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December 18, 2003 - Christmas Holidays      [Egypt - see the pictures]

Vacations are always a time to look forward to, enjoy and then remember. Christmas vacations have the dubious distinction of being even more historic. Having been to Egypt twice before in 1981 and 1991, we had a good idea of what to expect. What I hadn’t counted on was how much I would love touring the same old ruins and seeing the same ancient relics.

We started our journey by taking a few days in Sharm El Sheik. The Crown Plaza resort was just what I needed – doing exactly nothing in a fabulously beautiful resort where the sun, the sea, the sand and even the fish appear dedicated to relaxing your spirit and delighting your senses. We managed to break away for a few hours to visit the local town and were delighted with the ‘soft’ harassment the local shopkeepers used. Every last one asked where we were from and then responded with ‘Canada Dry’. It was almost as if, for every merchant, Canada was just a place where a bottled drink came from!

   :: Arrival in Cairo

Our exit from Sharm El Sheik was complicated by the fact that Cairo Immigration had failed to stamp Jennifer’s passport. The local immigration officials were suitably irritated by the affair but simply gathered up Jennifer’s passport and had the flight crew deliver it to the Cairo officials. It delayed our departure by only a few minutes. In Cairo we spent about half an hour as the immigration department made sure that every possible person on duty knew every detail of the problem. Eventually, after watching about a dozen expressions change from confusion, to disbelief then to resignation as they realize that someone just forgot to do their job. Fortunately it was none of them so they eventually stamped the passport and we began the typically hair-raising journey to our Cairo hotel. The Trois Pyramides is an aging hotel in a less than exciting location about 5 miles from the Pyramids. The distant view of the Pyramids, if you can see it around the hideous sign on the next building, is hauntingly interseting on those rare days when the intense smog is light enough to actually see that far.

   :: Cairo Sightseeing

Early the next morning we began our tour of the temples and tombs of Egypt with the grandest tombs on the planet – the Pyramids of Giza. It was a beautiful, clear day – the bright sun shining and the throngs of tourists milling around. As we roamed around and in the Pyramids and the Sphinx, our Guide told us of all the ancient pharaohs, their wives and the great architects. We also visited the great boat that survived 3,000 years buried at the foot of the Great Pyramid. From there we proceeded to the Valley Temple alongside the Sphinx.

We drove to the Step Pyramid at Saccara where we descended into a tomb buried below what looked like a simple hill. Everywhere we went there were Tourist Police posted to protect the sites (or, perhaps, the tourists). Alongside the road ran a canal that was literally filled with trash and litter. On the way back, we stopped at a deserted restaurant for lunch. Well, almost deserted! There were several dogs milling around who looked longingly at us as we ate in an attempt to urge us to throw them scraps. When we were done, there was lots of food left as they had given each of too much bread, chicken and a variety of minor dishes. We stayed clear of the pickles which, as usual, tasted like they had been submerged in the Dead Sea for several centuries.

Our second day (Christmas Eve) started with a trip to the Cairo Museum. It was a bleak day with dense smog and poor visibility. Twenty-two years ago, our last visit to the museum was cut short because of an intense allergic reaction I had. This time I was armed with anti-histamine. Fortunately, I was able to enjoy the visit without a problem although some of the exhibits that were part of the main exhibition were now extra-cost. The Egyptians undoubtedly borrowed this concept from some western marketing gurus. We managed to see an incredible amount of treasures, including much of the booty recovered from King Tutenkamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. We ran into our the Crowders (Canadians friends from Kuwait) and made arrangements for Christmas drinks with them.

After the museum, we stopped for a brief lunch at a boat tied up along the Nile. We were the only diners present and amused ourselves by watched trash and oil slicks occasionally float by as we ate. We then crossed the Nile for a visit to the Citadel Area with the Alabaster Mosque of Mohammed Ali, who secured the independence of Egypt from the French. The hills and excavations of the area were quite extensive and interesting.

   :: Shopping in Cairo

We then proceeded to the Khan El Khalili Bazzare for some shopping. Lorie, as usual, had great fun bargaining with the local merchants. One merchant quoted her $200 (1200 Egyptian Pounds) and told her he would not be offended if she made him an offer but he underestimated her knowledge of the game and got rather angry when she offered him 200 Egyptian Pounds. She upped her offer to 300 but he was too angry to counter but muttered something about ‘hating Americans’. As we walked away another merchant from the shop gave chase trying to counter with 900, then 800 and the further we got the lower he went. We continued to stick to 300 and he finally accepted it when it became apparent we were on our way. Lorie truly is a master!

After the day’s sightseeing we walked to the local McDonalds and some western food. We took a taxi to the Crowders’ hotel to wait for them. Lorie spent the time talking and bargaining with the Hotel shopkeeper. When Crowders arrived, the boys all headed to their room while the women continued to bargain. We had a great visit, comparing our day’s booty and experiences. A Santa Claus showed up with some goodies to bring a bit of Christmas back into the day.

Several of us planned to go to midnight mass at the Catholic church but wound up at an evangelical service in English and Arabic instead. There was a very large crowd in attendance but we were able to find seats and enjoyed the Arabic Christmas carols as well as the enthusiasm and unusual service.

   :: The Train to Aswan

Christmas day was a lazy day spent hanging around the hotel, mostly reading and occasionally going for short walks. Our travel service picked us up in the evening for our over-night train ride to Aswan. The train ride was fun although none of us slept that well. The small rooms were comfortable but the jostling of the train made it difficult to relax. We got a big surprise early the next morning when smoke filled our railcar. I pounded on the locked kitchen door and then ran to get help. When they opened the door to the kitchen, thick black smoke poured out. It only took them a moment to put out the fire but it was not comforting to think of what might have happened. The train never even slowed down through the entire event and our cook looked pretty haggard, and dusty after putting out the fire. Apparently the hot water heater had shorted out and caused the fire. It is frightening that there were no breakers or even smoke detectors on the train. They cooked our breakfast in another car and the remainder of the trip was uneventful.

   :: Aswan Sightseeing

We boarded our Cruise Ship early and laid around until our buffet lunch. The feasting began; so much for losing weight! We were shocked to meet Ryan Fox and his parents on board. Jennifer had tried to contact them while we were in Cairo to arrange a meeting and here they were. They were on their final night aboard but we arranged to meet them on our return to Cairo.

We went for an short afternoon boat ride along the Nile near Aswan and spent some time reading, playing ping pong, ate some more and then partied a bit before turning in. The next morning we began our touring of the area with a bus ride across the English Dam to the High Dam. Our guide gave us all the low-down on the construction of these structures, including details on the low-tech nature of the High Dam that the Russians designed. They basically bulldozed tons and tons of material into the path of the Nile and covered it with a sheath of concrete.

We boarded boats near the English Dam and motored out to the Philae Temple. This fabulous temple had been partially submerged when the English Dam was build and was moved, stone by stone, to an island nearby. The ornate carving and structure was certainly awesome in the midst of the man-made lake between the two dams.

   :: Cruising to Luxor

Shortly after arriving back at the boat, we departed and left Aswan behind. Several cruise ships led the way and a couple followed close behind. The procession had the appearance of a group of large elephants lumbering along, one after the other. After several hours, we docked along with several other ships in Komombo shortly after sunset. We disembarked and toured the ruins of the nearby temple before returning to the ship for more food and an evening party, including some Nubian musicians and dancers.

Early the next morning we docked at Edfu and disembarked for a tour of the temple. The guide cautioned us to avoid crossing the white line separating the road from the shops since we then became fair game for the merchants. Lorie, as usual was undaunted by this challenge and spent some time taunting merchants with her bargaining skills. When we arrived back at the dock, our boat was repositioning and while we waited for it to re-dock we watched one of the pathetically thin donkeys pulling a cart take a nasty fall and slide 20 feet down the street, pushed by the cart.

We then sailed north to Esna where we spent an hour walking through the town before we were to proceed through the locks for Luxor. After supper and another evening party on board the ship we fell into bed, thoroughly exhausted. The ship was still docked at Esna when we fell to sleep. We were expecting to rise at a ridiculously early hour to begin our touring at Luxor.

Early next morning, we awoke to the drone of the engines as the Ship continued to motor toward Luxor. We had been held up at Esna because of a lock malfunction and were expected to be several hours late arriving. We had a leisurely breakfast and waited for our arrival.

   :: Luxor Sightseeing

We finally arrived just after 9:00 am and maneuvered into place along with the other ships. We finally departed for the Valley of the Kings. Our ticket gave us access to only three tombs which we selected quickly since there was an increasing throng of people milling around. We picked Rameses VI (KV9), Setnakht (KV14) and Merenptah (KV8). One exciting part of the experience was a run-in with an over-zealous employee who made sure that anyone who even touched their camera was badgered to the point of ultimate harassment to prevent any ‘unauthorized’ photos within the tombs. We then scurried back to the bus for a short trip to the Temple of Hatshepsut on the other side of the hills from the Valley of the Kings. After a relatively short stop we did a quick stop at the two large Collossi of Memphia.

Our guide steered us into an alabaster shop where we were treated to a personal marketing experience so valuable to the Egypt experience. Lorie took the opportunity to spend a few choice minutes with some bargaining practice (rather than buying anything).

After another excessive lunch (can you spell ‘fat’?), we boarded yet another bus to the Karnak Temple. Not to put down any of the other temples we had seen but the Karnak Temple was truly the best of the bunch. The enormous and towering pillars definitely proved that size counts! The temple is very extensive and has more than its share of pillars, obelisks and just a whole bunch of really nice rocks. The pyramids are big but this place had some serious living space.

By the time we rolled over to the Luxor Temple, it was getting darker and even though it was a perfectly respectable temple, it began to feel a bit like we were being herded like so many cattle through a dark corral with no real purpose. By the time we clambered back to the bus and arrived back at the boat, we could barely keep our eyes open for supper before we cratered. No partying for this group.

   :: Back to Cairo

The next morning we checked out of our room and spent the day wandering around near the Luxor Temple. While Lorie and Dave journeyed back to the boat in a donkey cart, the rest of us spent a short time touring the Luxor Museum. While not as extensive as the Cairo Museum, there were several excellent artifacts on display. These included some very fine statues and hieroglyphic pieces.

We finally boarded the evening train back to Cairo. The trip back was without incident and even though we had a fitful sleep, we made it safely back to the dumpy little hotel in Cairo. Once again we bummed around near the hotel just to pass the time. Lorie managed to get in some serious bargaining for several carpets and tapestries just to make sure we had left enough of our cash behind to ensure the well-being of the Egyptian economy.

   :: Alexandria

We made a quick trip to Alexandria for a busy day of seeing the sights. We caught the early train and before lunch we had seen a small roman theatre and bath, Pompey’s Column and the Catacombs. We had a fabulous lunch at the beautiful gardens area and then drove to the new library. Even though this structure was new, it was quite impressive. The view from outside cannot prepare you for the spacious interior it conceals.

We finished the day at the fort that now stands where the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria once stood. During the entire day we had a car load of tourist police follow us around. We suspect that they may have been there to protect us (because they thought we were American!) but Jennifer considered the possibility that they might have though us to be Canadian spies. We were not sure if there actually were such a thing but it provided some pause for reflection…

We caught the train back to Cairo and fell into bed, satisfied that we had done our job as tourists to see more than our fair share of stuff.

   :: Last Day in Cairo

On our last day we checked out of the hotel and, leaving our luggage, set out to visit our friends in Heliopolis. They had recommended that we visit a church near the Citadel through a place aptly called ‘Trash City’. This place was breathtaking in the brutally practical sense of the term. It was literally a dump with a city on it. The residents made good money foraging through huge piles of garbage for items to recycle. It was unbelievable how filthy and disgusting the place was to our western eyes (and noses). We even saw slaughtered animals bleeding down the streets and trucks grossly over-laden with garbage everywhere. The cab driver was not impressed as he threaded his old car through the steep and narrow, garbage strewn streets.

We finally came to a gate and broke into a remarkably clean area where the church was located. The church was literally carved into the mountainside. There were carvings all over the rock faces of the cliffs around us that proclaimed the dominion of Christ. It was an incredible journey to travel through the hideous garbage and find a remarkable church on the other side. No pictures could quite do justice to either experience.

After a short visit with the Fox family, we returned to the hotel to gather out luggage and head for the airport. We had arrived with carry-on luggage but now checked bags, including two large bundles of carpets. This caused some delay when we arrived back in Kuwait City but we were back home and snug in our beds by 4:00am. OK, so it was later than any normal person (and several abnormal ones) should even think about getting home! Our friend Dave gets the prize for being crazy enough to volunteer to pick us up, knowing that we will be arriving after 2:30 in the morning (ouch!).

Our travel agent (SEEgypt) had provided excellent guides for all our sightseeing with superb knowledge of all the sites we visited. Our disappointment with the quality of the hotel in Cairo was more than offset by the money we saved on the overall package. It was an adequate place to lay our heads and the staff was very helpful, even if their uniforms were far from what one would consider clean.

Not a traditional Christmas but most certainly a memorable one.

Thom Gordon

October 17, 2003 - Return from Summer Vacation      [Germany+ - see the pictures]

Life has indeed returned to normal here in Kuwait. I have been keeping busy at work and am now working full time after hours as a ‘family chauffeur’.

Our summer vacation in Germany and Canada was a great break from the insanity of the past year of moving, evacuations and dodging missiles. Germany was our first stop. We spent a full week exploring the western regions around Cologne (or Köln). We drove through the countryside and stopped at castles and abbeys along the way. We even ventured into Belgium and Luxembourg. It was a real treat to see the lush beauty of the thriving landscape as well as the order and cleanliness of well-developed towns and cities. After the stark desolation of Southern Kuwait it was encouraging to once again enjoy God’s wonder and better examples of human endeavour.

We finally landed in Calgary on June 24th to see, for the first time, our new granddaughter, Kailey. By this time she was a full month old and I must admit that she is absolutely adorable. Her parents were, as expected, extremely proud and also, as usual, showing some signs of fatigue from trying to live up to the role of the best parents on earth. Kailey was already being spoiled by the time we arrived but Lorie and I still did our part to ensure that our Granddaughter received more than her fair share of praise and accolades.

Our time in Canada was spent visiting with friends and relatives as well as working with our builder to finish the house in Church Ranches. We were able to visit with almost all our relatives and too many friends to count. It was exciting to catch up and share the experiences of our action-packed year with everyone. We managed a quick trip to Drumheller and Edmonton but spent most of our time in and around Calgary.

By the time I departed on July 17th, I was ready for a break from all the visiting, feasting and shopping. Lorie and the boys stayed behind to continue the insanity. Jared and David were both able to go to Camp Caroline and they also made a trip to Kelowna to visit Great-Grampa Ed who was suffering from a bad fall. Anjanette and Kailey also made the trip and they were able to take a five generation photo with Grampa Ed and Gramma Emma. This would be the last visit for most with Grampa Ed since he succumbed on September 1st 2003.

When Lorie and the boys returned on August 20th, they brought big sister Jennifer along with them. Jennifer has accepted a posting with The American Academy for Girls (AAG) here in Kuwait since her teaching job in Edmonton was unsure. It is really great to have her here but leaves Anjanette and Ryan to fend for themselves in Canada. Anjanette has husband Jeff, daughter Kailey and Jeff’s family to keep her going but Ryan is somewhat abandoned. He has a room-mate and can always call Anji when he is lonely. We manage to chat regularly with both of them on MSN Messenger so we can encourage (and criticize them) occasionally so they won’t miss us so much!

Many of the teachers from Jennifer’s school were on the flight from Frankfurt with them and Lorie sat right beside a vice-principal who offered her a teaching job. The basic criteria, she said was that you be ‘In Kuwait’ and ‘Breathing’. Many teachers did not return after the drama of last year and most schools in Kuwait were scrambling for teachers. Both Lorie and Jennifer are having a great time with their teaching jobs. Most of their students are Kuwaiti and they have new tales to tell every day of the interesting way Kuwaiti girls look at life.

October 10th, 2003 - Dave's Baptism

David Gordon was baptised by Pastor Dave Peacock of the American Embassy Chapel in Kuwait. Dana Riggs also was baptised.

The day was bright and warm; a glorious day to be reborn. Following Jesus in the baptism of the holy spirit, the young Christians professed before a crowd of witnesses that they were simply doing what God commanded.

The event which was well attended by the Church family and following the ceremony, all attended a luncheon in celebration.

The Baptism


The Witnesses

The Baptism

David Gordon - Up from the Water

Pastor Dave

Another Baptism - Dana Riggs


The Luncheon


The Feast

Sharing the Bounty

June 12, 2003 - Age catches up : Grandchild!

A lot can happen in 2 months!

The major event for us has been the birth of a grandchild. Kailey Anne Marie Clement was born to Anjanette and husband Jeff on May 29th. Eight pounds, four ounces of perfection. From the tales and pictures Jeff has already taken on the role of doting and protective father. See Introducing... Kailey Anne Marie Clement for photos and video clips.

Second has been the decision by our daughter Jennifer to accept a teaching job here in Kuwait. I know she was having a blast at her school in Edmonton but, with the uncertainty resulting from budget cuts in education in Alberta, she started looking for alternatives. We are delighted that she will be so close. Her apartment is only about 3 blocks away! The future for us in Kuwait is looking fantastic. Almost too much to imagine.

The war in Iraq ended much quicker than it started. Everyone in Kuwait breathed a huge sigh of relief. To say life has returned to normal would not be entirely accurate. After all, what is “normal”, anyway. There are still a few military convoys trekking up and down the freeways. Check stops have all but disappeared although, after the Riyadh bombings, many buildings still have armed guards. As for the rest of life here in Kuwait, it is as crazy as usual. Insane drivers are back in force; Malls and Souqs are surging with eager shoppers; Restaurants and Theme Parks are once again busy and the country is abounding with laughter and children again.

Lorie and the boys returned on April 13th after dealing with some more Canadian winter weather. They immediately returned to school to try to make up for the longer-than-expected school break. Jared had only seen the inside of a classroom for 4 days since his February 9th departure. Poor Dave was enrolled for almost the whole time. To make matters worse, he has gotten some detentions for assignments that mysteriously did not get handed in! Lorie spent the first month here busy with tutoring jobs for local kids who had no school to go to. She spent the second month in Canada looking after all kinds of things.

The end of school has now been delayed and several Thursdays (logical Saturdays) were added as well. Lorie went back to work at the school as well as still doing some tutoring. She has been free on Thurdays but still working hard.

Life has been intensely busy since their return and I haven’t had time to even think. Work has been pretty busy. I haven’t actually been able to accomplish much but have been intensely engaged in trying. Other than work, the parties and shopping have dominated any free time. We have been baking on the beach, shopping til we dropped and have attended more than our share of parties, functions and dinners. Since everyone depends on me to drive I have loaded thousands of kilometers on the car. Needless to say my offensive driving skills are really paying off.

We are less than 3 weeks away from our vacation. It will be the first chance for us to see our Granddaughter (or Niece for the boys). We are really excited. Because we are coming back to Kuwait at different times we will be spending a few days sightseeing in Germany. Unfortunately we will be flying through Toronto so we may need to buy some biological protection suits before we leave!

Our new house in Calgary will be completed almost as soon as we arrive. We will be trying to find renters, although we have already had some inquiries. The house is looking fabulous (see New Home Rising for photos) It really has been interesting watching from this far away. We are excited to see how it looks first-hand.

I will be returning to Kuwait mid July so will only have enough time in Canada for visiting and a bit of house stuff. Lorie and the boys will be delaying their return until mid-August so they can fly back with Jennifer. I am really looking forward to the break from the mayhem here and will probably get a chance to goof around before the family gets back in August. We are all ecstatic that Jennifer will be joining us. I know it will mean a bit more driving around but we will all enjoy having family close by.

I should feel guilty about not keeping everyone updated over the past two months but it has been so busy and so exciting to have a normal life again that I barely have time to write so I certainly don’t have time to waste stirring in guilt (sorry folks)!

Hope all are doing exceedingly well. As you can see, we are. Until next time, may the good Lord bless and keep you.

Thom

March 29, 2003 - Sharq Attack!      [see the pictures]

   :: A Canadian in Kuwait: I spent the day trying to get the facts... (also found at CBC Online)

At 2 am on March 29th, a missile hit a small pier at a seaside mall in Kuwait City! No alarms to wake anyone up. Those who lived close were awakened by the loud bang. Not a serious thud but more than enough to get their attention. I lived too far to hear the explosion. I slept through it all.

I spent the day trying to get the facts. I knew it was Sharq mall even before I read it. There were some contradictions in the reports but none made it sound too serious. After work, Dave and I drove north into Kuwait City to check out the damage for ourselves.

As we drove over the Sharq mall bridge, the traffic came to a standstill. As we crept along, several cars ahead were turning around. The traffic leaving was backed up as badly as the traffic arriving. As we approached the theatre area from the East, we could see a crowd of people milling around. Curiosity was a powerful thing. Particularly when there was little else to do.

I parked the car and we strolled across the parking lot toward the theatre. As we approached we could see some of the damage. The entire underside of the theatre complex was badly damaged. On closer inspection, it was apparent that it was nothing more than a drywall façade, suspended for the most part by wires from the floor above. The shock wave from the explosion must have heaved it up and then down, fracturing support wires and breaking the drywall.

The pier, about 20 meters North of the complex, was cordoned off and a few guards were seated at the entrance. Beyond them, on the pier, was a camera crew. Beside where they stood the railing was severely twisted. About 10 meters of the decking was missing. This, it appeared, was the site of impact.

Looking back at the theatre from the pier entrance, we could see more destruction. Although the brick and stonework was relatively undamaged, some was broken and chipped. Obviously shrapnel had traveled 30 meters from the impact site and impacted the building. The majority of the damage was to the weaker façade components. Like the underside of the complex, the shock wave pounded the end of the building, breaking loose drywall and wood; demolishing the windows; shaking loose some of the ornate tile-work. A few large portions of the façade were hanging precariously; tilted away from the building. We could see damage to the ceiling high up within the tall turret-like structures at the back of the complex as well.

As we walked around the west side of the theatre complex, there was little damage. Some of the windows on the side and adjacent mall area were broken. One of the side entrance doors was missing; cleaned up already. A guard explained that the mall was closed but the grocery store was open.

We strolled back to the car and made our way down the Gulf road for supper at Chili’s. A short distance from the mall we slowed to a crawl for one of the many check stops. They were quickly becoming a normal event wherever we went. As we approached the police, our car almost shook as the wailing of nearby sirens pierced the air. Slowly the check-stop dissolved as the police slowly wandered off to seek shelter.

We drove on and arrived at the restaurant shortly after the all-clear. Neither of us had thought to bring our gas masks. We had come armed with cameras instead. We joked about our folly but were not overly concerned. We chatted as we ate our hamburgers in the nearly deserted restaurant. We watched as the sun slowly set and looked out across the water. Toward Iraq!

March 28, 2003 - Gulf War : a Day in the Life ...

Friday is logical Sunday in Kuwait! And finally the sun is shining brightly. I got up too early but it was a good night. Restful and quiet. I slept well. The roosters next door provide their usual chorus. They seem to crow 24 hours a day. At least I live ten floors above them. They also provide a reminder that life is normal. My first thoughts as I wake remind me that my family is not here. They are miles away. Even with the roosters it is much too quiet.

I begin the day with a long bath, a hearty breakfast. A bit of CNN and then it is off to church. The dust coating my car is getting pretty thick. As I head for the dreaded Fahaheel Expressway, I encounter two police check-stops. A minor inconvenience. Also a reminder that there is still danger here that lurks undiscovered. I can only hope that the check-stops are enough to deter or discover those who would inflict terror.

The traffic on the freeway is lighter than usual but still commands complete attention. It reminds me of the stock-car races I went to when I was younger. Now I get to join the race. Cars dodging and weaving though traffic. At the speed limit (120 kph), I ease past several slower cars. I am lucky today. There are no high-flyers. Half a dozen cars ease by on my drive into the city.

When I arrive at church I meet with Richard and his friend. Young teenagers overflowing with energy. We clown around before church. Joking and entertaining one another with tales of our past few weeks. It is good to laugh. It is so good to see familiar faces. It has been less than two weeks but the flood of events have made it seem like forever.

The pastor is starting a two-part series. Next week is last one in Kuwait. His sermon is on Exodus 13 and 14. Moses leading over a million people out of Egypt (600,000 men plus women and children). Not even taking the short cut! How could they have known how God would be glorified. Poor Pharaoh didn’t know how powerless he really was.

Like Egypt under the Pharaoh, Kuwait depends heavily on ex-patriot workers. Imagine, he says, the chaos if over 1 million ex-patriots left Kuwait overnight. Over half of the Kuwait’s total population. It puts the dilemma before Pharaoh into perspective. Leaders often miss the big picture. Moses didn’t miss it. And God didn’t let him down.

As usual, I spent some time during the service to wander through the bible. Matthew 5:43-45 … Luke 10:25-28 … Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. God continues to tell us everything that we need to be safe. I wish I had the faith of Moses to wander in the desert without a clear idea of where I was. With the danger of man behind, the danger of nature in front. But no fear of being overtaken.

March 27, 2003 - Gulf War : Sirens!

It is 11:30 am as the sirens once again sound. Here we go again. I am sure there are many people who, once again, are letting their anxiety built. I am not one of them. The feeling is nothing more than that of having to stop for another red light when you are in a hurry. Waiting for the green light. Drumming your fingers on the steering wheel, eager to get moving again. Perhaps I am not taking this seriously enough.

I glance out the window over the city to the North. The sand is once again thick in the air and I only see about half a kilometer through the beige haze. I had hoped that the rain yesterday would have knocked most of the sand out of the air. The fresh smell after the rain was a welcome relief after almost 2 weeks of intermittent sandstorms. But now the dust is back.

Thursday, for us, is the first day of the weekend. I had looked forward to getting out in the sunshine but this is not they day for that. It can’t be too healthy breathing the fine desert dust. I think of the thousands of people who can’t seek shelter from the dust. I get a call from my Kuwaiti friend who is worried about me. I am fine but he doesn’t fare well when the dust flies. His asthma is raging and his family has sealed his room up. Can’t hurt if Sadaam gets nasty!

Still a lot of concern about gas or chemicals warheads. I know that the real danger is for anyone in Iraq. We all know that Sadaam and his cronies can and will use anything he can to prove he still controls the game. Perhaps I should worry more but I found that fret and worry are more self-destructive than productive when you have no control of the situation.

March 25, 2003 - Gulf War : Back to Kuwait.

   :: A Canadian in Kuwait: Kuwait was not much different at first... (also found at CBC Online)

Driving back into Kuwait from Saudi Arabia yesterday was easy and simple. The traffic at the border post near the town of Khafji was almost deserted. But the border guards were calm, polite and friendly. The entire crossing, including the 1 km drive between the Saudi and Kuwaiti sites took less than 15 minutes.

The 400 km drive from Dhahran had taken less than 4 hours, including a couple of stops along the way. I managed a couple of photos of camels, goats and palm trees but then my camera batteries died. The landscape became flat. Saskatchewan looked mountainous by comparison. Not much to see. A few sheep. Fewer Camels. Occasionally there were tents off in the distance.

Kuwait was not much different at first. As we drove North into Kuwait the traffic picked up as we approached the Refinery area. The wail of sirens crept in over the song on the radio. Les and I both rolled our eyes. Welcome back!

As the sirens continued, we eased past a small US convoy. A few HumVees and Huge Flatbeds rumbling along. Les pointed out that the drivers were wearing masks. Sure enough, there they were, driving along with their Gas Masks on as though it was perfectly normal. I shrugged my shoulders and let out a short laugh. I am sure they had standing orders and, besides, they were in open vehicles. I wondered if they knew something we didn’t.

Our trip to Bahrain and Dhahran had been brief but restful. Les commented that the bed was really comfortable. So was the lack of Air Raid Sirens. We both had gotten lots of sleep and spend a full day doing normal things. Talking with friends, sightseeing and a bit of shopping. Short but sweet.

Today we returned to work. I got a call just after I finally rolled out of bed at 9. I had slept well. So much for a lazy day at home. Just as well, I didn't have much to do but watch TV anyway. And all the news is depressing anyway. Mostly because it is obvious my family will not be back any time soon.

Even though we had only been gone 5 days everyone was happy to see us. Some people looked exhausted. I guess I had slept through the sirens overnight. I managed to accomplish a few things but it was not a very productive day. Just before noon we had an unusual treat. It rained. And then it rained some more. A serious downpour. Mid afternoon the sirens went off again. I closed the office door and went back to work. If there was something on its way it would arrive before I got to the shelter about 5 blocks away. By the time I was ready to leave, everyone else had gone. I locked up and headed home to my empty apartment.

First thing I did was turn on the computer. Within half an hour the computer chimed. My eldest son had signed on. I had a great chat with Lorie and the boys. They had gone shopping, played games and were planning to visit Edmonton. Probably a more dangerous drive than I just made. At least there is no dictator in Fort McMurray to contend with! Also had a call from some of my favorite radio announcers: Doug, Robin and Dan from Country 105. I can still listen to their antics over here. The internet is really helping me stay connected in ways that were not possible a few short years ago.

As the sun sets, the raining continues. It is accompanied by high winds, lightning and thunder. These are normal sounds but I am sure that many will have trouble sleeping because of them. I can hear the rush of rain and occasional faint thunder. The Satellite TV system is acting up. CNN keeps dropping off. Several other channels don’t work at all. At least the movie channel is OK. I sure miss the family…

March 24, 2003 - Gulf War : Living in the Zone.

   :: A Canadian in Kuwait: Friends and family will call me crazy... (also found at CBC Online)

Thom Gordon is a Canadian working and living just south of Kuwait City. His wife and two young sons have been evacuated and are staying with the couple's older children in Calgary. Over the past 25 years, he and his wife have spent over 10 years raising their family in the Middle East. They first went in 1979 with two daughters in diapers. Their three sons were all born there. For them, it is home.

It took me over 10 years to get back to the Gulf. I was in Saudi Arabia in 1990 when Kuwait was invaded. I was still there when it was liberated in 1991. I heard the sirens and the roar of thunder as missiles roared overhead. Then it was over.

I returned to Canada about a year after it ended thinking I was ready for life in the North American rat race. It didn't take long before I was scouring the job postings looking for an opportunity to return to the Middle East. I finally succeeded six months ago.

So, after 10 long years of waiting, I'm not going to let some crazed maniac scare me off. I am happy to be here.

But once again the earth shakes as the world deals with Saddam Hussein. This time I'm a bit closer to the action, but for those of us behind the front lines it's a bit quieter than last time. Sure, we still hear the sirens wail and the occasional bump in the night but, for me, it's much easier. For many others it isn't; their fears and worries are not as easily suppressed.

I've been to the Kuwait airport several times over the past few weeks. It teems with hundreds of people looking for a way out. They're eager to put distance between themselves and the terror that is Saddam Hussein. Only a few days ago I put my wife on a plane to Calgary. She wanted to stay but secretly I was glad she could leave. Now getting out isn't so easy.

My friend Mike, another Canadian, has been trying to leave. He thought it would be a good time to visit London. First, he tried to leave on Thursday, March 20 - the day the battles began. His flight never arrived to pick him up.

Then he tried on Friday but the only airline flying out was grossly overbooked. The airport was crowded with anxious travellers praying they could get a plane out. Only a few were lucky. Mike wasn't one of them.

Yesterday, in one final bid for Mike's freedom, I drove 400 km south through Saudi Arabia with him and another Canadian to drop him off at the airport in Bahrain. Finally, he succeeded in getting away. As we drove off we joked about how hard it was to get rid of him!

The border crossings into Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were very easy. There was little traffic. The Immigration and Customs staff were relaxed and friendly. It was almost as though nothing had happened. Most of the mad rush happened days ago. Now it's business as usual.

We'll spend a couple of nights visiting friends in Dhahran before driving back to Kuwait. Friends and family will call me crazy. Why is it so hard for them to believe that I really want to go back?

I don't need to be in Kuwait. My company will let me leave but I want to help others deal with their fears. Mine are gone. Well, most of them, anyway. Sometimes, I briefly consider the possibility of a freak event: a direct hit from one of the few missiles that may make it this far south. Then I shake it off. It's more likely that I'll die in a car wreck.

One of the scariest things about this conflict is the lack of accurate information. There are so many rumours and so much speculation. It's impossible to identify the truth because it's buried in mountains of fiction and fabrication. The media leap at every morsel, slowly uncovering the facts, discrediting the nonsense.

As they leap back and forth from story to story we are inundated with information, unsure of what to believe. How can you fight your fears without the real story? Perhaps faith is all that you have to depend on. You have faith that somebody else is dealing with the danger and acting to protect those who can't protect themselves.

I worry about the people in Iraq who aren't as lucky as we are in Kuwait. We trust our protectors. We have hope that the battle is getting easier for us, not worse. Even in Kuwait we can view the events with relative detachment. But we still listen to every noise, jumping with a start when our fears get the better of us. It's amazing how similar gunfire and the pounding of a hammer are!

For now, my work as a computer specialist has been temporarily interrupted. Soon it will continue. My family will return and we'll carry on. We're lucky. This terror will not go on for long. Or will it?

Even if I were able to convince you that it's not really that dangerous here, you wouldn't understand. I can learn, I can experience and I will thrive. How can I let a little danger take that away?

March 21, 2003 - Gulf War : Sandstorm!

It is a gray day here in Kuwait in many different ways. The air is heavily laden with sand as the Sand-Storm begins to wane. Visibility is a couple of miles in the beige haze around us. The air is occasionally laden with the wailing of civil alert sirens as the local authorities warn us of inbound missiles. The mood here is somber. As hard as we try, it is hard to ignore the danger and the reality of what is happening to the North.

Occasionally we hear jets or rockets overhead, helicopters over the Gulf and noises in the distance. Our mind is constantly trying to identify the sounds. I heard a noise a few minutes ago outside. My first thought was gunfire! When I cracked the window open I discovered that it was just someone hammering in a neighboring building. Someone actually carrying on with normal life. It may take a while before the sound of the wind is no more than that in my mind.

Nothing has landed too close to our apartment building. I have heard many reports of a missile landing off the coast just south of here in Fahaheel. Several talked about a loud bang around midnight. I doubt if it was really loud as I slept right through it. Having gone through Gulf One (as the press are calling the 1991 event), We have heard nothing with any seriousness here yet.

Up North in Kuwait City they have been a little closer. I called several people today to discuss the situation and offer some comforting words. There is concern but most are not in a state of panic.

One Kuwaiti friend received a call from a friend in Canada who was crying and sobbing with worry. So the Kuwaiti was consoling someone in Canada because of the danger here. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? How could people who live in safety be so selfish that they transfer their fears to people who are in real danger? The Kuwaiti was very appreciative of my phone call. He said it gave him great comfort to know I was alright and that I was thinking of him.

March 19, 2003 - Alone in Kuwait!

Lorie left last night to return to Canada. She went reluctantly. True, the boys need her back in Canada after a lonely month with their older brother. But she really loved the weather, the work, the friends and the quiet lifestyle. She is really hopeful that all this Iraq nonsense will be over quickly and she can return with the boys to resume our daily routine.

For the time being I will remain in Kuwait. I am not being forced to stay. I feel compelled to stay and try to help others deal with their worries and fears. No, I am not considered essential to the operations here. But there are perhaps a couple of million who don’t have the luxury of leaving. For many Kuwaitis, they can easily afford to leave but this is their home. Then there are the hundreds of thousands of unskilled laborers who couldn’t leave if they wanted to. An airline flight might cost them 10 years wages. Some are even at the mercy of their employers who keep their passports to prevent them from leaving. There is not much I can do to help other than just being here. I can smile and wave and hope that they are encouraged by a crazy westerner who is still around.

I only hope that my friends and family can understand that running away from danger is not always the right choice. I hope they won’t worry about me. What I need from them is prayer. Prayer that, whatever happens, God will be there to encourage and comfort me. And when I say "whatever happens" that includes all the worst of the fears and worries that you can imagine.

I have been fortunate that so far no one has accused me of being selfish for staying. Other friends who are still here or recently left have had to deal with the anger and even hostility of family and friends who don’t understand why anyone would stay when others are worried about them. Lorie wanted me to leave with her but she understands what is here to stay for.

If I should come across a lost child, someone who is hurt or a person in trouble, I feel it is compelled to help. I sometimes care for total strangers at the expense of my own family. It is this same care that keeps me here. It is the same care that has roughly a quarter million troops poised to oust a maniac who has proven he doesn’t care, even about his own family!

Some have tried to paint George Bush as a greedy, self-serving person but I know he cares deeply about every person in this drama (both American and otherwise). What I see is someone who cares for all those who are suffering. I am saddened by the prospect that, even after Sadaam is removed, there will still be other wicked people at large who will continue to commit the same atrocities. Free to commit the most wicked acts. In fact some will even blame George Bush for what 'they' do as though it was from his hand.

Even while George Bush is planning to plunge the world into another war, he is planning for the humanitarian aid that will follow. Not the act of a greedy and selfish man. He will be remembered as a man of action, not swayed from his duty to the world by those who would run away. When Al Qaeda took the battle to America on September 11th it became clear, once again, that the world could not simply stand by and let evil men hide behind their sovereign borders and plot evil on the world without being held to account. In 1905, the philosopher George Santayana wrote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.". In many regards, we are condemned to repeat the past anyway. Jacques Chirac, like Neville Chamberlain 65 years earlier, was hopeful that diplomacy and reason would bring "Peace for our Time" (Chamberlain 1938). We have seen many encouraging examples where this actually worked. Unfortunately we have also seen a leader "who has not hesitated to plunge the world into misery in order to serve his own senseless ambitions" (Chamberlain 1939).

As Chamberlain concluded on Sept 1, 1939 (after Hitler’s the invasion of Poland):

"We have no quarrel with the German people, except that they allow themselves to be governed by a Nazi Government. As long as that Government exists and pursues the methods it has so persistently followed during the last two years, there will be no peace in Europe. We shall merely pass from one crisis to another, and see one country after another attacked by methods which have now become familiar to us in their sickening technique.
We are resolved that these methods must come to an end. If out of the struggle we again re-establish in the world the rules of good faith and the renunciation of force, why, then even the sacrifices that will be entailed upon us will find their fullest justification."

The Gulf war ended in 1991 with the Iraqi Government "pursuing the same methods it has so persistently followed". If we are not prepared to act now so that these methods come to an end, our condemnation is not only to repeat history but to ensure that "Peace" will have no place "on Earth".

March 18, 2003 - Danger in Kuwait!

"It was the most spectacular accident I have ever seen!"

"I always feel a bit uneasy in the fast lane. The car was purring along with the occasional beeping of the speed alarm as I pushed the generous 120 km per hour speed limit. The car behind was close. A few months ago I would have felt very uncomfortable but now it barely phased me. Barely more than a car length away seemed more than enough. It was night and I was slowly easing past the slower cars in the center lane; looking forward to moving aside once I was past."

"The loud thump and accompanying sounds barely had a chance to register when I caught the action over my left shoulder. It took a while to understand exactly what I was seeing as events unfolded. My mind was racing as the tumbling hulk moved overhead and disappeared over the center divider into oncoming traffic. As abruptly as the action began it began to fade away behind me. I continued on my way having difficulty believing what had just occurred. Unscathed and untouched, yet not undisturbed! The car that had catapulted over top of me had hit the car behind me at probably close to 180 km per hour. A mistake he would never make again. I will probably never find out how many died but am utterly convinced that some did"

This terrifying tale of everyday death in Kuwait was relayed to me by a fellow Canadian. As astonishing as it sounds it happens way too often. The twisted and unrecognizable wrecks of fantastic traffic accidents appear daily on the freeways of Kuwait. Usually late at night when traffic is sparse and drivers are tired. A day seldom goes by without the appearance of a new graphic reminder of the everyday perils of Kuwait driving.

Even with this phenomenon, Kuwait is an incredibly safe place. Crime is virtually non-existent. Contrary to recent news reports, terrorists are not lurking around every corner. It would be naïve to think that there were none but after “September 11th”, it should be obvious that the risk is no higher here than any major city around the world. Perhaps it is even lower as people here are more vigilant.

Thom Gordon

February 13, 2003 - Sending the Children to Safery!

How do you spell fear? In the midst of tensions, the citizens and residents in Kuwait have had to consider just how they will let fear control their lives. Many expats and locals alike are taking the holiday to leave the region behind and seek shelter from the impending storm.

We sent Jared and David back to Canada. Their school was closing for over 5 weeks and they were eager to visit their brother, sisters and grandparents back in Canada. We let them fly by themselves but they were actually flying with many students, teachers and friends who left on the same flight. Several were also going back to Calgary so they were not alone on the journey.

Lorie and I remain here in Kuwait. Many friends and family back in North America think we are foolish but I feel it is important that we stay. The danger is not nearly as bad as many think. True, we are exposed to possible terrorist attacks. More importantly, I put my faith in a power stronger than all the Allied and Iraqi forces combined. I do not welcome danger but I also do not fear it. I do not let it control my every waking moment. I occasionally ponder what dangers might be present but I never shudder with terror at the thought of becoming a victim. It is that confidence and faith that I need to share with others to help them deal with the unknown future that lies before us.

The resilience of the Kuwaiti people is encouraging. They have all been through this before. It was just over ten years ago that the terror was very real for them and yet they endure today with strength and courage. Earlier this week we watched as thousands of people filled the streets to celebrate the Hajj holiday. Streets were plugged with shoppers rushing around to buy gifts and enjoy an evening out. Beaches, malls and the picturesque Gulf Road was teeming with people relaxing, enjoying and laughing. Yes, laughing, even with recent events at the forefront of their thoughts. In the place of solitude and anger are smiles and enjoyment of all that life is offering. Is it an illusion or have they accepted that they have no control over events that may, once again, put them in harm’s way.

I would rather be here in Kuwait right now than in North America for many reasons. Finding peace is not always about running away from danger. Sometimes it requires embracing it wherever you are. Enjoying everyone and everything that is around you. There are many barriers to what we would consider ‘normal’ life here in Kuwait. Most people in Kuwait do not understand English very well. I am in a visible minority here. I have wealth and privilege and there is no doubt of how fortunate I am. Driving is dangerous and not everyone follows the rules of the road. A simple shopping trip can become an incredible adventure. Our need for instant gratification, whether it be fast food, fast service or easy access to our favorite things, is not always satisfied here. But sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Spending several days searching for that special cookie cutter can be aggravating or enlightening depending on how you see it.

Some of the things I like are not available here in Kuwait but there is one thing that is available in abundance. Difference!

It helps me to see how demanding I can be and how unnecessary it is. I see people who are lucky to ride in the back of a dump truck. Some have only one pair of shoes. Some are separated from their families, wives, husbands, and children for years. Some are wholly dependent on their employers for food, for clothes, for a place to sleep. Some are herded like sheep as they are moved around to do a meager job. And yet I still demand my rights! I can still be unhappy with all that I have and insist that others think as I do. The difference I find here helps me realize that there is far more to life than the stuff we own.

A Kuwaiti student, when confronted by his littering ways, responded in a way that showed a unique perspective on concern for others. He simply stated that picking up litter was someone’s job and if he didn’t throw litter on the ground, someone would lose their job. I grew up being taught that littering was wrong but his basic logic was astounding. He obviously cared about other people and had made a tangible connection between his actions and the livelihood of others.

No I haven’t taken to littering but it does make you understand that there are many ways to think about something as simple as littering. What is important is caring for others and sometimes that care takes strange forms. I will never look at someone tossing litter on the ground the same way again.

I see the crisis in Iraq as an example that the rest of the world can care for those in Iraq and this region by holding Sadaam liable for his abuse of power. He has proven that he does not care. He has murdered close family, friends and millions of others for his own gain. Time to pick up the trash.

Thom Gordon

January 3, 2003 - Sacrifice at Jibla!

The past month has been an extremely busy time for the Gordon family in Kuwait. Lorie, Jared and David arrived on December 1st to join me. We have spent the past month settling in, attending parties, shopping and exploring the area. There are many adventures I could relate but my mind is on another matter entirely as we begin a new year.

The small town of Jibla, Yemen has rocketed into the spotlight as a result of a very tragic event. Although Jibla is a long way from Kuwait, it has always had a special place in my heart. On December 30th a lone gunman took the life of three staff members at the Jibla Baptist Hospital. People I had met many years ago.

Since I visited the Jibla Baptist Hospital in 1989, I have followed the events surrounding this enclave of life and love in a hostile land. The hospital itself is located on a steep hillside in a long narrow valley in the rugged hills of Yemen. It stands out for many reasons. Bringing health to a dangerous area. Bringing new strangers to an old land. Bringing Christ to a lost nation.

Jibla Baptist Hospital was begun as a Baptist mission to bring life to the area. Not just the basic life saving of modern medicine. The foundation for eternal life as well. The staff is mostly made up of foreigners who have committed themselves to both forms of life saving. The very passion that leads hospital staff to eagerly come to Jibla is the same passion that makes them targets for those who would use cowardly violence to oppose their message.

It is because of this that the hospital has been under constant threat since it was founded. The eagerness of hospital staff to share Jesus Christ with the predominantly Muslim Yemeni has drawn much criticism from the Islamic community in the area. For many local people, the hospital represents life itself. For others, it represents a threat to their beliefs.

Most of the threats that the hospital has endured have been much more insidious. Constant bureaucratic difficulties have made it difficult to run the hospital effectively. Even though the hospital has been operating for 35 years, it still stands out as foreign in the area. Life is far from easy as most of the staff are almost isolated within the compound. Families and Staff who would normally be able to turn to many friends and relatives when something goes wrong are isolated. Constant difficulties make it difficult to keep the passion aglow.

In July of 1989, I accompanied a small group of eager volunteers who spent a full week providing maintenance and messages to help keep the hospital going. Not only did we build, paint and help around the hospital, we also became very close to the staff. I remember going on a short trip with Martha Myers. Her beleaguered Land Cruiser carried dozens of Yemeni along their journey, many clinging precariously to the outside of the vehicle. Her passion and compassion was typical of the staff at the hospital. Simple life problems were magnified by the isolation and all the staff eagerly took advantage of our presence to share their burdens and cry a little with a fellow Christian.

I came away from that trip with more than I could have imagined. The area had a haunting and mysterious attraction. During my visit the hills resounded with music as a local wedding was in progress. It didn’t take me long to become aware of how truly special Jibla was.

The town of Jibla has truly middle-eastern character. Old buildings, narrow streets, the sounds of the call to prayer five times a day. The local townspeople live a simple life, dressing conservatively. Children playing soccer, women washing clothes by the stream. They react to foreigners with a combination of warmth and curiosity.

Jibla Baptist Hospital stands somewhat apart on the Southern edge of the town. The compound is surrounded by a wall that separates the hustle and bustle of hospital life from the surrounding countryside. It contains the remnants of an old graveyard, a reminder that, even in a hospital, the grim reality of both life and death are present.

I continue to pray for all those involved in this event. While it is fathomable that something this brutal should ever happen, I remember that Christ faced similar circumstances. He was persecuted even though he only came to heal the sick. He was brutally killed by those who didn’t understand the truth. This attack is simply a continuation of the same events that surrounded Christ two thousand years ago. How long will men kill that which has come to save them?

Knowing what I do of the spirit of Jibla Baptist Hospital, it will take more than a few bullets to kill the spirit of love represented within its walls. The hospital staff, its supporters and all those who pray daily for it will do their best to resurrect it. I pray that they will overcome the anguish and fear that this incident has stirred up. That Jibla Baptist Hospital, all its staff and all that it stands for will shine as a beacon for those who need to be saved.

Was this act the work of a few or the work of many? I don’t think it matters.

The important question is this: Has this act injured Christ or has it exalted him? The heroes in this tale are the ones who gave their lives up long before December 30th, 2002. They will be extremely hard to replace and we will miss them but they have served as good and faithful servants.

January 2, 2003 - Christmas in Kuwait.

Ah, the Christmas season in Kuwait. This has probably been the least decorated Christmas ever but it has also been one of the most memorable. Sure there are Christmas trees and decorations for sale in lots of stores. But, only one day of Christmas carols on the radio, very little commercialization and even work on Christmas day. We had a few Christmas parties and it was the simplest Christmas ever. Sure we did some running around and last minute shopping but this was the first year I haven’t had to worry about who I was going to offend or how I was going to fit it all in.

Lorie and the boys arrived on December 1st and things got busy! I had been surviving on the basics but over the past month Lorie proved that she is a true hostess.

The kids party at the Canadian Ambassador’s house was a lot of fun. Richard Mann, the Canadian Ambassador and his wife are more than just diplomatic hosts. They made me feel like an old friend even though we have barely met.

We had a big turkey dinner on Christmas day, inviting many of the stray Canadians who we have befriended over the past few months. It was truly a feast. We have also attended a few parties at some fabulous villas. We knew none of the families who invited us more than a few days. It has been really stimulating to visit with others who have many things in common but have their own tales to tell. We have met many military officers in both the US and Kuwaiti military. The talk is all about normal life stuff. You would not know that there is a psychotic dictator only a few hundred miles away.

We also had a grand New Years party. Half the guests faded out before 11 pm but we had a great time visiting. We even had some party crashers who live in the building. An American couple and their 2 sons. They got a second-hand invite and also brought along another women as well. She turns out to be from Calgary near the University. This world is really small. In this country you can’t swing a cat around without hitting several Canadians and chances are really good they are from Calgary! Go figure…

Jared and David started school almost immediately after their arrival. No slack time for them. David’s 5th grade class was involved in the Christmas musical and David was recruited as a Calling Bird in the “Twelve Days of …” Song. He is trying to figure out the routine at school. Apparently they insist you walk on the left side of the hallways. He has already gotten into trouble over homework so I know he is fitting in as normal.

Jared had a major project due within his first week of school. He slaved for hours for a couple of nights and did a real bang-up job on the Texas Blind Salamander (which incidentally hails from San Antonio where we were a year ago). He has been plagued by teachers for violating the uniform code! I told him to have the teachers talk to me if they give him trouble. Lorie tried to bring the right color shirts and pants from Canada but the cool weather made sweaters necessary. Trying to buy plain blue sweaters in this country is an ordeal.

I had a lot of fun dragging Lorie, Jared and David around to literally hundreds of stores and sights. We spend a couple of hours on the beach, strolled the malls and streets and spent our fair share of Kuwaiti Dinar buying a few things to make our apartment feel like home. We haven’t added much to the really basic furnishings that Kuwait Santa Fe supplied us with but it is really feeling like home. We went to IKEA, True Value and ACE hardware a couple of days ago and a few items have really changed the place. Today we bought a tiny little computer desk for the laptop and moved the big desk into the extra bedroom.

Finding basic stuff like molasses is a challenge when all the labels are in Arabic. Even the store clerks can’t help because they don’t really know what molasses is! You can get anything here in Kuwait but sometimes there is only one store that carries it. They have two major chain stores here: Sultan Center and Cooperatives. Not one store has identical stock to any other in the same chain. There are a few common items like Kelloggs Cornflakes and Coca-Cola but beyond that it is a new experience in every store. Lorie is gradually learning some of the different names for spices. They definitely cater to the Indian and Pakistani tastes here and there are some things that you need to search high and low for. One word of caution when shopping here: "If you see something you might need, buy it because it may not be there tomorrow!" The Sana store is notorious for bringing in some unique things only once. We tried to find a candy thermometer and a Sultan Center clerk said "We had some of those a few years ago!"

One sour note over the past month happened on my Birthday (Dec 9). I got home from work and sat down to check my email. What a shock I got. All my email, all my photos, all my writing files, everything was gone. Sure the programs all worked but something was seriously wrong. Someone had hacked into my computer and deleted all my files. Nothing in the waste basket either. They were gone. By the time I loaded a utility to read the ghost of missing files left on the hard drive, all the new working files had been overwritten. I had backed everything up in October before I left but none of the email, pictures or writing I have done since my arrival was recoverable. I am still trying to retrieve backup copies from the computers back in Canada. It could take a few months. We now have a second computer and more robust protection so hopefully it will not be as disruptive next time. I will always remember being attacked in Kuwait during 2002 even if nobody else does!

I had also hoped to have a new website up and running by now. The computer recovery efforts have been draining. Hopefully by next month I will have the site up, more pictures to show and more tales to tell. Much has happened this past month, most of it fun and exciting. People still worry about us over here but the only problems we are contending with right now are everyday stuff. Simple stuff like threading through five lanes of traffic on a 3 lane road at 120kph. Or finding the right kind of toilet paper that will fit the holder but no run out after 3 sittings. The sun still rises and sets here in Kuwait and we enjoy it every time it does.

Thom Gordon

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