Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Featured Photo: This is something you don't see very often back home

You'd be surprised how many times we've seen this sign in bathrooms around the Middle East. I think the logic is that the plumbing can't handle the load (pun totally intended!) of all the paper waste. Here's hoping that everyone's visit is just to take care of number 1!

Vicariously yours,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our apartment: a work in progress

One nice perk of being an international teacher is that many of the schools overseas provide housing for all their teachers. Our school provided us with an apartment that was furnished with the basics--VERY basics. We got a bed, a wardrobe and dresser, an oven and fridge in the kitchen, 2 couches and a dining room table. We are responsible for purchasing everything else. This is a blessing and a curse. It gives me the chance to decorate however I want and buy as nice or as crappy as I like. The nester in me is SO happy! The financial nerd in me, however, is kinda freaking out with how badly the exchange is not in our favor over here!

That said, I'm posting highlights of our apartment as it is at the moment. Hopefully I'll remember to post again once we've got everything purchased and in place...which might be next year BUT I digress.

This is our entry way. We selected the paint colors before we left for the summer and the school had the apartment painted while we were gone. It was really nice to walk in to a place that already felt a little bit like our own home. We also dropped off the framed items when we came up for a visit in May. The shop did a great job. The camel picture is a passage from the Quran written in calligraphy, but it fell off the wall because the Command strips couldn't take the weight. oops!
This is our scratch-off map that hangs in the entry way. I LOVE this map! I found it online before we moved to Saudi Arabia, but I couldn't find a framing shop while we were in the Magic Kingdom. I love the sense of accomplishment as I scratch off each country we visit together. The list of countries sounds pretty impressive when we count them off on our fingers, but now that I see the visual, I wanna hop a plane right now and add some more color to the map! We left Alaska and Hawaii covered, even though they are technically part of the USA, because I felt like it was cheating to say we'd been to the whole country when we haven't been to the most far reaching points. One day.

Oh, and that little bit of Greenland that shows through just got scratched off while it was waiting to be picked up from the frame shop. Just means that we're going to have to book a trip to Nuuk sometime soon!

These two might be some of my favorite art in the house! We found these while visiting friends in Portland, Oregon last summer. I just think it's so funny to have a print of a pig in a suit while living in a country where pork is illegal. And we couldn't buy Mr. Pig and not bring a long a friend for him! Don't they look so dapper?
Adding to the animal theme of our entry way is the iron deer head key holder. Isn't it funny!?
Turn the corner from the entry way and you've got the couch we bought from ikea. The 2 couches provided by the school were nice, but they didn't offer anywhere for guests to sleep, and we have friends visiting us from Saudi Arabia very soon. The bed we want for the guest room isn't in stock till October, so we went ahead and got a sofa bed. I LOVE it! Watch...
Instead of struggling with an annoying fold up bed under the cushions, there's a little trundle underneath that you pull out... 
And pop up! It's wonderful! I can't wait to jazz up this blah color with some fun pillows. In the mean time, Kitty loves all the room to stretch out and cover with fur.
This is the guest room. Clearly, it's serving as a catch-all for everything that has no where to go right now. We're going to buy some storage benches for the living room and the guest bed we want to buy has 4 big storage drawers under the mattress, so one day everything will have a place. 
The teeny kitchen is across the hall from the guest room. We need to do the dishes right now, so I didn't take a picture of the sink and 18 square inches of counter space that came with the apartment (that's a mature solution to the cleaning problem, right? Just don't photograph it!). To give us more storage and prep space, we bought this fantastic table from ikea. I was a little afraid it was going to be too much, but it fits perfectly in the kitchen and holds everything we need with room the spare. 
When standing with my right hip against the prep table, facing the door to the kitchen, I get a nice shot of our teeny fridge and the propane tank for the stove. For some reason the fridge doors have a lock on them. I have no idea for what purpose you would need something like this, but I'm tempted to use it to keep the doors closed! They're constantly swinging open!
Here is the stove. The glass door thing folds over the gas eyes...presumably so you can have more prep space? Lighting this sucker is quite the adventure!
First of all, please excuse the candied sweet potato drippings that have been cemented to the bottom of the stove...and all the dust that is a constant presence EVERYWHERE when living in the Middle East...
So you turn on the propane using the dial that has the temperatures in Celsius and wait for the hiss. After a few seconds you stick your lighter down that hole in the middle of the picture. The pilot light is somewhere underneath there just above where the sweet potato ickiness is. That's all well and good, but our lighter doesn't reach that far. So we have to take a lit kitchen match and throw it in the hole and hope it rolls close enough to the pilot light to catch! It's a grand adventure. Sometimes it takes us so long to get it lit that just putting the match close to the whole catches the light on fire! Woo hoo! I predict a few blog posts featuring photos of our singed eyebrows. Stay tuned. 
Here's the bathroom. Cause I know you were curious.
Here's our TV. The Mister is very happy to have something to play video games on again. Only problem is that the TV cost so much that we didn't have anything left over to pass as a sort of entertainment center. It should come as no surprise to our friends and family that the Mister is perfectly content using one of our dining room chairs as a resting place for the xbox in the meantime.

So that's our new home! I really do enjoy living here.  I cannot wait to slowly add furniture so it'll start to look more like the home of a couple of almost-30-year-olds and less like that of an apartment of the newly-graduated-from-college-and-broke!

Vicariously yours,

Saturday, September 22, 2012

We're still alive!

Given the state of the lives of Americans living in the Middle East, the title of this post is well timed, I supposed. It's also a bit dramatic considering that we have been very safe here in Kuwait. There were some protests outside the American embassy, but nothing compared to the turmoil going on in other countries.

I apologize for the long silence, readers. Since we made the long trek over the ocean back to the Middle East, we have been busy busy busy! We moved in to our new apartment, had orientation sessions with the new school and 50 of our newest colleagues, then had to dive right in to classroom prep and unit planning before the kids arrived! It was A LOT to do, but I have been so happy to accept the professional challenge. The Mister and I are already so happy here in our new home. And, just as I suspected would be the case, I have already learned so much in these short weeks.

1. I CAN fast track my room prep and get ready for a new school year in less than a week (sorta). Those who worked with me in the States can attest to the fact that I'm a little obsessive when it comes to my classroom. In Nashville, I would start setting things up, arranging desks, and organizing files as early as July. I would come in to the school for a few hours each day and accomplish at least one thing. That gave me plenty of time to figure out what kind of desk configuration I really liked, as well as hunt down those cutsy classroom things that just called to me from the dollar section at Target.

I looove setting up my classroom. It reminds me of when I was a little girl and would make believe with my friends. But this year, I had roughly 6 days, zero money and bare bones school supplies to work with before the kids arrived. I was waay out of my comfort zone! But about 3 days before First Day, I snapped out of my panic attack and scrounged together what closely resembled a classroom I could deal with.

And the kids didn't even notice that the room wasn't done!

There have definitely been some hitches that more closely resemble Amber's-first-year-classroom more than that of seventh-year-Amber...but that's the beauty of growth.

2. I CAN drive in a Middle Eastern country! Admittedly, the driving here is exponentially better than the driving in Saudi Arabia. And I obviously do not have a firsthand Saudi driving experience to compare to driving here, but I am happy to report that I am very comfortable behind the wheel in Kuwait! I even had a friend who doesn't have a car and thus hitches rides with all kinds say that I am a very good driver and she would ride with me anywhere.

This is only the second foreign country I have ever driven in, so I'm pretty impressed with myself!

3. The Mister and I CAN survive without internet in our home!  Your could say that I have been in full-on nesting mode since we arrived. We had basic furnishings in our apartment when we arrived, but there was still a lot of stuff to buy to make the new apartment feel like home. Add to that the fact that we have friends from Saudi Arabia coming up to visit soon and you see how I was able to convince the Mister to spend most of our money on things other than Internet service.

Although...we just dropped most of the last of our settling-in money on internet service and satellite TV rather than furniture. Sometimes I let the Mister win.

4. I CAN lose an extremely sentimental item and live without it. Some of you may remember that we moved our stuff up from Saudi Arabia before we headed home for the summer. That was a major blessing because it allowed us to save money on massive baggage fees and we were able to bring over fun household items because all the basics were already here. When we returned, I was distraught to find out that while our apartment was getting painted this summer, someone walked off with my College of Charleston t-shirt blanket. It was one of my most sentimental items and I absolutely loved it. I would be lying if I said I haven't cried about losing this silly blanket more than once. I talked to the man who is in charge of maintenance for the residences and I was basically told that the blanket was gone for good.

I had been prepared for this kind of reality by the Mister's mom, a former military wife. I was informed about the fact that with all the moves something was bound to get lost or broken. I just hadn't banked on it being something so valuable in irreplaceable. Oh well. At the end of the day it's still just a thing.

At least that's what I keep telling myself to keep from crying.

Many more updates to come, dear readers. I'm working on uploading photos of the classroom and the apartment. Stay tuned.

Vicariously yours,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Featured photo: flamingos!

I'm wearing this fun shirt today. That's my classroom in the background. I'm writing this on my new iPad. SO MANY CHANGES TO TELL YOU ABOUT! 

I'm working on a new post that has a lot of details, don't worry!

Vicariously yours,