Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vacuum Bags Part 3 - Dubai

Hello all.

As many of you have apparently read about my vacuum bag saga, which I know because I have received many comments and suggestions, I will update you on the situation. Several people sent me links to sites online where vacuum bags may be ordered. For some odd and unexplainable reason, Siemens vacuum bags, at least the very ones I needed, were never to be found on any sites that I could find. Out of desperation, I finally sent an email to Siemens in Europe. A week later I got a response from a manager of a shop in Dubai where the vacuum bags I needed could actually be purchased. And, incredibly enough, he told which of the many numbers and codes on the vacuum booklet and the vacuum itself would, in fact, tell the shop personnel the exact bags I needed. (It is a precise number on the bottom of the vacuum and not at all the ones listed in the vacuum brochure.)

As it turns out, I was planning to go to Dubai this very weekend for an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IB - MYP) training. I emailed the guy at the shop and asked if he could deliver the bags to my hotel. He said they did not do deliveries but that the bags were in stock in the shop. I emailed bag a very short description of my frustration and inability to find these bags anywhere and asked again for them to be delivered. He finally agreed, but it turns out I needed to head to the mall anyway, the famous Mall of the Emirates, so I took a cab and went there. Now, I have been dealing with this issue for about five months, though I mostly try not to think of it since it's not so important, truly, in the greater scheme of things, but as I was walking toward the shop in this very large and exquisite Dubai mall, I actually felt nervous. I walked in and asked for the bags I needed and - I am not joking - the man who worked there said that they were out because someone earlier that day had purchased them all! As Hayden would say, "What are the odds of that?" I nearly screamed but instead I just sat down. Eventually, I realized that he was the man with whom I had been in contact and he vaguely knew of my difficulties. He was able to sell me "permanent bags," which can be easily emptied out and reused, and he found two disposable ones floating around "in the back." I bought all the permanent ones they had, which are supposed to last at least six months but for us will probably last a lot longer, took the free ones and thanked the man. I assume they will work - and you will no longer read about vacuum bags on our blog.

On another note, there is, in fact, an indoor ski hill at the Mall of the Emirates. I did not believe it really, when people told me about it, but I went and watched people ski, snowboard, and sled on a hill inside this desert country. It was bizarre - but it did look fun!

Dubai is somewhat similar to Muscat, Oman, but very much more urban with more tall skyscrapers; in fact, the now-tallest building in the world, the Burj Calipha, is here in Dubai. The training has been mind-filling and overwhelming at times but also very useful and helpful. I head back home tonight, and I can't wait to see my three boys!

Thanks for reading. Jennifer

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Oman from Hayden

We just got back from Oman. It was an amazing trip! Muscat is beautiful. The streets are lined with flowers and the mosques are brilliant! The mosques there are huge, beautiful buildings. One of the things I liked most about Muscat is the smell. Muscat smells wonderful! When people are done with their garbage they throw it into a trash can and not onto the sidewalk. Also, the flowers that line the street smell very nice. Their smell is all over the city. You can smell it even when you're inside a building! Our hotel was really nice, with a fifty foot ceiling and eight floors, when you walk into it for the first time it feels like you're in a castle. My brother and I loved to gaze up at the ceiling. The pool was nice too. When we were there we saw the Tour of Oman. My dad was really excited because he had not seen a bike race in a while. He got to talk to a professional rider from Washington state! We had this really nice taxi driver who took us around to see a couple different spots where the bike race came through. Thank you for reading this!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Book Bowl

Greetings all,
As in any school, the love of or appreciation for books and reading varies greatly among our students. Some come from a background of childhood bedtime stories and some do not; some enjoy reading during free time and some probably have rarely ever read an entire book; some read well and some do not. Our librarian and two teachers have organized an amazing program called the Book Bowl. All students are organized into Book Bowl teams which consist of grade 6-12 students and two teachers. We meet together three times a week to read books which have been selected by the organizers of the Book Bowl. The themes of the books center around the UN Millennium Development Goals - improving maternal and child health, increasing literacy globally, better access to immunizations, environmental awareness, population issues - but the books are high interest and widely acclaimed novels. The books span the spectrum of the reading and language abilities of our students, so that all students can read at least one book. It's been exciting to see more students reading around school, to see students returning books finished and checking out new ones, and to sit and read in a class for 15 minutes together. We hope that more students will realize the wonderful pleasure that can be gained from books and stories, that language and vocabulary will be richer, and that students will begin to understand some global issues and concerns through well-written books. So far, I would say, it's been quite successful.

In thinking about how many of us became passionate about books and stories, I thought that I would read aloud children's picture books to my grade 7 students. The illustrations are colorful and sometimes funny, the language is rich, and the stories easy to grasp on various levels. We have talked a lot about aspects of children's books, and now the students are writing their own children's books which they will revise together, edit together, illustrate in art class, and ultimately share with the preschool and kindergarten students. Some students are writing ABC Books with Arabic translations, which will be wonderful to share with the younger students whose primary language is Arabic. Another student is telling a story through the voice of a hawk his family rescued and raised during the summer. One student is writing about a princess and another is doing a book of emotions and faces. It's been really interesting to see what the students are coming up with since we have read story after story in class. The best part is to look at their faces while I read a picture book, see their focus, hear their laughter, and sense their enjoyment.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading. Jennifer

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Busy Cool Weekend

Hello and greetings,
We have been a little remiss in blog entries lately - except for Hayden's recent one about David's golf - because we just finished up first semester which meant heavy grading, writing of report cards, and preparing for the new semester. Most of this last weekend was devoted to grades and reports. It takes many many hours.

David and Hayden did slip away in the morning on Friday for some golf. (Please read Hayden's very funny account of that!) We also had a teacher and staff get-together on Thursday night. It was held outside at the elementary school under a very nice covered area right next to the playground. The adults could eat. The kids could play, romp, and throw balls just far enough away not to hit anyone. It was awesome. We shared gifts that people had purchased over the December holidays for a secret other person in the school. Great barbecued food plus side dishes and salads and desserts, of course. It was amazing because it was actually cool. I wore a sweater and needed it on the way home. I was shocked. It was breezey and in the mid-high 60s. Quite different from much of the year when it ranges here from about 85-105. Even this morning when Hayden and I left for school in the cooler morning (about mid-60s), I laughed at Hayden because as we stepped outside he said, "It's freezing!" Ha.

While David and Hayden golfed, I took a break from reports and Logan and I made brownies. No matter where you live, if you can get the ingredients, brownies are a hit - whether cooked or not!

This semester I am teaching an exploratory class, like an elective, on Language Workshop. I am having the kids read - and practice reading - children's books with expression, clarity, and enunciation. Today was our first day. I read a children's picture book first, and the grade 7 boys were rapt! I guess you don't grow out of that. Eventually they are going to choose a picture book and make up a skit with it. Should be fun language practice!

Thanks for reading. More soon. Jennifer

Friday, February 5, 2010

The golf course, from Hayden

The 9-hole KAUST golf course is quite good for a brand new course. The driving range is really nice. It is almost never busy and it's all free. You don't even have to pay to play the course! The course is nice also. They have par threes, fours, and fives. Par means how many shots the pros usually need to complete the hole. My dad usually gets one or two over par, sometimes more. That means he's not very good. I have to try not to laugh at some of his shots. One time he got eleven on a par five. Now I don't think I can name anyone who does worse than that. Another thing my dad seems to do is hit the ball into sand traps a lot. So far he's never hit it into a lake but it's probably not going to be long before he does. I'm not allowed to play on the course yet, but I'm happy just being his caddy. I get to drive the cart, which is pretty fun. They go fast! I'm looking forward to my first lesson with the club pro. It's coming up later this week, and I'll let you know how it goes.
Thanks for reading this. Hayden