Friday, November 21, 2003

The weather has changed: it's turned cold - we've turned off the AC and the guards for all the buildings are all bundled up in winter coats. Yesterday, I even saw one guy riding his bike down the street wearing a balaclava!.

Last weekend we went out for a little chalet getaway (photos are in Recent Photos, really). A gang of us went down to the south end of Kuwait for a few days relaxing on the beach. Here are a couple pictures. Ramadan is the best time to go since all of the Kuwaitis who usually fill the place to bursting are at home trying not to think about the fact that they are fasting.

We're coming to the end of Ramadan. This week we only had three days of school and two days of parent interviews. Next week there are only two working days and then we have a 6 day weekend for the Eid holiday. It was supposed to be a five day weekend, but Ramadan started a day later than they had expected (it begins with the new moon and lasts until the next new moon). The government added an extra day onto the holiday so everyone can get in all the celebration due to them after a month of fasting. Lots of people are taking the opportunity to get out of Kuwait for a few days, but we are just staying put.

For Christmas, we are going to Cambodia. We are still working out our exact plans. There is not that much to see there except for Angkor Wat, an ancient Khmer temple complex of about 100 buildings that people here who have seen it say is pretty amazing. So after that, we might head up into the hills if we have time, which we probably won't since the hills are difficult to get to, or see how long the capital Phnom Penh holds our interest, or stopover in Bangkok on our way home and try to go somewhere in Thailand. We are meeting up with Karla's cousin Kathy and her good buddy Chad, so our plans will depend on them too.

People who have been there have said that the Cambodian people are much friendlier and welcoming that others in the region - even the Thais. The capital has a problem with crime at night, but by staying in established areas and travelling by licensed taxi, you are safe. Cambodia will be a safe place to be. Plus it has no Muslim population, was a French colony (so, it has minimal British and American interests) and is not a popular draw for western tourists!

I started tutoring a new kid. He was passed to me from our head of department, who was just too busy to tutor the Faisal. He's a very sweet little guy. Whenever I arrive, somehow he can always remember to make sure I get served tea, water and something to eat (fruit, popcorn, sweets). But the homework that we work for an hour to do, he forgets in his bag and doesn't hand in the next day at school. When I was there yesterday yesterday, I got a tour of the family garden at the end of the lesson. So far, I haven't really gotten attached to any of the kids of tutor. It's always been a pretty businesslike relationship. Most days I don't see anyone but a maid and the kid. But Faisal and his family are very welcoming - I feel much more like a guest in their house that someone working for them.

I have been keeping myself busy in my spare time with putting all of our CDs on the computer. I got a new hard-drive and an external case for it so there's tons of room for music. The computer is hooked into the home theatre speakers and the Musicmatch software does a pretty good job of playing the music. It will play be artist, or album or make a mix based on the mood or speed you request. Plus you can tell it which songs you like and don't like and it remembers to play those more or less often.

We had a problem with the car again last week. It is running well again, but we needed to have the distributor replaced for the second time. When it wouldn't start in the mornings earlier this year I took it to our regular mechanic who checked it out and tuned it up, but couldn't find anything wrong with it. But the next day, it wouldn't start at all. So I got a mechanic who lives right around our building to work on it. He checked everything out and replaced the distributor and it ran fairly well. But last week, it ran really rough on the way home from the chalets. Anytime we went up an overpass or were just cruising in top gear, it would misfire. So I took it to the local guy and he wanted to put new spark plugs in again - the last ones I got weren't good enough - I needed Chevrolet factory plugs. It didn't sound right, so I took it back to the regular mechanic. He took a look at it and decided the distributor was no good. Since we got it back, it has been running perfectly.

Since the beginning of the year, we've had to replace the battery once and the distributor and sparkplugs twice, plus had a tune up and the car towed to the shop. When the car was in the shop the second time and we were looking for a ride to school, it started to feel like owning this car wasn't such a good deal after all. But when it's all added up, the car has always got us where we needed to go and has never broken down and left us in the middle of nowhere. Plus all the work we've had done so far this year has only cost about $500 - which is what it costs to rent a small car for a month here. Plus, a taxi driver told Karla that our car is worth more now than when we bought it because there is a great demand for them in Iraq!