.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Granola to Go

Monday, March 21, 2011

Resolutions- kept and unkept

Unlike I planned nearly five months ago, I have not been updating my blog at all. It's not that I have nothing to say- ask any of my friends here and they will tell you I am never at a loss for words or stories. I somehow cannot motivate myself maintain this journal in my precious little spare time. If I had internet connection at home, it might be different, but as it is, the perfectionist in me only wants to write when there is a good, well constructed story to tell.

One resolve I had when coming to Lebanon was to relearn to down hill ski, which I had not in thirteen years. Last year, there were very few opportunities to ski, due to the weather and snow conditions (lack of snow). I went twice this year, and was surprised to find it easy to remember what to do. I wish I could have gone more, but it looks like the season is about to end. This past weekend, some friends and I went up to the mountains and decided to snowshoe instead of ski, since the snow was heavy and the weather looked like it might be unfavourable. It turned out to be a fabulous day- the sun shone, it was about 20C, and we hiked up and down the ski slopes, which was far more challenging for me than for my three very athletic companions. After our "walk" we had a little snack, then proceeded to the public beach at Byblos (the Phoenician port city) where we had a brief, chilly swim in the Mediterranean. Now I can say I have done what people brag about having the ability to do in Lebanon- go to the snowy mountains in the daytime and swim in the sea in the afternoon.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A New Day

Hello People,

I must confess, since the dawning of facebok, I have become too lazy to write proper posts. Since having a television, I am too lazy to read books as often as I used to. How I Met Your Mother is a really funny show, Al Jazeera is a great news station with interesting inside reports and insights. Besides, the school provided me with a TV, so it's not like I sold out and bought one. But it's no excuse to leave it on and not read a book.

I have resolved, as of today, October 29, I will only watch TV when I am watching the news or a specific show. Otherwise, I will read or do other things. This will leave me more time to post on my blog, and so I also resolve to write at least one paragraph a day and post at least once a week. I do not have internet at home this year, so I am obliged to go to a coffee shop to upload posts, or, as I am now, do it at school.

My school day began as follows- I was supposed to cover for a teacher first block, since he was going on a field trip with the grade 7 class, and normally I have grade 7 band first block. Well, I heard from a student at 7:45 that they were coming to Fine Arts before going on the field trip at 9. This is not a big deal, but it is certainly indicative of how things go in the middle school here. So many things are such a huge waste of time, so poorly organized, almsot always the dead last minute. On the other hand, the school has inspired me to take a program in Leadership and Administration, so I can perhaps have a stronger influence, not here, but elsewhere, on how a school can function in a better way. My near future plans consist of applying for Masters in Leadership and Administration programs, probably entirely at Canadian universities. I may still apply for teaching jobs as a back up plan, but sometimes when I think of Canada, I can taste the cool clean air on my tongue, and I think it's time to go back for awhile. A Lebanese friend of mine with a Canadian passport is off to Toronto on Monday to look for work, and it's all I can do to hold back my envy.

I am finding more things to keep myself occupied in Beirut these days. I have been busy since August, first with work tasks, then in October, I began singing in the American University of Beirut choir, taking Arabic classes 3 times a week, playing handbells, and singing in a small vocal ensemble. This means every day but Mondays and Saturdays, I have something. Currently my weeks look like this: Sunday- vocal reheasal, 6:30-8:30; Tuesday- Arabic 5-7, Handbells 7:30-8:45; Wednesdays-AUB choir 6:30-8:45; Thursdays and Fridays Arabic 5-7. I have been walking across town to and from my Arabic class. It's not literally across town, but it is a 45 minute walk, which is good, because it's also built in exercise.

I have not decided if I will take another Arabic class right away. Choir is going to become more busy, and I think I will be unable to travel over our November break if I take the next session. That said, I am really enjoying the class, though, it's sometimes hard for me to process the information quickly enough to keep up in and outside of class. I shall see if I can manage it.

The weather here is slowly changing. Last weekend, I went on a lovely trip to the mountains with some friends. First, we drove through the Bekaa valley, which is famous for produce and vinyards. We stopped in at one of the nicest vinyards, sampled some wines, and then continued on to an ecolodge where we spent the night. The lodge is very basic, as implied by the name, and situated right in the middle of Hezbolloah territory. We heard some gun fire (target practice), but it was nothing compared to the construction going on next to my apartment building, so I was spared an entire Saturday of racket. It was great to be away from the heat, and the noise, light and air pollution of Beirut. There was a full moon and a starry sky, and nothing is more beautiful for me than cool air, a gorgeous moon, delicious food and good company. On Sunday, we headed back to Beirut, past fruit orchards where trees displayed autumn leaves. We also passed some mountain areas where there were no villages in sight. I think this is the only open space in Lebanon. I am sure the weekend revived my soul after a particularly difficult week.

All is well and I must go now to get some work done.

Be well. Even in the middle of nowhere, mind or place, be strong..

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Flights that function

I left Saskatoon on Sunday, August 15. I was originally meant to leave on July 28, but felt the need for a couple more weeks of clean, cool air. Anyway, I am not a big fan of Air Canada's customer service on the phone. After 20-40 minutes of being on hold, you can finally get through to talk to someone, and after only two calls, my flight was changed, but I had to make a third call to get my confirmation of itinerary and receipt for the $100 change fee.

We arrived at the airport at 12:30 on Sunday for my 2:05pm flight, to discover that the flight had been delayed until around 3:00pm, so after checking in, we went back to Mom's to hang out on the lawn and eat some snacks. I went back to the airport around 2:30, and the flight was further delayed. No problem, I drank a hot chocolate from the machine, made several trips to the washroom, drank water, and observed the body builders who had been in Saskatoon for the Exhibition. All that muscle is really quite fascinating to look at.

On the flight, I was also seated in the emergency exit row, which meant extra leg room. Although I am short, those Air Canada domestic planes are pretty small, and I was glad for the extra space. I got a copy of the Globe and Mail from the nice flight attendant, and that kept me busy pretty much the whole way to Toronto.I ate pad thai for dinner in the airport, then bought the new Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel books (Year of the Flood and Beatrice and Virgil). We left Toronto just a little behind schedule, and I was fortunate to be able to maintain my aisle seat. Since I travel alone, I often get bumped so that people can be seated together. This often means giving up an aisle seat, and usually entails sitting next to a big dude, which is really uncomfortable, since big people take up a little of my already small space. The guy next to me was good- he was talkative without being annoying. I was able to finish reading Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver and start Year of the Flood. That was good.

I ended up staying in Heathrow during my layover. Originally, I was to have 8.5 hours in London, but due to the Saskatoon flight being delayed, I had a later flight from TO, thus reducing my London time to 4.5 hours. I was completely exhausted anyway, since I had barely slept on the flight. I wandered around for awhile before I found a place to lay down and sleep for awhile, then ate some soup and headed over to my gate for my flight to Beirut. I was seated on the window side, next to an older woman. I noticed the flight was not very full, so after the drink cart came around, I excused myself to a row where I had 4 seats all to myself, so I was able to lounge out and read and sleep. It was great.

And that brings me back to Beirut...it's hot and humid, but the food is almost always awesome, and what more can you really ask for?

Back in Beirut

After a glorious summer in Canada, I am back in Beirut, and surprisingly glad to be back in my little home. I currently have a flatmate who is writing a guidebook on Lebanon, so it's been nice to come home to someone- it's far more fun going out to eat pizza and Indian food with a friend, rather than alone. The other flatmate is returning today, for a couple of days, and that should be fun.

It's around 40C here, and super humid. Apparently it's hotter than usual, but hasn't the weather everywhere been unusual this year? Rains in Saskatchewan, floods in Pakistan, forest fires and killer heat wave in Russia...

I am trying to kick jet lag, though the weather really makes me want to sleep the day away. I slept from 5-10am the first night back, then from 12-2 that afternoon. The next night, I slept from 3-9am, so I thought I was on track, but last night, I slept around 11pm, but woke for a couple hours at 2:30 or 3, then slept until after 9 again. Well, it's not so bad. I am at least keeping myself up most of the day, and I am just thirsty most of the time, but not miserably tired.

Yesterday, I went with my guidebook writing flatmate, Jess, to visit Chatila, which is the main Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. I already forget the population, but it is a very closed quarters setting. We visited the camp at the time when the power was out, and unlike much the city, there are no generators to run electricity at that time.There are electrical wires and plumbing features everywhere, buildings with only inches between them, little space to move- most flats are under 30 square metres. Smaller than my classroom at school, and that's to house a family with a little kitchen and bathroom. And that was around the moment I figured I really best stop my complaining about the little things. I will not dwell on all the details- it was actually a pretty hopeful visit, in the sense that the man who runs the Children and Youth Centre works hard and is very knowledgeable about improving the lives of people. He seems to be the mayor of the camp- everyone knows him and respects him. As a non-religious Palestinian, he did not once say inshallah (God willing). He said (jokingly) that he thinks God works for the Israelis. And once again, I profess my gratitude for being born in a safe place free of political turmoil.

Today, for a change of pace, I booked a massage appointment and went for a manicure and pedicure. Now I am sitting at a coffee shop that has internet, avoiding going home because this cat we are looking after is driving me insane. She is nice for about 2 minutes (if you're lucky), then scratches or bites. She thinks feet are mice, and is constantly attacking them, even when one is sitting still. Kitty is also in the habit of trying to play with my skirts, and has caused a couple snags so far. Luckily, her person is coming back in a few days, and then we will hand her over. I'm sure when Kitty becomes a grown up cat, she will be okay. She was really sweet in June when my friend first found her, but she's currently behaving like an annoying teenager. I think I'm just not really a pet person.

I think I need another coffee- it's 3:30pm and I'm fading fast.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This Lebanese Life- a long winded account of my life these days

Upon return from winter break, it was hot and sunny in Beirut. I unpacked, walked around the area, got a haircut (which looks very Lebanese and I have no pictures yet) and enjoyed the warmth after being cold most of the time in India.

Lately, it's been raining- so much so that I bought rain boots and a proper umbrella, not just one of those little travel ones. Today is a bit warm and it's becoming overcast, though it was sunny when I left yoga class an hour ago.

Work life
I am now in my eighth year of this teaching career. This is the first time that my job does not consume more than half of my life. Despite doing as many extra things as I can at school, I still am completely under-stimulated with work. At the same time, due to the nature of the Fine arts program, with grade 6 &7 students moving to a new discipline every 6-7 weeks, I am overwhelmed with starting two new classes every month and a half. Since September, I have started 7 classes, including the Grade 8s who stay with me all year. I still have to start 4 more classes this school year. It is exhausting, especially teaching kids from scratch how to play instruments.

Social Life

Anyway, I am supposed to have a personal life, but I don’t know how. I take private Arabic lessons, go to yoga, buy produce, walk, watch TV, read books, cook, hang out with Bashar when he’s here, attend monthly book club meetings, and go for drinks on Fridays after work. My friend David is an English bloke, who I consider the president of Friday drinks and my own personal Simon Cowell (I have recently started watching American Idol). He criticizes me when I talk about work, tells me to get a life, and tries to help me to think of things to do for fun. He is not as miserable as I make him sound-he is one of my favourite people. He is a bit lonely, I think, maybe because he’s a bit critical. He is an excellent conversationalist, but he can be really tough if he disagrees with you.

The other thing here is I am making less money (almost $1000 per month less) than Kuwait, and have far more to spend money on. It seems I go through my money like wildfire, and that’s not even including the visa and plane ticket to India, which was pretty pricey. Anyway, I don’t even have the luxury of a car or regular visits to expensive coffee shops. I buy local produce, and cannot figure out where all my money is going. I am going to keep track as of this month.

With Bashar, things are much better for several reasons. The first reason is I made it clear to him that he needed to make a bigger effort to come see me more often, because even though I chose to come here, if not for him, I would have been far more proactive about getting a job outside the Middle East. The second reason is I realized I have been selfish, not so much in this request, but in feeling sorry for myself and expecting him to drop his entire life on my whim. It’s not free (or even that cheap) for him to come here as often as he does (which is about twice a month). He has family obligations and he’s doing the best he can. And no, I am not making excuses for him. I have been mean to him and he has been forgiving, like he doesn’t even notice me being critical. He has shown me unconditional love and understanding. When he comes to see me, he cleans the balcony, washes the dishes and cleans the floor, makes tea and shops for food. I have only recently begun to cook for him because he always cooked for me. We go for walks, play cribbage, occasionally eat at local diner type places, shop at discount stores. It’s fun.

How (not) to get around in India.

After leaving Saravasti, I caught the bus to Lucknow (well, 2 different buses), but due to perfect timings, made it there in only about 6 hours.

How to catch a bus in Saravasti (and many other places in India)
1. Stand on the side of the road
2. When a bus comes by, yell and wave to stop it
3. Verify the bus is going where you need to go by asking the name of the town
4. Get on the bus
5. Ignore the people who stare at you with gaping mouths- you are a rarity and would do the same to them if they were in your small town in Canada
6. Pay the guy who gives you a print out receipt (you don’t pay the driver)

Bus far in India is approximately 50 paise (half a rupee) per kilometre, which means you can travel 100 kms for 50 rupees, which is about a dollar. I suppose that explains why the buses are in need of repair- broken windows, tattered seats and so on.

My trip from Varanasi to Saravasti

This was a true comedy of errors, though I was not exactly laughing.

While is Varanasi, which is a huge city, I tried to get exact information on how to get to Saravasti, which is a long way from there. The only direct way is by car, and I did not wish to do this, though it would have been easy, quicker and about $80. I visited travel agents and all, and the best information I got was “Take the bus to Faizabad, then from Faizabad, to Saravasti. 3.5 hours for each bus ride, you leave in the morning, you will be there in the afternoon.” I was to arrive at the Jetvana Vipassana center between 4 and 5pm. I left on the 7am bus from Varanasi to Faizabad. My new friend (auto rickshaw driver) Nassir, took me the 200 metres from my hotel to the bus station and gave me a lunch bag of cake and two boiled eggs and salt. By 12, we still had not arrived in Faizabad, in fact we arrived there at 2pm. The last couple hours on the bus, a man who spoke decent English decided I was his project. He asked me many questions, some of which I answered in brief, others which I barely muttered a response. He was too friendly, trying to sit too close, and had the worst smelling breath every time he opened his mouth. I ended up very clearly putting my small backpack between by left leg and his right, because his hand just kept getting too close to me. Regardless, when we got off the bus in Faizabad, he helped me to find the next bus, not to Saravasti, but to Gonda, which sounds like Goon-da. Due to a major stall in traffic, it took a couple more hours to go the short distance. The reason for the traffic jam was the narrow road could only allow to pass the trucks hauling sugar cane, which hung off the sides, and so we sat still for nearly 30 minutes. Oh, the torture. Luckily, bad breath man had a different destination and so was no longer annoying me. Also, the seats on this bus were much better padded than those of the first, 7 hour, bus. Upon arrival in Gonda around 4:30pm, I decided to pursue a taxi for the rest of the way. I found one guy who told me a good price, but then after consulting with some other people, more than doubled the price. I did not feel like being cheated and he did not seem too clear on where I wanted to go, so I awaited the next bus to Balrampur. Prior to settling on the bus, I wandered around asking people “Saravasti?” because, as I mentioned, this is how you find the bus to your destination. I was sort of engaged in a conversation with one or two guys, trying to sort out where I was going, though they did not really understand. Then I showed them the paper map sent by the centre (and by this point, the pair of guys had become a crowd of 8) and they exclaimed, “OH! Sar-wasTI!” (I had been calling it Shravasti). Eventually, a very calm and kind man told me where to wait for the next bus. This ride was short, but by the time I arrived in Balrampur it was dark, which means no more busses. I found a guy who spoke perfect English who found me a taxi (which cost more than the whole trip so far) to take me the 18kms to the centre. So I arrived at Jetvana in Sar-was-TI at 7:30pm, 3 hours late. I made the driver wait while I went to look for someone to explain who I was and that I was sorry to be late. I had the number of the centre, and had neither the time nor wherewithal to call. I had eaten the cake Nassir had given me, but nothing else (I don’t care for boiled eggs). I was pretty stressed out and had wished I’d stayed in Varanasi, yet was glad to finally have arrived at this little place. So I ended up in the kitchen, where there were three guys- two cooks and one construction contractor. By this point, I was pretty frazzled, so the small man who greeted me went to get my bag and assured me it was fine, “But first, you, drinking tea.” Ah, the wonderful solution to all that ails you. Milky chai.

I had missed very little, just an introductory talk and filling registration forms, which the lovely Dhamma server helped me with the next day.

And as always, everything works out perfectly. I love India, though a few times that day, I was ready to go home, even to Lebanon.

Vipassana Meditation Course

This is a long and personal account of my first experience at a Vipassana meditation course. Enjoy! I intend to add pictures, but the internet connection is slow and it takes forever for that function to complete.

I initially heard of Vipassana from my first traveling companion to India. I dismissed it as a crazy idea because this young woman was quite mad. When I took my Thai Yoga Massage course in Greece, during August of 2008, there were a few people who had done the Vipassana course. One intelligent, reliable and wonderful Austrian woman, Verena, gave me some more details about Vipassana. She, a very social person, enjoyed the course and looked forward to her next one. Last year, I did not feel I was ready to do such a retreat. In retrospect, it probably would have been the best thing for me, but it was still the best thing for me this time around.

Vipassana is a pure form of meditation, passed along since the time of Gauthama Buddha. It is a silent observation of one’s own breath and body. Upon arrival at the centre, you turn in all contraband (books, journals, pens, ipods, phones, etc) and surrender yourself to this form of meditation without incorporating past techniques you may have learned. In other words, no yoga, pranayama (breathing exercises), tai chi, reiki, etc., for the 10 day course. No outward communication. The daily schedule consists of meditation, meals, breaks and a video lesson. Men and women are separated for the course. We eat in separate areas, enter the meditation hall on opposite sides of the building, and sit on different sides of the room at all times. The only communication you are permitted is to request from the dhamma server (assistant to the course) any creature comfort needs, such as an extra blanket, and to have a minute long conversation with the teacher to discuss your progress most days. There is no charge for the course- you pay by donation. Nobody is meant to make a profit or livelihood from running vipassana courses. It should be accessible to all people, that all being have the chance to be happy.

For the first few days, I found my thoughts dwelling on all of the things I hate, which is basically most aspects of my school. Then I realized how much I was wasting my precious time letting anger and frustration consume me. I found sitting still very difficult until about the 6th day. My back, legs, knees, neck and shoulders all ached, which is a sign of bad feelings settled deeply in the body. By the 7th day, my body felt little pain and lightness from toe to head. Some days, I spent time making mental lists of who would find such a course to be their own personal hell. I thought of several gregarious friends who cannot sit still to save their souls and wondered how it would go for them.

As for me, despite the almost unbearable pain in my knees, I knew it was the right thing for me to do. I also had to complete the course as people had put bets on how long I would make it. I would highly recommend this course to anyone, but I realize many people would never even consider it. My friends thought the silent part would be the most difficult for me, but when you are sitting in meditation 12 hours a day, the last thing you feel like doing is talking. On the last day, you break silence. It was nice to talk again, to share the experience, and what I noticed is you feel much warmer when talking and communicating with others, and you also get more hungry.

I met some interesting people that 10th day. The person I best connected with was our Dhamma server, who was a tour guide in the Middle East for over a year. In fact, I met her colleague in Bedouin tent in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert back in 2006. She is of Egyptian heritage and grew up in England, and now spends most of her time at Vipassana centers in India and Nepal. I stayed on another day, as I was not ready to face the real world yet. We walked around the town of Saravasti, which is a tiny town and the tourists are usually Monks and other Buddhist pilgrims. There is an incredibly beautiful park and a few temples/monasteries. Saravasti is where the Buddha gave most of his teachings, as he did not travel during the rainy season. It was a very powerful place to do a meditation course.

I plan to do more courses in the near future. It was an incredibly positive experience for me and I have never felt so peaceful before. Several people commented on how different I looked upon returning to work. I think it all quickly dissipated with the stress of work, but I am working on getting up early to meditate daily.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I was just checking currencies online and noticed the Canadian Dollar is 1.04 to the USD! How did I now know this? I guess I don't work with that many Canadians here. What's going on? Did we recover from our financial crisis? Somebody please explain.

I got into the meditation retreat in India. 10 days of noble silence in Northern India near the Nepalese border, plus I will get to visit Varanasi, which I have been wanting to do for some time. Excellent. I don't know why I love India so much, it is noisy and chaotic, too, but in a more gentle way, than the Middle East.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

On track

I have been feeling much better and I am grateful to all those of you who have been reading, writing and helping me through this time. Not surprisingly, my friend Caroline has been feeling much the same way after leaving Kuwait, and she is in beautiful, organized Switzerland. We both lack the sense of spirit and community in our new posts. We also love our jobs less.

As for me, I had some good times with my students and have been trying to only focus on the fact that, even though they are chatty, the kids are good, they are talented and funny and cute, they are sweet and they love me. And really, I am here to teach kids to play music and to love it, and at that I am succeeding.

I gave a presentation on public speaking at our Professional Development day last Friday and it went really well. I have been hearing good things about it for an entire week, and that makes me happy. Several people have asked me to present again, either for student or adults. I have done this workshop format with Forensics and Debate students in the past, and re-worked it for adults and MS kids, as I have now been doing the presentation with grade 6&7 classes. It's fun, and I feel like I am contributing, which is necessary for my professional well being.

Bashar has been to visit twice in the recent past. Three weeks ago he was here for two days with his friend Ibrahim (who I have stayed with several times in Damascus) and Ibrahim's girlfriend. It was fun to have company. Bashar was here last weekend by himself and we had a great time. We went for several walks along the Corniche, went for drinks with people from my work, I made him pancakes with maple syrup and cream for breakfast one day, and an excellent omelette the next. We shopped at some discount stores and generally had a great time laughing our heads off. We watched a movie for about forty minutes until we both fell asleep. Too funny.

Next weekend we have three days off due to Lebanese Independence Day so I think I will go to Damascus with some friends. I only got my passport back last week and am finally free to leave the country after three months. After our Monday off, we only work Tuesday and Wednesday before it is American Thanksgiving and the Eid al Hadha, so we have another extended weekend. My friend Katie will come from Kuwait for a couple days to hang out. Hurray!

I have started Arabic lessons with a private tutor, and it's going well enough, though it's HARD!!! Lebanese dialect and the local accent are much different than the classical Arabic I began to study last year in Kuwait. It's basically a slanguage here, but I am hoping to be able to converse casually and shop in Arabic by winter break. We shall see.

I am thinking of going to India (what a surprise) for winter break, to do a meditation retreat. We will see if it works out- I have to wait another week or so for a reply to my application. Otherwise, I think I will go visit Thailand and Cambodia if I can get a good price on flights.

Until then, I practice patience. And one day, I hope I can feel calm amidst the chaos that is Beirut. Peace. Shanti. Masalaam.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Culture "Shock"

I am beginning the fourth phase of culture shock- acceptance. The honeymoon ended long ago (not sure if it was with the diarrhea or the strained back), followed by the frustration of things and then the depression of feeling stuck.

For me, more of the "shock" has been from the culture of the school than the culture of the country. Since most of our staff is Lebanese and I STILL don't understand much Arabic, I often walk by conversations, unable to participate. The school is fine (I am accepting) but I find it isolating working here. Maybe because my classroom is away from others and I have no hallway neighbours so I don't interact much unless I make it a point to go to someone's classroom. Since the turnover is not a pronounced as it was at ASK, there are not as many systems set up for new staff. I don't know how to do anything at all and there is no handbook or reference guide. I am always asking questions because I really don't know anything and people assume you do.

I am scandalized by what people wear to school. While students pushed the dress code in Kuwait, there are not even any apparent guidelines here. I see high school girls in sleeveless shirts and skirts above their knees. Teachers wear tops akin to the camisoles I wear UNDER my shirts. Jeans are the typical bottoms. If we had a casual day, folks would have to come to work in pyjamas and slippers or work out wear as that is the only way we could possibly be more casual. I still wear what I consider professional clothes.

At ASK, there was a drive in the teachers that I have yet to see in more than a few folks here. We were all planning for the future- Kuwait was our stepping stone into international teaching and to do well there meant (in most cases) a better school next time. So many of the staff here are local or married to locals that they do not have much of a drive- it all comes from the expat interlopers who are definitely the minority. People are not lazy or bad teachers by any means, it only feels like there is no desire for personal and professional development.

And the things in the city...People honk their horns like it might get them through traffic. They do this at any time, but when I am sitting on my balcony after work and one of the five traffic lights in Beirut has stopped people a whole block from my place to the corner and the honking continues for 10 minutes, that drives me crazy. There is also the honking of taxis as they pass by, which happened all the time in Kuwait and it still irritates me. In my fifteen minute walk to yoga, at least 5 honks and 2 drivers standing outside their cars calling out "taxi". ARG! If I wanted a taxi, I would be in one. Plus the traffic would make me later in a car than on foor. Then there is how people walk and drive and park. People do not look when they are walking. I have almost walked into many folks for this reason. Often when people drive around the one way streets in my area, they stop and back up, blocking the intersection whilst making a 2 to 5 point turn. When folks park, it would be on the sidewalk if not for the poles preventing this nonsense. Cars are parked so close together, even on the street corners, that as I pedestrian I have trouble finding an opening to walk through.

Then there is the "more of the same" aspect of domestic workers. I see Phillipina nannies taking kids to and from school, carrying their bags, walking dogs. They are often chasing after the kids while their parents enjoy a stroll along the Corniche. There are foreign labourers who pick up the trash along the Corniche and throughout the city. These were common sites in Kuwait, I did not think it would be so common here. There is a lot to be said for people picking up their own garbage.

Now that I generally know what to expect at school and around, it's okay. We had a great outdoor education trip where we took a group of fifty-some kids and 7 teachers to the mountains. That was the best experience of my career here so far. Of course, the apples which are at the end of harvest have been excellent and the fruits and veggies are generally a treat.

I must go now and get some things done. More later...