Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the latest here

I mentioned the chance (smidge of, distant, remote) of an Arab autumn here a couple posts ago. Between then and now, I had the opportunity to ask a Kuwaiti man about what I'd been reading in the papers. Let me say this: the papers, my friends, do not publish everything. Nor will I repeat much of it here since I'm not stepping out into the world of investigative journalism via small blog. While he explained that what he relayed to me and the few others gathered was common knowledge among Kuwaitis, I cannot blab based on that alone.

Unless you email me.

The thing is, most countries like to be seen in a polite light. Moonlight. Candlelight. Lamps set around a room. No one says, "Turn on the fluorescents."

Anyway. In the news yesterday and today: the Prime Minister and some other members of Parliament resigned. The Emir accepted the resignations but asked them to remain on as part of the "caretaker government" as the New York Times put it. Imagine how excited protestors were about that. Read the Kuwait Times' article. The last paragraph of the Kuwait Times' article reads:

"A stalled economy - despite 12 consecutive years of  multibillion dollar budget surpluses - has left many frustrated as Kuwait has been overshadowed by fast-growing Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in the past 20 years. 'It's becoming difficult, almost impossible, to reach a compromise that will put our country back on the right track to achieving its aspirations,' wrote columnist Sherida Al-Maousherji in the daily Al Jarida."

I wondered about this shortly after arriving in Kuwait a couple of years ago, expecting to find clean and organized and discovering that our neighborhood had no paved roads and trash floated through the sky on breezy days. (The least of it, really). I couldn't figure out why such a monetarily wealthy country didn't have the best educational programs, healthcare, or infrastructure. Or why the country's generous citizen welfare didn't also extend to many of the poorest worker residents. So while I have heard sentiments like the one above expressed, I hadn't seen them in print before. (Probably because I didn't look hard). I know countries and governments need to sort themselves out and I do hope that Kuwait does. There is much to be gained.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I love to write. Next weekend I will talk with people about the value of writing practice and journaling. So I may use this space to practice some of my ideas. My creative writing students begin workshopping poetry this week. I must say: I love teaching creative writing. I get to write alongside. I get to try some of the forms again (again again) and try to generate a few new phrases or ideas.

I don't get bored. Sometimes I would get bored mid-Gatsby or something because Tom and Daisy never ever figure it out at the end. But teaching writing, writing alongside: near impossible to get bored.

The following is a try at terza rima. Not too intimidating, but enough of a form to make you work a bit. I wrote it during a class exercise and was thinking about something I said to my students before we began. I used that as my first line:

don't worry about being brilliant
write it down work it out leave it on the page
understand the corner of your mind called migrant

let her wander live another page
allow her games of twists and turns; pretend
you get it. call her sloppy words sage

your reward is a notebook of no end
words in margins at the edge of your next thought,
interrupting with three lines burned

on you tongue: you ought
to get it down on a page a scrap your palm
ink it let it   sit   until she has bought

your undivided attention; then you write long
lines in quiet loud shallow deep places.
she feeds you line after line until leaving at dawn

So I had fun with this. I typed it pretty much as is in my notebook but will likely play around with capital letters, punctuation, and sound. I get really excited about longs poems like sestinas because you can go on and on and on. But I also appreciate the economy of poetry and should probably cut some words for this. When I revise, I'll bring this back to you.

I have a writing blog that even fewer people read, so I'm posting this here. I should revive the writing blog and have that as the place for things like this, and keep here as the place for things like my long thoughts and short whines. Or short thoughts and long whines! Regardless, I encourage you to write a bit of poetry today.

Friday, November 18, 2011

arab autumn?

A few weeks ago I read about a protest here that demanded to know what certain members of this government did with a lot of money. Rumors of secret accounts, bribes and personal use of government funds that could be otherwise used to improve (or just provide) infrastructure or schooling or other services. When you are talking about billions of dollars, you don't have to pick just one thing to improve. That particular protest didn't recieve much international attention, though people in the region likely noticed. I read about it in local papers and wondered if something would catch but didn't think it likely. That's because I'm snarky about how much apathy money can buy. Truth: corruption is corruption. And good for the few here who are calling on their government to clean up their house.

So this week, there was another protest that did wake up the press. You can read about it here in a BBC News article and here in a Kuwait Times article.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

an oasis

There is so much about Kuwait that doesn't say oasis. But after returning from our summer in the States, I began seeing how our time here has been like drinking good water, sitting in shade. When we first arrived, I went through months of second guessing the course of my life, hating decisions I had made alone or ones made with Justin, sensing loss more than gain. I wrote about that here and here. Then I entered a stretch of seeking to know God, understand my faith. I remain in that stretch.

I am not tidy. I wish I were neatly packaged. There is a lot that I learn and undo and examine and pray about and the days here stand in front of me saying Ha. Learn this. Most of what I'm learning is grace and peace and what it means to love with a genuine heart. What it is to forgive. What that looks like. So I read the Bible, many times reading the same passages or chapters again and again, gleaning bits as I go. I am learning to be honest in my prayers.

And you know, it does feel odd to write this plainly. Living my faith is an exercise in humility. Because, as I said, I am not tidy. I think I have figured out how to be content or how to not be jealous and am met with a situation saying Can you really be content in this? My pride speaks. I fall.

To oasis: the different challenges of living here give me better understanding of my desire to live for God. What that really means, right where I am. I think about some of what I've learned in this past year or so and I have wondered if I might have learned the same lessons elsewhere. I don't know. Maybe.

Learning: Not to worry. To be content. No gossip. Character over reputation. Be kind, even if they aren't. Be gentle with my words. Open my home. Listen. Share. Speak carefully. And more.

Life and faith should be growing. For example, I can see now that I do not worry myself over what people think as much as I did a year ago. To get to this place, I walked through hurt and discomfort and misunderstanding and anger. And it sucked. And I wanted to quit and return to the familiar worry about every little thing you did wrong and the very favorite be nice so you are liked because both are such easy games. Instead, I reached a point where I was sick enough of my games, seeing them for that. A competition in my head that I would never win. I quit the worry. I would start down a worry thought path and stop. I acknowledged the thought and said: I am choosing not to dwell on this. And it was very hard to learn to do this. Very hard to leave the easy worry and redirect my mind. Because I am not finished, I keep learning this in different ways.

I want to tell you more about the freedom I feel too. Not flaky I feel so great because God's so good freedom but freedom that reassures me I am being refined, good work is being done in me. But I have a lasagna I need to put together, so I need to wrap this up. I have thought so much about how cruddy it is to live here, bumping across sand to get to a paved road and bad traffic. Missing family. Missing green trees and running paths. Missing libraries. But something is changing in me and I can say I like Kuwait. Sometimes I want to tack on a list of qualifiers, but I can say it. Because I am growing up in my faith here. And a year from now, I want to see further change in my  mind and heart. I want my time here to be praise to God. In my everyday regular life. If not in Kuwait, where? Where would be a better place?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011


We have a week of rest. We aren't traveling. We are resting. Still up early, still to bed early, but resting the days. When you get a week the first couple of days, the week seems endless and full and great and we could do just anything with our time: paint another couple of walls, go to the aquarium, cook something other than pasta or curry!

This morning Claire and I walked along the Fahaheel seawall, shared that time with friends. She is getting to be such a big girl. Last year was tough, to add Grant to the family and be so busy with the newness of two little ones. This year, we're all sleeping at night and I am finding it such fun to have Claire and Grant around. I like the little games we play, the giggles, the singsong. Claire gets going on a song and just throws any lyric in so that Mary Lamb is Mary Lamb is Mary Lamb and I have to reminder her "Mary had a little lamb" to get her back on track.

I smile a lot these days.