Wednesday, December 31, 2014
I've been depressed for a year. I guess I didn't realize how bad it has affected me until I took steps back to look at what is going on in my life. Ok, there are other incidents which have led to my feeling down, but every week, I worry about something else.
Now, it is walking my dog.
Every day when I finish work, I go home, get my dog, and take him out for a walk. One he became large (he's a German Shepherd), I stopped walking him in my neighborhood and at our local walking track to avoid the possibility of scaring, startling, upsetting anyone who fears big dogs. (Other large breed dog owners in my neighborhood continue to walk their dogs at the track.) I put my dog in my car, and usually drive several miles from my house to Engifa or the beach close to it. I thought I was being considerate.
A law has just been put into effect stating that large breed "dangerous" dogs can not be walked on beaches or in public areas. So my drive will be longer. Now, I am going to have to take my dog somewhere to a desert so that he can have decent exercise. How am I going to accomplish this in a sports car? I am going to have to buy a 4x4.
Why? Because instead of deporting me, they will do the unthinkable: take my dog. (and do what with him and who will determine that? Who knows because these new laws are vague and seemingly subjective.). You see, Kuwait still sees pets as "things" as material. To SOME of us, our pets are our family members. My older dog has been with me for 18 years; through wars and troubles and boyfriends and jobs. My big boy is still basically a puppy. I don't have family in Kuwait; my pets ARE my family. And like my human family, IF anyone tried to harm them or take them from me, I would unleash a level of crazy unheard of in several centuries of history.
I've been in Kuwait for 18 years. I didn't come to Kuwait for money. I came because I loved Kuwait (even before I arrived here). That was then. This recent Kuwait is depressing and almost intolerable. While I am grateful for a great job and other benefits of living in Kuwait, it is depressing. Sometimes you can't feel how oppressive it is until you leave.
When you are trying to live your life in peace and contentment, how is that accomplished when you have a sword constantly dangling above your head?
Life is too short.
Now, some of you readers have commented that I'm stupid and I should know by now that none of this is ever going to be enforced and blah blah blah.... Ok fine, but I believe those people commenting were probably not foreigners living in Kuwait. Kuwaitis don't have to worry about being kicked out (well, that's not true, but it would take a lot more and it is a totally different subject all together). Kuwaitis aren't going to lay in bed at night thinking about what MIGHT happen because you broke the latest recent-most-stupid-law. Some people don't do that - I do. I worry. I think worst-case-scenario first and then I can go back from there.
I know I'm lucky. I know I'm from a country that has preferential treatment in Kuwait. I have Kuwaiti friends that I could call on (but I rarely rarely do). But I still worry about it. Probably because I love Kuwait and consider it home. So the mere threat of all this deportation stuff is damaging. It's negative. It's bad. And if I'm feeling this way; how are others who are less fortunate feeling? Sorry, but a threat is a threat and there is no way to look at it as a positive/pleasant experience. It is bullying - and on a national level.
This is a perspective blog: MY perspective. How I feel. I'm not the frickin voice of my people. I can only add my voice. You don't have to like it, but you don't have to read it either. I'm not blogging out of a need for additional readers to collect advertising fees. I don't give a rats smelly ass about stats. I blog because I enjoy it. I tell it like I see it. Quite a few people have commented on MY blog lately using quite negative and even insulting language to express their dislike of MY perspective. To which I say (as I have said before and will say again): NO ONE is holding a gun to your head, forcing you to read this. If you dislike, disagree with, or just get pissed off with what I have to say: stopfuckingreading it. Create your own blog. Vent your opinion there. I'm not Fox f-ing news. I'm the author of a teeny weeny little blog in a teeny weeny little country writing about my teeny weeny view of things. That's it. There is no conspiracy. I think I will stop allowing comments for a while because I CHOOSE not to partake in other people's negativity. The drama is destructive to my chi and that, my friends, is no f-ing way to start a new year.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
|(Photo Credit: Q8 All In One Blog)|
I don't even remember much about my conversation with my really handsome flight attendant friend, Ghassan. (You know I had to be out of it!) Such a nice guy. (Did I mention that he was totally good looking too?)
No one else on the plane seemed to remark that they were being served by Oprah; even though her name tag said, "Oprah" on it. Maybe people were being polite? Maybe they thought there were hidden cameras somewhere and we were all about to be surprised with new cars? Dunno. THAT would have been cool.
Merry Christmas, Oprah Hodge. It was lovely to have had the pleasure of your acquaintance.
If Oprah WINFREY reads this, here is my wish: Would you kindly open a school for Bedoun children in Kuwait? Bedoun means that they have no nationality. There are roughly 100,000 Bedoun people in Kuwait. Kuwait doesn't recognize them of citizens and many can not enter school or get educations because they have no documentation. Thank you.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas (where ever you are!) and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015. 2014 was kind of a bitch.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
If you want to decrease the number of expats in the country it would be an idea to allow them to leave and only place ban on someone who is charged with a real criminal offense.
I LOVE that article.
I believe I met the author's grandfather many years ago at an embassy reception. We were both standing alone by the buffet and struck up a conversation. I didn't know who he was at the time; just a kind older gentleman, but I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation I had with him and walked away with a smile (probably with something stuck in my teeth because I'm always unknowingly embarrassing myself ) and a lifted spirit. It was only later, when I looked at the business card I had quickly shuffled into my handbag that I knew that he was the founder and patriarch of The Kuwait Times.God rest his soul. I am sure that he is missed by many.
What I find amusing in a sad and pathetic way is how many Kuwaitis are commenting on my posts, offended/insulted that I would infer that they are racist or sectarian; and that indeed foreigners are the root of all social problems in Kuwait. Then, they go on to "justify" the reasons why they're so great and others are not. BINGO! That's exactly it. My point has been validated. Arrogance and entitlement. Not, of course, attributes held by everyone, but the attitude is becoming more acceptable and pervasive; not only in discussion, but much more obviously through Kuwait law.
I was shocked about 10 years ago when I came across a website/blog/forum (can't remember) called, "Kuwait for Kuwaitis". It was a novel approach back then - foreigner bashing - and not one that I personally held as "true Kuwaiti". I still firmly believe in the tenants of Kuwaiti kindness and generosity to all. I think many have lost their identity - maybe since the Gulf War or shortly thereafter? Not sure. I remember walking through Mubarakia in 1997 with my mother. Kuwait was still on a high from being liberated and there was an attitude of gratitude (pardon the rhyme). As we walked along, two elderly Kuwaiti women stopped and asked if they could take their photo with us, "Ashan Amreeka" (for America). They were so kind and I still have the photo of that day.
Sadly, the notion of foreigner bashing has seemed to take hold and those sweet moments are few and far between.There are many opinions now of foreigner vs Kuwaiti; like some kind of weird Mortal Kombat game being played here. I've noticed a tremendous difference - mostly the looks. Where once people were happy to see me, now they're looking at me like an unwelcomed visitor. (This happens pretty often. There aren't as many "friendly" moments that counteract the unwelcoming ones, unfortunately. ... and I can only make statements about my personal experiences.) I try to smile at everyone, even in traffic.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
KUWAIT: A Filipina maid was attacked, bitten and parts of her eaten by a lion kept at home by a citizen, who was taken in for questioning. The woman was reportedly attacked a few days earlier by the wild animal, illegally kept as a pet, and was taken to the hospital. She was treated and released, but later died as a result of her injuries. Another person, thought to be the driver of the household, was feeding the lion when it reportedly escaped and attacked the maid. The lion was among several wild animals at the house, said security sources, adding that the man was refusing to hand over the animals to the zoo. Keeping wild animals including lions, tiger cubs, cheetahs and other exotic pets has grown in popularity in Kuwait and is often used by young men as a tool for ‘flirting’. There have been numerous reports of sightings of lions or other dangerous wild cats in Kuwaiti residential areas within the last year
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The new voices of Kuwait eager for change
|Photo Credit: "I Love Q8" by Stylish Designs on Deviant Art|
Those round butter cookie things (don't know the name and yes I'm still hungry)
Butcher shops that marinade meat
Driving down the Gulf Road in the morning (because it's beautiful)
Watermelon Men (those guys who sell watermelons on the side of the road)
Dhub and braisi lizards
Arfaj (national flower of Kuwait)
Phosphorescent algae under the moon on Um Al Moradem
Sitting in sea water that is warm enough to make you feel like you're in a giant bath
HUGE Kuwaiti shrimp
The fish market
The Kuwaiti laugh (it's unique to Kuwait)
Kuwaiti humor and the ability to laugh at the foibles
I do. I do. I do. I do.I do. I do. I do. I do. I do. I do. I do. I do. I do. I really do.
And in case I haven't said it lately (at least out loud or in writing), "Thank you, God, for giving me the opportunity to see this country, to live here, and to see things in a different perspective (mine)."
Monday, December 08, 2014
Kuwait is not trying to emulate the economies of UAE and Qatar. The UAE and Qatar do not have sustainable economies. Expats are 90% of the populations of UAE and Qatar. Qataris and Emiratis work in the public sector more than Kuwaitis work in the public sector. Do you have any idea how unsustainable that is?
Kuwait is not the UAE/Qatar and any comparison between those countries is invalid for the following reasons:
1. 60% of Kuwait's population is Arab (including Arab expats). Kuwait's population has always been predominantly Arab in its composition whereas most people in the UAE and Qatar are non-Arabs (South Asian migrant workers).
2. Kuwait has suffered from extensive terrorist attacks and war. The UAE and Qatar were never victims of terrorism and war. In the 1980s, many terror groups bombed various part sof Kuwait, hijacked Kuwaiti planes, kidnapped Al-Sabah sheikhs and attempted to assassinate Emir Jaber via suicide bombings. Then in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and obliterated Kuwait's infrastructure. Kuwait's infrastructure megaprojects were postponed for 10 years until Saddam's fall because what's the point in building amazing infrastructure if it's going to get bombed by Iraq again? Saddam threatened to invade Kuwait many times up until his death.
3. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Kuwait was the most developed and most advanced country in the Gulf region and Middle East. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Kuwaitis were usually 40% of the total population. Right now, Kuwaitis are only 30% of the total population and Kuwait is deteriorating. This means that an increase in expat population is not positively correlated to Kuwait's development, it only makes things worse because Kuwait City was not built to accommodate 4 million people. Kuwait City is overpopulated. The rapid rise in the expat population was not meant to happen, it happened because of the recent Arab Spring and illegal visa trafficking. Emiratis and Qataris have always been 10%-15% of their country's total populations. Kuwaitis are usually 40% of the total population.
4. Kuwait's economy is structured differently from the economies of the UAE and Qatar - and that's a good thing. Kuwait's economy has always been structured differently from the economies of the UAE and Qatar, before the Gulf War Kuwait was making great strides in economic diversification. Everything went downhill after the Gulf War but Kuwait is currently experiencing a renewed period of growth and the projects market is rapidly rising.
Your point #3 is mute as Kuwait could have chosen to continue on the same path of PROGRESS. And during those years (60-early 80’s), alcohol was legal in Kuwait and there was actually a tourist industry in the country. Boosting the economy – and foreigners were welcome.
6:12, you also stated that, "Qataris and Emiratis work in the public sector more than Kuwaitis work in the public sector. Do you have any idea how unsustainable that is?" I disagree. (From my personal experience), both Qataris and Emiratis working in the public sector have a work ethic and develop their countries - side-by-side, if I might add with who? Foreigners. However, your thought process validates my next paragraph.
6:12, while I think some of your theories are nice - in theory - they have only been put to practice in.the.past. Kuwait is stagnant. No implementation. No enforcement. No desire to make it better. And if there is a desire to make it better, committees are formed to TALK about it and then THINK about it and nothing is accomplished. And you are correct – that is indeed quite different than the economies of Qatar and UAE: They act. They also "maintain" (which seems to be a word foreign to Kuwait - if you will). Even when new projects are implemented (ok, so we have had a few new roads, new road expansions, etc.), within a few years, you notice how dilapidated they become because no one maintains them. Go to any public area in Kuwait and look around. You can quite literally say in many areas of the country, "Kuwait is crumbling".
10 December - Hey check out this cool article (that appeared in a UAE paper) on young Kuwaitis who want change. Just when I was on a rant!
The new voices of Kuwait eager for change
Sunday, December 07, 2014
The law would limit the residence of expats living in Kuwait to 5 years; and it would be retroactive with no exceptions.
My mother will be really happy to hear this news as she's been trying to get me to move back to the States for the past 17 and a half years (roughly 6 months after I arrived here).
The finance company that holds the lien on my car will not be so happy and I hope that Kuwait Airport has intentions to build a bigger parking lot when 1/3 of the country leaves.
How are they going to implement this? There are a lot of laws coming up now and they're not talking about how they're going to implement them. Who will be asked to leave first? Professionals? Housekeepers? People who were born in Kuwait? This is gonna git interesting.
So is Kuwait now some exclusive club that only people, Article 1, inside the gate are entitled to membership to? It seems that it is headed that way, doesn't it?
How will this affect the Bedoun population? How will "they" ship them out of Kuwait? Cargo ship? Maybe in Conex containers? Where will they go?
Oh, and let's talk a wee bit about the economy. What is going to happen to all the pigeon-hole apartments they've built around the country (that are going for huge rents)? Who is going to live in those? What about consumer goods and service providers? What will happen to those businesses?
It is sad and it seems to be getting worse.
Has Kuwait learned nothing from countries like Qatar and UAE? Sure, they can emulate some of their architecture, but obviously nothing of their economies. Qatar and UAE are trying to invite foreign investment. Kuwait is trying to deter it. It is almost like the national slogan should be, "We don't want you here."
They pretty much wanted us here in 1990-91. I remember that. What happened to that hospitality?
Articles in the news about the residency cap:
Kuwait Times: MP Proposes 5-Year Cap
Gulf News: Kuwait 5-year expat residency cap a step nearer
Legal Panel Clears Bill
5-Year Residency Proposal to Hit Banks and Real Estate Sectors Hard
It was a LOVELY evening. When I first arrived, there were a group of guys in the distance, taking photos on the beach. They left and I walked down and saw a few Kuwaiti youngsters around. Basically, I was alone with The Big Dog (on a lead, so he wouldn't scare anyone, trying to play with them. Trying to be a good canine citizen...).
I walked him for a while and decided to sit down and watch the birds over the water as the sun set. It was lovely. The same group of Kuwaiti youngsters came over to ask me about the dog and basically seemed very happy to make my acquaintance. "I want to go to America..." It was so sweet and one of the girls added me on Instagram. I made fast friends. They left and went back to one of those huge houses on the beach.
I was there for a few more minutes when I heard from behind me, "Excuse me! Excuse me!" and it turned out to be a Ministry of Interior police patrol. Although extremely polite (to both me and the dog), they told me that I was not allowed to be there. It was very disturbing. In 18 years in Kuwait, I have never been told to leave anywhere by anyone. And here I was, alone, on a beach with no signs to the contrary stating that I couldn't be there, being asked to leave by police. I frequent that beach all the time. Other people do too - families, people walking their dogs.
They told me that they had received a call that I had been sitting there for a while (I was watching the SUNSET!) and that I was too close to The Emir's home (approximately 1 mile down the road). Again, I found the whole thing shocking and disturbing. (And if their logic applies, then both Enjifa and Bidaa restaurant areas should be closed/patrons asked to leave.)
The whole reason I was alone with my dog was because I didn't want any more negative human interaction. I have had far enough of that lately and I just wanted to be alone. Lately, I have intentionally alienated myself from everyone trying to cut down the noise. I'm tired and I guess it has hit the "depression" mark. I'm not even answering calls anymore. But the one thing I really do enjoy is being out with my dog. Until this happened yesterday.
I was really upset by it and immediately went home, got into my PJs, ordered a pizza and went to bed. But not before calling a Kuwaiti friend...
He told me Kuwait is on a security alert. "Don't you remember when we were sitting in the tent and Abood's boss called him and told him to come to duty?" Oh yeah. I remember Abood was pissed (both the Briddish and the American definition). The security forces have received information that Kuwait may be sabotaged in some way. They also found 2 Kuwaiti policemen were members of ISIS/DAESH this past week.
Ok, so I felt better after that (and the entire pizza... and desert...), but I was still traumatized.
For information on the security alert in Kuwait, see:
Kuwaiti Police Officers Fired
Threats of Sabotage (Arab Times), 6 December
Now, this doesn't mean that people should be flocking to the airport in fear; just cautious as always. I don't know if you heard or not, but in 1990 (not so long ago), Kuwait was invaded by a neighboring country to the North. A lot of people died. Others were tortured. Women were raped. Corpses were either hung or left in front of homes where they lived so that they would be a message to others. This kind of stuff has a way of making people cautious and maybe a little alarmist. And that's a good thing: So that really heinous stuff like that doesn't happen again.
Thursday, December 04, 2014
Last night, I took my big dawg down to the beach behind The Village. It is a very large, very quiet, very clean beach and there is usually no one around. Sometimes I just want to walk my dog in peace without people coming up and wanting to take selfies with him, or women shreeking and running to get away. This beach is the perfect place (the only pitfall is having to drive through traffic to get there and back).
Last night, there wasn't quite a full moon, but it was still giving off light and the water was flat and still. There were a few couples on the beach, quietly talking. No one else was around. The lights from the houses on the shore were dim and there was no sound. Perfect for clearing my head.
In the distance, I saw what appeared to be a tent with little fairy lights. Since we were walking in that direction (to be honest, since I was being pulled in that direction by the big dog), I decided to keep going to take a look at whatever it was. As I got closer, it was indeed a tent (more of one of those pagoda shade types you can buy anywhere) decorated with shiny ribbons flowing in the breeze, and pink LED lights, which gave off a glow that was reflected on the water. Inside, there were a few young Kuwaiti girls sitting on low sofas over carpets.
I complimented them on their beautiful tent and what a great eye someone must have had to design it the way that they did - and in that particular spot. They said that they were having a gathering of friends for one of their birthdays. They had decorated the tent themselves. As we chatted, more young Kuwaitis came up in cars that slowly started to arrive, and they invited me to stay. (Mike would have made quick waste of it all, so I declined and continued our walk.)
But I thought to myself, what a great thing to do for a friend. What wonderful people they must be and how kind they were to invite a stranger to sit with them. I found myself wishing for friends like that; the kind that would just call me to meet and gather somewhere on a beach or in the desert. No OTT gifts or entertainment; just being together in a beautifully thought-out setting.
I always say that I believe that God sends you messages - especially when you need them. There they were - on the beach in a pink tent under a semi-full moon. Just letting me know that there are a lot of good people out there who care about others. Even when you don't always see them; they're there.
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Here's a little advice to people planning to open a business in Kuwait with a great idea you have: you really need to be careful about who you enter into business with in Kuwait. Even if your "friend" says, "Sure, you can use my name to open your business. No problem. Just on paper...." Beware.
Don't try to write your own contract. Get yourself (and not together with your partner, but your own) a good lawyer who can advise you of your rights within a contract.
In my personal opinion, it is worthwhile to select a well-known Kuwaiti lawyer who your Kuwaiti business partner would fear, should anything go wrong. For example, a well-known Kuwaiti lawyer would most likely discuss the case within an influential diwaniya (where other law-makers are present). The name of the game in Kuwait is "face" and saving "face". Lawyer Flan Al-Flan with a hotmail address working out of Jleeb is not going to be able to get you the same outcome as Lawyer Flan Al-Flan working out of some prestigious downtown office and going to a diwaniya in Shuwaikh, with an email address and a website that reflects their partnership with an international firm. Sorry, but it's true. What is your ROI going to be? (It is just like getting a pre-nup. Don't be a dumbass. "... but I looooooved her/him.....") Plan ahead. Do your homework. Add the legal fees into your business plan if you have to.
Ok, back to Early Bird (and I don't know what kind of lawyer or contract, if any, she has):
This is the story of an American woman who built a breakfast restaurant from the ground up into a chain with several locations. It has been popular with expats and Kuwaitis both for years. And further, has set a trend for other mainly breakfast restaurants in Kuwait to follow (as we all know -there are MANY around Kuwait now).
You want to believe in the goodness of people. You want to believe that the people you consider friends can be trusted. And then, you sign a contract with them, start a business. They get 51% ownership by law in Kuwait. Many agree to be "silent" partners; that is, of course, until the business becomes "big name" and is generating big profits. (And I'm an equal-opportunity complainer: This has been known to happen to Kuwaitis with Kuwaiti partners as well. This has happened to family members in the States - not just in Kuwait. It happens.)
Going into business with someone (anyone/anywhere) is like entering a legally-binding marriage. It's all romance and roses until - God forbid - somebody flips. Then, you're driving by YOUR bigass house, looking at YOUR former bigass car, with that X still living there while you're in your little shitbox going back to your apartment...
And in Kuwait, consider this, my foreign friends: The dreaded travel ban. Your Kuwaiti partner might just decide to slap one of those on you. So you're stuck. What do you do? They've got your business/income and you can't go anywhere. Think ahead. Having the Honorable Flan Al-Flan, Esq. on speed dial comes in reeeeeeally handy at times like these.
Some links potential business owners might find helpful:
The Embassy of the US in Kuwait: Investment Climate; Openness to Foreign Investment
How a Foreign Entity Can Do Business in Kuwait
As for our friend at The Early Bird: I hope/pray/wish that the outcome for her is good. I hope she is a fighter and someone will take up her cause (for the sake of all decent, breakfast-loving people everywhere!)
There are several businesses that I refuse to patronize on ethics: The Early Bird is the latest.
Monday, December 01, 2014
I recently went to a private American Thanksgiving event at the Seashells Resort in Julai'ia (formerly the Kempinski Hotel). It is a beautiful property (on the sea, stretching inland) with walkways and orange walled villas with water features and foliage. I've been to many events there over the years and it is always a tranquil and relaxed atmosphere (and very nice open-aired cafe).
I've got to say, they NAILED the food for T-day. Stuffing was light and fluffy; real sweet potatoes; Brussels Sprouts; corn bread (ok, it was close, but still not quite there...), real gravy.... really good/authentic staple foods; turkey cooked to perfection. NO stuffing log! Yippee. And real cranberries in the cranberry sauce! I was pleasantly surprised to say the least; and so were the other guests in attendance..
So, I walked (at that point, "waddled" after an enormous plate full) over to thank the F&B Manager, Mike Soubhieh. I had met him on previous occasions, but usually mess up simple names like his. (Next year, I'll remember.) I complimented him and told him, 'Not to be insulting, but my dog's name is Mike.' Without skipping a beat, he said, "Are you Desert Girl?!" (Confused, I thought for a moment that I was still under the spell of the food-coma I was in.) But he called me out.... I usually don't 'fess up to the alter-ego, but I made him promise not to tell anyone, confirming his suspicion.
What a small world and the wonder of those little ironies that make it all so interesting!
Mike (the F&B Manager, not the dog...) said that he had read my post about Thanksgiving the day before and had sent his kitchen staff out in search of ingredients, starting at 5am; going to multiple stores in search of items I had written in the post. He said that he wished that I had posted it 2 weeks earlier. I was really humbled by the honor - and it came as a gift; one of those ones you hold onto and remember for a long time to come.
It is always fascinating to me to discover that someone has read my blog. I guess that at this point, it probably shouldn't, but it still does. And it still comes to me as a blessing from above: Life is about a series of connecting dots, and its always somewhat ironic how and when they are drawn together. We're all on the web of life, and what you do over there somehow connects and vibrates to the edges on the other side in ways you can't comprehend. It was one of those times.
So, to these latest dot connections: I'm sending a special shout-out to Mike and Chef Bassel (who had to work extra hard because of my post - sorry, dude!) and lovely Sales Manager, Alia. They are always super-nice.
I feel like I owe them, since I first posted about how Godawful the service was (years ago) at the Seashells, things have really changed a lot under the current management.
Beyond the above, Seashells staff members on all levels SMILE and say "good afternoon" or "good morning". Imagine THAT! Even the ones who look like they might not at first glance surprise you. The guy who was sweeping the stairs stopped what he was doing and turned around to greet me with a smile. That is a lot different from the tongue-lashing I got from a manager there years ago. That just makes me happy.
If you ever have an event, consider calling them. I'm now sure that they will do whatever it takes to make your event a positive experience. If you are out for a drive on the weekend, you can go visit their coffee shop or restaurants. Take 30 or 40 down to exit 245 and bang a right at the T. It will be down about 3 miles on the left. It's about a 30-45 minute drive (depending on how fast you drive).
Trip Advisor Reviews HERE