Sunday, March 23, 2003

We safely escaped Kuwait. We left on the last of the Thai Air flights out. The airport on Wednesday night was a zoo. Mostly, it was made difficult by Kuwaitis who had stand-by tickets who pushed their way to the front of the "line" (ie. mob) and expected to get seats. But we survived the pushing and shoving in the line and the long wait to get on the plane. We landed in Thailand, very happy to be here , but with no plan. After a couple days in Bangkok, we are now in Chaing Mai. Here in the north we will do a bit of hiking before heading down to the south and the beaches. We are hoping for a third week of vacation to visit some of the ancient cities, but if we don't get it, we already plan to come back. Don't worry about us. We are safe and happy here. Thailand is a wonderful place. It will definitely go on the list of places to meet up.

Monday, March 17, 2003

I though a few people might drop in to visit. George spoke about 40 minutes ago with his ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. The 48 hour windows puts us through to Thursday morning, Kuwait time.
We are scheduled to leave on Wednesday night on a flight to Bangkok, Thailand. The school, in one of their few wise decisions, have extended our spring break to two weeks. The break could be extended further, if the military action continues longer than the two weeks.

Yesterday, when the evacuation was ordered, the mood at the school became very excited. Teachers were happy that some decision had been made. The administration came around and asked teachers if they would prefer a ticket home or a cash payment (which we took as we already had a reservation to Thailand).

By the end of the day, we had all made plans. At a staff meeting the school began to revoke its promises. First, the one month salary advance that accompanies the ticket home in case of an evacuation would not be given since we are being paid our regular salary this week. Furthermore, the money the school claimed it had to pay for such a situation would not be available. Teachers who wanted the money to pay for the tickets that they had booked on t he school's advice were told that the school could not say when they might be paid. The school has said that teachers who work everyday that the school is open will receive a bonus at the end of the year. If the evacuation accompanied a school closure, the bonus would not be affected. Minutes after we got home, we received a call from our director saying that their announcement that evacuation would not affect the bonus, had been a misunderstanding. Now the school's position was that staff who took the evacuation would give up the bonus.

Karla and I are not impressed by the school and their decisions not to live up to their word. But departure is a day and a half away for us. As long as the airlines continue operating and there is no pre-emptive attack from Iraq, we will leave on Wednesday night (Wednesday morning, North American time). Hopefully, the next posting will have photos of Thailand.

Hoping for as short and safe a conflict as possible...

Friday, March 14, 2003

It's been a week of ups and downs.

Some schools have come back from the extended holidays they took at the beginning of February (and some are due back on the 22nd) to face futures that are much more uncertain than when they sent their teachers and students home. Our school has hung in there and stayed open. Teachers have left in a trickle since the beginning of February and we are now at about 2/3 staff. A few of the teachers that left have come back, having run out of money or faced some other unfortunate consequence of not working.

The staff requested a meeting with the board to talk to them about what plans are in place for evacuating the staff. We met on Monday afternoon. Despite the March 17th deadline, the school continued to take a wait and see attitude. It would not make a prediction about the start of hostilities and cancel school, or extend the holidays. At the meeting, this upset quite a few of the teachers and the director faced quite a few accusations of the school not being concerned about the welfare of its teachers. The director did however show a much better understanding of the staff's feelings by the end of the meeting.

The next day, the UK proposed its extension, and the certainty that the invasion would begin before our vacation that begins on the 19th looked less certain. We all felt more secure, holiday plans began to extend. If an invasion started during the holiday, who knows how long it might last.

Now, with it looks like a vote, if it even happens will take place on Monday. So our Wednesday holiday will go ahead. Our next worry is that will we over having to come back at the end of a holiday. (Is it wrong to hope for the war to start so we can stay in Thailand for a couple extra weeks?) Unfortunately, the board probably won't extend the vacation unless it is fairly definite that an attack will begin.

What we really fear is that the discussions over disarmament will continue over the summer and into the fall. And that when we come back next year, we will just be repeating the same situation all over again. (If it's wrong to hope for a war to stay in Thailand, it's even worse to hope for a war to make life a little easier)

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Last weekend we went to a big celebration of both National Day and Liberation Day held by a Kuwaiti family. Here are a few early photos from the digital camera.