Amazing! (and a little more upbeat)

On Tuesday, November 5 we had the day off from school in celebration of the Islamic New Year. So at about 12:30 p.m. Gabe, Kelly, Daniel and I piled in the car and headed out for the general vicinity of the Iraqi border.

First up on the tour itinerary was Mutla Ridge. ImageImageImageImageAt 306 meters high this is the highest point in Kuwait. We hiked up to what looked like the highest point and took photos. Many families were out there. Some were grilling, some were riding 4-wheelers, all seemed to be having a grand time. We continued on and our trek took us down several fully finished highways that ended in a dead end. We were the only car on them, but it was weird to have them just stop. At one point we thought we were at the border because there was a gate with a very long fence going as far as the eye could see in both directions topped with razor wire. ImageIn front of the gate was a really nasty looking spiky thing. ImageTurns out it was probably just oil drilling operations. Anyway, we continued heading toward Iraq. We drove through the Abdali farming area where there were all sorts of trees and plants growing. We even spotted a field of corn.Image Finally we saw signs that we were approaching the border and eventually came upon a guarded gate. ImageWe parked and got out to go talk to the guard. We asked if we would be allowed into Iraq and he thought we probably would. Then we wondered if we would be able to get back into Kuwait. He told us he didn’t know, that Iraq was a dangerous place!

After that we left the border gate and started to head back. We had passed some camels but had been unable to get good pictures, so we headed down a road near the border and came across camel crossing signs Image(I love these!). Then about 200 yards off the road we saw some camels, so Gabe drove off the road toward them. They were clumped around a small trailer that was sitting all by itself. One of the camels came up to us and made us jump back in the car, as it seemed to want to eat our cameras! It wandered off and we got back out of the car.Image Several men came out to see who these strangers were and what we wanted. We asked if we could take pictures of the camels and they were very obliging. Then they invited us into the trailer where they had a diwaniya set up in the majority of the area and a small kitchen at one end. They fixed us tea, Kuwaiti coffee (flavored with cardamom), and dates.ImageImage We discussed everything from movies to politics, and all manner of topics in between. They were funny, generous, genuine, and gracious. We spent about an hour with them and exchanged numbers as we left. They said they would invite us out to have dinner with them sometime. Here’s hoping!

The sun was setting as we drove away and the moon was a beautiful crescent. ImageWe made our way back to Mahboula and had a dinner out to cap off the day. What a gloriously wonderful way to spend a day!

The dumps

I read somewhere that about 3 months in to an overseas assignment the reality sets in and one can expect to get sort of down. I think the reason this happens at this time is that people who are not in year one of their 2 year contract have to decide whether or not they are returning. Because this is an incredibly transient community, bonds are formed quite quickly and deeply. We have been notified of some major changes in personnel for next year and it makes me sad. I’m sure there won’t be any huge shift in the day-to-day functioning of things, but I will be sad to see some of these people go.

I don’t want to say anything set in stone, but this makes me think that I will likely keep to my 2 year contract and then return home. It is just too hard to make good friends and then turn around and say goodbye to them all the time. I don’t think I’m made for that. Some people seem to be as they have been doing this for all of some rather long careers. Some even stay for 5-6 years in one place, but then move on. Interesting.

I’m also fighting off something that is going around here and that makes me more tired than usual and perhaps a little “off.” I look forward to a nice quiet weekend. Gabe and Kelly are going to Bahrain for the weekend, so they won’t be here to head off on another adventure. I do have a tour scheduled on Friday evening, but since I have to get myself there (It costs between $10-12 to get most places by taxi around here and I won’t have anyone to split the cost with.) I may opt out of it.

I also had my first observation and since I am still trying to figure out just what this “readers theater” is supposed to be and look like, I didn’t feel like it went very well. One day I’ll feel like I have a handle on where I’m going and the next will find me casting about trying to figure out another avenue. Fortunately, for the most part, I like most of the classes and am enjoying my job. I’m frustrated that I still don’t know so many of the students’ names. I think they are beginning to get frustrated by that as well. It’s a melancholy time.

In addition, Thanksgiving is just around the bend and I don’t feel like participating in a potluck progressive dinner for it. Aaaaand, Parker’s birthday (the BIG 21) is on the 24th. On that day I will be jumping through hurdles and hoops to get the papers on my house notarized and then overnight them back home for the closing on the 26th. Pray they make it! The only place I could get them notarized was at the Embassy and it required an appointment. Plus they reserve the right to NOT notarize some if I have too many AND it’s $50/seal!! What a rip-off! Thanks, USA.

I just needed to vent a little.

Try, try again

It seems like every time I try to write another update, that’s what some program on my computer needs to do… update. Then I have to restart, and so I’m trying once again.

Eid break was great! It was so nice to just relax and only do a few things. I splurged and got a pedicure. I hung out with friends, shopped a little (I now have 2 Turkish rugs in my apartment), and did a little sight seeing. My friend, Kelly’s mom was here and it was fun to hang out with them. They spent quite a bit of time at the beach though, and I hate sun bathing.  We went to one of the older malls in Kuwait, called the Souk Shark. It was right along the water and we had an enjoyable lunch there one afternoon. We also went to an Eid Festival at the AWARE center. It was lots of fun! They had clothes you could dress up in for pictures, henna, Arabic calligraphy, and a huge buffet. I met some interesting people there who were not teachers.


henna at Eid festival


When Gabe got back from Dubai, several of us went to a little Ethiopian hole-in-the-wall restaurant that Gabe and Kelly had been to before. It was so very good and the owners incredibly kind. Everyone eats with their hands by scooping/grabbing with injera (a flat bread).


Ethiopian noms

Then this last weekend there was a big concert in which several of my teacher friends were either singing or playing. It was held at the British Embassy and it was beautiful to see. The concert was outside (nice that you can almost always count on good weather here). Then there were pay-as-you-go buffet tables, and alcoholic beverages afterwards.  They also had a DJ and so I danced the night away.  Got home and tumbled into bed by about midnight.

The next day Kelly and I were up for a tour of Old Kuwait City. We first stopped at a preserved gate from the old wall.


gate at old wall

The sign said it was built in 1919 and I realized that Kuwait is a terribly young country. The land and people have been around for ages, but Kuwait as a country has not. Then we continued on to visit one of the oldest mosques in the city, and we were able to climb up in the minaret.


minaret at old mosque (note railing about midway up)


Kelly and me against the minaret at that railing

The VERY narrow spiral stair was completely taken over by birds. They swooped in and out of the windows,


awesome star windows in minaret

coated the stairs with their droppings, and there were even baby birds. It didn’t smell too badly though (amazingly enough). From there we went to Naif Palace.


Liberation Tower from inside Naif Palace

It is still in use for some special occasions today. This included a square where hangings were publicly carried out until just 10 years ago. (The hangings have been moved to a different place, but they still happen I guess. YIKES) Most of it looked pretty dilapidated and appeared to be mostly used for storage. The jail was sort of the high light and provided a photo opportunity that I couldn’t resist.

in jail - haha

in jail – haha

After that we went to a restaurant that is reputed to be one of the oldest in Kuwait and is housed in an old house. Many early things were built with imported wood and lumber. Now, everything seems to be made from cement or steel.  The price of our tour included lunch at the restaurant and featured native Kuwaiti food. Since they’re right on the Gulf, fish figures quite prominently in their diet. Then we headed back to the AWARE center. I met a UN official who was on the tour. He seems quite well connected and I hope we can remain in touch. He is originally from Peru, but spent a lot of time in NYC and has traveled all over the place.

This last week I also signed up for the Color Run in Dubai, UAE. I then bought a plane ticket. It’s on Dec. 14 and I’m really looking forward to it! That will be my first venture out of Kuwait since I’ve been here.

Now I need to get on to purchasing tickets for Christmas!!