Hearing at the moment the haunting call to prayer in the Kuwait airport. I’ve been here eight nights and finally feeling centered enough to begin writing. In a couple hours I’ll be in Dubai.
Working again for the US Embassy, mainly teaching teachers arts integration, although here also did a workshop for teens as well as a performance.
Held in Al Jahra, a community at least an hour outside of Kuwait City. We traveled by armored car, as it is not far from the Iraq border, arriving at a simple block building – an English Language Center, where classes and other cultural activities are offered at no cost to teens and adults. A couple – he, Kuwaiti, and she, expat American, run the center, procuring grant funds to maintain it. This is an area where the Bidoons (NOT Bedouins, the desert dwelling nomadic people, who may also hold Bidoon national status) live: stateless people, although living in Kuwait for perhaps generations, they are not allowed citizenship, so have no vote, no good schools, and no passport – from anywhere. They also do not receive the generous government stipend all official Kuwaitis receive. I was told that these people, who had lived here for many generations, did not take seriously the demand by the newly independent Kuwait nation to register, and were thereafter left out as Kuwaiti citizens. I was also told that they were left out because their original heritage was unclear, which seems to me both understandable as well as ridiculous for a people from a border area before there was a state imposed border.
Many others do not receive government support: Kuwait’s population is 1/4 Kuwaiti, and 3/4 expat from many countries. The expats do all the blue collar work and much of the white collar work as well and remain citizens of their native country. The Kuwaiti work day ends at 1:30p.m. as does the public school day. So there are three massive rush hours every day: morning, mid day, and evening when many expats, as well as private schools, are done for the day. A tremendous amount of time is spent driving – simply because of the endless traffic.
I presented the brief shadow puppet story, then distributed materials for each person to make a puppet of their own. When invited to demonstrate their puppet, with a partner, on the shadow screen, many were at first quite shy to come to the front of the class. However, very quickly, instant partnerships developed based on similarity of puppets (butterflies, cars, etc.) and many pairs immediately fell into improvisation of quick scenes.
In the two two-day workshops I did with teachers, I found the teachers to be extremely enthusiastic, creative, and eager to implement new strategies in their classrooms. And the workshops were held in two different public girls’ schools. Children are separated by gender starting in first grade.
One disturbing thing that very likely would happen at home, too: I noticed that all confidence has been lost by many people in their ability to visualize and make the simplest drawing or puppet. Looking out at the workshop tables, a majority of people would have their cell phones out as reference for: a cat, a storefront, a gas station…. Shocking! What else will we let go by the brain wayside along with telephone numbers, road directions…..