Conference in Kuwait

Trip Start Aug 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

I applied for an educational conference for an International Baccalaureate course that I teach called Theory of Knowledge, usually know by it's acronym of TOK... and received the okay from both my bosses, Jim the Director and Jim the Principal... otherwise known as J&J or "The Jims"... I had two choices, attend one in Paris or the other in Kuwait... being that the conference held in Paris was at the same time as my MUN conference in Israel, I chose Kuwait... easy decision... I thought... It ended up that the flight patterns to get from Turkey to Kuwait are not so fluid and direct... After being given an option of three flights with various dates, times and airport layovers I chose the best of the three... which ended up having about 10 hours of layovers on my way over to Kuwait and 20 hours on return...

I left school around 1:00, was driven to the airport by one of the school's drivers... which I always enjoy, for this is "captured time" for me, when I get to try out my Turkish language skills, with a one on one session... mostly learning new words along the way to the airport... Mehmet, the driver, is an elderly Turkish gentleman with an incredible sense of humor... and as we rolled up to the airport, I bid him a hearty iyi günler and a smiling güle güle ... and into the line I cued... for the start of my great waiting marathon to begin... After a quick flight from Ankara to Istanbul... and a few hours sitting around for my next leg of the journey, I boarded my flight for Doha, Qatar... many hours later I arrived at an airport designed around a huge Duty Free shop with hoards of people buying everything from watches to cigs to gold jewelry... after a sleepless night of wandering around the short corridors I boarded my next flight to Kuwait... arriving at 3:30 a.m. Took a quick taxi to my hotel, The Movenpick... checked in and headed off to my room with the sound of morning prayers wafting through the leafy oasis of the hotel grounds... Morning yes, but it was a quick stripping of my travel clothes and off to sleep I went... woke up hours later... put on my jogging shorts and T and headed out for a run along the Gulf Coast... Due to the weird flight patterns I was sent to Kuwait a day before my conference began... a day in which I spent with a few other conference attendees that also were flown in early... sharing experiences, curriculum and lesson plans that we had used for our TOK classes... ended my day with a brisk swim and a night of watching movies in my hotel room...

I am only going to briefly chat a bit about the TOK conference that I attended... as most would not find it so interesting... or "travelogue" material... A few quick words... The very best conference I have attended since my teaching career began... due mostly to my trainer, Julian Kitching... he is one of the gurus of TOK and with around 20 years experience and still a fresh perspective on the topics related to the course... he brought the class to life in a way that only those most passionate about their teaching can do... Very little would make me want to ever return to High School life, as a student that is.... but I would be willing to be cast back into that difficult form for an opportunity to spend a few months taking his course... Other highlights included spending time with the other TOK trainees, coming from various schools within Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia... The amazing meals, fit for a sheik, that we were served during the long days spent at the conference... and hanging out on the world's largest wooden boat, which happened to be the site of the conference reception, held after our first day of training... It is a beautiful work of art that is dry docked on the coast near the conference facilities that hosted us... a stones throw from one of the many palaces for the Emir of Kuwait...

My evenings were spent taking interesting jogs along the coast... which ended up being a fascinating location to people watch the wealthy Kuwaiti families strolling along the coastline, with their Filipino maids in tow to care for their children... evening swims off the hotel's private beach, grabbing meals at a nearby cluster of restaurants patronized by upper-class Kuwaiti youth, donned in their traditional hijabs, turbans and kaffiyehs... a melee of traditional arab headdresses and robes for men and women... It was a strangely beautiful site to see the crisp and finely adorned youth hanging out in outdoor cafes... munching on Japanese sushi or sipping Starbucks coffee in the cool evening hours... framed by a parking lot of fast and flashy cars... a veritable feast of imports from around the world... Needless to say the Kuwaiti's sit on 10% of the world's oil reserves... and even in today's economic crisis they are living the high life... surrounded by all of life's amenities... plus some...

A few lasting thought from my journey...

Heading into Kuwait City one evening to hit the famed gold souks to buy a pair of earrings for Debra... marveling at the finely crafted 21 and 22 carat gold jewelry that was displayed in shops packed into the dusty streets of the old part of the city... an area that Saddam's Iraq army was hoping to sack during his invasion and brief takeover of this small country... a local shop owner told me the interesting story of how the owners of the shops packed up their wares and hid them in secret underground bunkers located in the desert outside the city limits... to safeguard from Iraqi pillaging...
Gluttonously eating from the hotel's breakfast buffet... which served up a wealth of fine foods from around the globe... full grained breads, aged cheeses, smoked salmon and fresh fruit in every color and cut...
Jogs along the coast... along flat terrain... a luxury I can't find around the steep hills of Ankara...
Finding a cool Magic Set at a nearby mall... for my son Aidan.. who has been practicing for his magic act that he will be performing at the school's talent show in the next few weeks... as well as a bottle of cologne for my 6th grade son Carsten... as he enters into the early stages of "manhood"... and is wanting to smell a little better than a concoction of human hormones...
Arriving at the airport at 11:00 at night for a midnight flight from Kuwait to Qatar... settling into a lounge chair in the quiet room in the Doha airport mosque for a dazed evening spent falling in and out of a night of fragile sleep... listening to prayers, snores and other bodily functions going bump in the night... Being very thankful once I entered into the plane that took off at 7:00 the following morning... whisking me away from a hellish evening of unpleasant noises and rank smells...
Driving up the hill to the Bilkent Campus... hugging my family... settling into my own apartment... eagerly awaiting an evenings rest in my very own bed... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
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