A day of firsts

We are currently enjoying our first vacation. Eid Al Adha was yesterday…so we have a total of 5 days off school! We go back Tuesday ūüôā We took a day trip on Thursday and will share soon.

This morning we woke up to clouds…lots of them! Today was the first day since we’ve been here (9 weeks & 1 day!) that the weather has been mostly cloudy for most of the day! We had waffles and watched old-school morning cartoons with some friends downstairs – fun! I went to the gym for some yoga. When I walked out the door an hour later (1:15pm), I heard thunder for the first time since arriving. A couple minutes, the sky opened up for the first time and it rained! It rained hard for a solid 30 seconds and I got fairly wet… I couldn’t help but smile! It sprinkled and continued to thunder on and off on my way home, but I was mostly dry by the time I got back to our apartment. The day stayed cloudy with random sprinkles, thunder…and Jeff saw lightning – another first! Update: It’s 6:30pm and there is tons of lightning and thunder! That’s 5 firsts in one day…dang! ūüôā

We’re really hoping that the rest of the day in the US goes well – we’d love to wake up tomorrow morning to a Tiger win over the Giants, a Notre Dame win over Oklahoma and a UofM win over Nebraska! Here’s hoping! Love & kisses to all ūüôā

The crazy clouds that stayed the whole day!

The thunderstorm came…and went.

Daily Routine

Surprisingly, we’ve had a lot of questions regarding what it is we do all day/every day.

The secret is…. about the same thing we did in the States. But slightly different.

Similarities:

– We get up at the same time and go to work at about the same time
РAfter work we go to the gym, cook & eat dinner, maybe have something special to do (Arabic classes), and go to bed. The order in which we do these things differs on a nightly basis.
– On weekends we get things done around our apartment, work out, go shopping, etc.
– We wear fairly¬†similar¬†clothes as we would in the states, though I don’t wear shorts very often and Lissa dresses more modestly. The only times Lissa has worn an Abaya or Hijab has been during a cultural event where increased sensitivity has been asked of us.

Differences:

– We grocery shop more often. Produce goes bad quicker here and fresher is better in regards to unprocessed foods.
РWe walk almost everywhere.
– The scenery is pretty drab ūüė¶
– Compared to where I’ve lived before, the streets are dirtier and less kept than I’m used to. Holland does, after all, keep their streets pretty clean.

Like I said, it’s basically the same. In fact, we live in a more developed area here than we did in South Carolina. ¬†I’d post a map with where we go, but that sort of thing isn’t a good idea even in the US ūüėȬ†We walk 5 minutes to work, 15 minutes to the gym and 10 minutes to the grocery store. It’s pretty normal stuff.

Some cultural experiences

One of the things that we’ve learned teaching, traveling and living outside our comfort zone is that life is what you make of it. When we came to Kuwait, we did not want to be seen as transplanted Americans. Our goal was (and is) to be open-minded and immerse ourselves in a new culture. We think this mind-set has helped a lot with our “culture shock” (or lack thereof). Recently, we’ve had some time to take advantage of some of the many opportunities offered to us. Here are just a few!

One of the first things we had the opportunity to do once we got settled was to go on a tour of the Grand Mosque in Kuwait City. The AWARE center hosts a tour on the second Saturday of each month (plan your visits accordingly!). It was a great experience that we will post more about in the near future.

One of our favorite experiences here so far was hanging out at the Hussain & Ali’s¬†after going to the Old Souq and getting to hear about everything carpet. Fascinating!

Three weeks ago, we attended an orientation to Kuwait hosted by the AWARE Center. It was great information and great food. After hearing about their values, we signed up for memberships on the spot!

AWARE is guided by Arab and Islamic humanitarian values which advocate peaceful co-existence between cultures and civilizations.  Among key values AWARE promotes are tolerance, better understanding and mutual respect between the westerners and Arab/Islamic world. source

Last Monday, I attended the world premier of a documentary made by United Productions Foundation at the DAR in our neighborhood.

The  mission of Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) is to create peace through the media. A nonprofit organization founded in 1999, UPF produces documentary films for both television broadcast, online viewing, and theatrical release, and implements long-term educational campaigns aimed at increasing understanding between people of different faiths and cultures, especially between Muslims and other faiths. We are convinced of the power of media to empower citizens with greater understanding and to nourish pluralism in America. source

Daniel Tutt was on hand to introduce the film. He discussed the education piece of the organization – many Americans have never had contact with a Muslim, yet judge Arabs and Islam based on what they hear in the media. One of the goals of the organization is to get people talking. I love the idea!

The video they were showing was called “Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World.” It was narrated by Susan Sarandon and was originally shown on PBS in the US in June. The premier that I attended was the first time the film had been shown¬†outside¬†the US…pretty cool huh?! It was an eye-opening film, beautiful in every way. You can see the trailer below, “like” their page on Facebook, and see more of their videos.

The next night Jeff and I went back to the AWARE center for a diwaniya hosted by our our neighbor at school, Bryn Barnard. I read his book earlier this year and was excited to hear him talk about it! He both wrote and illustrated it – the artwork is gorgeous and I learned a ton. His talk was just as interesting and was a GREAT compliment to the movie the night before. If you’re interested in the history of Islam and don’t want heavy reading, it’s a must buy! My iPod Touch died during his presentation and I wasn’t able to get any pictures ūüė¶

Our most recent foray into Arabic culture is taking Arabic classes at the AWARE center! We’ve been eagerly awaiting this learning experience and had our first class on Monday. For the Introductory class, we will go every Monday & Wednesday for 6 weeks (a total of 12 hours of class). After two classes, we’ve learned to read, write & pronounce 16 letters of the Arabic abjad. Most have 3 different ways to pronounce them and 2 different ways to write them (depending on where they are in the word). Yesterday we took a quiz where we had to match words written using the English alphabet to words written with the abjad. Jeff and I both got them all right and were awarded stars! You know they will be going on the fridge for sure ūüôā

We both got stars!!

We’ve heard that Arabic is incredibly hard to learn and many people here don’t find it necessary to know the language. We’re eager to be able to exchange pleasantries with Arabic speakers and expand our world view through learning a new language!

Sports at an international school

**Warning: I don’t have the luxury of coherent thought today. The following is what I call a braindump; when I just turn over the bin in my head all of these thoughts are in and they come tumbling out in whatever order they please.**

I had never really thought about what school sports might be like for international schools. Having been in public school for grades K-12 and then again as a teacher/coach afterwards, it just never really crossed my mind.

It’s super cool.

Our school is hosting an ISAC (International Schools Activities Conference) volleyball tournament this weekend. Teams from all over the region have flown(!) here to compete. We have schools from Jordan, UAE, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The halls are full of students that don’t go here and it’s great.

Once they get here (more on that later), students from our school host athletes from other schools and teachers host coaches. Just think about that. Would it¬†ever¬†happen that way in the states? I have a hard time imagining it would, but that’s part of what makes our time here so amazing – we’re experiencing things we never would have in the US.

We’re hosting a coach from AIS Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). He’s¬†Canadian,¬†has keys to our apartment, and will sleep in the room next to us the next few nights. We met him last night around 9pm. We are required to provide breakfast for him every morning, a clean bed to sleep in and a bathroom/shower for him to use. When it comes time for his school to host a tournament, he’ll do the same thing for someone else. Did I mention that he brought us chocolate from Bahrain?

At the risk of sounding sappy and melodramatic, it’s fun to continue experiencing humanity here. The trust and kinship you acquire abroad seems more potent than back home. I’ve got several theories for this, the simplest of which is “we’re all in the same boat.” In the same way that hostages and shipwrecked sailors bond due to their circumstance, it seems so do international teachers.

Now that we’ve got the philosophical meanderings out of the way, I can get back to fascinating details.

When you try out for a school sport, you assume the responsibility of covering travel costs to various tournaments. The girls volleyball team for example, is expected to pay 135KD per person for their trip to Amman, Jordan later this month. The girls know ahead of time that if they can’t travel, they likely won’t be put on the team. This may strike Americans as “unfair,” but it’s the truth of being somewhat isolated when it comes to competition. We are spoiled in the states to have so many schools geographically close by. It makes scheduling incredibly cheap and easy. This cost makes the expectation of hosting somewhat understandable. When our students travel for tournaments, they will be hosted by families at those schools. If they’re forking over close to $500 USD to travel, it’s nice to know you’ve got free¬†accommodations¬†when you get there.

Other teams travel to various places and locales including Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Lebanon, Holland, and Qatar. They’ll play teams from all over the world at these tournaments and they’ll make connections with other kids and families half a world away. They have activities planned for them while they are here and are kept busy with the hospitality of the host school. On our side, students are largely responsible for organizing most of the logistics as part of an IB programme project. What a great learning experience.

/endbraindump

 

Update: We attended a couple volleyball games during the last day of competition. We were completely blown away at how much school spirit the students had! We are used to large public schools with varying levels of school spirit. We expected the atmosphere here to be much calmer (students don’t live as close to school here as they do in the US and many don’t drive themselves). Quite the contrary! TONS of AIS students showed up to support the AIS girls in the finals (we had to leave before the boys’ final game). The students organized cheers and even brought a drum set! It was a great atmosphere and we were completely impressed with how many students showed up to support!

A Poem

I saw this poem on Facebook this morning. I did a little research, found the full version and the author. Enjoy.

“‘Why do you do it?’ friends often ask, perplexed,
Brows raised, minds sorely vexed.
‘The world out there is dangerous!
Aren’t you scared? Why do this?
You need steady work, a house, two cars!
You have only a motorbike, and sleep under stars!’

Dear friend, if you must ask, you cannot know
This curiosity that drives me so.
To you it is hidden; in me rises unbidden!
But one day the world I’ll have ridden
By iron steed, then perhaps this need
Will have vanished, finally vanquished!
That day will find me on deathbed,
With no regrets for the life I led.

Will you be able to say the same?
Or will you despair a life worn plain?

I will stake my Himalayan memories
Against your estate of a thousand trees.
Pit my Thai sunset
Against your private jet.
Weigh my horse rides at sunrise
To your Italian suits and ties.
I’ll rejoice in friends before I go,
Not the figures of my stock portfolio.

And, amazingly, there are more like me;
They reject slavery, and are truly free.
They took the chance we all had,
And honestly it makes me sad
That you didn’t.
You thought you couldn’t…
What?
Live without the luxuries
Of all our modern amenities?
You choose the bonds of mortgage, but claim to be free,
Wasting a lifetime absorbed by TV.
Why watch it? but live it!
One life’s all you get!
Don’t put off ’til morrow and continue to borrow
The lives of strangers; ’tis the greatest of dangers
To the soul
Which grows old
Before its time.

Hercules, Columbus,
Guevara, Odysseus,
Champlain, Agamemnon,
The list goes on…
What have they in common?
Regardless man or god,
The soil of continents they trod,
Not in search of gold but adventure!
Not growing old ’cause they ventured
Far from safety; but far be it from me

To Judge…
The pitiless pity us
With souls black pitted.
Pray! save it for those less spirited.
For us… our horizons are unlimited.”

By James C. Richmond

We’ll be home for Christmas!

Hi friends & family!

We have some exciting news to share…we’ll be home for Christmas! We’ve been waiting to get paid and find just the right ticket. The GOOD NEWS: Today we purchased 2 tickets to come home (for under $2000 total!)! We’ll be flying Turkish Airlines with layovers in Istanbul. On the way back to Kuwait, we have an 8-hour layover so we will be able to go out for dinner in Istanbul ūüôā

Now for the bad news: we won’t be home for as long as we’d hoped. We fly out of Kuwait the morning of December 22nd, arriving in Chicago that evening. We then fly out the evening of January 2nd, arriving in Kuwait on January 4th.

Who’s ready to come pick us up in Chicago!?

See you in just under 3 months!

xoxo

Fast food, meatless Monday & Jeff has ham.

It was as delicious as I remember. I was also told that, when provided ham, you do not question as to how it was acquired. Ham has secrets too, I guess.

Anyway, tonight was one of those nights where we didn’t have time to cook and our schedules (or was it poor planning?) relegated us to picking something up on the way home from the gym. “Fast food,” you may call it. Here in Kuwait, we call it deliciousness.

20121001-203936.jpg

We bought the falafel, bread and cucumber-yogurt sauce. We had the rest laying around from salads and curries. Mix together and you’ve got our meatless Monday dinner. Yum!