Kuwait

Top Ten Travel Highlights of 2013

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s 2014 already. Since we’ve moved abroad, Sean and I have rang in the new year in Jordan, Egypt, and now Cambodia. As amazing as it is to keep looking forward to new adventures, it is equally important to reflect on all we’ve experienced. 2013 was pretty awesome. We moved from Kuwait to Cambodia. We celebrated our second year of marriage. Sean had knee surgery. I had wrist surgery. Sean tried pufferfish. I started eating chicken again. We watched Breaking Bad. But I digress.

Anyways, here are our travel highlights of 2013. There’s not really any particular order; it was near impossible to prioritize such perfect memories…  I hope you enjoy!

 2013 Travel Highlights

10. Playing disc golf with my family over the summer (Wisconsin)547901_4009921418603_1670924733_n

 

9. My last vegetarian thali at Banana Leaf (Kuwait)img_2404

 

8. Climbing Kep Mountain (Cambodia)10

 

7. Learning to speak Khmer (Cambodia)1185019_10201246178628688_1713916646_n

 

6. Eating giant prawns on the Koh Kong coast (Cambodia)img_6725

 

5. Becoming addicted to shiro and injera (Ethiopia)img_4913

 

4. Smoking shisha with my mother and the head of the Ministry of Communication (Kuwait)img_4726_2

 

3. Hiking five nights on The Beaten Path trail (Montana)15

 

2. Petting baboons in the Simien Mountains (Ethiopia)img_5656

 

1. Standing under the raging waterfall of Tad Yeang—Can you spot me? (Laos)img_7795-version-2

 

 

 

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Categories: America, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Laos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sean’s Top Ten Countries of the Middle East

*disclaimer #1 – All photos were taken by myself or Kim on our travels.

*disclaimer #2 – This is a (rare) blog post by Sean. Kim’s top ten could indeed be very different, and she does not take responsibility for any potential repercussions from my rankings.

*disclaimer #3 – These 10 countries are countries I have actually been to (or seen) in the Middle East. There are many other countries that are in the middle east that I am sure are fantastic, I just haven’t been to them…

*disclaimer #4 – I wanted to get to “10” countries, so I kind of cheated with 3 countries… I have never been in Iran, Iraq or Saudi Arabia, but I have seen them, in person, with my own eyes, so that counts right?

More accurate title for this blog post:

Top Ten Countries in the Middle East (that I have been to…or seen…or been 20 feet away from…)

Ok, enough with the disclaimers.

I felt like I needed some kind of closure after our 2 years of teaching in Kuwait. We have seen and done a great many things these past couple of years, sometimes amazing, sometimes horrifying, and sometimes just plain mundane. But I wanted to conclude our stay in the middle east with a look back on some of my favorite memories and reminisce with you about the good, the bad, and the ugly (but mostly the good 😉

So, for your reading pleasure, here is “Sean’s Top Ten Countries of the Middle East” ranked by my personal experiences.

#10 – Saudi Arabia (or rather the border of Kuwait/Saudi…)

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I never actually got the chance to go to Saudi Arabia, but the picture you see above is indeed Saudi Arabia in the background – I promise! This is a photo of Kim and a friend at the border of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It is rather difficult for a westerner to get a visa into Saudi Arabia. For a long time we talked about getting a 24hr visa (which would be much easier to get for us in Kuwait) in order to drive through Saudi to get to Bahrain. I hear the drive there is quite scenic with a 365 view of sand, sand, and more sand…

#9 – Iran (or rather, as seen from a boat in the Strait of Hormuz…)

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The photo above is the Strait of Hormuz and one of the 14 behemoth oil tankers that passes through there each day. Twenty percent of the worlds petroleum passes through this narrow stretch of sea from the oil rich countries of Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi, Iraq, and UAE out to the rest of the world. On one side is Musandam, which we were visiting at the time, and on the other side is Iran. You can see the rocky cliffs between the strait leading to the “fjords of the middle east”.

We were told by local Omani fishers that the smuggling between Iran and Oman/UAE is quite frequent. We even saw some Iranian smugglers when local Omanis clued us in on how to spot them. “Look for the mustaches” they said. When we asked what they were smuggling they told us that the Iranians wanted “American Cigarettes” and what did the Omanis get in return? Goats. Lots and lots of Goats. The middle east is full of them…

#8 – Iraq (or rather the border of Kuwait/Iraq)

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I ranked this number 8 because the experience I had was so surreal and strange compared to the other “border” or “view from afar” countries.

We drove out to Mutla Ridge in Kuwait (highest point in Kuwait), and decided to keep on driving to the Iraq border, you know, to see what it was like. Maybe we’d see a tank, or fire, or explosions, or lots and lots of guns!

Nope. It was a pretty ordinary border crossing with a lot of trucks of supplies and local people going through. There was only one point of entry and only a few cars in the 30 minutes we were there.

We pulled up and parked in a flat, desert-like parking lot next to the crossing. And we just started…walking up to the gate. You know. To see how far we could get before they….I don’t know….gunned us down?

When we got to the 1 car entry point the guard you see above in the full camo smiled and waved us over. Surprisingly he knew little English (most people in Kuwait know English quite well). We asked him basic questions like “Is that Iraq?” and “Can we go?” and “Can we take picture?” Note that there were giant signs on the way up saying “NO VIDEO OR PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED”. He smiled when we pulled out the camera, grabbed our friends shoulder and offered to be in the picture. Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti man in the car (who wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon) got out and decided he was going to be in the picture too, just, because… (he is on the phone on the left). The guard in the camo then called over the other guard to come join us in the picture too (man in blue with gold shoulders). My friends and I then pose for what was the most surreal photo experience of my life – on the border of Kuwait and Iraq.

#7 – Kuwait

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Kim and I lived in Kuwait for two years. By the first week we had seen pretty much everything Kuwait had to offer. Unfortunately, the outdoor activities that Kim and I truly enjoy are really nonexistent in Kuwait. And Kuwait is not what you’d call a “tourist country”.

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Kuwait does have a long path along the Persian Gulf (or “Arab” Gulf as we were forced to write in our textbooks over the word “Persian”). It is really quite pretty most days. On Eid al-Adha, however, you might want to avoid this area if you are squeamish (or any area really). On Eid al-Adha, Muslims celebrate the day Abraham was going to sacrifice his son for God, until God said, “just kidding”, and so Abraham sacrificed a lamb instead. In celebration of this day Muslims kill their own sheep, and when your whole country is pretty much Muslim, that’s a lot of sheep…and blood…

So what happens to all these sheep carcasses? Well, some are thrown into the ocean and eventually wash up on shore. Then they get buried in the sand and are pulled up by middle school children during a community and service “beach cleaning” event…

…to the horror of everyone.

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A common theme in the middle east is the sometimes stark contrast of hyper-conservative tradition paralleled with more liberal western influences. The gulf countries especially are going through a clash of middle-east meets west and different countries are dealing with it in sometimes comical, sometimes depressing ways.

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The first week that Kim and I arrived in Kuwait we were taken to a bookstore to get school supplies. The only way to get to this book store, however, was to walk through an amusement park with rides and mini-roller coasters. As we walked through, there were Kuwaiti mothers completely covered in black burqas, dishdasha-ed man, and western dressed children speaking English to the Indian, Sri-Lankan, and Pilipino ride operators. As we walked through this confluence of cultures our ears were blasted by, get this, hardcore rap music. This ultra-conservative society was basting F-bombs by Jay-Z and 50 cent in a children’s amusement park. These blatant contradictions turned out to be a common theme throughout the middle east.

Kuwait - Skyline

Mutla Ridge, the highest point in Kuwait at a staggering “nosebleed” level of 475 feet, is one place in Kuwait that I quite enjoyed the view. At the end of our hike along the ridge which has the occasional Kuwaiti “desert camping” (see Kim’s previous blog entries for what that really means), we reached a protruding peninsula that provides one of the coolest views of the Kuwait skyline (as seen above in the picture).

Lastly, Failaka island was a very unnerving and surreal experience. Failaka is an island in the Gulf that is part of Kuwait. In the 1980s Kuwaitis lived on the island, had homes there, had cars there, mosques, banks, etc. But in 1990 Iraq attacked Kuwait, invaded the island, and drove all the Kuwaitis off of it. It was never rebuilt and remains frozen in time to 1990. It was fascinating, humbling, and horrifying to walk through people’s homes and see bullet holes in the walls, bullet shells on the ground, and see people’s clothes, books, and dishes still lying around the home.

#6 – Qatar

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Kim and I went to Qatar our first year in the middle east. We had a long weekend over thanksgiving and decided to go to Qatar because, well, when else would we ever probably be in Qatar? Qatar, although it is building up, is not exactly know as a vacation destination. In fact, when we arrived in the Doha airport, an American family that was on the same flight from Kuwait asked us why we came to Qatar. We told them vacation, they looked at us, as if we were joking, then realizing we were not, laughed and asked why, insisting there was nothing to do in Qatar. In many ways, they were correct.

Qatar - Islamic Art I. M. Pei

One of my favorite places in all of the middle east, however, is in Qatar. It is the beautiful and unique building you see behind us in the picture above. It is the Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by famed architect I. M. Pei, it is a spectacular building sitting on a peninsula opposite Doha city proper across the bay. Inside the museum is a collection of the most brilliantly preserved, priceless, and unique items of Islamic history and art from the 6th century to modern day. Much of the art focuses on the Medieval era, or the golden age of Islam. Most of my favorite works were from Iran. The Persian art is more relaxed when it comes to showing living things, where as most Islamic sects forbid it.

Qatar - skyline

On the top level was a modern Arabic calligraphy artist that took lines from famous Arab, Turkish, and Persian poems and wrote them in the most delicate and beautiful script. I found a quote that really jumped out at me, and had great meaning for myself. It gave me a connection to this museum I won’t long forget. My favorite quote was from a poem in Ottoman Turkish by Hami-i Amidi, translated it said,

“Some among the sensitive and cultured people come to live where they find their heart’s desire. To some, strange places will become home, and sometimes some will stay home but find it strange.”

Qatar - Hawk

Souq Waqif is one of my favorite souqs in the middle east (a “souq” is a marketplace). It has a rather modern main streets but the side streets will bring you back hundreds of years to the time of pearl diving and camel caravans. You’ll find everything from Qatari daggers, to jewelry, to spices and perfume. We eventually accidentally walked into a “hawk shop”. In the picture above Kim is holding a real, and very living, falcon. The man in the shop could tell we obviously weren’t here to buy a falcon (which many Qatari’s do, and walk around with on their arm because, why not?), but he was so eager to show us his birds. So, we put on the glove, pet, and even fed the falcon. When he took the sleep mask off the falcon, and you looked into her large and beautiful eyes, you felt like she was peering deep into your soul and judging everything you had ever done. Like no animal I have ever encountered, nothing past or present gets by a falcon.

Qatar - Wind Statue

As I said, Qatar is growing, and although it is not currently a major tourist destination, they are the up and coming in the gulf region. Walking through the streets they are ecstatic about, and make it well know to you, that they are hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The photo above is from the area of Doha know as “The Pearl”. When the construction is finished (whenever that might be…), it will be pretty spectacular and will rival the Dubai Palm in most ways.

#5 – UAE (Dubai)

DubaiSkyline

Dubai, as you may notice in the picture above, has some rather unique architecture. When Kim and I first visited Dubai we were blown away by the modernity of the place. My friend described Dubai by saying, “It’s architecture is so modern, you might not be surprised to see George Jetson fly across the sky in a spaceship.”

Dubai - Mosque

Dubai is a perfect example of the middle-east meets west clash and contradictions. We would walk around the Dubai Mall (the largest mall in the world by area), and see Emirati Women, dressed in a fully covered Burqa, walk into Victoria’s Secret, with mannequins and posters of half naked women. Or we would see Emirati Men (and all Gulf coast men), drive around wearing ghutras on their head that completely block their peripheral vision. It seems rather dangerous to us.

Dubai - Boat

In an attempt by the Emirati to hold on to their traditions, they still have a traditional souq (which is mainly run by expats such as Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, or Filipinos), and they have dhows (boats) to take you across the Dubai Creek. It was pretty cool having someone take a raw coconut, chop it up, stick a straw in it, and then jump on a boat to take you across the creek. All the while being surrounded by buildings of architecture of the future.

Dubai - Burj Khalifa

You may have noticed the rather tall building in these pictures. It is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Kim and I did take the elevator up a staggering 124 floors to the (open air!) observation deck. We watched the sun set across the desert in the distance. You can truly see for miles and miles with nothing to hinder you view (except the occasional dust storm).

Dubai - Pidgon

I do have a lot of respect for the people of Dubai economically. They have the foresight to realize that one day their oil money will run out. So instead of saying, “Well, let’s just live large and ride this gravy train until it derails”, (like Kuwait), they said lets use this money to invest in a tourist economy that will last long after the oil has run dry. In that regard, they have preserved the few physical cultural heritage sites that they have.

The photo above shows some of the arrowslits of a fort that was built in Dubai in 1787. They have preserved it and turned it into a museum. It was one of the most informative places I have been to in the middle east in terms of showing daily life of the Arabs long ago. The fact that it was built of rock, and mud, and even ocean coral, makes it even more impressive that it still exists today.

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(If you click on the picture above, it will open in a new page so you can view the panorama in greater detail.)

Dubai is the epitome of a city in constant contradiction. Check the news, everyday the Emiritis are struggling with the balance between, or the blatant contradictions of, the progressive nature of modernity and the western culture that comes with it, and their hyper-conservative Islamic traditions and laws. For all of its faults, Dubai has become a major player in not only the middle east, but now safely holds its own on the world’s stage.

#4 – Musandam (Oman)

MusandamKhorAlNajd

Ok, I cheated again. Musandam isn’t its own country. It is “technically” part of Oman, but it is cut off from Oman culturally, linguistically, geographically, and even physically! Musandam is a peninsula, jutting out into the Strait of Hormuz, and it is not connected to Greater Oman. The only way to get to Musandam from Greater Oman is to either drive through the UAE, fly there, or take a boat around the UAE coast. So that is why I made it my #4 country, deal with it : )

The picture above is one of my favorite photos that I have taken in the middle east. This inlet of water surrounded by the rocky fjords of Musandam is called Khor Al Najd (which possibly means “hidden place”, but I wouldn’t go throwing that around with any certainty). Kim and I flew into Dubai and rented a car. We then drove across the UAE and crossed the border into Musandam. From that point the scenery became spectacular. Giant rocky cliffs falling straight into the crystal blue-green ocean. We climbed the extremely steep dirt road from the inland side in our rented two wheel drive car and when we reached the zenith the view before us was jaw-droppingly beautiful. We stayed there for hours taking in the view and walking around the little paths from the viewpoint.

MusandamTentRockKimWe brought our tent on the plane and just lived out of our car for the weekend. In all of Oman you can camp pretty much wherever you like. In the picture above we set up camp on a rocky cliff that dropped over the ocean and watched the sun set reflect on the mountains in the background changing them from the most brilliant red, to pink, to purple.

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The next day we chartered a dhow cruise through the fjords. The best, and only real way, to truly experience Musandam is by boat. Weaving in and out of the inlets of water you dive deeper into the heart of Musandam. We explored an island with the ruins of a colonial fort, brightly colored fish swimming through coral, and small Omani fishing villages living on the edge of existence. We were able to snorkel and swim in a few places. When we got back on the boat, we had a few marine friends following us.

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At least 5 times we had dolphins skimming along next to our boat. They would go under us, behind us, jump out of the water, and squeak at us. There was a particular family with a baby that kept following us. It was a really cool experience, and the first time I have seen dolphins in the wild.

MusandamKimTentBeachThat night we asked the boat driver to drop us off at a secluded beach only accessible by boat so we could camp for the night (a common request). He dropped us off, gave us some firewood (a rarity in the middle east), we set up camp, and hoped he would remember to pick us up the next day. It was the most picturesque beach cove – I could have sworn I was on a movie set. It was called “Seebel Kareeb” – a perfect half circle of soft sand completely hidden by the surrounding mountains. We swam, cooked dinner on the fire, and slept under the shooting stars. It was unreal.

Musandam_3355The last day in Musandam we followed the one road through the peninsula as far as it goes. To our great surprise it dead ends into a forest. Now, if you know anything about deserts…there’s not a lot of forests. We got out and followed the many herds of goats through the forest, around trees, and sometimes up into the trees. Yes, these goats climbed trees. There were plenty of places to camp but we had to get to Dubai that night and so our Musandam journey had come to an end.

Musandam is quite unknown, even within expat communities in the middle east. This makes it an infrequently traveled, untouched enclave among the major tourist destinations in the Gulf.

#3 – Egypt

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Number three was a difficult choice. I was torn between number two and three. In the end, Egypt has the population factor and the stress that comes with it that pushed it to my number three.

Egypt is fantastic. Don’t let the current political situation dissuade you from any thought other than the fact that Egypt is fantastic. From north to south it has over 6000 layers of history that sometimes you literally see “layered” in the ground. Egypt contains remnants of human existence from the pharaohs, the biblical Jews, the Hittites, the Nubians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Persians, the Nabataeans, the Seleucids, the Romans, the Arabs, the Mamluks, the Ottomans, the French, the British, and I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting. Can any other country in the world claim that kind of diverse history. It is astounding and visible.

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When I was in middle school I went to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore. I had seen many pictures of it and expected it to be huge. When I got there, it was rather incredible, but it was smaller than what I was expecting. With the pyramids, I think I’ve seen thousands of images of them in my life and expected them to be huge again. When I got there, they were BIGGER and grander than I could have ever imagined – and they are so numerous that they stretch along the Nile for miles and miles. Seeing these gargantuan stones, over 4500 years old, piled up on top of one another in perfect mathematical alignment, and then being able to actually go inside them… to me, it was like a kid in a candy store, if the store was also made of candy, and the candy could be inserted directly into your veins. I was high on history.


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In our trip we visited no less than 7 temples (I lost track). I was given free range to meander through these structures, witness the great artistic skill in carving the hieroglyphs, listen to the echos in the inner chambers bounce off Isis, Horus, and Seth, and feel the eternity of the stones…oh, if walls could talk…

In the valley of the kings there were no temples, but tombs where the pharaohs were buried. As the quality of the wall carvings and paintings got better (more preserved), I couldn’t help but realize how alike these ancient people of the past were to us today. Especially in the necropolis of the wealthy and workers tombs where they depicted scenes from everyday life on their walls. A son helping his father carry baskets of wheat, a man sleeping on the shore of the Nile while his friends fished, a wedding with man and wife holding hands surrounded by beautiful riverbed flowers. In these 4000 years, our relationships and the emotions of our human interactions haven’t changed much.

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The way that Egypt can transition so flawlessly from 4000 years ago, to 2000 years ago, to modern day, all on the same block is a uniqueness all its own. Cairo is a mega-city. It is the most populated city in Africa with streets and city planning created over 1000 years ago. Cairo hustles, it churns, it  spits, it screeches, and it does it well into the night. The streets have shops, in front of shops, in front of shops, in front of other shops and you wonder where people walk, and where they actually drive. Some parts of Cairo are a fluid of people. But then you’ll turn down a side street where cars can’t go, and you’ll find a thousand year old mosque. You wander inside and see the most beautiful stone insets, geometric shapes, and delicately drawn Arabic calligraphy. This is where the Fatimid Caliphs, the Mamluk kings, and the Ottoman Sultans prayed and meditated on their next conquest.

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Turn the next corner and you’re smack in the middle of Tahrir Square, the heart of the Egyptian revolution, where effigies hang from light poles. We talked to a lot of people throughout Egypt about the revolution and they all knew, without hesitation, that turmoil, and uncertainty, and even bloodshed were likely repercussions for the revolution, but they wanted it so badly, they  were willing to accept it. That was the sentiment when we were there in January of 2013 – now I don’t know if they would say so much. I think now they are more angry and divisive than they ever were with Mubarak. As one Egyptian dhow sailor told us in Luxor, “The Revolution is like giving birth to a new born, a new nation. It’s exciting, it’s emotional, and it’s messy!”

When I think of the revolution, I always have to put things in perspective and think, it took the United States 13 years, and essentially a civil war to get rid of a Monarch. Egypt does not appear to need all that. Inshallah.

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Visiting Egypt made me glad that Kim and I included a reading of an ancient Egyptian poem in our wedding. The following are my favorite lines from that poem, translated from the hieroglyphics on a wall in a temple built some 3000 years ago:

“With my hand in your hand
we shall wander together in beautiful places,
my soul inspired,
my heart in bliss,
because we go together.”

#2 – Jordan

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My number two, Jordan. Oh, how I love this country. It is amazingly vast and diverse for a country little bigger than Maine. Although a good area of land is desert, the remaining topography has mountains, hills, valleys, wadis, lakes, oceans, and rivers. Not only is it a beautiful country, but the people are so genuinely nice and helpful (and not just because you’re a tourist).

The above photo was taken from one of my favorite places in Jordan known as Wadi Dana. If you ever visit Jordan, please book one night in the little medieval village of Dana. If you look closely, you can see the entire village hanging perilously on the edge of the valley in the center left of the picture. The reason I say “medieval” village is because the rooms you stay in are the ruins of a village built in the middle ages. We hiked up to the ruins of a Roman bath on the left side of the picture where the water is held in an underground well and slowly trickles down a stone built aqueduct to the village and into the wadi (a “wadi” is a dry riverbed). It becomes quite green in the rainy season.

At night, Kim’s family and I huddled in a majlis tent with a few Bedouin where we smoked shisha and drank “Bedouin tea” (which was sage and sugar). One man played the oud, another drummed, while the last man danced, clapped, and sang. For a goat herder he had quite the moves.

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Like Egypt, Jordan’s history is long and convoluted. There are castles upon castles in Jordan from the many crusades and crusader states set up here. My favorite is the one in the picture above, Kerak Castle. This castle is huge, don’t be fooled by the photo. Where the photographer is standing is also on top of the castle with many rooms and tunnel ways underneath. What you see before you is only the very top of the castle. This castle is my favorite because it was attacked and conquered by one of my favorite characters from the crusades, Saladin (Salah al-Din). Saladin was Richard the Lionheart’s bitter rival, but they had a relationship of mutual respect and admiration. In fact, the 3rd crusade actually ended with a rather fair peace treaty for the middle east.

The guide told the story of Saladin when he attacked this castle. The castle was controlled by a Templar Knight named Raynald de Chatillon. He was a rather ruthless man. He used to throw Muslim prisoners off of the castle walls (into a deep valley below) with a wooden box fitted around their head, just to make sure they didn’t pass out before they hit the ground – the goal being that they stayed awake to feel all the pain associated with falling that great height. He frequently attacked Muslim pilgrimage caravans and slaughtered them. When Salah al-Din conquered the castle, he let the Christians go uninjured, except for Raynald, whom he personally beheaded. Ah, I love history!

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Step back another thousand years and you’re in the time of the Nabataeans. Petra is truly one of the great wonders of the world. When you approach Petra from the outside, you cannot see anything other than rocky hills. Then you wind your way through a narrow passageway at times only six feet wide that goes straight up hundreds of feet. You continue walking about 20 minutes like this until you reach the opening of the Siq, and you’re standing directly in front of beautiful sandstone like building carved directly into the wall. But there isn’t just one, there are over 800 carved tombs in the walls as the walls in the valley open up to the size of a football field. But soon you realize it isn’t just tombs, there was a thriving city here, complete with aqueducts, homes, and even a carved in amphitheater. We spent three days in Petra and did not see everything.

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Further north is the Roman town of Jerash. Because it was completely built by Romans, and it was abandoned and never built over, it is one of the best preserved Roman cities in the world. It even boasts the best preserved hippodrome in Asia. In fact, they even perform Roman military formations and a chariot race in the hippodrome with ex-Jordanian military men dressed in complete Roman costume. Unfortunately, it rained the one day we went to Jerash and they canceled the chariot races. Jerash was the first place I had ever seen Roman ruins, and if you know me, you know how much I love ancient Rome. It was a seminal event for me.

Jordan - Dead Sea

Separating the countries of Jordan and Israel are the Jordan river and the Dead Sea. At 1,400 feet below sea level, it is dubbed “the lowest place on earth.” In the picture above, the rocks are not covered in snow, or sand, rather they are covered in crystallized salt. The water has no where to go but up when it evaporates, making the Dead Sea one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. We jumped in and could not sink though we tried. You just bob like an apple. As I listened to the waves lap across the salt baked rocks, from the southern shore of the Dead Sea I looked to my right at the hills of Mt. Nebo, where Moses viewed the promised land but could not enter – and I looked to my left where the light dome of Jerusalem bounded upward behind the hills of the river valley and instantly everything felt so ancient and unending. Much like the country of Jordan.

#1 – Oman

OmanAsSifahPanKim

And my number one is….Oman! People that know Kim and I are probably not surprised. Oman is by far our favorite middle east country. In the 2 years that we were living in Kuwait we went to Oman 3 times (that’s 3 times more than any other middle east country). Oman has everything an outdoors lover would want including mountains, wadis, lagoons, soft sand beaches, rocky beaches, waterfalls, caves, coral reefs, sink holes, and real wildlife (a rarity in the middle east). It is a country just daring you for adventure.

The above panorama (click to enlarge) was taken at As Sifa beach about an hour from Muscat. You have to drive some astoundingly hilly roads but your reward is the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. Flawlessly white powder sand only a tiny village nearby. There is a major hotel that just opened up and the coolest restaurant serving the freshest seafood right on the beach. You can put your toes in the sand and watch and listen to the waves lap up on the beach. We camped right on the beach.

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You can camp virtually anywhere in the entire country. In our main trip to Oman we brought a tent and sleeping bags on the plane and then rented a car when we got there. We had a long 5 day weekend and I wish it was longer. We drove all around the mountain and gulf coastal region and just pulled over to set up camp whenever we were getting tired. We camped in Wadis, on beaches, on mountains, and even once under a tree next to a mosque where we were greeted in the morning by a rather loud call to prayer and a handful of overly friendly goats.

The above photo is not staged in any way – it is me just pointing my camera down at the beach sand in a town south east from Muscat called Sur. I couldn’t believe it, there was no sand! The entire beach was shells and coral. Unfortunately we did not have time on our trip, but right near Sur is a sea turtle sanctuary where you can go with a guide and watch baby turtles hatch out of their sand nest and crawl to the ocean.

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Throughout Oman are either original, remnants, or restored sand colored forts, castles, and towers. Some are Omani made, some are Portuguese made. The oldest ones dating back to the 1200s! There are over 500 in the whole country. The picture above is the giant fort in Nizwa. In the picture below you can see a tower near the center left on the mountain. They are a cool aspect of Omani culture and Sultan Qaboos (who I am fascinated with and you should read about him) has done a great job restoring and maintaining them.

Oman - Muttrah

The first time we visited Oman we went to a conference in Muscat for only a couple days. We immediately were enamored with the country. The people are so friendly. Oman does not have as much oil money as the other gulf coast countries and because of that the people seem to be more down to earth, middle class, and genuine. Oman is rich in culture and history. Even the clothing the men and women wear are colorful (unlike the black and white clothes of the other gulf countries). Trade with India over the centuries has created an infusion of outside influences.

We didn’t stay in Muscat, actually, we stayed in a smaller area that is attached to Muscat called Muttrah. The above photo is of the Muttrah corniche and we actually did a hike over the mountains you see in the background. Problem was I had just dislocated my knee the week before and had a straight leg cast on. But that didn’t stop Kim from pulling me up that hill to the reward of a breathtaking view over the ocean and Muttrah coast.

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Our favorite thing about Oman were the Wadis. A wadi is a dry canyon or riverbed. Except these wadis are almost never dry! The mountains in Oman create clouds and more frequent rain which fills these slot canyons with steams, pools, waterfalls, waterslides, and just plant life and animal life in general.

The above photo is from Wadi Shab. Starting from the Ocean where the water empties into, you step into this gigantic canyon with 90 degree angle sides. In order to get into the Wadi you have to either take a boat across the initial river of water or just wade across. Of course we waded across waist deep in the water. We were in our swimming suits anyway because at the end of the hike (after hours of pools, and canyons, and cliff climbing) you reach a few narrower pools that have an underground waterfall. The waterfall is in a cave and the only way to reach it is to swim underwater through a 5 foot wide tunnel about 20-25 feet and then come up for air once you’re inside the cave. It took a lot of coaxing but eventually I got Kim to do it. It was very cool.

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Our favorite wadi was Wadi Bani Khalid, but not the tourist side (although it is beautiful and also includes a long and deep waterless cave), the down stream side of Wadi Bani Khalid. It seemed virtually untouched and we only encountered one other group of people the whole hike. You follow the wadi which is quite dry initially until the canyon becomes much more rocky and narrow. Then out of no where the water starts flowing with huge pools and 30 foot waterfalls. We watched the other group actually jump from the top of one of the waterfalls into a pool below (Kim wouldn’t let me do it…). We went swimming and had a picnic near one of the waterfalls and about 5 lizards came out from under the rocks to meet us, eager to steal our food. I liked them but they kind of freaked Kim out.

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My last story about Oman is a bit embarrassing. Like I said, we drove around and camped the whole time we were there. We never had a problem finding a place to camp, especially along the ocean. However, one night when we were driving down from Jebel Shams (a beautiful mountain), we arrived to the village inside of Wadi Bani Khaled in the dark. We went to the Wadi pools on the tourist side and it was wall to wall people with noise and trash everywhere. This was because it was Eid al Adha and everyone was off work vacationing. We decided there was no way we were going to camp there tonight.

So we drove back into the village but the canyon walls around the city did not allow any open space for camping. We even drove back towards the highway and found a place near there that we thought might be ok, albeit noisy, but it was pitch dark and there was a human like shape laying under a tree two feet from where we wanted to camp. The paranoia got to Kim and “there is no way I’m sleeping here” she said. So we drove back into the village and looked around again. After a couple hours of this we found the Wadi Bani Khaled visitor center, which had a parking lot and we thought, whatever, lets just camp in the parking lot. A man came out and asked us what we were doing. We replied that we needed a place to camp. He told us, no problem, of course we could camp in the parking lot. So we went around what appeared to be an animal pen (with no animals) and set up camp for what was a somewhat restless night.

When we awoke, we were greeted with the most serene, awe inspiring and exquisite view. Because it was pitch black when we set up camp we did not realize that we were at the top of the valley overlooking a forest of palm trees encircled by imperial canyon walls. The sun was just peeking over the mountains and the moisture from the pools of water evaporating created this mist over the place that was ethereal and magical.

There truly is no bad place to camp in Oman.

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Ma’a Salama Habibti! Kuwait ‘Till We Meet Again.

Our apartment is empty. I don’t mean, “it’s really clean” empty. I mean, “the movers came today and there is literally nothing inside our apartment except a suitcase” empty. Our exodus from Kuwait is officially underway.

I am sitting on a bare mattress, sipping water out of a plastic cup, waiting for Sean to come home from school so we can go out for dinner. We fly back to Chicago tomorrow night, so this is our last leisurely evening in Kuwait.

The last exams were a week or so ago, and we’ve had this week for professional development and closing up our classrooms and apartments. Sean and I have used this week to make sure we accomplish a few things:

1. Leave our classrooms nice and pretty for the new staff members replacing us.
2. Ship 2 cubic meters of our life away in boxes… Which will meet us in Cambodia, inshallah.
3. Eat as much hummus and felafel as we can stomach.
4. Have as many board game nights as our friends can tolerate.
5. Say our “See you laters” to the lovely people we’ve worked with in Kuwait.
6. Get new pages in our passports.
7. Close our bank accounts.
8. Sell all the IKEA furniture we’ve acquired over the past two years.
9. Stare starry-eyed at pictures of Southeast Asia on Google.
10. Bug Sean to get a dog when we arrive in Cambodia. (Wait, that’s only on my to-do list…)
11. Visit the Old Souk one last time to sample dates, savor baklava, and smoke shisha.
12. Appreciate the Middle East for all that makes it the Middle East.

We’ve done pretty well the past week, aside from the raging desire to get home to see our families. We’ve had a lot of fun, and I’ve managed to take lots of pictures. This will be the last blog I write from our home in Medan Hawally, Kuwait. I hope you enjoy.

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The school has an annual farewell dinner for all the staff to get together one last time. It is really formal and incredibly delicious. This year it was held at the new Jumeirah Messila Beach Hotel.

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Did you know I had such fine looking friends? I will miss Abby and Sharon so much. Abby (on the left) will be returning to Kuwait next year, but Sharon (on the right) is moving to Mozambique! We are definitely planning on visiting her in the near future…

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Kyle and Sean are quite the refined gentlemen.

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After the dinner Abby, Eric and I couldn’t resist exploring the hotel. It only opened a few weeks prior, and we heard it was lavishly decorated. The elevators sure were… opulent… in a Willy Wonka kind of way.

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Going up…

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This was the strangest room we found. It was set up like a diwaniya, the men’s social room in Kuwaiti culture, but it looked like a giant fish tank. I half expected it to flood with water while we were walking through it!

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This was the women’s bathroom sign at the hotel. You’d never see this back in the States. Don’t you love the mystique?

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On another note, I snapped this photo while driving through downtown Kuwait City. It was a gorgeously sunny day and made the whole scene seem like we were somewhere else. Recently it’s been really dusty here in Kuwait, and when I say dusty I mean that the dust is so prevalent in the air that it actually grits your teeth!

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I have no shame. Abby and I ate Ethiopian again this week. I even got some injera to take home. I have a problem.

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For the first time in Kuwait, we ordered Ethiopian coffee. It was a staple whenever we ate out in Ethiopia, but we’d never ordered it at the restaurant. It is tradition to burn frankincense when coffee is served, which makes the whole ordeal incredibly cozy and relaxing. We sat there over an hour sipping coffee and playing cards.

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Another thing on my bucket list was to make it down to Fahaheel one more time. (Yes, say it out loud. You know you want to. And it really is just as awkward to say out loud as you are imagining right now.) On a particularly dusty day we boarded the bus and made the thirty-minute bus ride down to the other big city in Kuwait. Notice the face mask on the man boarding the bus… It was that dusty!

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Sharon and Abby being troopers on the bus.

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The restaurant we had lunch in had a killer view over the Gulf. The windows were disgustingly dirty, but I snapped the bird’s eye view pictures anyways.

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That’s Al Kout mall on the right, the main mall in Fahaheel.

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Now, I didn’t have rose-colored glasses on because it was my last weekend in Kuwait, but this serusly was the BEST Indian food I have ever had. In my life. Ever. What you are looking at is a “thali”, or Indian lunch platter. I am addicted to them, every where I go. However, most thalis only have six items or so, and normally are a thicker curry, a vegetable, a thinner soup, a sweet item, and some chutney. Always rice and bread. This thali was the “Friday Special” and was only $7.00. I had died and gone to heaven. Not to mention it was a vegetarian restaurant, so I could chow down without having to worry about any mystery meat…

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We made a few shopping stops, and while Abby was in the checkout line at Centerpoint, Sharon and I browsed their fashion catalogue. Who knew chastity belts were now the latest fashion trend?

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Sharon used to visit Fahaheel a lot, so she knew where to find the cool antique stores. This guy had the best souvenirs I’d ever found in Kuwait! (If you haven’t determined by now, Kuwait isn’t a country known for souvenirs… Or much of a tourism industry…)

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Sharon and Abby picking out some hidden gems.

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We then visited some of Sharon’s favorite vendors, the “Bling Bling Brothers”. Seriously. They gave me a key chain that said, “The Bling Bling Brothers, Faroz and Hatim” with their cell phone numbers at the bottom. Needless to say, they were great salesmen!

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Sharon needed to do some work with her apartment, so we stopped by the hardware store on our way home. Not your typical Home Depot…

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Just as we were leaving the city, we saw a father with the most adorable sons we’d seen. He happily let me take their picture, while the boys posed like the true warriors they totally thought they were. Their dad said they were dressed up for a wedding. Beautiful, huh?

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Abby’s cat, Asha.

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Well, we finished our weekend with a heated game of Trivial Pursuit. (Boys against girls. Always.)

I’ve never been good at good byes, so I won’t torture myself – or you – in trying to write one for my blog. Just know that alohakuwait is far from over! Alohakuwait will continue to bring you the most fabulous photos and stories from around the world, just like always. I wrestled with changing the name from alohakuwait, but it is so perfect I couldn’t bring myself to recreate my blog. I kind of like having the history of where we’ve lived follow us as we continue to blog around the world. And besides, “aloha” is fitting no matter where you go. : ) Hopefully I learn more Khmer in Cambodia than I did Arabic in Kuwait…

This summer I will blog about the 101 things to do in Kenosha, the best microbrews of the Midwest, and the gnarliest hikes in the Beartooth Mountains. Kuwait doesn’t get to have all the fun, you know.

It’s been real. Stay tuned to alohakuwait. I’ll see you soon.

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

Two Weeks In Kuwait Through My Eyes

Happy May everyone! And by May, I mean one way away from June. I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by. That sounds cliche, I know, but within this month, I am no longer a second-year teacher and Sean and I will have been married two years now. How mind-blowing is that! I feel like it was just a few months ago that I was walking down the grassy green alter on our wedding day, and when I was nervously preparing lesson plans for my “first day” of school.

What do you learn in two years? Would you consider me a different person? Sean is twenty-five and and I am twenty-four. Are we more mature than our college selves? I think we live a less spartan lifestyle, and we laugh when we say things like, “in this household”, realizing that we ARE a household, a family. The two of us.

Regardless, do I know where I’m going and what the next two years will hold? Absolutely not. And I hope I can never say that I do.

Anyways, this blog post is to catch you up on this month in Kuwait. May was a fun month of exploring, dining out, and celebrating the end of the school year. As of right now, we have next week of final exams, then school is over. Sean and I fly out of Kuwait June 9th for Chicago. That means I have to get as much Kuwait culture in as possible, and I’ve been pretty good at it.

IMG_5794Abby, Wyn and I went to the Ethiopian restaurant in Kuwait. Well, we’ve been going and will continue to go, once a week for the past month. I don’t know if you picked up on it, but Abby and I were absolutely obsessed with Ethiopian food! It is a vegetarian’s dream. Everyone had mentioned that there was an Ethiopian restaurant in Kuwait, and when we got back from Ethiopia I tracked it down the same week. Their food was fantastic, and they are so nice. It is a totally “feel good” place, with the Ethiopian colors painted on the walls, and the smell of spices, coffee, and frankensense in the air. Everyone in there was Ethiopian, and it felt like we were back in Addis Ababa.

IMG_5795This is my favorite dish, beyaynetu. It is a mix of vegetarian items that you eat with the fluffy sour bread, injera. No forks needed, you just scoop it up with the injera! The stuffed spicy pepper is my favorite.

If you live in Kuwait and are looking for this place, it’s called Al Habesha Ethiopian Restaurant.

Picture 1It’s in Hawally, near the Universal American School. I take the bus to get there, the #66, and get off at the mosque roundabout (in the upper right-hand corner of this map). Then I walk down Ibn Khaldoun street. Stay on the left side of the street, you’ll pass a McDonald’s, then a Sears, then a Subway (sounds like America, doesn’t it!?) which is part of a nicer looking mall called Zawya Complex.

Picture 2Here’s another, closer view. Notice that the restaurant is BEHIND the Zawya Complex (it has also been called Al Bassam Complex #3). When you get to the Subway, you need to wrap around the back of the building, and the restaurant is on the backside. There is actually a row of cool Ethiopian shops all in a row there! It’s now one of my favorite hidden gems of Kuwait.

IMG_5796Here we are waiting to board the bus home from Al Habesha.

Al Habesha delivers, too! Abby and I were really tired on Wednesday and had student-led conferences at 5:30, so we decided to have them deliver. Their delivery numbers are 6633 9296 or 6048 4303. I highly recommend it!

IMG_5785You can even buy their injera to go, so I ordered 10 pieces. (It’s only 1 KD for 10!) I learned how to make shiro (a chickpea flour and tomato puree), so now I order injera from Al Habesha and feast on my own shiro. Life is good! I will miss this when I leave Kuwait!

IMG_5932Since this post is a week through my eyes, I wanted to mention how much I love Zumba in Kuwait. It keeps me sane since there’s not a lot of outdoor recreation possibilities here. Sharon (on the left) has been my instructor for two years, and Nicole (on the left) just got her instructor’s license last summer, and teaches lessons from time to time. I love dancing with them! Sharon is leaving this year and moving to Mozambique, and Nicole is taking over instruction next year. She teaches at AIS, where the classes will be held. If you’re looking for great Zumba in Kuwait, I highly recommend dancing with these ladies!

IMG_5916I brought my camera to school one day, and wanted to snap a few photos before the year finishes and we head for home. This is a “hall way” near Sean’s classroom. Everything is open air, and has a really peaceful feeling. I’m going to miss it.

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Sean getting down to business in his classroom. He just screams fun humanities teacher, doesn’t he?

IMG_5919Sean’s classroom. He is such a great teacher. I love the visuals, the color, the student work. He inspires me.

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Time for another food adventure! Abby and I went to the Sri Lankan restaurant in Kuwait City. I love, love, LOVE Sri Lankan food, and ate at this place when my mom visited. It is really spicy, but a fun chance to mix it up when you get tired of hummus and flat bread.

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These are traditional Sri Lankan “snacks”, which you can eat on-the-go. When you sit down to eat in Sri Lanka, these are placed in heaping mounds on your table, and you eat your fill of whatever kinds you want, then you pay whatever you owe. They’re filled with all sorts of curries in the center. Curried hard boiled egg, curried potatoes, they’re delicious!IMG_5891

These are string hoppers in the back, and then I swear the front item is a shredded, seasoned coconut, but Abby disagreed. Post in the comments if you know what it is! Regardless, you eat it all with your fingers. Nom nom nom.

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I never understood why the restaurant was called the “Chandra Hotel”. But I like that they have a clear price list posted. I want to go back and try even more things.

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A meal is not complete with a spot of tea after wards. In all the countries I’ve been to in the Middle East, this is the typical way most people drink tea. They add cream (or condensed milk) to it, then you add sugar as you see fit. It’s delicious!

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A stormy afternoon in Kuwait. It’s not often that you see dark clouds in the sky, or swirling ones for that matter! Unfortunately they only provided a few sprinkles, not a torrential downpour like I dreamed.

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My last “adventure” of the past two weeks was when Sean and I took a trip to one of our favorite restaurants in Kuwait, Sabaidee Thai. It’s in Medan Hawally (or Salmiya?) and it’s a really well-priced Thai place with good food.

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Sean ordered sweet and sour chicken and I got shrimp panang curry. We had two sides of rice and two sodas for a total of 5 KD, which is really a great deal for good food and a nice atmosphere in Kuwait. We walk there, which makes for a very pleasant stroll. Sabaidee is actually marked on Google Maps, so look it up if you’re interested in visiting.

Well, there you have it. Two weeks in Kuwait. Do you think food is a central element to recreation here? I hope that changes when I move to Cambodia. As much as I consider myself a foodie, I want to develop hobbies that don’t involve visiting restaurants and taking pictures of food. On the flip side, when people talk to me about my blog, they say they love looking at all the cool restaurants I visit and foods I eat. I can’t wait to share the foods of Southeast Asia with you! The more people I tell about Cambodia, the more they gush about how much Sean and I will love it. We are toying with the idea of purchasing a car and, dare I say it in writing, a dog. It would be my dream to have a dog and a car, so as to travel around Cambodia for swimming in the waterfalls, canoeing, bicycling, weekend trips, island hopping (well, that would be without the car), all with a doggy. I want a dog so bad, it’s not even funny. However, it’s really difficult to have a traveling lifestyle when you’ve got a pet, so we have some decision to make in the near future. In Cambodia, the possibilities are endless!

I hope to post at least once more before we leave Kuwait. I will continue to carry my camera around with me. Post in the comments if there is a particular thing/activity/event/place/item you are interested in my blogging about, and I will make an effort to do so before we leave Kuwait!

Categories: Kuwait | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Kuwait Worker’s Luncheon & Ethiopia: The Final Post

 

It’s 2pm on a Saturday afternoon, and I have mixed feelings about this weekend. On one hand, I feel homesick. Logging onto Facebook, I saw multiple posts from friends that are traveling to college graduations this weekend. The thought instantly made me nostalgic for graduation parties, barbecues, family gatherings, smiles, and group photographs. I’ve got less than a month left here in Kuwait, which I’m growing really sad about, but at the same time I cannot wait to return to green backyards and family dinners.

On the other hand, I feel really positive about a few things in Kuwait. I started my day off with Zumba at 10am; my friends Sharon and Nicole have the best Zumba classes in all of Kuwait! I average about 4 days a week of Zumba, and it really keeps me positive and active. When it’s 102 degrees outside (like right now), I try to avoid the sedentary air-conditioned life style as much as possible. We Zumba in the dance room at the school, so it’s really accessible and fun.

After Zumba we volunteered at the annual Worker’s Luncheon.  As you know, it takes a lot of people to keep an institution like a school running. Teachers are only a small fraction of the people who create a positive learning environment for the students; from cleaning the bathrooms, to washing the tables, to replenishing the coveted tissue boxes, I never can thank the workers at our school enough. (Not to mention Linda, who brews coffee in the staff lounge every morning…) We so often take these things for granted, not saying thank you or not stopping to think about the time and effort these people put in. Every year our school hosts a luncheon for the workers of our school. We ordered Mughal Mahal – the best Indian food in Kuwait – and decorated the tables in the canteen. It was so fun to say thank you to the people who help keep our school such a safe, happy, and healthy place.

I have been trying to take pictures during the last month of our time here in Kuwait, but I need to finish up the Ethiopia trip with you first. This is the final post on Ethiopia, where we drove back to Addis Ababa and then explored the city.
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On the way back to Addis, we stopped at a very special community called Awra Amba. Awra Amba is a community of 400 people in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. They believe that all men and woman are equal, thus they share labor equally. Men may cook and sew while women tend the cattle. Every child goes to school, and adults who are unable to read or write begin taking literacy classes. They even have a “home” for the elderly people of the community to go and be cared for. They have no religion, which is very unique in Ethiopia. Instead of a church, they have a large library, overflowing with books. They believe that all religions want people to do good things, which is what they do. They do believe in God, but belief God manifests him/herself through the good works of humans. The founder of the community, Zumra Nuru received an honorary doctorate from Addis Ababa University for his beliefs and the work he has done.

Watch this video for a great glimpse of live in Awra Amba: http://www.awraamba.com/

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The beliefs of the people in Awra Amba, coined by Zurma Nuru.

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The weaving building where both men and woman weave beautiful clothing and blankets for sale and personal use.

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A man at the loom.

 

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After we left Awra Amba, we drove back to Addis. I snapped this photo out the window of the van. Just a typical village in Ethiopia : )

 

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As we drove through the Blue Nile Gorge, we spotted these monkeys! I had never seen this type of monkey before.

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Our hotel in Addis Ababa, “Arequ” guesthouse, was very cute. The breakfast was fantastic, and all the rooms were really rustic. It didn’t feel like anywhere else we had stayed in Ethiopia at all! It was very relaxing.
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That night, we went out to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant, called “Yod Abbysinia”. There was traditional music and dancing all night long. I didn’t want to leave!
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Kyle and Abby’s massive plate of Beyaynetu. All four of us could probably have split it!

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Lunch in a park in Addis Ababa.

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Our last meal of beyaynetu before we head to the airport!

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We stopped at Demiss’ favorite cafe, “Tomoko”, which specializes in Ethiopian coffee. We all had an espresso, and I bought a bunch of beans to bring home with me. It was the best coffee ever!

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Hanging out with Demiss in Tomoko. I loved the coffee!

 

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Look at all the old cars in Ethiopia!

 

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Our final evening before we boarded the plane back to Kuwait was spent at “Garden Brau”. As much as we love Ethiopian culture, we couldn’t resist indulging in a few pints of homemade German-style beer before flying back to a dry country. They made all of their beer on site, and it was delicious! We had a really great time sitting and talking with Demiss, and reflecting on the perfection of our trip.

 

All right, now that I’ve fully posted about Ethiopia, I must say that Africa is in my blood. I desperately want to return. I loved so many things about it, that I would be so happy to live there for a little while. Abby and I have already found the Ethiopian restaurant in Kuwait, and eaten there five or six times since we’ve been back! I strongly encourage you to take any opportunity you may have to visit Ethiopia, or Africa for that matter. It will change your life.

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

Kuwaitaminute! The Best Of The Country In One Week.

Happy April! I can barely believe we have only 8 weeks left here in Kuwait.

From a teacher’s perspective, spring break is over, and we only have a few more lessons to plan, papers to grade, and, sadly, smiling faces to greet. Why is teaching so fantastic, you ask? Because every year is a living organism. Unique in its own way, inevitably different from the last. There is a birth, growth, and renewal every nine months unlike any other profession.

From an expat’s perspective, there’s a lot I need to cram in before saying “Masalama” to this country for the last time. Luckily, my mother came to visit in March, and I had to chance to highlight the best of Kuwait over the course of one week. Together we ate at my favorite restaurants, saw my favorite sights, and laughed at my favorite enigmas. Please enjoy the photo journey as I give you, “The Best of Kuwait in One Week”.

IMG_4785My lovely mother in front of the Kuwait Towers. We unfortunately couldn’t go into the towers themselves because they were under construction (for how long? who knows…) so we relaxed outside for a while, taking in the distinct smell of Kuwait ocean air. We snapped a few photos and then walked to one of my favorite shisha/smoothie cafes on the Gulf, Fresh Mango.

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Another highlight of our trip was the new addition at The Avenues. They’ve added an entire “Souk” section that I had never seen before. We spent hours wandering the passageways, peering into “traditional” shops. In the above photo my mother is trying Arabic coffee for the first time. If I recall, she said she preferred American.

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The impressive new addition at The Avenues.

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It’s not a trip to Kuwait without visiting the Friday Market. My mom was a bit overwhelmed with the crowds and the size of it all, but we had fun looking at the strange knick-knacks.

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I couldn’t believe they were selling Sea Monkeys at the Friday Market! I haven’t seen these since I was a kid. I had to restrain myself from pulling out my wallet and buying one (or three).

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My mom pointed this out, otherwise I would have walked right by. We also had this when I was a kid; it’s a triops. We actually had this same kit, and “grew” the same triops. To be honest, it’s a bit disgusting in hindsight. If you currently live in Kuwait, these would make a great gift for the scientist in your family!

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As always, we had to stop and stare at the shiny things : )

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This is my favorite restaurant in Kuwait, Banana Leaf. I have blogged about it before, but here is a photo of my all-time favorite dish, the thali. It’s a traditional Indian lunch platter, with the most delicious assortment of vegetarian curries, sauces, and sautes. I can never get enough! (And it’s all for 1 KD!)

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Sean and my mother at the Old Souk (Souk Mubarikiya) in Kuwait City. We were just about to load up on some baklava.

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At the Old Souk, Sean tells a gripping narrative of Kuwaiti history.

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I finally found the Sri Lankan restaurant in Kuwait City! While I loved it, my mom was fanning flames out of her mouth. It’s right across from the McDonald’s/bus stop area. I can’t wait to go back!

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We also spent an afternoon at the Old Souk with some shisha and storytelling. This area is also a new addition to the Old Souk; I love the architecture.
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For the first time, I stumbled upon an actual garden within the Old Souk!

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Spending a relaxing afternoon at Souq Sharq.

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My mom would live very happily in the Middle East; she loves all things pickled and pureed!

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We had a great time gawking at the fish in the fish market. I never buy anything, and always wish I had the knowledge and gumption to do so…
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Business taking place at the Souq Sharq fish market.

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An evening stroll along the Gulf…

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Oh, my maritime husband…

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I liked this photo because it shows a nicely manicured street near the Parliament. Kuwait has its spots of beauty, you just have to hunt it down : )

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The Grand Mosque.

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One of my mom’s favorite restaurants was Zaatar W Zeit, at Marina Mall. She loves flatbread and spices!

IMG_4670Just another beautiful mosque in Salmiya.

There you have it, folks. Hopefully I have done Kuwait justice. I love this time of year, when the air is crisp and the sun is warm. We had a great time together, and I can’t wait to see my family back in Wisconsin in one 57 days…  not that I’m counting.

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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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“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!

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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!

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Open Wide, October! Otherwise Known As, The Month of Food Photography.

I find it hard to believe an entire month has gone by since my last post. Literally. So much has happened over the past four weeks that I don’t even know where to begin. I think that’s why I refuse to blog in any other organizational format than chronological. That way I don’t leave anything out!

It’s November 11th here in Kuwait, and I write to you from the comfortable cushions of my couch on a school day that was not-to-be. That’s right, we got a surprise day off! We were supposed to have school today—I woke up at 6 as usual, made coffee, packed our lunches, and was about to step out the door when I received a text saying, “In honor of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Kuwait constitution, school has been canceled.”  We knew of the event, of course, there were fireworks, parades, and festivals, but that was yesterday, over the weekend. I guess they just wanted to extend the festivities another day. Thus, today is the final day of a three-day weekend, then we teach three days, and then we have another three-day weekend. Next weekend is three days because of Islamic New Year. (We are off on another adventure next weekend, too. I can’t WAIT to share that one with you!)  It seems we have more days off than we teach over these two weeks… but hey, when we work, we work hard!

So, today, I spent the larger part of my morning in the Al Seef hospital. I have a swollen wrist that’s been giving me grief for around two years, and have never gotten it looked at. I think it’s from all those years of waitressing; the lifting heavy trays for hours at a time from ages 16-22 probably damaged the muscles. Either way, it was my first time to Al Seef, and it is a BEAUTIFUL hospital.  (Click here for Google Images.) The nicest I think I’ve seen. I was seen right away, received an x-ray, an ultrasound (on my wrist, guys, don’t panic), and made an appointment for an MRI tomorrow. What did it cost me? Only a few hours of my time. We are so well taken care of here at our school I can’t even begin to tell you how lucky we feel. I think my wrist will be fine, the doctors said it’s intramuscular stuff, but they’re not quite sure.  As long as I can flip a sauté pan, write on a chalkboard, pitch a tent, and give my husband a haircut, I’m not too worried about it : )

When I found I was able to move the appointment to this morning (after I found out we had the day off), I decided I would try to bike from our apartments to Al Seef. When I head out early in the morning (or before 5pm really), the traffic tends to be fine. And wow, I was right! It was an absolutely beautiful bike ride—I got to race down empty roads, let the sun warm my face, crank up the tunes on my iPod, round corners with grace, and coast to the hospital parking lot with fifteen minutes to spare. I spent the extra time walking along the coast admiring the blooming violets and rolling waves. It’s days like this where I am reminded to appreciate the little things here in Kuwait! I mean really, looking at the screenshot below, Kuwait can be the adventurous bikers’ dream, what with all the coastline to cruise!

All right, onto the pictures.

I grew mildly embarrassed when I looked over the photos for today’s blog. As I said earlier, I do everything chronological order. It helps me frame the topics for each blog post as well as keep me organized. Well, the twenty or so photos that were in the queue ended up being all pictures of… you guessed it… food. (Minus one or two of friends.) I need to make a resolution right now that I will take more photos of places, people, and things, and less of food. I mean, a majority of my audience DOES live in Wisconsin, so I assume the food pictures are all right with you guys ; )

To begin, it was our good friend Andrew’s birthday earlier in the month. We threw him a good old-fashioned birthday party, complete with cake, candles, and smiles. I baked him a cake, made him a homemade coconut frosting. (One of my girlfriends here has gotten me completely addicted to coconut oil. Ask me about it sometime!)

There were balloons, libations, and lots of people who like to have a good time. It was really special.

Speaking of special, this is our friend Shannon from Wisconsin! She accepted a position this year teaching at another school here in Kuwait. We couldn’t believe it when she told us she was coming to work here—it’s been a blast hanging out with her! She says she likes it so far, but one of my favorite lines I heard her say was, “I am learning to appreciate the simple things in life…” When the struggles of international living get you down, just turn to Shannon, the eternal optimist! : )

Remember how I said this was all about food? We were invited to a Canadian Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, and it was a real treat. Our friends Dave and Lacie hosted us. We brought lemon squares and others brought the Thanksgiving traditionals: stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, candied yams, you name it. Dave even rigged up his flatscreen to a looping Youtube video of a crackling fireplace!

Here’s Dave, being the ultimate host. What a great time!

My girlfriend Abby and I are addicted to this Indian restaurant in Kuwait City. Like, so addicted we’ve gone two weeks in a row and ordered the exact same thing each time. However… now that I think about it, I don’t think the “ordering the same thing each time” means we’re addicted, I just think it means I have NO idea what else to order off this menu! I mean, really, what would you order? Also, in case you can’t remember the exchange rate, this place is ridiculously well-priced. 1 KD is about $3.50, so most meals here will run you around $2.50 – $3.00. It is so good, I am about to get off the couch and head over there right now.

We may order the same thing each time, but let me tell you, it’s worth it! The only way I learned how order this was when I saw an Indian couple eating it one of the first times I visited. I simply pointed and asked the name and our server said “thali”. I later learned that “thali” simply means an indian meal made up of a selection of dishes. This is a traditional “lunch platter”, I guess. So now, that’s all I order, until I remember to Google some of the menu items beforehand to learn what they are! I can tell you, though, in the above picture, that the three different kinds of bread, papad, poori, and chapathi, are delicious. All I have learned are the names of the bread. I do know one of the dishes on the platter is a dahl, which basically means a lentil dish. MMMMmmmmMMMM!

After Abby and I had our Indian thali feast, we walked around the Souq for a bit. I am still trying to figure out what this “modern coke” stuff is… I was too nervous to buy some…

I can’t believe I haven’t shared this place with you yet. It’s known as “the Egyptian bread place” by my coworkers, and I think the real name is something like “Prince of Princes”. They specialize in, well, everything you SHOULDN’T eat. I mean, really. You’ll see. It’s naughty.

In the photo above, a man is crafting the holy “Egyptian bread”.  I don’t know why it’s called this, because it’s the least bread-y thing you can imagine. Sure there’s a crust, but it’s more like a gooey, cheesy, flaky wrapped pizza. You’ll see…

Abby ordered a large “bread” or “pizza” to go, (it’s totally not a pizza, but I don’t even know how else to describe it), and I asked the man if I could snap some photos. What I love about the above picture is how it shows the use of natural, whole foods. It’s not a precut, freeze-dried, shipped-in-from-Roundy’s operation. These guys go to the store, buy the eggs, buy the olives, buy the cheese, cut it up, and put it together. That’s why I feel good about eating out a lot here—if you eat what the locals eat, most items have under ten ingredients in the entire dish, and they’re all natural foods! (But that doesn’t excuse the pound of cheese that’s in one of the Egpytian bread thingys…)

But, like I said, this place is naughty. While you wait for your “Egyptian bread”, you walk around salivating like an idiot. I mean, when would you ever order dessert this opulent?! When you’re Kuwaiti, that’s when : ) They know how to dine in style! Me, I just walk around thinking to myself, “Ooooh, pretty colors!”

This stuff is really, really good, but only in small amounts. Most of it is made up of sugar, honey, rosewater, and pistachios. You can only eat so much until you feel like a sugar-coated pistachio yourself. A lot of it falls under the “baklava” category, but they’ve got all sorts of sweets you can order by the kilo.

But this stuff, I have never understood. I wonder if it’s what they eat instead of prepackaged chips? To me, it tastes a bit like dog treats. Seriously.  Some of it smells like feet, too. But maybe I just order the wrong kind.

Anyways, back to our Egyptian-bread-pizza-man. Here he is, putting the toppings onto the crust. Look at how HUGE the crust becomes! And look at all those delicious toppings. Then, he folds the dough over the toppings, pops it in the oven on the right, and…..

You’ve got heaven in a box. Since this place is so close to the school, these things make frequent staff meeting snacks.

Speaking of food, the kitties in Kuwait have to eat, too! Here is our friendly neighbor, Bob, feeding the local kittens outside our apartment. He is so compassionate!

Lastly, Sean and I took an evening all to ourselves and went out for dinner. (I know that sounds like it’s not a big deal, but it actually is. Because we travel so much on the long weekends, we spend most of our time in Kuwait relaxing around our apartment and recuperating from work and traveling. It’s a rough life.) So, I have been dying to try this place that Sean and I went to. It’s called “Free Time”, and it is a restaurant and shisha bar. If you look, you can see that the tables and benches in the above picture are all on a rocker. You can sway back and forth like you are on a porch swing while you eat your food and smoke your shisha!

I also loved the “au naturale” look they were going for, with the greenery covering up the air ducts. Classy.

Since we already had an early dinner, we decided to splurge and share a banana split. Shisha, rocking chairs, and ice cream. Life is good.

And life only continues to get better! There is so much to do, see, ponder, explore, and share with others in this vast world that I am so thankful I get the opportunity to do it all and share it with you. I hope you enjoyed this food extravaganza, and, no, Sean has not gained 100 pounds from all of this indulgence. But the question is… have I?
Stay tuned for our last-minute trip to Oman where we camped in the mountains, swam in the sea, and hiked up canyons! Then, a blog post on how Kuwait broke a world record! All this coming up throughout November and December! Stay warm, wherever you are!

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

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