Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It rained a little bit.

The kids have been all abuzz about this storm all week long. They were already stoked because we were surprised with a day off today (Tuesday) because the government wanted to relieve traffic for the Arab-African Summit that is in town.

"Miss! We're not coming to school tomorrow, either!" they said on Sunday.

"...no, just Tuesday is off. Tomorrow is Monday, so we have school."

"But it is going to rain! So we won't come to school."

Anywhere else in the world, that logic would make no sense. But here, the hard ground of the desert doesn't absorb the rain as quickly as less arid places. And the people have zero clue as to how to drive in the rain. So it's not unheard of for school to be called on account of rain. The school where the Mister and I used to teach once called it on account of forecasted rain (and according to my facebook feed, they did it again this week!).

So yesterday was CRAZY because...well, I assumed the barometric pressure was working some kind of voo doo on my kids. Plus they were so excited any time a single drop feel from the sky.

At almost exactly dismissal time, the skies opened up. Just in time for the afternoon traffic.

To say the local population responded to the event safely and maturely isn't exactly accurate. Here is a link to video of Kuwaitis being dragged behind an SUV riding an inner tube. There are also photos of the flash flooding that popped up all over the country. The drainage system in this country just can't handle a downpour like the one we had yesterday, even though it only lasted about 45 minutes.

One cool thing I noticed about thunderstorms here is how different the lightening looks. It's going to sound stupid, but the lightening looks more electrical here. Like the white-blue spark you get when you blow up your adaptor/converter after it's had too much voltage (maybe that's too expat-specific of an illustration, but it's the best I've got). Also, the lightening seems shorter lived. You know how at home you'll see a solid white line of lightening that will flash a few times? It's quick, but you can definitely discern it from the surrounding clouds. Here, it's more like a camera flash. Really really fast and maybe just a teeny part of an electrical arc, but no long spindly bolt that connects the ground to the clouds. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, but that's reserved for another kind of blog.

Vicariously yours,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I've got good news and bad news...

I knew this school year was going to be a rough one emotionally when we boarded the plane to come back to Kuwait in August. My sister was due to deliver her first baby in November and I was going to be missing all the fun and bonding that comes with such a huge family event. I was not prepared to be handed the emotional roller coaster we've been dealt since we got back, including the crazy day we had yesterday.

Within 24 hours, the hubs and I lost a grandfather and gained a niece. 

Tyler's Grandaddy had just been admitted to the hospital two days before and we were warned that it didn't look good. We hadn't been given any prognosis on how long it would be before Grandaddy passed, so it was very sad to get The Call at 1am on Thursday morning. 

Grandaddy was our family's All American Hero. He and his twin brother flew missions in World War II and Grandaddy went back for more when his country called during the Korean War. He loved his wife with a devotion that has always brought tears to my eyes. He aged with a grace that most men could only wish for. His sweet smile and simple pleasure to just be in the company of the people he loved was what I loved most about joining Ty's family for their annual reunions in Alabama each year. He would find himself a comfy chair in the corner and watch with delight as a scene of organized chaos unfolded in front of him. He always put his family first and took delight in watching the people he loved have a great time. He stayed as active as possible, restoring vintage cars as long as he possibly could. I am so happy I got to join his family and hear his sweet stories for as long as I did and I will miss his gentle smile every summer.

Once I was awake at 1am, I texted my sister as I waited for my eyes to get heavy again. Imagine my surprise when she responded and said she was on her way to the hospital! We were called again at 4:30am by Tyler's family and when we told his dad that my sister was in labor he kind of chuckled and said, "Ah, the circle of life."

It was a struggle to drag myself out of bed an hour later to get ready for work. This marks the third family funeral that the Mister and I will miss this year. To say 2013 has been a rough one is an understatement. To add to the guilt I already feel for not being there to comfort my family, I had to deal with the guilt of feeling so delighted with my impending premiere as an Aunt when I should be focusing on letting my husband grieve. I was exhausted, I was sad, I was ecstatic. I was a mess.

So I went in to my principal's office as soon as I got to school. I basically told him sorry-not-sorry for being wildly unprofessional when my sister called on FaceTime to let me be the first to "meet" her baby. I had selfishly requested that my sister call me first so I could see her and the baby before the onslaught of grandparents and well-wishers came into the room. I told my principal that as expats we get very few of these kinds of privileges to be involved in big family events and, dangit, I was going to take advantage.

After I finished my rant he simply said, "Of course! You'll have no argument from me!" I'm so glad to work with such supportive administration. Our principals' understanding in all of our hard times this year has made it such a blessing to work here.

I wavered between highs of joy and lows of sadness all day. Thankfully I didn't have many classes to teach that particular day, so the kids didn't have to watch me break down in front of the class like I did after my aunt Jackie died. During a grade level team meeting, my FaceTime fired up and I was greeted by the face of my very exhausted sister. 

I'm an aunt, y'all! After 9 hours of labor, including 4 hours of pushing, with no pain medicines AT ALL, my badass sister delivered a healthy, beautiful, baby girl. Even though she and her husband were both completely drained, my sister made sure to call me before she went to sleep so I could have a much needed ray of sunshine.

It was blurry and dark, but I was instantly in love. 
Tyler and I are so excited to spoil the crap out of this little angel. She doesn't realize how badly her aunt and uncle needed her arrival that day. She may have been born ahead of her due date, but she was right on time as far as I'm concerned.

Vicariously yours,

...And just because I'm a new aunt and everyone should have the opportunity to oooh and awww at my niece, here are more screen shots of her precious little face. This is how expats meet new family members.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What do a bunch of teachers do with a day off from work?

We get on a boat!

The Ministry of Education declared that we had to take November 5th off in observance of the Islamic New Year, so a group of us decided to rent a yacht to celebrate! A lot of other people must have had the same idea, so we had to drive about an hour south of the city to a marina in Al Khiran so we could meet up with our boat. We sailed out to an island called Om al Namal (the mother of the ant) and tooled around on the lovely waters of the Arabian Gulf.

Here are a few photographic highlights.

We towed our little boat behind us. There wasn't a dock or anything at the island, so one of the boat pilots had to give us a ride to shore.

We commented on how crazy it is that early settlers headed out in hand-powered boats with nothing but this view in front of them with no knowledge that there were islands out there.


We took a little time for a dip.

...and of course had to take a few high dives off the roof of the boat.

Hi, Mister! The water was so nice and blue!

If you didn't know better, you'd think we were in the Caribbean! 

Our vessel for the day.

The Arabian sunset brought the day to a lovely end.

Vicariously yours,

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lessons I learned from my trip to Greece.

For Eid break this year, the Mister, a group of our friends, and I traveled to Skiathos, a teeny island in Greece. It was an amazing trip, and one filled with lots of life lessons along the way. So here, dear readers, is the list of the 4 things I learned on my trip to Greece.

1. Book early and book often. The Mister and I were spoiled with our payscale in Saudi. We lived very comfortably and were able to save a lot of money in our time there. Then we came to Kuwait and took about very large pay cut. As a result, we didn't have as much money to play with this past summer, which left us with very VERY little money to pay for our travel and lodging in Greece.


So we've learned to book all of our Eid travel stuff before we leave for the summer when our wallet is still gorged on our lump-sum summer paycheck and just scrape by for the few weeks we are back in the Land of Sand until Eid break.

2. The Doha airport is racist. Ok, that's not fair. Is the retinal scanning machines in the Doha airport that are racist. It was comical, really. We had a ridiculously long layover in Doha, Qatar because we waited so long to book our flights and all the good routes were full (see lesson #1). So we got ourselves a hotel room for the night. Americans have to get a visa upon landing and part of that process is to undergo a retinal scan. NO problem for me, our friend Charles, and our other friend Austin...but when it was time for the Mister to get scanned, the machine couldn't read his narrow eyes.

Austin and Tyler later in the trip. See? Those peepers just aren't very wide!

He has always been teased about the frequency with which he is mistaken for an Asian American. So even when he was opening his eyes as wide as he could get them, the machine still couldn't pick up a clean scan! It was hilarious! Eventually he just moved to a different visa station and it worked, but the whole ordeal took about 25 minutes and 4 immigration officers to complete!

I hope they get this issue sorted out before the world (including the Asian countries) shows up for the World Cup in 2022.

3. Don't believe everything booking.com tells you. Being who we are, we booked the cheapest hotel room we could for our 13 hour layover. The hotel wasn't far from the airport and it had a free airport shuttle, according to booking.com. Great!

Not great. We finally get through Doha immigration and find a shuttle desk for just about every hotel imaginable except for the one we'd booked. In fact, no one had even heard of the hotel, and they definitely didn't have a shuttle.

So armed with a screen shot of a Google map and the address of the hotel, we set out to find a taxi that could take us there. That proved to be harder than you would expect.

Anybody? Nobody knows where I'm sleeping tonight?

At one point I was surrounded by ALL of the taxi drivers on duty arguing back and forth in their various languages as to where they thought the hotel could possibly be. Eventually one of them had the genius idea to CALL THE HOTEL AND ASK FOR DIRECTIONS!

4. A week is not nearly enough time to see Greece. Granted, a lot of this week was spent in transit, so we weren't able to make the most of our time, but even if we'd been able to squeeze as much as possible into our trip, it still wouldn't have been enough.

We just barely got to see the Acropolis, and we didn't see all sides of the hill. We didn't go into the Acropolis Museum, and countless other sites in Athens. Then there was Skiathos.

The town was so tiny and cute, the beaches were beautiful, the people were so nice! I could have spent a week on just that island and still needed more time for exploring.

All-in-all, Greece was great! We'll book our next Eid vacation (Oktoberfest 2014, y'all!!) nice and early so we can make sure to not repeat the same lessons next year.

Vicariously yours,