Friday, December 30, 2011

Some Old Giza

An old man can be called an old geezer. The old Giza I am talking about is something quite different.

The city of Giza sits on the west side of the famous Nile River, in Egypt. The river is the city boundary and to the East of the river is the well known city of Cairo.

The school I teach at in Kuwait doesn't take much time off for Christmas. In fact, all I received was a long weekend. I got the regular Friday and Saturday off as well as Sunday for Christmas day. I decided to take the opportunity to knock something off my top 8 travel list in the area and see the pyramids.

The boundary of Giza and Cairo was actually my first lesson about the pyramids, as well as the elimination of some myths. The Pyramids were not in the middle of the desert, they were in fact in the middle of the city. They were also not built by slaves, as our guide pointed out that would be impossible. I think I will leave a lot of this information to a future post.

The Nile river is a very important part of Egyptian history, as well as their present. There are about 81 million people currently in the country and the large large majority live within striking distance of the Nile river. In ancient Egypt the Nile's importance was no different. Another important thing was the Sun. The ancient Egyptians worshiped many gods, but none were more important than the sun god. The sun god was a symbol of eternity, in the same sense that a circle is. The sun always rises after it sets.

The sun is 'born' in the east and it 'dies' in the west. The pyramids were tombs for the dead Kings. All of them are found on the West side of the Nile because that is also where the sun dies.

The hotel I stayed in was called the Grand Pyramid Hotel, and I was able to see one pyramid from the balcony in my room.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hockey in the Middle East

Between the time I was in 4th year University at the end of 2006 and the summer just before I moved to Kuwait in August of 2011, I can count on my fingers the number of times I have played ice hockey. Believe it or not--in the middle of the desert--that number has increased significantly. Not only have I started playing since I arrived, I have started playing with more frequency than I ever played in my before.

At the height of my hockey playing days in high school, I was playing every Friday and on occasion I was able to find ice time on some random times and some Sunday evenings if I didn't work. In university, I played competitively which was different to the pick up I was used to in high school, but that was only once a week for a season far too short in my opinion. I did get some additional ice time throughout the year, but not with any frequency.

Back in April when I was mentally preparing myself for the shift from North American life to life in Kuwait--a very foreign culture--I received several e-mails to help me with this mental prep. One e-mail, and only one e-mail out of one to two dozen, had a post script that informed us to bring our hockey equipment. So instead of using the extra baggage we were given for more of the things I'd need to live with, I opted to pack my hockey equipment.

That was the best thing I packed. By the end of the first month, I was playing hockey twice a week, for an hour and a half. There were people of all nationalities playing, but of course the majority were Canadian teachers in the same boat as me. Some other nationalities represented are Austrian, Slovakian, Kuwaiti and American.

The hockey was just pick up, but it didn't matter. It was just great getting on the ice with so much frequency even though I was very rusty, and not a strong player in the first place. The team call themselves the Mooseheads, and I bought a couple pretty cool looking jerseys to use when I play. The players who played last year even traveled to Abu Dhabi for a tournament in November.

At the end of November and the start of December they cut one of our Moosehead ice times and formed a league. The league consists of four teams who play twice a week. That means I am playing hockey three times a week which is great.

Who would have thought I would travel all the way to the desert to play hockey with such frequency?

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Thanksgiving was long ago, or less than a couple weeks ago. It depends who you ask. For me, living abroad with Americans and fellow Canadians I am lucky enough (or thankful even) to call it both.

At the beginning of October I tried to help organize a Canadian Thanksgiving that was just not quite the same as home. For one, we left the purchasing of the turkey way too late and when we went to the Sultan Center (the big grocery store here) the turkeys were sold out. It was just as well, if we were able to purchase a turkey, we also did not leave us enough time to defrost and cook it. We opted for a chickenand a roast instead.

I was in charge of the grilled chicken, which doesn't mean I cooked it. I went to my favourite little restaurant and picked myself two up to share with everyone. We did a pot luck style meal, so there were plenty of fantastic dishes that we all shared. None of our apartments are big enough to host the 20 people or so who attended, so we set our coffee tables up in the hallway and sat on couch cushions. It reminded me of the meals I used to eat at some restaurants in Korea.

The group itself was fairly diverse as there were people from Canada, and the USA, as well as England and Ireland (their first Thanksgivings). Overall it seemed to be a success, with the Americans vowing to host their own Thanksgiving dinners, which is what I will talk about next.

We held Canadian Thanksgiving on a Friday, despite the holiday actually being the following Monday. We all had to work Sunday and Monday. I chose Friday because I also had hockey on the Saturday.

American Thanksgiving is the last Thursday of November and there was no shortage of turkey that weekend. School ended for the weekend as usual on the Thursday and because of Islamic New Year we had a long weekend (so Sunday off). My principle, an American hailing from Minnesota, hosted the first thanksgiving for all the elementary boys staff. This included the North American staff as well as the specialty teachers from a variety of places. I don't know them all, so I can't say for sure where everyone was from, but there were more than one middle eastern country represented as well as Romania that I know of.

It too was a pot luck style and I opted to bring Hummus, an easy dish that there is an abundance of stores that sell it in my area. The best of the dishes? The turkey of course! I went up for more than one serving of that and stuffed myself. I think turkey may be one of my favourite things to eat.

The next day we did it all over again at one of the other teacher buildings our school owns. Some of our guests for Canadian Thanksgiving held their own American Thanksgiving. They used their influence on the US army base to bring in a turkey fryer and cook the turkey properly. It too was pot luck style and I once again brought good ole reliable hummus. They also used their hallway and coffee tables to create the same atmosphere we had at Canadian Thanksgiving.

I should probably mention that they had ham, which may not sound like a big deal, but spend 3 months in Kuwait and you will realize it is. Perhaps pork is the hardest thing to get a hold of in this country. That is certainly the only time I have ever seen it.

I will conclude this Thanksgiving post with my thoughts on Christmas. I am a scrooge and enjoy walking around in December and not being reminded of the Christmas season. I enjoy and miss Thanksgiving far more than I will Christmas as it has the things I like about Christmas (family togetherness and turkey) without the things I loathe (the greed and fake feeling the season brings).

I only get a long weekend during Christmas, having to work until the 22nd and going back to work the 26th. I get the Sunday of Christmas off and that is it. I will be in Cairo during that weekend, looking at the pyramids and knocking something off the top travel list I created at the beginning of this year.