Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More Kuwait Labor Problems

This article was in the Arab Times today:

Disgruntled Cleaning Company Workers Seek Backpay, Justice
Basic Rights Violated In Massive Exploitation
KUWAIT CITY, Aug 26: Two managers and dozens of employees working for one of the cleaning companies reportedly refused to go to work and stayed put at their accommodation in Hassawi because the company has not paid them their salaries for two months, reports Al-Qabas daily.
The daily added, some of them even complained that the company is refusing to grant them annual leave and that some of them have not visited their families for the past eight or nine years. The workers also complained that they are deprived of their basic rights, particularly any sort of leave, even in the event of death of close relative including father and mother.
The workers say if they apply for one month leave they are required to deposit with the company KD 120 and for two months KD 240. This is in addition to forcing them to sign a document prior to proceeding on leave stating they have received all their dues.


This kind of thing goes on - unchecked - all the time.  It doesn't just happen to low-level employees (although their living situations are must worse and they can do very little until the actually tipping point), but also to expats in general.  Finding a company that pays consistently, on time, and gives employees their basic rights is RARE in Kuwait.  Sad, but true.  Once you find an ethical company, you're really reluctant to leave them.

The Government and media has been talking talking talking about this problem for years; yet very little has been done to rectify the situation.

For example, if I, as an employee, want to voice a complaint against my employer (and this is a what-if scenario because ThanksToAllah, the company I work for is one of those rare companies I mentioned that does things ethically):  I have to go to the ministry of social affairs and labor and lodge a complaint.  My employer would immediately know.  They could find another reason to terminate my employment - and it might be something like a criminal charge; putting me in real jeopardy (and slapping on a travel ban - then what?  Stuck with no employment?).  So, many employees shut up and take it, hoping that their employer will pay.

I don't understand why Kuwait can't have a hotline like they do in the States.  (See the US Department of Labor's poster, which should be posted at workplaces in the US HERE.)


Why all the years of talk?  Why no action?  Am I missing something?

Welcome to Kuwait Orientation for Necomers (aka "Newbies")



I just saw this on Life in Kuwait blog.  AWARE usually sends me info, but maybe they forgot me.  Sniffle, whimper.

AWARE holds a lot of activities for free (they are non-commercial and just out there to benefit people transitioning here!).  Their website is http://www.aware.com.kw/.  They're not going to try to get you to convert!  Stop being so skeptical, newbies.  OMG.  They're there to promote Kuwait and form a better understanding between cultures.

I think any orientation for incoming newbies is a great idea!  The transition is scary; especially now when you're hearing all the crazy stuff about ISIS so close up North.  EEEK, right?

By the by: One of the best orientations (the most welcoming) was basically a meet-and-greet at the British Embassy in 1997.  A woman in line in front of me was wearing an evening gown and I totally freaked when I thought I was under-dressed. (it was "business attire").   I sipped Pimms all night before realizing that it WASN'T iced tea.  That was fun.  I was literally a hot mess....

Way back in early 2000's (holy snap - I just realized that there is such a thing now!), I tried to promote a concept of an orientation package (including seminar/s follow-up, booklets) to Westerners arriving in Kuwait (catering to large companies like CSA/later ITT contract, basically) and it never got off the ground.  What I suggested was more of a commercial concept, targeting companies that hired a large employment force of Western expats.  Various Kuwait-based service organizations that cater to Western expats (banks, short and long term accommodations, lease car companies, satellite, etc.; and then follow-on with handy-men, drivers with cars, tours, etc.) would provide a commission to the "orientation" company to promote their services (and would be ranked by users).   At the same time, it would be of great benefit to incoming Westerners.  I didn't promote the idea very well and, of course, life gets in your way and  your full time job comes first to pay the bills, so nothing ever emerged.  It would have been outstanding in/around 2003 when the workforce for one company alone was what -  10,000...  But hey, KBOS3 is coming up for re-bid in 2015, so maybe some entrepreneur will step up to the plate with an entirely new crop of incoming Western expats.  Thar ya go.  Free concept.  (Nobody listens to me because I'm blonde.  I've accepted it and moved on...)

Howefah,  if someone wants to hire me as a consultant for these kinds of ideas (Sheikh Hamad, perhaps??), please contact me.  I got a million of 'em...  

For the moment, it is just me trying to help people through my weeeee little blog and disseminating information from the various groups/organizations that aim at assisting expats... like my friends at AWARE.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Falcon Mobile Pet Clinic Van in Kuwait

Look!  It's Dr. Angelo!  THAT's where he is....







Mikey has been to 5 vets now as he continues to have bad skin problems.  I've known Dr. Angelo for years, so I decided that since Dr. Paola was out of town, I would have him check out Mike for the possibility of Demodex mange (as Al-Rai had diagnosed him with - without testing first).  Dr. Angelo ruled out demodex through a scratch test; Mike has bad infections, so we're doing a blood test to determine exactly what the cause is.  For now:  No chicken, no lamb, no beef.  Raw fish and potatoes.  Who knew?  I now have about 40 pounds of chicken in my freezer.  (Barbecue, anyone?)

I found out that Angelo had moved from IVH when I went there to board Mike and Angleo's picture was no longer hanging behind the reception desk.  I called him and discovered that he's with Falcon now (owned by a member of the Al-Ghanim family).

Falcon recently purchased a large mobile vet clinic truck/van from the States and have started a test market to determine if they would like to create a veterinary hospital and possibly add more trucks/services.  Angelo tells me that he is continually busy (his phone rang several times during my appointment) and so far, business is good (Mashallah!).

IVH has had a van in their parking lot at their hospital for years and I've never understood why it is wasting away there.  It has never been used. It's a shame.  Anyhoo....

Falcon's van is sparkling (and I mean that literally) clean.  There wasn't a piece of dust or dirt or animal hair anywhere.  It is non-descript from the outside:  Just a white camper-looking vehicle.  Inside, it is loaded with the latest technology:  X-ray machine, surgical equipment and operating table, microscopes, a full array of medicine, cages, tables, and a very expensive-looking generator system.

Anyone who has ever dealt with Dr. Angelo and/or Dr. Paola know how what exceptionally kind and compassionate people they are.  They are outstanding vets and go the extra mile to take care of critters in Kuwait.  They have long-held dreams of helping animals outside the confines of a stationary clinic/hospital and now it appears that these dreams are coming true.

I am thoroughly impressed and I wish them complete success.

To book an appointment with Falcon, call or Whatsapp 5111-9696.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer Love

I had yet another vacation love.  Ok, I won't call it "love" because it wasn't; let's just say a "thang" (or perhaps a "distraction").   And it wasn't physical - because he was 6,000 miles away in Monte Carlo.



We talked on the phone for an average of 3-4 hours per night; usually talking until one of us was too tired and had fell asleep.  We exchanged photos and videos of where we were each day.  He was caring and considerate and sounded totally passionate.  Mmmmmm.

We made tons of plans about what we would do when we both got back to Kuwait.  We wouldn't just hug each other on the phone to sleep, but in person ("hug me to sleep").  (He lives in my neighborhood.  Not to difficult to imagine.)   We'd go to visit friends; to parties; to restaurants.  We were planning to be girlfriend and boyfriend and all that mushy crap.

Ok, and then I frickin landed in reality (KWI, if you can call that "reality")....

He was still calling.  He arrived in Kuwait a few days after I did.  We had made plans to meet at my place. Then, that changed when he called and told me to meet him at a friend's apartment for drinks.  Uh, no.  You wants me, you come gets me. (Gentleman much or what?)

So he did.  We met on 2 different nights... at his friends' apartments.... for drinks.  I was seeing a pattern.

Several of his Kuwaiti friends also have American girlfriends (who I didn't meet, "yet").  I got the usual, "Are you a teacher?" from his friends.  I'm always like, 'Please don't follow that with, "Are you a secretary?"  His friends did the usual thing of, "Excuse us while we talk Arabic (or what I really hate "in our language"...)." And even after I TOLD them several times that I understand Arabic and speak it - and have been in Kuwait for 18 years, (and spoke it to them), they were still apologizing and translating what they had just said.  Em, ok... but I get it.... So it was like they were intentionally leaving me out of the conversation and then thinking that they should say something polite.  Sigh.  That shit gets old.

[Sidebar:  There is something to be said for just being able to be yourself with people who "get it" that you are multi-cultural and they don't want to label you or pigeon hole you into a "type" from the get-go.  Don't assume anything.]

Tall, gorgeous, Arab-Barbi-model girlfriend of one of his friends stared me down all night; doing the Arab female shake-down, trying to figure me out. I know the look; my little dog does it when she's trying to determine if she likes the person or not; or if the person is worthy of her.   (The dip was so close to Barbi's face.... She just looked so perfect.....  Don't do it, Desert Girl..  restraint... restraint.  smile, smile....)

Anyhooser, while we were there, we make plans to travel together to Dubai.  Everything is going good.  But, after all the lovey-dovey phone talk, dude still isn't really closing the deal and dropped me off at home because he "was tired" (he called me 2 hours later from a restaurant).  So ok, the phone calls seem to be coming in at times when HE has nothing better to do. Perhapsee you didn't realize that I might be sleeping at 2 am on a work night?   I'm getting it....

Monte Carlo invited me to a party the next night (Friday night).  Friday rolled around: He hadn't called and hadn't responded to my SMS's.  Okey dokey.  Maybe he got busy with the family.  He called around 8:30 pm and said he was on his way to his uncle's chalet for dinner ("just for the family.).  Huh?  What?  No party. In the blink of an eye, I flipped him.  'I'm on my way to the farm in Kabd to see my friends...  Talk to you later. Gotta go.   You know this road is dangerous... '

I did go to the farm, but it was about 10 minutes after I hung up with dude.  My bro, Hmood, always gives me good man-perspective advice:  "If he hasn't made any moves, he's keeping you around to show his friends that he has an American/foreign girlfriend so he looks cool."  You know, I may be daft, but this kind of thing just never occurs to me at the time.  I go along thinking that people are well-intentioned and straight forward.  NOT.  Foiled again.   I suddenly get it.  Hmood is dead-on.  Crap.  ...Hand me the bottle.  I was a sourpuss all night.

So, Monte Carlo calls me the next day.  He went to the party (where "they played Arabic music,")  and then had the balls to tell me what a great time he had,  "... but I was single....What's wrooooong, babyyyyyyy? C'mon, don't be maaaaad."  Me, being the in-your-face kinda gal I am just told him that I was disappointed that he invited me then un-invited me and I was disappointed in him in general after all the hachi al fathi (basically bullshit talk).  "Don't worry, this coming weekend we are going to have an American party and you can come. That is, if I don't go to Dubai..."  'Oh, so I'm dis-invited for Dubai too? Ok.'    I'm like, 'Dude! I would much rather be at a gaaada with a Khaleeji band.  Do you even know me? Have you listened to anything I've said about who I am?'  I guess I should have known when he played me, "Saturday Night Fever" over the phone several times, thinking I would love it.  That and "Hotel California" both make me want to puke.  I don't know why people think, "typical Americans" are into that stuff.  (And, WHO is typical?)   I'm pretty sure they were going to order some hot dogs for this "American party" and play crappy music all night that they think we would like.  Bring on the machboos and the oud... I'm outa there.

It is quite obvious to me now that I was having 1-sided conversations with myself when I could have been watching back episodes of CSI while in Virginia.  That was stupid.  Dude never heard most of what I said - and cared even less about who I am or what I like.  (Pop-quiz:  What are the names of my pets?  Quick, quick, quick...)

There are plenty of other American women in Kuwait that would make much better arm-pieces than me.  I'm sure he'll find someone else (once he learns how to treat a lady and cleans up a bit).  He's single, eligible, and from a REALLY wealthy family so perhaps he could just pay someone (50 KD and an EZ card?).

Sigh.  I would rather be home with my dogs, eating popcorn for dinner, and watching my Apple TV with my hair up

... until the next adventure. (And subsequent blog post...)




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10 tips for new expats moving to Kuwait

I saw this in the Kuwait Times today and it is very good advice to newbies, so I thought I would re-post.


10 tips for new expats moving to Kuwait
 By Jamie Etheridge
Kuwait Times

I remember when I first arrived in Kuwait how incredibly alien everything seemed. The strange sand colored landscape mostly devoid of trees and grass are shocking for someone visiting the arid Gulf region for the first time. Over the days, weeks and months to come I acculturated to the point that after a few years things like going to the ‘saloon’ to get your hair cut now seem perfectly normal to me. (Does anyone but me think it’s ironic that in the States, a ‘saloon’ is a place in the Old West where they sold beer and liquor?) I don’t even hesitate when ordering mushakil at Canary (although my accent leaves much to be desired) and I can take my child to the public hospital without losing my mind.

For the novice expat, arrival in a new country like Kuwait can be both exciting and daunting. There are so many challenges to living here. Whether you hail from Belgium or Bangladesh, adjusting to an alien culture, land and society takes time. There will be a million questions on everything from how to find a flat (realtor, classifieds or driving around for hours in the areas of your choice) to how to get a driver’s license. Some things your employer will take care of for you but for the most expats, when it comes to daily life, they’re on their own.

So here’s a few tips from an old timer to new expats now calling Kuwait home:

1. Start every day with patience. Seriously there are so many things here, so many ways of doing things that can drive you crazy. Just relax, take a deep breath and accept that things may take longer or be done differently than you are used to.

2. Find a few places – a local coffee shop, a bookstore, a spot on the seaside, a park or a favorite mall – that you like and get to know the area and the people who work there. Familiarity helps a lot when starting a new life so make some friends – even coffee shop acquaintances that you can greet each day and who will recognize you too.

3. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Yes, I know it’s currently 50+ C outside and that the cars on Kuwait roads are notoriously disrespectful of pedestrians. Do it anyway. Perhaps in the evening. You will be surprised at what you see and you’ll begin to appreciate all the interesting and lovely things that can be found in your neighborhood.

4. Explore Kuwait. When I first arrived, I used the Gulf Road as a baseline and would drive around in increasingly larger concentric circles – always working my way back to the Gulf Road – as a way to explore new areas. This can also help you find the small grocery, dry cleaners, mobile phone shop, gas station and other daily life services you may need.

5. Don’t stress the bureaucracy and the paperwork. If you have a deadline for anything – a paper that needs a stamp or a visit visa about to expire, rest assured it will NOT come through on time. That’s just the reality of life here. If you are very lucky, you might but it’s best not to count on it. Do what you can, ask help from your employer and the company mandoub and then just wait – seriously, you will drive yourself nuts worrying about paperwork in Kuwait but believe me, it’s really out of your hands.

6. There will be many things here that are not done the way they do them back in your home country. But that’s sort of the point, right? Remember you are here for a reason – a job, following a spouse, whatever and its best to focus on the bright side.

7. Respect the local customs, language and religion. Courtesy and respect work in almost every situation.

8. Enjoy the strangeness. You may eventually become a lifer expat. I realize now how much I enjoyed my early years in Kuwait and I wish I had fought less against the strangeness and explored more.

9. Be homesick. But don’t let it get you down. Instead book time to chat online with family and friends back home but also make plans to get out and meet people in Kuwait and build a life for yourself here regardless of the circumstances.

10. Smile. It’s not easy and for women it can be viewed as flirtation but still do it. Just be careful and keep walking if someone starts to harass you.

If you are new to Kuwait or a long time expat, what do you think is missing from this list? Email me at etheridge@kuwaittimes.net . (Only respectful replies will be published. No vulgarity and no spam please.)


By Jamie Etheridge
etheridge@kuwaittimes.net

RIP Robin Williams

Sometimes the people who laugh the most - or make us laugh the most - harbor the deepest sadness. It is a roller coaster of peaks and valleys. I have known many similar people throughout my life and I thought of them today when I learned that Robin Williams had taken his own life.  It seems like more of a tragedy when someone who is a role model for happiness throughout the world suddenly becomes a real person with real pain.  You find yourself taking a step back and saying, "Not that guy.  How could that be?"  I was really sorry to hear the news today.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What I did during my summer vacation

I just got back to Kuwait from the States where I spent a perfect vacation with my family.  The weather was perfect, the mood was perfect, the food was perfect, the company (of course) was perfect.  I did NOT want to leave and I've been rather grumpy since getting back.

Anyhow, here's what I did.


Day 1:  Unpacked my suitcases and an unwelcomed traveller popped his little braissy head out of my suitcase, ran across the room and up the wall.  After chasing him for THREE hours, I decided that he would probably not make it in the house and would eventually die.  I couldn't tell my family because I didn't want them to spend every waking hour thinking that a gecko was going to fall on their head while they slept.  I told my mom, but swore her to secrecy (and she actually kept quiet this time).  EIGHT days later, my sister sees him run across the formal dining room.  She calls her husband and they both have a brief conversation about how strange it is to see a gecko in Virginia, but with the climate change - who knows?   I had to confess.  She didn't kill me, thank God.  We got a good giggle out of it.

How I spent my evenings:  Mad Men


Every summer, my nephew gets me addicted to another series.  This time, it was Mad Men; the most sexist show ever invented (probably why he loves it.  He just can't get over the pointy boobs....).  My mother, who lived and worked during the depicted time period, says that it was no where near as sexist as the show portrays.  Don Draper is a womanizing pig, but damn is he hot.  Anyhoo, I was on the sofa every night watching back episodes on Apple TV (and now I've started to do the same here in Kuwait).

Followed by.... talking on the phone for 2 to 4 hours every night to Monte Carlo (more to come on that, but maybe not).  Sigh....

This is what I ate:


Ok, we only ate crabs one night, but it was a good night.  The rest of the time, we had mostly chicken (my sister makes the BEST chicken!) and fish.  And margaritas and mojitos.  That's what I ate.  Also visited Silver Diner about a million times.  They've gone healthy, but I forgive them for that.  They still have great pancakes.



This is what I missed most about Kuwait life (besides my friends and pets, of course):


I wish they had water hoses in the US.  That's alls I'm sayin.

I couldn't take photos of the multitude of places I shopped, but that's usually where I spent my time with my mom. ... and we laughed and we laughed and we shopped and we shopped and we ate....

And my mother, sister and I had a wonderful girlie adventure at the beach.  So much fun.

Overall, I needed a low-key recharge and I got it.  I didn't realize how stressed out I've been and how it has probably affected my health.  My back is feeling better and so is my attitude.  I hope I can maintain it for a while.



Pets and Animal Rescue in Kuwait Presentation by Claudia Al-Rashoud

(Re-post from Life in Kuwait Blog)

Pets and Animal Rescue in Kuwait
By Claudia Farkas Al-Rashoud

Why should we help animals when there are so many people in need? What is the stance of Islam regarding the treatment of animals? What can you do to help Kuwait's strayed, abandoned, and abused animals? Join us for an informative and compelling discussion of these issues and more. If you would like to start helping animals in need right away, please bring along some dog or cat food as a donation to our local animal shelter.

Guest speaker, Claudia Farkas Al-Rashoud, is photojournalist and animal rescuer. Claudia Farkas Al Rashoud will be presenting along with a representative from Protecting Animal Welfare Society Kuwait (PAWS), who will be talking about their challenging work. We hope you can join us and we thank you for caring.

 Sunday, August 17 @ 7pm

Visit their site for more information.


---
Claudia is one of the nicest people you're ever going to meet.  She's been in Kuwait for forever and is an amazing writer and photographer.  If you love animals, you shouldn't miss this.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Explore the Beaches at Khiran and Zour



If you're on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/desertgirl.kuwait) you'll know that I had question on there a few weeks back asking if it was illegal to go swimming in a bathing suit during Ramadan. While it is not technically illegal, if you go to open/public areas (like along Blaajat Street), it might still get you arrested.  Go somewhere secluded (where you will not appear "disrespectful" in a bathing suit.)

I go swimming every weekend in the Khiran area; Ramadan or not and bathing attire is no problem because during Ramadan - there isn't a soul around (except for a few laborers working on the chalets under construction).  It is secluded and very clean (workers actually rake the beaches every day for trash) and the water is clear.   I let my dog run free.  Non-Ramadan is a little busier, but you can still find areas where there are no people if you drive around a little (no cars, no people...)

Getting there is a hike; it is about 45 minutes down either 30 (Fahaheel Expressway) or 40 (Malik Al Fahed) towards the Saudi border to exit 278. (And watch your speed - there are point-to-point cameras which measure your speed/time over distance rather than by cameras.  The overhead arches have cameras in them and you'll get a ticket - unless you have a Saudi license plate and that is like a license to speed in Kuwait... Just sayin.)

I guess they are planning to build Khiran City because it's not there yet...
Exit 278 and Chalets/Resort is to the left after this sign.
GPS:  28.677533, 48.298381

Turn Right at this sign - that's 278

Watch for massive speed bumps on 278.  They're hard to see and killer on your suspension!  Once you get on 278, you go straight down.  If you go all the way down to the end of 278, you'll come to the Khiran Resort.  I think they charge to get in, but you can drive around and see the resort.  You have to rent one of their chalets if you want to use the beaches there, however.

Where we swim is on the Zour side to the left of 278 (U-turn just before the bridge or alternatively, U-turn just after the bridge.  GPS: 28.687738, 48.385853 ).  If you take the first U-turn, take the first right (at the U), then the first paved road on the right (there will be an electric sub-station there).  You can go all the way down to the end of the road, or stop anywhere along the way (on the right of the road).   There are berms and trenches surrounding most of the beaches because the chalets are either still under construction or the land is still for sale.  You can either pull up next to a chalet and walk next to the wall for beach access; or just watch for where there are paths leading over the berms.


(Taken with my iPhone - and no filter added.
This is what you see!)

The streets are paved with the exception of several areas off-road where you might be better trying it in a 4x or higher vehicle.  (Any rental car is built for 4-wheeling so that's never a problem.)

There is no heavy current.  These are inlet beaches so the water is more shallow and great for kids.  What you won't find are public toilets (it's the sea...) or restaurants or even food trucks. (Although there is a Sultan Center mini-store on the Zour Chalets side near the boat ramp -  GPS:  28.676015, 48.381739.)   Bring your own food/water (and an umbrella!).  A lot of people go at night and make small barbecues on the beach.






The chalet architecture is also interesting if you just want to take a drive around.

There are closer beaches like at Dubaiiya or Julaii'a, but you have to explore along the road until you find access - and those places will likely require a 4x4 to get to (or you'll end up hiking in with your stuff).  The places I'm describing at Khiran/Zour are close to the road, so you don't have much of a trek.  The other beaches also may not be as clean as Khiran/Zour as they're not patrolled by cleaners.


This is the map of the Khiran area.  As you can see, there are a lot of inlets and places to see and to swim.  You can take exits 278, 285 or 290 and get to the sea.  (For those of you now upset with me for divulging this national secret - there are a LOT of beaches, not just one....)

If you are interested in diving, my friends at Al Boom have trips from Khiran resort (straight down 278).  You need to book in advance.  They will take you out to the islands (Um Al Moradim, Qaroh, or Khubbar - depending on where they want to dive that day) for 10kd per person for the entire day.  See my previous post here.  Their contact information is Tel : 965-4830570 /4830474 /4834831  Fax : 965-4838293  website : http://www.alboomkuwait.com

If you are interested in renting chalets in the Khiran area, there are several realtors on Instagram @luxury_chalets @chaletrent                

For more photos and info, Ladies Who Do Lunch in Kuwait Blog has video clips taken from The Discovery Channel's documentary on Sea City  LINK HERE.                                                                                               

Donate Leftover Food to Poor People in Kuwait

I'm plagiarizing this morning because I' sleepy and I'm just not feeling creative.  (Ok a little, but not much...). This is a direct plagirization from Crazy in Kuwait's blog post today.  I think it is noteworthy and important.

Note to lazy people:   these guys will pick up from you.

Leftover Food Donation
Crazy in Kuwait Blog

Many people in Kuwait are used to buying and cooking more food than what they really need. They then throw away the rest, while there are hundreds of poor people in need who could benefit from it. The Al Bir Charity Foundation is now collecting leftover food and any excess food that people don’t need or will not consume soon, and distribute it to families in need.

Al Bir was founded in 1988 by Dr Ahmad Al-Muzaini, who saw similar scheme applied in Saudi Arabia and brought it to Kuwait. It started first with food only, and was called the surplus food committee, but today they also accept other items that people would like to donate to poor families. “Our goal is to provide help to families in need living in Kuwait, no matter their nationality or in which area they live.

Our sociologist will research their case and check all official documents about their debt, health condition, death certificate for orphans, and other documents depending on the case,” Mohammed Al-Muzaini, Chairman of Al Bir, told Kuwait Times. The majority of the recipients are non-Kuwaitis. “We focus on the expats as they live in worse situations.

Kuwaitis usually receive support and allowances from the government, while expats don’t. We realize the great increase in cost of living including rent, commodities and everything else. I don’t think there are other charities helping expats apart from the Patients Help Fund, which can’t cover all cases. We focus to make people aware to make good deeds by donating extra food or things they have to others who will benefit from them,” added Muzaini. “There are many things people don’t need anymore and can donate to others. For instance, some people used crutches and have recovered, so they don’t need them anymore and can donate them.

Also, women can give their wedding dresses to poor girls who will get married soon and don’t have money to buy one. Or people can give away furniture that they don’t need, or electronics. We also have donors who donate new electronics – they buy the item and tell us to take it from the shop and deliver it to the poor,” he explained. The foundation is working during the whole year, but is more active during the holy month of Ramadan. “Throughout the year, we deliver 450 meals daily to laborers.

During Ramadan, we deliver 2,000 meals in markets and mosques where laborers usually gather in Jleeb, Amghara, Rai and others,” stressed Muzaini.


Al Bir also cooperates with companies in the food industry. “Companies supplying supermarkets have to follow regulations by removing foodstuff two months before expiry.This food is not expired yet, and other people can benefit from it. So we advise them to donate this food to poor families,” he noted. People who would like to donate leftover food or any food that may expire before they consume it can contact Al Bir on 24830050/40, and their driver will come to the house and collect it.link

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Expat Moms in Kuwait

I get asked a lot of mom/children related questions here and I should be the last person to ask or to give advice.... but I try to help.  My friend, Emily, recommended this forum and I thought I would pass it along.




This group welcomes English-speaking expatriate mothers of all faiths/origins/beliefs, living in or shortly moving to Kuwait.

The purpose of our group is to:
1) Provide an information service to our members on the practical aspects of living in Kuwait (e.g. schools, hospitals, transportation).
2) Provide a portal for our members to arrange outings/playdates/meet-ups, etc.
3) Keep each other informed of events happening in Kuwait.
4) Provide an outlet for items for sale by members through our Classifieds section.
5) Provide positive and negative product and service information through our Reviews section.

Membership Requirements:
1) Speak English
2) Be an expatriate living in Kuwait or shortly moving to Kuwait
3) Be a mother or a 'mother-to-be'

If you fit the bill, please Sign Up and we look forward to welcoming you into our community! :)


The link is:  https://www.bigtent.com/groups/expatmumskwi

Saveco Kuwait - My new happy place



Sometimes I think I'm helpful; and other times I feel like I'm living under a rock and totally behind-the-times.

I have heard about Saveco for a while now, but I'm one of those people whose primary concern about shopping is the parking lot and ingress/egress.  I avoided The Avenues for a long time because parking was a problem (I now know a secret parking place where most people haven't figured out how to get to - saving me frustration and time!).  Anyhoo, I used to work in the same strip where Saveco is in Rai/ Shuwaikh next to the Friday Market and the construction they were doing there (and the amount of people who seemed to be going there to play demolition derby/vehicular manslaughter was a major turn-off).  Things appear to have settled down AND I have found that NO ONE is there at Iftar time (woo hoo!) so that's when I went. (Saveco has parking both in the front and rear of the store, so honestly, I can't complain toooo much.)

My buddies at Bazaar Magazine published a very nice article on Saveco last month -  which I only now read.  I'm even more impressed by the store now that I know about the background and the CEO/founder (and that she's female and went to school in Baaahstin - you go, girl!)    I like the entire concept.  It is refreshing and I honestly wish her total success; hoping she will be able to make it a chain.  The concept is actually better than I have seen at my favorite US stores (like Whole Foods or even Wegman's)

My own perspective was this:  (walking through the aisles, eyes wide with wonder/amazement, mumbling out loud, "This is AWESOME!" and calling my girlfriends to tell them).   I ALWAYS say that you can judge a store and their ownership by how happy their employees seem (sadly, we've got a lot of unhappy employees for the most part in Kuwait as progressive HR methodology hasn't caught up to the rest of the world). Saveco employees were happy, friendly and helpful; and not at all in-your-face with the "sir-maams" and BS (like in some stores where the sales clerks are forced to follow you around and ask stupid questions).  This store felt "real".  It's quality. Quality products.  Quality displays.  Quality people.  BAM.  The prices were also quite good.

You can read more in detail in the Bazaar article (I can't write anything more - or anything better - than they have).  Saveco has a food academy and I am hoping that I can get my hands on their schedule (which I will gladly publish periodically if someone will send me).  I am also hopeful that they will have Kuwaiti cuisine classes - I will be totally in as long as they are authentic.

Here are some photos I took.  Go check the place out for yourself.  You're going to love it!  It's at the corner of 4th Ring Road and 55 Airport Road in Shuwaikh.  Next to the Friday Market (do NOT go see the animals in the Friday Market!!!  CLOSE THAT PLACE DOWN!)

View of fruit and veggies section downstairs.
Home section upstairs.
(There is also a cafe upstairs that is clean and airy)
Fish art

Hey - here's something new... meat thermometers.  Imagine that.
They have a very large meat and cheese section
Large pet section - look at the massive rawhide bones, Mikey!


OTT selection of baking dishes/displays
(including cupcake holders)



Spanx - Massive amounts of stuff to bake and
 decorate yummy things with!
Food academy offering cooking classes!

Here is my personal wishlist of future sections to see in Saveco in the future:  Florist, pre-prepared gourmet foods (like Wegmans - OMG!), maybe organic/holistic vitamins, cosmetics and toiletries like Wholefoods.

I just love this store!  Go there!


Thanks, Bazaar Magazine for the good read and for providing the following contact information:

Saveco is located in Al-Rai off the 4th Ring Road.  Contact them at 2228 7700 or visit their website at www.saveco.com.  You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram @saveco, or on Twitter @SaveCoQ8.  For more information on the Food Academy you can call 9714 6363 or follow them on Twitter@FoodAcademyKw or Instagram @TheFoodAcademy.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Meeting Desert Guy's Wife

I got home and really didn't have much trouble deciding what to wear (white linen pants and my favorite floral print top).  It was the first time in months that I put on heels (because of my back pain/fractured disc). I knew that I wouldn't be standing for long, but I wanted to look taller.  I went for cute, but not OTT.   Turns out, there was no need to stress over what to wear (but we all do, don't we?)

Mrs. Desert Guy wore a very pretty duraa and had her hair in a pony tail.  We met at the door and did the kissy thing like we were old friends who hadn't seen each other in a very long time.

I've seen DGy's "Parade of Bimbos" for years now, and I was expecting to see a heavily-made-up-Barbie doll person in something tight.  She was not.  She's probably a little younger than I am.  She is well traveled, well-educated, sophisticated and elegant.  And extremely gracious and hospitable.  We even have mutual friends.  Who knew?

You know when you meet people and they say, "I'm just staying married for the kids."  Or "We live under the same roof, but like brother and sister."  You automatically holler, "BULLSHIT!" (sometimes out loud, sometimes inside your head).   But who really knows what goes on in someone else's home/life?  I think I am going to have to be less skeptical (maybe not...)  He has always been very complimentary of his wife and I can't say that I was ever jealous of her; just envious that she got to spend more time with him (but then again, maybe she didn't).

Mrs. DGy was a lovely lovely lovely person.  I really like her.  We talked for a long time and she was open and sincere.  When you're dating someone, everything is a big mystery. I obsess about everything and everything is a topic for analyzation.  When I was dating DGy, I wondered what his home life was like, what he was doing, etc etc.  I wondered if he was telling me the truth about his wife (and I honestly didn't want to upset anyone if they were happy and in love).   ....Turns out it's no big mystery after all.

They met young and fell in love.  Had a few kids.  Decided it wasn't working and they started living separate lives; meeting in the middle to raise wonderful, well-adjusted children.

After some time, her brother came in (equally as nice/kind).  We all shared ftour meal together.  Partway through, DGy looked at me and said, "How many years have you and I been married now?"  and I immediately responded with, "Six."  Even the kids laughed.  They made me feel so comfortable (again, like old friends) that that type of banter was humorous.  It was all so "normal" and it just felt like I had been part of it all for forever.  (And yet, so strange...)

I never asked her outright how much she knew about my relationshit with DGy.  She did say that she knew a lot about me and that she had asked to meet me at our camp a few years ago, but I wasn't there (or maybe the timing wasn't right for DGy).  (She said she didn't like the people who go to his camp.  I'm down with that!)  I told her that she was a saint and that I knew it couldn't be easy for her to put up with it all.  She agreed, but basically said, "it is what it is."  I imagine at one point, there was a lot of passionate love between them. They obviously really like each other, but from what I saw, it seems to be more like he once told me, "brother and sister."  (Of course, I don't know if that is true because again, no one really knows what happens in someone's home.)

If it was me, would I be able to welcome my husband's female friend/former girlfriend in to my home?  I don't think so.  I think she must be very self-confident (or just is so far removed from him emotionally that it is all ok). I'm obviously not a threat or I never would have been invited to their home.  I doubt seriously that he has ever invited any of his other female friends (x-girlfriends) to his home. (But as his 9 year old son once told him, "Dad, your other friends love me because they love you.  "Desert Girl" loves me because she loves me for me"  That's true.  I don't suffer fools - even in small packages.)   I sincerely admire Mrs. DGy and I would love to be able to ask her about this experience later.

If it was me, would I have stayed with him for the kids?  Probably not.  I'm too selfish and too opinionated. It would take someone stronger than me.  (One infraction on his part and I would be considering ways to make his life miserable, so why stay married?)

They invited me back and I would really love to be in their company again.  I'm still feeling warm and happy over the time I shared with Desert Guy and Mrs. DGy.  I had no idea.

Like I keep saying, my life is pretty unconventional.... and I love it.  Thank you, God, for allowing me to see the same pictures from totally different perspectives.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Protests Rock Kuwait

Pay attention to this story, people.  I'm not going to elaborate or give my personal opinion.  All is not always what it appears.

Downtown Kuwait City, 6 July 2014

Kuwait Times
7 July 2014
LINK HERE

KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday stressed that all people must follow the law in order to protect the state’s constitutional institutions against any violations. He also said that citizens are not allowed to violate the judicial authority, condemning the attack on the country’s judiciary system....

(Omit)

Five nights of clashes have rocked the state after the arrest of prominent opposition leader Musallam Al-Barrak. The public prosecutor on Wednesday detained Barrak for 10 days pending trial on charges of insulting the judiciary and slandering the head of the supreme judicial council, Faisal Al-Marshed. Police have used tear gas and stun grenades against demonstrators, and the Interior Ministry has vowed to deal firmly with unlicensed gatherings. The ministry said police arrested a number of protesters, while opposition activists said around 25 people have been rounded up since Wednesday.

Opposition groups began a protest march later yesterday to the Palace of Justice in Kuwait City to press for the release of Barrak, whose trial is due to begin today. Demonstrators refused repeated appeals by senior police officers not to stage the procession and started to walk from outside the Grand Mosque, chanting slogans calling for “cleansing the judiciary”. After walking about 30 m, riot police in armoured vehicles fired rounds of stun grenades and tear gas at the protesters, who were holding orange flags.

Most of the demonstrators dispersed into the nearby markets of downtown Kuwait City where riot police continued to chase them out of the capital and in order to ensure they do not reach the Palace of Justice. Police had earlier closed down all roads leading to the Grand Mosque forcing protesters to park in remote areas and walk a long distance under sweltering heat coupled with high humidity.

Despite the closure, around 1,000 demonstrators managed to reach the protest area and more people were still coming in when the police intervened. Most of the protesters returned home with the exception of dozens of youth activists who continued to play a cat and mouse game with police.

The opposition earlier held a press conference in which former Assembly speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun insisted that the opposition rallies are peaceful and will continue and called on authorities not to attack them. Meanwhile, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahd Al-Sabah was interrogated by the public prosecutor for the second time yesterday night.

The Ministry of Interior yesterday warned that it would decisively face all unlicensed rallies and marches in line with legal measures with a view to maintaining national security and stability. The ministry said in a statement it is committed to constitutional and legal constants which govern the general order in the country in line with Islamic sharia and the Kuwaiti people’s ethics. It warned that it would confront all acts of violence, rioting, burning, ransacking and assault on policemen or state and private facilities and properties. 

Regrettably, such acts are being committed regardless of appeals and calls for tranquility and reasoning out of keenness for the country’s national interests, it said.

The ministry urged all people to exercise proper conduct. It asked parents of young people who took part in such acts to explain to them the danger of such acts for them and the whole society. The ministry said in a release earlier in the day that in spite of repeated warnings, a group of people held illegal rallies in Sabah Al-Nasser yesterday evening, during which violent acts and rioting took place. The protesters blocked traffic, burned dumpsters and assaulted security forces and attacked public and private properties, it lamented.

The demonstrators also threw Molotov cocktails at the Central Prison, also burning nearby trees before fleeing the scene, said the statement, adding that police were able to arrest some of those involved. 

Policemen called on demonstrators at to stop their acts of violence that could pose a danger to families living in the area, but the groups continued to create chaos and threw rocks at the police, the ministry said. It warned it will bring all those involved in the violation of law to justice in order to safeguard Kuwait’s security. – Agencies

More Links on this story:

Telegraph, UK   
Jazeera  
The National UAE    
And This One... 
LWDLIK Blog


What to wear when meeting your x-boyfriend's wife


I am extremely grateful to have been extended an invitation to share iftar with Desert Guy and his family.  I am equally grateful that his wife called to invite me.

Many of us are from non-traditional/unconventional families these days.  I seem to get glimpses into these types of families.  It's interesting.  

When I was living with DGy in the desert 2 years ago and we were dating, I knew that he was still married and he was still living under the same roof with the Mrs.  His kids knew/know me and we all like each other. DGy told me that he was still married for the kids.  Verify:  I've heard from other people including his relatives that this is true (and was true long before I met him); they basically lead separate lives under the same roof.  Who am I to judge?  I've seen a lot more unconventional marriages, so whatever.  

Anyways, he and I are still friends.  I have met his recent girlfriend (who I like a lot).  I've heard that DGy's wife knows his girlfriends' best friend.  Yeah, ok, unconventional again.  Whatever.

I have heard that DGy wife is a nice woman and that they had a love story of a marriage that at some point went wrong.  She's a lawyer, so undoubtedly, she doesn't have to stick around for financial reasons.  I'm very curious about her.  

I just know that she must be an absolute saint for staying with him.  He's a tough one.  He has a good heart, but..... much better as a friend than as a romantic prospect.  He's got a bad temper, isn't exactly faithful to any woman, and has the attention span of a gnat.  But - he is the type of man that you can count on when you really need him.

When they both called me yesterday and invited me for ftour, it totally threw me.  She was lovely on the phone, very kind and welcoming and she said that she had heard nice things about me from DGy and her children.   

The first thing in my mind was, "What do I wear?"  I'm going to have a mad rush through my closets today.  eeek.

(I'll let you know how it turns out....)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ramadan Etiquette 101

This is from my friend, Bionic Nomad's blog.  Too good not to re-post!


Ramadan Kareem everyone! Now let’s give you a basic crash course on Ramadan Etiquette 101:


1.     Nobody is interested in your daily Fitoor/Sehoor photos: We know how good the food is after a whole day of fasting. Your dates and laban (or whatever you are drinking) aren’t anymore special than mine.
2.  Being devout is cool. Taking selfies of being devout isn’t cool. (Example: selfie in a mosque, selfie on the prayer mat, etc) Nor it is going to score you anymore “devoutness points”.
3.     Posting/sending texts: Fitoor time, prayer time, sehoor time, prayer time..get the hint? That’s called spam, it’s not called reminding someone. That’s uncool. We all can hear the mosques. I am deaf and I know the timings. So don’t be an annoying spammer.
4.     When you’re out driving, keep your eyes on the road; not on that setting sun or the clock. Don’t kill yourself or anyone else on an empty stomach. Keep your cool, drive sanely and wisely. Food isn’t going anywhere and God won’t blast you into a smoking crater if you’re late. (Try sleeping on an empty stomach, unpleasant feeling isn’t it?)

5.     You’re fasting and about 2 billion other Muslims are fasting too. Don’t be a wuss, go to work like it’s any other day. You didn’t get your caffeine/nicotine fix? Suck it up, princess. Think of those people who work outdoors for a living while fasting. Also, who cares if you see a person eating/drinking? If it’s legal to eat/drink in public then you don’t have the right to complain. I repeat:

Suck it up, princess.


Have a blessed Ramadan!