Posts Tagged With: Salmiya

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.

IMG_6032
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.

IMG_6034
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…

IMG_6035
Kyle and Sean are quite the refined gentlemen.

IMG_6042
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.

IMG_6043
Going up…

IMG_6044
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!

IMG_6047
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?

IMG_6048
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!

IMG_6059
I have no shame. Abby and I ate Ethiopian again this week. I even got some injera to take home. I have a problem.

IMG_6065
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.

IMG_6067
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!

IMG_6072
Sharon and Abby being troopers on the bus.

IMG_6074
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.

IMG_6075
That’s Al Kout mall on the right, the main mall in Fahaheel.

IMG_6076
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…

IMG_6079
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?

IMG_6082
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…)

IMG_6084
Sharon and Abby picking out some hidden gems.

IMG_6088
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!

IMG_6089
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…

IMG_6091
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?

IMG_6093
Abby’s cat, Asha.

IMG_6095

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.

Advertisements
Categories: 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.

IMG_4777

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.

IMG_4773 IMG_4770

The impressive new addition at The Avenues.

IMG_4769

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.

IMG_4768

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).

IMG_4766

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!

IMG_4765

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

IMG_4762

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!)

IMG_4754

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

IMG_4743

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

IMG_4727

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!

IMG_4726_2

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.
IMG_4724

For the first time, I stumbled upon an actual garden within the Old Souk!

IMG_4710

Spending a relaxing afternoon at Souq Sharq.

IMG_4708

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

IMG_4705

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…
IMG_4704

Business taking place at the Souq Sharq fish market.

IMG_4702

An evening stroll along the Gulf…

IMG_4697_2

Oh, my maritime husband…

IMG_4693

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 : )

IMG_4692

The Grand Mosque.

IMG_4691

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.

Categories: Kuwait | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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…

IMG_4498

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.

IMG_4500

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.

IMG_4503

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

IMG_4507

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.

IMG_4514

You can see the Kuwait Science Center in the background.

IMG_4515

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.

IMG_4521

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

IMG_4522

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

IMG_4525

Dr. Who fans: Sean found the Tardus!

IMG_4526

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….

IMG_4528

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!

IMG_4529

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.


IMG_4549

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!


IMG_4550

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.

IMG_4587

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!

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_4415

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 : )

IMG_4416

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.

IMG_4417

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.


IMG_4419

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.


IMG_4420

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.

IMG_4426

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.

IMG_4427

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.

IMG_4430

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.

IMG_4440

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!

IMG_4453

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!


IMG_4459

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.

IMG_4460

Grimace even made a guest appearance!


IMG_4462

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.)

IMG_4464

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.

IMG_4469

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

IMG_4472

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…)

IMG_4477

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


IMG_4478

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

IMG_4484

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

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

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

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

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

Fast Food & Sand Lots

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

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

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

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

Anyways, on our walk to the bus stop…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March: In Which I repair my bicycle, see a saloon for children, and Andrew dons a tablecloth or three.

It is now the beginning of March, and I have become disappointed with my lack of touristy-Kuwait-photographs. It seems that I haven’t been taking pictures of things that amaze and amuse as I did when I first arrived in Kuwait. I have been storing my camera only for traveling outside of the country. Upon realizing this, I vowed to spend a week snapping photos of the strange, the silly, and the sunshine of Kuwait. After all, I still don’t think I have convinced *all* of you that you could live a pretty posh life here, too 😉

Below are yet another series of photos that portray my daily events in Kuwait. Keep your eyes peeled, there are a couple gems!

Last weekend my friend Sharon and I walked to a nearby Thai restaurant. On our way back, we stumbled upon the “Saloon Elite 4 Kids”. That’s right. Saloon. In Kuwait. For Kids. It’s actually not a typo—what we call a “salon” in English is written as “saloon” everywhere you go in arab-speaking countries. They know the place where you go to get your hair cut as a “saloon”. It makes it seem a little Wild West-esque… or a little predatory in the case of a “Saloon Elite 4 Kids”.

I don’t think I have explained what a “bakala” is to you yet. A balaka is where all good things can be found for cheap. It is like a 7/11 run by your favorite relative. They’re small shops on every street corner, selling everything from dish soap, salt and pepper, fresh fruits and vegetables, to hairspray and baby diapers. (Not to mention blow-up animals and soccer balls, as you can see in this picture.) Nothing has a price tag, it’s all determined by the old man sitting behind the counter watching television. They are all so friendly, and they even cater to you once they know your “usual” needs : )

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but when my dad and sister were visiting Kuwait, my bicycle broke when my dad took it for a test drive. (He swears it was already broken…) I finally took it to the repair shop this past weekend, where they fixed it right up for a mere 4 KD! That’s less than $15. It needed a new pedal and crank. I love the repair shop; again it’s run by an old man who just hangs out talking shop with his friends and rummaging through old parts. Imagine their amusement when a young white foreigner walks up with a broken bicycle! I never know who is more amused in Kuwait: me or the people I interact with. What a joy it is to be alive!

After getting my bicycle fixed I decided to head over to a place some teachers recommended I visit, “King’s Coffee”. They sell coffee by the kilo, and grind it fresh there for you. I bought a quarter kilo for 1.5 KD (around $5.50), and the man ground it there for me. I sipped a complimentary espresso while he prepared my beans. Upon getting home, I have to say that it is the best coffee I’ve bought in Kuwait! It is so much fresher than the Maxwell House I buy at the grocery store. You can really find anything in Kuwait, it just takes a bit of time to hunt for it. (That should really be the title of this post, “Kuwait – The Great Scavenger Hunt!”)

While riding my newly-repaired bicycle home from Salmiya, I found some interesting art outside of a floral shop. The sign in the background (the one in English) says “Kuwait Flowers”.

This is embarrassingly enough the view from our front window. The parking lot for our apartment has been plagued by this eyesore ever since we moved in. It was actually covered up completely last week, but then for SOME reason they dug it up again! Imagine not watching where you were going and stepping through the caution tape…

We went into the downtown area one night with our friends, Megan and Andrew. We went to the Old Souq. Sean liked this building, although I don’t know what the ’51’ symbolizes.

*Update: A friend of mine recently told me, “the “51” was for this being the 51st year of independence from G.B. I’ve seen lots of pictures from last year reading “20-50″ which was their big celebration year of 50 years as a sovereign nation as well as 20 years after kicking out the Iraqis.”

I post this picture purely for my sister and father. This is the place in the Old Souq where Emily kept finding bags with bird poop on them. The shopkeeper has hung up a curtain above his bags now so that the birds can’t poop on them! It was the most hilarious thing; Emily SWORE she needed a particular purse, which had bird poop on the side. I was determined to haggle the guy for 1 KD seeing as it was filthy. He would swear, “No! No! 3 KD only!” and throw the bag in the back of the shop, only to grab ANOTHER purse from the rack that ALSO had bird poop on it! We went through four or five purses and he would NOT lower his price. We were laughing so hard by this point that the purchase became irrelevant. Needless to say, he doesn’t have to worry about haggling over bird droppings any longer!

In the Old Souq. Look at the ceiling behind Sean… don’t you love their national pride?

Spices, spices, spices. I bought a half kilo of died sage for 500 fills!

We love this man, we call him the “Iranian Carpet Guy”, seeing as he is Iranian and he sells carpets. He sells the best tapestries, souvenirs, and gifts in all of the Old Souq.

Megan and Andrew were having quite the discussion as to which tablecloths to purchase. I think Andrew was trying to make the decision by osmosis…

And THEN we got a package in the mail from our lovely family in Washington state, Amanda and Aiden! (Sean is Aiden’s uncle, and Amanda is his cousin.)

My absolute favorite thing about this package is the custom’s form. How could you POSSIBLY deny a parcel that claims it contains a “paper heart” on the inside?

We love Aiden’s art – I have quite a collection proudly displayed over all of our apartment!

Which reminds me, I hope that Amanda and Aiden (and the rest of our family in Washington) received the card we sent you guys in the mail? Please let us know if you haven’t yet. We were impressed that this package from Amanda and Aiden only took about 5 weeks to get here! Kuwait has been impressing me with their postal service recently!

We love you and miss you all. I hope that the weather in North America begins to warm up and the sun starts to shine. Here it is a lovely seventy degrees and sunny during the day time. The only thing negative about March in Kuwait is that Sean can’t watch March Madness… but that’s a blog for another day.

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.