Monthly Archives: March 2013

74 Days…

Anything short of 100 doesn’t seem like much these days. Less than $100, not a lot of money. Less than 100 pennies, not worth a paper bill. Less than 100 friends on Facebook, less than 100 hours of work, less than 100 vitamins you take in a year, all of these numbers amount to nothing too impressive. When I counted the days left on the calendar and saw that we had less than 100 days left in Kuwait, I was shocked. As of today, we’ve got 74 days left in the country. On June 10, we board a plane to the beautiful Midwest, never to return to Kuwait again (most likely). 74 days is not very many!

I decided to start a bucket list for my final months in Kuwait… I haven’t given it TOO much thought, so if you think of something that is a “must do” before leave, post it below!

1. Go bowling
2. Visit Entertainment City
3. See “Fires of Kuwait” at the Science Center
4. Buy a day pass at a fancy hotel to lounge on the beach
5. Find the Sri Lankan restaurant in Kuwait City that our neighbor’s maid raves about
6. Visit Fahaheel one more time
7. Visit the House of Mirrors
8. Visit Muttla Ridge one last time
9. Sail in the Gulf

I’ve only got 9 things, so it shouldn’t be too hard to cross them all off within the next 74 days. I’ll keep you posted!

Today’s blog focuses, again, on the little things in Kuwait. It is the end of March, and we have our spring break in early April. Until then, I plan on eating out, taking walks, and soaking up the scenery in my neighborhood. Let’s get started…

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Interesting motivational posters at my favorite Indian restaurant…

IMG_4499What they lack in ambiance, they make up for in delicious, DELICIOUS Indian food. Check them out here.

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This exploration all happened one weekend that I went out with my friends Abby and Wyn. After we visited Banana Leaf (the Indian restaurant), we found an interesting snack shop, full of the most delicious home made snacks, both salty and sweet. It is right next to Banana Leaf, and is called Fakhri Sweet Shop, in Salmiya.

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We thoroughly enjoyed walking around the neighborhood. (Check out the interesting mosque and the gigantic tree!)

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I think what I will miss the most about the cuisine in Kuwait is how easy it is to be a vegetarian here. Not to mention the idea of “snacks for dinner”. We had a gift certificate to a Lebanese restaurant called Al Berdawny, so Sean and I went there for lunch a week weeks ago. Look at this amazing spread! There was hummus, baba ganouj, salad, picked vegetables, sambosas, flatbread, and, of course, Sean had some chicken and french fries. What a feast it was! I would certainly return to Al Berdawny. Rumor is they’ve got a delicious breakfast/lunch buffet, too.

IMG_4509After our lunch at Al Berdawny, we decided we had better walk off all those calories. We strolled along the beach from the Marina Mall area up to the Science Center.

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You can see the Kuwait Science Center in the background.

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I feel a little spoiled, but we have seen sooooo many traditional dhows (boats) in Kuwait, that they have lost some of the luster for me! Dubai, Doha, and Kuwait all have magnificent displays of their sailing history. It has been magical to learn about the transformation of these countries from a pearling/fishing culture to oil giants.

IMG_4520Chasing pigeons at the Science Center.

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Even though it was a hazy day, we loved spending time along the Gulf.

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Sean posing in front of some strange alien statues in the Science Center.

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Dr. Who fans: Sean found the Tardus!

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We didn’t have time to visit the Imax, but looked at the prices anyway. I was surprised to see they had separate prices for nannies….

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Most of these pictures were taken around Liberation Week, which was the last week of February. Some people really go all out and decorate their cars! Check out this guy’s rig!

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Ahhhh, our favorite after-school snack. (Or meal!) The Iranian bread guy. There is  a small shop near our school that bakes fresh bread in kilns every afternoon. Each piece of bread costs something like 10 fil, which is the equivalent of 5 cents! We never fail to buy a bit too many pieces, then stuff ourselves with delicious, homemade bread. Sometimes I put toppings on them and make pizzas. Mmmmmm.


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I never post enough pictures of people in my blog, so I worked extra hard to snap a few shots at my friend Abby’s birthday party. We went to her favorite restaurant, a Korean place in our neighborhood. It is the BEST Korean food I have ever had!


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Me and my lovely English teachers/girlfriends. Amber (left) teaches grade 6 English and Humanties, and Sharon (right) is my partner in crime. Not only is she a dear friend, but we team teach grade 8 together. I don’t know what I would do without her.

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Sean had the camera with him one day that he was walking home from school, and snapped a picture of some boys playing soccer in our neighborhood. You have to be creative with your play-space in the desert!

Well, there you have it. A brief caption of our lives over the past month. I will try to post again before we head to spring break; the weather has been fantastic and I’ve had a lot of opportunities to get out and explore the city.

Stay well, and see you next time!

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Categories: Kuwait | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“His car exploded. The man must have had bad luck with money.”

Today’s tales are for the adventurer in you. Kuwait, this tame country of shopping malls and family picnics, has burst out of it’s hum-drum shell to offer me quite the blogging treat this month.

Two, seemingly-to-be-average, trips into Kuwait City and Salmiya ended up showcasing crowds of people with wide eyes and slack jaws. One was for a festival held in the street, and one was for an exploded car.

That’s right. A car exploded. Don’t ask me how. Let’s start at the beginning…

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My friends and I board the public bus to get to the Old Souk (Mubarakiya) in Kuwait City. When the buses are crowded we sit in the “Ladies Seats.” When I ride the bus alone (which is often, it’s really safe!), I also sit in the ladies seats. They’re the six or so seats up near the bus driver. If you ever board the bus and it’s over-crowded, men will stand and ensure the ladies get their “Ladies Seats”. To be honest, it’s pleasantly convenient to know I’ve got a nice spot to watch traffic : )

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When we arrived at the souk, we stuffed our faces at our favorite restaurant. What a feast it was! We dined on hummus, salad, rice, chicken, pomegranate and cucumbers, beans, and endless flat bread. It was delectable.

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After dinner, as usual, we strolled past the shops selling all sorts of sweets and treats. This guy was making Nutella pastries. I had to take a picture of the menu to believe it.


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If you look at the last item on the menu, “Pie nutella chocolate” is where it’s at. For just the equivalent of $5, you get a 10″ pizza-sized pastry baked in an oven and filled with Nutella. Pair that fact with the lack of sidewalks in Kuwait and you’ve got a recipe for a heart attack.


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Ahhhhh, the strange items at the souk. Portable sauna, anyone? I think you sit inside and your head pops out the top. “Deep cleansing of the body through perspiration”. Yum.

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This was where our night took a strange turn. We left the souk with the intent to wander the surrounding area, when we came across caution tape and a crowd of people. We nervously inched closer and saw they were all gawking at a car in the middle of the parking lot. Not just any car, a torched car.

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A car that had completely exploded. Everything inside it was torched. Never to be repaired. Ready for the landfill.

We had absolutely no idea how this happened, so I asked the nearest guy standing next to me. The guy spins quite the yarn saying, “Well, his car exploded, and there was 20,000 KD inside of it.”

Stop right there.

20,000 KD is $70,000 USD. The man’s car spontaneously combusts and he has seventy grand inside? Yeah, right.

No, the man insists, “His car exploded. The man must have had bad luck with money.”

And that was it. Everyone was standing around, looking like, “Eh, an exploded car. Weird, but not too weird. Unlucky man.” They continued to tell me that the car caught on fire and burnt with all the money inside of it.

What are the odds, that in the middle of a parking lot, a car just goes up in flames? Not only does it go up in flames, but it continues to burn to complete, melted, irreparable cinders? NOT ONLY does it become decimated, but it does so with $70,000 inside of it?

I smell something fishy in the Persian Gulf.

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Since this date I have been scouring the internet for any follow up news article, and haven’t found a single one. This was, hands down, one of the strangest things I’d ever seen in my two years in Kuwait.

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Regardless, we soldiered on through the souk, and Abby and Kyle popped into a perfumery to contemplate some fine scents.

Thus concludes the evening of the exploding car. Not to leave a sour taste in your mouth, I thought I’d finish with a cute story of a street festival I found a few days later. Everybody loves a carnival!

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It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, and I decided to take a walk. I just had to snap a picture of this… “Medical Laboratory” I found in Salmiya. Suffice to say, I didn’t stick around. They sure have different medical licensing issues here than in the States!


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When I got to the main shopping area, I was surprised to see the street completely blocked off. There were balloons, music, dancers, food, and happy families.

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Grimace even made a guest appearance!


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I took this picture not only to show the crowd, but to show you the conglomeration of restaurants on this street! They stretch on as far as the eye can see. (And if you can’t make it out, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts right after the Subway.)

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As if the mascot Grimace wasn’t enough, McDonald’s even had their own break-dancers  It was a happenin’ place. These guys were pretty talented! I wish they danced like that while they made my McFlurries.

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At the Wisconsin State Fair we have corn on the cob, in Kuwait they have kebab stands.

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Just like every state fair in America, the police had a cautionary and informational booth. This guy was to demonstrate the dangers of alcohol consumption… (Remember, this is a dry country, so they take it pretty seriously…)

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I hung out with the police for a while and learned how they dust for fingerprints at a crime scene.


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I’m not a big missile person, so I didn’t ask any questions here. Maybe you weaponry buffs can identify some of them?

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Lastly, like every event in Kuwait. There are fancy cars. There are always fancy cars.

Overall, it was quite the eventful weekend. I sure had a lot to write home about!

I’ve got quite a few more blogs on Kuwait up my sleeve, so stay tuned!

Categories: Kuwait | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Mini-Post On Kuwait

Greetings from the balmy temperatures of Kuwait! As it is March here, we’ve had a steady increase in temperatures. January was frigid with temperatures dropping into the high 40’s. February was a bit nicer, with temps getting into the 50-60’s in the afternoons. Now, as March begins, it’s getting WARM during the day, reaching into the mid 70’s! I have to admit, my concept of “cold” is severely skewed; what we’ve become used to here is much different than the below zero temperatures of Wisconsin. I have grown accustomed to wearing long sleeves and pants when temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s, whereas in Wisconsin people would happily wear a sundress or shorts and a t-shirt. Now I just need to spend two years in Antarctica and see how I acclimatize to those temperatures!

Today’s post is considered a “mini-post” as it consists of snapshots from a few weekends here in Kuwait. All of the pictures will be from different days in January. Each picture is a mini-story, in a way. I hope you enjoy them : )

The last time we traveled was to Bangkok for the job fair, and the next time will be for spring break in April. Therefore, we’ve got a lovely few months to explore and document our last semester in Kuwait. It’s all gone by so fast! We’ve only got three months left. (All of March, all of April, and all of May. We leave on June 9.)

It is my goal to share as much of Kuwait as I can with you given the time that I have. Let’s get started!

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My girlfriend Abby and I took a trip to the Friday Market to look for a gift. (Remember: The Friday Market is an open-air flea market, a series of independently-run shops selling everything from generators to shoes to perfume.)

She fell in love with the framed pictures in this guy’s shop, and I fell in love with all the colors! The picture reminds me of Alice in the rabbit hole.

I always want to buy a framing of Arabic script, but know that they are religious phrases, which would make me feel strange to display in my house. I wish I could have someone walking around with me to translate all of the art so I could pick one where I liked the message!

 

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A few of my friends and I visited the AWARE Center one weekend for a traditional Kuwaiti foods night. AWARE stands for “Advocates for Arab-Western Relations” and they do an amazing job of making people feel welcome in Kuwait. I have been to a few of their events before; they host everything from dinner socials to trips to the Grand Mosque. Everyone who works there is incredibly passionate about welcome newcomers to Kuwait and debunking their myths and questions. It’s a great time!

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A sample plate from the AWARE dinner. The small plate on the left is a breakfast dish consisting of rose-water flavored noodles and scrambled egg. The woman who served it said that it is made for newlyweds to eat in the mornings after their wedding. It was really tasty and sweet, I definitely would eat it for breakfast!

On the larger plate I couldn’t eat many of the dishes as they had lamb, beef, or chicken in them, so this photo is a picture of my friend’s plate. The only thing I had from the dinner that is pictured on this plate is the “saj” wrap, which is a sandwich eaten throughout the Arab world, and the rice at the top of the photo. Everywhere you go in Kuwait you can get “saj”; it’s a delicious thin, eggy flatbread rolled up with all sorts of fillings and then toasted on a giant hot stone. In my saj sandwiches I get olives, tomatoes, cheese, and zaatar (an oregano seasoning mixture popular in the Arab world). Yum yum!

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Another weekend we went with some friends of ours to an open mic night in Kuwait. That’s right! We actually found out about a place that had open mic! It was a blast. It was in a fancy shisha bar—of which these lights were hung on the ceiling. The open mic was a great time; there were poets, spoken word artists, guitarists, singers, you name it. There were a lot of Lebanese people, Phillipino, even a girl who flew up from Saudi to present her poetry! She was so amazing, Abby asked her for her website. Here it is if you’re interested in reading progressive female poetry by a young Saudi Arabian woman:  http://7alaabdullah.com/

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Shisha and fancy bottled water at open mic night. The glowing carafes were just torturing me; begging to chill a nice white wine instead of a bottle of water… Oh well. What they didn’t have in terms of beverages they sure made up for in atmosphere!

 

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I think even if Sean COULD order a beer he would still get a milkshake. Actually, I don’t “think”, I know. It’s happened many times. That man’s got the biggest sweet tooth I’ve ever met. (Aside from my sister, of course.) Gotta love him : )

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Abby and I at open mic night!

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Okay, another ‘mini story’. This apartment building is near my house, and I always walk past their “Thug Lite Life” graffiti and wonder, why does this exist? What crazy kids live here, living a “thug lite life”? I had to take a picture of it.

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There’s nothing spectacular about this place, only that it’s another example of how life is different here than in America. This is a “stationary store”, which is where you go to buy your school supplies, gift wrapping materials, even watercolor and crayon sets. I just find it interesting that everything is compartmentalized; you seldom go to a “buy everything in one place” store. You end up getting your things from separate sellers in your neighborhood.

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Can you spot the sneaky spy? I love snapping photos of cats in peculiar places in Kuwait. There’s certainly no shortage of them!

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I have lots of friends asking me how to use the bus in Kuwait, so I took this picture as an example for them. You find a bus stop, which looks like this. Then you check the numbers on the sign—this bus stop services route 66 and route 999. Then you get out your 250 fills and wait.

The 66, if you pick it up opposite Shaab park, will take you to Marina Mall and the International Clinic, both in Salmiya. There’s lots to do along this route, just get off whenever you see a place you’d like to check out. Route 999, if you board it across from Shaab park, will take you through Salmiya as well, but on a different road. You could take it all the way to the Science Center if you want, but I normally use it for Al Seef hospital.

If you get on the bus on the other side of the street, the side closer to the McDonald’s and Shaab park, the 66 will actually take you to the Friday Market! The 999 will take you to the Old Souk in Kuwait City.

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Sometimes these signs aren’t labeled with the routes, but you can always check to see if you’re confused!

There you have it; a few mini-stories about life in Kuwait. I’ve got lots more adventures to share with you before we board another plane for spring break, so stay tuned for more Kuwait secrets!

Categories: Kuwait | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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