia, Cypress and....
*This completes our last full year of having children in the house. We're experiencing all the emotions that empty nesters go through (fear, happiness, insecurity, relief) yet don't exactly know what the right move for us will be in 2012 after we finish here. The Muslims believe that All is Written for you, Fate, will determine one's life plan. We're relying on Faith and Fate and yes, our brains and hearts, to tell us where our footprints will be left next.

In short, I'm happy being Right here Right Now. Guess that's all anyone can ask for...
Wishing you all a Joyous, Safe, Peaceful New Years Eve and hoping that
YOU will make ALL THE RIGHT MOVES also.

Love and Hugs from the desert
NWB and fam

Thursday, December 30, 2010

While reading the Arab times..

NOTE: It is a common belief here in the Middle East that the EVIL EYE is something you need protection from. Items like above are sold everywhere. You are warned not to do anything or the "Evil Eye" will be on you. Now, as North Americans, we know this is an "wives tale" type of belief (or is it?) Still, we've got three of these protection devices in our house! Maybe we should share one of ours with the person on

From the Thursday December 30th edition of the
Arab Times
(no words were changed...typed verbatim)


An angry Kuwaiti man walked into the Jarah police station and , what is believed to the first incident of its kind in Kuwait, narrated a very strange incident also the first of its kind, and threatened to kill his neighbor saying the man has a "evil" eye and has caused him many unsustainable problems. He also sought police help to prevent him committing the crime.
The man added he renovated his house and it caught fire. He went on to say he bought a new car for his son and the engine gave way and then his wife gave birth to twins and they died.
Police could do nothing but still they summoned the neighbor and narrated the story.
He denied the charge and said all that he can do now is everytime he sees the neighbor he will say "Allah Bless You".
The problem was solved amicably.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More Random-ness of Spain Part 4

David joining in the fun at the Flamenco dancing in the Spanish caves of Granada. Yes he's got great moves...oh, and he can dance well too!
Viewing the Flamenco dancing was the cooolest thing ever..
The Happy family on the Rock of Gibraltar! THE Rock of Gibraltar...amazing!

The Almighty Alhambra

The Alhambra is, according to the guide books, the "most striking preserved Arabian palace in the entire world". It's magnificent, huge and filled with photo opportunities.

Single Shots that made me Smile

Anna running along the Atlantic Sea in Spain. Can't tame the sea, can't tame the child. While driving along the Spanish A4, I saw this old abandoned house along the road. After making three turn arounds so we could get close enough to break through the fence (oops, I confess) Anna and I were able to sneak around the place offering us cool photo opportunities. Here's one of my favorites,
Just one of the many stained glass windows in the Cathedral in Sevilla.

Another shot of the Sevilla cathedral.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Random Spain-ness Part 3

We toured the Rock of Gilbratar and saw these interesting Apes...ah, that would be the one on the left of the photo... ;-) The caves of St Michaels on the island of Gibraltar were a complete and wonderful surprise. Stalagtites (sp?) are a wonder of nature.

This marble marker just cracked me up...there is also another one stating that they stood on a spot and "made friends with the apes".

COMPLETE subject switch: we wandered into a graveyard one day on our travels and had an interesting side tour. They bury their dead in above ground, three-high vaults. Some of this were beautifully decorated like the one below.

Random Spain-ness Part 2

Billboard advertising the area Bull Fight. Sorry we missed it (not)

Who says the Spanish don't have a sense of humor? At the top is a thong which says "I Love Sevilla". (No I didn't buy it!)

Beautiful tile works are everywhere, not just for decoration but also for advertisement.

Random Spain-ness Part 1

While strolling through a park, we came upon these exceptional trees. Yes that's Anna and I standing at the base of one of them.
This delightful cervacina(restaurant that serves beer) was a great spot for lunch. Notice the following in this photo: top-smoked "legs" of pigs complete with hoof ready for dining; posters of flamenco dancers and bullfighters adorning the walld; beautiful tile along the background. LOVEd this place.

The happy family poses in front of the Sevilla cathedral. This is the 3rd largest Cathedral in the world after the Vatican's St Peter's and St Paul's in London. Yep, I've been to all three!
I love this photo. It was taken along the side of the cathedral. The picture of Mary was for an exhibition and the marble statue is of some saint (I think). I liked the composition of it. EMM-I hope you're still proud of your photography student.

Spain Christmas 2010

So many images (over 920!), so many memories. I've chosen a dozen to share with you. Sometime I'd be happy to share the entire 500 with you. (edited down from over 1000)
Yes my pointer finger is sore!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And Me Without my Camera...

Went up into these mountains today. The Athletes skiied, the photographer drank cocoa!
We saw these Flamenco dancers. They were fantastic and interesting. Even David joined in the dancing!

The Alahambra residence...uffda..amazing. LOTS of photos to come on this one

The main Cathedral in Granada, this photo offers only a brief glimpse


Christmas Morning
Grenada Spain
8 am
After breakfast where we left the sleeping Anna safely locked in our hotel room, David and I set out to find a Christmas morning mass. Now, you know I´m not Catholic but I wanted to hear Christmas music and since Spain is primarily Catholic, the odds were good that there would be a morning service.
As we left the hotel, David urged me NOT to bring the camera because we would be spotted as tourists and surely not get into the church (What?! God doesn´t like photos?) But I could see his logic so I agreed.
We walked, and walked and walked around the town. It seemed like no one else had the same idea as we literally were on the streets of Grenada ( a city with over 300,000 people) ALONE. The weather was beautiful and the sites were magnificent. But alas, you´ll have to take my word for it, as my trusty Canon was sleeping too.
We saw the street cleaners busily working (this is indeed a very clean city), we saw the shops with their holiday marketing signage (not too tacky...America could take a lesson here) and we crawled our way through a beautiful old hospital (which was open for business...we think) FILLED with lovely fresco paintings and tile decorations.
We also tried in vain to find an open Cathedral.
No one out worshipping but the doves, which lent itself to a very peaceful Christmas morning. About twice I said, ¨Oh that would be a good picture¨to which my wise husband kept silent. Finally I sighed (deeply) and said ¨ okay I guess I´ll have just to remember this day in my head because I obviously can´t take any pictures¨
Then he quietly suggested that it was time to start LOOKING at the sites instead of always looking for the best photo opportunity. man.
So I enjoyed our walk through the city, making mental notes for this blog (did I tell you about the fabulous church built in 1536?) and slowly breathing in and out as I understood that it was time to stop looking and start seeing.
Later on in the day, we drove up to the Sierra Nevada mountains where David and daughter went skiiling. Nadine hit the souvenior shops, drank hot chocolate and took pictures
(you can´t expect a miracle overnight right?)
When we returned, we went out for a walk again WITHOUT the camera and I just relished the sites and sounds of thousands of people strolling throughout the city enjoying the city on Christmas night.
It was a good Christmas lesson that I will TRY to remember on future trips.
PS I got David to promise to walk through the area tomorrow morning WITH the camera before we leave.
PPS If I can´t get the shots, there´s always GOOGLE IMAGES right?!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Feliz Navidad from Granada Spain

What a beautiful place to visit...I´m comin´back. Spain has been wonderful to us and we´ve been enjoying ourselves without getting too ¨vacationed¨ out. Today I took so many photos that my card was actually full! (that´s never happened to me before!)
To bring you up to date, we never made it to Morocco although we tried two days in a row. Something about the ¨rain in spain...¨ oh well, it was not to be.
We were able to go to the Rock of Gilbratar which was fantastic. We saw Apes (seriously) and an incredible cave of stallagtites(sp) that made me silent in awe! (I know, that doesn´t often happen!). We are now in Granada which is an absolute JEWEL! Just spent the morning at the Alahambra, which is an incredible castle-fort-gardens-art museum. I confess I had never heard of this place until two weeks ago, now it´s on my top 5 places I´ve seen in the world!
Our rental car has been serving us well and so has our extra passenger, Sylvia. She´s been an excellent guide and only became a bother for one afternoon. Okay okay before you think that we´ve picked up a hitchhiker or added a new family member...¨Sylvia¨ is the name that our family gives to GPS whenever we rent one. It´s a MUST for travelling in a country where you can´t read the road signs or know where you´re going. David´s been a great driver (I´m running out of positive adjectives !) and Anna has been superb as the navigator. I sit in the back seat and make sandwiches and take photos. We´ve each got a job.
There aren´t alot of Christmas decorations in Spain which is nice, but just enough to make it known that we are in the holiday season. I watched CNN yesterday where they predicted that today (Christmas Eve) would be the largest day for European VISA purchases ever. I tried to contribute to the record myself (Gotta do what you gotta do!)
Mostly the decoratation are lights hung across the streets (Very tasteful), manger scenes (nice) and silly Santa´s trying to crawl up windows. Pictures will be posted asap.
Holiday time. Hug your families, be good to yourself (thanks BP!) and know that you are loved this holiday season...and always
David, Nadine, Anna from Espania!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Notes from Spain

We arrived safely despite the fact that much of Europe is paralyzed by snow and winter travel problems. We had a delay out of Kuwait but it all worked and we...and our luggage...arrived safely in Spain.

It´s beautiful, interesting, civilized (which we don´t always find in the desert) AND AND AND it´s got HAM, WINE, BEER and we can wear our winter coats. Simple pleasures I know but it makes for an important vacation and rest time.

We are staying in hostels which means the three of us are sharing one room and one bathroom. Anna has already told us about our disgusting habits (David snores ..he does..I talk in my sleep..yup and she HATES it that I have to have the bathroom light on at night..I get scared easily in strange rooms!) We told her it was good practice for having a roommate in college next year.

Yes it is winter in Europe which means that most days are somewhat overcast and it rains. But It´s wonderful (Kuwait gets 1 to 5 inches per YEAR!) We enjoyed beautiful sunshine yesterday. Seville is fantastic and we had a perfect ¨¨get lost¨kind of day where we didn´t have a plan just wandered.

My poor camera is so tired by the end of the day. This place is right out of the tour books (duh!) but SOOOOOOO beautiful. I will be busy for the remainder of December downloading photos. Don´t dare do it while we are travelling in hostels, who knows who could access my account.

Travelling at the holidays is so far cheery and bright but I imagine that on Christmas Day I´ll be a little down because I´m not with Ben and Jolene and not in MN. Oh well, don´t worry I´ll keep going, have another white wine and somehow manage to deal with us (some sarcasm included!)

Take care and I´ll continue to post occassionally to let you know that we are well, warm and happy.

Feliz Navidad
The Browns in Spain

PS My husband´s Spanish and Daughter´s newly acquired language are FANTASTIC. It´s fun travelling with people who can actually order what I want for food!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Breakfast Ala Benjamin in Q8

Happy Birthday to my son! In celebration of his 23rd as well as the last day of school before break, I held a breakfast in my class. They sang Happy Birthday to Ben (did you hear it?) and enjoyed eggs, treats and Christmas carols. Well okay maybe they didn't enjoy the carols, but they humored me as I told them about my Christmas traditions!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Is....

For more sarcastic greetings, visit

Thursday afternoon I am giving a powerpoint presentation to my 10th grade class about Christmas Art, Music and Drama (it's a Fine Arts appreciation class so I can get away with it)
So I've been doing quite a bit of thinking, gathering of information on Google and pondering on what exactly I say.

Have you ever tried to explain your culture to someone? It requires really understanding what exactly one's culture truly is. I have new empathy for all those foreign exchange students who gave slide shows to eager Rotarians wondering "what your culture is like"? And how UNFAIR it is to put the weight on one person to give answers for all peoples.

I could tell them about my family traditions of hiding gifts (started by Grandma Maxine) or of eating a different thing for supper. Everyone gets their favorite thing which, in my family means Steak for David, Oyster Stew for Ben and I and Butter Noodles for Anna. I could also tell that we used to have Lutefisk for supper when my parents were living and the Christmas after my dad died, my brother said "No more stinkin' lutefisk". Dad was German-Mom was norwegian but the man did love a good bowl of the stuff.

I am trying to show representational pictures but even that gets complicated: Christmas trees, Santa (have you ever thought about how WEIRD it is to tell the tale of a fat guy landing on the roof with reindeer and jumping down a chimney?) and of course the tale of Jesus born in a manger after Mary rode the donkey through the area. Hey I've ridden a donkey here in the Middle East, and it's no easy task!
But these people don't acknowledge Jesus as a Chosen Son of God. (they believe Mohammed was their Man)
Although I did hear a student reference Jesus the other day
"Hey Abdullah, your momma is so old, she sat by Jesus in the 3rd grade"
It made me laugh.

Christmas is recognized here in the shopping way. A former student came into my office yesterday (she is on break from university) and said "I LOVE Christmas... I know I am Muslim but I really get into the whole shopping and celebrating thing". She's probably do very well shopping on Black Friday at Target.

Christmas Eve this year will find us in Granada Spain. Anna asked if we are planning on attending church. I said of course and she replied that it wasn't on her list of things to do.
"A Catholic Service in Spanish mom...c'mon".
I told her that her father and I attended a Catholic Service held in Latin and German in Austria so we've got to uphold the tradition.
We've also been to the site where Silent Night was written and yes we did sing the song.

I've placed my humble little "charlie brown Christmas tree" (made by my longtime friend DG "Ugly") and a few Kuwaiti-purchased decorations up around the tree. The Christmas camel is my personal new favorite. Along with these "new" decorations are the ones I brought from home: Aunti LuEtta's homemade wedding gifts to us, a couple things Ben and Anna made when they were in Elementary and a few others.

I guess what I have come to understand is that even though everyone has different traditions and ways to celebrate, the important thing is to keep in mind what it means to you and to honor that in whatever way is meaningful for you.

So, somewhere in Spain, I'll be lighting a candle and thinking of all of you.
Happy Holidays
Felize Navidad
Freuliche Weinaughten (that was horrible German spelling, sorry)
and God (Allah) Bless us Everyone!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Through Uncle Doug's eyes...

Uncle Doug was here visiting this week and he captured a few moments in our busy weekend. Below is "Santa David" at the AIS Family Christmas party with a few of a delighted Children. (yeah I know, how the Grinch got to be Santa I'll never know!) I took this picture of UD as we were sitting at the Scientific Center. I thought the reflection of the Dhow ship in his glasses was cool.

The Brown Boys on the Gulf...Charlie, you should be proud!

While we were walking along the Gulf on Satuday, we watched this curious fishing activity. The poles are at least 10 feet tall and this gentleman was busy with each and every pole. But we never actually saw him catch anything.

Thanks for Stopping By UD. We were very glad to host you and can't wait until we can relax and talk smart again on the shores of Lake Lida! Happy Trails.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

One week from now....

We'll be in Spain! David, Anna and I are off for a 9 day adventure visiting Madrid, Tarifa, Monacco, Seville and Granada. David lived in Spain when he was 4 and Anna is "supposed" to be the best Spanish speaker in our school. It'll be interesting to see how well they do speaking Spanish (Castillian-style, not the Mexican spanish style that David is used to). I know how to say two beers please (dos cervasa, por favor). Life is GOOD!
If you're wondering HOW I got these pictures, it's thanks to Google Images. See, you can pretend to be anywhere in the world! I will post real ones as we travel along...inshallah.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Greetings from the Browns

Love, the Brown Family
David, Nadine, Ben, Jolene and
and of course Angel (the dog) and Germo (the cat)

PS Jolene, our new daughter in law wasn't able to make the photo shoot. But we welcome her into the Brown Family!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Champions in my Heart

Anna's soccer name is "AnnaBrown" it's one word. They all call her "AnnaBrown". And they sometimes add a "Downtown" in front of it so she's "DowntownAnnaBrown". This makes me giggle because when I worked for IDQ back in the day, my nickname was "Downtown Brown" (comes from a MTV DJ, "Downtown Julie Brown")
Having spent the weekend with these young men and women and being called "Momma Brown" by most team members (and "Mother Brown" by the opposing teams!) I came to know and love these great kids. Although both teams placed 2nd, they are still #1 in my book! L-I-O-N-S, let's go LIONS! Note to Team Members: Thanks for the memories. When you are in charge of Kuwait, remember to keep both girls and boys soccer alive! You too may be playing on a Gulf Champion team one day!

Tough Job if you can Get It!

The salt rocks on the shore of the Dead Sea
Two babes by the pool--Coach SA (also from Minnesota) and SoccerMamma relaxin'
As one of our girls says "These are the symbols of Kuwait...the darbekka (drum), the flag AND a Gucci bag!"

Monday we had about 7 hours to "kill" before we went to the airport to make our return flight to Kuwait. So, we went to the Dead Sea for breakfast. If someone would have told me that I would be at THE Dead Sea three times in one year, I would have laughed right in their face. But, my life now is filled with surprises and adventures that sometimes just present themselves. As a couple students were complaining about the flies around the dining area at this VERY NICE public beach that looked like a 4 star resort, I reminded them that they could be in a classroom. Seemed to put the right amount of perspective to their morning.

To Market, To Market

This young man was bandaging the wounded wing of a pigeon with blue masking tape. I hope it worked.

As any reader of this blog knows, I do love my trips to the markets in the Middle East. Friday morning I found myself at a Clothing Market. What an amazing place. It was about a half mile long area filled with stall after stall of used clothing, shoes, fruits, vegetables and the smells and sounds of the people, the cooked kabobs, and the traffic. I managed to "escape" with only two vests and a set of beads. Thanks goodness I only had one hour between games.

Soccer Mommamania

This past weekend I got to attend Anna's soccer tournament in Amman, Jordan. Their team won every game--unfortunately except the Championship one (against Kuwait rival ASK). It was super fun being "Mama Brown" and watching great soccer. Our boys team also finished 2nd place. Travelling with teenage athletes is fun, challenging and a great way to spend a weekend (although I did appreciate the return to my adult world on Monday am). This marks the end of a ten year run as Soccer Mom with Ben and Anna's career and also as the Mom of the Tigers in PR. What a great run. As someone mentioned to me on facebook, maybe I can be Soccer Gramma now...PLEASE let that be in the distant future!