Monday, September 29, 2008

Kuwait Employment Packages – What to ask for/What to Expect

I’ve had so many questions on “What should I ask for and what should I expect?” when moving to Kuwait for a job that I thought I would write a little diddy on it:

What you should ask for (standard) on any contract in Kuwait:

Accommodation Allowance (note that if they offer you shared accommodation, make sure that they specify how many people per apartment and how many bedrooms and in what area/s)
Transportation Allowance (note that if they offer you a vehicle, make sure they specify what type/year of vehicle. If the vehicle is to be shared, make sure that they specify the T&Cs)
RT Annual Ticket Home
Private Health Insurance (government hospitals are poor quality)
Vacation (14 - 30 days. 30 days for most Westerners)

Gas allowance
Mobile phone allowance (depending on necessity of use at work. Phone charges in Kuwait are on the rise.)

Now, what the company might do is to include all the above in one "all inclusive" payment offer. If they do, you should be prepared to negotiate; know the costs for each of the above. Be prepared.

Labour Law/Probation Period/Contract vs Offer Letter

ALL work in Kuwait - regardless of your nationality or the HQ location of your company - is governed by the  Kuwait Labour Law. It was written in 1964 and updated in 2010 (LINK HERE); updated to the benefit of employees.  Learn it.  Understand it.  Own it.  Don't become a sucker to Tha Man!

The law stipulates that both the employee and employer have a 90 day probation period during the first 90 days of your employment. You can leave (or be asked to leave) at any time with no notice during that time period. If you have been provided a relocation allowance, depending on the T&C of your agreement with your new employer, you may have to reimburse the company.

Following the first 90 days, you/your employer must give 90 days notice (unless otherwise stated in your employment contract). The employer may choose to willingly allow you to leave their employment before the 90 day notice period is over; or pay you to leave if it is their determination that they no longer want you to remain on site.  During this notification period, you are allowed ONE DAY OFF per week to look for other employment.  It is your right by law.  Notify your employer in writing of the day of the week you intend to be out of the office, so you have a documented record.

If you do not have an employment contract, anything in your offer letter serves as your contract. In my case, I asked about a bonus scheme in my interview and they said, "Yes, we do have one and you will be included." Actually, my company does not offer an annual bonus scheme and since it was not in my offer letter, I am not entitled to one.  However, the Kuwait Labor Law supercedes any contract you have with the employer, so it is always to the benefit of the employee.

If your contract states that you don't get overtime, indemnity or 30 days vacation:  IT IS ILLEGAL.  Everyone, regardless of whether you are management or labor (as the Kuwait Labor Law does not make that distinction) is governed by the same law.  The ONLY place of employment where the Kuwait Labor Law does not apply is on foreign (non-Kuwaiti soil):  Embassies.  Military installations in Kuwait are NOT PERMANENT BASES.  They are camps.  If you have an Article 18 work visa, you are governed by the Kuwait Labor Law.  Sneaky/unethical employers will try to make you believe that you don't get your benefits when, in fact, you do.  Maintain logs of overtime!  It is very important.

In the event that you have to sue, you must first sue your sponsor (who ever is listed as your sponsor).  The sponsor can then sue your foreign employer (if that is the case).

Inflation vs Salaries

Kuwait is witnessing an 11% inflation rate these days. Housing and transportation will be the largest costs to employees. Food prices are quickly rising in the country. Because inflation has risen so much and salaries have remained somewhat the same, many expats have been lured to other GCC countries for work (UAE and Qatar as examples) where they will receive higher salaries. Make sure that your offer letter or contact states that you will be guaranteed an annual incremental raise of (x%). Otherwise, you might not get a raise at all.

Salary Information - Ranges
"What is the salary range for a .....". Salary statistics are hard to come by in Kuwait. Salary surveys have been conducted by some of the recruitment agencies, but much of the information is not available. I've found that the best statistical information is from Sometimes you have to call around and ask the local recruiters the "from" and "to" ranges for your particular job category. Expect huge gaps: They base the salary ranges often on nationality as the cost of living and salary ranges in one country are not what they are in another.


Dudes - puhleeze: I don't know if 1,000 kd for you and your family coming from India as a computer programmer is going to be enough money. I don't know how much an average cost of groceries is for a month. Why? Because I'm not you. I'm not a computer programmer. What I'm saying is: I don't know what is right for each person because I don't know what your standard of living is, where you are coming from, what your qualifications/education is, etc. You have to do the research on these things on your own. Put your big girl panties on and do the necessary work (or hire me at 50 kd an hour and I'll do it for you). All I can do is tell you what to ask for and tell you a little about where to turn to research (like asking local recruiters for the "From" and "To" ranges of any particular job category). I honestly don't have the answers to these kinds of questions - as much as I would really love to help everyone.

Check out my DG Index on the Cost of Living in Kuwait on this blog (link on right) that will give you an indication of expenses.

Good luck and best wishes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Very Violent Ramadan: Since When Is Vehicular Homicide Halal?

I am traumatized and disgusted.

This has got to be THE most violent Ramadan I’ve ever witnessed in Kuwait. I’ve personally witnessed shouting fights, fistfights… not to mention all the crime articles in the newspapers. What is going on???

Last night, an old dude and his accomplice tried repeatedly to push The Romanian and I off the road with 2 separate vehicles (a Tahoe and a Maxima). This time, I’m going to have to file a case even though I really really don’t want the hassle. I just don’t think that attempted murder should be let go.

I believe that in my 12+ years in Kuwait, this incident frightened me more than anything else I've been through here; and I include the times when the scuds were falling in 2003. This was just sheer violent rage.

A million times, I have been on the receiving end of the patience (sabr) sign. (It is the sign where you put the fingertips of one hand together in a sort of triangle and you shake. It means for the other person to have patience.) So, I initiate the sabr sign after he honks his horn at ME and he goes apeshit; he lost his frickin mind. He had honked at several other people before me. Literally, honestly, I made no other signal and I didn’t even look at him, smile at him, make any other comment. He went his way; I went mine. No harm no foul.

Again, I understand that it is Ramadan and people are fasting and probably not in a great mood; however, that gives no one the right to do what he did - especially during Ramadan.

Much later on down the road, dude comes flying down the road, came around our car and stopped so that he was blocking my exit from the front. He aggressively jumped out of the car, took out his wallet and started to walk towards our car. He didn’t have police lights or any markings on his vehicle. Fearing for the worst, we moved around him and left. He came after us, repeatedly trying to hit our car with his. His car had no lights lit – not police flashers or even emergency flashers. I’m figuring the guy was some kind of an official – or maybe an off duty high-ranking officer of some kind. He enlisted the help of another driver – maybe a friend or just someone he asked to help and BOTH of them tried to box my vehicle in and run us off the road. The Romanian told me to keep cool. We didn’t speed; we didn’t endanger other lives. We knew that their intention was to cause us harm; so that we would get into an accident and then they could flee. At the same time, they were trying to avoid damage to their own vehicles.

Was it because we are foreigners? Was it because we are women? Was it a combination?

Now, this BS has happened to me before with little boys (as I’ve stated before – usually trying to give us a number), but never with a 50-something year old man. I couldn’t believe it. We frantically dialed 777 while it continued for 15-20 minutes from downtown Kuwait to Salmiya. There were no police on the road (before ftour - go figure).

[Sidenote: God forbid that anyone should want to commit a crime in Kuwait, but the time to do it is the 90 minutes before iftar. Criminals could walk into any official building in Kuwait and quite literally take it over. We went to a police station manned by ONE GUY. Deserted. The streets: Deserted of security. Where are the police? Where is the security of the nation?]

How many times are men going to cause accidents in Kuwait chasing women in one way or another? How many of those accidents you see around town are women on the receiving end of such violence?

Sorry, but to me, what those 2 men did to us last night was nothing short of attempted murder. I was shaking so hard that I couldn’t stop for hours - and I consider myself a pretty tough cookie. The only reason they finally took off was because The Romanian was taking multiple photos of them. We got a few good head shots (and the Tahoe's tag #). One of the suspects is in his 50’s; the other probably in his 20’s.

If anyone knows a good female Kuwaiti lawyer who would like to assist me in this case, please write to me (I have 2 very good male lawyers, but I believe a woman would try harder for me).

I think it is time that Kuwait did something about this type of violence.

September 29 Update

I have checked with quite a few people "higher up" to determine who I am dealing with before filing a case. No information is available for the car registration - which could mean a few things - unfavorable to filing a case. As someone at the Embassy so poignantly stated, I work for a private company and not the Embassy, so I am basically on my own should something happen. It is not the mission of the US Embassy (nor any other) to ensure the security of private citizens; and I completely understand that. The advice I have received from some folks is that I should file a case. That is great advice if you either have a security detail periodically checking your residence; or if you live with someone who can assist you should anyone show up at your door in the middle of the night. This is Kuwait, alas, and I don't know who crazy old dude is. If he is someone "up there" or with good wastah, I could have a world of trouble. Unfortunately, Kuwait is still the Wild Wild West. Maybe I would feel more comfortable in 50 years; but then again - maybe not. I guess I should have just rammed his car (and the other?) and then at least the police would have shown up faster and/or I could have gotten away.

Arab Times, November 6, 2008

I saw this article in the Arab Times today. I would like to know who the special task force is. Obviously, folks at the top level of law enforcement/Ministry of Interior are doing something about crimes being committed by their own/corruption. Isn't there a hotline that members of the public could call?

There is corruption and injustice everywhere in the world. Civilized nations do something about it. Good for the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior if they are actually trying to weed them out. Outstanding!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekend Humor

I had a humorous weekend. How else can I describe it because the rest of it was just plain boring.

The Romanian asked me to run a little skit on her male friend (he doesn’t rank as boyfriend really) the next time he called. When he called, I answered:
‘You have reached (The Romanian) hotline. Dial 1 to speak to (The Romanian); Dial 2 to kiss (The Romanian), dial 3 to Touch (The Romanian); Dial 7,8,9 – repeat to have sex with (The Romanian).’ I heard a whole lot of number punching going on. Ok, the guy isn’t the brightest bulb in the circuit – and perhaps this wasn’t the funniest joke on earth, but we’ve been bored, so shut up.

We went looking for clothes for Eid. Why would two foreigners buy clothes for Eid? Well, so we can sit in front of our televisions wearing our new dresses lookin pretty for our dogs. Yeah, it’s thrilling right? So, we were at one place and I found THE dress. I saw one like it at the beach in Ocean City, but bien sur, it was not to fit across my breastsssses. So, the little light-footed Lebanese salesman comes bouncing up and says, “Try on the large, Madame, maybe it will fit you.” I’m like (making eye contact), ‘Look at my boobs. Do you THINK it will fit?’ Okay, now I figured he’d take a quick downward glance and say something like, “Sorry” or whatever. This little freak takes a long stare at The Girls and says, “Noooooooooooooooooooo” real breathy like. Jeez. The Romanian was laughing part of her little ass off, shaking her head. No, I have no shame – and obviously neither did SalesDude.

I went to our company’s gabka. I sat at the head table (oooh la la). It was very nice, actually. The food wasn’t that great, but no big deal. There weren’t a whole lot of big eaters in the crowd. Anyhoo, I managed NOT to make a fool of myself all night – making chit chat and rubbing elbows with da bigwigs. It would have been great – until I inadvertently went to the bathroom in the MENS room. I didn’t know. I thought some piggy woman had left the seat up (you would be surprised what I have seen in “ladies” rooms in Kuwait). It wasn’t until I went to tidy my make up in front of the mirror that I noticed the Old Dude standing there. Let’s just say he didn’t want to make small talk. Probably thought, “Crazy blonde foreigner is drunk.” Yeah – it was that kind of awkward silence – the kind that I’m so accustomed to throughout my life. I ran for the door (one of the few times in my life when I didn’t wash my hands…). Just outside the door were a bunch of hejab ladies from my company. I said, ‘Oops. I walked into the mens room by mistake. Oh well. Amreekia – aaadi.’ Which, of course, made them all giggle (because I’m purty sure that is what they were thinking).

I did manage to get cracked this weekend. Bu Merdas and his big cracker hands came over briefly on Thursday night. I think I cracked in 7 places. I’ve been sleeping really well since then. I hope it continues. I’m sure I would sleep better if I got cracked more often, but that’s another story, right?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Name Your Worst Ramadan Buffet Experience

Ramadan used to be fun. I used to go out with friends to coffee shops and enjoy the evening over cheap eats.

Whatup now? Now, you can't go ANYWHERE in Kuwait without there being a mandatory cover charge or a buffet. Buffets are bad enough during normal times in Kuwait (no thermometers to monitor safe food temperature; which should be a steady 140 degrees F, by the way or people WILL get sick), no one monitoring how long the food has been kept out (most of the time it is just left there until it is gone); and food revival (has the food just been put out/is it fresh or if they are just reviving yesterday's meal --- iftar buffet working its way into suhoor meal) ... ew. How many sneeze guards have you seen over buffets in Kuwait???? (Sneeze guards are the metal or glass coverings, so that people don't sneeze, breathe, cough, or spit-while-talking on the food!) On numerous occasions, I have even seen "people" in Kuwait EATING OUT OF THE CHAFING DISHES! Further, the prices are astro-nomical: 5KD here, 8KD there....

Who wants to go out unless you sit in your car on Shaar al Mataaem? That's just so ridiculous.

Ok peeps - holla at me: Where is the WORST ever buffet experience during a Ramadan meal. Did it make you sick or just queezy? Was it a rip-off?

My #1 absolutely worst Ramadan experience ever was at Baalbek Palace. The Romanian and I were HONGRY at iftar time and all the restaurants we went to were full. First of all, I got stampeded by a bunch of extremely rotund people. (The Romanian reminded me last night that the electricity also went out, so there was no AC, no lights, and it was hard to tell how they were preparing the foood... ) Then the restaurant ran out of food. I got sick. I had to eat my meal while watching a table of transvestites flirting with each other. It took 30 minutes to get the bill.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This Month's Cast of 7 Dwarfs

Sleepy, Slutty, Dopey, Grumpy, Cracky, Boycrazy and Hungry

I don’t know about you, but this has got to be the slowest Ramadan I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting through. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I’m trying to accomplish things – really, I am. It just isn’t getting done. Some Evil Power has sucked all the creativity right out of me. I’m not my usual perky self and I’m not liking it. I want to sleep all the time. Just sleep. At home. At work. In the car. At the mall. I want to sleep. I’m not even really hungry (“Oh my God – someone get her on anti-depressants!”); although I did find a really good place in Sabah Al-Salem for gaymat (khaleeji donut holes). Yummmmm. I have kind of weaned myself off kanafah, thankfully. It is like eating the caloric equivalent of an entire PizzaSlut medium pan, in one piece of desert. I'm not sayin that is necessarily a bad thing per se, but probably not in the long-term.

Desert Dawg has been very sick lately and I am all upset about it. I fed her some steak (from Sultan Center) and she got sick right away. I took her to the vet and her temperature was up to 40c, so they started giving her injections immediately. She has 3 days of injections and then I go back in 5 more days for vaccination boosters. Me sorry, but if a grocery store sells meat that makes my dog sick, I aint eatin it.

If you haven't had your dog/puppy vaccinated - go do it. Canine Parvo is on the rise in Kuwait at the moment.

I honestly didn't mean to segue into this at this juncture, but here it is.

I’m really thankful that The Man decided we should be friends again. I think I'm going to send him a note saying that, actually. I feel so relieved – like, “Wow. That’s over.” I’m one of those people who doesn’t accept defeat very well. I have acknowledged it. I kindof felt like there must have been something more/better that I could do, but sometimes there just isn’t any solution. Now that we are friends, that nagging feeling is gone. I see how much he has changed – or maybe how much I have – and things are just so different. Ok, I concede that I kinda/sorta wanted him to come crawling back, begging me to take him and give him another chance; saying he was willing to do whatever it would take to make me happy (like grovel, perhaps?). But hey – would it ever have been enough? Probably not. Who knows – that day might happen someday and then I won’t even want him to make the effort. Uh – like – as if.

I asked Bu Merdas to come over and crack my back. (Yes, dingalings, I do so mean it literally). Before I went to the USofHey in August – right before I went to the airport to get on the plane – he came over and cracked it in like 7 different places. For once on a flight, I didn’t have any back pain. He is one helluva cracker, so he is. Anyhow, I asked him to come crack me this week (tee hee) and he thought it was some desperate/pathetic ploy to get him to break his religious beliefs during Ramadan. CRACK me baybeeee! I had to tell him that I am actually not sleeping well because of my back pain (not because of The Anaconda). I digress. Anyhoo, the only time I am seeing him lately is in the “safe” company (so he thinks) of my gaggle of girlfriends (who are equally as dangerous). He doesn’t know it, but we have a conspiracy to drive him crazy during Ramadan which includes the use of props (lollipops, for example). It is shameless and corruptive and I don’t care: Game on. Why would anyone want to date me? tee hee.

I saw a guy at The Avenues yesterday wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a bride and groom. The caption underneath said, “Game Over.” I was staring and giggling and the loser thought I was trying to hit on him. OMG. He was 12. That is more like Slapperella or The Romanian’s style….

The Romanian got her hair cut in the States and it looks so cute! She has been putting it up in pigtails and she looks like a slutty schoolgirl. It’s adorable. A waitress told her that she looked like Britney. I told her that comment was above-and-beyond the boundaries of slutty. It’s Britney, bitch!

I have given up my apartment hunt until after Eid. I will start checking again then. I have 2 more rent-free months to go. If anyone has a villa that they want me to live in for free (preferably with a pool and a jacuzzi and a wide-screen and maybe the use of their Ferarri), please let me know. I am quite tidy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

ATM Fraud in the GCC

Sheikha Minor went to Bahrain several weeks ago, used her ATM card and was fraudulently charged over 1,000 KD. She needs to file cases and it may take her years if she can collect at all. There was another story in the paper recently in Kuwait about an American man (shame on you, dude!) working with a clerk at one of the local stores in Salmiya, using a machine to copy ATM data to access accounts.

The below is from Arab Times, 15 September 2008. (Quietly tucked back on Page 32.)

And so it begins in the GCC…..

‘Crisis of confidence’ Scare of ATM card fraud ‘rattles’ UAE consumers

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Sept 14, (AP): While much of the business world is Focused on the fate of Wall Street titan Lehman Brothers, bankers here in the Middle East’s budding financial hub are struggling to fix a very different crisis of confidence: the security of customers’ bank accounts. Consumers are growing increasingly concerned about the safety of their savings following a series of cell phone text message warnings last week related to a spate of overseas fraud attacks. Different responses and recommendations — or lack thereof — by local banks have only added to the confusion. Some institutions automatically lowered ATM withdrawal limits, while others prevented customers from accessing their accounts outside the country altogether. Problems using debit cards at supermarket checkouts have also been reported.

The warnings came after criminals apparently outside the country were able to access and drain the hank accounts of an unknown number of cardholders. A large number of banks in the UAE were thought to be affected, industry experts said, although few firms reached for comment would give any indication of how many Customer accounts were tapped. Jonathan Campbell James, HSBC’s 3 regional head of security and fraud risk in the Middle East, said a “very small” number of customers at the global bank had been affected. An official at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, who declined to be named because he did not have full details on the matter, said he believed “very few” accounts were accessed. Dubai Bank, part of the govern mentrun Dubai Group, was the only bank to release a number, saying that 42 customers had been affected as of Thursday. All three banks said they would refund customers. Standard Chartered Bank said it “is aware of the current security concern with debit cards and is presently investigating” the matter, and is “working closely with the UAE Central Bank to reduce any inconvenience to our customers.”

Lines continued to form at ATMs into the weekend as worried customers heeded warnings to change their personal identification numbers or withdraw funds. “What you have here is a major breach of security,” said Paul Sherry, regional director of Middle East and Africa for computer network technology firm F5 Networks. “There’s a huge difference between gaining access to someone’s information versus getting access to somebody’s accounts and actually transferring funds.” HSBC’s James said it appears criminals were able to access A1’M information at another bank, and then use that data to produce counterfeit cards that were used internationally. Several banks in the UAE were affected, he said.

“The attack is more sophisticated than that routinely experienced, and has come from multiple countries,” he said in an e-mailed statement. The scare comes in the midst of the busy Ramadan holiday shopping season, and is the latest blemish on the city-state’s carefully crafted image as a safe and relatively hassle-free place to do business in the booming Middle East.

Dubai’s financial system has been under the microscope in recent months after the government launched an effort to crack down on corruption. A number of the emirate’s biggest companies — including some with close ties to the government — have been drawn into the probe, although no charges have yet been made public.

In the latest development, investment firm lstithmar World said Sunday that Vice Chairman Adel al-Shirawi and Chief Financial Officer Feras Kaithoum had “been suspended” from their positions. Shirwari was also removed from the state-controlled company’s board of directors. Both men have been detained as part of an investigation into their roles as executives at Dubai-based mortgage lender Tamweel PJSC. Tamweel last week said its deputy chief executive had also been held for questioning.

Ramadan Commercials on Showtime

I don't know who is producing these commercials. To be honest, I didn't pay too much attention to them. I think it might be one of the MBC channels out of Dubai. They are running advertisements about the virtues of Ramadan.

The one that caught my attention the other day was a young man driving a sporty red car. He stopped at a traffic light and was eating a banana. An old couple crossing the road gave him a dirty/fierce look. I saw this ad several times and thought, 'Yeah - typical young guy who doesn't care about Ramadan and is breaking his fast.' (Probably because of my recent experiences.) Honestly, I didn't get the point because I too (like the old couple in the ad) was judgmental. Ok, it might also be because the ad is in Arabic and I wasn't paying close attention. Then, I finally watched all the way through (it is only 30 seconds - you would think that my attention span would last as long as that!); and noted that the young character was rushing through traffic to donate blood to someone at a hospital.

As my recent psychic adviser, Ron, said, "You almost never cry, but give you a sappy commercial or a movie and you're blubbering like a baby." Yup. So true.

I LOVE those ads. I wish KTV would run ads like that on what the true spirit of Ramadan is about.

If anyone has links to these commercials (maybe on YouTube or whatever), would you please send them to me, so I can post them?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Egyptian Chops

Dudes, don’t piss off a butcher with a cleaver in his hand! September 13th: Three Egyptian operators of a meat chop in Shuwaikh were trying to settle their finances when the discussion escalated into a fistfight. One of them allegedly took a cleaver and started hitting his compatriots on the neck, stomach and other parts of their bodies. One dead, one seriously injured. Oh, that is SO NOT HALAL.

I had a pretty decent weekend; although I spent a good part of it sleeping. I ate so much on Thursday night with my galpals that I had a dream that I was 3 months pregnant. (Ooooo scawy!) I’m probably afraid of getting one of those 50-year-old-man rice bellies that you see around these parts. Thursday night was rice and fried-everything and Friday night it was mrubian and gaymat. Yummmmm. PLUS, I had the extra bonus of being on the receiving end of gergayan treats. So cool. I’m 5 years old. I admit it.

Nothing is really new in my world. I got chased down the street by a 50-something dude in a Ferrari and then around the mall by another one. Ramadan makes men go nuts (obviously, in several different ways). I’m liking it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Training Course

I was a’flippin channels the other night and came to one of those religious dudes preaching about Ramadan. I liked the metaphor he used in description of Ramadan: “Ramadan is a training course for the rest of the year.”

Since I heard him say that, I have given it considerable thought. I wholeheartedly agree with him – it SHOULD be a training course for the rest of the year. However, some people seem to take the negative training course rather than the positive one.

How can you be kind, compassionate, considerate, patient, and God-fearing through the rest of the 11 months of the year if you think you have been given an excuse to be rude, mean, pushy, obnoxious and generally unkind for 30 days? Fasting doesn’t give anyone the right to flip out. Au contraire.

“… but I’m fasting”. Really???? So WHAT?

My philosophy on those who flip is: stay at home – and preferably alone where you won’t bother anyone.

This includes those who are physically incapacitated while trying to get behind the wheel of a car. I see you; I know who you are. You are either the ones driving at breakneck speed, trying to get in front of other people or in an attempt to attract attention from members of the opposite sex; or perhaps you might be one of the people I see between 3:30 and 6:00 who sway back and forth in the lane because you are just too dizzy/hot/dehydrated to know that you are driving dangerously.

DG Philosophy also includes those who know that your blood sugar levels determine your mood. If you can’t behave appropriately during Ramadan, you shouldn’t be in the company of other humans. One of my peeps works at a school and had to break up a fist fight between one of the teachers and a school manager. Interestingly, as if that weren’t bad enough; none of the other male teachers would step in to assist in breaking up the fight which was IN FRONT OF CHILDREN. I don’t consider those other male teachers to be MEN and certainly not men who should consider their day’s prayers to be accepted.

Furthermore, I am sitting at my desk right now listening to someone shouting loud enough for most of the office to hear him about an overdue invoice. Grow up and/or go eat a Snickers, dude. Which do you think God will consider the greater sin? Breaking fast to eat or continuing to fast and being mean?

I work with several examples of laziness who sleep most of the time during Ramadan. I’m really sure that in the 2 full hours of work that they put in during the day, they aren’t accomplishing anything. What about working to your full potential? Who gave them a slack-off-for-free card? These same people deduct a full day’s pay from poorly-paid employees who show up 15 minutes late to work.

I’ve also noted, humorously, that men are blatant about gzzzing this year. DG: “Whatchadoin?” Dudes: “Gzzzzing. It means when you chase after girls… “ Duuh. I’ve just not heard people actually SAY (confess) that is what they are doing (during Ramadan no less) and as if it is a sporting event. That just plain cracks me up. If they are in training during those 30 days, then watch out during the rest of the year! Major serseree-ism going on around here!

So, what are we learning during Ramadan? Sum up the 7 sins (ok, these are Christian in origin, but they still apply); Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. What kind of training course is that? 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Fasters?

Maybe the training course applies to the people in society who only observe poor behavior during Ramadan (and not take part in it), and note how they can do a little better to correct their own. Hmmmmm. Maybe. Maybe God is using bad-mannered mean people to show us examples of what not to do.

I’m going to count some blessings now. I’ve had several good ones this week that are particularly noteworthy. Isn’t it amazing how philosophical I am and without coffee? Wow.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Kuwait - New National Phone Numbering System

For those who haven't seen this yet, Kuwait is changing their phone numbering system effective October 17, 2008.

It should be interesting and just damn fun for the entire family.

Foot Doctor in Kuwait?

Slaperella has been trying to get to a doctor to have her ingrown toenail removed. I need to do the same. She went to The Middle East Clinic (AKA "International" Clinic) to have it done. They made her see 3 doctors (charging her insurance every time - as if that isn't theft), and finally told her that she needed surgery and would be charged not only for the 30 minute procedure to have half a toenail cut out, but also the daily fee for inpatient services at a private hospital. Their charge for this "service"? 350 KD. "But we bill it to your insurance. It's ok." No! It is NOT OK.

So, I'm looking for a toe guy. Know any?

I'm trying to quell Bunny's curiousity about Bu Merdas' 1-eyed-cock. It is an old, wrinkled, red-topped 1-eyed-cock. Rooster with one eye, that is. I'm going to try to get a picture, so I can post it because Bunny doesn't believe me.

The Romanian looked all over Am-reeeee-kaaa for a training suit and never found one (at the 450 malls we went) to that she liked. Last night, in her Quest for The Ultimate Training Suit, she "made me" drive to 3 different Al Naser sports locations - when it was so humid that I couldn't even see out the car windows. Guess what - they don't have any that don't suck. If she really wants something cheap, I'll take her to souq shaabi. OMG. I can't believe I drove all over Kuwait in the humidity looking for a training suit that she probably won't wear until 3 months from now when it gets cooler. The things we do for friends. Okay, God knows that she has been with me on my millions of quests for Truly Stupid Items (like a particular brand of lipgloss, etc.)

It has been a steady 30C (around 100 degrees F) in my apartment since even before I left on vacation. I'm still living rent-free while I look for another place to live. I know they probably aren't going to be big on maintenance since they are tearing the place down, but come on! People have to live. I have called the AC guy a gazillion times to come fix it. He's so stupid. I went home yesterday - my maid is standing in the middle of the kitchen, soaked with sweat from head to foot, with the dryer running full blast and the air circulation fan (that I have strategically placed in the kitchen for USE) on "off". I have never shouted at her before, but I thought she was going to have a heart attack (or give me one by blasting my place full of hot air from the dryer - which vents hot exhaust air back into the kitchen). She's standing there, looking at me, and saying, "Madame, why is it hot in here?" Oh ...... My...... God.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Underwear is just no good in humidity

I hate this. I was in DC – swamp land – and it wasn’t this humid. What the heck is going on? I can’t remember a time in Kuwait when it was this humid for this long. It sucks. I don’t want to go outside. My life is a terminal bad hair day. It just isn’t the look I’m going for: runny make-up, crazy hair, and underwear that is so connected to my skin that I have to peel it off at the end of the day. NOT a pretty picture.

I have no reason to be awake during the daytime hours on the weekend, so I slept through most of it; watching TV all night and going to sleep during the wee hours of the morning. There is no reason for me to go outside, really: My credit cards are maxed from my trip (SHOES!!!!), so shopping is a no-go. I can’t drink water (Ramadan) and it is too hot/humid not to. I have to take constant hits off my asthma inhaler cause it is so humid and I need water for that too. Hunting for mens is no good either because if they were smart, they would be at home. No need to scrape the barrel. Alas, I am a shut-in AND my AC isn’t working AND they are going to tear my building down, so they won’t do any maintenance and I’m dying. Pity party: u come ovah.

Why did I come back? Oh yeah….

Bunny brought me a hubungous bouquet of pink roses last night. I LOVE pink roses. He knows that. He so adoreable. I love you, Bunny. You tha MAN.

I went with The Romanian to Bu Merdas’ in Kabd on Thursday night. I have been missing Kabd. It was just us, his brother, and his best friend. He ordered so much food that I didn’t know if I could move to get home. His brother is keeping his rottweiler at the farm. I can usually make friends with most dogs, but this one is like Kujo with red eyes. I’m pretty sure Bu Merdas told him bad stuff about me before I got there. My dad used to do this trick to win over the hearts and minds of my sisters dogs: he put bacon in a baggy in his trouser pockets. I might try that (beef bacon) but then Kujo might bite my ass off. Not sure. That might be a blessing in disguise. Anyhoo, Bu is also watching 2 puppies for one of his friends. He has him in a pen with a surrogate mother; a 1-eyed rooster. Now, one would think that a 1-eyed cock (go ahead – make my day) might not make a great den mother, but this one is doing very well at it. Go figure. (No, I’m not making this shit up.)

I learned something about Bu Merdas that I wasn’t aware of before and that I can definitely use as ammunition: He loses it when he sees people cry. I can do that. It might be fun. I don’t get much of a reaction any other way; other than negatively by pissing him off (but hey – as we girls know – at least THAT is a reaction, right?). I’m not easily intimidated, but he really is scary when he’s mad. He’s not violent or anything; just tall and big (like a linebacker) and has a deep voice and I feel like a 5-year old about to get spanked (and NOT in a good way). Crying may be the answer. I can do it if I think of sad TV commercials (usually the only thing that makes me cry - or anything on the Hallmark channel.) ‘You don’t love me (sniffle, whimper, lots of tears). You never bring me kanafa (sniffle). Why don’t you care about me?’ Tee hee. Why don't men just communicate their feelings and then women wouldn't be forced do use such deceptive tactics. I mean - do you think I ENJOY this? (Well, okay, maybe just a little....)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Bunny Busted

I’ve been busted – by Bunny. He has found the blog. The Universe (phuckin with me again) is chippin away at my anonymity. Have I no secrets? Can I do nothing without getting caught? Being the Amazing Bunny, he is taking it all in stride – as usual. I’m not sayin this just because he is reading this or because I got busted, but in all honesty, he is one of the kindest people I have ever met. He is also my X-boyfriend Role Model. I mean, how many relationships end and then you become absolute tell-all best friends with your X? I can tell him anything and he is completely non-judgmental and gives me good advice. I LOVE that. It is better than having a best girlfriend to talk to because he lets me see things from a dude perspective. Oh, plus I have free reign on all my sexual innuendos and he laughs at my stupid jokes. Very cool indeed.

Speaking of bunnies, I went to see that movie House Bunny with my 2 sisters when I was in the States. It looked so stupid that it had to be good – and it was. I also went to see Step-Brothers which was also as intellectually stimulating. Ok, not, but it was good for a laugh. I can’t stretch my brain too far when I go back to the States. I might get overload after having it non-functional for all those months while here in Kuwait. Tee hee.

Along the lines of non-intellectual stimulation: I went to a tarot card reader in Virginia with The Romanian. Ron (the fortune teller dude) also reads palms and analyzes handwriting. He was particularly accurate in some of the more physical aspects of my nature. (Blush, I do not.) He made The Romanian laugh when he said, “I wouldn’t want to be in the car when she is driving….” Ah so true. Well, according to Ron, I am supposed to meet some guy and “fall in love like a teenager”. Truth be told, I do that every time because I’m emotionally stunted. He also told me to be sure not to “disregard him as you usually do with men.” Otay. That is true. I must fess up. I have probably met a lot of The One’s, but I don’t take the time to get to know them unless they stalk me or are rude, mean, or arrogant (we love the bad boys, don’t we). On reflection, I almost blew off Bunny, The Man, and (I probably should have blown off) Bu Merdas.

Oh, I got a very stupid comment that I chose not to publish saying something along the lines of “if you didn’t blow off guys then one of them might stick around”. Obviously, commentator took “blow off” in the oral sense of the word. Dude, let me clarify by saying “blow off” means (to me) to disregard, disassociate, get rid of or otherwise just plain not pay any attention to. It doesn’t mean the other. Plus, we (in my circles) don’t normally use “blow” with “off”. According to (the legal search engine for sexual terms; which I occasionally need to refer to after discussions with my 14-year-old nephew): “To leave one's lover without an explanation or goodbye note”. In my case, dude never achieves lover status. In all fairness, they do use “blow off” in several other dainty ways, so ok, ergo my clarification as to the term that I (me, myself, Girl de Desert) use throughout this here blog. Get it?

Ah, life is all about perspectives. Isn’t it wonderful?

I don’t have good fingernails. (I thought I would throw that out there.) My mother says that it is due to weak fingernail genes from our Finnish side of the family (gee thanks, Finns; …although I can drink vodka like a mofo). Why couldn’t we have any African-American ancestors with great nails and teeth? I have broken 2 nails this past week and I am hanging onto them with nail glue just so I don’t have to cut them all down. (No, I don’t have anything better to talk about!!!!) Yesterday, our CEO comes in and introduces me to a new corporate-level executive and I had just glued one of them back on. I was afraid to stick to him, so I had to shake with the other hand. Yes, I did tell him. It hurt – what should I have done? Lied and gotten stuck? Not shook at all? Pulled out some religious reason? Tee hee. So not my style.

Just skimmed the Arab Times. They have a story titled “Kuwaiti boy scouts win awards” with photos of a couple of guys wearing boy scout uniforms, pinning stuff on other dudes. The photo caption is “Some of the Kuwait delegation members being decorated”. Ok, if you have seen the photo – the dudes wearing the scout uniforms are both in their 30’s and sporting beards. I mean – what is the cut-off age for boy scouts in Kuwait? Michael Jackson age, perhapsee? Inquiring minds need to know.

Speaking of Michael Jackson age and still preferring the company of boys (albeit boy/men in the diwaniya…), Bu Merdas has been really really nice to me since I got back (“Do you need anything, habibti? Can I bring you dinner?”… who ARE you??). I do love a man who offers me food. I gave it a week. Until, of course, he had to snap. Let you in on something: You can’t be with me and not be with me at the same time. Either stop asking me questions about where I am constantly, being jealous constantly and pulling the same old passive-agressive BS; OR get serious about a relationshit. It isn’t a 1-sided deal. God forbid I should ask questions! OMG. I don’t find the possessiveness quaint and endearing … unless, bien sur, (that thar is Francois) it is all part of moving towards something bigger. Since it is not, drop it. (OMG – what happens if HE ever finds the blog. I’ll cross that bridge later-like.)

Can I ask y'alls something? What is it in the Kuwaiti culture that makes airport dropping off and picking up such a major deal? For example, I may not have seen someone for eight months, but they know I am leaving on vacation, so they ab-so-lutely must take me to the airport to see me off, then must pick me back up on return? Do you think that this necessity has found its roots in the history of Kuwait when the pearl divers went off for months and everyone went out to bid them farewell; then out again to greet them on a safe return? I'm just wondering because seriously - it is a big deal here. I might be starving to death (y'anee mithilin) for the rest of the year and no one would offer to bring me a banana (tee hee), and then they HAD TO drop me off at the airport. What IS that? Can anyone explain this to me?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Not YOU again...

I saw a police cruiser this morning on my first day back at work with the number 6969, so therefore I take it as a good omen for the day. My mind works in confusing ways, but I’m sure it will be a good thing.

I know, it’s Ramadan, right? Get your mind out of the gutter, DG; Not a possibility, unfortunately/fortunately. If I can turn something into a dirty innuendo -- why not? I don’t see the problem with that. Bu Merdas has literally begged me not to call him during the day in Ramadan. He knows me well. As Austin Powers says, “Do I make you horny, baybeeee?” (Again, that’s not my problem.) I love calling my friends during Ramadan days, talking really dirty and then hanging up. I am The Corruptor. When they call me back, I plead insanity (as if that is a far stretch, right?). 'Did I do that?' Life is full of temptation. Is all about how you resist it (or not....).

Ok, so my vacation was toooooo short. I didn’t even know where I was the day after I got back. Bunny called me in the morning and said, “Welcome back to Kuwait.” And I’m like, ‘I’m not in Kuwait… wait a minute… where am I?’ He knows that I am a confused person, so he goes along with my craziness.

This was one of the best summer vacations I've ever had. I was so happy. And now... I'm here. Sniffle whimper.

Something completely different; babynames: I have a dual passport holding (Kuwait/US) friend who just named his daughter "Hoor". I spell it that way to be nice, although to me, it sounded a whole lot like "whore". He told me "Hoor" means mermaid in Arabic. Let me asks you this: Who tha fek would name their daughter that - knowing full well that she will probably travel to a Western country someday? I couldn't let this pass by without notice. Dirty Hoor. Your sister is a Hoor. Your mother is a Hoor. SonofaHoor. Customs dude in a Western country, "So, Mam, your passport states that you are a Hoor..." .... WHYYYYY????