Monthly Archives: September 2012

Fast Food & Sand Lots

Welcome back! Happy fall to those of you living in a region with four seasons! I can only assume the color of the leaves, the crisp air, and the donning of sweaters must make you feel incredibly cozy. Here in Kuwait, it’s currently 91 degrees. Tomorrow it is supposed to reach 105. As you can imagine, this makes weekend walking excursions quite difficult. “Fall” here doesn’t begin until mid-October; the temperatures will drop to around 75 – 80, and as the months progress it will actually fall into the 50’s and 60’s! It is during that weather that I hope to get outside, snap more photos, and really show you all the ins and outs of Kuwait.

Regardless, we make due. We walk early in the mornings, and when we do go out during the day, we just walk a little bit slower. Sounds crazy, I know, but you begin to tolerate the heat. Tonight we are walking to a Chinese restaurant with our neighbors, which I hope to document for my blog. What awaits you today, though, are a series of pictures I took last weekend. As Sean and I ran errands, I looked at the little things, like the Western signs, the architecture of the buildings, and the places we visit on a daily basis. I hope you enjoy.

Our walk began with a trip past our school. We had to pick up the public bus on a street near the ocean, so we walked through our school’s parking lot. The picture above doesn’t do our school justice, but you can see how crazy the construction is here! Every time we arrive in school, someone is painting the walls, fixing the air-conditioning, or moving a pile of bricks. You can see construction debris on the right-hand side of the picture. That never leaves the front of the school.

This reminds me of an ideological shift that we’ve witnessed here in the Middle East. Sure, the outside of our school looks very bare, but the inside is absolutely beautiful. There are wall-sized murals, photographs of students, flags from every country, and an open courtyard. However, all of the buildings tend to be under-decorated on the outside. People don’t judge a building by the exterior. It is that way with EVERYTHING; malls, Kuwaiti homes, apartments, restaurants, you name it. Just look at all of my pictures on all my blogs ¬†– have you EVER seen a series of opulent and showy buildings? But the interior is ALWAYS very well-done. You just can never see it from the outside. The connection I make – stay with me here – is to the Islam. People dress modestly, protecting their exterior from stranger’s views, and save the beauty for their family. I once spoke to a student about this, and she said, “I wear hijab because I am confident with who I am and what I look like. I am firm in my beliefs. People think I’m stuck up because I dress so modestly, but in reality, I don’t need to prove myself to anyone; I love how I look, and I control who gets to see that.” She was in eighth grade. I love her confidence. Interesting, huh?

Anyways, on our walk to the bus stop…

But you never expected to see a Taco Bell in Kuwait! It’s sadly the only good Mexican food I have found so far… there is no Mexican population here, believe it or not ūüėČ

When my dad and sister were here, this place was their haven. Sean still tries to convince me to stop there whenever we pass by. It’s like a Krispie Kream, with all sorts of decorated delicacies. Kuwaitis love their donuts!

When we got off the bus stop, my first errand was to go to the store I buy my coffee from. I have blogged about this place before, King’s Coffee, and it is absolutely stellar. I snapped a picture of Sean in the parking lot because it is so crazy to see a city that has been built up so quickly. Did you notice the giant sand lot between the photographer and my subject? There are sand lots everywhere! It really reminds you we are living in the desert.

Okay, so this place has been here ever since we arrived in Kuwait. I always bike past it, and it is never open. I don’t know whether to be disappointed or thankful. I mean, what is an Italian Circus anyways? And why is it in Kuwait?!

The view of the Italian Circus from the other side of the parking lot/sand lot area. Remember what I said about the buildings? Also, the reason it is so deserted is because Sean and I were out on a Friday morning. Friday is the holy day in Islam, so it’s like our Sunday mornings; people sleep in, have brunch at home, and take a while to get out into the city. We love to go out on Friday mornings because it’s so quiet!

Ahhhh, the “bakala”. (Say it: buh-KAH-luh.”) This place is the Walgreen’s of the Middle East. I know it looks like Chuckie Cheese is having a garage sale, but really, this place has EVERYTHING. There is a bakala on every block, and sometimes there’s two or three. It’s where you go to buy you milk, eggs, paper, shampoo, canned vegetables, soda, lotion, rubber bands, and blow-up toys. I send Sean to the bakala for me when I’m cooking and I am missing a key ingredient like onions, tomatoes, or lettuce. Some bakalas are better than others, however. Some only carry packaged goods, and some, like my personal favorite, is like a mini-grocer. He’s got fresh cilantro, basil, and mint, he’s got arugula, lettuce, and chives, he’s got fresh olives and feta cheese. Sometimes I like just to stop in a balaka, stare at the walls stocked with goods, and see if there’s anything new I’ve never tried before.

 

This is one of my favorite things about the Middle East (as well as Sri Lanka, and I assume the rest of Asia). There are juice stands everywhere! In every country we’ve been to, you can walk anywhere and find a juice stand where they peel your avocados, mangos, melons, you name it, right in front of you, and pop it into a blender. It is one of my favorite snacks to get when I’m on the go. They make everything there completely from scratch! They also have soft-serve ice cream, and create the most amazing layered drinks of ice cream, fruit, smoothie, whipped cream, you name it.

As delicious as the smoothies and juices are, I have never understood the female names for them. In the mood for a “chocolama”? How about a “Britney”?

Sean standing next to the smoothie place, which is in Salmiya. We go to Salmiya frequently, which is only a 15-minute bus ride from our apartment in Maidan Hawally. This is the main street in Salmiya, and I love the trees that line the median. Marina Mall is in Salmiya, which has everything you could possibly imagine an American mall has.

While we were waiting for a friend of ours in the mall, Sean and I decided to split some ice cream. Pinkberry is the creme de la creme when it comes to sweets in Kuwait; it’s frozen yogurt with the most decadent flavors and toppings.

After Marina mall, and to conclude the day’s excursion, I swing by my friend’s apartment. On the way there, I found two scoundrels in the trash can. Like mother like daughter? Hehe!

Ahhhh, the Port Cafe. This place is our favorite outdoor restaurant in Souq Sharq. Souq Sharq is a mall in Kuwait City, right along the Gulf. You can go into the mall and shop, but there are also great port-side cafes like this one where you can smoke shisha, dine on hummus, or even get a burger and fries.

Exciting news! We have befriended a fabulous couple! This is Abby and Kyle, and they are new to Kuwait. They hail from Michigan, and are our age. This is their first year teaching. We absolutely love hanging out with them, and have so much fun. It’s also cool to show them Kuwait for the first time; it makes me realize I actually DO know some cool stuff about Kuwait!

This is our friend Eric, who was with us last year in Kuwait. We absolutely love spending time with him as well. He is from Chicago. (I know, our party consisted of Wisconsinites, Michiganites, and a Chicagoan. We need to diversify outside of the Midwest!) I love trying to capture pictures of Eric when he smokes shisha; we try to make them look as dragon-esque as possible ūüôā

This is looking out over the marina at Souq Sharq. I love the old-fashioned boat in the foreground and the buildings in the back!

Similarly, looking inward from the marina onto Souq Sharq itself. We love to walk along the promenade of the marina. It’s one of the few places in Kuwait where cars aren’t allowed! We love the quiet, peaceful sound of the boats floating in the marina, and the absence of the smell of exhaust!

Kids love water. We have found fountains like this all over Kuwait. Kids just love to play with the jets of water, getting completely soaked. (We may have walked through ourselves, dodging the spray, just for fun!)

Well, this concludes today’s blog on a typical weekend in Kuwait. I wanted to add a picture of us, which we took for Back To School Night. We got all dressed up, and realized that we don’t have many nice portraits of ourselves. Therefore, we sat down, took a picture, and proudly display it for you to see. We’re the same-old Kim & Sean, even over here in the sandbox of Kuwait ūüôā ¬†Take care, see you next time!

(Sneak Peek: I got a request to do a blog on the transportation of Kuwait. I have been taking pictures of the good, the bad, and the ugly of Kuwait cars, streets, and everything in between. Stay tuned!)

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Kuwait: Round Two. Let The Feast Begin!

As a child, I have a vague memory of a scene from a movie where one of the main characters cries, “Let the feast, BEGIN!” This scene, recalled only in auditory recognition, somehow has always symbolized moments of pure, superfluous, excessive fun. Thus, when deciding what to title this blog, my first blog back in the desert, in the Middle East, in the land of hummus, Hummers, and humid clouds of dust, I thought to myself, “Well, I’m back in Kuwait. Let the feast, BEGIN!”
After toting my camera around for three weekends out and about in Kuwait, I finally felt ready to create a blog. It’s daunting, blogging. There’s a desire to produce work simply so that people can read it, but there must be a high caliber of quality within what I produce. I could just take pictures of everything I eat, or of every pair of shoes I wear. Of what other people wear as shoes. Or what other people eat. But I digress. My point is, that I try to capture a hodgepodge of what Sean and I really “do” over here in the Middle East. Sounds silly, I know, but if I were reading my blog, I would want to know where I go on the weekends, what I do for fun, and yes, occasionally what I eat and what other people wear as shoes.
Do you have a request for a blog topic? Post it below! Let me know what you want to read about! The possibilities are endless… kind of. There are pretty strict censorship laws here. All right. Onto the photographs and stories. Let the feast begin!

 

I snapped this picture the first weekend we were back in Kuwait. It was taken downtown in Kuwait City, on a particularly humid evening. Maybe you can see that in the amount of clouds in the sky. I loved the way the palm trees made everything look so lush! Not to mention the unique architecture that always seems to dot the Kuwait skyline…

 

The reason for this evening’s trip into Kuwait City was twofold. Since Kuwait City is about a fifteen minute drive from where we live, we normally either carpool there together, or take public transportation. This evening we went with our friends Dave, Lacie, and Eric. We made a pit stop at the fabric souk so that Lacie could get some clothing of her tailored. As you can see, ‘Silkland’ offers quite a variety for the savvy costumer…

 

As we waited outside the tailor’s shop in the fabric souk, I looked around in the shops. I was amazed to see the number of men working in a given fabric shop. They were all there, sewing, darning, repairing. All in a row. It made me feel a bit guilty for complaining about the length of time it takes the tailor to complete my requests… and not to mention the price I pay. (Obviously not enough!)

 

After completing our stop at the tailor’s, we exited the fabric souk. It was hopping on a Thursday night!

 

However, before we left, I caught a “wardrobe malfunction” on one of the mannequins. How scandalous!

 

As we drove from the fabric souk to the restaurant, I snapped a photo out of the car of the Liberation Tower. I loved how eerie it looked with the moon and clouds… This tower was constructed after Kuwait was liberated from the Iraq invasion in 1990. It is now open once a year for people to visit and remember.

 

The restaurant we ended up at was a place called “Slider Station,” and couldn’t have been more strangely American. After spending three months in the States, it was strange to encounter a gourmet burger place. Not to mention a non-politically correct burger place. Check out the “Obama Burger”…

 

Don’t worry, it wasn’t just ANY old burger place. Nothing in Kuwait is ever “any old” anything. Slider Station was fancy-pants, burgers on a conveyor belt, fancy. I snuck up onto the second floor, so you can see the conveyor belt that brings your burgers out for you. They were mini-burgers, so you would typically order between 3-5 burgers to make a meal. For the vegetarian, I had an “Italian Felafel” burger. I know, I know, I don’t get it either. Regardless, it was surprisingly delicious! The way the place looked, you’d expect everyone to be sipping cosmos and relaxing to lounge music. But don’t worry, those aren’t liquor bottles in the center of the belt. They’re bottles of hot sauce. Bottles of hot sauce on display that you could not use. I was a wee bit disappointed about the mystery of the “too chic to be eaten, only for display hot sauces”. Oh, Kuwait…

 

Here come the burgers! A magical, delicious, conga-line of consumerism…

 

Once again, I overestimated my blogging ability for tonight. I had originally uploaded 28 pictures, with the intent to make each and every pixel come alive with tales woven especially for you. Alas, all of those tales must be suspended for another night. What a thing to celebrate! There are hundreds of stories that await!

In our next episode, you will see what a “Britney” and a “Brook” shake is, our friend Eric will become a fire-breathing dragon, and the Italian Circus comes to Kuwait…

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Rome, A Feast For The Senses

Ah, Rome. The eternal city. A feast for the senses. Where some of the¬†greatest minds, hands, and hearts lived out their wildest dreams.¬†Where marble and bronze come alive to breathe faith into the souls of¬†the holy, and weave tales in the eyes of the historians. It is also¬†the city where we spent nine days in June after our first year of¬†teaching. Why Rome, you ask? Need you ask? Well, to begin, Sean has a¬†Classical Humanities major, which deemed him the ultimate tour¬†guide‚ÄĒtelling stories, recalling dates, and naming names that allowed¬†the historic part of Rome to become fascinating to me.

Another reason we went to Rome‚ÄĒthis reason more a subconscious¬†afterthought (if there can be such a thing)‚ÄĒis that Rome stood for in¬†many ways what we were missing in Kuwait. Sure there’s food in Kuwait,¬†and lots of it‚ÄĒI mean Kuwait is in the top five most overweight¬†countries (after the United States). But you cannot stroll along¬†cobblestone streets in a sundress, kissing the cheek of your loved¬†one, and nibble on aged cheese and sip a glass of wine whenever you¬†want to rest a while. In Kuwait, you burrow away in your air conditioned apartment, then walk through the stifling heat to the¬†bus/taxi/car, then arrive at your destination, the restaurant. You¬†stay there for a few hours, then return home. Don’t get me wrong, I¬†love Kuwait (really, I do!), but in Rome the stroll, the sundress, the¬†cheek, IS the destination. ¬†You can make a day out of walking around¬†the city and simply stopping at a trattoria for a antipasti, a plate¬†of olives, or even a slice of pizza (or whole pie if you’re truly Roman). Rome screamed romance. It whispered love, sensuality,¬†affection. It wasn’t just the naked statues ¬†everywhere either‚ÄĒit¬†seemed like everyone in Rome was a little more in love than anywhere¬†else in the world. (Or was that just Sean and I?)

Besides from the food and the love, (I’m starting to sound like Julia¬†Roberts…) there is the history and the accessibility of it. You¬†don’t have to enter a single museum to find history in Rome, it¬†surrounds you. From the fountains that used to provide water from the¬†aqueducts to the citizens to the memorial plaques on doorsteps in the¬†Jewish quarter remembering those who were taken from their homes¬†during the Holocaust. Kuwait’s history is more shifting and ephemeral,¬†like the sand dunes that change shape and can never be pinned down.¬†Like a bundle of cloth tied to the hump of a camel. Rome’s history is¬†permanent, solid, a Jenga tower that will never fall and that any and¬†all can see. (Which begs the question, did Rome really ever “fall”?¬†I’ll let the audience at home decide…)

But I digress. If you are still reading, you are a worthy follower of Aloha Kuwait, and I thank you. I also apologize for not posting in so long. This summer came and went like bolt of lightening. Now, sitting in said air-conditioned apartment in Kuwait, sipping caffeinated tea and munching on hummus, I am ready to write. I promise you another year of scintillating tales from both the sandbox and abroad!

On to the pictures of Rome…. I must forewarn you that the captions will be limited, seeing as the quantity of pictures exceeds any other blog post thus far. Well, it is Rome… which seems the perfect opportunity to use the cliche that pictures speak louder than words : )

Our first afternoon in the city. A meal of an entire pizza per person, and nice cold refreshment!

Sean and I in Vatican square.

Looking at St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican. You can see the place where the Pope speaks weekly! Do you recognize it from television?

Sean looking up at the obelisk in the Vatican. 

The Swiss guards inside the Vatican. (Yes, they really are Swiss!)

Our friend Andrea lives in Rome and treated us to a lovely home-cooked Roman dinner! We were lucky to spent a week with her!

A morning market near the Vatican area, where our bed and breakfast was located.

We took an official tour of the Vatican (note the yellow sticker and lanyard), which was totally amazing. Here I am inside the Vatican walls!

Sean and a statue of Augustus.

An ancient Roman statue inside the Vatican. (One of thousands!)

A bronze statue of Hercules inside the Vatican.

Beautiful floor mosaic inside the Vatican.

A courtyard inside the Vatican walls.

An entire hallway of old maps of Italy inside the Vatican.

St. Peter’s Cathedral.

Gelato with our good friend Blaise! We were so lucky we got to spend a week with him before he began a master’s course on Roman architecture.

The bridge of angels, originally built during the time of Hadrian, the statues were added by Bernini. The¬†Castel Sant’Angelo stands in the background.

 

Our nightly pastime of relaxing in the park with snacks, cribbage, and a little vino!

 

Italian espresso every morning!

 

Can you guess where the obelisks were stolen from? Hmmmm…

 

Blaise and I outside of the Scala Santa. It was unfortunately closed for the afternoon : (

 

Sean by one of his favorite ancient Roman status of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus.

 

A wall in Livia’s villa (1 BC). The wife of Augustus.

 

Blaise contemplating life…

 

 

 

The Pantheon!

 

A small street in Rome. One of millions…

 

Sean next to a bronze statue of Constantine.

 

Romulus and Remus suckling the she-wolf. (Sean says, “May not be Estruscan…”)

 

The Roman Forum!

 

Inside the Capitoline Museum.

 

The Pantheon during the day time!

 

Looking inside the Pantheon : )

 

Blaise and Sean strolling the Piazza Navona.

 

Baffetto, the best pizza place in Italy!

 

The Trevi Fountain! (Yes, we made a wish!)

 

Coffee break by the Tiber River…

 

A place where the gladiators practiced for the Colosseum competitions.

 

The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine!

 

The Circus Maximus!

 

Cannoli and Cappucino. Hungry?

 

The Borghese Gardens.

 

Lunch outside the Villa Borghese.

 

Looking out over Rome.

 

The ancient city of Ostia.

 

A floor mosiac preserved in the ancient city of Ostia.

 

Ostia.

 

Lunch in Ostia.

 

Theater in Ostia.

 

Public bathroom in Ostia. (Maybe this is where women got the idea of going to the bathroom in pairs?)

 

Looking out from Janiculum Hill over Rome.

 

Sean relaxing by one of the many fountains in Rome.

Our last night in Rome. (And yes, that pizza is ALL mine!)

 

Stay tuned for the next blog post, which will be in the near future, where Kim and Sean are back in Kuwait!

 

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