Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why I would leave Kuwait

I've been in Kuwait for 22 years this past month.

In 1990/91, I volunteered with Citizens For a Free Kuwait in Washington, DC and ran a not-for-profit organization called Kuwait Link to try to assist in any way I could towards the liberation of Kuwait and the assistance of the Kuwaiti people.  When the 100-hour war took place in 1991 to liberate Kuwait, I struggled to go along with my Kuwaiti friends. I wanted to fight.  But I couldn't; I was the only American with the group of Kuwaiti female interpreters that were going to basic training and then on to Kuwait. I was a liability as an American. So I stayed.  And Kuwait was liberated in a blink of an eye.

I came here first in 1993, to look around and then I settled here in 1996. There were very few single American professional working women.  I knew of only one other and learned about her only much later.  Most American women were married to Kuwaitis.  In the States, I had been engaged to a very nice Kuwaiti man, but I knew we just weren't meant for each other. (We are still friends after 33 years.)  He wasn't the reason I came here:  I came here because I honestly fell in love with Kuwait and Kuwaiti people on my visit (I sobbed most of that first plane ride back to the States.  The BA air hostess hugged me and comforted me!).  The people were kind and hospitable and caring.  I had a cold, one of my friends would rush over to take me to the hospital.  Literally.  I was alone, they would come pick me up for family lunches.  I needed something, my Kuwaiti friends were always there.  Always.  They never asked for anything in return and they did it out of kindness and love.  The expression was, "they have a white heart."

I found a job before I came here.  I worked at a subsidiary of an Islamic bank which asked me to wear hijab in the office.  It was a unique insight into the lives of ladies who do choose to cover.  I learned quite a bit about their decision and I respected them and the dignity they held.  Of course, my wearing of the hijab was forced and so my heart was never in it; but I did try to be modest and respectful; even waiting an appropriate amount of time in my red sports car to pull it off at the end of the day and drive home.  I'm glad I had the experience.

In the 90's, people in Kuwait still had time.  You had time to meet your friends; share a stikana of tea or a plate of foul for breakfast at the beginning of the work day.  You had time to meet for weekend lunches.  No one had smart phones.  The few who did have cell phones had Alcatels and Nokias or more likely, pagers.  We weren't on them all the time because calls were expensive.  It was cheaper to get paged and stop by Sultan Center to use their free public phone.  Family meals with Kuwaitis were loud and festive with kids running in and out.  It was a time to tell stories and share laughs.  Everyone paid attention to each other.  There normally wasn't even a television on (as at the time, Showtime and Orbit were the 2 satellite providers and not only did most people not have them - it was considered expensive at that time - but their programs were limited).  KTV wasn't great and and they weren't on all the time.  So you were forced to talk to each other.  And it was nice.

In the 90's as a Westerner, you could walk down the street and people would stop to chat with you; maybe ask you where  you are from and what you are doing in Kuwait.  They were kind and friendly.

As the years passed, things started to change. In the early 2000's - particularly after 2003 when the US went into Iraq and Saddam was ousted - being a Westerner (especially an American) wasn't such a great thing.  Teenaged kids hadn't been taught much about the Gulf War and how the Allied forces had worked with Kuwait towards liberation.  People hadn't wanted to relive the past by talking about it, so when 2003 rolled around, America was frowned upon for "invading a neighboring Islamic country," Iraq.  Iraqi music was played again throughout Kuwait.  US and British flags were no longer sold on Liberation and National Days as they had been in the past.  Time had quickly moved on.

Now we all have smart phones.  Everyone is too busy to see each other and when we do, we all bow our heads to the Smart Phone Gods and spend far too much time in the cyber world than we do finding out what is happening in each other's lives.  My lunches at Kuwaiti friends' homes are pretty much along the same lines. Kids no longer run through the rooms, laughing.  They are too busy on their phones.  We are all too busy at work to stop and chat over tea in the morning and God forbid someone should bring in breakfast; it might be seen as the end of our work ethics.

Note:   back in the 90's and the early 2000's - there were only a handful of Kuwaiti restaurants.  Now Kuwait is flooded with them.  Both parents work these days and it is much easier to order than to spend time cooking. 

When I see old friends, many want to talk about business.  What we can do to make money.  What other people are doing to make money, etc.  On the rare occasions when I receive invitations these days, I always have to stop to question the motives.  Why do they want me there?  What will the discussion turn to?  Who wants to do business with me/US?  Rent their house to a Westerner?  Import a car from the States?   What will the pitch be?  I can't just relax and let my guard down.  It can't be about having fun and catching up (for the most part.  I'm speaking in generalities.  I know my closest friends and they are without ulterior motives; which is why I have limited myself to a tight-knit inner circle.)

My long-time non-Kuwaiti friends (Western professionals) are all but gone now.  A few still remain, but are planning to leave.  My best friend left Kuwait this year after 30 years here.  Her Kuwaiti son is a diplomat and has no plans to ever return to Kuwait.

Why?

I can't say that there is just one reason, but a collection:   It is just uncomfortable here now.  It is as if the Sword of Damocles hangs above your head and you are in constant anxiety that something bad is about to happen (not terrorism or DAESH or any of that):  Expat anxiety.   People used to have parties or gatherings and be happy. There was a quality of life.  You used to be able to go for a walk or leave your house to go to the grocery store without being anxious as to if you forgot your ID and may be sent to a deportation center for not having it with you.  Deport, deport, deport.  For everything from a traffic violation to (it seems recently) jay walking.

You can't own property as a foreigner in Kuwait, so you spend decades on what could have been mortgage payments.  There are plans to limit the amount of time foreigners can live here to 10 years.  For those of us who love Kuwait as a second home (and have even fought for the country in various ways), this is insult AND injury. Every non-Kuwaiti person must leave Kuwait eventually.

People have been willing to leave their own countries to come to live in Kuwait and we are blamed for many problems that would exist here with or without us. Like traffic.  If I had an extra few billion dinars right now, I would create safe public mass transportation (where women wouldn't be groped and hoodlems wouldn't be allowed on to throw rocks at passengers for fun).  I would even use it to get to/from work (as I use it in Dubai).  I would create toll lanes on the highways (for all - not just for "expats").  But, it isn't my money and I'm not a decision maker.  Why should I, as a foreign resident in Kuwait,  be blamed for a failing system that could have/should have been fixed decades ago?

Foreign workers did not miraculously appear out of thin air:  we were all brought here to work.  We all go through a rigorous visa process.  Someone at some time wanted us here (and as long as your visa is valid - they still must).  (Illegal visa traders, of course, are the exception.  They don't care as long as they are making a profit from selling visas  They are the same breed as coyotes who leave Mexican illegal immigrants in the desert for their own profit.  We all know who the Kuwaiti coyotes are, but little or nothing is being done to stop their illegal human trade.)

I'm not a guest in this country.  That term is belittling and I refuse to use or respect it.  If you are a guest, someone picks you up a the airport, takes you home (free of charge), feeds you, gives you some clean towels and shows you where your bed and the bathroom is.  Maybe gives you a glass of water before saying goodnight.  They probably cook your meals and give you desert after dinner.  I'm not a guest.  I get none of that.

I'm a resident of Kuwait. I make my own living and my own dinner.   I add to the economy of this country.  I have bought several cars while in Kuwait, paying interest (or "profit" in one case to an Islamic lending bank).  I have leased cars. I bought furniture and goods in the local market (often paying much higher prices than I would in my own country).  I pay my rent on time to my Kuwaiti landlord (for the past 22 years).  I pay my electric bill.  I pay for satellite TV. The list goes on and on. Who benefits from that?  Kuwaiti merchants.  Not foreign merchants:  KUWAITI.  Take away the foreign residents and you take away from the economy of the country and fellow Kuwaiti country men/women.

This is why the xenophobic politicians spouting expat hatred these days infuriate me so much.  They seek their 15 minutes of political fame, but at what price?  To the cost of the Kuwaiti economy.  Citizens might agree to the ideology in the short term (Kuwait for Kuwaitis), but when the economy begins to wane and the thousands of new tiny apartments remain empty and no one is spending on services or products, the tide may quickly turn.  (I just learned that Audi sales, for example, are down by 30% over last year. Granted, that is a luxury brand, but I wonder what other auto brands are suffering.  The political instability for expats is creating spending fears.)

One of the biggest issues today in Kuwait is the over-extended Kuwaiti healthcare system.  I love it that Kuwait has had virtually free healthcare, but I have used it only twice in 22 years.  Once was not by choice:  I didn't want to be transported to a government hospital when a young man on drugs crashed into my car.  I would have preferred a private hospital.  For that matter, I would have preferred that I would be allowed to donate my portion of the free health care to someone in need of it.  My employer pays 100 KD/yr in my name for something I refuse to use as I get private insurance through that very same employer. It is wasteful and unnecessary.   Further, it disgusts me to see law makers differentiating between ill patients via their nationality.  I always firmly believed that Islam doesn't differentiate between humans by color or country or religion.

I have been here over two decades now.  I haven't seen many changes in healthcare.  Why aren't there more qualified Kuwaiti doctors?  Is it that the system isn't retaining them?   Is the country not educating young people or helping them to become doctors?  Are they leaving?  Why are Kuwaitis still being sent to Europe and the US for specialized healthcare?  This isn't a new subject. I don't see the now-empty hospital waiting rooms as a good thing for anyone.   If the fees are increased so much that poor sick expat people can't afford to go to the hospital, doesn't that actually put more Kuwaitis at risk for catching communicable diseases?  The sick aren't going to hospitals for fun or because it is low-cost.   If you're sick and can't afford to go to a doctor, you are more than likely to suffer in silence.  Why did they put the cart before the horse?  Devise a low cost insurance alternative first; or force employers (sponsors) to pay increased public insurance fees. 

Let me get off politics and get back to my story.

I think what really changed my attitude about living here was what happened to me in 2015.  You can read the full story in older posts here, but I was living in a house that was owned by Kuwaitis. They were so inhumane to me that I started to loose faith in Kuwaiti people all together.  I never knew that there could be Kuwaitis that were so full of hate.   I now chose my circle of friends with a lot more scrutiny.  I have been very selective about what personal information I give out.  I reference check landlords and even people I do business with.  I never would have considered doing that when I first came here.  I had such faith in the society.  ... It's gone.

It seems that the joy has left the country.  The activities that I used to find peaceful and relaxing have been ruined by internal invaders:   Go to the desert and pick out a completely isolated spot, only to have people roll up in 4x's, pitch a tent right next to yours and put on loud music all night.  Go to the beach in an isolated spot (even if it is by boat) and you will find people show up next to you and put on a show to attract attention.  Where has the decency gone?  What about privacy?  Respect?  Even the quiet things have been ruined. Cultural mores are a thing of the past.  Everything and everyone is fair game for entertainment and self-gratification.

For years, I have helped promote Kuwait to people (mostly Westerners)  transitioning to life here.  I've made a lot of friends and answered a lot of e-mails:  I've posted about the attractions, things to do, places to see.  Where to go to find a home, where to go to buy or have furniture made. Where to buy a car.  Where to send your kids to school.  What doctors, dentists, mechanics, hair salons I would recommend.   All of this amounts to promoting the local economy; of helping Kuwaiti businesses that I like and believe in.  I have taken great pride in it, but recently I have found it more difficult to maintain my positive outlook.  And to respond to queries for recommendations.

Its hard to stay positive and to help others when the same people that you are promoting could potentially be lumping you, a foreign resident, into a singular "expat" group that they may secretly desire to be expunged from the country. The recent political climate has polarized the country and created divisions and suspicions and questions.   Unless I have a personal connection to businesses or services, I am now reluctant to promote them.  How do they really feel about expat-me?  Is that "deport" word in the back of their mind?  Do they feel the right to be in line first because of the differences in our nationalities?  I question if I should help or not.  Part of me says, 'Stay true to yourself and believe in the good in all people," but every day a new expat law or proposal becomes part of our lives, limiting personal freedoms and rights; bringing my morale down a notch or two.  Am I promoting the same people who stand behind that type of discriminatory behavior (and sadly, I have found that some of my dear Kuwaiti friends actually harbor that type of mentality)?  Should I just remain quiet and stop assisting?

I don't even want to go out anymore because of the amount of road rage (and NOT by foreign residents).  And construction that will lead each of us to road rage (no signage/no warning of changes in routes, for example).  People no longer look with kind eyes.  People no longer want to help each other.  I've always believed that what you give out is what you get back; smile and a smile is returned.  Not now.  Smile and you receive a scowl.  People will just wonder what you want from them. 

So all this, and with all my friends leaving or gone, these are the reasons why I would leave Kuwait should the day ever come. And that is tremendously saddening to me as I have loved this little country for over three decades; the country that used to have a white heart towards all the people within its borders.





Disclaimer:  I don't publish hateful comments (and in the past few years, I unfortunately receive more and more of these).  The comment that is the most concerning to me is, "Go back to your country."  This is a statement made by people without the intellectual capacity to make any other remark or have any valid reasoning.  They are the type of person harboring the hatred and discrimination that I have just posted about above -  and I choose not to further promote their ideology by publishing it.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Kuwait Cost of Living - 2017

I follow "Kuwait Expats Lifestyle" on Facebook and they mentioned a cost of living list for Kuwait for 2017.  I disagree with many of the prices.  I think they are below the averages here - especially if you take into account the lowest prices will be in co-operatives - which have higher prices than those listed.

What do you think?  Check it out on Expatistan HERE. 




I did my own back in the day when I had more free time on my hands.  These days, I really don't.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Model Weddings

Wedding Hostesses provided by www.mrs-show.ae

I responded to a post on Facebook from a woman in Kuwait looking for Western model-looking women to hostess/waitress at weddings in Kuwait part-time.  I immediately thought that this will be a trend that will catch on in Kuwait; especially with the elite.  It is the female equivalent of having a British butler, if nothing else for a conversation piece for those who have attended.

I've been to many Kuwaiti weddings in the past 22 years. Most of the servers are from the Philippines. This was literally the first time I've heard of anything like this in Kuwait.  But it made sense.

I see it as diversification.  Wouldn't it be racist to assume only one nationality or a group of people from only one area of the world could accomplish the task of being a wedding attendant?  If people are qualified and want to do the job, why not?

On the Facebook post thread, some of the comments were by people (women!) completely opposed to having "models" at weddings (and keep in mind that Kuwaiti weddings are segregated, so women would cater to women).  The opposition seemed to be towards attractive models. The main theme was that this is "far from Kuwaiti culture."  Why?  Because its new?  It isn't as if the bride was importing male Chippendale strippers to serve food to female participants.  But even if they were, it is up to the wedding participants (bride/groom/family) to determine what they want to do at their own private venue.  They could ask for circus freaks if that's what they wanted.

Are other women insecure of beautiful women?  Aren't weddings - especially Middle Eastern weddings - full of beautiful women; women who have spent most of the day getting more beautiful at salons?  Would women be insecure of beautiful foreign women at Kuwaiti weddings because maybe (and I'm just throwing it out there) lovely models would take some of the limelight from the potential mother-in-laws, there to scope for potential mates for their sons?

Ironically (as I've found many timing situations in Kuwait to be), immediately after I responded to the post, a friend in Dubai who owns an event management company (www.mrs-show.ae)  contacted me because her company was booked for a Kuwaiti wedding with Western models and two had backed out at the last minute.  She was desperate to fill size 4 uniforms (which were black jackets/skirts) with beautiful, tall, slender women (and no - I in no way make the cut).  I made some calls but it is sketchy when you call all your friends the night before a weekend asking, "Yo, Flan, I need 2 beautiful girls.  Can you help?"  But my friends know - I've asked for stranger things, so now they kind of bear with me till the end of the conversation before they laugh.

If I were the bride, I would like to see beauty (and professionalism) at my wedding.  Because I'm weird, I would even put them in fairy costumes, complete with wings (covered-up version of a Victoria's Secret fashion show?) and ask them to flutter about the room, with me being the bride fairy princess.... Yeah.... it could happen....

Of the weddings that I've attended, the women of the families usually escort ladies to seats.  But they get busy, don't they?  The next line of assistance are the waitresses in uniform and for the most part, they are not professional and can't answer questions.  I would assume that professional wedding ushers would be trained and competent in their jobs.  And they would probably even assist with a courteous smile.

In addition, the models (hostesses, ushers - whatever you would like to call them) get paid for these (all-female) events.  Its a chance for them to make extra money. It is really no different than having spokes models at a car show or grand opening of a jewelry store. Or a flight attendant.   What's the big deal?  Sexist?  Perhaps. But we're talking about a wedding, not an arbitration or financial summit.  Not like the wedding guests are going to form a panel on climate change and pose interview questions to the hostesses.

And why western women and why bring them in from a place like Dubai?  Well, they are not party crashers.  They're not going to go out and talk about what happened behind closed wedding venue doors - no potential for gossip - especially if many Westerners don't understand Arabic that well and if they are brought in from somewhere else, they probably won't know anyone else in the country.  Its an interesting aspect.  Kuwait is a small country.  Everybody talks.

I can see this becoming a trend at upscale weddings. Many new things are controversial at first.  I'm grabbing my popcorn and watching to see how this plays out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sign the petition to Ask Qatar Airways to Help Large Breed Animal Owners and Rescues

When Lufthansa stops flying directly from Frankfurt to Doha next month, humans aren't the only ones who will be affected. It's now going to be more expensive to fly large dogs out of Qatar.

To prevent pets from being dumped when their owners leave the country from good, five local groups are now asking Qatar Airways to change that. 
     - VZW Rescue Salukis Middle East -RSME (on Facebook)


Animal rescue organisations in Qatar come together to lobby Qatar Airways


The recent airline changes to Hamad International Airport has left pet lovers and animal rescue organisations in a huge predicament. With no other major airline allowing medium-to-large sized dogs to fly to or from Doha, current pet owners residing in Qatar, families with pets looking to relocate, and rescuers and animal lovers who dedicate their time and efforts toward animal welfare, find themselves left with no desirable options due to airline pet travel restrictions.

Until March this year, there were a few options to export larger dogs (>22 kilograms) from the country. KLM was the dog rescue lifeline for these larger dogs as they had a very generous upper limit and they allowed three dogs as accompanied baggage. Accompanied baggage, as opposed to cargo, is significantly cheaper. Qatar Airways only allows dogs that weigh under 32 kilograms; this includes the crate which normally weighs between 10-12 kilograms. (Some of the popular breeds - Huskies, German Shepherds, Salukis, and ‘Doha Specials’ - weigh an average of 20-30 kilograms as adults.) Qatar Airways is also double the price of KLM and Lufthansa.

Lufthansa was then only remaining option. They weren’t nearly as generous as KLM, with a smaller allowance, size-wise (no giant crates), and only allowing three dogs in total onto any one flight. However, dog rescuers and animal exporters had to suffice with this and continued juggling to get their larger size dogs out with this airline.  Now, as Lufthansa will cancel their Doha flights from October 27, large dogs will not be able to leave Qatar as excess baggage.

Alison Caldwell, Co-Founder of Paws Rescue Qatar commented: “As it stands now, no dogs over 22 kilograms will be able to leave this country as excess baggage. The repercussions are utterly devastating. They are devastating not only for rescuers, but for those who have their own large breed dogs in Qatar and want to leave with them. Rather than budgeting roughly 2,500 QAR for a dog to fly excess baggage, they’re now going to have to shell out +/- 20,000 QAR.” (US$5,300/KD1,600).

“With an epidemic of dumped animals as it is, Qatar will likely now see more of them than ever before. For dog rescuers, raising the money needed to get dogs to their forever homes is difficult enough with excess baggage costs, so raising ten times that amount is just not possible. In the end, it is the dogs who will suffer immeasurably – a total injustice for innocent beings that are only in the dire situations they find themselves because of humans in the first place.”

Qatar Airways is a world-class, award winning airline, its services consistently supersede all others and its endeavour to be the best has made it the exceptional airline it is today.

Qatar Airways has not just proven to be invaluable to those living and working in Qatar, it has fast become a fierce competitor and necessity for those travelling around the globe.

Qatar itself welcomes millions of employees from around the world. It offers a safe and wholesome alternative to those seeking greater comfort and success in their lives and careers. It has embraced so many families that it is home to many expatriates and animals are some of our most beloved family members.

Qatar does its best to pass laws and regulations to better accomplish full animal rights.
As a nation of majority expatriates, we bring our pets with us when we relocate, and we take our pets with us when we leave.

Like every nation there is always a need for rescue groups; there are hundreds of animals awaiting homes, animals of all shapes and sizes.  Qatar has provided full support and encouragement to rescue organisations around the country; rescues that have been very successful in the rehabilitation and relocation of animals around the world. This has proven possible due to the tremendous support from the nation and its love for animals. Now that other airlines that allowed larger pets to travel as excess baggage are discontinuing their services from Doha, families, animal lovers and rescue organisations in Qatar face a harsh dilemma.

For an airline that is already the number one choice for so many people, rescue organisations are urging Qatar Airways to expand their invaluable service and update its excess baggage pet travelling policies while still remaining affordable.
Source: ILQ News 



Monday, September 11, 2017

Kuwait's landmarks of childhood disappear By Nawara Fattahova

Below is an article on a subject I have thought of often - especially driving around Salmiya.  Kuwait is changing fast and many of our old landmarks have disappeared.  It's unfortunate, but a sign of "progress."  Personally, I liked the old, laid-back Kuwait of yester-year (and by that, I mean even 10-15 years ago).  Even before that, I remember the gender-divided restaurants (which were FUN because they actually had more flirt-appeal).  Bachelors sat on one side and families on the other.  I remember buying a shawarma for 250 fils!   And families with kids had plenty of places to go. But now it seems like the country that was referred to as "kid-friendly" is loosing many of the kid-friendly places.  

Like the trees in Kuwait, places are being chopped-down, but not replaced.

Good article, Nawara!  You stated what a lot of us are thinking.

Kuwait's landmarks of childhood disappear
By Nawara Fattahova
Kuwait Times


It's a sad feeling not being able to go to places we used to enjoy visiting when we were kids.  Change is a part of life, but when the change removes most or all of your favorite entertainment places and stores, it hurts.  The trend started by demolishing Showbiz, the most popular entertainment park in Kuwait during the 1970s and 1980s, before Entertainment City was built in Doha. The place also housed a mini­zoo, pony rides and other attractions. Green Hill opposite Showbiz disappeared much earlier.


Then came the demolition of one of the two complexes of the old Salmiya Souq on Salem Al-Mubarak Street. This complex had many of my favorite shops including Waleed Toys, Family Bookshop, Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor, Hardees fast food and many others. Ten years after it was razed, a new building is being built and the entire street will change in the future to become a promenade where cars will be banned.  At least the complex on the opposite side is still standing, so some childhood memories are alive, although the popular toy store disappeared after the liberation in 1991.

The drive-in cinemas, which were not available anywhere else in the region, were also demolished. The main one on the Sixth Ring Road was replaced with 360 Mall. The other smaller one was in Ahmadi. Many other cinemas disappeared too, including Salmiya Cinema next to the post office and Abdulhussein Abdulredha Theatre, AI-Hamra Cinema that used to be in the place of the AI-Hamra Tower, and Garnata Cinema in Khaitan, which has been replaced by a mall.

Last year, Entertainment City, which was the first and largest of its kind in the GCC when it was built in 1984, was closed for maintenance. Rumors swirled that it would reopen after a few months, but this didn't happen.  Some unofficial reports said that it will be demolished completely and rebuilt and may reopen in 2021.

The other popular entertainment park was Shaab Park on Gulf Road. This park suddenly shut down last month due to a dispute over its license and some other legal issues.  It seems it will surely be gone, and visitors of this park have lost the many rides, ice skating rink, roller blading, pony riding and the only bungee jumping place in Kuwait.

Children now can only play in small entertainment areas in some malls that are not attractive to teenagers and young people.  Or they can go to public parks, which many find boring and unsuitable to visit in this hot weather. Where wiII their childhood memories of Kuwait be created?


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

School Locking up Female Teachers

I just heard a story that an "English" school in Kuwait has been locking female teachers in their accommodations. This is illegal and considered a human trafficking violationp. If it is happening to you or someone you know, report it to the police and your embassy.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Dear Expat-Bashers

And I might add:  Specifically those in law-making positions:

Kuwait National unity law number 19/2012,  includes “criminalizing any form of agitation and incitement of public through any means, instigating hatred and disdain towards any sect, initiating sectarian or tribal crises, and publishing ideologies to encourage racial, class or group discrimination or the superiority of a certain race, group, color, origin, doctrine or lineage to others.” The law also penalizes whoever commits such a crime by “a maximum of seven years in prison and/or a KD 10,000-100,000 fine.”

What are your intentions, young man?

Well, I should say, "older man."

In my 22 years in Kuwait, I've had 2 relationships where I was head-over-heels, madly in love.  That's not to say that I haven't had other relationshits, but these 2 were the biggest and meant the most to me.

It's easy to find "love" (or a perception/idea of "love") in Kuwait.  When you first come here, if you are dating someone from the Arab culture, you are charmed by all the flowery words, even poetry, that you hear.  They make it sound as if they've never seen a woman like you.  But you quickly realize that that's the culture: everything is OTT and you're not so special.  All the females are special.  And princesses.  You're just girl-of-the-moment waiting to be won over (and most likely, inevitably "screwed over" at some point in the future).  The same flowery poetry that he's quoting to you, he's quoting to the next few females he calls or texts.  Or picks up in his car driving down the street.  Or meets in the mall.  Or at work.  Or standing in line at the co-op.  Whatever.

When I first came here, I loved the hunt.  I wasn't into anything serious.  It was fun (and an ego boost) to go out and see how many numbers that I could go home with.  More than likely, never to be called.  It was a game.  Hunting on the Gulf Road on a weekend night with my BFF was what we looked forward to.

But somewhere either I got older and more jaded to it, or realized what a tiresome and even cheap game it was.  It  lost its appeal. I didn't care about the ego boost.  The novelty had run its course.

So, I met the occasional potential through going to parties with friends.  But that lost it's lure too.  The music was too loud.  The smoke was too thick.  The lights were too low.  You couldn't talk to anyone and even if you did, they were more about hooking up for the night with the hoochies in the room than talking to respectfully-dressed good-friends-of -their-good-friends.

And my good guy friends who had guy friends kind of put the block on anything. Their guy friends wouldn't go near me for fear of offending my "brothers."  They would sit there and give me longing eyes all night, ask a few questions about me and then I might or might not see them the next weekend when the group got together for barbecues or whatever.  It took me a long time to realize that I wasn't the one with the problem (was I too ugly or too something or what?); potential guys weren't talking to me because it was ayeb:  the Arab brother respect code.

So, back to my story about intentions and the 2 long-term relationships:

The Man:  He showed me his intentions within the first 2 months of meeting.  "I WILL marry you."  Followed by a ring.   I had met most of his group of friends by then.  To be followed by his family - including his sisters (mother and father were dead).  We started talking about having kids. We lasted on/off for about 6 years, but we had a major issue:  He was already married.  (Say what you will about me, but she knew and I like her a lot.)  I just couldn't do the second wife thing and the logistics are really hard!  We tried for a while, but it just wasn't happening.  To this day, I love his kids and we send messages once in a while. His wife is a dear person and I wish her well and I hope that they're happy.  He and I no longer speak and that is probably for the best.  Although I miss his advice and his sense of humor and perspective on life.

Why was he different?  Because he made me feel secure from the start.  I was included in his life with family (even though ok it was weird by Western standards).  Some of his friends didn't approve of our relationship and he stood up for me.  I felt secure with him.

Mr. Clean (who I later referred to as Mr. Dirty or something like that):  He showed his intentions within the first 2 months of meeting also.  This time, he didn't ask me to marry him, he started with his father, the head of the family.  Then I was invited to their home to meet everyone (and to get their approval).  I think inevitably, his father loved me more than Clean ever did.  We hit it off immediately and he told Clean to marry me.  We dated on/off for about 3 years, but we had a major issue:  He is a cheating, lying, money-stealing asshole.  (Tell us how you really feel, DG.) I caught him at too many things.  He eventually got away with around 2,000 KD of my money which I haven't been able to recover, and asked me to buy him a Lexus.

Why was he different (in the beginning)?  Same reason.  I was not only included, but immersed in his family life. His sister was a best friend.  All the little kids in the family loved me.  I knew his whole extended family and they all accepted me.  It was about security.

So here I am now.  I have someone in my life that doesn't make me feel secure. This guy literally walked through my door with a big smile on his face.  He is a cousin of my dear friends.  It started off like a honeymoon, but at this point,  I don't know if his parents even know about me.  "When someone tells you who they are; believe them":  He has also told me that he doesn't want to get married for 10 years.

And look - let me just stop right here and say that I'm not a big fan of marriage.  I sincerely admire people who can make it work, but I haven't seen a lot of that and I can only pray that I'm that kind of person who can make it work.  But I know I have a short Aries/Irish fuse and it isn't always pretty. Regardless:  It's about the intention.  It is about knowing that you want to be with someone for the long run (regardless of the "type" of marriage or how it will turn out).

So when I don't get the security I want, my mind and my heart start to wander.  Faith is a bad thing to lose in someone. It has a domino affect that makes other pieces fall.  He has redeeming qualities:  He's faithful and loyal and my family loves him (he's Arab-American and works for my family's business). He's got his security, but I don't.  ... and he's starting to fall off my radar.  And that's where I'm at.

Disclaimer:  After  Clean,  I took a vow to stop having relationships and concentrate on my dog and K9 training. To set the story straight:  My dog is still the most important man in my life.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Female Expat Beaten at Animal Hospital

I don't know if you've seen the film clip being circulated on social media, but it is a short video taken in Royal Animal Hospital in Rai.  A man in dishtasha was arguing with a blonde lady at the reception desk, when he suddenly spits in her face (not once, not twice, but three times) before taking off his aghal and hitting her with it.

Lovely and oh so respectful.  To a woman.

Then, other staff members joined in trying to usher the man out of the hospital lobby, wherein the man's wife suddenly jumped in on the action and started beating people.  Classy.

All of this is recorded on a variety of their CCTV cameras (his furious face clearly visible)- and turned over to the police.  The man has since been arrested and the whole country is abuzz over how despicable his actions were.

Person held for beating receptionist in animal hospitalArab Times KuwaitKUWAIT CITY, July 15: An unidentified person wearing the national dress has been detained for interrogation for beating a female receptionist at a hospital in Kuwait that is taking care of animals, reports Al- Qabas daily. The incident has been recorded by the hospital’s surveillance camera. The man appears angry and is seen asking something to the receptionist before attacking her and other hospital staff with his Oqal. The man reportedly got angry when the receptionist, angry at the man’s behavior asked him to leave. It is not known why the man turned angry.


So here is my point:  If the people at the highest levels of lawmaking (parliament members) in the country are going to incite hatred of expats, I expect more of this type of behavior from the dredges of society who have now been validated to express their racial hatred publicly.  (I can say the same of the top politicians of my own country as well of course.)  I do find it rather ironic (appropriate even?) that the 2-legged animals chose to manifest their violence in a 4-legged animal venue, however.  The 4-legged animals were well behaved and did not partake in the mayhem.

God save civilization.


Canine Clubs in Kuwait: Trash Talk and More

I'm not naming names, but OMG the drama that goes on in the dog clubs in Kuwait.  I try to equally promote different canine clubs and activities because I think everyone is working towards the same goal: education and promotion of the sport in Kuwait.  They've made huge strides over the years and there is a lot more dog-ownership and subsequent service business operation in the country.  But... everybody talks trash about each other.  It is constant.  In general (like many other aspects of our community), there is no unity.  It is sad. And it is occasionally just downright vicious.

There is a huge row going on right now and legal action is being taken.  I'm going to be intentionally vague but I'll give you a metaphorical anecdote as to the situation:

Once upon a time, there was a shop owner.  He bought the shop and paid for it with his own money. Kept it running for years.  Everybody enjoyed the benefits of the shop and people enjoyed visiting to get advice.   Over time, several people volunteered at the shop.  Perhaps some of the visitors even liked the volunteers better. They did great work.  They brought in more customers.  Everything was going well until....

The volunteers decided to take over the shop and claim it as their own.  They went to (the equivalent of) the city council and said, "We held an election and everyone decided it is ours now." and suddenly, the shop keeper was no longer welcome in his own place.

Now, it is great that the volunteers are doing so much.  Everyone welcomes their hard work and dedication.  However, if the shop is not yours; why not just open another shop and go into friendly competition?  Why is it necessary to use the same branding as the man's shop and to push him out of something that he has built, paid for and is legally his?

As a strong believer in karma (and hey "what's right and what's wrong" for that matter), I'm waiting with popcorn in hand to see how this is going to play out.  Such drama. Such a small country.  I'm rooting for the shop keeper.  At the same time, I hope that the volunteers will start their own organization and get on with it.


August 2, 2017 Update

So now there are lawyers in both Germany and Kuwait involved.  Karma may come sooner than expected for some.  And it is getting nastier.  Fake social media accounts have been created with photos taken from others' Facebook accounts.  Bad accusations, etc.   I'm watching with popcorn in hand.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Labor Hotline: Kuwait Society for Human Rights



Arab Times
July 12, 2017

KUWAIT CITY, July 11: Kuwait Society for Human Rights has launched a “hotline 22215150” to raise awareness of migrant workers in Kuwait of their various legal rights and duties. Khalid Al-Hamidi, Chairman of the board of Kuwait Society for Human Rights, said that the hotline operates in five different languages: “Arabic, English, Filipino, Hindi and Urdu” in order to receive as many inquiries as possible about labor laws, ministerial decisions and legal procedures to protect rights.
He pointed out that this contributes to the reduction of abuses and violations that occur against migrant workers. He also added, “Through the hotline, legal advice can be sought as it will be answered by specialized experts and it provides a service of responding to all the migrant workers’ questions on laws and procedures concerning labor rights”.


He pointed out that the hotline received many complaints, including: “cancellation and transfer, recovery of passport, claim for financial dues, final cancellation of travel and a number of problems faced by migrant workers.” He said that, during the past period 802 complaints have been received of which 259 are of cancellation and transfer, 175 of claims for financial dues, 122 of passport recovery, 78 of malicious absence, 68 of work suspension without payment, 46 of final cancellation of travel with claim for financial dues, 38 of violation of contract items by the employer to increase working hours more than stipulated in the Labor Law and 16 of work injury. He noted that the complaints were distributed according to the language into “243 in Hindi, 101 in Urdu, 306 in Arabic and 152 in English.” 

The hotline is one of the activities of the project “Together to educate migrant workers in Kuwait”, which is being implemented in partnership with the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kuwait to educate workers in Kuwait on their legal rights and mitigate the violations they face as most of them result from the workers’ lack of knowledge of their rights.

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I think this is a great step in the right direction.  It's also fabulous that a foreign country (The Netherlands) has stepped in and helped implement this project for Kuwait.  Outstanding work.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Tanfastic Salon

The former owner of Tanfastic Salon, Maja, asked me many years ago to stop by and I never did.  Maja has sold it and moved on.  Last night, I finally went in for a mani/pedi and spray tan.  They're located right behind Fanar Mall in Salmiya.

It's a nice salon in black, white and grey colors, with half a dozen professional pedicure chairs with massage.  Those chairs are a huge selling point for me.  I literally hate being bent over a tub of water to have someone do my feet.  It is much more relaxing to be able to recline and have the chair massage me.

I asked for a French shallac mani and a regular French pedi.  Great job on the hands.  The feet - not so much.  Two different ladies working on feet and hands. I don't think the pedi lady knew what she was doing.  She put on one coat of base first and then the white line.  She seemed totally mystified when she went back to do the second base coat, covering the white line, as to why you couldn't see it anymore.  WTF?!  I've also never had a pedicure when Vaseline was applied on the wet nails directly after.

Great Shallac mani.  No issues. She knew her stuff.

There were several other customers coming and going and the mani/pedi took FOREVER to finish because these 2 ladies were the only ones working there!  They constantly stopped to answer the phone or to help other customers.  I have a feeling if Maja was still there, things would have gone differently.

The spray tan was probably the best I've ever had anywhere on any continent (in terms of product).  Streak free and the lady (same one doing the pedi) has 8 years experience.  I didn't come out orange and the coverage is great.  I had a few small issues with the procedure - mainly that it took so long and I had to stand naked in front of a house fan for 30+ minutes, left alone, until it dried. Also, something to think about:  If you are large-breasted, you're going to need to bring a tube or strapless bra to hold up the girls to have the undercarriage sprayed; otherwise, you will end up with "D" shaped white areas underneath.  Not cool.

The main issue that I had with the spray tan was the environment.  Holy shit.  The room itself is fine, but the door they have is frosted glass with lines of transparency through them.  And no door lock. I was more exposed at this salon than I ever have been at my GYN's office, so the least they could do would be to have decent privacy for customers.  While I was there, other customers were walking by the door and looking in at me holding up the twins, buck neked.  To make matters worse, anytime the spray lady walked out of the room, she obviously got great joy in leaving the door open so anyone walking by could see me standing there - either holding my boobies (for an hour in total) or spread-eagle standing in front of the fan.  That is just WRONG.  (If you go there, bring a roll of masking tape so  you can cover the transparent parts on the door.)   I shouted at her finally to close the door and so she then left me standing there for (no joke) 40 minutes while she went to change out of her uniform to go home for the day (no doubt, SHE changed somewhere with better privacy).  It is a large salon and there were no other customers so I guess she didn't hear me calling her.  A lot.  And loud.

Spray Lady recommended (3-4 times actually) that I get into the UV tan machine to dry off the spray.  I explained to her (3-4 times actually) that skin cancer runs in my family and that if I didn't go out in the sun because I don't want to destroy my skin - why should I get into a UV tan machine??  Right.Over.Her.Head.

Sidenote:  Women (mostly Kuwaiti) who go to the UV tan machine more than the recommended 15 minutes per day:  Are you fricking CRAZY?!  Do you know how bad that is for you?  Do you have any idea how bad you are going to look later in life (that is IF you survive the cancer)?  OMG.  There was one woman who came into the salon and the workers told me that she comes in 2 times a day for 30 minute sessions.  Her skin is going to look like leather.  And then they're going to have to cut out those basil cells with a scalpel and she'll have big chunks of skin missing.  I had no idea that people were still that stupid.  But hey - nothing should surprise me anymore.

So now I have a dilema; go back for more great tan (with a roll of masking tape and something to keep the door closed), or never to return.  Does anyone have recommendations of other spray tanning salons that are good?