Thursday, March 17, 2011

We should give beautiful a second glance (Marillion)

There is plenty of doom and depression in the world at present (my attention being directed at Libya, Bahrain, Christchurch, Yemen, and Sendai for five frinstances).


Everybody knows that we live in a world where they give bad names to beautiful things
Everybody knows that we live in a world where we don't give beautiful things a second glance
Heaven only knows that we live in a world where what we call beautiful is just something on sale
People laughing behind their hands while the fragile and the sensitive are given no

I thought, therefore, that it was timely to be naive and think about giving beautiful a second glance.

So this post is my shallow, naive, fragile and sensitive attempt to tell you about some joy happening to me right here, right now.

A picture bringing me joy is this one of Jacky on Jabeel Hafeet looking down over the town of Mezyad (next to Al Ain) - I love her expression of quiet satisfaction.

A book bringing me joy - Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger. Thesiger was an old school English adventurer, most at home among the bedu communities of the desert. Adam will recognise the name because we visited an exhibition of his photos in the Al Ain museum.

Arabian Sands is his first book - written when he was 50, about his journey in 1945 through the empty quarter of Saudia Arabia/ Oman/ and the area now known as the UAE. Here's a sample:
Hour after hour, day after day, we moved forward and nothing changed; the desert met the empty sky always the same distance ahead of us. Time and space were one. Round us was a silence in which only the winds played, and a cleanness which was infinitely remote from the world of men.

A singer bringing me great joy (apart from Marillion's Steve Hogarth that is) is Lady Gaga. Mmmm - yes Keegan - I know! But she is great and the Tiida has been bouncing to work to her beats of late. I never thought I'd be quoting George Michael but - listen without prejudice!

A movie bringing me joy - Up In The Air with George Clooney. Yes, George's expertise is in firing people but it's funny, unpredictable, kinda thought provoking and George is a delight to be with for 2 hours, having the biggest shit-eating grin of all time.

A news report about the Dalai Lama retiring from politics at age 76 to concentrate on the spiritual side of his life fills me with joy as well. He has decided it is time to let others bring the focus onto the Tibetan situation and concentrate on being a spiritual leader to his people. I love this in so many ways. A genius moment of clarity from a wise man.

Clothes - a new tie and a new t-shirt (warned you about the shallow) are also helping to lighten the mood. The shirt is black with a picture of a Thelonious Monk album cover (Monk In Italy).

Food - breakfast is a joyful time with the combination of Original Alpen Swiss-style muesli/ Jordan's Country Crisp (with strawberries)/ Dorset Cereals' Really Nutty Breakfast Cereal and topped off with peaches.

How's that? - I'm feeling slightly better now!

Love and peace - Wozza

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's been a hard day's night, I should be sleeping like a log (The Fabs)

Woh!! Last night was parent night and I was buzzing for hours after it. I normally am but this was my first teacher/parent night in the Middle East and it was a blast.

We started during school with the mothers' meeting at 11am (fathers were down for 5pm meeting after school). I'd been told to expect maybe 4 or 5 ladies and 16 turned up.

I gave the ladies a brief run down on what the advisors are doing to improve things in the school and then took a few questions. All the men then left the room (so the ladies could divest themselves of their niqabs) for them to have chocolates and drinks. This was followed by the arrival of the teachers for teacher/parent conferences.

The men's group in the evening was huge! Again, common practice was that about 4 or 5 men would come and I was also told my 5pm time for the meeting meant few would come on time. We ended up with 30 plus (I stopped counting at 26). It was easy to count as each new arrival would say Salaam Alaykum and we would say back Alaykum Salaam! This number is without precedent. My Principal was thrilled!

I did my same introductory speech and then took a lot of questions (some had firm beliefs on how things should be taught). We finished with a brief meet-the-teacher chat but most had seemingly just come to hear me or raise issues with me. A hugely instructive evening!!

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, March 11, 2011

Been checkin' out the news until my eyeballs fail to see (Zappa)

We turned on the news yesterday to check on the Libyan situation. Al Jazeera has the best coverage of that crisis by far.

I happened to notice the strap line under the Breaking News banner about a quake in Japan. For the next couple of hours we sat transfixed by the images on the TV. CNN had the best coverage for quite some time as they had a direct feed from Japanese TV (Sky News in the UK was more concerned with the Duke of York!!).

It reminded me of watching the twin towers being struck by jet planes one morning long ago. The same feeling of disbelief as a giant wave of black water swept the broken remains of cars, buildings, boats and humanity in its relentless drive over Japanese towns and eastern countryside.

We watched helplessly as the helicopter cameras showed cars and people becoming engulfed in the tidal waves of debris. Incredibly some cars seemed completely unaware of events and travelled into the path of the wave. We watched as a person tried to outrun the water. We watched as fires suddenly erupted in the water and oil refineries burned and stacks of cars, like corks, bobbed in the water.

Now it appears a possible nuclear disaster is being played out.

The pictures have told the story that words fail to do.

The pressure building on the opposing tectonic plates underneath our daily hubble bubble and the huge release of energy certainly puts our tiny little lives into perspective, and reminds us of our fragile existence on this planet.

And Gaddafi and his forces go on killing the innocent in Libya. And we watch.

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, March 4, 2011

We all asked about you, down on the farm (Little Feat)

It's Thursday night and we are on a farm in Ras Al Khaimah - a seaside town in the north of the UAE (close to northern Oman), and close to the straight of Hormoz, as the map shows.

The 'we' in question is Jacky and me, a large group of teachers from school and sundry farm animals.

We'd driven north from Al Ain after school finished on Thursday, for about three hours, to spend the night at my Principal's brother's farm. Mohammed (my Principal) has been keen for me to meet his brother for some time and we have been keen to journey up the coast as well. So we finally made the trip with about 20 teachers from school.

Jacky's bravery won out (she was the only female) and her first meeting with my teachers was a great success. We arrived in a convoy of cars to a great welcome from Mohammed's brother and had a fantastic BBQ of squid, hammour and tuna with all sorts of local delights.

A chicken was also brought out for Jacky during the evening. Thanks to Jacky and Ali's intervention, the chicken was given a stay of execution before the farm boy could use his gigantic knife!

These fruit are 'licious - like mini apples.

Below: Ali (the chicken saving PE teacher) is on the left with Khalifa (geography teacher who is also known as Abu Sultan).

Next morning we had a look around the farm at what we couldn't see the night before: different crops, tomatoes under cover (below), citrus trees, date palms, peacocks, Arabic cows, chickens and all sorts of goat varieties.

Mohammed's brother started the farm three years ago and has made great progress. He was a Colonel in the UAE army but he and his wives now have a variety of places to call home.

Jacky and I stayed in this outbuilding for the night. In the foreground is a swimming pool.

Below: some of the animals - sheep, cows, goats (yes - including us), deer etc.

This cute little kid had just been born and he took an instant like to us - followed us like a little puppy. Jacky, of course, wanted to bring him home!

On our way home we climbed some dunes to get to the coast line and the view over to Iran.

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous. Got me? (Don Van Vliet)

Mabrook time (congratulations) to the clever ones of the family (that would be the chuldrun). Our amazing fruit of the loom have been doing really well lately so it's time for a cheer and hearty hurrah!!

Adam has landed a job as an audio-visual techie for an events company, Keegan has past his master of arts degree with an excellent grade and now eyes up a higher degree praps, Jade has started her nursing course in Palmerston North, and Samantha continues to work hard at Vic and be brave in Wellington where she had a 4.3 size earthquake a few days ago. A rumble, she says, but still scarey given what's happened in Christchurch.

Obviously the news from this part of the world is about Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Sudan and now Oman and even Saudi Arabia are experiencing some difficult times.

Just to expand on my earlier post of reassurance: here is a news item from The Guardian on the Oman protests.
Riot police have clashed with pro-democracy demonstrators in the seaside town of Sohar, [see my map on the previous post]. At least one person was killed as security forces fired teargas and rubber bullets.

Oman's state-run news agency said protesters set fire to cars, houses, a police station and the governor's residence.

It marked the first serious confrontation with protesters seeking to open up the ruling system of Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The sultan has tried to quell the unrest by replacing six cabinet members and boosting the minimum wage by more than 40%.

"We want new faces in the government and we have a long list of social reforms," said Habiba al-Hanay, a 45-year-old civil servant. Omanis are not seeking to oust the country's ruler, al-Hanay said. "We just hope he will hear us and make changes," she added, noting that unemployment is high and education is poor in the country, which only has one university.

As I wrote on that previous post - there is no need to be concerned for our safety in Al Ain. Although we are only an hour away from Sohar it is a vastly different country. The border controls are extremely tight (everyday many Omanis travel the short distance to work in Al Ain and then return at night), and the border itself is heavily protected against illegal Omani immigration.

So please know that we are safe and sound!

Love and peace - Wozza