Monday, May 19, 2008

And it continues...

Much to my surprise.

I have long toes. I mean, freakishly long toes. Ordinarily I don't wear sandals because I hate it when my feet get dirty and dried out- it's just a pet peeve of mine. I don't go barefoot at home either, stateside or Kuwait because I hate the feeling. So when my feet are exposed... To be fair, my fingers and hands are very long and narrow. To be unfair, some people are looking at my feet when asking "Do you play piano?"

Due to a dress code at work and a whole new depth of cultural quicksand, I wear sandals now. Pretty, leather Clarks that I got on sale a couple of years ago and stuffed in the back of the closet figuring they would come in handy at some point. One of the pair barely made it into the suitcase to Kuwait. Now, they are practically all I wear.

It's not because of the heat- I managed to rustle up a pair of Converse All Stars that I prefer to wear much more. It's that a pair of shoes really do make the outfit you're wearing, and this particular pair happens dress up everything from cotton pants to skirts to capri pants. Very handy if you feel like looking like a girl in under 10 seconds on 2 1/2 hours of sleep.

Yes, Man-Thing is still quite present. As J. at The Silver Star said, "Too much handsome, too much money, too much problems!" I couldn't agree more. Until now.

This is where the toes come in.

Picture, if you will, a warm Kuwait evening near Arabian Gulf road...a little humid, somewhat fragrant...cats wander by, roaches wander by, palms trees wave gently in the, well, fragrance. In the distance, small Kuwaiti children are tearing apart a brightly lit, 3 story Burger King.
A man and woman are sitting on a low wall overlooking the water, leaning into each other, talking quietly. One of those early gentle conversations undercut with "The World Is Much Better With You Around" tones.

There is a lull in the conversation. The woman looks up and out at the lights of boats on the water. The man glances down at the ground, catches sight of her feet.
"You have really long toes."
The woman gives an "Aw shit here it comes" sigh
"No, seriously, you have really long toes. Can you do things with them?"
The woman sighs again. "Look..."

Cut to a month later, 1 AM, standing in a parking lot in Dasman after an evening smoking Sheesa with friends. The man and woman have been playfully poking each other in the stomach, and have taken the opportunity of Everyone Else Is Gone to lean into each other, against the car. There is a lull in the conversation. He looks down.
"You have really long toes..."
"Look, you know I have really long toes..."
"No! No!"
"Come on, my toes aren't just long, they're bizzare. You know it, I know it. The reason I like you, is that you can look down at my toes and say, 'Man your feet are freakish" but you still like me, you still think I'm pretty. That's the reason I like you."
He smiled.

So, Man Thing is still around for a number of reasons. Some of which, I haven't scared him off yet. Others being, I'm curious why I haven't scared him off yet and still others, I'm worried why I haven't scared him off yet- I mean, if my toes don't do it and he can more than keep up a conversation with me and he beat my ass in Chess, I think I have a lot to worry about.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


back to our scheduled post...

(had to take care of a student who was opting between sirens only he could hear, and music class. You can't go to music if "the sirens" are hurting your ears? Right? Much better to stay and finish your multiplication...? Guess the sirens aren't that loud.)

Six more weeks of school, Spring Break was just last week. I've come to the realization that, despite H. faking a choking/heart attack/general dying spell when served with detention, and J. asking about cross dressers in Paris during math, and O.'s genuine "Fish Stories" (without having the faintest cultural clue to the words), and watching Y. trying to collect rocks while being pursued in slow speed by three administrators, I'm going to miss these miscreants terribly. Despite driving me up the tree every day, I am sure next year will be much more dull.

In neighborhood terms...I have the windows open, it's a nice night. Someone took the equivalent of a Ford Fiesta and managed to back it straight into the only '84 Honda Prelude ever quipped with an alarm. This emptied all of Friend Bakkala, the International Phone Booth, and two apartment buildings. What I don't understand is the Ford Fiesta- the thing can fit in my armpit with turning radius, and it managed to go back three car lengths and across the street into a separate bank of cars without turning the wheel.

What was I thinking? Fifth Ring is in sight! Nothin' sez Kuwait like 4 wheelin in a Fiesta through a construction job. In reverse. Over your neighbor's Prelude.

Monday, May 5, 2008

I haven't posted here in forever

for several reasons...

The first being there is a Man-Thing in my life. My goodness. No, I guarantee that no one is more shocked than I am.

This Man-Thing happens to be handsome enough, that when we're out together I have to keep looking to the side to make sure we're still out together. Yet handsome without being egotistical? With a work ethic? What the....

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I was out at Al Hashemi Ballroom to listen to a mezzo soprano. He was one of the "friends" that I mentioned, he sat next to me and we all went out for coffee afterwards. The main thing I remember is that he was figety the entire performance, and I was worried to think he was bored or not enjoying himself.

It was several weeks before we were all out to coffee again. This time I rounded the corner of the booth with my mug, just to hear him tail off on a conversation about work with Hot Mama. I put my cup down, and said very politely "Excuse me, I missed it: what is it you do again?"
(completely deadpan, looking me straight in the eye)"Oh, I'm a pimp."
At which point, I absolutely lost it.

All things considered, Man-Thing and work have kept me wondering and keeping to myself, not really wanting to post, not having too much to post about that wouldn't bore anyone but me to tears.

(being hijacked by a student)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

"Mwummph Mmphh Mhh Mhh"

Which translates loosely as "Ima lay face down on my bed and talk into the duvet and the damn building can burn down around me before I'm moving".

I got hungry again. Abruptly. About 8 this morning- just far enough into the day that I couldn't do anything except take the edge off occasionally. The most fantabulous thing, was that this co-worker who rooked me into presenting part of this discussion on Foucault on Thursday turned up with a copy of a book I'd been shaking down Kuwait for, with no results. So we got very happy and excited about this upcoming event.
Then I tried reading a little while on prep. No go.

What is originative is the caesura that establishes the distance between reason and nonreason; reason's subjugation of nonreason, wresting from its truth as madness, crime or disease, derives explicitly from this point. (Madness and Civilization, pg. xii)
"Miss? Miss? He called me 'eggplant'!"

After work, I was supposed to tutor this guy from my French class, but we got our paths crossed. He said we agreed on Starbucks, I had in mind the restaurant in the Holiday Inn Dasman. Which is where I went anyway and ate everything except the tablecloth until he called trying to figure out where I was.

Found him, tutored him, then 90 minutes worth of French. Back home again in a semi daze wreaking havoc on the maid's cleaning job and dripping cranberry jelly all over the carpet.

It's only Sunday...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bad dreams.

No more sour cream and a baked potato before bed. I just woke up from a too real to be true dream that M. and I were friends again, that he was giving me a bad time in a forest somewhere while I tested out a remote control car that I'd built.

That type of shit'll kill ya for sure.

More distance, the clearer you see things. I want my friend back, the one at the end of the hallway where I ran through light rooms and dark, doors opened and closed to throw myself into his sheepskin coated self after he'd been gone for weeks. I'd never been so loved on a January morning, sometimes doubt I will be again. Tendon and bone.

Some dynamic changed between us when I started putting on girl clothes and kept them on as more than an experiment. Oh, I never left the cargo pants behind, and my closet always has stocked more from the Men's Department at J.Crew than the women's. Let's just say my clothes started to fit better after he started dating L, part of a process that had started with glacial slowness in 2005. Even later when tensions would slightly lessen and I'd try and play around in the classroom with M., he would stand with his arms folded and narrow his eyes, refusing while balls of yarn danced off his head. He was trying to tell me something, but what?

Why didn't he want to play any more? He would play around with the other assistants in my room. Yes, I predicted a disastrous outcome to his relationship, but girls are girls and frankly the one he picked couldn't carry a relationship with handles and IKEA instructions. We both knew it- hell, he liked 'em semi-permanent that way. I was still the same underneath the clothes!

Maybe the change wasn't in my clothes after all. Maybe the change was when we came to words instead of hair pulling and kicking and cigarettes to resolve the only conflict we ever had, and the clothes came to fit. Talk about "You can't go home again"- If I had done like I should have at the time, kicked him in the balls and made an end of it and then stayed out of it, maybe we'd be in a forest somewhere playing with remote control cars.

What ifs. God, no more food before bed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why is it

that when I look my absolute worst, I get the most attention from men?

This has happened two or three times. I'll be out on an absolutely urgent errand- I'll have hair on my legs long enough to braid; the humidity will be 130% so the thatch on my head is frizzy; it'll be 130 degrees so you can smell me before you see me; I'll have walked right out of six hours of air conditioning so you could grease a cake pan with my face- in California terms, 'Tore UP."

Or, as Akealla the All Wise would put it, "Y'all a hot mess."

One of those days. To top it off, I drove home along Arabian Gulf Road with the window down. For some reason I have hair growing in at all different lengths, which gives me the look of someone who just rode home with the window open in high humidity when I actually stayed home and read. You do the math.

So I made it in to the Sultan Center, rounded up groceries I knew I'd be interested in eating at some point (I'm still not hungry) and blessed the Clerk with my appearance and Rewards Card. The fellow next to me in line looked like a linebacker, sort of cute, purchasing a chicken the size of a largish lemon. Hey, what there was of it smelled good.

The bagger could have been an ex-student, and he was having trouble deciding which bag the soap went in. As I tried to help him out, the fellow behind me said, "Excuse me? Miss?"
I turned. He leaned towards me, eyebrows working overtime, voice deepening for empasis. "Afternoon", he said slowly, making sure he kept eye contact as he leaned back.

Oh Jesus.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It's seven and I'm in bed

Funny thing is, since last Friday I've wanted nothing more than to do exactly what I'm doing now. Which is to sit around at home and finish several books. One thing or another has kept me out into the evening- Friday it was a Going Away party for the friend of a friend, Saturday was Horse Riding, Sunday was French, Monday was "Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses" and three hours of spicy gossip at another friends' place.

So today, I wasn't feeling well anyway. There was a dust storm for the better part of the day and my head did, does still, feel like a basketball sized snowglobe balanced on a daisy stem. I fulfilled my promise to myself, sat on the couch to finish one book. Then proceeded to pace up and down the livingroom for 45 minutes doing pointless busyshit, pondering going down the street to buy a lightbulb.

I ended the debate by crawling into bed with my computer, making my body remember how tired I am.

I'm actually sort of disturbed. I haven't been really hungry for anything for the past five days, so I've been forcing myself to eat. Historically, this means one of 5 things: 1. The weather is changing 2. I'm extraordinarily upset 3. There's a stomach bug working it's way through my system 4. I ate something bad 5. hormones.

Only two of the above are true- the first and the last. Changes from season to season are marked intestinally, and I spent weeks on arrival eating bananas. The last one- sometimes my body likes to "reboot"and I simply won't have a desire to eat for two or three days. My entire problem with this is that I really, really like to eat and the way things taste. So eating without much craving or desire, going through the motions, depresses me. I have plenty of stuff on hand and every type of fast food I could desire- but even the Barscz didn't interest me.

Been busy trying to book my summer holiday in Poland...more like trying to figure out how to get back to Kuwait from Poland, because direct flights thereunto do not exist. I think the best example had me rerouted through Munich and Heathrow both, at 22 hours into WAW from KWI. Maaaaah! It's six hours to Frankfurt from Kuwait! Flying to San Francisco is a shorter flight!

Eventually I asked a co-worker, who uses Czech Air and flies through Prague. I went to the site, and while Czech Air admits that Kuwait exists and they might land some planes there occasionally, they damn well aren't going to let you book a seat. Even when you try and do it in Czech.

S'alright, it's the same thing for Tunisia.

More complications in finding the perfect BFN spot in Poland. At first, because I couldn't find any. Now I have something like three websites and 600 places. Then a friend I haven't seen since Cracow in 2006, emailed me to let me know a third friend is back in Poland instead of Australia, and shouldn't we get together? Hell yeah.

Side note: was at horse riding lesson on Saturday, watched two women go ass over teakettle off their horses. I know falling off is par for the course, but I'm worried about when my turn will come. One of the women was on the horse behind mine.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

By all

that I hold holy (and a few things I don't) I have never before seen a brick colored sky.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Almost two

and what a stupid day.

Stupid as in stuporific- I went to bed late last night after reading a book, and slept through till 9 in the morning. Unheard of, for me. I woke up feeling like I'd been clubbed in the head after a dream where my students were randomly dropping from the sky, "WHUMP".

That was so not okay.

Made coffee, STRONG. Picked up a weeks worth of detritus from my room, made breakfast in the seventh orbit ring from Dinner Two Nights Ago. Sat back down on the couch with Jorge Luis Borges- a very bad idea considering the odd dreams I'd had. Ditched the Borges, considered going outside but felt too lazy and started fooling around on the computer. Went to the grocery store, decided it was definitely too warm and that I'd missed my walk by oversleeping. Ate, which made me sleepy again. I've decided that I'm vetoing my body's message for Jorge Luis Borges, after eating Kofta and Marzipan. I found myself planning a summer in Khazikstan online afterwards.

What. A. Stupid. Day.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Genuinely lovely time

If I talk about last night, naturally I have to talk about the one before. So it's been a genuinely lovely weekend, dust storms at 4 AM notwithstanding.

Screw it. We'll go back to Tuesday afternoon, when I discovered that the Czech embassy was hosting a Mezzo Soprano Piano Recital at the local SAS Radisson. Things like this aren't widely publicized at all (when they do happen), and even going to look for them online or in the paper, you won't find them. Honestly, the best news feed is word of text message in this country.

So I texted Hot Mama, who knows everyone anyway, and we got all excited about Dressing Up. Then some people arranged to come, and some people declined, and my closet vomited shoes and skirts like usual, and the week went on.

Wednesday I was notified about a party, on Thursday night. There are actually very few things more pleasant than a message while at work saying "There is a party tomorrow night, and that person you've been thinking about all week is coming, and you should come too. Wear a dress." (I'm now waiting for the one that tells me a plane full of pals from Pittsburg are on the Tarmac with burritos and Zywiec). So I went to the salon, and subjected my eyebrows to cultural indignities I won't repeat and won't treat with language- there are no words. There is, however, Retin-A.

Thursday morning my assistant came in, frowned, and in a perfect Islamabad accent asked what happened to my eyebrows.

On Thursday my last period is a prep. Apparently the prep teacher crossed the Crazy Librarian in some former life- my class was supposed to be in the Library watching a movie so I could industriously finish that last episode of House MD, streaming online. Well, the Crazy Librarian threw everyone out. They ended up back in my room before the mid-episode crash cart- busy watching 13 in the throes of an medi/ethical crisis and suddenly there is a face in the window...that...shouldn' there. Waving cheerily. Long story short, I locked myself in the closet and finished the episode while my room became a camp out for two special needs classrooms, two assistants and a really irate Islamic teacher.

I ran away from the circus very quickly- a teacher colleague needed to get home quicker than usual and I drove him. Apparently, the rest of Kuwait had the same idea and they executed it in the same fashion: Colonel Mustard; On 5th Ring Road; With the SUV. It took something like 45 minutes to get home.

Supposed to go to French, but called it a week and called in sick. Instead, I sat in a chair and had a very nice lady do my toenails while I watched "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid." The cinematography was so good it made me sort of miss Utah a little. (That's damn good cinematography, incidentally.)

Got a text message when I was leaving, that the party was off- apparently the guest list had topped six billion in two days, and the original invitee was (shocker) afraid the cops show up and unable to handle the texts from his grateful six billion. No worries! I went home, took a shower, put on polka dot pajamas, prepared dinner.

Hot Mama texted, still disappointed about the party and wanting out. She directed me to come up with something (preferably involving alcohol) with That Guy You've Been Thinking About All Week, even if it was crashing his place to watch a movie.

Well, that's what we came up with. Until Hot Mama got in my car with another party at about 9:30 PM.

That Guy You've Been Thinking About All Week had changed locations, moved from Dasman to Farwaniya (the euphanisim for Butt-F--- Egypt when Egypt is actually closer). So we went to get him, got lost twice because Kuwaiti urban planners just constructed everything in a circle rather than let you do a U Turn. He was expecting us to park and come up and watch a movie. What we did was drag him in the car without a wallet or ID and cart him off to an (unknown to us) A List party.

The way parties in Kuwait work is this: you know someone who knows someone, who asks if you're interested. You say yes, and later that evening (if you're lucky) you are provided with directions to meet someone to meet someone who will lead you to the place where it's being held. We had no idea that it was going to be the type of party where, when you walk out, people are going to cluster around you and beg you to get them in. Freaaaaakkky.

The original organizer of the Grateful 6 Billion had regrouped and reorganized, trimming to twenty. It was very, very nice- I felt distinctly inferior, by the way. Every Arabic woman in there had at least a triple H cup and 150 pounds on me, no joke. All arranged on couched at the front of the room, they surgically attached themselves to their man-things (stoically chain smoking) when we walked in. Funny as hell-we were at a table in front of the speakers, so Hot Mama and I were texting back and forth when they loosened up and started folk dancing to the house beat.

After about an hour Hot Mama got a summons from Handsome Guy, who was denied entrance. Hot Mama was smelling trouble anyway, since her escort into the party, Bruiser, was giving other men squiffy attitude about talking to us. We decamped to go find Handsome Guy, taking a now buzzed and cheery Guy I'd Been Thinking About All Week, too. Three AM, hooked Hot Mama up with Handsome Guy and poured Guy I'd Been Thinking About All Week into shotgun.

And we're off, back to Farwaniya in a dust storm so bad I can't see what's on the side of the road. It took us an hour and 4 misses to get to his hotel. En route, we saw South Keitan, North Subhan access road, cargo shipment area of the airport, and both directions of 4th Ring Road.

The problem was this: picking him up had only been the second time I'd ever been to Farwaniya. He'd only been in Kuwait for a month, wasn't any help. There was only one way I knew to get to the road that he lived on, which was through two other roads I only knew one way to get on. It was dark and extremely dusty and I did not have my inhaler. I had been racking my brain to get there six hours earlier with Hot Mama. The end of the evening was sort of nightmarish.

Me: (nose to windshield, trying to see) "So what do you think of Serbia and Kosovo?
Him: "I think this is a perfect opportunity for someone to start a conflict, the US hands are tied, this is a one way street..."
Me: "They see me, they can go around. Smile and wave."

When I finally dropped him off, he was sweet enough to ask me up for a glass of water. I thanked him, hinted it might be another hour trying to find my own house , made it home by 4:30 AM muttering "He's twenty six, he's twenty six, he's twenty six."

I tried to sleep longer, but I woke up by nine. Got a nice Thank You from That Guy for finding his hotel instead of dropping him in the desert. Poked around the house, made a recipe I'd been dying to try for ages. Unfortunately, I used Egg Roll wrappers instead of Won Ton wrappers. The moment of truth came when I threw dinner in a pot of boiling water and it turned to sludge. Damn it.

Skirt and top, hair into shape, cup of coffee. Ran to pick up Hot Mama, who decided my name was now Hot Mama. She was running late, got dressed while we talked about Handsome Guy. Out the door to the SAS Radisson and The Big Ass Boat.

En route to The Big Ass Boat, I told her about the dinner disaster. She insisted that I get something to eat. "There!" So I dove across 4 lanes of Gulf Road and down a side alley that ended up as a Carl's Junior Drive Thru. We were running later for The Big Ass Boat, you see.

So we're in the car, back on Gulf Road, I'm wearing a silk top and skirt, hair up, driving with one hand and balancing a burger the size of a dinner plate in the other. Processing the personal history of Handsome Guy.
"So he teaches at University?"
"Yeah. Of course his passport is the wrong color so he's paid next to nothing"
(waiting at light, burger in hand, looks down) "This tastes kind of good." (remembers that Hot Mama is a vegetarian, looks at her) "Oh."

The Big Ass Boat is actually a ballroom. It's called the Al Hashemi Ballroom. I wasn't aware of this until Tuesday. Until I was run out by spiders the size of trashcan lids, I'd been going to a small private beach in Salwa. The Big Ass Boat sort of dominated the left hand view, but who am I to question who parks a dhow the size of a football field in their backyard?

The Guy I Had Been Thinking About All Week had pleaded off the Mezzo Soprano, citing an unsophisticated childhood. We were due to meet two other people, a friend and a colleague of Hot Mama. Finishing the burger (neatly, heimdullilah, nothing on the silk), we drove actually down under the Big Ass Boat and parked. The event was upstairs, a cluster of about 150 chairs around a small platform in a dazzling room, so brightly lit it was bringing tears to my eyes.

The event was superb, the reception was wonderful. Afterwards we all went to Cafe Supremo in Salmiya to drink coffee and talk politics. The guy who claimed that I was the only woman in the world to make him happy did a couple of angry Stomp Bys with a pal, sent a nasty text. I traded seats with Hot Mama and kept talking. Next time, bring the fucking chess board.

And...home again at 1:30 AM. I got up at 9, listened to Third Leg talking really, really loud to my neighbor on the landing about going to Fallika Island while trying to finish another House MD episode. I think my life is supposed to feel empty and strangely hollow without two-syllable conversation and eating fast food....

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Riding Lesson

messed up...consequently grouchy Jo. It's the third lesson and already riding is the high part of my week. You can say this is also because I haven't fallen off the horse yet. Everything in time.

Another crystal clear, beautiful day at just the right temperature, here in Kuwait. I washed a pair of jeans, wondering how much longer I have before I have to put them away for the summer. It's March 9th, I think I have until the 25th at this rate.

I need to decide what I'm doing for break, and what I'm doing for the even longer break. It's looking like Poland for at least part (I need me some Warsaw, stat) but I need to get off my ass and get to Petra. I know it's going to be busy busy busy there by April, maybe I should try Yemen. Maybe I should do anything as long as I make a decision....


"I went out to a hazel wood..."

Naw. Went out on the Corniche. I actually woke up at 0 dark thirty this morning and went out to walk by the Scientific Center at about 6:30. Well, well worth the impulse. I watched the waterfront come alive with trickles of joggers and fishermen, to be replaced with walkers occasionally producing bags of food to feed the local cats.

It was an incredible morning, with light breezes and cerulean skies and seas. Date palms waving gently and the tick-tick of distant sprinklers. If my work day started only an hour later, I'd be out there every morning and probably a better person for it.

I hi the Sultan Center on the way home (absolutely and delightfully deserted, bless all those late sleeping Kuwati hearts!) and discovered...sage plants in the veggie isle! I've actually been looking for sage in any form since Christmas, and only found dried sage a couple weeks ago at a local Co-Op. Sage, with roots and a potential life span past next week, was more than I had dreamed of. Sage came home with me, along with his friends Thyme, Rosemary (no Parseley, you 70's misfits) and Basil.

I arranged them on my dining table at home, and went in the kitchen to fix some breakfast. As I walked in the Living Room with a plate of bread, it hit me. They smelled good. They looked good. Light from the window filtered through the leaves, and a knot I wasn't aware of having loosened in my shoulders. Green...felt good.

I ate breakfast pondering my new wealth, pondering the color of wealth. Green is wealth, the color of plants, which means water is nearby. Those who have water, have plants, have wealth. Herbs on my table had changed my entire flat. I couldn't stop looking at them.

The "Durrr" voice in the back of my head pointed out that 1. it was still early 2. it was still Saturday and 3. the car had gas. Why not visit the Plant Souq?Pick up a couple of plant pots, maybe a fern?

What followed was probably the most pleasant couple of hours I've ever spent in Kuwait. Definitely, they made me forget for a little while that I was in the desert. I started at one end of, maybe 20 nurseries in a row. I walked in to cool shade and fountain demonstrations, I walked out amid rows of waving Almond saplings waiting to be purchased. I walked in to well equipped, tiled, shady conservatories, I walked out amid rows of strawberry plants and hanging ivy. All the time, my brain was ticking, 'That's Lobelia, and that's Lantana, and there's a Spider Plant, and Orange trees, and Ficas there, and I think that's chamomile...lots of mint and rosemary, but no sage and no basil. I did well. Marigolds, and Morning Glories...roses, lots of roses. This place has Powdery Mildew, not buying here."

While walking into another nursery, I came across about 15 men, two cars, a truck full of sod grass, and a policeman escorting an irate older woman in hijab into the back of a squad car. I have no idea how it started or how the sod truck got involved (as this was all in a parking lot), but the BMW got seriously f---d up. Living here has a sort of David Lynch-esque edge I can't quite get the better of.

The best of all, I was that I managed to get my hands on some white narcissus, a day away from blooming. You, reader, have no idea what this means to me. When a single stalk of Freesia alone can cost more than 5 American dollars have white narcissus on my table means I am still part of a world where there's rain and clouds and green to the horizon. Paperwhites happen to be my favorite flower and my favorite scent.

I'd take a picture, but I lost my camera over Christmas and I haven't replaced it yet.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday Night in Salmiya

This time it involves curlers and multiple episodes of House MD, complete with chocolate cookies. It's been a long week, people.

Long week but stunningly beautiful day. I went out and walked on The Corniche for over an hour- I had an email from a friend back home who isn't doing so hot, and she was reminiscing about how she'd run over to my place for coffee when things got tough. Someone else, some other family has been in that flat for over 6 months, and I still think about it as "My Flat". I still think about the sunshine through the windows, M. laying on the carpet drinking a beer back in Hurricane Katrina days.

Got a couple of calls and a caustic one-liner message from Loverboy of three nights past. I mean, the cliches were bad enough, but he tried leaving with his wallet on my coffee table. Don't try leaving with your wallet on my coffee table. I've been rejecting you for ninety minutes and we both know it. I don't inspire passion enough to make someone forget their Visa card and we both know that too. Take ALL a y'all sh-- and get to steppin. Showin up without a chess board like dat.

My Ipod was located, heimdullilah! Now I am no longer singing solo with Trent Reznor. Yes, I would be the woman in the little white Pajero blaring "Head Like a Hole" and "Supermassive Black Hole." We all have our kinks, I just happen to have 3 people's worth. Come on! I also listen to Dido and Johnny Cash and Yo Yo Ma. I do a stunning counterpoint to "Streets of Laredo" at stoplights all over Salmiya.

Lazy morning, grocery shopping and errands singing "Don't Leave Home" at the top of my lungs. Finally located actual Maple Syrup- the guys at Carrefour thought I was nuts, especially when I found the sugar-free version in the Diabetic Foods and attempted a hands-on explanation that I wanted the stuff found in nature.

Then home again, home again jiggetty jig. Washed off the dust, made some cookies, settled down with some curlers and a movie. It's getting so that this takes a while, now. I tried going to a salon to have to done, but it was...fake looking.

Once in a generation female; once in a generation hair. No mop like this outside of Blue Earth County, MN and I understand a little now why my father wouldn't let me cut it while I was growing up. From what I saw of my cousins, I don't think any of them inherited it and my father had 5 children: I'm the only one with it. Point being, no salon is going to replicate what I can do with a little time and effort and it can be jaw dropping in the sunlight.

J. happens to be in Dubai- met her parents on Thursday night. Genuinely lovely people, and we had a dinner at the Mubarrikah in Dasman. I'm still having trouble with the ordering food- I love the meat grilled in cubes on a stick. However, "Kebab" refers to chopped meat formed into a oblong piece that resembles something like a bowel movement, with or without rice. This time, I was very specific about "Meat On A Stick", but the order that came back was "Stick of Meat", i.e. not what I wanted. Oh, they provide tasty grilled meats on a stick at this location, because I've had them before when someone ordered the food when I wasn't paying attention. I'm thinking of getting a camera and creating my own PECS book specifically for restaurants. I shouldn't complain, I mean, a fish the size of a sideboard appeared on the table midway through the meal that nobody ordered.

So it's quiet in the land of Kuwait tonight. Curlers are in, children are outside playing in the perfect Spring evening, phone is quiet. A twenty hour plane flight away, people are watching little yellow buses pull in, Friday is M.'s day in the classroom that used to be mine. I know it's green there, and probably cloudy, and as alien to this place as my walk through the Date Palms this morning would be to the people I love. Those people breaking their backs to keep home and family together, who dream of being able to do what I'm doing now.

How deeply I love and appreciate what you do for this world.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Gotta Be a Full Moon

There has to be some massive eclipse going on. I'm not sure I can do justice to the strangeness of this week, and it's only Tuesday.

The world's smallest Ipod is gone, and I am pisssssssssssed. I mean, it was the greatest thing in the world for working out, smaller than a matchbox and clipped to your clothes. Bright green. The problem was that it was smaller than a matchbox, and I kept losing it in my work bag or in a pocket. Well, now it is lost for almost sure, and I simply don't do justice to the bass licks in "Icky Thump" solo in my car. I'm going to replace it, but not sure if I want something larger and not as easily lost (and more expensive) that bounces around while I'm running, or go for the same thing again.

Saturday afternoon was gorgeous...took myself to a coffee shop with Orwell's 1984, played phone tag with J. for a couple of hours while she lent a listening ear to three or four different friends around Kuwait and then landed at my table, with 45 minutes to spare. I was five minutes in to a great conversation when I noticed a fellow lurking (ok, he wasn't lurking- he was standing directly behind J. and refusing to go away no matter how pointedly I talked to her). He wasn't completely unknown to me- he was actually a "Freind" of the 3rd leg who'd been victimized by some of her drunk-dials in October, before The Artist Formerly Known as SMOP.

Of course, after about 10 minutes this was sort of awkward, so we invited him to sit down after a couple of greetings and he point blank asked if I remembered his name. I was actually really sore to lose my conversation with J.; J. took it as a "Gee She Might Get Laid" opportunity, sucked down her cappuccino and fled. I offered (strongly, for me) to take her to her language lesson; she assured me of the 6545861032 taxis on Mubarak Street, one might work out.

We had about an hour's conversation before I had to leave, many cigarettes were smoked. He positively assured me that he loved chess. He wanted to play chess. We would meet again on Monday, to play chess.

I went to my riding lesson, which went very well. Then I went to a friends house to watch a movie, getting so lost enroute and returning I ended up in the Cargo area of the airport. I got home at midnight, had to be up by 5.

The following day at work was easy but tiresome, except my Assistant was slammed in the head by a kamikaze basketball during my Prep. She came tottering into the classroom at 1:00 behind the students, green as algae under her hijab and "I am not feeling well!" in an Islamabad accent. Honestly, I haven't seen anyone physically turn green in almost 16 years. I told her to go home, or at least sit down. She refused the nurse, lasted another 20 minutes and poured herself into a taxi, green and all.

French, then dinner with J. and a newcomer to Kuwait I had met very slightly during February. He turned out to be wildly intellectual, invited a second friend working at the Turkish Embassy, a second friend of J.'s showed up and we were out talking and eating until 11:30. Meanwhile, my Assistant's husband called from the Emergency Room to report a minor concussion, that she wouldn't be in. I told him I'd pretty much assumed that.

I drove home with book titles and research papers fluttering through my hair. We had talked about David Lynch (the first time I heard him mentioned in Kuwait), research in Kuwait on Autism, Diabetes and Mental Health, Khazars, books, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It was exactly the delicious type of conversation I'd been craving, looking everywhere for, and despaired of finding. When I checked my email before bed, a different woman, a cytologist, had sent all her published papers as promised. Oh, language I could understand! People who understood it as a matter of course!

Bed by midnight, up at 5.

Even though the next day was...not exactly smooth, student-wise, I kept looking out at The Holiday Inn and just smiling. The Aramex representative finally got back to me, the office was sneezing distance so I could finally complete my paperwork. Plus, I was supposed to play chess that evening.

(OK, for those of you a little more knowledgeable in human motivation than I am, sometimes, shut up now. Just...shut it.)

I wanted a nap after work, but I wanted Lunch more. So I cooked lunch. Which took until 4:30, and I needed to leave by 6. Originally, I put on jeans and a Grey t-shirt with a flannel shirt over it (hey, it's a chess game, right?) but this tinny ringing in my head, eerily reminiscent of my grandmother having a major shitfit, made me pull a couple unused clothing items out of the drawer and put on a darker shade of lipstick. Surveyed the result, "Not too bad, not overdone" I mused. I walked out the door, pressed the elevator button, waited. The elevator opened to disclose my Supervisor, clearly in shock. I stepped in.
The doors slid shut. The elevator moved upwards. I started punching buttons frantically. "This is supposed to be going DOWN!"
"It's not a date" I muttered, still pushing buttons "Something is wrong with the elevator!"
"I'm playing chess look your floor right here okay bye!"
"He's from Jordan and it's not a date okay BYE! The DOORS ARE CLOSING!" I leaned on the button, sank back against the elevator thinking I might just cut to the chase and have sex in the elevator, since it would only be the people in the elevator who knew what I was doing instead of the whole damn building and I could have an entire relationship wrapped up in less than 15 minutes.

I made it to Aramex, went downstairs and ordered a cappuccino. It was 7, no sign of the guy. And curiously enough, my phone wasn't with me. WTF??! This might sound funny but it's perfectly true- I absolutely wouldn't have left my phone on purpose, and I specifically remembered putting it in my purse. Where the hell was it? Where was he? At 7:30 I packed it in and went home.

Yeah, phone was sitting next to the computer all right... had he called? No. But someone else had. Three times. Third Leg had called (!!!!!) and SMOP had texted (!!!!!!!!!!!). Whoa. Two people I'd rather slam my hand in a car door than be forced to talk to, and with some dim level of understanding on their part.

I took a shower, got in pajamas, got in bed with a movie. He called at 9, and apparently it was my responsibility to have called him and reminded him...?

To the very last second, I thought he would show up with a chess board. Damn it. What followed was a very long couple of hours of him insisting I "can make him happy" with my equally insistent, "I don't believe that's in my power." Many cigarettes were smoke. I threw him out at 11:30, left the window open to air the place out.

Bed by midnight, up at 5.

Of course, in the morning there was a dust storm in full swing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Slow Wednesday

But ever so nice.

Reading Michio Kaku's "Einstein's Cosmos". As a biography, it sucks. The holes are obvious and the writer is way too kind. As a overview for the uninitiated in Physics, it's wonderful. I'm actually reading it for the second time, as I finished it in a day. By far the most engrossing read I've had since I came to Kuwait.

Went to the beach, off Arabian Gulf road, next to Pizza Hut. I used to go to a small place in Salwa, but since the weather got warm it's been harbouring either ticks or jumping spiders the size of US quarter dollars. Once was all that took. I didn't stick around to count legs.

I took book, water, towel, myself down to a more open, sunny part of the beach and got a little burned while I was reading. Some guy crawled onto a rock overhang and started looking at me, but I started scratching out physics experiments in the sand and he lost interest.

The Sweetest Man Onna Planet, alas, is no longer. Oh, he's alive, and now openly appreciating the delights of his capacious and obtuse armful, righteously defending his sexual proclivities against all the more svelte (read, narrow minded) world. However, like most of humanity, he isn't quite what he seems. Just managed to hide it a little more successfully from others for a little longer. On Friday it started raining puzzle pieces: by the end of the storm the picture was looking like the third panel of "The Garden of Earthly Delights".(Google it if you want the detail. Hieronymous Bosch)

I got a bit of news so overpowering, so absolutely damning to any future interaction with him (while answering so many lingering questions), that I cut the relationship. Most thoroughly.


During this journey to shut off the screaming "This Isn't Right" siren to the left of my kidney, I've been accused of some pretty cool stuff. Being an (evil) man getter ( I LOVED that, kept imagining some guy at Pride cross dressed as Dorothy, lisping as he flogged me with a cooked spaghetti noodle), being anti-social, being a coward, running away, being sick. Oh, yeah, and "No Self Esteem".

I could refute all of those individually, but it would give more to it than the giggle they earned. So I will address the core issue that I was presented with, which is "You Don't Have A Choice" and "How Dare You Pick?"

Of course I have a choice. I'm a grownup! I choose the people in my life, I choose who stays there and who goes. Of course I pick- that's because I'm picky. Push comes to shove, I vote with my feet. Vote myself off the island- I've been known to vote myself off the island, roll up some rocks and start my own, and vote myself off that one too. This could be mistaken for running away. But running away implies that I've left the scene or a relationship without attempting to help or fix the situation. Which I'm addicted to doing- I'm a teacher. "Let's find a better way" is in purple crayon on the inside of my eyelids.

What it doesn't address is the second party, not willing to change.

After you've seen the Big Light a couple of times, after you've held your Grandmother's hand as she dies and watched other people in this steady march into the afterlife, it changes you. You get to appreciating the 3mm of skull between your Self and the big cold world. Snuggle up under that dura mater with some cocoa- this life is pretty fragile and painfully short.

Not only do I have a choice, I don't have time to make the same mistakes even twice. That would include including people in my life who somehow doubt I am the best judge of my own happiness.

I think I was above the tide line when I drew some of those physics sketches in the sand. I'm going to go back tomorrow and keep working.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Easy Like Tuesday Morning

No dust storm, but the wind has picked up terribly. I'm whipping myself with a wet noodle- I've been on Vacation for the past 5 days and not one morning have I been able to sleep past 6 AM. This sucks.

It's approximately 6:20, and I've been up listening to objects blowing around outside and the wind whistle for the past hour. Yesterday, while it was still nice, I managed to get to a salon and take care of some necessary tasks. The lady was amused- I don't have a television, much less Cable. She had the movie "Castaway" on, and I was so engrossed with how Tom Hanks prioritized finding fresh water that I forgot what she was doing for a while. The place I was at last week (you have to go to lots of different places for different stuff) had "The Lion in Winter" on. It's been 12 years, and I haven't seen the end of that incredible movie yet. Part of the problem is that you can't get the online version of Netflix or Blockbuster here, for licensing reasons. So I'm going to have to shake down the video guy and get my Herzog and Kurosawa thang on. I could have sworn I brought "Aguirre" with me, but apparently not.

After maintenance, I had a coffee with a pal, took myself home in the teeth of the wind for chocolate and more downloads of "House M.D.". Great show, I'm halfway through Season 2. My vote is for less of the smarmy romanticism and more Broca's Speech Area. Baby.

The other students in my French class voted for a session today, and morning as well. So shalle I hie me off to Bnied Al Gar for more verbs. At 9:30. Man.

Exquisite Day

In fact, the last two or three days have almost made up for the Filth Storms of last week...sorry. There is actually no way that powdered petrochemicals and dry cat feces from 47 bajillion feral cats, airborne at 20 Knots, can be mistaken for a "Sandstorm". As they say at home, 'Daz jest naasty'.

It's Liberation Day Holiday, which means that Monday and Tuesday are off for everyone. Now, my school was wavering about giving us Sunday, the 24th, off. They let us know officially...about the 17th. They let us know we had the entire week, at 1:30 on the 21st. As there is a mass migration (think aerodynamic Hijab and people tied to airplane wings) out of Kuwait during this time, I am sitting on my couch instead of gazing at the Treasury in Petra.

That's oversimplified- I'm actually super tired. I have French Lessons 3x per week, and I had my first horse riding lesson last Saturday. Then, I mistook "Super Muscle Fatigue" for basic muscle soreness, tried to go and stretch some of the kinks out at the gym. Wrong move. I came out of the gym walking like Messilina Does Milan, pondering muscle groups I'd never previously appreciated.

So I'm on the couch, stacks of books and movies and chocolate and wonderful stuff. I conceded the wonderful weather and opened the windows.

Back to Liberation Day...they take it pretty seriously here. I was out driving and we ran into a pocket (okay, we went around a round-about and ended up in a District of) of cruisers standing on top of their cars, waving flags and squirting foam as they rolled down the street. I started to laugh, told my friend it was like Gay Pride back home... men in tight jeans squirting each other and dancing with flags on top of cars. She understood- she's Swedish.

Homesick as anything these past two weeks. Terribly vivid- I'll lose myself in a memory of being at Black Diamond Mines, raise my hand...and wake up touching the window glass in my classroom, or a student will call me, "Miss? Miss?" Talk about sleep walking. It's not just places- even though I know that Ma__ is no longer the owner of a souped up Jeep Cherokee, I've seen two or three green ones just on the Motorway, and it's enough to bring tears to my eyes. A six pack and a Cow's Head...God, sometimes I miss him so much it's hard to swallow. Or Pan Dyrektor, standing and smiling at me from some rocky ledge overlooking the ocean, on a bright afternoon. Hands behind his back, that half aggravated, half amused smile.

As I found out at Christmas, the places stay the same, but the people quickly move beyond recognition.

One thing open windows do really well, is advertise the place around the corner making Samosas. Think I'm going to shuffle down and see what's cooking.

Monday, February 11, 2008

So today, without preamble

I'm going to the beach. Not just any beach, but one you have to look hard to find, on the borders of Salwa, down an alley and behind a Mosque.

While at this beach, I will listen to the waves for a good long time.

Then I will dig a hole, and in that hole will go: students who lick things; people born without the self analysis gene; the people you have to explain your sarcasm to; that Class Picture now hanging in the front office; the creepy fact that I'm turning into my sister; the fact that no one manages to walk off the map when you ask them to- they think it's a sort of challenge.

And I'll fill in the hole, despite all the little squeaks, and dance on it.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Fear of Loss

I haven't posted in while...I have about six drafts that I've been "Meaning" to catch up on, but revisiting all of them left me with a sort of hollow tone in my head. If you're looking for my recent adventures, wait for another post. This is one of the navel gazing philosophy type of posts that have nothing to do with anything but me...

Easy is not always simple, simple is not always easy. I changed The Autistic Kid's seat yesterday. First we invited, then we had the class invite him. Then Preferred Objects like an entire box of paperclips were placed strategically (he was on to me). Finally, the extra preferred objects all migrated to his new seat to wait for him, and when he landed in his new seat I sat with him and held his hand while he hugged all those precious objects to himself and just cried and cried. He used my hand to wipe his face.

But he stayed in his new seat.

Fear of loss hobbles us. It's hobbled me. Watching my living and social situation mushroom into something truly grotesque, and the same time watching myself watch myself, unable and unwilling to walk away for fear of not finding this one, precious thing again. Clutching useless (to others) abstract (to others) random objects to my chest because they will help me float while I'm adrift, changing seats.

Until, in the final words of my Grandmother, "I'm tired of this!" One rolls over and...changes. Dies. Adapts. Walks away. Kicks out and starts to swim, because at least it's doing something other than, well, navel gazing or watching the train wreck in motion.

The SMOP took off for Egypt to renew his Visa, since he changed jobs. The night before, Leg 3 of this disastrous social/living situation announced that she's formally converted to Islam.

I'm going to skip over the Islam part, and address converting to any religion. I was raised pretty strictly Mormon, and I've seen my share of converts come and go. They used to say, "Faith without works is dead." I say, give me that same convert 1 year on, and then I start to take them seriously. When that same convert is being an example to their children about the proper way to live and embrace that particular faith, then I start to give them some credence.

Meanwhile, my gut is absolutely screaming, "Space. Give this person plenty of room, plenty of space."

So I didn't go out to eat. Instead, I bought some vegetables and ate at home. I went to the gym a couple of times and really broke a sweat. the I completed a stack of paperwork. Then I put on really tight jeans and went out to coffee with someone I'd never had a good conversation with before then. I bought another MP3 player, and blasted music in my car all weekend when I ran errands. When leg #3 requested company, I politely declined. When in company with leg #3, I stopped holding back, started to laugh and really enjoy myself with the other people around me. One ray of light at a time, I pulled it back to myself and spent it on me.

In short, I remembered the old lesson, that people who would ask you, need you to be less than yourself (directly or indirectly) while around them, aren't worth being around. Much less, part of their issues.

I did crunches- they made me stand up straighter. I felt better in my clothes, my clothes began to fit better. Sometimes, I would break into a run in the hallway just to feel it. I began to get some odd looks from leg #3. I began to get comments. "I didn't see you all day today."

Not impolite. Not unfriendly. Just, not there.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mr. Roke

Long ago and far away, when I was just a waif of a Josephine, we ran our World History teacher out of school. Not physically- we just motivated her to find other employment. In South Carolina.

As "running a teacher out" is an old and time honored tradition held by schoolchildren from Laura Ingalls Wilder to my present school, I won't dwell on it. The class I had been in was divided, and Mr. Roke was given a new set of victims, at Mid Term.

The one good thing about older siblings was, you knew what was coming. Ear hustling at the dinner table gave you a good idea who to sidestep and where to sit for lunch in High School, even six to eight years on. Mr. Roke haunted a shadowy corner of my anxiety closet, where teachers gave T's and Z's and eight page research papers that kept my sister up over the typewriter, far into the night.

He inhabited a small, isolated portable on the extreme eastern corner of campus. Rather run up by weeds and run down (or over) by Proposition 13, it had the aura of snatching students to suck their dreams of college right from the marrow. Leilani, straight A 4.00 Leilani, perfect Leilani with her dreams of U.C. Berkeley, got a T from him.

The first day of the new term, they marched us over to his classroom. We found desks in this windowless, cluttered cave of a portable inhabited very much by an aging troll in a tweed sportcoat and (as I found later) surgically attached coffee cup. Styrofoam. A bust of Nefertiti glimmered on a dusty file cabinet under the pissy colored fluorescent lighting- the walls were choked with charts, graphs, timelines, and reproductions of obscure paintings. It was also about 20 deg. F in the classroom- rumor had it that the low temperature and the loose pills in his briefcase kept him from a second heart attack.

The rest of the students steadily ignored this short, graying, heavily spectacled prop for a coffee cup and went about getting organized. He opened his mouth...

and three minutes later I came to myself, pulling my back away from the chair sticky with cold sweat. He'd stopped to take a breath.

He continued much more softly, without changing expression or lowering the coffee cup. "I can't teach you unless you want to learn. So if you don't want to be here, get up and get the hell out."

No one moved.

Mr. Roke was my formal introduction to the Latin and Greek Alphabets, Art History, several Egyptian Dynasties, heraldry, architecture past and present, and exactitude. He was my introduction to note taking, James Burke, Thomas Campbell, critical thinking, and courage in the line of fire.

One day, as he continued to rant around the room he brought up a slide of a famous sculpture- Apollo in pursuit of Daphne, herself half changed to a Laurel Tree. He was stomping up and down the room, thundering about classical references to Renaissance paintings and artists, demanding to know what the subject of the sculpture was. I raised my hand.
"Apollo and Daphne."
"Apollo and Daphne!"
I remember he stopped at smiled before he moved on. "You know NOTHING if you don't know your Greek Mythology!"

Mr. Roke retired after that semester, and died less than a year later. When I heard, I cried, much to the concern of my fellow students. This was a man infamous for a Nails on Chalkboard sensation when he smiled, after all.

He's buried in the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, in Hayward CA. I used to run on the ridges above it.

A few nights ago I was sitting in the car with The Sweetest Man Onna Planet, talking about a text message I'd sent after he teased me, "You run like a duck!"
I had told him that he should be so lucky-Artemis would have changed him to a stag for seeing her so undignified.

At Artemis, he was completely lost as to what I said.

After trying to explain (in so many words)
-Artemis is a Goddess; Greek, of hunting and small animals
("What about Medusa?" "Medusa was a Gorgon, she had two sisters")
-Goddesses don't like to be told they run like ducks

I sat back in the seat, feeling sad and kind of alone. "You know NOTHING if you don't know your Greek Myths!" boomed in my head. Wasn't any of this important to anyone else?

"I wish you knew your Greek Myths", I said kind of wistfully.

At which point, he turned to me in the seat and began to recount the tale of Perseus and Pegasus and Medusa.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Coat in the classroom

They said these days would come, and they're here with a vengeance. Bone cold, dry cold, tooth achingly cold. So cold you can't really remember why you wore skirts to work.

The entire school is made from cement, which is miserable and damp in the humidity and miserable and impossible to heat in the cold. It's crept into my knee for the first time ever; I have "Winter Feet" now. Moisturizing hands and elbows is pointless. The heater stays on 24/7, classroom and home. I have my coat, scarf and three layers on underneath while I teach. I made a concession to typing this without gloves on.

I feel like a bit of a weenie- after all, it's only around 38-40 Deg. F. Must be the dry that keeps it feeling colder. That and the wind. However, ever structure in this country is built to catch a breeze and swing it around the room, not keep it out. I made the amazing discovery that my house could reach 20c if I simply kept the curtains shut.

Other news...I made it to Ikea, picked out some frames and got some long deserving art from the Museum of The Warsaw Uprising framed and on the wall. I mean, not the professional stuff that I like, stewing at P & B's house in Sacto, but it will do for the time being.

Saw K. for the first time in...can you believe it? Eleven years. Eleven years! She is still looking her fantabulous self, living her stunning life. It was like moments had passed, not years. Did I also mention that we saw an accident and were rear ended by a bus? Busy weekend.

Ah. Have to put my gloves back on for right now. Not even the keyboard is keeping them warm any more.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Luckiest Goyl

So we hit "cold" in's predicted to get to 3C tonight, definitely wasn't any higher than 10 yesterday. My work is right behind Dasman Palace, so we got the full brunt of the dust storm/wind coming off the Gulf.

My Assistant, A., made it back from Pakistan...'nuff said. Yesterday's lessons for the students were long on worksheets, short on vocal delivery since both of us are sick with head colds. At the time, we couldn't breathe through our noses. By the end of the day we couldn't breathe at all. Jet lag kicked in, my thalamus switched off, and I was a shivering wheezing mess by the time I reached...Staff Meeting!

Which everyone had forgotten about. Staff Meeting is on Sunday, All Staff the first Sunday of every month, and we're contracted to stay 30 minutes past our regular time. Usually the Head just stands in front, barks at us (about 200) if we look too dozey or glazed over while they run statistics of Student Intake. This time, they wanted us to participate. This time, they split us into groups and required Our Input into several public documents the school was trying to edit. Normally, I would have considered it sort of sweet and at least mocked the other efforts of teachers trying to put themselves forward, in my head. Today, all I could do was look bleakly that the papers they handed us and pray I wouldn't fall asleep in the chair. My chances were good though, it being nearly as dusty and windy in the Auditorium as outside, that I would simply stop breathing first and keel over. "So Ms. S_____ is a 'No' for adding that comma...anyone else?"

By the time they cut us loose, the wind had picked up to about 25 knots. Remember, we're practically on the beach. I made it home, jumped in the shower, couldn't get warm. Put on three layers of clothing and took a nap, falling asleep to the daydream that The Sweetest Man Onna Planet (T.S.M.O.P) remembered that Ka__ and I mentioned that we need heaters.

The people who actually DID show up were some guy with my gas cannister for the cooker, so I got my tea and hot dinner (it was missing since I came home) and the woman from the Holiday Inn about the gym membership. I was literally falling asleep standing up, but I was trying to keep myself awake to sleep entirely through the night. So I took another brief nap, woke up at 8:30 and read my Gourmet magazine ("Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Sour Cherries"), laying in bed trying not to think how cold the tile floor is. TSMOP was supposed to be coming by, anyway, to pick up some papers so I needed to stay awake.

The doorbell rang- The Sweetest Man Onna Planet was standing outside with a heater in the box, "I heard you weren't feeling well." One for Ka___too, left in the elevator doors which were opening and closing around it.

Get this, he assembled it for me and turned it on. Then he diagnosed my Coffee Machine, the one I talked and talked about bringing from the States, then I brought it from the States (It has a timer, will make your coffee by the time you wake up!) and killed in reckless forgetfulness of 220v vs. American 110. Then was set up as a little tragic monument of fabulousity on my coffee table, still with factory enhanced shinyness. Said it could be repaired, he'd find a place to take it. I am now in the absolute luxury of being sick in a warm house with warm food (Hey, I know I had more than I wanted in August). With my little statue of Coffee looking at potential resurrection.

Plus, they announced Islamic New Year will be Thursday, not Sunday. So I have 3 more days of work this week. I AM the luckiest woman on the planet, hands down.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Another teeny little posty

Back in the classroom... God, the silence is ringing. They're all working/half asleep/absent. I am sick as a dog- caught a sinus infection on the plane. My assistant is sick too, so they're all nailed to chairs with worksheets for the next two hours until we can turn them loose in the Library.

The flight was long, long long. Complete with a surprise layover in Heathrow where Ka__ and I had to de-plane and re-plane. Heathrow officially being my Least Favorite Airport of All Time- it hasn't picked up since I was last through, going to Poland. They're still working on the same construction projects. When I went through to Poland, I got so lost I ended up outside the airport on the street and had to have my passport stamped to get back in. All I was doing was changing flights...

We narrowly escape the same fate, standing in Immigration and wondering out loud which direction to go in. The ladies in immigration were very nice and steered us back where we came from.

I ended up with another Ciocia sitting next to me, and her extraordinarily sick (but nonetheless, quite attractive) grandson in the last seat. Going to Madras, this time she was. Lost as a flake of snow in the desert, her grandson puking everywhere (this is how cute he was, pukage and all).

Friday, January 4, 2008

Teeny leetle posty

bfore i go to sleep. I'm back in kuwait. Someone stole some of my stove top stuffing. Bitches.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Waiting at SFO

for my flight back to New York, then Kuwait. I woke up this morning to the coffee pot making (what seemed like) extra liquid sounds. It interrupted some dream about floating rafts on the Great Lakes, and Barbie.

I've actually had an excellent morning. The storm that is supposed to dump 10' of snow in the Sierra's by Saturday night has held off, looks like it will hold off until after 12 noon, by which time I will be halfway to New York. Goodbyes and Check-In's all in order, no doubling back for a missed passport or missed clothing. Either they don't have the Middle East Special for security or I'll do it in New York, but that was smooth too. A good, CHEAP breakfast (with bacon and sourdough toast; I stroked them lovingly and said goodbye before stuffing them whole in my mouth) and then an excellent bookstore where they had a nice selection of books. True, the one I picked out cost a depressing amount, and reads like Science 1A at University, but maybe I'll get some teaching ideas out of it.

So I'm here at the gate, watching the clouds roll in over Half Moon Bay and Highway 92. I'm pleased that I got as much done as I did, but of course disappointed that it still wasn't all I wanted to do. There were more and more people I wanted to see...

Back to Marriage.

I was married once, briefly. Then I stopped. The reasons are simple but would take an entire blog post to do it justice.

I've been in several long term relationships, where being married simply wasn't an option. Again, the reasons are simple but would take an get it.

Relationships and the people you relate to, how you make friends and lovers is a ceaseless topic of interest among my friends in Kuwait. Weather you were raised with the idea of Arranged Marriage (K.) Eternal Marriage (me) Successful Love Marriage (Ka.), how we do it and make it last is a huge question. Cross Cultural, same culture, same gender cross cultural, are you giving up too much of yourself? Not enough? Want kids? No kids? Got kids? Willing to change (aka "Sell Out" to the dominant paradigm? To "The Man"? To an "Institution"? To bitchin' Tax Breaks?)? How much of yourself are you giving up? Will you find it again at 2AM ten years later, or when you walk in on your spouse on the toilet for the first time (or both?)

Right now, everyone's parents are seeing Empty Nest in full swing. No matter who you talk to, their parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, In Laws are looking, looking at each other for the first time in 20 or 30 years. Not over the head of a child or lessons or homework or carpooling. Some go looking for things to hold them together- V. mentioned her parents got a dog for that reason, and take it to Dog Shows. Some (like N's father and stepmother, about 3 years ago) simply drift apart and let the certificate hold them together. My own parents have opposite work shifts, stay in the same house but never see each other. My uncle is a Trucker, comes home once a month for a few days.

I talk to my Assistant, A. One of the loveliest, kindest women I've had the fortune to meet. She's from Islamabad (stuck there now), 23, has a 6 month old daughter and loving husband. She was educated in a Convent, went to University, and her marriage was arranged through a family friend when she left University. She has never been to the United States, and she asks questions about dating and having a boyfriend, because she's never done either one. She talked on the internet for a year to her (would be) husband, and then they were married. She's genuinely happy, can't fathom any other way to be. In the Middle East, you love the person you marry. You don't marry the person you love.

In that light, Pan Dyrektor and his...V. will certainly be very happy. They will slog it through, and grit their teeth, and barring any exposure to US Culture be quite successful with raising beautiful children in a tapioca colored world.

I talk to R___, and see her daughter and grandson, and her 25 years with her husband, and how vivid and original and interested she is in life and how happy she is ("You know, that's really relative gurl") and yes, the same end can be achieved through different means. Look at Ka__'s parents.

I spent two weeks with P & B, who just celebrated 10 years on New Year's Eve. They've had some trouble- the premature birth of their daughter, the death of another. And they slog it through too.

I've met countless lesbian and gay couples, who end up together for 15+ years. Couples unable to marry, yet slogging it through in absence of any social or cultural or financial support. And happy.

So what do I think about marriage?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Buckle your seatbelts, this will be a long one.

And this blog is about to get a bit more spicy...I did a straw poll around my friends while I was visiting. Not only are they dimly aware of my blog, most of them don't understand what the hell I'm writing. Students, they aren't reading. Thus unencumbered by duty to virgin ears (eyes rather) I will proceed.

I found Pan Dyrektor. Rather, he surfaced for air and sent me a very brief email on New Year's Eve, after a absolutely crazy day with P.'s family in a substantially smaller house. I called him- no reply.

I left Sacramento, pancakes and the fire alarm at 9 on New Year's Day; achieved Santa Rosa at 10:45 muttering 'Y'all wanna play games? M-F'er, we play that game where I kick your ass...". His house was ridiculously easy to find, all three project cars on the driveway. So I leaned on the doorbell.

Silence. Scuffle. More scuffling. Persistent soft scuffling that indicated someone was dragging themself to the door, painfully (oh please don't ring). It cracked, disclosing a Pan Dyrektor patently unready for sunlight.

He blinked twice. The second time brought me into focus, an enormous mass of attitude and rusty colored hair in a black cashmere coat, one shoulder on the door jamb.
He grinned slowly. "Josie?"
I didn't move from the doorjamb.

"Did you REALLY think you could not call for four months, and I wouldn't come kick your ass?"

He turned pink and shut the door behind him. He started to shift from foot to foot. Still pink. Still grinning (god, those ears). He made a slight gesture behind him at the door. "I'm with someone!"
"Honey, that's wonderful! That's great! I had a feeling something like that was going on. Are you going to marry her?"
"I HAVE to."
"Uh, no you don't. Where'd you meet her?
"She's from Russia."
(eyes narrowing) "She from Vladivostok?"
"Er, yeah."
"She's not the woman with half a brain that got thrown off her balcony, is she?"
"No! No! Are you kidding?"
I gave him a look.
"Hey, it's cold out here, do you want to walk a bit and then I'll take off?"
"No! No! Let me get some shoes and I'll come back out..."
"Comb your hair!" I called after him, walking over to lean against his Oldsmobile.
He came back outside. His hair, which had been somewhere between electroshock and The Sleep of the Heartily Laid, was now so thoroughly combed it dripped water on his shoulders. He continued to move from foot to foot.
"Look Josie, I want you to come inside, but could we keep know...we're friends...?"
I paused.
This middle aged, thinning haired Polish man with the improbable break-away basketball pants he would probably be buried in. Beginning to spread, so obviously in love, so wanting children. I took one finger and gently wiped a drop of water from his cheek.
"I almost called you K_; sweetheart, I'm not here to make trouble for you. That's the last thing I'm going to do."

"Her name is V___..." is that last thing I heard.

I had been expecting a middle aged, maybe slightly greying Polish woman. All business, and her business being management of Pan Dyrektor. What I got, was Kuan Yin.

Which is incorrect, because Kuan Yin is Chinese. V___ happens to be Mongolian.

Black hair dripping in a feathered cut to the middle of her back, flawless oval face and almond shaped (Hazel? Hazel?) eyes. Halting English. I had to consciously modify my handshake to a four finger squeeze. We sat down, she went in the back for a moment.
I looked at him. He looked sheepish.
"How old is she? How old is she?" I hissed, leaning forward.
He slunk down in his chair a little. "Twenty nine."
"What?" I commenced punching him until she reappeared. Pan Dyrektor, at last count, is 43.

Then followed the oddest, longest visit I've ever paid. Pan Dyrektor was very anxious to hear about my travels. V___ was anxious for a clue as to why exactly I felt entitled to lean on their doorbell at 11 AM on New Year's Day; ready to take him along to pee with her lest I commence sexual activity on the table in her absence. I was anxious to get Pan Dyrektor alone and slap him around some more. What. The. Hell.

When I picked up my things to leave, she offered to accompany us outside, forestalling the slap on the back of Pan Dyrektor's head (for at least another 6 months). She made sure to hang on him just enough. I drove away, the clearest thought in my head being, "What is it with asian bitches who play the piano?"

The piano and substantial amounts of sheet music being a new addition to his living room.


At a stoplight, I pulled down the mirror and looked at myself.
Pointy chin in a pale face and big honey colored eyes, black eyebrows like slashes and masses of honey colored hair. Alive and electric. So opposite from the soft, round face and restrained manner, dropped eyes and carefully listening ears. I laughed a little, chilled.

Is that what he was really looking for? Not just what he was looking for, that he desired and searched for and constructed a life around and brought to the United States? I sat back in the seat, still looking at myself. You might as well compare red poppies in the afternoon sun to a moonlit pool in the woods. Kali and Kuan Yin.

Slowly, slowly the pattern began to assert itself as I folded the mirror and proceeded onto the freeway. No, it was beyond clear that not only would Pan Dyrektor and I have not worked out, but that we would have broken each other's hearts trying.

He had his sanitized, pure relationship with a beautiful woman he hand picked, met her family, emailed for a year so there wouldn't be any mistakes, then wooed; guaranteed to stay on a pedestal and bear children in exchange for a passport and a loving Polish American husband. Not even despite her private feelings, but in complete absence of them. Should she stumble upon those feelings in the next twenty years, chance are she wouldn't recognize them for what they are. My mistake was underestimating how badly he wanted this.

I shook my head, aiming my car down Lakeville Road and meditating, still chilled. Appearances dictate they are fairly well matched, and have every chance of being quite happy. Pan Dyrektor has a woman he has complete control over, who can't run away (where would she run to?) or do unpredictable things (where can she go?) or break his heart (who could she do it with?). She seems to be willing to have it so. I have no sympathy for her.

But to say she's the polar opposite of me is to undervalue polar opposites. What the hell is it with Asian bitches who play piano?

I drove to R___'s house in Pittsburg. There were a number of people I needed to say "Bye!" to and I wasn't driving back down from Sacramento. R___ and I ended up going over to the Starbucks near my old work. I laid the whole story for her out, in the car.

When we got out of the car, we were greeted joyfully by two crackbunnies sitting in the front. "Y'all up in here ALL the time! Good to see y'all!" one said, looking at us in hopes our clothes would fall off.
R___ and I looked at each other, and hurried inside. ''Don't know about you, but I pulled into this country 10 days ago," I muttered. We ordered coffee and took it out the opposite door to enjoy her last two cigarettes. As we scanned for seats (there were many, no one out except the crackbunnies) I reflected on my last conversation with M. in this spot. Sighed. wondered if he'd found another Asian Bitch With Piano.

R__ and I settled in, talking about Pan Dyrektor, and her personal marriage of 25 years. She lit my cigarette and I happened to glance over at Crackbunny #3, lurking on the edge of my vision. Big mistake.
He lit up like a Christmas Tree and made a beeline for us, begging for cigarettes in Spanglish while never looking higher than my thigh. We refused him and pointedly went on with our conversation. He stood there. Staring at my legs. I started sucking down my cigarette, regretting I'd placed my wallet on the table in front of me. Mentally calculating my reaction time should he grab it. Then (since I smoke infrequently) regretting that I'd smoked too fast because now I was functionally blind.

"Was you name? Was you name?"
"I don't have a name."
"You no unnnerstan Englis? Was you name?"
"Look, I'm trying to talk to my friend. We don't want you here. We don't have cigarettes. Leave now," I said, starting to get up. He backed off. More because about six CHP had pulled up in front of the crackbunnies around the corner than because I would have been able to do anything. The man continued on around the building, sulking. I sat down heavily and looked at R___.
"I was going to complain about my self esteem, but apparently I don't have any room to talk," I said, dragging down to the filter on the cigarette. "How the hell did this thing go so fast?"
"Well, he sure did like your pants," R___ said, stubbing her cigarette out. 'Let's get out of here before he comes back."
"Did I really have 'Apply Here' on my forehead? This day has been the biggest mind f___k ever. What is it about me that screams 'Homeless People I Desire You Physically?' and 'As Soon As She Leaves I'm Going to Hook Up With That Russian Picture Bride'?"
R____ shook her head, looking down at her fingers. "I wish I knew what to tell you. That is some crazy shit."

R___ and I ended up going to a Thrift Shop, then I dropped her off and went to say bye to Andrea across town. I headed back to Sac around 6, dropped the bomb on P__ and B__, then went out for pizza and Russian Picture Bride digestion with P__, while B___ continued to try rebuilding the computer in the Living Room. He'd already cut himself once, and we judged it benevolent to leave and take the three year old.

We headed to the Spaghetti Factory, where S___ entertained herself by crawling under the table and surreptitiously coloring the mirror with her crayons. I made hand gestures, we digested, occasionally fished S___ onto the seat and poked Cheesy Noodles into her. We ordered some food for B__, took it home and I crawled into bed to ponder marriage in all it's forms.

"Mawwige. Mawwige is whut bwings us togwer today...mawwiage, that bwessed awwangment..."