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.
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 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 😦
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’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!