Thursday, May 29, 2008

The New US Ambassador Rocks!

I had the honor of meeting our new Ambassador to Kuwait, Mrs. Deborah Jones, yesterday. To say that she is a breath of fresh air in Kuwait is an extreme understatement. She gave a speech to the American Business Council which summed up many ideas that I strongly believe in.

One thing she said, "If anyone ever tells you that they are an expert on the Middle East, you should question them. This region changes every day and no one is an expert." Its true. I've been here for 12 years, known Arab and Kuwaiti friend for most of my life, and every single day is a learning experience for me.

She also stressed the importance of providing young Kuwaitis with internship opportunities. I believe in that also. I think that organizations like LOYAC do amazing work. Instilling the concepts of a strong work ethic and ties to your community through volunteer programs are what builds a better work force/working country. Going overnight from a welfare state to a country where people really have to do work doesn't happen overnight. People round here need work skills and better business opportunities.

Anyhoo, Ambassador Jones wins The Official Desert Girl Seal of Approval. She is sincere, funny, and direct and I immediately liked her. I'm glad that the embassy now has a female perspective in the drivers seat.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

And now with rape, you have an added bonus....

.... and with this rape, I thee wed....

What are we - in the dark phuckin ages or what??? Kuwait is going back hundreds of years.

First, I commend the "senior official in the Ministry of Interior" who brought up the fact that the police man SHOULD FACE CHARGES! He is a POLICE OFFICER. They should be above reproach - "to protect and serve". They should set an example for the rest of society to follow. Their duty is to ENFORCE THE LAW OF THE COUNTRY.

Leading me to question Kuwait's higher-ranking lawmakers: what kind of backwards MPs does Kuwait have that would collaborate on this kind of crime? Don't they have daughters? If one of their daughters were raped, would they be marrying her off to her rapist?

Let's talk about the fact that the guy held the poor victim hostage for 4 days, raping her. So, as an added "bonus" - he marries her and what - subjects her to endless years of rape and torture? What kind of justice is this? Rape isn't about sex; it is about control and mental sickness. The guy will most likely go on to rape more women. Let's face it, Kuwait, there are enough prostitutes in Kuwait to take care of the sex drives of anyone out there. Rape is rape. NON-CONSCENTUAL - as in "No. Stop." (or in my case - 'I will pluck out your eyeballs, take a steak knife to your penis, and come after not only you, but your entire phucking family...)

Again - why do I read the newspaper???

Sunday, May 25, 2008

IKEA Criminology Update

I visited IKEA again this weekend and was accosted yet again by a poor Filipina lady just trying to do her job. We had bags (small bags). I thought I would push the envelope and see how far I could get.

“Madame! Madame! It is not allowed for you to take bags.”

‘Call the manager.’

I don’t think she did. Who cares? Not Ikea management. They still treat their customers like criminals.

Ikea management: Buy a stapler or a bag sealer like they have in Carrefours. Jeez. Show some creativity – after all, your store is supposed to be innovative, right?

What kind of BS is THIS?

What kind of bullshit nonsense is THIS?

WHO submitted the study? WHO came up with the idea for the study? What was the basis? WHO were the researchers and what was their methodology?

First of all, in the US, most of the primary teachers are women (and the schools are mixed gender). Does that mean that a majority of the population of the US is now gay?

What about those kids who are educated at home? Do they turn gay?

What about if a girl has a primary teacher who is a man? Does she turn into a lesbian?

What about religious leaders who had primary school teachers who were female?

Homosexuality has always been around. It isn’t suddenly increasing: It is just a matter of coming out of the closet.

Doesn’t Kuwait have enough problems between genders (like an accelerated rate of divorce) without SOME people trying to further segregate genders? The only way people will understand each other is if they live and work together. If a male kid is taught that he should stay away from a female kid; he is going to think there is something wrong with her. (Likewise with a female kid; or if someone is of another religion/culture/country, etc.) They will grow up being more comfortable (in many ways) with people of their own gender. Segregation of any kind breeds misconception and prejudice.
Honestly - I have to stop reading the newspaper.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Violent Crimes Rising in Kuwait

This story was in the Arab Times today. I had a conversation with a new Kuwaiti friend just last night in which he insisted that violent crimes are few and far between in Kuwait. "It is so much safer here than (wherever)...."

I beg to differ.

I read these stories every single day. How can people make a conscious choice to overlook them? Violent crimes in Kuwait definately ARE rising. Even 10 years ago, it wasn't like this.

Let's look at it this way, the monster mentioned in this story is in his 30's. That would have made him around 13 + (a teenager) in 1991. He might have been one of the residents who stayed in Kuwait during the occupation - witness to the autrocities - perhaps against women? How many walking timebombs are out there living amongst us? Did they get psychological help? Will they ever? How many more violent crimes will take (or are taking) place? Well gee, we don't have any statistics in Kuwait because that's not what's done, is it?

This story makes me physically sick. How soon before this guy gets out of jail on wastah? Is he out already? Maybe he went home to beat his wife or his daughters. Statistically, someone this violent will undoubtedly strike again.

Gee, what would happen if a Kuwaiti woman refused to have sex with a man? It could potentially happen, and if the same thing happened and she was lit on fire and burnt alive - you can be damn sure that everyone from the top seat in government all the way down would take notice. Families would retaliate. It would be covered everywhere on the front page - not just a tiny excerpt like this one on page 8 of the newspaper!

Is it just me, or is anyone else out there outraged by this? What if this happened to your sister or mother or wife?

Wake up, Kuwait!!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Good girls and bad boys

Mashallah, Mashallah, Mashallah – we had 5 years and we never had an argument or anything upsetting. This weekend, Bu Merdas and I got into it. Oops, I thought I had told him about some Man details. Guess not. “Were you talking to ME while you were with him?” ‘Well, I wasn’t actually seeing you….’ He left me on the rocks for a day and then it was over and we are better than before. That’s a pretty good track record. (That’s Merdas’ picture). He thought that the picture I have of Shamlan in my office/wardrobe room is of The Man. So cute. I didn’t even know that he goes into that room. I love it that he’s jealous. "Hi baby...." yummmm.

I have been begging him to invite me to his friend’s place because he has called me from there every weekend to let me hear how well the guy sings and plays oud. I beg; he refuses. “Too many men.” This weekend, I asked the Romanian to help me beg and he actually agreed. Then, the Romanian got sick and had to go home, so I didn’t go. That’s my damn luck.

I had a weird weekend because of the death of Sheikh Saad (Allah ya hermha – I hope that’s the way you spell it) and the elections. I have one particular friend – a relative of Sheikh Saad - who must be hurting a lot right now and if you are reading this, I hope you know how much your friends care about you and are thinking of you. If you’re in Kuwait, please give me a call (same number for 11 years now).

The elections have just pissed me off. Ok, Kuwait has spoken and all that crap, but c’mon people! It is the same old same old – and not one woman. The photos of the elected guys are all over the papers today and it looks like some kind of a police line-up. I’m not sayin that they’re all bad (I don’t know any of them), but either their photos are just unattractive or…. Can I ask y’alls something…. Have none of these guys ever picked up a pair of tweezers or had their eyebrows waxed? My GOD! There is one guy (WT) who has been “blessed by God” and now looks like Shrek.

God sometimes hits HARD with the ugly invisible stick.

The Romanian came up with a great gimmick and we are going to use it during the next election erection (2 to 3 years?): Vote for Mutlaq. We’re going to create our own candidate. We are going to have bumper stickers made up and T-shirts. Unfortunately, she thought of it on the day that people were going to vote (after waaaaaay to much coffee), so we couldn’t do it this year. Anyhoo, it was good for a constant stream of giggles that lasted longtime.

I saw the Tawhore last week in passing. The car (that bought and paid for him) is damaged. I take that as a metaphore. Dude brings me luck because ever time I see him, I meet another man. Thanks! Sometimes God works in mysterious ways. Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmmm.

I can’t help it that I meet men. It is the Way of My People. It happens. I’m still a good girl…. Yes I am. I am too! Shut up!

Monday, May 12, 2008

MEW bill payments - a real pain in the butt

Electricity/Water Bill Payments in Kuwait. Al Watan Daily has a big headline this morning: Expats owing power bills to face travel ban.

I’m a baaaaad expat. It has been 11 years since I have paid my electricity/water bill. They finally busted me and I owe 780 KD. Not a BFD. What is really stupid is that my name and civil ID number was not on their records (neither was my initial 100 KD deposit). I remember throwing something away like 2 years ago that could have resembled a receipt. Oh well.

I don’t mind paying. In fact, it would have made me feel a whole lot better. If I could sit at my desk and pay my bill every month over the internet to some Ministry of Electricity and Water website, I would do it. (Ditto on my home landline with the Ministry of Communications.) If it could be automatically deducted from my account, I would be happy with that too. For 5 kd a month, I’m not really feelin it. In fact, I'm giddy that it is only that much. Kinda cool. (780 kd -- I am feelin, however - as well as the potential to be instantly cut off at the whim of some MEW dude.)

However, these people make it so hard just to pay. For the electric bill, I have to go down to their office and hopefully someone will speak like 10% English. They rarely can find your record. There is rudeness potential there (in an attempt for YOU to give them your money). This is all before you have to

1) try to locate a meter-reader dude, and
2) go with meter-reader dude to your building to have the meter read and
3) find your hariss to have him open the meter room door,
4) go back to the MEW and sit around again for a while until someone figures out how you can actually pay them.

This “system” sucks.

The MEW doesn’t even send a guy ONCE IN A YEAR with a bill to my apartment. ELEVEN YEARS is how far I’ve skated by. Is someone perhaps not doing their job (ok I know I’m not by not paying, but I’m not a collector). What has dude been doing for 11 years? How much ball-scratching can one person possibly do?

Sidenote: Why doesn't the Government of Kuwait learn something from Zain? I worked on projects like 10 years ago [at Saad Barrak's (Zain CEO) former IT company] when they were discussing a project for MEW for meter-reading and bill payments. Zain knows exactly how much you owe them - down to the minute. They even send you constant reminders on SMS. They make it reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally easy for you to pay them - and will even smile at you in the process and say "thank you". WTF MEW?! Get your shit together.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Expat Information

I came across this website ( a while back that offers assistance to people (expats) moving to other countries - including Kuwait. The Kuwait site is HERE. There isn't a lot of information there about Kuwait.

Would you people out there please help me answer questions about Kuwait? I think a lot of newcomers are being misinformed by well-intentioned people that don't really understand.

It is a matter of the blind-leading-the-blind. If someone comes to Kuwait on a 1-2 year contract or rotation and doesn't integrate into Kuwaiti society (and this means actually becoming friends with 1 or 2 Kuwaitis), then how are they able to accurately portray Kuwait? I can say the same about people who are working at the US Embassy (mithilin). If you don't get out there and meet people, share their stories and lives, how can you advise others?

I have heard so many people tell me about how afraid they are of Kuwait; how they shouldn't speak to Kuwaitis; how they shouldn't drive at night. As my Aunt Virginia (God rest her soul) used to say, "That's a bunch of hooey."

Anyways, help some people out and respond to their questions, okay?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Little black tables

We moved into our new office months ago and my office is still not finished. Okay, so I’m picky (so says my ENFJ personality description). The enormous wood tables that the company gave me just aren’t going to cut it for me. I want something different. I even had my office sofa made because I hate the heavy “traditional” stuff that they have here. The tables that they gave me are so heavy that even the farraj can't move them.

So, my search for the 3 Perfect Tables continues. Alls I want is Ikea-style cheap tables in black. Why is it so hard? (Ikea doesn’t have what I am looking for and besides – they’ve pissed me off, so I am boycotting them now).

I have been EVERYWHERE: The One, IDesign, Mahdi Habib, Home Store, Home Center, Center Point, Ali Abdulwahab, everywhere in Dhajeej – even Souq Irani and the used furniture market. I have to try Midas’ office furniture place and Safat Al-Ghanim next. I have a little moral problem going to Safat Al-Ghanim, but they have nice stuff.

I have seen every range of truly tacky furniture there possibly could be. I love it that when I say “plain” (“sada” in Arabic), the Egyptian salesmen show me carved things and things with flowers and things with inlays of various types. I guess “plain” has different meanings to different people. I would hate to see what some of these peoples’ homes look like. EEEK.

The most overpriced crap was found at Ali Abdulwahab. OMG! Who SHOPS there??? They have quite obviously copied everything that Midas had on offer – only it has been made by the subcontractor to the subcontractor of someyoungguy in Taiwan. Cheap and really really expensive. It is also tacky. It is like they are trying to be someone they’re not. “Mutton dressed as lamb.” Dudes – what were ya thinking? Stick to what you know.

The good thing was that none of the sales people anywhere we went stuck to my ass. Well, with the exception of one person in Mahdi Habib. You know the type of sales person: the kind that follows you around like they are some kind of loose appendage on your body; so close that you can feel their breath on the back of your neck; any closer and you want to ask them to pull your hair and talk dirty in your ear… you know who I’m talking about. Why do they do that?

The Romanian and I have a system with people like this: we freak them out. We’ll feel one closing in, and on the count of 3, do an about-face in the opposite direction really fast. Several times, I’ve come close to actually knocking them over.

We were someplace recently where the Filipinas were glued to our asses (I nervously twitch – even thinking about it). I can’t remember where. I think they must be trained to do that. I get so close to just saying, “Phuck OFF!” but they probably would take it as some kind of a come-on.

Oh, okay… back to my coffee table/side table story. So alls I want is basic black, not expensive, tables. Why is simple so hard?

If you see these tables - please - help a sistah out and let me know!

One cool thing I have discovered during my travels is Souq Irani. Well, I can’t say “discovered” because I “re-discovered” it. I think the last time I was out there was maybe 7 years ago. They have all kinds of stuff – and some really incredible teak wood items as well as Indian linens/pillow covers, etc. If you want directions, just write to me, but it is across the street from the Friday Market animal section (that I refuse ever ever to go to).

Our office manager’s son gave her a fish. He’s one of those Thai blue fish – really pretty. I call him “Nemo”. Anyways, poor little Nemo has been kept in the same plastic container that they bought him in; so when I was at Souq Irani, I found a big glass fishbowl and some rocks and now he has a new home. The only problem is, they are feeding him like crazy and I think he’s going to blow up and die before he ever has the chance to really appreciate his surroundings.

Bu Merdas just called me, “Hi baby….” Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Yummy. He wanted to make sure that I’m okay in this dust that we’re having. He’s just dreamy.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ikea Treats Their Customers Like Criminals

So, I spend big bucks on furnishings. It is the way of my people. In the past 12 years in Kuwait, I have thrown down beaucoup bucks at Ikea. Never had a problem with them until recently.

When they first opened at The Avenues, Slapperella and I had been shopping at the mall and walked in with a few bags. We were accosted (literally) by 2 Ikea men who didn't speak English who pointed and waved towards the check-out desks. I don't know the word for "locker" in Arabic, so whatever they were saying made ab-so-fuckin-lutely no sense to me. They were both so rude that we turned around and left the store.
This is before we even entered the store to shop. Ya know - that's pretty pathetic. You are treated poorly even before you have the chance to look at what items they have!

On my next visit, there was a dude who did speak English and told us that we needed to put our bags in a locker. We needed 100 fils (I NEVER have coinage). So, he broke a 1 dinar and I put my stuff in the lockers and fought past people to get back into it. Knowing the system, I thought I would be ok for the next trip to Ikea.

So we went this weekend. Here is the new deal (and whose brilliant phuckin idea was THIS???): You have to go to the little info desk next to the escallator and give them your Civil ID or 5 kd for a key to a locker. If you don't return the key, you have to pay them 5 kd. First and foremost, NO ONE is getting my civil ID. Sorry, too much personal info. Aint gonna happen. When I gave them the 5kd note, they don't even give you a receipt. All the civil IDs and the money goes into a business-card holder and is left on top of the counter. Wow. That's really secure.

I'm prone to hissy fits and this just set me off. As Slaps says, "You are an activist complainer. You go one step beyond..."

First Ikea, if you have theft problems, install better security systems like cameras and security tags on smaller items. Hire more security personnel! How much can your losses possibly be on small items? I'm telling you this now - on behalf of the multitude of customers who (unlike me) won't complain directly to Ikea. There are a lot of them out there: Do you think that they are really going to take the time to sit down and write a letter?

Don't treat your customers like theives! If I want to carry my bag into your store - it should be my choice - not yours! I shouldn't have to be run after by members of your staff like I stole something - I should be rewarded for wanting to shop there (sending thousands of dinars!) in the first place.

What happened to the concept of customer service? Do you not know that you have COMPETITION in Kuwait? Safat Al-Ghanim, Midas, The One... must I go on? Ikea, you are no longer the only shop in town.
May 5, 2008 Update: Ikea sent the following SMS to my mobile
Ikea would like to thank you for giving us your comments and suggestions. This will help us improve. Ikea Customer Service. Otay, that's nice. How are YOU going to help ME?
I spoke to a very nice higher-up at Midas who says that the #1 most-stolen item from their store is an ash tray shaped like a lady's handbag. That thar is something to ponder... It just screams, "Yo! Theif-lady! Put me in your baaaag...." I'm going to Midas just to see what they look like and maybe BUY one for myself (because my parents raised me right!).
May 9, 2008 Update: Ikea responds to Blog Post via E-mail
Got a nice e-mail from the Service Operations Manager at Ikea who apologized for the "lackadaisical attitude on the part of any of our Co workers". It was a nice attempt, but unfortunately, it isn't the employees' fault; it is a policy put in place by Ikea management.
DG response:
As you know - everyone in your store must place their bags in a locker and provide either their civil ID card or 5 KD. Signs are posted in the entrance to the store. I'm not alone - this policy affects all your customers; and I am quite sure that it subsequently affects your sales. Unfortunately, until you put appropriate security measures in place (do away with the forced placement of bags in lockers), you will continue to have this problem.

As we are in Kuwait, most customers will not take the time to bring the point to Ikea management attention; Instead, they will just go to another store. I did take the time to fill out your electronic comments at the time that it happened. I also discussed it with the manager on duty at that time.

This policy is negative. It makes the customer feel bad - before they even get inside to view the items. Most stores want a positive, pleasant shopping experience for their customers. I want to feel good about spending money.

I have discussed this problem with owners of other furniture stores around Kuwait; they have stated that they would prefer small losses through theft on small items than to lose customers who make large purchases (like me).'

Kuwait - Informing People????

Check this out. I have been wondering what the hey they have been ERECTING on the sides of the road; some look like they could be walk-overs (whatchamacall'ems - pedestrian over-passes), but then my curiosity was quelled on this one. Someone (the Universe) actually listened to my ramblings! I believe this to be an actual traffic information board. Holy shit!

This particular board is on 4th Ring Rd right before 40.

Me wonders what they will have on it (Engleeezi or Aaaarabi); how many spelling and gramatical mistakes?; who will update the information; how often, etc. etc. Me further wonders if it would be possible to hack into the system and write personal opinions: "Flan is a sonofabitch!" (aka "bin gahbwaaa").

The new law on mobile phone use while driving: Obviously, it hasn't reached SOME people! For example, the guy(Camry driver - you know the type!) who drifted into our lane yesterday while on the phone. Slapperella honked and dude shows us his phone as if to say, "Hey! Can't you see I'm on a call?" Maybe the info-boards should target people like him, "Yo Dumbass! Get off the phone!"

Oh, I'm sure you want to know about my weekend, right?

I met a cute guy at the SAS who is the right age, the right intelligence, the right height, etc. He is, unfortunately, one of those open-minded dudes who is a manager at an Islamic bank (in other words, he's got a beard because he wants to further his career; also known as being hypocritical). That means sneaking around so that other "Islamic" folks don't see him. I'm not into that whole bullshit underground theory. I'm too transparent for all that crap. Heavy sigh. My species takes fear as a sign of weakness. :) I just use those kinds of men for sport.

On the way home, The Romanian and I saw a guy in a car next to us who was waving. We thought we knew him, but didn't remember from where. He remembered us (do we make THAT big of an impression or is it that we embarass ourselves wherever we go?) and invited us to a party at the Marina Residence. Have ya ever looked up at that magnificent building and wondered what the parties were like at the room on the top? Ok, let me tell you: fanfuckintastic! It is GORGEOUS. It is as if you're not in Kuwait, but at some 5 star restaurant somewhere else. The view is amazing - on the 15th floor overlooking the Gulf Road and Marina Crescent with large picture windows on a half circle. There is a wood dancefloor, a bar area, and an area for a buffet - with restaurant style seating. The ceiling is lit with little fairy lights that change colors and look like stars. We had such a nice time; good people; good music (a really outstanding guy playing the oud and a DJ); good food; amazing atmosphere.

Now I'm back at work and actually have to do several reports - which I'm totally not in the mood for today. Why can't I just be rich and play all day?