Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Next 48 Hours: Part One

     The first 12 hours could have happened atany point of time in Egypt. The next 48 hours could only ever happen during oneof the most historic moments in modern Middle Eastern History; the Egyptian Revolutionbegins! (If you haven't read the first twelve hours it's the previous post, which will help make this post make more sense, Cheers)

      Morning comes and we wake up cold,having slept outside for two hours across from the Nile River, waiting forKarnak Temple to open.  As we wake thesecurity guard comes over to us. I didn’t realize at the time when he wasasking if I had change for ten Egyptian pounds that he meant he wanted us togive him ten Egyptian pounds for letting us stay there. Confused by his requestwe said no and walked across the road to vist Karnak Temple for a few hours.The rest of the day was spent touring all over Luxor, visiting all the museumsand historic sites.
       As our day was coming to an end we werevisiting the last archeological site and my friends sister started texting usfrom Kuwait. They were planning on coming to Egypt the next day, but wereworried about what was going in the country. We were pretty confused what theywere talking about.  We had not seen oneinstance of public disorder since we been there. I just kept saying this part ofthe world there is always some sort of political “turmoil”. Eventually theydecided they would not come to Egypt and instead went to Thailand.
       Our plan from the start of theday was to catch the night train and head to Cairo, which is about a ten hour ride.From Cairo we would take a two hour train to the Pyramids in Giza.  When we arrived at the train station thatevening we had no idea how to buy a ticket or which train to catch, it wasterribly organized. Eventually we were able to find a very kind man who workedthere and helped us understand everything. I forget exactly how the nextsituation happened but he told us three men couldn’t catch the next train, andthey needed to sell their tickets, which was good because that train to Cairowas apparently full.  We decided it wouldbe a good idea to buy the tickets or else we would have to wait another threehours for the next train, and the tickets were first class too!
      However, the tickets were a smallpiece of cardboard with Arabic written with pen on them, which I still have. Wethought we were being hustled because they were charging us 90 Egyptian Pounds.It might not be a lot of money but it adds up if you’re not careful. Thankfullythe man helping us assured us these were legitimate tickets, so we able tocatch the very next train.
      Finally after running on only twohours of sleep because the night we had flown out we were up since five am thatday to teach a full day of school; then having survived our first five hours inEgypt from crazy cabbies to wild dogs and touring all day we were definitelyready to take a calm and relaxing night train to Cairo.  With a ten hour train ride ahead of us you wouldthink that would be enough time to catch up on sleep and decompress from aninteresting experience so far. But this would also be our second night stayingwithout lodgings or a bed, but hey trains are comfortable right?!  
      As we boarded the train and mindyou it was supposed to be first class, it looked like a complete wreck. All wehad to sleep on were large reclining chairs that were easily thirty years oldand have never seen a day of maintenance. As the train departed we did our best to get cozy and sleep for the nextten hours. Unfortunately there was not much luck in that.
      I kept waking up for threereasons, which felt like every thirty seconds. The first and most significantreason was simply that I thought I was going to die from the train derailing.It was the bumpiest train I had ever been on. When the train hit a bump or wasturning it felt like it was about to jump off the track and just roll.  Once I came to realize there was nothing Icould do I tried to shut out that idea.
        Where we were sitting was nobetter either. Sitting at the very front of our train car where the doors thatare used to go between the cars did not close, it just waved back and forth. Asyou can imagine every time we hit a bump the door would slam open and shut likea sonic boom.  If the feeling of constantdeath and the sound of a sonic boom wasn’t bad enough, the smell of putridhuman waste would crawl up my noise. The door that kept slamming open andclosed was also where the washrooms were located between the cars. Here’s thecatch though the washrooms if they had a door we a hole in the floor of trainwhere everything just went onto the tracks. As the door open and slammed alongit brought a smell that made you want to vomit a bit in your mouth. In the endbeing low on rest, food, and sanity, my body caves in and I finally get somesleep.
      We arrived In Cairo, around 9 or10 am. Everything appeared to be okay at the train station no crazy cab driversor wild dogs chasing us, we must be in the clear! We exit the station and beginto walk. We find a hotel recommended in the lonely planet. We go inside to renta room, we are told there is no room there and that we shouldn’t stay in Cairobecause Tahrir Square is full of tanks and all the tourist attractions havebeen shut down including Gaza, where the Pyramids are, two hours outside ofCairo.  As typical tourists we decide heylet’s check out the tanks. It appears we have learned nothing from our trip sofar and this time we go and seek out danger.
       As we navigate through the Cairo,a sense of chaos and anarchy begins to develop within us. No less than tenminutes as we begin to walk towards the heart of Cairo, a group of five youngguys begin to follow us. Their pursuit of us quickly ended, however, the factthat they were more than willing to intimidate us in broad daylight in front ofhundreds of people was a true reflection of the state of Cairo and perhaps therest of Egypt.
       As we continued our walk towardsTahrir square our eyes and nose began to burn sensation and the air wasbecoming more difficult to breathe. We briefly ran into a young cluelessBritish couple who told us that there was a 6pm curfew in the city. After thatwe “acquired” a local who decided he would follow and try to “help” us. Hewalked with us for at least twenty minutes. As we ignored him he lost interestin us; but at the same time we were making sure that he was not trying to pickpocket us.  We watched carefully over oneanother and made sure our passports were literally on our body. 
        Finally we find the sourcecausing the burning in our eyes and throats, cars were scorched all over thestreet; they had been burning while we were headed to Egypt on the night trainfrom Luxor. As we continued to walk up the street and see more cars smoulderingon the street, a lady just looks at me in the eyes and said, “What are youdoing here? You shouldn’t be here,” it’s a voice I’ll never forget as I canstill feel the despair in her voice to this day.
         What we thought initially to be afantastic idea going to see the tanks in Tahrir Square quickly became a badidea, as the realization of what was actually happening in Egypt startedsinking into our heads. We came to the decision to leave Cairo and head toAlexandria. Everything will be better if we just keep heading north away fromthe chaos in Cairo. After only two hours in Cairo, we head back to the trainstation. What we thought was finally the end of our chaotic start to our tripwas truly only just the beginning.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The First Twelve Hours

72 Hours of Chaos:

     This adventure is a story that is broken up into threeparts; as me and my friends go through a once in a life time experience. Everythingthat happens to us is through a period of chaos and then a period of calm onlyto be followed by a period of chaos . The first part of this story describesthe first twelve hours of chaos.

                                                                                The Frist Twelve Hours:

     Living abroad certainly brings a great sense of adventure.Having already travelled to two countries, I was about to add another two to mylist, Egypt and Lebanon. This was a greatly anticipated trip since we had twoweeks off, but what was to come for me and my friends was nothing we could haveever expected and it truly was witnessing history in the making.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Lifes Adventure: An Early Christmas Gift in More Ways Than One

Life takes us in so many different directions. Sometimes we know where we are headed, sometimes we don’t and other times we don’t even realize we are headed in a direction. The eventual direction our life takes us is full of moments. Some moments are trapped forever in time, some are forgotten, and some slowly fade into the background.

There is a common quote often used to describe our understanding of life, which is simply, “life happens while we are busy making other plans.” That was exactly what I was doing before I met Nicole, while living in Kuwait. Having moved half way across the world I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with myself and my future. I was just starting my first year of a two year contract with Dasman Model School. Returning to Canada in the next five years was not option in my mind, nor was entering a relationship. Life for me was just one day at a time and it was a rather simple life in Kuwait; since there was literally nothing to do; aside from the crazy work life which provided my with a lot of unnecessary stress due to the corrupt nature of the school life. All I did was go to work, come home, sleep, workout, go back to work and in between that travel. It would be unfair to say I had not met a lot of fantastic people and my time spent with them was most enjoyable .However, where I wanted to be and where I was on a personal note perhaps was not the most ideal, but then again I had no better place to be.

So where did this all leave me? Well one Monday morning on February 21th 2011 I was spinning in circles on my chair waiting for class to start. I had just returned from a two week vacation. The first week spent in Egypt during the revolution and the second in Lebanon a much more peaceful experience. While rather unhappy and unsure of my future plans or goals I had decided to logon to Facebook, which has become a lasting moment in my life forever. While it was a Monday morning for me, it was a Sunday night in Calgary for a girl named Nicole, and perhaps I have a bottle of champagne to be thankful for. As I logged on a mutual friend of ours messaged me right away telling me that there is someone who thinks I’m really hot and is interested me. Two things need to be stated here. The first point, Nicole was having a conversation with our friend saying that she wanted to find a good guy. So our friend searches her memory banks and I am the guy she comes up with me. The second point, I was lied to, Nicole hadn’t even seen a picture of me yet. While I thought my legged was being pulled because I was halfway across the world, it was a much appreciated compliment. Nicole didn’t actually see me for the first time until five minutes later when I was told to go onto Skype.

Now you’re probably still wondering what that bottle of champagne has to do with anything. Well Nicole and our friend were supposed to put a coffee table together and drink it afterwards to celebrate their accomplishment .They managed to accomplish drinking the bottle first. That bottle of champagne was the whole reason for the conversation that my name would be mentioned, and the reason why we would be on Facebook at the same time. To our friends surprise and many others mine and Nicole’s first encounter took off in a direction no one could have predicted. Oh and by the way the coffee table didn’t get put together that night. It was done a few weeks later by the guy hooking up Nicole’s internet when he asked if there was anything he could help with and the poor guy was suckered in putting together the coffee table for her.

Even though I didn’t know Nicole or even speak a single word to her yet, she was the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. I remember constantly telling our friend you realize I’m Kuwait for another three and a half months until the summer break. That I have one more year left on my contract. All I was told was Nicole doesn’t care she’ll wait for true love forever. If it’s possible for a man’s heart to melt, in that moment mine did.

For the next while Nicole and I would message each other over Facebook. During those messages we even came up with the name ErNic, for the eventual dinosaur fossil we still plan on finding. However soon enough we took our relationship to the next level and we starting skyping, woah!!!! I know crazy right. Perhaps the craziest part was that it didn’t even feel weird but instead simply natural. We were skyping f about once a week at first. Then things started to get really intense (get your minds out of the gutter).

All year I had refused to use the cell phone the school gave us. If anyone wanted to get a hold of me they could come and knock on my door. We lived in six story apartments beside each other and there was literally nothing to do so where else could I be. However, when I found out Nicole had a BlackBerry I realized I could bbm (text) her free internationally. So I went all out and bought a used $300 smartphone. By this point I had only messaged Nicole over Facebook a few times and skyped 2 or 3 times. I really liked her and if this was a relationship that was going to work I needed to be able to talk to her all the time. To be honest my thumbs are still sore from all the texting.

As the amount of time we spent texting each other continued to increase, so did the amount of time we spent skyping. Here are a few examples to put into perspective the amount of time we devoted to skyping. What started out as once a week for a small amount of time quickly turned into essentially every day, up to three to four times a day, for easily a total of six or more hours. Believe it or not that nine hour time difference made it easier for us.

One time we spent literally two to three hours trying to maintain an internet connection that disconnected every thirty seconds, for what literally ended up being a two minute conversation in the end. Another time we had a hand stand competition, I obviously lost. Needless to say we had become extremely comfortable skyping with each other. So much so that eventually we would just lay on our beds stare into each other’s eyes and not even say a word, just impatiently awaiting my return to Canada.

Perhaps I should also briefly put into perspective how much we actually texted. During my last vacation I had travelled to Turkey for a week. In the first day my battery died and I no longer could use my phone. For the next day and a half my only thought was to find a new battery so I can regain contact with Nicole. Upon completion of this goal one of my friends had said, “Well looks like Eric’s vacation is now over”, as I was feverishly looking for a Wi-Fi network to connect to.

As you could imagine our texting and skyping had become a natural part of our routine in our everyday lives. Perhaps even a little bit too natural, because some nights I would only get four hours sleep. All I wanted to do was talk to Nicole. Four hours later I would be on skype with her as I arrived at school. Despite the zombie feeling from the lack of sleep talking to Nicole was the only thing that kept me going in Kuwait, while I was counting down the days of my return to Canada and the first time I would I get to hug and kiss Nicole.

Finally the day comes that I will return to Canada. The days leading up to this point were rather hectic with so much to do. I remember Nicole telling me she was going to visit a friend in British Columbia. So during my last few days she wouldn’t be able to skype with me. I really didn’t think much of it. I was so busy anyways that I really didn’t have too much time to skype.

As I entered the terminal in Kuwait for the last time there was a lot of excitement and anxiousness in me. I can’t believe I’m coming home and Nicole is all that I can think of. However, I wouldn’t see her for another three weeks. I was driving out to Calgary, to be with her which would also be the first time we would meet each other in person. You might be wondering Eric, what about your two year contract? You might also be thinking you only have two and a half months before you have to return to Kuwait and the first three weeks you won’t even see Nicole. Well to clear the first and second question up I had resigned. There were a million reasons for me to have left in the middle of the year and a million reasons to just not return. There was only one reason for me never to go back and that was Nicole.

Two flights later and about fifteen hours of travelling I was back in Canada. On the flight to Toronto I travelled with two friends. As we gathered our luggage in Toronto we had parted ways as they had connecting flights to catch. However they had accidentally went to the arrivals corral and were there before me. So as I came up to them I pointed them in the right direction. One of my friends says your mom is here. As we part ways again I attempt to look for my mom in the middle of all the commotion. All of a sudden time stopped, my eyes became fixated only one person. My brain is running in circles and the whole place that was so chaotic became completely silent. Standing right in the middle of the room was Nicole. For the first time I finally saw her in person. After all the travelling I couldn’t even process what was happening, she was supposed to be visiting her friend in British Columbia. What was probably a minute felt like a lifetime to me as I looked at Nicole, breathless. Well you might think, if you’re going to build a relationship on lies they might as well be good ones, especially when this surprise greeting was planned months ago.

In Nicole’s job she meets a lot of people and socializes with many of them. On one particular occasion she is talking to a lady about me and how we met. As the lady listened to Nicole, she told Nicole you have to meet him at the airport when he comes back in June. How would Nicole do this, flight are not that cheap. Astonishingly, the lady gives Nicole a buddy pass for West Jet, which means she can fly on standby and only pays the tax for the flight. This conversation happened back in March. As you can imagine, Nicole had been keeping this a big secret for a long time.

A few months later Nicole was telling her friend who works for West Jet about the whole plan. Her friend simply said I’ll make you my travel companion; meaning Nicole could travel anywhere anytime on standby wherever West Jet flies, paying only the tax for the flight. So while I thought Nicole was in British Columbia, she was in Ontario the days leading up ready to meet me at the airport.

She always tells me how nervous she was standing there waiting for me, but you would never have known it, if you saw here in her beautiful dress holding balloons for me, which I lost in about the first ten minutes, while trying to process that Nicole was really standing there with me. So as the three of us left I walked with Nicole to her car so we can drive to my house together. Finally after three and a half months Nicole looks as me as we are on the top level of the parking lot with the sun setting in the background and says to me “so do I finally get my kiss?’ I look at her and say, “Yes.” For the next three weekends until I drove out to Calgary, Nicole flew back to Ontario.

There is a lot more that can be told in this story that brought Nicole and I together, and perhaps a lot of questions might enter your mind needing to be answered. To be honest no amount of eloquent words can truly ever describe the love that we share and how we overcame odds that most people would have considered impossible. I have proof that those odds can be beat no matter what people may say or think. On our mantle in a picture frame is a calendar I made. With every day that passed I would cross it off knowing that I was a day closer to Nicole. I can’t tell you how many countless hours I stared at the piece of paper thinking to myself only 80 more days, 50 more, 20 more… Or if you really want something to laugh about you can check out all the pictures I took of Nicole via Skype during those months. In nine and a half months I went from not knowing where I was going to be in the next five years to knowing who I want to spend the rest of my life with. Life can and will take you in many different directions, and just when you’re about ready to count yourself out don’t because that’s when things get exciting.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

What is a Canadian?

It has been quite some time since I have lost updated my blog post. There are numerous reasons as to why this has happened. However, over the past few months to be honest this had become one of the last few things that concerned me or entered my mind. As most of you know I signed a two year teaching contract to work at a school in Kuwait. Over these past few months my continued employment and service here had been continually challenged based on my own personal beliefs. In the past three weeks approximately I had decided to officially resign. The weeks leading up to my final decision I had been struggling to find any possible reason to stay at this school, but I also could not find a reason not to comeback. However recently, I had found one or two reasons not to return, that story is for another day. in Canada, but it is where I want to be. Also, I am trying not to freak out this very second because I had literally just finished typing up my blog post and somehow I deleted it, and I have no idea how the screen just went blank, C’est le Vie. I’m also on an important deadline, I promised Nicole I would have a new post up for

As the my final days (76) here in Kuwait are limited I thought I would start to catch up on all the posting I had missed and enjoy myself before I have to begin the horrid job hunt for teaching positions back her to enjoy her oatmeal with.

I will begin this new posting with my adventures of Jordan, back in November. Now I’m pretty happy my original post was deleted because I wasn’t too happy with what I had typed. I am going to be very honest, I do not want to story tell all of my adventures of what happened in Jordan. If that is what you’re looking for then come find me in the summer and I’ll give you the slideshow accompanied by music and any questions you have, I will answer. Now where will you find me? The answer is Calgary, I’ll be at the stampede enjoying certain beverages not available in Kuwait.

So what is it that I want to inform you about my travels to Jordan, well there are soooo many things that I could tell you right down to the fine details, but I feeeel since this is my blog post I will only tell you want I want. This posting is directly related to my experience in Petra. If you do not know what Petra is, then please refer to my pictures on facebook, or watch the movie Indian Jones and the Last Crusade!!!

As I wandered throughout the ancient city of Petra, I knew the main reason why this place has been remembered and it should be obvious is because of the endurance of its structures and buildings carved into the sandstone that has survived over a thousand years and the centuries of disasters and the elements. Had all the structures simply crumbled and vanished into dust leaving no trace of its existence then no matter how impressive, powerful or interesting a civilization that had once lived there we would have never known about it, nor cared.

So I started to think about where I am from and all the things that we have built in terms of buildings. Yes, some of them are amazing feats of science and engineering but it seems as though now we are at a point in our existence where we are just trying to push the boundaries of what we can build and one day we will be able to figure out how to make the impossible possible. So what am I rambling on about now?

In an instance if our society was devastated by an earthquake or eventually built over there would not be a trace of our accomplishments left behind.

Even now when you look at our cities, buildings are continually taken down and are forgotten, only with new ones to take its place, we are constantly renewing ourselves. I kept thinking to myself what would Canada be remembered by? All these ancient civilizations had built themselves on such strong solid foundations of rocks and stone and they are remembered for this because we can find traces or whole cities of what they had. There is a great deal to tell about a civilization by simply looking at its structures, even if you have no idea what they are about or were used for; the size, material used, the details and so on give us so many clues. What about our society and cookie cutter houses, our buildings that are so bland; what will someone from outside think of our foundation?

During my time in Petra and up until now, I have concluded we won’t be remembered for anything that we have built, or contributed to science or a great person. As a country we struggle to find what makes us Canadian or what is our identity as a nation, is it really hockey and Tim Horton’s? What can we tangibly put our finger on? If you want my honest opinion nothing, there is nothing that you can physically see that makes us Canadian or can you and you have just not paid close enough attention?

What you will see when you walk outside and around look around is a country a place so diverse that you think you weren’t even in Canada, whatever that means. But what is it that makes us Canadian then? We can list hundreds of things that make Americans, American, or British, British and what they will be remembered for.
What makes us Canadian is the strong foundations of a simple piece of paper, our constitution and entrenched within it multiculturalism. The words in the constitution give us the freedom to be who we choose to be are what make up our culture. Those words not the fear of violence allow is to be who we choose to be. We are a culture of people who are open minded to the lifestyles and beliefs from everyone all over the world.

Now many would argue that by allowing people to enter Canada and keep their beliefs and bend over backwards to please them we lose our sense of Canadian identity and what we were built on. I’m not too sure what Canada was built on, the seven years’ war, the Canadian Pacific Rail Road??? What this country is built on and what everyone believes in our country is the freedoms and rights we have been given; to live a life free from the fear of persecutions of what we as individual might believe in.

All Canadians no matter where they are from in the world when they came to Canada all have this common bond. We all believe in the same basic principles of freedom to choose how we want to live. Nowhere else in the world will you find a country as open to so many lifestyles and what some would even consider controversial at time, consider our views towards marriage. Although why should it be controversial? Yes I understand the deeper issues surrounding the topic however that is exactly my point.

When these “controversial” laws considered by other parts of the world are passed, as Canadians we read the headlines in the paper, (and we might not agree with it, and that is our right) and then we quickly flip to the sports section to see if the Maple Leafs have finally ended their drought and won the Stanley Cup and then we say next year will they will win it.

The real point here is as I have travelled you do find you get two responses towards Canada, either it is viewed as a bit of joke and not a real country, or you can see how much in awe people are of where you come from as they understand the opportunities and life style that exist that you can have.
Canada may never have a unique and exciting history that you can go on about forever and be dazzled like some other countries. We probably will never be the economic power house of the world, or have a military and foreign policy that can influence and dictate the way the world runs, which in some perspectives is considered to make a great country and one to be remembered. Instead we are a country that finds its strength in our freedoms, and equality and even now we are still not perfect at it, but we are the best at it in the world at it.

Canada maybe 15 000km away from where I am living, but I can tell you this much we are more open minded and aware of what is happening in the world than the people who live right smack in the middle of what we call the world. So the next time you in doubt of what makes us Canadian to look for a famous writer, athlete, scientific contribution, and yes I know we have contributed a lot but look within our society, go to the mall, ring on all your neighbours doorbell because I can already tell you the answer the reason why you are seeing the entire world in your backyard is because of our beliefs for the freedom of all to live in peace and happiness, and that is what all countries should truly aspire to. This is what makes a Canadian a Canadian and separates us from the rest of the world.

Friday, 3 December 2010

How the days go by

Day 94....

I woke up for the second week in a row thinking I had school on my day off at 6am in the morning. I jumped out of bed and a few profane words had escaped my mouth. I scrambled to think what am I going to wear, nothing is ironed. While thinking of creative ways to dress, I was also thinking what am I supposed to be teaching today, what are my lesson plans and most of all why didn’t any of my alarms go off. In this frenzy of madness I kept trying to figure out what I did last night. I was so tired I couldn’t remember anything. Then finally when I realized the last thing I had planned for my students was the unit test, I thought to myself where are my test papers? I remembered they would be on my desk, then I all of a sudden it hit me it’s Friday (in Kuwait Friday and Saturday are our days off). I calmed down and for the second straight week laughed at myself and went back to bed and did not get out until 12pm.

The simple reason to why for the past two weeks I have woken up on Fridays in such a panic was because this actually did happen to me once on a Wednesday two weeks ago. The power in my apartment must have surged and as a result my alarm clock didn’t go as it was reset. I woke up at 7:11, school started 7:30. In 30 seconds flat I was out the door and grabbing a cab. Every morning we take the bus which leaves at 6am to get us to the school. I tell the cab driver to go fast. I was making great time and then I hit all the traffic, so an hour later I make it to school, missing first period and my first class of the day. Needless to say it was not a good feeling. Punctuality is something I constantly enforce to my students and no longer was I perfect in that regard and some of my more troublesome kids in a class that I did not miss decided to make a point of asking why I was late today for school, trying to find an edge on me. But in my infinite wisdom I told them it was personal and that seemed to be a good enough answer.

Now you may have been thinking to yourself looks like Eric gave up on his blog, quite the contrary actually! In reality, the demands of a full time teaching job has been taking a toll on this young educator. Waking up at 5am in the early morning and not getting home until 4pm, then crashing for a few hours, followed by scavenging for food as well as wondering what I’m going to teach tomorrow has really taken away from all the leisurely things that I had been so fond of doing.

By no means am I complaining. This career has provided a lot of challenges, which I in my opinion I have not met. The first challenge is being completely organized. Something I struggle with. I think this mostly has to do with my inexperience as a young budding teacher. However, it is not all about just being organized, it’s the culmination of being organized, lesson planning, dealing with all sorts of interruptions during the day, substituting for other classes, dealing with individual students, and all the administrative responsibilities on the side.

Having a job that now pays a salary and not by the hour has changed my mind set in some ways. For me the most noticeable way is how I break down my day. In all my previous jobs which were to pay my way through university they were all wage based hourly jobs. Every time an hour went by I would think to myself another 10 dollars or whatever the minimum wage as at the time. I would then break up each shift up in a way to help pass the agonizing pain of my ultimate boredom thinking, all this money I’m putting in my school better be worth it and it has. Now when I get to the school at 6:30 every morning, Heather, Stephen and I go get our ritual coffees and we discuss many topics about school and our kids and so forth. However, in our minds we don’t think I can’t wait for this day to be over or this job is so boring its melting my brain, or how can we make the time pass faster. It’s will we get what we need to get done today done? Everyday it’s a race to the finish, only to end up at the starting line the next day once again.

Something that I have found even more profound on a personal note is I don’t think of even making money will I’m at school, one reason could be because there is a sense of job security since I have a teaching position. Money actually never crosses my mind, how much or how little or even am I making enough that I am happy with. I think I have truly fallen in line with the saying, “find a profession that would do for free and do it,” or something like that anyways. There are two things I know I love to do. One is talking which I am sure all of us are aware. And the second well it’s removing the weight of the world from the shoulders of many young students, whether I teach them or not.

During teachers college I rented a room from a sweet lady named Mrs. Clow. Every now and then when I was cooking we would have various conversations about whatever was on her mind. The one thing she had told me her father had once said to her is, “get an education. An education bears no weight; you can carry it with you wherever you go.” That has been something that has stuck with me ever since she had said it. I think many of us know what it feels like to have the weight of the world sit on our shoulders and push us down and not being able to lift it off. By educating all the students I come across this year, the next and every other year, I want to provide them with, knowledge and the tools they need of an education that bears not weight, to help remover the weight of the world around them. There are few worse things than being powerless in a situation because we don’t know what to do. By giving these students all I have to offer through my experiences, knowledge and wisdom, I hope to remove some of the weight off of their shoulders and replace with a weightless education that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Although I may never know the impact I will have on these students I hope for it to be only in the most positive sense. Whether it means those days that I have to come down really hard on the class or an individual which I have, or the days in which a second chance, and a kind smile is the answer to their success and can be the difference between them showing up to class or not.

As result, with each passing day I realize more and more how much teaching is exactly what I want to do and I couldn’t picture doing anything else. Every day I reflect and I am unsatisfied with how I taught, only thinking I can be better tomorrow, or if I was to restart this year all over again how differently I would do it. I know I will never be happy with how I teach. If teaching was a sport all I want to be is in first place, that way I would know that I am doing the best possible job for the students. I guess that is just a mentality of always wanting to be the best from having been an athlete for so long. However, I will continue to improve myself the best I can. Will I ever reach the top of teaching, I hope not. I don’t think you could. But if I did somehow, someday I certainly would not want to know in fear of becoming satisfied and no longer finding new ways to improve myself.

Saturday, 9 October 2010


After Each time I write a blog post I always wonder what I will be able to write about next. Sometimes I think I wont have anything to talk about because after a while I feel like I`ll be writing about the same thing over and over. However, that is not really the case, it just takes time for my next significant thought to develop.

The thought that has been looming on my mind the past week or so is my worldly appreciation. It has been quite difficult for me to synthesize and process this thought to myself, as it very overwhelming to contemplate. One way to give perspective to what I`m trying to describe, is to think about your purpose of travelling. For many this purpose can be to visit friends, family, vacation, or to go see a country out of interest. It is obvious when we go to other countries for these purposes we will visit the areas of historical value, important buildings and see the tourist areas.

It is obvious my reason for travelling is for the purpose to work. However, the more I think about it the more I realize, I`m not really travelling, in fact, I have moved for a period of two years for work to start my career and life. This is what has had the greatest impact on my experience. It is knowing that I am not staying for a short while and that I do not have to go see everything imaginable in Kuwait, because I only have 2 weeks or a month to visit. Kuwait, for the next two years will be my home.

As I sit here in my living room, as I so often do looking out my balcony watching the traffic, people playing cricket, the sunsetting and my thoughts wander through my mind, this one simple idea really sinks in fully, this new place has become my life. The thrill of examining and exploring in the first two weeks has ended. In those two weeks it felt like we were on vacation. That we really did not move here for work. The idea of having a full time job had not truly sunk in fully at that point either.

With the realization of Kuwait, actually being my home for the next two years, all the buildings, people and lifestyle has quickly become less novel and just a natural everyday occurrence in my life. It would be a mistake for me to say that I look at the urban geography here like I would in my home town of Mississauga, or my university home of St. Catharines. There are still obvious adjustments I am still making, but things are not as foreign as they once were. There is a more natural feel to the everyday here for me.

It would also be a lie for me to say that I do not still feel out of place at times. However, I feel more confident going to places that I once felt awkward about. The staring we get does not bother not bother me as much. Perhaps this is where I will start giving some more definite examples of of my appreciation I have gained since being here.

I will start with the staring. I am always surprised to see how much attention you can attract when its obvious you are not from the surrounding nations. Having lived in Canada your entire life, you become quickly accustomed to living with people of all nationalities, religions, beliefs, values, cultures`; I have literally grown up with the entire world in Mississauga. Through the years seeing someone walk past me who is entirely different than myself in every aspect would not receive anymore thought from me than the two seconds they are in my range of vision. Even then those differences mean very little, as it is as natural as the air we are both breathing in that one spot. Having lived in Canada, the amount of exposure to the world I have gained to the rest of the world without ever leaving the country is phenomenal.

Now a month and a half later, I am realizing I am encountering people who have moved from their own countries to Kuwait to work, but they have had very little exposure to a multicultural environment. From this I have gained a greater appreciation for having had an opportunity growing up to understand many other cultures from the country I was born. In the same instance, I also appreciate the curiosity of those who stare at me. I literally could have been the first white person they may have ever saw, now that may be an exaggeration, but you get the point.

Another great part of my appreciation since moving is the simplicity of life here, or so it feels like. If there is one thing I know about Canada, or developed industrialized nations, is boy do we love our material possessions. Here I have been humbled by all classes of people who live in Kuwait. Material items and temporary pleasures and satisfactions from what I have noticed are non-existent. There is a strong feeling of community here. People are always together, doing things. In Canada there is a stronger sense of independence among the people. We have so many toys that keep us much more occupied and independent from one another. Instead of meeting up and doing thins together, we will text, send messages or simply communicate through face book, but we will never actually physically interact in time and place.

In Kuwait, you will never see anyone alone. People are always doing something together; whether it is the people playing cricket outside my window, or sitting downstairs drinking some coffee and eating some food,you will rarely find someone off on their own. For example, back home if you had not been in contact with anyone for a few days no one would even notice or even worry. However, here, if I haven`t seen someone in a few days, let alone a day you really notice it. Having that sense of independence and going on your own does not exist here, and something I fully appreciate. Also, it is something that we are doing without noticing. Since I have been here, I have not done a single thing by myself. If I am going to go somewhere, I will round up the usual suspects and we march together. It just does not make sense to do something by yourself. The only things I have done on my own, is go the gym, go for a run, or walk to the nearby seven eleven for food. But even then, I am bound to run into someone I know. The alone time that I do have is always spent in my apartment, but even then my it is known where I am, and thus I am not fully alone; as my door is always open for whoever to come in.

Now what about these temporary pleasures and satisfactions that I speak about? Well first of all, all that fast food and junk that we eat back home to help deal with our stresses, I don't even consider ever here. Watching T.V. shows, movies, and so forth or spending my money on material items to buy away my worries doesn't happen either. All those temporary fixes I find we do so often in Canada, have become luxuries to me here in Kuwait. I can't fully explain it, it might be something in the air, the water, or the food, but the simplicity in life that I have found here away from the petty drama, and superficial worries, have been replaced by that of substance. That substance for me has been the the relationships I have developed. Sitting down and just being beside someone with a simple conversation has taken on a greater meaning that you could ever imagine. In this case, I would have to say I more than appreciate the luxuries we have back home, but they have become so commonplace that we quickly become bored and unsatisfied with what we have that we want more and more, until finally we don't know what we want and everything seems so boring mundane and less than exciting.

Here, I have gained the greatest appreciation for these luxuries, watching my dvds of Entourage happens rarely, my only source of junk comes when we go to the souks and stop for the coffee and two donut deal at Krispy Creme. What I have learned and have come to truly appreciate is my reintroduction to social interactions. In Canada, yes we interact socially, but that can only be done if you're doing something. For example, to sit down with another person is boring and there is no value in that, unless your're watching a movie so you can be distracted from having awkward silence. You literally have to have an actual plan of doing something to be around someone, or else there is no purpose to see them, and as a result creating a very independent society. Now don't misunderstand me, I absolutely love my alone time. However, having the choice, I'd rather be with people as much as I can and the alone time that I do have, should always be a luxury.

Now for a quick change of pace, one aspect that I truly and absolutely miss is the changing of the seasons. How strange it is to tell you that I still feel like I am in the middle of the summer and not entering the second week of October blows my mind. This lack of changes become quite tricky believe it or not. You wouldn't think it, but life at times seems to stand still, stagnate. It feels like there is no forward motion at all. Each day can feel exactly the same, no change in temperature, not a cloud in the sky, and nothing that tells you are you are 5 days away from the weekend. You will quickly miss the brisk fall air, the sharpness of a cold wind, those cloudy days that can determine your mood. The snow that lets you know Christmas is just around the corner, and the deep thaw that lets you know there is life after a cold and brutal winter. Yes, the weather that I too am so guilty of complaining about in all my years is something that I do miss greatly and have come to fully appreciate. Often times, no matter where I am, my mind thinks of the changing of the seasons. The changing of the seasons has for me become synonymous with the passage and growth of my life; as there is obvious and change and progression that you can measure. However, here that can be easily lost as nothing really feels like it changes, and it is certainly humbling how the something like the weather can have such a significant impact.

As I sit here thinking of all the things I have come to appreciate, I realize there is not enough time to go on about. Mostly because I have to take a shower and start lesson planning for tomorrow, something which I did not accomplish at all this weekend. However, to conclude about the things I have really began to appreciate, I would have to say that no matter where I live and for how long, I know that I will never change as a person, as bold as that may sound. My ideas, opinions and attitudes my change, but I thin the core of a person will never change. I will continue to gain greater appreciations for the world as I continue to live in and experience Kuwait, and with the travelling that I will do. As exciting as it is to travel and for all the moments I will live in while I am away, nothing will replace home. But from this experience and short time away, I have come to miss and develop a great appreciation for what I have and will always have, family.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Krispy Cream Donuts

Looking back on my previous posts I don`t really feel as though I have truly described my daily life routines since arriving in Kuwait, or at least the routines I have newly established. The first week here, there typically was not a routine. Practically all the pictures I have posted were from last second decisions to go out and explore the immediate area we are living in. We would spend up to as much as 3 hours walking in a very close perimeter to our apartments. One reason for that was the fear of getting lost was great. Secondly, the things that are close to us were so fascinating, and what we did come across amused us a lot. For example, many of those funny signs I posted are within a 30 minute walk in any direction.

However, after our first week of arrival we were at the school for half days and then full school days to work on our classrooms and such. By this point we had fully explored our neighbourhood. Now we were looking for new adventures. Which gave rise to the exploration of the souks (pretty much a flea market), but way cooler. Visiting the souks became our nightly activity the week before we started teaching. We would head to the souks and the nearby mall to see what we could get deals on. And pretty much you could get a deal on everything, but you really have to act like you`ve been in the country for a long time, and you know that they are trying to rip you off. After that the prices drop rather quickly and the more you bought the better the deal. So essentially you have to try to max out the discount you can get.

You know you`ve done this when they start to get upset with you when you`re practically making them pay you to take their stuff. If you're still not satisfied with the price they are giving you then you say, "no thanks". You then proceed to walk to the booth right next to that one which has the exact same things. When you approach the next both you hear the famous Kuwaiti line, which also must be their motto, or philosophy, "I give you good deal." That line has provided a lot of humour on the side for us.

Also, another important factor to note, is the use of taxis to get around. If they know you're not from the country they will always try to charge you from 1/2 to a full Kuwait dinar more than what the price should be. Right now the Kuwait dinar is worth about 3.5 more than the Canadian dollar, which is quite a bit. However, it is not a problem trying get the right price to go places. You say to the driver how much you will pay to where you want to go. You have to make sure the price is agreed upon very firmly before you start driving. If not, you will run into some trouble and they will charge you more once you get out. But if you don't like the price they want, you just wave them off and flag down the 100 other cabs that will, "give you good deal," and the price you are willing to pay.

Needles to say the haggling and bartering down of prices has been a lot of fun, even if you have no intention of buying their product. However, if you're really not interested in buying anything at the souk, (or the Friday market we went to last week), never make eye contact or stop by the booths. This is because the second you show the slightest interest in their product, you are swarmed by the three other workers showing what they have to offer, the prices, and the reassurance that you have to buy from them because you wont find a good deal anywhere else.

In both instances concerning purchasing from a souk, a Friday market, or a taxi driver, its always good to make friends with a few of them, because then you get the best deals possible; since you assure them continued business. We now get the best deals on movies and we have two taxi drivers who will come get us with a simple call and a half hour notice. Just a brief note about our one driver Sammi, his english is excellent, and he always informs us when we are going places what the maximum price we should pay for any particular item, as well as what places specifically to go buy certain items for the best prices and quality. Needless to say, he has been a tremendous help in familiarizing us with the Kuwaiti lifestyle.

So by now I know you are questioning the title of my blog post, which I will address right now. So the whole time we have been here I haven't really visited anything with a western feel to it. There are some malls I have visited, but there was very much an eastern feel to them. However, yesterday we decided to go to The Avenues mall, one of the three popular malls, to buy some more clothes for work. This mall is as western as it gets. There's an ikea, amongst many of the other western stores or equivalents in there. After having bought a new tie, shirt and dress socks, I was getting grumpy and hungry, and we still had to go grocery shopping. Plus after the three hours of walking around we've done my poor feet were starting to get rather sore. Just as we were making our way to the grocery section of this ginormous store, low and behold free 6 packs of krispy cream donuts were being handed out. It was a glorious site. Me, Nigel, Eddie, and Shane did not now what to do but to capitalize on this amazing deal; as we watched the three ladies being swarmed by everyone who saw them giving out the donuts from shopping carts. The hilarious part of this all was an Arabic man came up to us was muttering something to us in Arabic, and handed us his box of donuts. I was confused. Was he just being nice and giving us his box because he didn't want them. Unfortunately no, because as we watched him, he swam right back into the crowd to get himself another box. I stood their curious about his decision to hand us his box of donuts. Being four western men, he trusted us the most to hand us his box. About 30 seconds later he came back to us, very proud of his acquisition and we helped him but the boxes into a bag. The true meaning behind this story is related back to the routine we have established in about the month we have been here. Always on our way to the souks, there was a crispy cream donuts in a mall on the way. We would always stop there and get the deal, a large coffee and 2 donuts, for one Kuwait Dinar. So when we saw this free give away, it was a dream come true. I never ate Krispy cream donuts in Canada, but now its the only junk food that I even touch since I've been here. So by the end of the day I had eaten 9 crispy cream donuts, and the first 6 of those in about 10 minutes or less. So the moral of the story, if you are ever looking for a good deal, come visit me in Kuwait.