Sunday, October 16, 2016

When a friend commits suicide

Note: This is my personal perspective about the suicide of a friend.  I hope that I have written it respectfully and truthfully.  It is as it happened.  I mean no dishonor to her memory or to her family.  Maybe it will help someone understand bipolar disorder better (?).

My former flat mate (that's Bridish for roommate) died this past week on the 11th of October, 2016.   I referred to her as "Dorothy" in some of my previous posts after Dorothy Zbornak of the Golden Girls.  If you follow my blog, you will  know, I don't use real names in my blog and I'm not here either.   Dorothy, the Romanian, and I were all sharing The Romanian's small apartment for a while after I got kicked out of my former place in Rumaithiya.

We referred to ourselves as, "The Golden Girls."  It was fun living together for a while, even though Dorothy and I were under extreme circumstances, the comraderie made it ironic and funny.  We were forced to sleep in the same bed in the small apartment.  Every night, I would draw the imaginary line on the bed that she was not allowed to cross (sometimes, we would find her huddled on the edge of the bed in fear of repercussion). We all giggled about it like teenaged girls going to sleep after a slumber party.  We arranged our suitcases under the bed like in a dorm room and shared the one bathroom.  But we all got along and we all slept well at night.

Dorothy was essentially homeless (although she didn't leave much of a "home" - sleeping with no bed on the floor with a blanket and not much else).  It was "company accommodation" - not much more than an empty apartment in the same building where her she worked for her former employer, a law firm.  When their business relationship ended (she wasn't getting paid and working 18 hour days, eating a roasted chicken every few days), The Romanian and I took her in.  I eventually found my apartment and she moved in with me (with only 2 suitcases and the stray cat that I had found and she took in).

Dorothy had a history of bipolar disorder episodes.  I didn't know until she had moved in with me that she had tried to commit suicide only 4 or 5 months before I met her.  D had a life of secrets as The Romanian and I quickly discovered.  Neither of us are the kind to judge or ask too many questions.  She wasn't willing to tell all; instead, she gave out few secrets and to other friends a few more secrets. It is only now, after her death, that I am starting to  piece together the puzzle that was her life.

D was kind to everyone.  Went out of her way to help others, even if she often couldn't fulfill her promises.  Her work as a paralegal through a series of several law firms allowed her to help both friends and strangers (me included) with our legal cases (which is how I first met Dorothy). Unfortunately, follow-through wasn't always her strong point. Neither was remembering agreements that had been made verbally. Or the fact that oops - that lawyer wasn't actually a lawyer, but a law student and therefore she couldn't possibly follow my case.  Que sera -  my bad for not doing my own research or doing things correctly.

She told me that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that she got into black moods where she felt like she just couldn't get out.  At one point, she told me about her failed suicide attempt by slitting her wrists (her best friend found her).  I thought (mistakenly) that since so many things had changed in her life for the better, this was a closed chapter in her life.

I didn't know very much at all about someone with bipolar disorder.  I knew it involved mood swings, but in the months before she moved in with me, I never saw any of it.  I saw a little bit of what could be termed "irrational behavior" but nothing significant enough to cause alarm.  Things like Dorothy not wanting to be confrontational and to avoid contact (and sometimes you just need to face up to it) or clinging irrationally to boyfriends who had done her wrong. Things that can be overlooked.  Other things bothered me:  Everything official had to be in my name because she didn't have any form of ID; no passport, no Kuwait civil ID card, no drivers license. Nothing.  I worried that the police would pick her up and deport her.  I nagged her constantly about getting a new passport and couldn't understand her constant excuses and delays. (Only after her death did I learn why.)

Dorothy was always laughing.  She had a great, hearty laugh and a funny sense of humor. She was great at giving others advice (even when her own life may have been falling apart).  Friends could talk to her for hours.  She seem strong and confident and someone who you could easily confide in.

At home, she lived in her pink bunny onesie and when she wasn't wearing that - it was PJs and her piggy slippers (I saw them in her apartment) that she adored.  She drank tea and smoked cigarettes and when she was around at home - was either watching rugby, Briddish serials on her iPad, or on her phone.  I see her still running around the apartment like this.  (And I know in my heart that she wouldn't mind me posting this photo as these were the things she loved.)

When we moved into a larger apartment, she would go into her room for days and lock the door, close the shades and turn off her phone.  She wouldn't come out for anything - not food, or even (as far as I could tell) to use the bathroom.  This would come after seemingly normal days at work (we worked in the same building and she didn't own a car, so I would take her to work and we would discuss our days).  I was really concerned several times because she was drinking pretty heavily; even kept alcohol in her bedroom.  I just chalked the alcohol up to being British/Welch. :)  But as it became more frequent, I started questioning if she was ok - or if she really liked me at all as she seemed to be ignoring me by doing that.  After days of this, she would emerge like nothing ever happened.  But it started freaking me out.

D and The Romanian started to go to parties together and not tell me.  Leading me to believe that maybe D really didn't like me after all.  After she dissed me on my birthday, I asked her to move out.  She took it much better than I would have expected.  In a happy voice, she said, "Oh that's ok.  I wanted to tell you anyways:  I'm moving in with my boyfriend.  We need the extra privacy anyways, so it all works out."  10 days on, I hadn't seen much of her because she was back hybernating in her bedroom.  (She must really hate me.)  I sent her an e-mail, pouring my heart out and saying that I'm just not used to living with anyone and my idiosycracies shouldn't make her uncomfortable in the place where she lived.  No response.  (She really must not like me.)  She moved out with nothing more than a note to say goodbye.

I attempted to reach out to her for the following month-plus.  She had lied about moving in with the boyfriend.  She went to stay with The Romanian for a while until she found a furnished apartment close to one of her best friends.  I went to The Romanian's and had coffee and Dorothy acted like nothing had happened.  Same when I went to see her at work.  It wasn't until I went to follow up on my legal case (former landlord case that has been dragging on), that I was informed by the firm that my agreement with Dorothy was not consistent with their understanding; that I would have to pay 1,500 KD to continue the case.  As you can imagine, it was a little disappointing.  That was the last I heard from her (late May, or June time frame).

She continued to be friends with The Romanian and everyone else.  She was close to the lawyers she worked with and Dorothy had a good social life.   I backed away and did my own thing.

If you saw D, you would thing, "Wow. This is a professional woman who really has it all together."  Always wearing business suits.  Worked for a prestigious law firm.  Always looked impeccable.  Spoke professionally and very well mannered.  Always laughing and the hit of the party.  Always made everyone - regardless of their social status - feel comfortable.

Appearances can be deceiving.  Never judge.

I received several calls from the lawyers at her firm around 11pm on the 11th of October.  I didn't answer.  I thought it might be something regarding my case.  Then, I thought better and called back.  Dorothy hadn't called into work for several days and was behaving strangely.  She posted strange messages on social media (although she was Muslim, she posted the shuhada, confirming that she was Muslim) and sent messages to several friends early in the morning saying, "I love you.  Please forgive me.  I'm sorry."  The 3 young female lawyer friends and the receptionist at her law firm got worried and went to her apartment to check on her.  They found her body, hanged.  D had taken the time to write a note (in a dying declaration, blaming her boyfriend and also including words for her family) and to send out the messages just prior to her death.  She chose a time and a method to ensure that she would not be found and revived (this time).  It had to have taken planning.

I wasn't shocked.  I go into "emergency-deal-with-it"  mode and then I break down later.  I guess I knew in the back of my mind that she would try it again.  I didn't want to believe it because she was such a happy-go-lucky person in so many ways.

I know Dorothy's boyfriend, He is a sensitive, quiet man.  I don't know the intracacies of their relationship (you never know what happens between a man and woman), but my gut instinct was that he would be grieving.  I called him and sent messages as soon as I heard, but with no response.

In Kuwait, suicide is considered a crime.  It doesn't happen here very often; when it does, it is usually a domestic worker in a horrible situation, but hardly ever a Westerner.  If there is a "dying declaration" in a note, blaming someone the victim feels is responsible, that person will be treated like a criminal.  In this case, M, was shown the crime scene photos (I feel as either a form of punishment or to see his reaction) and was questioned for several hours.  It was blaringly obvious from the types of medications D was taking and from the scars on her arms (and probably medical history the authorities had obtained by that time) that the only blame was on poor mental health.  M was inconsolable.  The police didn't tell him about the note blaming him, however, some of D's friends have been sending him messages, blaming him.  Perhaps he wasn't the greatest boyfriend in the whole world, but he's not to blame for her death.

The same question I've heard from many of her friends, spoken over and over again, "Why? Why? Why? Why?"  or "Could I have done anything differently?  Maybe I could have helped her."  Nothing could be done.  No one could save her. If someone is at such a low point where they feel they should take their own life, unless you are standing there and can physically take a weapon out of their hands or resuscitate them somehow, you can't save them.  And even if you do that once, they will find a way to try again.  They need PROFESSIONAL mental healthcare help.

Since this tragedy, all of us are now learning more about bipolar disorder.  In hindsight, I can see some of the signs.  Staying in her room for days was her inability to deal with stress.  And although she was helping people, I'm sure that working at a law firm was probably stressful and detailed.  She grinded her teeth very loudly at night.  Probably another sign of stress.  Alcohol, smoking, risky behavior - all signs.  (But - nothing every crossed the line with me or seemed too terribly abnormal.)

I have had crying bouts on and off.  The most difficult thing I've had to do was to pick up her cat at her apartment where she died.  I gave Louie to D.  I couldn't just leave him.   I was shaking as I entered the apartment, but still clinging to composure.  When the cat started wailing and looking around for her, pleadingly; that's when I lost it. The cat carrier was misplaced, so I had to hold him close to me.  He had never scratched me in his life, but I am now left with scars in several places. He fought not to leave her home.  And it broke my heart.  Louie is doing better now.  He's back with Mikey who he grew up with (and fought with like brothers).  Louie is a great guy and now I'm wondering if I will keep him permanently or not.  It is a moral question.  Why wouldn't I keep him?  I would have to give him up when I move back to the States.  My whole family is allergic to cats (including me, but for some reason, I've never been allergic to Louie and that is very strange).  I am worried that he will be bounced around to too many homes also.  He's been a witness to his mom's death. He's been traumatized.  I could feel it - even when I got him home.  I think he needs time in familiar surroundings to get okay again.  Maybe I'm over-thinking it - I don't know.

Dorothy left behind 4 children that she talked about constantly.  They are all living in the UK.  I can't begin to imagine what they are feeling.  She loved them all dearly and also talked about her sister in Saudi Arabia.  I am now getting to know some of her friends from other periods in her life and they are all kind and decent people.  It is all indicative of her kindness of heart.

Dorothy's story has been all over the newspapers and social media.  Not because any of her friends spoke to the press about it; but because crime reports are made to the media by local police.  Some of my friends (not mutual friends) start with, "Oh... I didn't know she was the one you were talking about..."

This is the third suicide in my life I have dealt with.  (Well, officially, Shamlan's murder was declared a suicide, but it was still murder.  And I didn't know until years later that it was murder, so to me, it was suicide.)  2 months after I learned that Shamlan had "committed suicide", a friend who had asked me to marry him, Hilal, (officially) committed suicide by jumping off an overpass.  He had come to me, days before, crying and I couldn't comfort him.

So, I had a good understanding of how to cope. The stages of grief for me were:  1,  Questioning why.  2.  Assigning blame  3. Waves and waves of grief that continue to this day.  So, I get it that some people are blaming.  I have been asked by several people recently (and I am sure that I will be asked more):  "If you were her friend, why didn't you do something to help her?"  You can only do what you can.  I offered many times to drive her to a mental health hospital for counselling.  All refused. All fell on deaf ears.  All were brushed under the carpet like there wasn't a problem.  And the next day, she would be back in her business suit, meeting with a client, smiling and laughing.

I don't wish this on anyone.  It isn't easy.  Like everything else, you just try to get through it and go on.

Monday, October 10, 2016

KBR-Triple Canopy Wins KBOSSS 2.0

This is a little late, but I wanted to go back and check the dates on my non-disclosure agreements and also see what would come out as public....  Some of us started working on this in 2014, so it has been a long time coming.

KBR-Triple Canopy LLC, Houston, Texas, was awarded a $117,842,334 fixed-price incentive contract for base operations and security support services supporting the Area Support Group Kuwait. Bids were solicited on the Internet with five received. Work will be performed in Kuwait, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 29, 2017. Fiscal 2016 operations and maintenance (Army) funds in the amount of $ 117, 842,334 were obligated at the time of the award. Army Contracting Command, Rock Island, Illinois, is the contracting activity (W52P1J-16-C-0070).


According to the Department of Defense (DoD), the contractor was awarded a $117,842,334 contract for base operations and security support services supporting the Area Support Group Kuwait.
Work will be performed in Kuwait, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 29, 2017. Kuwait Base Operations and Security Support Services 2.0 contract’s first year includes a four-month phase-in period that starts Sept. 30, 2016 with an eight-month base term between January 30, 2017 and Sept. 29, 2017.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fire Tornado

(I wrote his as a draft before my "Epiphany" post.  Decided to post it now.

I guess fire tornado is descriptive of my current circumstances because it sucks up all the air around it and destroys stuff in its path and eventually burns itself out.

I haven't talked to anyone about this. Well, that's not true.  2 people know.  But it has been going on since April.  I didn't want to make a formal announcement for fear of jinxing myself (which I do on the regular).

I went to see my family in the summer and didn't tell them about it.  I'm pretty sure everyone knew something was going on with me.  I was constantly on the phone and running up to my room to talk in private.   I got a few questions; the hardest-hitting was from my nephew, "Who's the guy?"  Standard response:  'The only guy I have is furry and has 4 legs.'

There is a guy and there has been a fire tornado.

I didn't think that I could love someone that much again.  Honestly.  After all the shit that I've been through in the past few years, I was determined to stay alone and out of harm's way.  (That even includes friendships.)  Then for some unknown reason (F you, Cupid!) I was in the middle of it again.  I was back to being in that teenage love where you spend hours on the phone together, and any little thing out of his mouth would make me giggle, and my heart was all a flutter.

I would wake up to the sound of his voice on the phone.  We would call and message each other constantly through the day.  And I would hear his voice the last thing before going to sleep every night.  It went on like that for months.

I don't trust easily, but my whatever that primeval girl-gut instinct is told me that everything is ok.  He's WITH you.  And that's it.  You know when people say, "I just knew he was the one."  That kind of thing.    I could be myself with him.  I trusted and I tested him at every given opportunity just to make sure.

Monday, September 26, 2016


I have been quiet about relationships for a while now.  I've been dating a lovely man for the past 6 months.  I will call him, "Wazza" because he's always calling me, "Butta" which can translate to "duck" or "chubby" depending.  I think he's using both terms.

I didn't want to jinx myself by saying anything - even to my family.  It had been going so well.  Every morning he would call me just as he woke up and he would call the last thing before he went to sleep. During the day, we texted each other constantly and he picked up the phone on the first or second ring every time - no matter where he was or who he was with.  He EARNED my trust.  And this even went on while I was in the States on vacation.

Everything was going great.  Until he stopped calling and stopped texting. I blamed him.  I really did.  We were discussing something and we had a little minor (I though) argument. He said that I had made several mistakes lately and he would talk to me about it, but after I had calmed down a little.  Well, I did something stupid and turned my phone off.  He called only once the next day and I was still angry with him.  He stopped calling.  Then I blocked him so I don't know if he called back or not.  Then I unblocked him (so effing childish - I know!!!)  Ok so if you unblock someone within 24 hours its still ok, right?

 This isn't the first time.  Everything seems to be going well and then BAM - something seemingly small and it's over and its like the guy never wants to talk to me again.

So I do what every "rational" Western woman does - just brush it off as an "Arab man thing" and move on.

After ten days now of crying bouts and depression over my Wazza (which translates to "goose" in Arabic, by the way),  I started praying for an answer. I have only confided in 2 close friends and they are bewildered.  Both blamed him.  So did I - until this morning.

I asked and I was answered.  You know that place in-between asleep and awake when you are most open to discussion with all things in the spirit world?  That's when I got it.

Have you ever seen, "The Christmas Carole?"  Well, a man thinks he's in the right about everything (obviously he's not because he's mean and he's a cheapskate, but I'm not comparing him to me zacteley).  He's visited by 3 ghosts:  Past, present, and future, who show him what he has done wrong, what he is doing wrong, and what could happen in the future.  It was kind of like that, but instead, I saw a timeline of my life and my serious relationships.  All were serious enough for the men to be considering marriage.

I saw it from their perspective, not mine.

Ya know when people say that if something happens repeatedly, the problem is probably with you?  I didn't see my problem.  Last night, I was SHOWN my problem.  I have hurt people.  And I haven't listened to the warnings they have given me along the way.

I started thinking of other men I've crushed.  There have been a few and I owe them an apology also.

I sabotage my relationships with men.  I get insecure, angry, impatient and eventually most people will want to move on from that.  It is terribly negative.  After they move on, I get horrible depression that gets worse every time (like now - I'm really in a bad way).  Then I blame the guy.

Wazza isn't returning my texts or phone calls.  But, I sent him messages apologizing.  I know it isn't going to win him over, but I had to do it.  I know I hurt him.  I feel terrible today (worse than any day in the past 10 days).

Why do I do this?  Fear of rejection:  I get in the first strike.

I know dogs, so I'll put it in a dog-analogy:  what happens to me is like separation anxiety.  When an owner leaves the house and the dog gets nuts and eats all the furniture and tears up the walls and things.  When the owner comes home, the dog is calm again and all happy and tail wagging, until the next time he/she leaves.  Are they ever coming back?  What will I do?  What will happen?

(I'm not using this as a crutch, but I think it may be part of the reason why my relationships with men go like this):  When I was 3, my parents got divorced. (My mom told me the story because she said she will never forget it.) My dad came to say goodbye and he was crying and I was crying and screaming, "Daddy don't go." My first relationship was pretty much the same - the guy left.  And then after that.  I was young and so were the guys, so that's what happens, but maybe I twisted it so I wouldn't get hurt:  Now I push before they go away.  That's the way I see it anyways.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm trying to analyze myself to see how maybe they can fix me.

My first call was to a therapist this morning.  Soor Center - return calls! OMG.  I want to get help with this.

Work relationships are no issue. I'm tough and no separation anxiety there!   This is just something in my personal life that I haven't dealt with.  Maybe my personal life would have turned out a lot differently than it has if I was more aware of this before.

Thank you, God, for giving me gifts.  This insight/vision/dream (whatever you want to call it) was a blessing.  And a wake-up call.


September 28 Update

Some of you have commented that yes I might have treated him bad, but he could have tried harder.  I'm in agreement there.  He just walked away and after many messages from me, he is still choosing (a choice) to ignore me.  I question myself, but then I do question him too.  If he loved me enough, he would be here.  I wouldn't let anyone suffer, but not someone I love for sure.

So to get a reality check, I called Bunny (my man-advisor) and told him about my self-revelation.  I also apologized because I said that I wasn't a very nice person while we were together.  His response:  laughter.  "Honey, all women are like that.  A man should know how to deal with it."  Oh.  Hello.  I wasn't expecting that.  Totally different perspective.  So I was neurotic with him.  I know I had difficult moments with him.  I remember what happened next:  bouquets of flowers sent to my office.  Yeah, that's right.  Dude sent ME flowers for my shit.  Huh.  And through it all - we are best friends.  Thank you for reminding me of all that, Buns.  We talk about everything - everything.  I mean - everything.  I can tell him the raunchiest dirty joke and he hits me back with one equally as raunchy.  I think the man in your life should be your best friend and have the ability to "get over it".

Ok, but still - I know I need to deal with my problem too.

My friend who knows me well sent me the below encouraging remarks and it is so true and close to how I feel that I thought I would post it below.  She's been through similar issues. Trust issues.  I've used the word, "paralyzed" many times to explain to myself how I'm feeling.  I do get out of bed. I do my hair and wear my best-butt-hugging skirt.  I do all my work stuff (even harder and more professionally - I'm also sick with the flu and on a shitload of drugs that seem to be helping my productivity), but I'm just stiff.  I find myself staring out into nothingness as soon as I get home and everything hurts.  My dog throws the ball (at my head) and I don't notice until he starts whining for me to snap out of it.  It bad.

No word from Wazza.   I've tried repeatedly to apologize.  Its like grieving for a dead person without the death.  You wonder where they are and what they're doing. His toothbrush is still in the bathroom.  His hair brush sits where he left it.  The cologne I gave him is on the counter.  There are reminders everywhere.  Driving down the street.  Sitting in my living room.  Passing places where we used to go.  Popcorn.  Horror movies.  Machboos.  The list is frickin endless.  I hate it.

Anyways, here is my friends comment and it is how I feel.

"I hate that (Wazza) did this to you. It leaves an awful feeling of abandonment that you have zero control over. I know it all too well. You feel helpless, hopeless, and at a complete loss. I get it. Sometimes the feeling of helplessness would leave me feeling almost paralyzed. As if getting out of the bed was too much effort. I believe it hurts even worse when they've infiltrated our lives on every level -- so everything you look at, hear, smell, eat, or do reminds you of 'him'. Yet they've managed to keep their life rather isolated. They go home to a bed you've never been in, live in a house you didn't spend endless days and nights at, hang out with people you may have never met, go to places you might not have been, etc. So not only can they just walk away but they walk away without reminders. Even more shitty.

Best news ever; you WILL heal. Get out of bed, do your hair and makeup, go get a cup of coffee or take Mikey for a walk. Or, go to the grocery store and buy something totally indulgent (DG note to self:  STOP charging on credit cards!!!), make your favorite meal (DG note:  I can't eat.  Sandwich a day - tops), and hang out at home watching reruns of Sex and the City :) "

I can't tell you how much comments like this mean to me.  And you know how much I love you, girl.  You've been a rock more times than I can count; anchoring me from afar.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Conference to announce results of national survey on violence against women

I don't know if this will be in English.  Looks like most likely in Arabic.

A press conference to announce the results of a national survey on violence against women on Saturday September 24 Sayer Hall at Assembly

From Twitter, Kuwait Human Rights Group @kuwaithr

Saturday, September 17, 2016

26,000 workers needed, 1000 arrive weekly

This is so stupid.  How many workers in Kuwait are deported monthly/weekly/daily?  How many more are waiting deportation in "centers"?  Ick!  So as planes full of deportees depart KIA, planes full of new laborers are shuffled in.  How is that cost effective?

Not only that, but this article seems to target real-estate owners throughout Kuwait who are "suffering" from lack of occupancy.  Is it just me or has anyone else NOT seen a significant drop in rental prices?  I think most landlords would rather cut off their nose to spite their face:  leave apartments empty until months/years from now, someone comes along who is willing to pay their price.


Arab Times
KUWAIT CITY, Sept 14: The number of workers needed for the environmental fuel project is about 26,000 and around 1,000 employees of various nationalities have been arriving weekly for this purpose, reports Al-Rai daily quoting sources from Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC).
Sources affirmed 65 percent of the project has been accomplished and 80 percent is expected to be done by the end of the current fiscal year on March 31, 2017.

Sources disclosed the labor force for the environmental fuel project has solved part of the problem related to empty buildings and apartments for three years in Fintas, Mahboula and Mangaf.
Sources said the contractors prefer these areas due to their proximity to the project sites while recent reports mentioned that 60 percent of residential buildings and apartments in these areas have been empty for three years so the rental fees reduced significantly.

Sources added the target number of workers as per previous plans is 50,000 at the peak of the project, although the contractors will present their plans next month to determine whether they will execute the work with this number of labor force or reduce it.

Sources confirmed the workers involved in the project solved about 30 percent of the problem faced by the residential real estate business in the aforementioned three areas, although several residential buildings are still empty.

Talking about the empty residential buildings in Hawally, Salmiya and Farwaniya; sources pointed out the buildings in these areas do not attract contractors because they are far from the project sites. Sources explained the role of KNPC is to open a labor file at the concerned government body, indicating other functions such as hiring workers and housing them are under the jurisdiction of subcontract

DNA Database Project

Arab Times

KUWAIT CITY, Sept 15: The Washington Post, an American newspaper, described Kuwait’s DNA database project as “an idea from a bad science-fiction novel” with an estimated cost of $400 million, reports Al-Jarida daily. (DG comment:  Oh!  Is that funded by the new increase in gas prices?!)

The newspaper quoted geneticist Olaf Riess who argued that the law on DNA is a “huge attack on genetic privacy” which seriously risks Kuwait’s international reputation, adding that “compulsory DNA testing of all citizens and visitors sounds like a nightmare, but this is the new reality in a wealthy Gulf State.”

The daily revealed that various groups and delegations have reached out to Kuwait’s government to cancel the law; indicating the letter of the European Society of Human Genetics, whose current president is Riess, to HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah called for amendment of the law.

Commenting on the issue, constitution expert and lecturer in the College of Law at Kuwait University Dr Muhammad Al-Faili affirmed the DNA Database Law has many constitutional loopholes, the most important of which is limiting the right to choose whether to undergo DNA sampling or not; let alone allowing procedures that violate the right to privacy.

Al-Faili stated the constitutional judge will deliberate on the matter once it is presented to the court to balance between protection of the right and breaching the right for security purposes. He explained the judge will look into existing guarantees that protect personal privacy, determine risks of violating privacy, present a verdict from the European Court for Human Rights which ruled that storing the DNA of innocent people is a violation of their rights and their privacy – the ruling that led Britain to change its policy in storing DNA samples.

The daily said Kuwait’s tourism industry and business will suffer, given that no tourist or business executive would want to spend their time in a country which takes their DNA samples upon arrival, indicating the law will have a major impact on Kuwait as a host of conferences and hinder tourism.
After the bombing of Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in June 2015, Kuwait’s Parliament ratified a law obliging every citizen, expatriate and anyone visiting the country to submit a sample of their DNA.

The Ministry of Interior considers the creation of DNA database for citizens and expatriates a way of protecting the country from terrorist attacks, while the new e-passports will be issued to citizens only if they submit their DNA samples.


Kuwait always seem to end up on the negative side of international press.  Unless, of course, there is a Guiness Book world record to be broken.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Saudi Film about Dating: Barakah Meets Barakah

I SO want to see this!

A Saudi comedy about dating? See it this weekend (in UAE)
Gulf News
September 7, 2016

Mahmoud Sabbagh doesn’t want to rock the boat so much that it sinks. He just wants to rock it enough to bring about social reform in his country.

The Saudi writer-director filmed Barakah Meets Barakah in 25 days, made entirely in Jeddah. The satirical romance is Saudi’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, making it the country’s second-ever submission (Wadjda, submitted to the 2013 Oscars, was not nominated.)

It premiered — and won an award — at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. And on Thursday, it hits theatres in the UAE. According to Sabbagh, two scenes were cut locally — one involving a hand gesture, and the other including ‘mild profanity’.

“But it’s a comedy movie. People need to chill out,” he laughed, speaking to tabloid! ahead of a private premiere in Dubai on Tuesday.

“This film is about freedom, it’s about censorship, and it’s about public space. In my opinion, public space in Saudi has become more limited in the last thirty years. It’s less diverse. You see less presence of women, people of minorities and foreigners in the usual streets,” he said.

But no one wants to watch a film about public space. It’s a ‘very boring theme’, to hear Sabbagh say it.

“So I had to do the classic boy-meets-girl. I tried to do something very original, something avant-garde, something that defies the dominant storytelling techniques. The movie is about Barakah meets Barakah — in public,” he said.

The film is masterfully done, an independent, low-budget passion project that exudes commitment from the cast and crew in every scene. It’s victorious both for its ability to engross the viewer with a gradual exposition of details, and its razor-sharp cinematography, submerged in warm hues.

The film opens with a shot of Barakah staring at a hot pink bra like it might have the answers to the universe. He’s a simple guy. A municipality worker, best friends with a loud-mouthed, grumpy old man named Uncle Da’ash, who’s the neighbourhood’s go-to person for regressive life advice. Barakah dwells in a rundown apartment and spends his free time unenthusiastically cross-dressing for his role as Ophelia, Hamlet’s female lover, at a theatre no one cares about.

Then there’s Bibi. The discontent internet celebrity who uploads lacklustre ads to Instagram with only her mouth, chin and neck visible. Mayada, the controlling woman she calls her mother, hounds her to shut down her account while simultaneously taking photos of Bibi’s bare abdomen for her own account, Heavenly Hips. Bibi is well-off, living in a sprawling beach house and offered millions to market face creams, but she’s consistently dissatisfied with her restricted life.

When the two meet, a reluctant romance begins. But where could they possible hang out in Jeddah? They conjure up different scenarios — a dinner date, a day at the beach, a night of listening to music in the car — that all end the same way: the police shutting them down.

“This beach is God’s, not yours,” Barakah says at one point, when he’s disallowed entry because he’s a single male. This question of which spaces belong to whom is a recurring one.

“My character is very virginal. He’s an extremely simple, basic character that is based in his own universe. His conceptions of gender, self, love, romance, intimacy, all these things, are completely unchallenged, because he’s in the nature of his environment. Once a certain person comes into his life, everything goes into a whirlwind,” said Hisham Fageeh, the Saudi writer-comedian who plays Barakah.

At the premiere, he wore a white dishdasha, a dark blazer, and bright red sneakers, with his hair pulled up into a bun. He’s known Sabbagh since the two went to university together in America. Fageeh relocated to Saudi afterwards, where he held a job at Telfaz11 for a couple of years. He was homeless and jobless when Sabbagh reached out about the film.

“We weren’t really the closest of friends in New York — we were busy, and we both had our own scenes — he was in journalism, and I was in Middle East studies. But I respected his work,” said Fageeh. The two ‘flirted’ as creatives, with Sabbagh appreciating Fageeh’s satirical work on YouTube.

“He was like, ‘Listen, I’m doing a movie. It’s about public space.’ And that is so sexy to me as a concept. Because people are usually like, ‘Oh, boy meets girl, or guy trying to find himself.’ But this is about public space,” said Fageeh.

When Fageeh heard he would have to cross-dress, he was sold — a fact that Sabbagh confirmed. “Hisham was in because I know he’s a pervert in the mind, like me,” he joked.

Fatima Al Banawi, who plays Bibi, had never acted before. She was doing a Masters in theology at Harvard when Sabbagh, who’s known her since childhood, contacted her. They rehearsed for four months.

“As Saudis, we’re not used to seeing ourselves on screens written and directed and acted by ourselves… We’re so used to seeing ourselves portrayed by others. This film is by us, from us, to us. And to the world. It’s our attempt to present a picture,” said Al Banawi.

“It’s not every representation, because no such film or person can do that. But it’s one attempt to go about our stories, our city, Jeddah.”

The movie is twice interrupted by historical photographs of Saudi Arabia, with a voice-over narration that suggests the freedom of past generations as compared to present day.

“My movie is my submission to the national dialogue,” said Sabbagh.

“I’m comparing Saudi to Saudi — I’m not comparing Saudi to any other nation, not to the West, not to the East. It’s about Saudi in the ’70s and Saudi nowadays. In my opinion, the best way to compare a society is to compare it to itself.”

Fageeh found the film bold because it took two normative narratives to task.

“We’re challenging traditional media, because there is a certain tonation that happens in traditional media in Saudi Arabia. And we’re also challenging Western orientalist views of what the Arab world looks like, or what we want to be perceived as. A lot of times, a self-orientalisation happens,” said Fageeh.

“We’re working very hard to challenge that narrative, to make something edgy, and people really recognise that sincerity. I think that’s what makes our movie unique.”

Al Banawi said the characters reminded her of her friends, her cousins, her neighbours and the people she saw on Instagram.

Indeed, Sabbagh excelled at creating charming primary characters, but more importantly, engaging secondary characters, who have their own lives, priorities and demons to fight, becoming just as pertinent to the film’s storytelling as the main two.

So is that why Barakah Meets Barakah became Saudi’s submission to the Oscars?

“Every country is eligible to submit one entry, and we were probably the only movie [from Saudi], so they pushed our movie,” said Sabbagh, laughing. Sabbagh and the cast will find out whether the film is one of the five shortlisted nominees in January. He’s still fighting to screen the film in his home country.

In the meantime, Fageeh urged UAE residents to go out and watch the film for two reasons.
“From a selfish standpoint, we need money. From a non-selfish standpoint, for the love of arts. For the grace of arts,” he said.

“It’s been critically acclaimed, and we want to see if that critical acclaim holds up cross-continentally. The West love it. So let’s see how we do over here.”

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Job Interviews

(Note to my employer:  I am not looking for another job.  I have a great job.  I have a handsome business owner who is funny and intelligent and who respects my work. And will probably read this...  Mashallah. :D  No need to look around.)

My mother brought this subject up last night because my sister has been working with a consultant to provide them with better interview/recruitment techniques.  My sister owns a recruitment/placement firm for healthcare and IT professionals.  Mashallah, they are doing very well, but an ongoing issue with her office staff has been recruiting the right people for their sales and recruiting staff.  My sister is usually an outstanding judge of character and has often recruited some of her top sales people from positions at retail stores and other unusual sources; just because her gut has told her that they would be good producers.  Most of the time she is spot-on, but once in a while, she will recruit someone and they turn out to be (not a good fit).  Her business is also getting too large for her to follow up on details and her "people" needed better techniques for bringing in new office and consulting staff.

She discussed it with my mother, who found it to be a fascinating subject.  And so I believe it to be also.

The only question that my mother could remember from the many that the interview consultant brought up was, "Cite a situation at work that influenced your life."  These are the type of questions that allow you to understand a person's character; but also to define how the candidate may articulate/converse with others under pressure - which is exactly what my sister needs to know about her sales people.

I LOVE these kinds of interviews. They are thought-provoking and the interviews are just fun for me.  I guess if you were an introvert, you might have the opposite reaction to these types of questions, but then again, if you are interviewing for a sales or management position (and not IT where you don't have to talk to/convince people) then you might not find these psychological questions terribly enjoyable.

My #1 all time favorite interview was here in Kuwait at KGLPI (Kuwait Gulf Link Ports International).  I sat across the table from the Chairman, Dr. Mohammad Mazeedi, the CEO, and their HR Director.  They had obviously taken interview training and I found myself bombarded by fascinating questions!  (Bad memory runs in my family...) I can't remember all the questions, but they were similar to, "Tell us a situation where you had a conflict at work and how did you resolve it."  "What was your most memorable learning experience at work?"  "Who was your favorite boss and why?" By the end of the nearly hour-long interview, all of us were laughing.  I knew I had the job, but I sent them all flowers the next day, thanking them for the greatest interview session EVAH!

KGLPI  offered me the job but later rescinded it because my extremely unethical former employer - who had just terminated me to save money! - threatened to sue them for "stealing his employee".  And this was after he had terminated me and I was looking for a new job!  Dr. Mazeedi, who I admire tremendously, contacted me about 6 months after the incident and told me that he liked me and wanted me to know the truth of what happened.  I understood their predicament completely.  It was unfortunate because we would have made a great team.
I would like to answer this question, "Cite a situation at work that influenced your life."  I told my mother the story last night.  She had never heard the story before (or maybe I told her way-back-when and she didn't remember.  That's ok because I can't remember if I told her or not).  Again, this question has to do with your character and your perspective.  Some people might read into this as a business-related question:  "The day I got Windows 8, changed my life!"  Yeah.... ok.... there is no right or wrong answer.  They're just asking for insight.

Swede Nelson at SAIC was a high-level, tenured manager at the division where I worked.  I only had the blessing of working with Swede for about a year.  He was very knowledgeable and kind.  And, he had stage 4 cancer and must have been in a tremendous amount of pain.  That man came to work (although he could have chosen to be out on disability) wearing a morphine pack and ALWAYS wearing a smile.  He always had something nice to say to colleagues. He was always helpful.  He never let on that he hurt, or he was tired. You would never have known how sick he was.  That man influenced my life.  He helped form my work ethic (although seriously - if any of you know me in business, I (think I) whine about health issues quite a bit and I shouldn't.  Swede taught me that anything can be accomplished through kindness, humor, and a good attitude.  When he died, we all went to his funeral and service at Arlington Memorial Cemetery where he was buried with honors, befitting a man of his character.

Ok, so now that I have discussed what kind of interviews I like, let me relate which kind I hate....  I hope that I have had some influence on colleagues who use these "techniques" (or lack thereof) during interviews.  "Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?"  "Why are you leaving your current job?"  "Have you reviewed our website?"  Really?  Seriously?  Snore.  It is not 1950.  Get onto the Googly thing and research current interview questions/techniques.  That's my advice to junior staff.  In knowing how to interview a candidate, you then learn how you can better respond in an interview with a potential employer.  It's easy.

Here is a good article on the subject:

62 Interview Questions People Said Were Their Favorites

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Price of Living in Kuwait

Lets start with the new increase in gas prices in Kuwait - Coming to a pump near you on September 1.

Kuwait Increase in Gasoline Prices - Calculator:  Here is some'in interesting:   a fuel calculator of how much you are paying now for gas in Kuwait (by care make/model/year) vs how much you are about to pay with the random increase in price:  I supposedly own a Chevrolet "Caniro".  That must be Arabic for Camaro.  Hmmm.  I'll be paying about 3 KD more per fill up.  Good times.

Question:  Where is the money going?  To repair streets?  To enforce traffic laws?

Maybe they could reduce costs if (now get this...) the gas stations were self-serve and accepted credit cards at the pump.  Holy sh*t - now there's a thought!

It's not like Western countries where gas costs more because it is imported and then gas companies pay millions in marketing.

Are you here to save money?

Ya know - people used to come to Kuwait to save money.  Not so anymore.  You think you can save here, but you just get by.  My Kuwaiti friends (who enjoy lots of government subsidies) are just scraping by at the end of the month.  Food costs are pretty high here.  Rent is outrageous (and don't believe the hype about rents decreasing - that's BS).  You can't own anything, so you are giving your money away for free to building owners and often you don't even get maintenance with that - even when it is in writing.  For what I pay in rent, I could be paying a mortgage on a VERY nice property in the US.

I didn't come here to save money (but word of advice to my younger self:  save money!).  I came for a different quality of life.

Quality of Life

When I came here, Kuwait was a lazy little laid-back town where you weren't so drained from work that you could get around to see all your friends and do a few activities that made you happy.  Like parties on weekends or whatever.  Now, I'm afraid to go to parties for fear of raids or being harassed at checkpoints (and I also can no longer stand the loud music and smoke).   I am too physically/emotionally drained to see friends because I'm working hard and stressing about things that perhaps I shouldn't be.  Getting to and from anywhere is a stresser:  Traffic is so bad that I don't want to leave the house anymore.  Literally. You have to have multiple eyes around your head to see predator drivers coming at you from multiple angles. Shopping is not fun.  You have to plan your logistics:  Pick a route, time of day, day of the week, location with easy parking access.  It's all a big pain in the azz.  People are downright rude and you feel like you get shot down if you try to be polite, smile, or make small conversation (in any language).  Of course, I'm generalizing, but when you get poked enough with small pins you get deflated and don't want to do the things you used to do.

Melancholy after vacation?

I write about this stuff usually right after I return from a vacation.  But I've been writing about it/thinking about it more often over the past few years.  The re-entry into Kuwait is becoming more difficult. Is it because I'm getting a little older (29++) or is it just that things are changing here?  Maybe a little of both?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sanctions planned for dodgers of DNA – No tolerance

So, the entire country of Kuwait is about to be DNA tested.  To include Kuwaitis, non-Kuwaitis (stateless) and expats.

It's about to go POMPEI up in here!  Maury say:

Arab Times
KUWAIT CITY, Aug 21: The Ministry of Interior expects thousands of Kuwaitis not to come forward for the DNA test because they fear losing their nationality, reports Al- Shahed daily.  (DG comment:  Emmmmm.... I don't think that's why, but ok...)

The daily put this number at approximately 200,000 saying these people got their nationality through fraudulent means.

However, sources close to the issue said the ministry is prepared to take legal action against those who reject the DNA test to the extent of withdrawing their citizenship. Official sources at the Interior Ministry said failure to undergo DNA test to obtain the e-passport will not be tolerated by the government which is determined to set a time limit to undergo these tests and failure will mean cancellation of passports and issuing a travel ban against them even to the GCC states.

The sources added the Ministry of Interior represented by the General Department for Citizenship Affairs shall remain in touch with other government institutions and terminate the services of those who refuse to undergo the DNA tests and also suspend free medical treatment in government hospitals.

The sources also said the government will impose a ban on their transactions of all kinds and their siblings will not be accepted in government schools.

The sources pointed out these measures will not be arbitrary or chaotic, but in accordance with legal norms, and shall be as stated in the provisions of the Kuwaiti nationality law which is in force with regard to withdrawing nationality of those who have acquired it through fraudulent means.


Ok, so how are they going to count all those kids that don't belong to they Kuwaiti daddies?  Did they obtain their nationality fraudulently?  One has to wonder what will happen. I believe that there may indeed be a wee bit of chaos on all levels of society following these tests.  Should be fascinating.