1. Learning Arabic. Tonight Jeff and I went to our a restaurant around the corner to pick up a chicken machine. We go there 2-3 times a week to pick one up and use it in a variety of recipes. We are quite familiar with the guys who work there. Tonight we were able to order in Arabic! We recently learned numbers and they taught us how to say chicken machine. So tonight we ordered one (واحد) chicken machine (شواية)! Exciting 🙂
2. Skype/FaceTime. Today we were able to FaceTime with both Jeff parents and Skype with my family at a family get together! While my family was coming and going during the hour we talked to them, I had one of those moments where I was like “Wow, technology is freakin’ awesome.” We were basically with our families today! Amazing 🙂
When Jeff and I were living on campus at Hope College (our awesome alma mater), trains pass through town on a regular basis. During the day, in the middle of the night…all.the.time. Because it was downtown and there were lots of cross streets, we got quite used to the sound of train horns. By senior year, they no longer woke me up in the middle of the night.
When I lived in France, there were lots of churches. I remember my first couple days in Paris…the sound of church bells made me really realize I wasn’t in the States anymore. Eventually, the beautiful bells just became background noise and I barely noticed them.
In Kuwait, we’re (very) slowly getting used to something new. Muslims pray 5 times a day. For each of these prayers, all the mosques have a call to prayer sung by the Muezzin and played on loudspeakers. We have at least 3 mosques in a 1-mile radius of our apartment with one practically attached to our school. Even though we hear the call 5 times a day, it’s still interesting to me. Fridays are the holy day of the week for Muslims. Today, on our walk back from the gym, there were 2 simultaneous calls to prayer and 1 Friday sermon for the city to hear. Men in dishdashas (and a few women) flocked to the mosque next to our school to pray. The majority of Muslims in Kuwait are Sunni and 30% are Shi’a. Each mosque has an Imam who leads formal prayer. My goal is to make time this weekend to blog about the Grand Mosque tour we went on in September. 🙂
Here is a very short clip of the call to prayer of the mosque across from Al Corniche that I took a few weeks ago. If you want to see a longer one from the mosque in Kuwait City, click here (we didn’t take this one).
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.
– We get up at the same time and go to work at about the same time
– After 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.
– We grocery shop more often. Produce goes bad quicker here and fresher is better in regards to unprocessed foods.
– We walk almost everywhere.
– The scenery is pretty drab 😦
– 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 😉 We walk 5 minutes to work, 15 minutes to the gym and 10 minutes to the grocery store. It’s pretty normal stuff.
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
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 seemore 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 😦
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 🙂
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!
Hello all! We’ve had a GREAT few days of orientation (we have no idea what day it is or how long we’ve been here…our internal clocks are all messed up!)! We meet all of the new teachers and are pretty excited to get to know them even better (definitely some potential friends). Today was our first day of ‘real’ school with the entire staff. It was a little overwhelming but good to see how happy returning staff was to see each other. I (Lissa) agreed yesterday to temporarily teach 3 classes of French while they are looking for a new teacher (could be before school starts on September 4, could be through the first semester). Today we found out a lot of information about the iPad deployment and had quality time to meet with our colleague to start creating a job description and united front. We have lots of ideas for blog posts, but very limited access to the internet. We’ve also been kept busy, busy, busy the entire time we’ve been here (only minutes a day when we’re not occupied). Today starts a more ‘normal’ life & schedule and we’ll be ready to get our civil IDs and internet in the next couple of months.
While you are anxiously awaiting to hear more about our lives here…we were shown 2 videos during our orientation that we thought you’d enjoy. The first one is a brief history of Kuwait through a children’s performance – it is in Arabic and the chorus is (basically) “I love Kuwait” (love the chubby-face kid!). The second is a flash mob that occurred at one of the malls here (we’ve been there twice…nicer than any mall I’ve been to in the US!).