Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm Off!

Well, the day has finally dawned. I am off for KW. I won't be blogging for a bit, I suppose, so I will look forward to reading and writing from my new domain as soon as possible. Tah-tah for now, insha'Allah.:)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

No Expat Administrators?


Ok, what the hay? International School Review is now recommending that teachers not return to Kuwait and those there consider leaving. It seems that the American teacher who finally got out, is now banned from going to any GCC country. To top it all off, now it appears that no expats will be allowed to hold administrative positions in schools in KW!!!! What does that mean for international schools?
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Kuwaitis holding whatever position that they, or any other person, are qualified to hold, but since when does nationality qualify as credentials? And how are 'international schools' going to remain international, if they are, in essence, Kuwaiti? Ahhh...someone shine a light on this for me, please!??

Friday, July 13, 2007

People

I recently read a post by Harmonie that touched a nerve with me. It is one of the most despicable aspects of any society but perhaps just more pronounced and blatant in the middle east.
I remember when I first came to Kuwait. After somewhat settling in and getting to know my new in-laws better, I found myself curiously watching the 'hired help'. Now don't get me wrong, because my husband's family treats their maids well, but I was fascinated by them. How did they get here? What were their lives back home like? How could they leave their children behind?, etc.
Many are the times that I would go out and sit with the maids, after they had served and cleared away dinner. At first, they looked at me as a crazy American, but I think they came to tolerate and then maybe even like me.
The first occasion that I had the misfortune to witness mistreatment was when I was waiting in the car outside of the grocery store. I was people-watching and spied what appeared to be a mother, her overgrown baby girl, around 14, and their maid. While the mother and daughter rapidly churned toward the store, they intermittently spun around in turn to spur the maid along. I can only guess that she was still not progressing as they wished because then one of them, I think the daughter, swung and hit the maid repeatedly in the head with her purse. Now, I am not pretending to have never witnessed any wrongdoings, but this was shocking to me. Why? Was it that the violence was so unwarranted?; was it that the maid was so unflinchingly accustomed to it?; or was it that the balance of power was just so exceedingly unfair? I think it was all of it.
But what ensued was perhaps equally if not more troubling. I felt so terribly complicit. Granted I was in a foreign country, but I felt the injustice of what had transpired was far greater due to my inability to say or do something. I later told my husband that in the future, I was going to be like Buford Pusser and carry a big stick in the car with me.
Many years and distance separate me now from that day, but the memory is still fresh. I have often recalled it and played over in my mind my culpability. But what intrigues me about the larger issue is what I have been able to extrapolate from it.
The question is, for any society: what enables a person/people to accept the mistreatment of others? When does a person learn the devaluation of the other? It must be a long, convoluted, and complex amalgam of variables brought to bear. But, it would be naive to dismiss the effect that desensitization has on a people.
Once, when I was out of the room, my son was watching a movie where there was some killing in it, and I came in and said, "Turn that off; that is terrible." My son replied, "It's ok, Mommy, you get used to it." Well, we had a little conversation, believe you me, and I told him that that was the point: I didn't want him to get used to it, because that would be indicative of the death of his heart.
In the States, people, often the ones who stand to lose money, will object to anyone drawing a correlation between watching violence on T.V. and violent behavior. That is just insane though, and I think the excuse is blown out of the water by a little thing called advertising. If the television didn't have influential power, then why would billions be spent on producing seductive advertisements?
I know I am being simplistic here, but I feel more than certain that one of the ingredients in viewing some people as dispensable, is viewing them as objects, merely shells that don't/can't feel. How else could anyone justify treating another human in a way that she would not treat a loved one? And just to go a little religious on you: it says in Islam that a person will not be judged as much by how she treats her peers, but how she treats those over whom she has some power.....(steps down from her soapbox, exits stage right).

Monday, July 09, 2007

Proof Enough


One of the perks of working for the airlines was the opportunity to watch the receptions and departures of a myriad folks. There was always so much emotion involved, and at times it was hard to remain detached when I saw people crying over their departing loved ones, for I myself, was away from my family at the time.
Not knowing the stories behind the watched, I would spin their lives into existence in my own mind; I was never at a loss for subject matter.
It was during this time that I was introduced to the religion of Islam. I had never known anything about it. I grew up in a southern Episcopalian cocoon, but to me one of the evidentiary elements of Islam was its understanding of traveling.
I was amazed after enduring the angst from my own travels and being party to viewing countless others suffer similarly, that Islam understood the pain of traveling and even accounted for it. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said that the prayers that a traveler made for someone else would be answered; he also spoke about how to treat travelers when they came to you. Islam understood that traveling was a hardship in more than one way and made dispensation for that.
It would be one of the many amazing qualities that I had yet to discover about this religion.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Warning: Shallow, Girlie Post!

I have been seeing these shoes on The Today Show and elsewhere in the US lately. They are called FitFlops, are from the UK and are supposed to exercise your leg muscles and burn more calories while you just casually walk around. They are supposed to be extremely comfortable, but they are sold out everywhere! I finally found a pair my size on ebay and ordered them. I hope they will get here before our flight to KW next week! I will keep you posted if I suddenly become very buff due to these shoes. :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

4th


For most of my years growing up in the US, the 4th of July has been about family, summer fun, and eating. I come from an atypical southern family; my parents have always been very progressive/liberal/open-minded in terms of education, politics, and religion. So, when it comes to the 4th, we were never bedecked in red, white, and blue finery. We didn't have gatherings regaling our attendants with patriotic lore.
What we did do was to enjoy a semi-mandated time of being together. When prior engagements and obligations fell away to allow for the luxury of simple pleasures: corn on the cob, beach, barbeque, bon fires, cole slaw, sparklers, baked beans, and fireworks.
I suppose all celebrations take on their own flavor and individual style, and when in the future, I find myself separated from country and family, I hope I will find a way to create family celebrations that are as evocative and nostalgic for my children.