Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Moral obligations...

A KGL truck killed another American soldier February 11th near Camp Buehring (Udairi). According to some reports, the KGL truck crossed the center line and struck a civilian vehicle.

VEHICLE CRASH CLAIMS ONE SOLDIER'S LIFE: A 164th Theater Air Operations Group Soldier was killed in a vehicle crash 11 February 2008 at approximately 1530 local near the ASR Ironhorse and Aspen extension. The Army Staff Sergeant was a passenger in a Non-Tactical Vehicle when it collided head-on with a Tractor Trailor driven by a local national working for KGL Transportation Company. The Soldier died at the scene. The driver was air MEDEVAC'd to EMFK where he was treated for a shoulder injury. Both Soldiers were wearing seatbelts. The passenger has been in country since September 07 and the driver since June 07. At the time of the accident the passenger had been on duty for approximately seven hours and the driver three hours. Including this accident, there have been 3 Army Class A non-tactical vehicle accidents in FY08 compared to 2 for the same time frame in FY07. These 3 accidents resulted in 3 fatalities. This PAR does not identify specific root causes of this accident as the investigation is ongoing.


FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- A member of Fort Campbell's 101st Airborne Division has died in Kuwait, the U.S. Army said.

Staff Sgt. Javares J. Washington, 27, of Pensacola, Fla., died Feb. 11 at Camp Buehring in Kuwait City, Kuwait, from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident, the Army said Thursday.

Washington was assigned to the 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. He joined the Army in 2001 and arrived at Fort Campbell in April, 2007.

Washington is survived by wife Letrica Nixon-Washington, daughter Tristyne Washington and stepson Mekhi Nixon, all of Fort Campbell, Ky. He is also survived by son Jayden Washington of Americus, Ga.; mother Felicia Smith and father Willie Matthews of Pensacola, Fla.
Washington earned several honors during his career, including the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.

God rest his soul.

This is the second such incident where KGL drivers have killed US military personnel. The family of the first victim, a US Colonel in Iraq, just won a US federal lawsuit in Atlanta for US$4.5 million.

My advice to this - and any other company - who has had an accidental fatality: Live up to your moral responsibility! Talk to/take care of the families of these people. Assist in goodwill in any way you can. Human life should not just be a statistic. If you want to compete in a global marketplace, live up to global standards. You HAVE a responsibility.

Waaa Wrong Chair Part Deux (I crack myself up)

More from the peanut gallery

Oh yeah, baybee. I know I'm "enthralled". Are YOU enthralled? This one has a look on her face like the damn chair SMELLS BAD. Or maybe, "Hey, this chair is way too big for my skinny ass." That's just phucking enthralling, so it is.

And speaking of enthralling.... let me tell you about my life.

I went to a meeting of western people yesterday. I am a relatively forward, sometimes agressive person. And yet, I HATE to speak in public. I don't like it. I blush. I stammer. I get myself into trouble. I crack jokes when I get nervous - often not thinking about the consequences of what I might be saying.

Yesterday, the crowd was frosty and boring (unfortunately, as usual). They are about as stuffy as a frog's ass is water-tight. So, someone (who is 'sposed to be my friend) asked me to come up to the podium. I didn't know why. I hadn't prepared for this. Why did she set me up? I hate that! Anyways, she said (in front of all those people), "Tell us a little about yourself and what you do and pick a number for the draw." Oh SNAP! I am sure that the death rays coming from my eyes woulda killed her fer sure. The only thing I could think of was, "Hi. I'm (Desert Girl) and I'm an alcoholic. It has been 4 days, 12 hours, and 3 minutes since my last drink...." DEAD PHUCKING SILENCE (a few chuckles). "Anyhooo, moving right along..."

People should know better than to set me up without prior warning. I figure they'll never ask me to speak at one of those functions again (I'm hoping). A few people in the crowd came up to me later. Comments ranged from, "Are you really an alcoholic? I didn't know if you were joking or not." to "There is no shame in alcoholism..." Okey dokey.

People have no sense of humor here. They lose it. Everything is so deadly serious. LIGHTEN UP, WHITE PEOPLE! What, did Al-Qaeda steal your sense of humor? Jeez.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Lack of Marketing for Hala February Pisses Me Off

If Kuwait has a 20-year tourism plan, how can they ever execute it if they can’t even run a proper tourism website? (Hey, for that matter, do a search on "Kuwait Tourism Board" and see what you get.)

This month, Hala February is a prime example. With all due respect to Mohammed Al-Asousi, “PR Manager” of the Hala February Festival 2008, Dude – where is the PR?

Perhaps some of us who are residents/expats in Kuwait would like to invite people to Hala February – IF we knew what the heck was going on! Perhaps we could add to the economy of the country where we live. Perhaps we, as residents of Kuwait, would like to know where/when a concert or an event will take place in our own backyard!

I live in Salmiya and scour the internet on a daily basis. I read the Arab Times, the Kuwait Times and The Daily Star (although all I’ve been receiving for the past month + has been the IHT and nothing local). I keep pretty well informed about local events. I live in the middle of Salmiya. And yet, have I heard much about Hala February? No. If I hadn’t noticed an influx of Saudi and Qatari license plates recently, I wouldn’t even have thought about Hala February (you know…. “Oh My God – why are there all these Saudis here?”)

I did a Google search of Hala February and on the 2nd page of listings, came across a post on Fonzation’s blog that has a link to the official Hala February website. (Hala dudes, have you not heard of adding your site to search engines or perhaps even Google optimization?). OMG! Plus (and this is very funny), the website provides information from the 2007 Hala February. Chellooooo….

Where is the marketing? Am I missing something? Is the advertising/marketing of this event so much better in Arabic? Where is the schedule of events?

The Arab Times, which I feel usually does a great job of announcing events, doesn't have Hala February listed in their "What's on" pages. What about a schedule of events to run the entire duration of the Hala month? What they do have is pictures of the events that have just passed.... gee, thanks. Mighta wanted to go to that....

Disgraceful. I find it offensive when people outside of Kuwait laugh at "my" country. At the same time, I am laughing right along with them because I know it is true. Go ahead, do a search for Hala February and see what you come up with: Little, not a lot, and a whole lot about nothing. Tourism people: Hire an experienced, global PR firm! It doesn't even matter what the content of the events are: Marketing/propaganda is everything. Hire the right guys and sell ice to Eskimos; Sand to Arabs....
The fundamentalist MPs can bitch for a month in the (often international) media about how terrible Valentine's Day is and how it should be banned. And yet when it comes to the positive marketing of their own resources - where are they? Can't they take the time to promote the transformation of the economy of their own country, through positive activities? Perhaps conducting cultural or religious events in conjunction with the others - showing Kuwait's traditions, hospitality, and beliefs in a productive and positive manner? Kuwait has a month out of the year in which it can attract visitors from all over the world.... So is it a time to stagnate much or what?
And speaking of stagnation....

The Future of tourism in Kuwait:

November 9, 2006: Government looks to step up sector. The tourism industry is key in terms of diversifying Kuwait’s economy and new projects aim to develop long-term plans

Spicing Things Up (Article): The government launched a 20-year tourism plan in 2005. The plan was developed in conjunction with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and the United Nations Development Programme. The primary objective is to help Kuwait diversify its national income. The country's first priority is to improve domestic tourism, by providing weekend breaks in resorts that can offer the same quality as their equivalents in Saudi Arabia, before turning its attention to positioning itself as a GCC tourist destination, targeting markets such as Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Business slows By Sarah Campbell Hotelier on Wednesday, January 04, 2006: …Meanwhile, plans to roll out a 20 year sustainable tourism plan remain on the shelf, leading current hotel

Dubai - Not all that or a bag of chips

I just got back from Dubai and I’ve got to say, “It’s good to be home.” For all of you who love Dubai , I apologize in advance if I may offend you by the following post. I know there are a lot of great things to say, but…

I don’t think Dubai is all that.

There is some kind of odd sub-culture going on there. It is a melting pot of nationalities and ethnicities – all out shopping at the same malls – and most of them just downright rude. I experienced a strange phenomenon: It could have been just me, but regardless of where I was walking, it seemed as though people walked towards me, in my direction, in an attempt to run into me. I’m a MAGNET! I actually started asking people, “Excuse me, but am I invisible?” I don’t get it. I could have been in the middle of an atrium, all alone, and then some Indian guy would make a B-line in my direction and literally walk right into me. WTF – am I involved in a game called, “Bumper Desert Girl” when the purpose of the game is to bump into ME? It wasn’t just one nationality, either. I head-butt an elderly Emirati woman; I was poked in the ass by a Jordanian’s shopping cart (4 times) waiting in line for a taxi (my ass can be used as a weapon of mass destruction and I catapulted his cart on the 4th time, halfway across the mall); I was crashed into with an (unspecified origin) Arab man’s baby in his trolley – then again by his wife pushing baby #2 in yet another trolley; numerous run-ins by non-discript Asian and Indian people. Is it just me? Does this happen to other people visiting Dubai? Am I so indistinguishable that I have become invisible to other humans? I don’t get it.

Plus, I swearaGod, if one more person had spoken to me in Russian, I would have kicked some former-communist ass.

There was one old Arab Dude (he could even have been Kuwaiti because Kuwaiti men are more likely chubby-chasers and I’m not exactly svelte) who followed me all the way around a mall and my hotel (that was attached to the mall – I stayed at the Hyatt Regency). I asked him (in Arabic), several times, “Nam, haji, fee shay?” and he answered, “La. Salamtich.” But he just kept on comin’. Again, I am trying to be a kinder/gentler person (yeah, right), so I didn’t kick his ass or make a spectacle of him.

I was there for the Iraq Defence, Security & Communications Summit Snoozefest. Why? Don’t ask. I don’t really know, but I made some good contacts and caught up with people that I hadn’t seen in years. It kind of pissed me off that my colleague (who had requested my presence) didn’t bother to show up for 2 days of seminar and meetings. He knows that I take very detailed reports, so I guess that is why I was there. They booked us into the wrong hotel (maybe on purpose either to piss us off or to save the company money). The Grand Hyatt rocks. It is so gorgeous. That is where the summit was held and my new hotel of choice in Dubai (except, of course, for the Royal Mirage which I love more than anywhere. If I had only stayed with The Man…. WAKE UP!.

I had dinner with Shamlan’s friend, Khalid, who I hadn’t seen since he left Washington in the 80’s. He was the person who filled in details about Shamlan’s death; and he provided me with more information about what happened - which has actually made it an even larger mystery, and yet confirms what I already knew in my heart. Regardless of the official cause of death, he was murdered. The police reported his death as a suicide by gunshot wound to the head (how do I know? I had someone get me the report). However, he was found with a gun in his hand and a pillow over his face that was shot through. If it was a suicide, why would he care about noise being detected? He also did not die at home which is what I had thought all along. He had an apartment and it happened there. Khalid saw him 20 days before he died and Shamlan was laughing and happy. My hypothesis is that it was done by someone up high. Anyways, regardless of the sadness I felt (I didn’t cry), it was nice to see Khalid and catch up on all the stuff for years.

I don’t see my old friends as much as I should. That is wrong. I try, but I guess as you age, you just lose contact with more and more people and your circle becomes smaller. You stay with people who have the exact same interests and thoughts as you. Maybe you become a little more narrow-minded and opinionated as you have a support system similar to your own perspective. Gotta do something about that.

Dubai does have a lot to see and do – IF you can deal with the traffic (which I can’t). I hate traffic. I hate rude, aggressive cab drivers who think that they should take traffic out on tourists/passengers; I further hate rude, aggressive cab drivers with bad colds with leaky noses and snot rags who keep the windows rolled up and the A/C off. The drivers don’t get paid enough for fares (I paid double on every trip because they were making NOTHING and I have a guilty conscience) and so it is like they try to make you feel bad when there is traffic and they have to sit in it. Not MY FAULT. I would have gone to more places if it hadn’t been for the nasty cab drivers. I wanted to go to the Global Market and some places in Jumeira, but I’ll have to wait till later. I’d also like to go there and do one of those lame desert safaris sometime; and also take a boat trip. I’ll take The Romanian. She’s flexible. She’ll go anywhere (as long as it isn’t in the morning). I like that about her.

Well, I got back to Kuwait and 2 guys followed me through the airport to give me their numbers. Aaaaah, it is so nice to be home where I am not invisible. Kuwait: Home of “shaham laham”.

Have you noticed that the Kuwait International Airport is supposedly “smoke-free” (they announce it on the planes), and yet the people who are smoking are the CUSTOMS guys sitting at their counters? There is one fat, heart-attack-waiting-to-happen-looking guy who is the main culprit, and he seems to be the instigator as all the rest of the customs guys follow him and light up.

For all my bitching about it, I really do love Kuwait and all its eccentricities. There is just so much bureaucracy and in-fighting here that you just know that it won’t be like Dubai anytime soon --- which is actually just fine by me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Wrong Chair!

This is Complete Living by Al-Ghanim's ad for furniture.
Found in today's Arab Times
Ok, what were they thinkin? To me, this ad just screams, "Oh my God, I bought the wrong chair. I think I am going to cry." Or, "My husband has just left me for another woman and all I have left is this big chair." Or maybe even, "Ok, so I bought this big chair, but holy crap, I have to pay 200 fils for parking because I've been in the store for an hour at The Avenues and they don't validate." Or perhapsee, "C'mon you guys, take the damn photo and I'm outa here!" Alluring? Not.

Yo, ad peeps - the people in the photos should be happy or at the very least, not appear to be close to tears. Would somebody pass the Kleenex? Sniffle.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where to Take a Visitor to Kuwait

I had a request from a new friend. She asked for ideas on where to take a visitor to Kuwait and I have never done a post about it before, so here goes. These are my personal preferences and I’m sure people can add their own if you would like to comment. I started doing some digging and came across even more information on the net (I have added links).

Morqab Tours is excellent.  See my post on them HERE listing tours and prices.  Nuzha Tours offers tours of Kuwait also; however, they are not flexible when it comes to minimum numbers of people before they will do the tour. They also publish the Kuwait Zoom Magazine which has monthly updates of activities as well as maps (you can find it at the airport or Sultan Center). Nuzha Tours should (in my opinion) take over TEC (see below). I found some really cool information that the US embassy, Kuwait has put together. You can find it by clicking HERE. It was written by two women and my compliments to you, dudettes! Outstanding data.

See the Sea. Every visitor to Kuwait must see the country from the sea! There are nine islands off the coast of Kuwait: Failaka, Bubiyan, Miskan, Warba, Auhha, Umm Al-Maradim, Umm Al-Naml, Kubbar and Qaruh. Kubbar is the most popular island during the summer (packed with people and boats during the weekends -- home to the Teeny Tiny Kuwait Bathing Suit Contest every weekend at 4:30 pm), Qaruh is surrounded by a coral reef and nesting ground for sea turtles, and Umm Al-Maradim boasts phosphorescent algae. This phenomenon has been documented in other parts of the world (Florida, for example), but is not well-known in Kuwait; Any movement in the water creates tiny lights like “fairy dust”, similar to that given off by fireflies. On a starry night when the moon is full, it is magical. The water is clear enough to see the sea floor and hot as bath water in the summer. The sky is a blanket of stars and the lights from the mainland shore and the off-shore oil rigs twinkle in the distance. For a shorter trip, for 1 KD, you can catch a pontoon boat from either souq sharq (in front of Debenhams) or Sultan Center restaurants complex (next to the yachts club) which will take you on a 30 minute tour of the Kuwait Bay, complete with Kodak moments (photo ops). If it all possible, try to get to Failaka (by ferry at Ras Salmiya or Marina Crescent). It is really worth your trip - especially now, before they start developing it into "something different". The Safir Heritage Hotel is on the island if you want to stay overnight and day packages are available. Note that the island are just about the only places where you will find natural (as in “not man-made” like at the hotels), clean beaches.

I don’t think anyone should miss camping in the desert (can be a day trip) but unless you know someone with a camp, it might be difficult. You can check in Al Waseet for people who rent camps (the camping season goes through the end of March, but you have to check the newspapers to see when the Municipality ends the camping season). Nuzha Tours is probably your best bet for a 1 day camp with lunch. (By the way - none of those pictures on their website of the desert is of Kuwait!) If you don’t do any other camping, go to Mutlaa Ridge (80 N towards Iraq past Jahra - photo) for a picnic and watch the sun go down. It is so worth the drive. When it gets dark, you can see the lights of Kuwait City across the bay. I wish someone would build a (environmentally friendly/green) restaurant there someday. It is truly one of my favorite spots in Kuwait.

I took my mom to the camel markets (with Kuwaiti friends) in Salmi towards Jahra. Don't ask me how to get there again. I went gerbil hunting at night out there (again with Kuwaiti friends) and I still don’t know where the Hell we were.

I usually take my visiting friends/family to see the older, traditional places in Kuwait. I know when I first came here in 93, all I wanted to see were the old souqs - and my Kuwaiti girlfriends didn't even know how to get to them! :)

There are, of course, the usual places to take visitors. Mubarakia, which includes the gold market and "souq hareem" or women's market selling "traditional" items including my favorites like “thobe neshla” (thin, gold-thread embroidered cover for traditional dancing) and “farwa” (wool outer garment worn by men in the desert typically lined with lamb fleece), and several small carpet and Bedouin woven goods shops. Souq Al Kuwait for traditional Kuwaiti sweets and pastries. Then there's the fish market (next to Souq Sharq), Tareq Rejab Museum, the Towers (my mom calls them "the balls of Kuwait" – there are 3!). Friday Market and the tent market right next to it (you can drive through that one - just to let your people see an example of all the types of tents they sell - it is pretty cool).

Avoid the animal market at the Friday Market - very sad. Don't go to the zoo - it is awful for anyone who loves animals. Do go to the aquarium/Scientific Center.

You can always go to the malls; which is so ordinary that I’m only going to mention Kout -- not for the shopping, but because of the architecture, dancing water fountain, and just all-around beauty of the place. You have to take visitors to Kout if for no other reason than just to sit outside and have a cup of coffee next to that mesmerizing fountain. There is a Lebanese restaurant at the end of the mall (which I can’t remember the name of right now – I think it is Mirjian or something similar) which has good food and is very pretty. It faces the sea. Ok, I’ll mention Marina Crescent because it is also pretty and nice for breakfast or coffee (by too crazy with young people running around at night).

Several of my American newcomer friends find shopping at the co-ops fascinating (T, you need a life, girlfriend!) It is kinda interesting because you see items that you wouldn’t see “back home”. I bought several female relatives stikanas, saucers, and spoons for something like a total of 4 kd and they went bananas over them. My mother liked the co-ops too, come to think of it.

Antiques in Kuwait are mainly from the region – not Kuwait. My favorites are in the basement of the Al-Ozeina Building (downstairs from the American Beauty store) on Salem Mubarak Street in Salmiya, close to Marks & Spencer. It is easy to miss - the signage is small (photo) and easy to miss when you are driving past. Just look for the building with all the beauty supply products. There are also stores in Mubarakia and Muthanna Mall.

Muthanna also has my favorite bookstore on the basement level. They’ve got good reference books on Kuwait.

You have to take them to a traditionally Kuwaiti restaurant and I recommend Shatiya Watiya (although it is kind of hard to get to because of the construction). It is located downtown in the Behbehani houses next to the church. There is another Kuwaiti restaurant in Salmiya, Fareej Suwaileh, near Marks & Spencer, but when I went there, the service wasn’t great. Le Notre on the Gulf Road is a great place to take people at night because of the view of the Kuwait Towers.

When I first came here, I went to 2 places that were very interesting to me: The Red Palace in Jahra and The Qurain House (also known as "The Martyrs Museum"). The Red Palace is an old fort that was the scene of the famous battle of Jahra fought in 1920. I found it interesting because everything is so small. (were people that much smaller in 1920?) Nuzha tours offers visits to the Red Palace. Qurain House is probably one of the last remaining relics of the Gulf War and very emotionally moving. I cried. They have pictures and stories of the Kuwaiti resistance guys who fought and died there. Again, Nuzha offers tours there - or you can try to find it by following signs off road 208. We got lost in Qurain trying to find the house, and the young Kuwaiti guy we stopped to ask for directions took the time to drive us there, which I thought was a nice gesture.

Additional links to information on places to see in Kuwait:

In my humble opinion, the Touristic Enterprises Company (which is similar to a Board of Tourism in other countries) has done a terrible job in promoting tourism and activities in Kuwait. They don't market themselves and even through a Google search, were cumbersome to find. Once you get to their page, you will find multiple spelling mistakes and under the main English window in "Events", "No events posted". Chellooooo - what about Hala February, etc? That is just an embarrassment to Kuwait! Disgraceful. Further, with all the military forces and peripheral staff in Kuwait since 2003 - in addition to Kuwait as the NYT's 52nd top travel destinations, you would think that the TEC would have cornered the market on activities and tours in Kuwait, but noooooo.

Below are better, more informative links (many of the sites are from OUTSIDE of Kuwait. Feshla ya TEC!)

Q8Sultana: Things to Show Your Visitors In Kuwait (Thanks for the link, Girlfriend!)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ugly American

Incase you don’t know it (and I didn’t know the entire extent of it till I looked it up on Wikipedia), Ugly American is an epithet used to refer to perceptions of arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless behaviors of Americans at home or abroad. "For some reason, the people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They're loud and ostentatious. Perhaps they're frightened and defensive, or maybe they're not properly trained and make mistakes out of ignorance."

So, as they say, acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to solving it. I admit, I become the Ugly American at points (although I don’t isolate myself socially or live pretentiously; and don’t think I’m frightened or defensive, nor improperly trained). I do it both at home and abroad. I know I have anger management issues and I’m trying to be a kinder, gentler person, but sometimes I just lose it (I’m an Aries for cryinoutloud!) – and around here, it really isn’t hard because there is so much fuel for the fire.

This weekend, I was for sure an ugly American. I dealt with a counter clerk at a shoe store. Long-story-short, I left my American (how ironic is that) Express card there and, thankfully, counter clerk had given me the wrong color bag; so I returned the next day to change the bag and he gave me my card back. At which point, I ripped his head off. There is more to the story than that: it started the first day when he threw the card back at me and said, “Bank unavailable” when he tried for the mere 30 seconds to put the Amex through – looking at me as if I had no money and was declined. There was more… but bygones.

He started arguing with me – which I HATE. I don’t get it when you are the customer and the sales person wants to argue with you. It is shitty customer service and I almost instinctively argue back (until I kill the topic and stomp on its grave with glee). Anyhoo, I tried to make a point that one should never argue with an American woman as we almost always can’t shut up and stop.

As a side note, I almost never ever flaunt the fact that I’m American (and I
wasn’t trying to above). When asked around here, I prefer to say that I’m
a dual-national and married to a Kuwaiti. Most people will just say,
“Oh….” As if I’m on the same level of cultural understanding about life
here. It is a qualifier somehow. There is a distinction between
Americans who have been in Kuwait for many years (and understand the culture
and/or who have integrated into the society) and those who have shown up after
2003 (mostly contractors or military folks who have a specific assignment for
1-2 years and will move on “leaving only footprints, taking only photographs”).

Using the word “American” in any context is obviously taboo. It is unpatriotic to have an argument/disagreement or raise your voice and use that word. We are not allowed to show the world that we are human and as such, flawed. Doing so in this part of the world would mean that you aren’t here to “win hearts and minds” and to “spread democracy”.

A soldier-looking type was milling around the store and overheard parts of my diatribe. He waited – standing close to my friend and I as we shopped – for an opportunity to “have a word with me”-- loud enough so that all the customers and counter staff could hear it. He stopped me and said, “You give Americans a bad name. You are a guest in this country. Your behavior is atrocious…” Yada yada blah blah blah. (He was so upset that he had turned red from the lower neck, up.)

Now, here is what I find ironic and fascinating (and I haven’t been able to stop pondering it): He, as an American, found it necessary to become arrogant and demeaning to ME – who was, in the first place, arrogant and demeaning. I have never been spoken to in this manner by 1) someone I’ve never met; 2) someone who didn’t know the entire story therefore making him judgmental; and 3) someone who just like me, was arrogant enough to think he could stop someone (considering 1 & 2) and have the audacity to speak to them like a child. The feminist part of me would say that perhaps he wouldn’t have done this, had I been a man.

Dude must be either an officer in the military or work for the embassy because the “guest in this country” is a dead give-away (as well as the haircut and the shave) for “I just got here, I’ve been told to behave myself, and I feel that I can dictate my point of view to everyone else.” I didn’t have a sharp retort (which is TOTALLY unlike me) and only said, “Well, thank you for your oppinion, SIR.”

Here is the short and stinky of this interesting predicament:

I should not have been so pissed off at the store clerk and ripped him a new one, first and foremost. I have since found a way to apologize and I hope it is sufficient. Crew-cut dude will never know that, however.
I don’t consider myself a “guest” in this country. Kuwait is my home. I consider myself (and I hope that others do too) a resident and member of the community; hopefully adding to the overall good of the country.
As far as giving Americans a bad name – I hope not. I try my damndest to be a kind person regardless of my nationality, but alas, we all have good and bad days.
I am going to try really hard not to jump to conclusions or be as judgemental as I sometimes am. In turn, I hope others like dude will do the same. As my sister says, “You never know what someone’s day has been like or what they are going through, so just let it go.” Yup. I’m going to try to be more like that.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Here Comes Stupid

We moved out offices about 2 weeks ago; thank GOD – OUT of the Shuwaikh Port. If anyone is even remotely considering renting an office space inside the Port, it is a logistical nightmare. Our office had been there for years, and I pity who ever moved in there after us. For office staff: Kuwaitis are given 1 year entrance passes, other nationalities 6 months (depending on nationality). Every time you want a visitor to come see you, they have to stand in line behind a gazillion smelly people to get a visitor gate pass. And then – you get to deal with the “extra friendly and professional” guards at the gate (who change every few months). Terrible.

Anyhoo, our new office space is about 1000 times better. It is huge and I have a kickin new office. All the managers are going out and buying our own stuff to furnish our spaces (alas, it has become a competition now between me and the Kuwaiti manager next ot me to out-do each other – he’s winning). Being me, I have a particular "theme" in mind, so I went to Dhajeej to find The Perfect Carpet. I went into 3 different carpet shops looking for The Perfect Shade and I picked out normal looking grades. At all 3 shops, dudes quoted me 17 kd a meter ($62/yd), proudly saying, “Made in Kuwait.”

Now, I’m not a snob about this kind of stuff. Being American, we realize that most of the products in the US are from China anyways. When I came to Kuwait in the early 90’s, no one would ever say, “Made in Kuwait” thinking that it would be more prestigious to the customer. They lied. “Oh Madame, it is made in Paris” (also known as Fahaheel); or Italy or whatever. The perception was that if it was made somewhere European or American, it was better quality (and they could bump up the price because of “shipping costs”). Yeah. (If you don't believe me, go check out American Home. Yikes.)

So, why the F all of a sudden does carpet made locally (out of the finest imported polyester?) cost so much? I asked the guy if it has gold threading. Is it because I’m foreign and blonde and they think I’m stupid? Does “Made in Kuwait” at 17 kd/m imply that there is a tribe of Bedu weavers somewhere in one of Kuwait’s industrial areas with an enormous (polyester) loom, working away by hand? Am I to be impressed? I mean – WTF. I could import my own carpet for less than that. If you string together Ikea carpets, it comes out to less money per meter.

Trash bags are made in Kuwait and I’m not impressed by that either – and you can still buy those at Mirah Center for like 200 fils a dozen….

That is just freakin unbelievable.

On a similar note, I went to KFH cars yesterday in Shuwaikh. As I stood in the showroom (the only woman around and fer sure the only blonde), there were 2 salesmen obviously on a break who smiled at me, but didn’t offer me any help. A younger salesman, sporting a virtual-beard (guess he couldn’t fill in all that facial hair), walked towards me and the 2 older salesman told him to help me. Young dude seemed very reluctant (blonde? Boobs? Foreigner?) and actually walked by me. I was wearing one of my conservative “manager” suits, so there shouldn’t have been any temptation vice associated. I made eye contact and he said, “What do you want?” (Oh no he di’n’t!) I said, “Eshtaaaawa! What do I WANT? I WANT a car!” pretty loudly. So, the 10 or so men who were milling about immediately stopped, turned and started laughing. Did he think I was there for a phucking chicken shawarma? To his credit, he instantly started apologizing and became very professional.

It was kinda cool because while I was there, I ran into 2 long-bearded KFH guys that I used to work with a long time ago and they were really friendly and nice to me (yippee – wastah at KFH car showroom!).

Thank God, no one tried to send me to the “ladies section” because I am so tired of biting off heads. I used to run into the main office of KFH’s men’s section just to bother people and to see how long it would take them to say, “Sister! Sister! There is a ladies entrance…” Tee hee. I’m not your damn sister and if I was, I'm pretty sure you would disown me for being "immoral" (not that I care because I like it).

I do have to say that KFH has gotten a lot better in the past few years. Most people are very kind and professional. The guys at the call center are exceptional.

This had been a weird week.

I can’t wait to get to the chalet tonight (the alternate - as the regular one is now burned and everything including the way-cool CDs are gone). Another Absolute™ weekend.

Poor Sperm!

Are the sperm poor because they talk on their cellphones too much? Do they also have Zain as their provider? I could have told them that they would be poor....

In response to this title: Don't let sperm use your mobile phone. Or, don't hold your mobile phone close to your private parts (vibrate mode?).

Monday, February 04, 2008

Firemen, Policemen, and Dogs (oh my!)

We went to a gaada in Kabd on the dustiest night of the entire year (Thursday). I don’t know why, but whenever we venture to Kabd, we bring dust storms. We, as in The Romanian, Sheikha Minor, and I. My brigadier buddy who I’ve known for 27 years was supposed to show up (but didn’t) and he was the main reason I was going. He makes me laugh, but now that he’s a brigadier, he is too important to hang with me anymore.

No worries. There was a DAMN good looking guy (Ajmi Part Deux) there and The Romanian thought that she knew him from somewhere – like maybe he was from her x-husband’s family, so she sobered up immediately and started acting quite unlike herself (well-behaved). I ended up in an Absolute™ conversation with him – for some strange reason compelled to read his palm and tell him (accurately) about his life; obviously freaking him out – tee hee. A short time later, he and the Romanian were hugging and smiling (we share… NOT). Turns out, he spends almost all his summers in Romania and they had spent a lot of time (and her birthdays) together. Sometimes it is hard to remember people when you’re sobered up (or drunk) and they are wearing (their clothes) a qutara and aghal. Have you noticed that?

Anyhoooooo, it was a great night (even with the arrival of the ho’s) and we ended up eating GOOD machboos at 3 am.

The chalet where the Beautiful Dog (“Spike”) lives burnt down while we were up in Kabd (luckily – because the majority of our group is usually at that chalet, but Sheikha Minor had a fight with the boyfriend). Sheikha Minor thought it was a joke when she started getting SMSs from her boyfriend et al. that it was on fire. Spike is fine and should have been moved by now to another home. The fire department (MATAAAAAAFEEEEE) said that it was an electrical short circuit. One of the guys there immediately blamed it on his girlfriend/x-girlfriend/girlfriend. Why is it that the girlfriend always gets blamed????

Friday night, Sheikha Minor invited The Romanian, Sheikha Major, and I to another gaada (gee, might as well stay drunk all weekend, WTF) with some high-ranking police guys (don’t ask/don’t tell – and I don’t even know, so don’t bother). Apparently, highest-ranking police guy wasn’t aware that Sheikha Major was a major sheikha as he sat next to her trying to force her to kiss him whilst grabbing her butt…. Officer #3 (who I think was put in place basically to baby sit the other 2) literally flung him out of the room and he left without a word. AMF! It would have been hilarious, only we were all so PO’ed that he would think that he could get away with it. Ok, ok, it was hilarious later! I told Sh. Major that her ass is irresistible (apparently) to men… LOL. The other police dude seemed fascinated that I could make so many animal noises (stop thinking dirty! Every time he would look at me, I would make a different animal noise – we were drinking and I do a really cute goat!!!!). Anyways, now he is calling me (through Sheikha Minor) and expecting me to do the same, only sober. I hate it when I become the entertainment. Which gee, unsurprisingly, turns out to be quite often.

Speaking of being the entertainment… Saturday, a dude followed The Romanian and I all over Kuwait. I finally pulled over (after like 20 miles) to take his number (honestly – just so he would stop following us) and amazingly, he had a totally sexy voice and a face to match, so I ended up calling him; and then he called me like a whole lot of times. In yet another odd occurrence, it turned out that I know him. I met him a few years ago at a party (where I had some of the best saj I’ve ever had). Yes, I remember both him AND the saj. I still can’t remember whose house it was or who I went with. He gave me his number that night, but I only ended up calling him once and that was it. I think I met The Man shortly after that and I never spoke to him again. Dude trains police dogs (yes, there is a theme in my life: Dogs and policemen; and sometimes both).

Where is The Man anyways? I haven’t seen him in a long time. The Romanian thinks that he has turned mutawaa. Ok, if that is the truth, when/if I do see him, I am going to laugh until I pee. (Psychic Bedu’s prediction was something big in June of this year related to The Man…. ) Dude – where are you hanging out these days? Rigae? The Ramada? Someplace with cheaper sheesha and stikanas? Did you get a “fun” apartment with Bu Zega and the Other Bu Zega? What up?