Thursday, October 30, 2014

Slipcovers from HELL

Long time ago, when I actually had some pocket money, I had a sofa made.  I am an indecisive person so the sofa that I saw/had it modeled from (a $6000 Roche Bobois one that I saw in a magazine in the States) was red.  I loved it, but I didn’t know for how long my "red phase" would last.  Then, I decided to have white slipcovers made from a similar fabric.  Later, I got another set made in deep purple.  My theory was that I could change them seasonally and use neutral tones in the room (like carpets and drapes) and then just change out the accessories and pillows to reflect the sofa color.  It has worked out really nicely.
When I originally had the sofa made, I had a few glitches,  but overall it was a timely process and I had a finished sofa in a little over a week.  Unfortunately (for the guys who delivered it, carrying it up 5 flights to my apartment), it was approximately 20cm too large to get into the apartment, so they had to take it back and chop it down (at no cost to me). 
I love the sofa.  My friends love the sofa.  It was really well made with solid wood and good springs and cushions.  It has lasted me quite a long time now.  I’ve had it re-sprung once several years ago when having the purple slipcovers made.  I think at that time, the total price to have the slipcovers made was around KD150.
So as trends in d├ęcor change, I decided to have aqua-blue slipcovers made.  I searched through most of the shops in Dhajeej and couldn’t find what I was looking for; finally walking into a store (the 2nd one I walked into) in the fabric souq downtown (“blockat” – or the commercial block) and found the right fabric at the right price.
I felt comfortable as I was greeted by a very nice Indian man named Felix.  I asked him if he could make slipcovers and the 2 nice Kuwaiti ladies (customers) sitting next to me said that the shop (called “Craft” on their sign) does very good work.  Usually, the places where you buy upholstery fabric are usually the same guys who send it to their workshop to have curtains and upholstery made for clients.
Felix handed me a card that read “Silver Fabrics”.  I’ve learned long ago not to question the details in Kuwait because it only frustrates me.  I made an appointment for Felix to come to my house and take measurements of my sofa and get my requirements.  He said, "Trust me, you'll like it."  (That should have been a clue - I never trust men who say, "Trust me.")   He came with several men and they took the sofa to their workshop, handing me a receipt with yet another name on the top, “Kaiser Sofa Factory.” 
I went on vacation for 2 weeks.  When I returned, I called Felix.  His phone was switched off.  I continued calling for several days.  His phone was still off.  I finally called the shop “Silver Fabrics” or “Craft” – and asked to speak to the manager.  He said that he didn’t know what happened to Felix – that his phone had been switched off for several weeks.  He also said that he didn’t know where my sofa was, but he would, “Try to do me a favor and find out where it is.”  What?!   Dude is supposed to be an employee, right?  Or is he just some random guy, hanging around your shop, selling fabric and making upholstery deals?
 Every day I called, the answer was, “Tomorrow, Inshallah.”  (I can be very persistent and I had several of my Kuwaiti friends calling also.)  It took me 2 more weeks (a full month) to get my sofa back. When the sofa arrived, it had not been made to my requirements and there were 4 cushions missing (including 2 that I had given them as samples).  Also missing were my purple slipcovers and several of the red (original) cushion covers.  Oh no he d’int!
That turned into a game of, “I’ll do you a favor and try to get them back for you.”  What?!  Do me a FAVOR?  I paid you – TWICE what the slipcovers cost a few years ago. 
Last night, they finally delivered the covers.  It has taken a total of 5 weeks.  It wasn’t done the way I asked, but it is still pretty and my mission is finally over.  I learned a lesson on this one.  Felix is NOT a wonderful, wonderful cat!  for one thing.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I'm a magnet for crazy

... and then into IAD and then into Kuwait
Waiting for the plane at the gate at Dulles, I see this guy who looks like a cross between Howdy Doodey and a homeless person.  He’s got crazy hair, crazy eyes, and he’s wearing a plaid suit that must have been at least 40 years old; wrinkled, unclean, and enormous on him.  He’s also wearing a baseball cap and very large shoes.  Yes, clown-like.  ... And clowns frighten me.

There are many people around, yet he comes directly towards me and asks,  “I’ve been trying to find a way out of here.  I just want some fresh air.”  I look up and say, “Excuse me?” with kind of a chuckle.  (Maybe my sister paid someone to come play a prank.  Who knows?)  “Yes, I want to go outside to get some fresh air, but I can’t find a way out.”  I said, ‘Well, you can take a tram to the main terminal and go through immigration and back out….’  Howdy is like, “No.  I just want some fresh air.” And walks away.  (Maybe I should have sent him through one of the security doors that are "alarmed"?)  Turns out he was coming to Kuwait.  That’s all we need. One more…

Is it me?

So, I board the plane and I’m having a very nice conversation with a very nice woman seated next to me.  (Actually, I talked to her for a few hours into the flight.  She was fascinating.  I never talk to people on planes because well… I’m a magnet for crazy and usually it doesn’t end well.  Like the time I spoke to a crazy Kuwaiti woman who got shetfaced drunk and howled in laughter most of the flight.  Bygones…)  Anyways, Nice Lady and I are chatting and some guy I’ve never seen  before walks up, looks straight at me and said something I couldn’t hear and looked very upset and walked away.  Nice Lady didn’t hear him either.

Why me?

So we get to Kuwait International Scareport and I’m standing in the immigration line and a big American dude walks over (through the crowd of people) straight to me and says, “Do I need a visa to this country?”  Whaaaaaaaaaat?  You fly 13 hours on a plane to a foreign country.. might you not ask that first?

(This isn’t related to “magnet for crazy” but it was the cherry on the top of my crazy re-entry trip…)  My friend, Hmood, was to pick me up at the airport.  I no longer ask/want people to come into the airport to greet me because it is such a goat rodeo and finding parking is like going to Mall of American 2 days before Christmas.  Not happenin’.  Anyways, I expect him to pick me up in either his pick up truck or his Chevy sedan.  But no… he has just bought his girlfriend a frog-green VW Beetle convertible and has come to get me, driving it.  (BTW – NOT masculine!)  I have 2 bags which were so large that they could have accommodated dead family members; one of the bags is Pepto Bismol pink.  Beetles can’t handle big bags (also don’t do very well with big drivers – just sayin’).   So, we drove down 6th Ring Road with the top down in a green frog-like car with my Pepto-pink bag teetering on the back seat.  How bizarre.


I haven’t been out much since I got back to Kuwait a little over a week ago because I’ve been very busy and I’m tired.  But, last night I’m walking da dawg on the Gulf Road.  An American woman in a car stopped so that her (maybe husband?) could look at Mikey.   They kinda stared for an inappropriately long time (with cars behind them).  I wondered if I was about to be kidnapped.  (I’m too old for that shit, really.)   The woman explained that her (maybe husband?) used to have a dog like Mikey.   I told them they should go to the Saturday afternoon dog gatherings at Messila.  She said, "Do you know Tara?" (Literally hundreds of people attend these gatherings.)  I said no.  She said, "Oh.... are you new?"  (end of conversation - they had to move along).  Huh?  So, do any of  you guys know Tara?  I've been in Kuwait 18 years and I don't know Tara.  Who tha phuck is Tara?  Well, if she’s crazy, she’ll probably find me.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Narcotics Addictions in Kuwait

Drug abuse is seriously on the rise in Kuwait.  I'm going to talk about what I know.  I can't provide statistics because I haven't seen any published anywhere.

I personally know of 2 Kuwaiti teenagers who got hooked on heroin (children of friends).  And I have heard that the escalation of violent crime in Kuwait is because more people have started using meth (methamphetamines); referred to as "shabu" here.  It is so sad.  These drugs ruin people's lives (and brains) and it is such a waste.

I've had a Kuwaiti friend-of-a-friend for the past few years now.  He's always been distant and had sad eyes (extremely good looking!).  He's a non-drinker and doesn't show up at parties or gatherings where alcohol is served.  I know he's not conservatively religious, so I didn't really understand.  This weekend he confided in me that he's a recovering heroin addict.  It came as a total shock to me.  He said he started when he was 17 on various kinds of drugs and then worked up to heroin.  I haven't gone much more into detail with him about it; I choose to let people tell me what they want to and not push the subject.  Maybe he'll tell me more later.  He's in a 12-step program now (in Kuwait) and I really admire him for his honesty (and for confiding in me).

There are very few articles about addictions in Kuwait, as it is a rather taboo subject.  This one is from 2002, stating that drug addiction is on the rise.  I'm sure that there must be studies and clinics, but I'm just tuning in now.  It isn't a topic that I've been watching.  My "go-to" for any information like this is Soor Center (they do advertise addiction recovery but I don't know what type).

I have known about these social problems in Kuwait for a long time, but I never knew someone so close was affected by it.  It got me to wondering who else I might now who is addicted (or considering taking those types of drugs).  I've been here for a long time, but it is never something that I seriously considered until it got so close to me.

There are programs in Kuwait to help with alcohol and drug abuse addictions.  I grew up surrounded by a lot of people who would now be considered "alcoholics" and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What’s happening in the wonderful world of US government contracting (Kuwait)

For some reason Zain had the previous post blocked.   We'll see if this gets blocked.  I've written way worse. I don't believe there is anything offensive here..  



So, since 2003, I’ve been piddlin around with USG/military contracting. 

My fascination (or complete lack thereof – because truth-be-told, it is kind of a snooze fest)  started in the winter/early Spring of 2003.  One of my Kuwaiti friends invited me to lunch at his camp in Southern Kuwait, close to Wafra.  It was a gorgeous day; the sky was blue.  Small plants (afraj) poked their heads through the sand.  We sat in an original bait shaar tent (camels hair and open on one side).  No one was around.  You could just hear the sound of wind and occasionally their herd of camels calling out to each other.  We ate barbecued meat and drank camels milk and tea.  It was lovely.

Ya know – I shoulda known my friend had something up his dishtasha sleeve….

I looked out over the hills to see 2 beautiful white (not horses, but) Mercedes sedans, b-lining it to the tent.  Mohammed said with a smile, “Oh, I want you to meet my friend from Saudi Arabia…” (they had just driven up from Dammam to make my acquaintance).

For the next hour, I was bombarded with questions (meeting venue:  Front seat of one of those giant sedans) about my work background and how we might be able to do business together.  Turns out Saudi friend owns the Saudi agency rights to (a large American vehicle company beginning with "F") and wants to work with the military.  Now, to this very point, at this very camp, I had never had any introduction to military contracting (not directly anyways - but I'd worked in the US for several defense contractors in a position of zero authority).  All I now knew was that I was armed with a whole bunch of company profiles, some stationary, and was told to go to Camp Doha and find the contracting people to see what contracts they had.

In early ’03, you could walk right up to Camp Doha and see what they had.  I asked around and found out who the main contracting guy was.  I said I wanted to work with them leasing or selling trucks.  Just so happened that Heavy Lift 1 (can you believe it! I think they are now on 7 or 8) had just been put out for bid.  They handed me a 10 paged hard-copy RFP.  (These days, everything is done through a website and you will probably never meet a contracting officer in person.)  Nice guy. Can't remember his name.

I took the information back to Saudi Friend and asked him how he wanted me to proceed.  A week later, he called back and said he had decided not to work with the military.  This coulda been for several reasons:  Most likely he didn’t want to work with someone as inexperienced as I was; or perhaps my job of finding the contact was complete; or perhaps he was a total dumbass and had the opportunity to do big business and dropped it.  I never followed up to find out.  Whatever.

So all of a sudden, I was getting job offers left and right from Kuwaiti friends and companies who wanted an American face to sell their stuff/services to the military.  It was a free-for-all and ethics weren’t a consideration (to the employers).  They sure as Hell have always been a consideration to me, which is why I am still poor and didn’t take any of those easy-come-easy go-to-jail jobs. (If you are American and represent a company and are charged with wrongdoing, you are going to jail.  If you are a foreigner without a green card - not likely).

I’ve seen some extreeeemely unethical stuff since 2003.  I was invited to “drive up to Balad” in May of 2003 (an ADVENTURE!  It’s on!  I didn’t tell my mom) in a Toyota Prado.  I went with another Kuwaiti friend who was selling light stands/generators to the military.  I stocked up on food and water at Sultan Center.  My friend laughed at me; saying we wouldn’t need any of it (we used everything).   The light stands were shipped up separately by truck.  Another American was along for the ride (he spent the entire trip laying down in the back seat, asleep – or afraid, I couldn’t tell).  They assured me that we would be with a convoy and have US military protection.  Yeah… didn’t happen.  We crossed on the Kuwaiti side with a single piece of paper from the contracting officer, stating that we had business.  It wasn’t even official.  The 2 guards let us through the berm that divided Kuwait from Iraq.  No barbed wire.  No surveillance.  Nothing.  We were in. 

Immediately, as was the case almost everywhere we went in Iraq, people seemed to come up from the sand.  You could be miles and miles into a bleak and barren desert, and all of a sudden, as soon as you stopped the car, there would be 5 people asking for either food or water.  20 feet into Iraq, little barefoot kids came up and asked us for candy.  I knew it would come in handy!  My greatest gift during the trip was a half-eaten box of Cocoa Puffs that I gave to a little boy playing on tank.  I’ll never forget the loving look he gave me.  I wanted to adopt him on the spot.

The other thing that I had the foresight to bring was medicine that stopped me from having to pee every 5 seconds.  I get nervous.  I’m a girl.  I gotta pee.  Maybe other girls cry.  Not me.  I pee.  Anyways, I popped some of those pills and for 10 hours, I was pee-free.

We stayed in Baghdad the first night and then continued on to Camp Anaconda (“my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun” … ok, never mind the rap reference…) at Balad.  Balad Air Base used to be where Saddam’s “elite” air force was housed.  It was a fascinating drive in, as there was still a lot of evidence left of the US’ brief invasion.  All around Balad there were corn and sunflower fields with tall green plants stretching into the sun.  You would never know that they quietly hid a multitude of aircraft; spread out throughout the fields so that they might not all be destroyed in a singular US air assault.  We saw Migs, helicopters, cargo planes -  you name it.  Stuck right out there in between the stalks.  Miles and miles of them.

There is so much more that I could write about this experience in Iraq; the land, the kindness of people that I met, the food; because it was early in 2003 and for a very brief period of time, a westerner could be a tourist.  But for now, I just want to focus on the contracting, so I’ll leave out a bunch and maybe I’ll write about it later (or save it for that tell-all book and screen play that someday I will write). 

When we got to the contracting office on Balad (which was very loosely-secured – I think we might have stopped just once on the way in to show the piece of paper), we met a female colonel.  I can’t remember her name, but I admired her immediately.  My Kuwaiti friend offered her a sandwich and she said, “Unless my troops get the same thing, I can’t take it, but I thank you.” 

The contracting officer we were there to meet with was a polar opposite.  I honestly didn’t know it (they told me on the return trip to Kuwait), but we were there to pay him off for accepting sub-standard light sets (many were broken on the trip) that had been fabricated in Shuwaikh.  I noted how easily he left his side-arm on the table as he went out to fake-inspect and sign off on the goods.  It was right on the table next to me.

Approximately 6 months later, I learned that he had used his gun to commit suicide after being caught sending thousands of bribe dollars in cash rolled up in textiles and sent via DHL to his wife in the States.  I never wanted to be part of corruption and there I was; witness to the absolute worst repercussion of it.

Anyhow…. Sigh…. I think of him every now and then.  He had a great laugh and was a good story-teller. He was like so many who gave into temptation.  I suspect that perhaps if  you are making $40,000 a year and have an opportunity to become rich overnight, the temptation sometimes proves to be too much.   Some who were caught committed suicide so their families would still be able to receive military benefits later.  It happened quite often during 2003-2006 in Iraq and several in Kuwait.  They were usually  listed as “death by non-combat gunshot wound”.

Contingency Vs Sustainment:  When war happens, in the contingency stage is when the military spends money with not a while lot of oversight.  Later, the military operation moves into sustainment and auditors and military law enforcement moves in to verify purchases and make sure everything is Kosher.  Contingency in Kuwait was like the wild West.  Combine a culture where “gift giving” and graft is an acceptable form of business conduct, with (young, inexperienced, low-paid?) contacting officers being sent out to spend in a hurry… well, there was bound to be trouble. 

Do an internet search for “Contractor fraud Kuwait” or something similar and see what comes up.  Probably the most infamous was Maj. Cockerham who walked away with $9 million.

"How did this culture of corruption come to pass in the office in Kuwait?" committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., demanded during a hearing on the issue.  Regardless of the stock-answer of “I believe this is an isolated incident” (and I have heard that several times directly in contracting conferences held in Kuwait), it was not isolated.  It was indeed a culture of corruption.  I have no doubt that it continues, but perhaps it is just better hidden now or criminals have found alternative ways of getting money.

Personally, I have been offered gifts and money to “go down to Arifjan and buy us a contract.”  Integrity has been the reason behind my termination with two separate employers in Kuwait.  That is a badge that I proudly wear.  When/if asked in job interviews,  “Have you ever been terminated from a job?”  I can answer, ‘Yes.  And I am proud of it.’

So here I am in Kuwait working for an ethical company.   I’m still working on military contracts. This time, on yet another KBOS (Kuwait Base Operations and Security Support Services) contract.  (KBOS is the big contract with the US military for providing peripheral services like admin, healthcare, storage, supplies and a whole lot else.  It comes up for re-bid every 5 years.)   And you know what?  This time, I like what I’m hearing. I also like who I’m meeting and dealing with (on the prime bidders side).  Overall, the people that I have met are like-minded (making my job a lot easier):  sincere and who believe in integrity.  They have asked succinct questions about ethics in abiding by the Kuwait Labor Law; which has always been a gray area in Kuwait contracting.  They’re also asking about life in Kuwait in general and advice from people on the ground (which many of their predecessors have not).

One very good question I was asked was, “Let’s say I have an American employee who has agreed to a set salary and agreed to work 12 hours a day and no overtime?”  I say, ‘That’s great, but it is illegal as per Kuwait Labor Law if you do not abide by the stipulations of the local law.  You run the risk of that employee suing and later being compensated for all of his (tracked) overtime.”  For example, maybe in the US I agree to work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day.  Then, I come to Kuwait and find out that by law – I don’t HAVE to work that many hours per day/week and that the company, by law, should pay me overtime, regardless of what I agreed to in the States.  Ooops.   Now, if these employers bid the contract by Kuwait Labor Law, agreeing for time off and/or overtime (which may not exceed 180 hours in a year, by the way), they must inevitably bid too high (as many of the employees are required to be Americans, brought from the States).  So, this puts the employers in a precarious position of wanting to be ethical, yet wanting to win the business.  How is that fair?

Unfortunately, the US military still refuses to interpret the labor law or provide any guidance.  And unfortunately yet again, the USG is prone to look at the lowest price, technically qualified bid; without digging into reasons WHY the price might be the lowest (unfair business practices – not abiding by or pricing for local labor law, etc.)  An ethics hotline poster isn’t going to do a whole lot in a country where workers (yes, even 'mericans) are afraid to (and will) lose their jobs for speaking up.  And even then, are there enough investigators to process the complaints?  And more pertinently:  Does the US military actually CARE about combatting in trafficking in persons as they claim?  If so, it isn’t American contractors coming to work in Kuwait who stand to lose the most on not being given their rights as employees on these contracts:  it is the TCNs who are making very low salaries and are the true beneficiaries of overtime and a legal work week. 
  
I’ve been in Kuwait for 18 years.  I never in a million years thought I would have gone into this field of work, but I’ve received a heck of an education by seeing it here “on the front lines”.  Ok, so from that perspective, it has been fascinating.  Filling out forms and looking up FAR clauses is NOT fascinating.  Meeting interesting people and learning is.  Like many other things in Kuwait, I have had opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have “lucked into” in the States.  I sincerely believe that every experience you have; ever person you meet; everything you do is for a reason.  



Blog Bashing

I'm totally not commenting on the unfolding story on blogsphere.  People have actually tried to goad me into commenting on it.  It is beneath me.   I'm friends in real life with all of them.  I have nothing to say except that all people listed have been incredibly kind to me in one way or another over the years.  I've always felt a connection to other female bloggers in Kuwait - a kinship or sisterhood to all the WOMEN (not "girls" as it has been mentioned).   So I continue to wish all of them well.

But what I do have to say is about comments I've read on other blogs and threads about it.  Dayum - does no one have anything better to do than to go out purposely to bash people?  And then it turns into American bashing.  Then getting more detailed, into American women bashing.  Then American women from the South bashing.  WTF.  (I hate that blog and I shouldn't have even looked at it.  I'm sorry I did.  So negative and detrimental.)

Why are so many people angry at Americans?
At women?
At the South?
Why are so many people just angry in general?

Well hey - if people want to believe that I'm someone I'm not, then they should go ahead.  If people want to believe I'm "trailer trash" or "superficial" or a "drunk" or "promiscuous", you are more than entitled to your own opinion.  I didn't start blogging to please anyone (yet I hope that I've helped at least a few along the way).

Is what I write the truth and not fiction?  You believe whatever you want to believe.  I write it like I see it (and that is the beauty of blogs).  It is my truth - as I see it - and it is all about how I see it, my perspective, and what has happened to me (believe it or not).    I don't accept advertising and I have ZERO obligation to write anything here that I don't feel, see, or believe. I don't have editors or co-writers or people giving me gifts (or these days even invitations).  IF I like something (or IF I don't), if I feel like writing about it, I do.

It has been said that there are those who believe that perhaps those of us who are American's and speak Arabic  are Arab-Americans and not "original" Americans because no Americans speak Arabic.  Seriously?  Projecting much?   I don't believe in Arab-American, Irish-American, African-American.  I believe in American.  Unless you are 100% native American Indian, you're not "original" American.  We are a strong nation because we are united.  No Americans speak/understand Arabic?  That thar is a crock of shit. Anyone can learn anything - unless you are closed-minded and just don't want to learn.  In my neighborhood in Virginia, there are signs on the street corners that read, "Pre-K Chinese Classes..."   Chinese in pre-school.  Not university.  Not business school. Imagine that!   Not all Americans are ignorant.  Not all female Southern American bloggers are ignorant.  (Having said that, I can't do anything mathematical.  I can't.  It intimidates the bejuzus out of me.  I don't understand numbers and finance - although lately I've had to try to learn.    I understand words and I catch onto languages easily.  So what?  God made us all different.  That's why some people go into accounting and I don't.)

"Profiteering defense contractor"?  Hmmm..  That's another one.  Doesn't everyone profit from their job?  I started work as a part time maid at age 14. At 15, I was a part-time secretary.  Then I went to work as a temp - where I landed at a defense contractor doing stupid stuff like data entry.  Yes, the job I have now is in defense contracting.  Do I profit?  Yes.  I receive a salary just like everybody else who works.  I'm sorry, but I'm not a nun.  Are you?  I pay my bills on time and give to people less fortunate. I don't own a contracting company.  I work for a Kuwaiti company.   If I have a job that allows me to do that - and it is honest and I conduct myself with integrity - then what is your point?

Personally, I try not to judge because I answer to The Big Guy and one day all that negativity will come back.  Somebody might be a plumber or a carpenter or a house cleaner and overcharge me because they see me as a "profiteering defense contractor".  Does that make them better than me?  Do the right thing.

And again,  no one holds a gun to your head and threatens you if you don't spend your time reading this or any other blog (or book, or watching a movie, or doing any of the other things in your life). Stop blaming others for your actions.  Just stop doing what you are supposedly against.  (Why did I ever look at that blog?  I am 100% responsible for my own actions and now I'm writing about it.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

No Duuh


Old News, But Here Ya Go...

Kuwait Ranks Last In List Of Best World Nations For Expats To Live‘Inter-Nations Connecting Global Minds’ Issues Report

KUWAIT CITY, Oct 7: Kuwait has been ranked last in the list of best countries in the world for expatriates to live and work, based on a report titled ‘Expats Insider Survey 2014’ issued by the ‘Inter- Nations Connecting Global Minds’, which is the first international community for expatriates, reports Al-Qabas daily.

According to the report, the survey rates different countries based on the quality of life, employment, social relations, entertainment and financial benefits for the expatriates.
Kuwait was placed in 61st position internationally after Qatar, Greece and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The main reason for Kuwait’s rate is the decrease in the individual happiness index of expatriates. Settling in Kuwait is not at all easy for the expatriates in Kuwait. It is also not easy to make lasting friendship or even feel at home in Kuwait.

Only five percent of the respondents admitted that they feel like they are in their own country while they are in Kuwait while only 7 percent said it is easy to make lasting friendships in Kuwait. Regarding the quality of life, Kuwait was placed in the second last position.

Kuwait was placed in the 60th position in terms of entertainment options for expatriates, and in 50th position in terms of traveling and moving around in the country.

Ranked 

Kuwait was ranked 59th in the health, safety and care aspects while it was last in terms of balance between work and life for the expatriates. It was placed in the 60th position in terms of work and employment, and in 36th position in terms of job security.

The report ranked Kuwait at 56th position regarding financial benefits for expatriates and its value to cater for the family while it was placed in 47th position in terms of the living standards. In addition, expatriates in Kuwait are considered to have the highest working hours in a week, as they work an average of 44.8 hours per week while expatriates in UAE work 45.6 hours per week, 44.8 hours in Qatar and 44.3 hours in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. According to the report, expatriates enjoy least working hours in Ecuador, Israel, France, Norway, Australia and Costa Rica.

Regarding the cost of accommodation, Kuwait is among the countries worldwide with most expensive accommodation costs for expatriates besides Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxemburg and Qatar. The cheapest countries for expatriates in terms of accommodation cost are Ecuador, Hungary, Thailand, Mexico and Egypt.

In this regard, 21 percent of expatriates in Kuwait claimed that the accommodation cost in Kuwait is very high while only 4 percent consider the rents as acceptable. Regarding the Expats Insider Survey, it uses a methodology that focuses on the quality of life and ranks over 60 countries based on a variety of factors such as leisure, travel and transportation, health and safety, as well as personal happiness.


Review of Dogs Spa Hotel (Boarding Kennel) Kuwait


When my GS, Mikey, came back from obedience school, I expected him to be skinny.  I think that is pretty standard for most obedience schools where treats are rewards for the dogs to do better.  For this reason, I intentionally fattened him up before he went off to school to make sure he would be ok.
Trying to be a good parent, I always ask to see where my boy is going to sleep.  I go check out his dorm room, find out about his neighbors, etc.  I also learned the hard way to make sure he’s had his flea/tick medication before going anywhere (and of course that he’s had all his vaccinations including kennel cough).  You can’t always depend on the kennel to provide anti-pest remedies.  Bugs happen.  Especially in areas with a lot of foliage/vegetation and other animals.
So, I’ve checked the rooms and safety features to make sure that he’s ok, but if you care about your pet, you’re always wondering what is really going on with him/her (similar to a child).  You want to know that they’re being given the best care.
When I boarded Mikey at International Veterinary Hospital (IVH), I looked at the facilities.  Again, very good and clean.  He was taken for walks 3 times a day, but I wasn’t sure (and they were vague about) socialization with other dogs.  I would have preferred to know that he would be having fun while I was away.  My friend, Dr. Paola, worked there at the time, so I wasn’t too concerned because I knew she would be keeping  an eye on him.  As it turned out, they let him into the offices and by the time I got back from my trip, almost everyone there was coming out to say goodbye to him and giving him hugs.  But, he was still skinny when I got him back.  Now, this could have been because it was only the 2nd time that I had left him for a period of time.
I met Angel and Ahmed from Dogs Spa Hotel and got to know them long before I left Mikey in their care.  They both truly love dogs and breed German Shepherds, so I go the full tour of their facilities (which include large, clean, well ventilated/AC'ed rooms) and got to know who would be looking after him and what the program would be. 
They guaranteed socialization.  Angel, who trains and socializes both her own dogs and the dogs (of many breeds) belonging to clients, worked with Mikey several times a day.  Since they breed showline German Shepherds (which are the pretty, spoiled types rather than their cousins, the worklines, which tend to be a little more aggressive), Mikey was able to socialize with his own kind.  When they got together to run around their big open yard, it was like watching a pack of wild wolves running free (not in a scary way, but in a beautiful, ethereal way).
Angel and Ahmed use Skype if you want a real-time view of what your dog is doing.  I don’t do all that video chat stuff (primarily because I don’t want others to see what a mess I am without a hair and make-up crew!), so they set up a Whatsapp group so that I could get daily (sometimes several times per day) videos of how Mikey was getting along; inside and outside of his kennel, swimming, and having a bath. Mikey’s brood brother, Bruno, was also there and they, along with one of Angel and Ahmed’s dogs, Kimmy (about the same age), played together every day.  My whole family loved getting the videos and I could even forward them to my other friends both in the US and in other countries.  

video
Mikey playing with his brother, Bruno

They are also planning to install webcams in the kennels soon so that owners can monitor their pets from where ever in the world they are.  Awesome.  (Now I just have to figure out how to do that...)

Dogs Spa Hotel picks up and delivers your pet also – which is a huge plus when you are getting ready to go on a trip; or tired from just returning from one.  When Ahmed pulled up, Mikey bounded out happy, healthy, and with full weight.  It was instantly apparent that he had had a great time (so much that I worried that he wouldn’t be happy going home to such quiet surroundings).  He seems to be adjusting to home-life well, however.  He ran off to check on his little sister, Desert Dawg, and then check his toy box to ensure that nothing precious was missing.
Dogs Spa Hotel is located in Kabd (close to KFC and the grocery store/co-op) – which is really no big deal.  People in Kuwait are spoiled in terms of the amount of time they want to drive.  I’m from the DC area.  A 30 minute ride isn’t going to kill you, trust me.  You can go there and visit their facilities and let them show you around.  The kennel takes all types of dogs and they all socialize with similar types/sizes.  Angel gives them an evaluation first to see how they’ll fit in.  Socialization is a huge plus and something that you would have to pay for (as an education experience for  your dog) other places.  Mikey had a leap in confidence and in most of the videos appeared to be the pack leader (I've always thought of him as a woosy!  Who knew?)
Clients dogs are given a flea/tip bath prior to their departure and are bathed once a week.  Mikey came home in great shape. 

Contacts:
Instagram:  Dogs_spa_hotel
Phone:  9494-0004


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Getting back to personal - Part Deux

I meet a lot of men and one would think that there would be something to be said about the law of averages.  You would think that through volume, I might find someone acceptable for a relationship. 

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. 

I liked Mr. Monte Carlo.  Seemingly good catch, but just wanted me around to show off to his friends that he could “catch” an ajnabia (foreigner).  No dinner.  No dates.  Nada.  And please, I don’t belong to a college club/frat:  No one drinks as much as you do and that is not all that everyone is interested in.  Grow up.  You’re 45.

I gave up on his sorry ass.

Then, I met another guy that I liked.  (I call him, “Envoy” because that’s what he drives.)  Lives in the next block (how convenient!).  Divorced.  2 boys.  Loves my dog.  We went out to dinner a few times to nice restaurants.  Walk on the beach.   Took me by his house (after he fixed my car – to pick it up).  Told his sons about me.  But, during our brief relationshit, he was a no-show twice and the third time was 3 hours late. So, of course, he was dumpsville.  I gave him the opportunity to explain, but he couldn’t produce any words after almost a week, so I showed him my 2014 dance.  It's a little thing I like to call BLOCK – DELETE.

If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.  Forget it.  You have my number.  You want to make it better?  Send me flowers with an explanation and I MIGHT talk to you.   If not, bah byyyyyye.  I’m not in the mood.  While you are sitting there with your thumb up your ass, trying to figure out what you want to do with me, I’m out meeting more men.  It’s simple.  If you can’t impress me, I’m on to the next best thing.  I don’t care.  You don’t get it.  I’m not home, crying into my pillow. Second rate isn't worth it.  I’m out meeting the next potential (whatever).

So, I met another guy I liked.  Divorced with 3 kids (only he neglected to mention to me that it was the Islamic 1st divorce).  Owns horses.  Cool badass job.  We talked on the phone for hours.  Indications good for a nice guy.  After standing me up for our first date, sent me a message saying that he would never be able to marry me, so we should just stop talking.  Okey dokey. Thanks.  That saved me from having to block/delete you.  Whatever happened to being friends and letting a relationship progress?  We haven’t even had a date yet and he’s talking about how he’ll never marry me.  Did I miss something?  (Like my 5K diamond engagement ring, perhapsee?)

Yawn.

So I met another guy (who was way too short for me) I liked.  First date, brought me a pink rose (without knowing they are my favorite.)   We went out to dinner (in an out-of-the way place.  Nice place, but there were only 2 other people there.  I kinda felt like he didn’t want to be seen out, although he never said it.  Date #2 was at a club with a restaurant.  His brother is a manager of the club I guess.  I thought we would be eating with the other restaurant patrons, but it turned out that we had a meal in his brother’s office.  If he was maybe 2’ taller, I probably could have dealt with this situation better.  I have a problem with men just tall enough to stare into my boobs and then take me to dinner seated in office/closets.

Sigh.


This year sucks for me in the relationship department.  My birthday horoscope said that it would.  

Getting back to personal

I haven’t blogged about personal stuff for a while.  I was inspired to do so by a new blog I found called “I Date Kuwait” by a Kuwaiti woman telling her perspective of the scene here.  She will probably eventually become old and jaded like me and realize that a whole lot of her friends, family members, and colleagues have figured out who she really is.  At that point in time, she’ll decide to start posting info about her dog (cat?) and less and less info on her real personal life (just like me!).  Until then, I’m really enjoying her perspective.

So let’s talk about me!

Post 1

Mr. Clean et al:  I shoulda stopped going to his family a long time ago.  Y’alls told me to stop.  But, I just really longed for that family gathering feeling that I’m lacking here as my family is on the other side of the World.  So Clean’s family became my Friday afternoon crutch.  Which was fine, for a while.  Until September 11th (2014, that is).  I’m Instagram buddies with Clean’s brothers (all 5 of them).  A few of which I’ve always thought have had prejudiced or judgmental opinions, but hey – to each his own.  That’s their karma.   However, on September 11th, the Challenged One posted a photo of Osama Bin Ga7aba with a caption that read something like, “The day Osama made the Americans cry.  May he rest in peace.”  It was “liked” by Clean.  It was commented on by another brother who said something in agreement like, “Yes!  Great!”

And if anyone from Kuwait State Security wants details on the
people posting or "liking", write to me at amerab@gmail.com

Ok, Osama Bin Ga7aba was no friend to Moslems anywhere.  He was evil.  Moslems do not kill innocent people.  Terrorists and demons do.  September 11th did not make life for most Moslems easier or happier, as we all know.  So why idolize him?  And if you do idolize him and make a statement like this about Americans, does that mean that you hate me also, as an American?  Yes, I did cry on September 11, 2001.  So did many people around the World because, not only did it affect many of us personally (as it did similar to when Kuwait was invaded in August of 1990), but it affected the World as we knew it.

I went ballistic when I saw the Instagram message.  I sent it to his other family members.  One of his sisters answered immediately, “Ha ha ha.  He’s stupid.”  I didn’t see the humor.  I sent it to his father.  No response.  I finally called one of the brothers that I’m closest to and told him and I sent along a threat that if his family was pro-terrorism, they should probably be more aware of the investigations that are going on in Kuwait right now and that perhaps they should re-think promoting terrorism via the internet.  The Challenged One took it down [but not until people like his friend (7son_alqallaf” tagline Special forces… explosives – kinda scary if he’s in the Kuwait forces!) and 30 other people in Kuwait had “liked” it or commented positively.]

It is now September 25th.  I think I have been rather vocal about how I felt about that message.  I stopped going to their house for lunches and I haven’t called any of them.  How have they responded?  With silence.

Ok, so it’s like that.  If you hate Americans, you hate me.  You can’t call someone a racial slur and then expect them to go to family lunch at your home (for example).   I’m not in the habit of hangin’ with people who are pro-terrorist.  Especially these days.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kuwait: Animal Torture Case September 2014

Horrific photos and video of man on a residential street in Kuwait torturing a rabbit and skinning it alive with his teeth
WARNING:  Don't scroll down if you are sensitive. GRAPHIC CONTENT 


I saw part of the torture video on Instagram last night, posted by a lawyer.  I immediately blocked the lawyer (regardless of his intentions, I was so traumatized by the 2 seconds I saw; without even knowing what would happen next,  that I have no intention of associating myself with the person who would post it).

Life In Kuwait blog has the full story (Link Here) without the graphic video, thank God.  Pictures however, are pretty graphic.  I cropped the torturer's photo, but he looks like a rabid dog (no insult to dogs) with the rabbit's blood covering his face.



My theory is this:  If this man is finding joy in torturing an animal, he is also finding joy in doing it to his own children, children in his neighborhood, weaker people.  His wife?  He should be sent in immediately for psychiatric evaluation.  Get him OUT of our community!!!

Update:  Arab Times Today - September 18, 2014

Source:  HERE

I am not posting this to encourage him or his followers.  I am posting this because I would like to see him arrested for the safety of animals and humans in our area!  

Mariam Al-Kharafi:  I commend you for immediately stepping forward to take legal action.  You are an outstanding member of this society!

The below was circulated on Facebook.  He obviously has no fear of repercussion as he posts his full, un-edited Civil ID card (Kuwaiti national identity card).  I can't read the name...  It sounds like a subconscious plead for help; that he really does want to be caught.  I hope that happens - and soon.



I will keep you posted as I hear more about this horrific story. 

In my 18 years in Kuwait, this is the 2nd-most-awful story I've heard (and I had the distinct misfortune to see part of this one).  One would think that I would be desensitized to a lot of the things I've seen in my life, but something like this just makes my blood boil to the point that I want to commit homicide against the perpetrator....


Monday, September 15, 2014

Angel appearances

I didn't sleep well last night.  I usually sleep great, but things have been bothering me lately and I haven't been very happy.  My best buddy is out of the country and I've been spending a lot of time alone and with my dogs.

Last night, I couldn't understand why I kept waking up all night.  This morning, I got it: it was foggy, but I had a dream about Shamlan.  Usually, my dreams of him are vivid, but last night it wasn't so much.

But I got his message.

Usually when I feel really low, he comes to my mind (or maybe he just comes to me to help me through it - which is more of how I feel).  I wake up in the morning, and his name is on my lips.  I just say it out of nowhere and I know he's around.

Anyhow, last night his message was that even though I've idolized him all these years, maybe today, at this place in this year, he would not be the man who I wanted him to be.  All is destiny.  Maybe I would have been disillusioned now, if her were alive today.  I'm disillusioned by most men I meet these days in this time of technology; when your most personal relationships are the ones you have via WhatsApp and Instagram.  No one bothers to call or get together anymore.  Are we all so busy?  Maybe he would have been the same way.  The phone calls and personal appearances may have stopped and perhaps he would have just communicated with me the way that many of my old/dear friends currently do now - by chat.

Shamlan died in the prime of his life.  He is eternally youthful and perfect to me.  Nothing will ever change because time stopped when he was killed.

So my perfect angel shows up and gives me little messages every now and then and I totally appreciate it and look forward to it.  Especially when I feel tired and down.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

I'm more important than you are....

I hate rush hour in Kuwait - especially in the morning.  I can't take Fahaheel "Express"way because it is bumper-to-bumper all the way into the city.  So I take the Gulf Road because, for the most part, it keeps moving.

Overall, it isn't a bad drive and very very pretty.  It is much better, of course, when the kiddies are home and out of school and people aren't crowding the streets after taking the little urchins to school and heading to work... with me....

However, I have some peeves I would like to discuss.

Po-Po:  Please read this and do something about it.  Ok?

Where I would like the police to add barriers is along the stretch from Sultan Center to the light at the entrance to the Sea Club (light just past the Yachts Club).  Why?  Because the entitled arseholes of the Universe converge in this area to race in and out of parking lots and entrance ways along both sides of the road to get a few cars ahead of  everyone else because (you guessed it)...

THEY ARE MORE IMPORTANT than every one else.

I try to stay in the middle lane, as close to the ass-end of the car in front of me as possible.  I don't look to the left or to the right (as "jumpers" try to get one over, thinking I'm a "nice" western female and will let them in).  I'm not nice.  I'm bitchy and aggressive in the morning - especially pre-coffee.  I'm not letting SQUAT in.

Another peeve I have is the light at Hamad Mubarak Street.  Fucktards use the left (turn-only) lane to jump back into traffic in front of everyone else who has been waiting for the light because (you guessed it)...

THEY ARE MORE IMPORTANT than every one else.

They really should build a 6' concrete barrier there.  Jersey barrier.  Yeah.  Maybe blast-proof would do it.

Personally, I've never seen a car flip ("turn turtle" in Briddish) on this stretch, but fer damn sure, I wish I had.  I wish it could be because the (imaginary) giant cattle pusher I've had installed for this very purpose (like the one pictured below) has sent all the cars trying to weasel their entitled-jumper-asses off the side of the road. One by one, they would just flip and tumble out of my way.  That's right.




Guess what's coming? The Causeway....



Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah Causeway

I've been looking out my window (and the window of my physical therapists) for the past several months now, watching this thing be created out in the water... and wondering if it could be the causeway starting.

Kuwait is full of hachi al fathi and  you never know what project is actually going to get off the ground.  Heck, I didn't even know/believe that Khiran city was down there until I actually went to see it.  However, I'm seeing this causeway go in with my very own eyes.

Here is what I see:  Progress!  (Amateur photo taken by serious amateur through dirty window, same time/day with 2 different colors.  Why??)


Now, just imagine flippin your Mitsubishi Gallant doing 200kms/hr flying over THAT thing!  Wooo hooo.  Makes "seafood" take on a totally different meaning.  Awesome.


More on the causeway HERE and HERE  and yo, again HERE.