Saturday, March 26, 2011

Just another fun day in Kuwait
Dust storm coming in over Kuwait. It was a WILD thing...just like a blizzard, only with sand. This photo is from Google images (my camera was at school...silly me). This is the 3rd "Duster" we've experienced. Stupid me left the windows open in the apartment across the hall (we're watching it while it's empty). AND...well, let's just say my maid and I will become real familiar with our brooms over the next couple days. Anna and a friend went out walking in it (sorta like we used to go walking around in blizzards) The friend (Kuwaiti) came back with a lighter shade of brown over his face (totally covered in dust) Anna at least had a scarf on. It was amazing, but today the sun is out and it's all over except the huge sale on brooms and cleaning supplies at the supermarkets.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Few Scenes from our International Day

The final project of March in my MARCH MADNESS series was our International Day. It was a fabulous time. It's a great feeling to work so hard (along with many others) and have things go so well.
Here, courtesy of FACEBOOK and friends, are a few photos to let you know about our day.
JO in PR...this one's for YOU ;-) For those who don't understand this, my good friend JO started the Pelican Rapids International Friendship Festival which will be celebrating it's 15th and Final year this year. She inspires me, she challenges me, she makes me proud to be her friend.

These are two teachers. Mona, on the right, makes her summer living as a storyteller in New Zealand. This is a traditional dress of Guyana where she was born.

I'm especially proud of the t-shirt on the right. I designed the shirt and sold them to the students to raise money for our guest speaker, a former AIS teacher who builds schools ( The sales raised over $3150, which is the largest donation they've ever received.

Booths were designed and executed by AIS parents, staff and students. This is the eqypt booth.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

End of An Era

Here' s the happy Brown family on stage of ANNIE during Anna's last show as a high school drama performer. She started her Theatrical career 13 years ago when she was 5 in this play at PRHS. She's come a long way and we were thrilled to watch her grow on stage through her many roles. We'll miss working with her as an actress and, as we missed her brother, we will miss having our own children on stage. The last performance of this show was definately the best of the three so it was a good way to finish. These are the other students that David will be saying goodbye to from the stage. Pictured from right to left A-a phenomenal Stage Manager;J-best Daddy Warbucks ever;AM-the fill in who made his roles shine and of course D and A. Just as in Pelican Rapids, the students who became our stage children are very special to us and their contributions in leadership and talent are a part of some fabulous memories.

ANNIE at AIS part 2

The Gig is up with Ralph and Shirley Mudge-Annie, Daddy Warbucks and Grace
The Finale scene...we had 50+ in this production and for all but 5 of them it was their first stage appearance! They handled themselves VERY well.
These are not students, rather teachers who I convinced that they could do this part! They rocked!!

Scenes from ANNIE AIS style

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Many Reasons to Smile

This is my newest great nephew with one of his big sisters! That alone is a great reason to smile!
Greetings from Kuwait where I am now officially one year older! My birthday was well acknowledged, by people at AIS, on Facebook and personal notes on yahoo. The bummer about living here is that I don't get HBD calls from friends, but electronic hugs work well too.

We opened the Play ANNIE on Wednesday night (that was my birthday celebration playing piano) and it was an "okay" opening. We sometimes fail to remember that we are in Education where we're TEACHING students how to act. Many of the cast has never been on stage before. Thursday night's performance was AMAZING so we are very proud of all of them.
Anna is in her final performance which is a little sad but it's time...(can you tell I'm getting ready for the final apron string seperation?)

It's with great humility that I admit that I'm choosing to ignor some of the world events. Mainly because I'm busy but also because it seems a little overwhelming to comprehend. Our former colleagues that were in Japan (see earlier post) left to return to Canada for the time being so they are safe. Students here want to fund raise for Japan now with all of the media attention focusing on the horrible situation there. More locally, we're a little bit concerned about what's happening in Bahrain as that's not all that far away. Bahrain is also a major airline connection stop for us when we fly internationally so that could change the focus of things for a while.

Tomorrow morning, when I finally have a day off in three weeks where I don't have to go to the school, I am going to get the Kuwait Paper, have a lounging breakfast and cuddle up with my spouse. AND I'll continue to pray for Japan, for Peace and for Strength for us all.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Now We Know...

While going thru stuff for the family history, my sister found this article that our Mom, Esther, had saved.

My sister writes: Now we know the answer to the question of first cousin once removed. We know how important families were to Mom and bless her heart for keeping things for us so we would know and remember the importance of families way out to fourth cousins and beyond.

This is the article for your records. (from Minneapolis paper, the Fixit column)

To determine the cousinship, check reltationship to grandparents.

Cousins share a common grandparent. The degree of relationship or cousinship is based on how distant that grandparent is.

First cousins share a common grandparent, second cousins share a common great- grandparent, third cousins share a comon great-great-great-grandparent and so on.

If your first cousin has a child, the child becomes your first cousin once removed and your child's second cousin.

The removed refers to a different kinship or generational group.

A first cousin once removed refers to a cousin one generation removed or away from you.

By the same token, the child of your first cousin once removed becomes your first cousin, twice removed, that is two generations removed from you.

First cousins are of the same generation and are children of siblings.

Second cousins are of the same generation and are the children of your first cousins.

Third cousins are of the same generation and are the children of second cousins.

Fourth cousins are of the same generation and the children of third cousins, and so on.

The removed aspect of the cousin relationship is often confusing and misrepresented.

The degree to which we are related to someone is often held in question for legal reasons regarding the distribution of property after someone dies without a will.

Relationships are also importand legally to determine who may marry whom and as a basis for who may testify against whom in certain legal cases.

Source Minnesota Genealogical Society, St. Paul.

The Sun WILL Come out Tomorrow!

This is the smiling face of LT, the son of a colleague and friend from Jordan. LT is celebrating his 8th birthday surrounded by cards and gifts. LT is also dealing with Burkett's Lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer. He's in a hospital in Germany (along with his parents) dealing with his 3rd round of chemotherapy.
Whenever I think that I'm overworked or underappeciated or challenged, I pause and breathe and think about LT and his dad TT who is one of the hardest working people I know. He's trying to do the equivalent of my job at his school, while worrying about his son and flying back and forth between Jordan and Germany to be a dad.
I think about the people of Japan-or Libya-or Eqypt-or people back in PR that are hurting (thinking of you Longfors family) and I realize that I am blessed (and so what's wrong with being a little overworked, at least I've got a job that I enjoy right?!)
We're working on the play ANNIE right now and the Theme of this play is OPTIMISM in the face of extreme hardship. It's set in the 1930s when things weren't so very easy. My parents were married in 1937 and they lived in a house with my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and two kids because that's what they all could afford at the time. I'm living in a rent-free, utilities -paid apartment located within five minute walk from my job. I really have to remember to reframe my negativity.
This morning my friend ME (who is featured through her fab photos occassionally in this blog)
walked into my office with a beautiful salad for my lunch today. She thought that maybe I would need some healthy food (What? Pizzas and soda pop aren't healthy?) It was such a sincere and welcome offer that I just teared up while thanking her.
One of the songs in ANNIE ends with the line:
Smile, darn ya Smile!
For LT, for Japan, for myself
I'll keep reminding myself to SMILE...

Friday, March 11, 2011

What's Happening in Kuwait?

NOTE: We did get an announcement from the US Embassy that this "demonstration" was going to occur and to stay away from this area. It's an interesting situation...stay tuned. BUT do not worry for us. All is well. Inshallah

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Unrest is sweeping across much of the Middle East and Kuwaitis hope the winds of change might blow new life into their stagnant political system.
Several hundred protesters took to the streets of this oil-rich country Tuesday for the first time since the start of the Arab uprisings, demanding an end to corruption and the removal of Kuwait's unpopular prime minister.
In the refined atmosphere of an all-male "diwaniya" -- the Gulf state's version of a gentleman's club -- influential voices say there is no better time for the emir to address his people's long-standing grievances.
Once viewed as a progressive Gulf state, Kuwait now has an unkempt and faded feel, and is clearly lagging behind Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and their futuristic metropolises.
The focus for discontent is the prime minister, a nephew of emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who has been accused of failing to reform healthcare, education and the country's infrastructure.
"I think this is the right time to change the prime minister in whichever way it happens," veteran lawmaker Ahmed al-Sadoun, leader of the Kuwaiti opposition Popular Action bloc, said at his diwaniya.
Such meetings are a barometer of public opinion and are referred to as Kuwait's "mini parliaments," vital for picking up the buzz on what is happening in the political arena, stock market or corridors of corporate life.
Kuwait is the world's fourth largest oil exporter and generated per capita GDP of $37,451 in 2010, according to IMF data, against just $2,758 in Egypt and $3,851 in Tunisia.
In January the emir granted his people 1,000 dinars ($3,597) and free food rations until March 2012 to celebrate 50 years of independence and 5 years since he became emir. But some suspected an ulterior motive in the handout.
"It's morphine for the people. They don't want people to complain," Abdullah Mohammad, a former Kuwait Airways employee, said at the diwaniya.
Kuwaitis, who had to rebuild large parts of their country after the 1990 Iraq invasion, say their grievances are not financial and instead complain about a lack of key services.
"Kuwaitis are looking for political reform and it's this lack of reform that is preventing the country from developing its infrastructure," said Shafiq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University.
Ironically Kuwait is home to the Gulf's most outspoken parliament and even has women parliamentarians, something that would be unthinkable in conservative neighbor Saudi Arabia.
But it does not allow political parties and the emir has dissolved parliament three times since he became ruler in 2006 after it clashed with the prime minister and cabinet over allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Another Country Heard From...

NOTE: CB and her husband S were at AIS last year. They are now in Narita Japan. Here is an email she sent to the AIS staff to let us know is okay. This is their second experience with a natural disaster. They were in the tsunami in Indonesia a couple years ago. They were separated for 8 hours before they knew where each other was located.

She writes:
Many of you may have heard, that at 3:00 pm, Japan experienced one of the biggest earthquakes in its history. The earthquake reached 8.4 on the scale. The last major earthquake in 1995, where 6000 people died, measured 7.9. We are all fine, and everyone in our community is okay as far as we know. There is severe devastation on the northeast coast and now tsunamis are a concern.

When the quake happened, Steve was at work, Tristan was at a friend's house as the elementary had no school today, and Alyvia and I were at home. When the quake began, I figured it was just another tremor (we feel them a few times a month) but it got progressively worse and I started to hear things falling in the house. I grabbed Alyvia out of her room and we hid under Tristan's bunk bed, protecting our heads. We had a number of things in our house fall, and Tristan's bookcase came close to tumbling down (need to anchor that to the wall), but other than that there was no damage. I cannot believe how much the house swayed. It felt like I was on a ski lift in a heavy wind. The quake lasted at least 2 minutes. As I held Alyvia I prayed hard. I do not think I have ever been so scared (next to my tsunami experience). Once the quake stopped, we went outside and found a number of people seeking refuge in open areas. Our neighbours told me that they have never experienced such a big quake. For the next hour there were aftershocks that were quite strong as well. I waited about 40 minutes and then made my way to school to ensure that Steve and Tristan (who I was supposed to meet at school at 3:30) were okay. Everyone was okay at school. Some of the kids who take the trains are unable to get home right now as the trains are not running. Getting a hold of families is also a problem as cell phone coverage is unable.

The Narita airport is still closed (it has been 2 hours since the quake hit). Japanese authorities are trying to access the damage right now. Please pray for Japan right now.

We're praying my friend...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Remember the Unrest in Eqypt?

Received this email from my colleague ML in Alexandria Eqypt. I am thinking of him now

"We will not be able to host the Jr Fine Arts Festival (in April). We are disappointed that we had to make this decision but we cannot guarantee the safety of anyone right now.
Overall voilence has been increasing in the country in the last weeks. Instead of a few days or couple of weeks of chaos as most people expected this transition to last, the real impact of this so-called revolution is not taking good shape for now at least. Last week the headquarters of the State Security Investigations, who among other things is supposed to protect foreign entities, was attacked.
On January 28th, the police disappeared from the streets, now almost six weeks later, we see some traffic police during the day but the police stations are still closed and they don't respond to calls. No one is comfortable."

We just finished hosting students from Jordan, Oman and Kuwait who were supposed to attend the event in Alexandria. While I am glad that we were able to accomodate them, it breaks my heart to know that teachers, students and others who didn't wish for or ask for a revolution are being greatly affected. Friends in Cairo say that they're preparing for a major staff reduction as their school went from 1400 to 800 students.
So far, Kuwait is steady. There was an Embassy Warning sent out yesterday which stated there was a planned demonstration downtown, but it didn't affect us (We were too busy working on the musical ANNIE to notice anything else!)
The world is a strange place these days. The Chinese Curse--May You Live in Interesting Times has sure come true.
Keep your fingers crossed and if you do, PRAY for Peace and Stability

Loan Out Your Love (Original Music Video)

David and I had nothing to do with this video other than we taught the kids you see "performing" in this. It's a great example of the kind of Whole Brain thinking we do here at good ol AIS! Cheers

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bette and Bangledeshi Stories

This is Anna's new tattoo. (pause for effect). The same girl who was (and still is) scared to death to get a shot now has a permanent tattoo on her left wrist. She pronounced that because she was 18, she could get one. We really couldnt' say no because we allowed Ben to do the same thing. Damn-I hate it when she remembers that stuff.

This tattoo is actually fairly clever.

It says "THINK" in Bangladeshi. Her friend Nabila wrote it out for her. At least we all think it says Think. Her friends were giving her grief on facebook that it really doesn't say "Think" but something else. I would laugh if it really said "thunk" or "stink" or "thing".

There's a danger in putting something in foreign language.

Time for a story (skip this if you've heard this one...hope I don't offend anyone)

When I was much younger, like in my mid 20s and starting my corporate career with IDQ, I wanted to have a sign made that said (to quote Bette Midler)" @#$% 'em if they can't take a joke" . Well when David was working for McGlynn Bakeries, he had a chance to make friends with a number of Vietnamese and Chinese men so he asked them to write me out a sign in Chinese.

So I had what I thought was a great sign and I hung it proudly in my offices and those who asked what it said, I would tell them.

Fast forward to when we lived in Mankato and I was working at Mankato State University. I had the sign in my office and a Chinese grad student walked into my office and was very surprised to see the sign hanging in a teacher's office. Down came the sign and it's been packed away ever since.

Today as I was telling this story to the people from Amman Jordan, the teacher (who is originally from MN) said, "Wouldn't it be great to have that saying written out in many different languages?"

I might do that

Or maybe in my old age, I will decide that, while it sounds like a good idea, it probably isn't.

(back to the tattoo which is where I started this story)

Anna is a little shell shocked that she has done something (get a tattoo) that is truly PERMANENT! She said it's the first truly permanent, can't change it, thing she's ever done.

I hope for her sake that it truly does read "think".

If not, she'll have a great story out of it

Yes, then she will truly be my daughter!

Busier than a one armed Paper hanger

For those of you who've read this blog over the past three years (thank you!) you know that when i don't write it's because I am extremely busy. This past week, I have worked more hours and been busier than I've been in years. Currently, we're hosting the JV academic games tournament with 40 kids from Kuwait, Oman and Amman. We weren't supposed to do this but because of the "crisis" in Eqypt (where it was supposed to be), we took on the challenge. It is going very very well but man, it was a lot of work to get ready!
Then ANNIE (the musical) is going up in 10 days so I'm helping David with that in addition to playing piano for it. Also we're having an International Festival on March 24 and I'm in charge of that.
And to top it all off, I thought I'd have four teenagers stay at our house.
Crazy? Definately? Busy? Absolutely? lovin' it? For the most part...
At least it keeps me off the internet...
So don't worry, we are fine if running at both ends.
Thanks for checking in.