Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Council of Ephesus decreed in 431 that the Virgin Mary be proclaimed Theotokos, literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations used by most Christians, especially Catholics, are Mother of God and Queen of Heaven (names often associated with ancient goddesses).
Is it just a coincidence that she was given these titles in the very city famed for the Temple of Artemis one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? The temple was destroyed in 401 CE by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, and an important Early Church Father. All that is left now is one huge pillar with a giant nest on top of it... some of the other temple pillars are said to have been taken to Constantinople and used in the reconstruction of the Hagia Sophia.
It also is a very strange coincidence that Ephesus is still a major religious pilgrimage site, but now for the so called House of the Virgin Mary.
I loved Ephesus... it was warm and welcoming after the freezing temperatures of northern Turkey. It was also full of life, from the orange trees along the avenues to abundant animal life... ducks played in the swampy water around the old site of the temple to the Lady Of The Beasts, a white horse roamed near by, and huge flocks of black birds screeched at night and swarmed from tree to tree as you walked down the streets...
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
We spent the whole day at the Aya Sofia, better known in the West as the Hagia Sophia. If you have to be away from family on Christmas... I could think of no better way to spend the day... it is beyond words ( so I took 546 photos, haha!)...
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Ski Dubai has a pretty good website.
Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort with 22,500-square meters of indoor ski area. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world, located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Opened in November 2005, the indoor resort features an 85-meter high indoor mountain with 5 slopes of varying steepness and difficulty, including a 400-meter-long run, the world's first indoor black run, and a 90-meter-long quarter pipe for snowboarders. A quad lift and a tow lift carry skiers and snowboarders up the mountain. Adjoining the slopes is a 3,000-square-meter Snow Park play area comprising sled and toboggan runs, an icy body slide, climbing towers, a snowball shooting gallery, an ice cave, and a 3D theater. Other attractions include a mirror maze and a snowman-making area. Winter clothing, ski and snowboard equipment are included in the price of admission.
An extremely efficient insulation system is the key to maintain the temperature of -1 degrees Celsius during the day and -6 degrees during the night when the snow is produced.Ski Dubai was the location of a detour in the 10th leg of the reality game show The Amazing Race Asia on its 1st season.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
My first sighting of Dubai was, of course, the Burj Dubai. Expected to be completed sometime next year, it will be the tallest building in the world by far. After hearing all the talk, it was even more than what I expected... it was rather awesome... otherworldly... unreal... kind of heavenly, but at the same time, something sinister... like this brave new world was somehow trying to defy the laws of gravity... 'defying the gods' one might even say and I thought right away of the Tower of Babel.
The exhibition opening at the Opera Gallery DUBAI was almost equally awesome! I came to Dubai to check it out for an exhibition that we hope to put together in the next few months... this could really be an excellent opportunity...
Monday, September 22, 2008
The students seemed nice enough, although it is odd having only women in one class, only men in another. I've heard from studies that while this is actually good academically for women, the men tend to suffer.
You can see that the students dress in all different ways- some in traditional Arabic clothing, some very casual, some in the latest Western fashions, many with expensive brand names. I've seen more authentic* Louis Vuitton luxury goods today than ever before in my life.
*I've seen a lot of Louis Vuitton goods before while traveling in China, but they were all fakes...
Saturday, September 13, 2008
It was interested, although I would say that it was not really that different than attending Catholic mass, which I did faithfully at least once a week for the first 21 years of my life, sometimes more, since I also spent the 1st-8th grade attending Catholic school.
Be good to thy neighbor was the basic message, lots of prostrating and praying, many passages in Arabic, similar to the old Catholic mass with a lot in Latin which not many understood but it lent an air of mystery as well as authenticity. I’ve heard the same from some of my non-Arab Muslim friends here. They can pronounce the Arabic from the Holy Qur'an, and can even say many passages by heart in Arabic, but they really do not know what the Arabic words actually mean. Lot's of praise to God though and repetitions of how unworthy we are in his presence.
Different of course was that women were completely not seen by us men in the mosque. They were upstairs, in the back, in a separate room, hidden away.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
this is the view from my new office that I started moving into today... you can see the Persian Gulf just beyond the buildings... I got a lot more done today than usual, perhaps because I am starting to feel a bit better... talked with HR about taking an apartment in the new AUK housing building... finally picked up my ATM card after two failed attempts already... it works too! although they spelled my name Milliam Andersen (they told me they would have to shut down my account for 3 days if I wanted to correct the spelling)... the ATM machines are quite interesting... you can stick in almost any amount of cash and it will count up all of the various bills and deposit it for you... I was hesitant depositing my cash this way but since the computers always break down when I go up to the teller, it was the only way to do it today... I did not want to deposit any cash until my ATM card was working since if you go to a teller to take out any money under 2000 KD (around $7000 USD) they charge you! ...also, when you hit the "fast cash" button on the ATM machine, the lowest you can take out is 200 KD (around $700 USD) (if I remember correctly, the "fast cash" button in the US is usually around $20 USD)... I've been told that Kuwaitis typically carry around a lot of cash... the bank would still not exchange my US dollars unless it was a $100 bill (although all of the guide books and even the exchange desk at the airport said they would) so I went off on an adventure to find an exchange shop... it was not far, but when I found it, it was closed because of Ramadan... many stores are open only in the mornings (until about 1pm) and then do not open again until after 7pm or even 9pm... between about 1pm and 7pm, pretty much everything is closed, no one is out on the streets and there is little traffic... also no restaurants are open during the day until after dark when the mosques call out that the fast has been broken... I still felt like I had some energy so walked down to the Sultan Center and went up to the second floor for the first time... they have just about any household item you might want... I got a rice cooker (since I am still being cautious about my stomach, I am only eating rice), some capri pants or long shorts (even men are expected to not show their knees or above), electrical plug adapters and some food... it was a pretty good day...
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Mada, a student worker, sent me the final revisions on the posters advertising a new course that I plan to teach. The posters turned out really excellent! Mada even worked over the "weekend" (Friday and Saturday) to finish them. Before I even arrived in Kuwait I had been pushing for AUK to offer a course like UW-Milwaukee's Art Survey class that I've been teaching for the last 6 1/2 years... they liked the idea and we just borrowed a title and course number that was already in the books, but no one had been teaching. I will be able to use the same textbooks, lectures, tests, etc. that I used for my previous class but will have to modify a few things... even making these posters I ran into censorship. At least for publicly displayed posters, any nudity is censored, even of a male with his shirt off! and any too political looking work, I could not even show a Banksy work that showed an image of soldier being frisked by a little girl! Anyways, I've talked to a few professors here and they have all different approaches-some show just about anything but give the students a warning, some have warned me about showing anything that is controversial in anyway. They offered a story of a new professor here that had shown and talked about politically sensitive material and after had to go all the way to Kuwait's parliament and defend herself, with no backing provided by AUK. Soon after, she left the job and the Middle East for good! The course will also be radically different since the enrollment will be 30 students at the most (at UWM, typically there were over 300 students) and there will be two sections offered, one for males and one for females. Previously university level courses could comply with the segregation laws of Kuwait by just having a short room divider between the sexes, but now they can not even be in the same room with each other. There was even talk that to comply with a more fundamentalist interpretation of the law, whole buildings might have to be segregated by sex! It is very odd that on the one hand, government rules over the educational system have to comply so strictly to conservative Islamic ideas in Kuwait, while at the same time popular culture in Kuwait is so liberal and attempting to imitate the West...
I did not do much else but a few computer things today since I am feeling worse and worse...
Friday, September 5, 2008
Friday is the Holy Day of Islam and starts the weekend. On our day off, some of us new teachers decided to go out shopping. The new AUK professor of economics, Hanas, has a good friend in Kuwait who provided us with a driver and huge SUV for the day. Drivers and maids for the rich (primarily Kuwaitis) are quite common and I've heard you can get a part-time individual (usually from Sri Lanka or the Philippines) to cook and clean for as little as $75 USD a month. We drove out to Ikea, the first I've ever been in, looking for items for our new apartments (although I have not settled yet on a place). I was impressed with the variety of items available and reasonable prices, especially since I need to purchase so many new things! It was very interesting to see how Ikea was being marketed to Kuwaitis - with a "special gift" being given out to all customers during Ramadan and Ikea providing a Prayer Room to its patrons. Quickly after, we rushed off to find a mosque for Hanas to attend Friday prayers. Unfortunately we could not find a mosque providing English services in time so we stopped at an Arabic mosque. Woman were not allowed in, so Sharon, my new AUK studio art colleague, had to wait in the car. As a male, it was no problem for me to go in, but it was suggested that I sit in the back since I am not Muslim. I was also the first Islamic service that I've attended, although I've been inside a mosque in Taiwan and China. Shoes had to be removed and the floors were wall to wall carpet. I was surprised by the variety of individuals attending, from very rich to very poor, to men looking very European to very black Africans and of course many from the Indian Subcontinent. The most striking part of the service was when everyone gathered towards the front of the mosque, lined up along stripes on the carpet, and chanted and prostrated together in unison, then the service was over and we rushed off for more shopping at the City Center. Along the way we found the mosque with English service and we stopped in to meet many prominent friends of Hanas. Most were doctors and professors and they welcomed us in, even Sharon, for a look around and invited us to come next week and to attend their cultural center for Islamic/Arabic understanding... After shopping for food, appliances and clothes at the City Center, I was bushed and just vegged out at the hotel the rest of the night...