Monday, January 31, 2011

We're Fine, Really we are!

If you've been listening to the news of riots in Eqypt, unrest in Tunesia, potential conflicts in Yemen, Syria, etc and you're wondering how the Browns are doing, the answer is
"just Fine." Life continues to be our own version of normal here. Although there is great concern as many of our co workers have families in Eqypt and Tunesia. I'm scheduled to send a group of 24 to Jordan on Wednesday and I am relying on the confidence of my colleagues there saying that it's peaceful. However, I am now coordinating an event hre at AIS that WAS supposed to be held in Alexandria, Eqypt in early March.
Today I spoke with my colleague and friend ML in Alexandria. He sounded worried but assured me that he was fine. He didn't even sound concerned when he told me that planes were being flown in from western countries to remove expats. I also spoke with our beloved business manager whose daughter and grandchild are in Cairo. They hear looters around their homes, there was someone shot in front of their apartment complex two days ago. She is scared, her daughter is scared but the husband wants to stay and guard their possessions. I bought her flowers, it's the least I could do--mother to mother.
SO keep praying for peace in the Middle East and continue to focus your prayers on where I really need help..that is crossing the street here!
I'll keep you posted

Friday, January 28, 2011


Taken at the Kuwait Ice Rink...yes as in ice skating. There is even a hockey team here.The thought that there is a sign saying that Skating in Shorts is forbidden makes me laugh. When I saw this picture,the first thought that went through my head was
"Taxis waiting for the three wise men".

SO I could really get myself in trouble with this next one, so add your own captions...

Rank has its priviledges!

If a Flower can Bloom... the can I!
This is what I tell myself when things get really tough here in the sands.

What some people do for fun in Kuwait

Now that I know about this, I am going to check it out personally! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Leavin' the Nest

This picture was taken a couple years ago on the Pelican River. I am in a sentimental mood right now and thought it was appropriate.

I've been thinking a lot about my children and their next step in life. Ben is working on his Law Enforcement degree and he and his lovely wife are working hard on making a new life for themselves. Anna has been getting rejection and acceptance letters for Universities and is trying to decide where she wants to bloom for the next four years. And so where does that leave ol' Davey and I? Do we stay in International teaching for another couple years? Do we return to MN and hope, (against hope?) that a job opens up for us? Or do we try to stay here in Kuwait where we know what we've got? This is definately time for the Next Step in the Brown family. The term EMPTY NEST is soon going to apply to us. I sure think about my parents and what it must have been like for them. My oldest sistah is 21 years older than I am so when I left home three days after my high school graduation, it was the first time in 38 years my parents hadn't had children at home. My mom once told me she cried for three days. I get it now.

Thinking back to when I was a senior in high school (yes my memory does go back that far!) I remember wanting desperately to LEAVE HOME and try my wings somewhere else. I wanted so badly to GROW UP and have adult experiences. I wanted to leave my lil small town (population 796 at that time) and see new things, meet different people, try amazing things. Listening to Anna talk about where she wants to go and her reasons bring back so many memories. And I guess one would say that I've turned out okay for all my adventures. Reasonably so anyway.

Once Ben said to me "Mom don't you remember what it's like to be 18?" I replied that indeed I did but I didn't know what it was like to be a parent of an 18 year old so please give me a break. I learned from him that a mom needs to let go and watch. Like when children are learning to walk, you want to put barriers around them, be there when they fall, encourage them to keep going--but maybe, just maybe, secretly hoping they won't learn...just yet...because it will mean that they are growing up.

I know, I know, this is a natural stage of life. And I am thankful that my children have opportunities to try their wings. As long as they know that somewhere in the world, there will always be a nest for them to return to--even if only for a brief rest.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Could YOU do This? Not me!?!

This is one of the possible test questions Anna will have tomorrow on her English mid term. The class is a Standard Level English class, not HIGHER LEVEL (which she has in five other subjects! Yikes, it scares me.

An Encounter

Once on the kind of day called ‘weather breeder,’

When the heat slowly hazes and the sun

By its own power seems to be undone,

I was half boring through, half climbing through

A swamp of cedar. Choked with oil of cedar 5

And scurf of plants, and weary and overheated,

And sorry I ever left the road I knew,

I paused and rested on a sort of hook

That had me by the coat as good as seated,

And since there was no other way to look, 10

Looked up toward heaven, and there against the blue,

Stood over me a resurrected tree,

A tree that had been down and raised again—

A barkless specter. He had halted too,

As if for fear of treading upon me. 15

I saw the strange position of his hands—

Up at his shoulders, dragging yellow strands

Of wire with something in it from men to men.

‘You here?’ I said. ‘Where aren’t you nowadays?

And what’s the news you carry – if you know? 20

And tell me where you’re off for – Montreal?

Me? I’m not off for anywhere at all.

Sometimes I wander out of beaten ways

Half looking for the orchid Calypso.’

Guiding Questions:

1. What are the effects of the dominant images used in this poem?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Random Thoughts--Another Continuing Series

Today while monitoring tests for students in grades 9-12 (about 250 students), I noticed that Anna was the only blonde/redheaded child in the room. Most Arabs students are black hair, deep brown eyes. It reminded me of the time when the Pelican Rapids Tigers soccer team played the Moorhead soccer team. There were two blonde haired boys total on both teams--Ben and my cousin's son Eric.
When I listen to the news (BBC or CNN only here) and learn of upsetting events in Tunesia, Eqypt, Lebanon, Ireland, I pay more attention because I know people who are directly affected by these events. One of my friends here father is a VIP in the Lebanese government. She says the family is scared for their future and possibly their lives. Really puts things in perspective.
We enjoyed ourselves perhaps a little too much on our Spain vacation. As a result, we're surviving on just $21 in our bank account until Tuesday when we get paid (We live off my salary and save David's in an account in PR). It's been a little like being in college again, although we haven't resorted to eating macaroni and cheese...yet. When I feel sorry for myself (not often), I have to pinch myself back to reality and remember that in my former life it would have taken me two years (or more) to save for vacations. It's a very tempting lifestyle we live here with the ability to travel at will. (one of the reasons why we are so low on funds is that I just booked a flight to Dubai yesterday)
Ben is returning to the Middle East...this time for vacation! His sister had a royal kitty fit when she heard that her brother wasn't coming to her graduation so she pulled out all the guilt words in a facebook message. It'll be nice to have Ben see us in our world and not the world of War that he knows the middle east.

Things that Make Me Smile--a continuing series

These two shots are from a souvenior stand in Spain. I love the top one close up--it's a thong with "I (heart) Sevilla" written on it. I'm sorry but when I hear the word "Thong", I still think it's the shoes we all wore that were made of cheap plastic and hurt between your big toe and the next one if you wore them too long!

While David and Anna were skiing in Spain on Boxing Day (December 26th), I wandered around the Chalet and took pictures. I watched this young girl "play" with snow for about a half an hour. I can only guess that she either didn't see much snow in her life or that she was just a terribly creative child who could entertain herself. It was delightful to watch and remember my childhood fun with snow forts, ice skating and tunnels.

In my Fine Arts class, I teach a unit on Leonardo Da Vinci which of course includes the Mona Lisa. In preparing for the class, I once read that the Mona Lisa is the most "utlilzed" photo in the world. I've now seen her on a porta potty in Italy, on the side of a bus in London and now holding up scarves in Spain. Funny thing...did you know that the actual painting, which is in the Louvre in France, is really very small? Only 30 inches x 20 inches. For a small lady, she sure gets around! --sorta like me ;-)!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some Days I think I've created a Monster...

Lovely Kuwait Drawing from one of our classes
If you notice the little counter on the right of my blog, you'll see that this blog has over 25,000 "hits". Which means that a lot of people look at this site. Now, some of it is me preparing the blog FYI-most of the Kuwait hits are mine...I edit and re-edit each post a
couple times to get it right.

Some of the hits are Family (LOVE TO Colorado, Alaska, Moorhead, Fargo and Chaska); some of the hits are Pelican Rapids "Family (love to you and can't wait til summer), a couple are students from AIS who have found their way onto the site (love from Momma Brown) and the rest are...???!!! I don't actually know.

I am speculating that some are people who are looking to come to AIS , as I've freely given out the website to our super superintendent to use as he recruits throughout the world.

Some of the people come from random places. For example, my comment on Dewey Berquist, Fargo TV Weatherman of Local Fame has generated a LOT of hits! And my comments on the SADU house always seems to garner a following.

It's weird to know that people AROUND THE WORLD are reading this. Let's one know how small the world truly is.

I attempt to be honest, upbeat and intelligent in my writing (hence why I have to edit and re-edit) because sometimes my first drafts are pretty goofy. It's been good therapy for me to write to "you" (whoever you are!). And my hopes are that when I finish my time in the Middle East, that I will publish my blog as a permanent momento (I know my friend JC is shaking his head because he believes things shouldn't be on paper but rather always in the electronic realm).

I currently subscribe to Vermont artists' daily blog which gives me inspiration for my classes and for my life. His entry for today seemed appropriate in answer to the question "Why do I write a blog"...THANK YOU FOR READING and COMMENTING ('Mos and ATD and DI and Cuz)
From Heron Dance Life of a Wild Artist
January 22
You can't talk about the mystery, the mythology that underlies life, directly. You need a story. You need art.
You can talk about the little truths, the history, the people, even the politics. But to explore the Great Mystery of life and death, of the cycles of the universe and of the seasons, you need to go round the block and in the back door. The really sacred things, the really important things, cannot be put into words. They can be sensed but not described. Though we often try.
All cultures create stories and art in their efforts to come to terms with the mystery. The specifics differ, culture to culture, but there are common elements: good, evil, life, death, birth and re-birth. The arts in the sky and what lies beyond. And the magical journey--the person who leaves hearth and home to discover a deeper awareness.
Cheers to you all. I'll do a celebration dance in the sand in honor of you all!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hang In There..Warm Weather's Comin'

Believe it or not, it's COLD here in Kuwait. Remember we don't have central heating. (it exists in the country, we just don't have it in our apartments or classrooms) So we huddle around a little space heater about the size of a medium suitcase. Even Germo the cat has taken to curling up by the heater. I was trying to tell him that his fur would catch on fire, but he wasn't listening.
So I'm sending, WITH LOVE and SOLIDARITY, two pictures of our 2007 Belize vacation in hopes that they will send a WARM SPARK through your hearts and toes. Now I'm heading for another blanket to cover up... (and no, I don't expect any of you in North America to feel sorry for me!)

I know I didn't fool anybody...this is , of course, Lovely Lake Lida, Home of the BEST SUMMERS Ever! Just the thought of sailing around the lake makes me warm!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Roll Out the Barrel!!
Neice Di and My Brother: He's pretty goofy

My favorites: sis in law L, neiceDi, sistahEM and Aunti Ethel.
I am blessed to have wonderful family, although I don't talk about them much. The occassion was AE's 97 (count em) birthday party! Sistah flew in from Alaska to surprise Aunti (yes I was worried she'd give the Aunti a heart attack...but my aunti is one strong woman!) While I am sad I wasn't there, I am glad they could all get together. I'm saddest of all that I missed the chance to polka dance with the family.

From Back Home

This just made me smile.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Amir Grants KD 1,000 to Every Citizen

Kuwait Times

Published Date: January 18, 2011 By B Izzak, Staff Writer & Agencies

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has ordered the distribution of KD 1.12 billion ($4 billion) and free food for 14 months to citizens as the state prepares to mark national occasions. Each of the 1.12 million Kuwaitis will get KD 1,000 ($3,572) in cash as well as free essential food items until March 31, 2012, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Roudhan Al-Roudhan said. Roudhan said the Cabinet approved a draft decree for the financial grant which will be sent to the National Assembly forapproval. He said the government will ban any bank deduction or seizure of the grant.The state, whose financial assets top $300 billion, will next month mark the 50th anniversary of independence, 20th anniversary of liberation from Iraqi occupation and the fifth anniversary of the Amir's ascendance to power. The announcement was made following an overnight meeting of the Cabinet.

The 2.4 million foreign residents of Kuwait are excluded from the grant and the free food.MPs yesterday welcomed the Amiri grant but urged the government to step up control over prices so as to prevent merchants from raising prices artificially. MPs Khaled Al-Adwah, Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Saadoun Hammad among many others praised the grant that will be of a great help to citizens but urged the commerce minister to strictly monitor prices of commodities so the grant money is not absorbed by greedy merchants.Head of the interior and defense committee MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri thanked the Amir for ordering the grant that brought happiness to the Kuwaiti people, but called on the prime minister to admit that the government has breached the constitution by causing the death of a citizen, suppressing the people and curbing freedom. He said the government has squandered public funds, remained silent on financial and administrative corruption and deprived people of the most basic right of employment.

Inflation in Kuwait soared to 5.9 percent in November, the highest in 20 months on the back of high food prices which rose by 12.3 percent. The fifth largest OPEC producer has posted budget surpluses in each of the past 11 fiscal years, totalling more than $140 billion, and is also headed for another healthy surplus this year thanks to rising oil price. The government has made similar but smaller grants in the past.The state provides a cradle-to-grave welfare system to its citizens who receive most public services and petrol at heavily subsidised prices and pay no income tax. Some 80 percent of Kuwait's 360,000-strong national workforce are employed in government jobs, where the average monthly wage is more than KD 1,000.

NOTE: In case you're wondering, we do not qualify for this (darn) not do we make 1,000 per month each. But don't feel sorry for us, we're doing just fine!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Modern Marvels

Two buildings that are landmarks in Kuwait...the Liberation Tower complex and the soon to be World's Tallest Concrete building. All the more "special" because the shots were taken in the rain. Okay, not a big deal to you, but to those of us in the desert, it was a rare chance to get out our umbrellas.

What to do on a Rainy Saturday in Q8

A drawing on the wall of the SADU HOUSE illustrating the many uses for textiles in the nomadic culture.

Today it was raining in Kuwait. So what? You may say. Well, it RARELY happens here that we get overcast skies and wet stuff falls from the sky in actual, visible drops. It's happened a couple times this month already. What does rain have to do with pictures of rugs and camels you ask? Well, we were looking for something to do that was educational yet fun but also indoors because it was "too cold"to do something outdoors. (Okay you have my full permission to read that phrase in a nasal whiny voice and then slap me up side the head for thinking that 50 degrees in January is cold!)
The answer to the dilemn was to visit the AL SADU house ,which is an original Kuwaiti home that has been renovated to be a cultural textile center, to see an Iranian Rug exhibition and to sharpen textile knowledge. Learning about the craft of rug making is a new hobby for me. I'm always in awe of the time and expertise that goes into the making of these functional works of art.
It's also ironic to me that many areas in the Middle East (examples: Iran and Kurdistan)that in the US are only thought of as a "war torn area" are also places of cultural heritage and treasures for us here in the Middle East.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Warped Reality?

Recently in a post, I sorta "mentioned' that I'm a little bit concerned about the recent attack in Alexandria, Eqypt because I'm supposed to be sending a group of 20 6-9th graders there in mid March. So, I contacted my source there and this was his response.

As you all know the situation here has been shaken somewhat by the recent attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria. This is the first time that an explosive device has been used in Egypt in what some people consider to be an inter-religious conflict between Moslems and Christians (Copts). However things are never elegant or simple and it is not clear that this is purely an inter-religious conflict. There is some debate over Al Qaida’s involvement. The top government authorities point their fingers at outsiders, including Al Qaida, but some officials lower down are convinced this is just a new development in the inter-religious conflict and tension already existent in the country. Both scenarios could have unpleasant consequences. The targeted church on Jan 1st is about 3.5 Km from the school.

The US Embassy has not discouraged travelers from visiting Egypt or any other EU nation for that matter. But they have all advised caution.

My contact is Italian-Eqyptian man who has lived in Eqypt for 30+ years. He's very level headed and I trust his judgement and assessment. What's really weird is that when I first read it, my response was"okay, so we carry on". If it were three years ago when I was living in North America, I'd be FLIPPING OUT at the thought of even traveling to within 1000 miles of this place. But now it's just a sort of reality that is a part of the world we now live in.
I'll keep you posted on what happens.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy Birthday IGR

When one lives overseas, your friends become family due to the fact that, for most of the year, blood family isn't nearby. So this is one of my lil Kuwait neices, IGR, who just celebrated her first birthday. She's a darling, brilliant, clever growing fabulous woman to be. So glad that I get to be a part of her life --at least while she's here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

DeFaced: Officially Creeped Out

On my facebook...

"hello, my name is John and I am from CA, i came across your profile while i was looking for someone with a name similar to yours when i saw your pic, i couldn't help but to stop and send you this email, i hope you don't feel offended. I would love to know more about you if you dont' mind and please feel free to ask me anything...ill be waiting for your reply. Thanks...

You creep me out!
This is why these social networks aren't always that wonderful!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seeing What Isn't Visible at First Glance

Taken alongside the road on the Rock of Gibraltar. The thing about the British is, they LOVE to put up plaques. I think that someday I will find a plaque that simply says, "The Queen stood at this spot thinking there should be a plaque commemorating that she thought about putting up a plaque on this spot."
Love ya Liz!
FYI-Gibralter, although located on the tip of Spain, is still "controlled" by the British. Driving across the border, it literally feels like one has driven into double decker buses, classic telephone booths, things spelled with "re" (theatre) and "our" (Favour). It's wild. A number of years ago, a vote was taken to see if the people of Gibraltar wanted to continue to be under British rule or go to Spain. The vote was 12,000 FOR staying British and 49 for switching.
Taken outside the Cathedral in Granada. The artist is doing a great job of making a representation of the Cathedral. Which made me he REALLY painting this? Or is just just sitting there with this picture pretending?! To see the full Cathedral, refer back about 6 posts and it's pictured there. When I take photos, I like to look for things that aren't necessarily "first glance" photos. This has resulted in finding myself laying on the ground, climbing up ledges and various other odd postures. David and Anna are used to it. Just as they are used to me randomly grabbing people's cameras and offering to take their group photos so they can be in the shots. They've given up on being embarrassed. Good choice. Here's a couple of my "invisible to the naked eye" shots from Spain. Taken while laying along side the road in Tarifa. I think I should have moved the brick but then again I sort of like it. This is one of those times when David actually yelled at me because he was concerned about my safety.********
Taken while heading up to the Watchtown in the Alahambra. I am totally fascinated by these Peepholes / Spaces for guns/whatever that we see in old castles and cathedrals.

It's all in the Details

Featured below are closeups of detail work found in Cathedrals and doors in Spain. I am always in awe of the time and talent it must have taken to complete these works of art and architecture. The sarcastic part of me thinks "well this is an example of what can be done when there was no television or internet". And these works have lasted for a couple HUNDRED years. I wonder if the artistians/architects of today plan for their work to last until 2211!?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Keri Pickett-if only I could "snap" this good!

This is a phenomenal Minnesota photographer. Her book, Love in the 90s-the story of BB and Jo (her grandparents) is still one of my VERY VERY FAVORITES. If you've got an extra 10 minutes, just sit down, get some coffee (sure and a little lunch too!) and enjoy. You'll love the story about the cow in heat (see, got your curiousity don't I ?!)

You Saw 'em Here First, Folks!

Recently I had one of my favorite pictures published in a magazine in Kuwait called Bazaar. It was full- color, full page. I didn't get paid BUT I got a byline on the page AND I got my name on the masthead (front of magazine where all the photographers and writers are listed). FAME and GLORY is enough for me right now!

The picture was first published here on KKDTM.
To refresh your memory, I've included it at the top left.

Actually I did it as sort of a bet with myself because I LOVE to take photos (no duh right?) and sometimes I think I get some pretty spankin' good ones. While looking through the October issue, the ones that I was looking at in the magazine weren't all that "hot" (so I modestly thought). So I sent off an email to the editor enclosing the photo and wallah! I was published in the December issue!

So when I don't have any news to report from Kuwait...

(well you really don't want to know that I've got a trip planned for our school kids to a school that is 2 miles from the site where the bomb blew up in Alexandria ,Eqypt do you?)

I will occasionally include photos from my archives and maybe one day I'll get these published too!

These are some of my favorites (yes I've got more than one!)
To answer your question: These were taken in 1) Petra Jordan 2) Buttzville North Dakota (yes it's a real town!) 3) somewhere in Maine 4) Chicago Art Museum and 5) Seward Alaska while on a whale watching adventure with my sister!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Have a Well-Dressed Happy New Year!

We resisted purchasing these great wigs and glasses in Spain, but we did take a photo just for YOU! Even the dogs were fashionable in Spain!