Thursday, April 29, 2010

Story on Washington TV Station about AFL dog transfers to the DC area!

Fox Channel 5 in Washington had a story, April 28, 2010, about the 20 dogs that AFL is tranferring to the new DC Animal Shelter. (Several of the facts they stated were inaccurate, but that's ok.)

Included in the lucky travellers was the dog I rescued 6+ months ago and very very sadly had to hand over (Desert Dog is persnickity and the big puppy was too much for her old bones!). Rocky Cuervo (aka "Enar") is featured in the middle of the story (the only brindle colored dog in the story), shown happily wagging his tail. I found him on the street in Salmiya at 2 am, sniffing around in garbage and sand. (He's on some of my previous posts.)

I am so glad that some of the animals have happy endings. Out of all adversity come blessings.

Keep up the good work, AFL!




video

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Going Home





We went to see our family's house yesterday. We nostalgically drove by and saw a for sale sign out front. Its located in North West Washington, DC at Westmoreland Circle. I love the neighborhood and I especially love it at this time of the year when the azalia's are in full bloom in a multitude of bright colors against the green of the Spring.


My grandparents bought the house in 1942 for $9,000. My dad and aunt sold in approximately 20 years ago - in most of its original condition - for around $300,000. It is currently for sale for $897,000.

My Aunt Virginia got married in the back yard to a young man she loved her whole life. She still spoke of Kal close to her death in 1995. They were only married for a few years before he was killed in World War II in a tank. We still have photos of Aunt Virginia in her wedding gown; sitting beneath a tree on a cement bench that was still in the yard when the house was sold. On an opposite fence, my dad had painted a snake for my sister and I to find within the ivy, which remained there most of my life. Dad's sandcastings of fish and turtles hung on the back fence.

The entire house was renovated around 1990 by one of the new owners who most likely renovated and turned it over at a profit. The realtor stated that the house was built in 1924, but I don't believe that to be true. Even in the 40's, the area had only dirt roads and few houses.

You know - you remember things about your family home like smells and memories. Somehow, everything seems bigger from a child's perspective. Even if it had been in its original condition now, it still wouldn't have been the same. We spent every holiday in that house together as a family with people who are now passed on. It was our gathering place - the place where we all used to return to in good times and bad. My aunt and my father have both passed away. My niece is in college. My nephew might have gathered with us at the house if we still owned it, but he's growing up too and might not have wanted to be around.


Everything has changed.

The entire place was renovated, with the exception of the fireplace and some of the wood floors. Our old windows that creeked when opened were replaced by energy-efficient models. The round portal window at the end of the hall was gone; a square one with no place for a childs' imagination. The bedroom that I shared summers with my sister in my grandmother's antique twin beds was gone. The window we spent hours at dreaming of far away places (like Kuwait) from behind my aunt's sheer white curtains was gone. Gone was the attic that used to frighten us as children; replaced by vaulted ceilings on the 2nd floor. Gone was the creepy basement, replaced by a finished basement which no longer housed spiders and creepy things.

When we grew up, the house didn't have air conditioning. Hot, humid summers in DC were hard, especially when we had to sleep with fans on. To this day, my sister can't sleep without a fan. My aunt's bedroom, which had formerly been my grandparents', was changed. I had hoped that the claw-footed antique bathtub would still be there in the bathroom down the hall, but it was replaced by a modern tub and fixtures. There was a round, modern glass accent table in the middle of what used to be our family dining room; where my Aunt Virginia would put out the white lace and crystal for special occassions. It was all very Southern. My Aunt Virginia maintained the Southern traditions of my Southern grandmother, serving Southern foods with Southern manners. All those old traditions and some more recent ones from my childhood are gone. The bathroom balcony where my sister and used to jump off and sneak out of the house at night was gone. There was no more flowered wallpaper, no more textures of our memories. Nothing resembled what it used to be.

I met Shamlan for the first time in that house. His cousin brought him over and introduced him to my father and most of my family. I snuck out of the house to meet him late at night after everyone was asleep (and where I later got caught sneaking back in by my angry father). This house was where my dreams of going to the Middle East began. This was the house that built me.

My aunt's dogwood tree was replaced by a shrub. However the magnolia tree in the back yard had been spared and grown to perhaps upwards of 50 feet tall. The front door was replaced by a bay window. Our front porch where my sister and I spent hours with my dad and my aunt listening to family stories and watching the cars go by was replaced by a a shiny new door. The blue chairs that were there for decades no doubt sold somewhere - maybe at yard sales.

My sisters and I still dream about happy times in the house, but like they say, you can never go home. We now all congregate in Virginia at my younger sister's house which has become the gathering place of our family. She has become our "glue" holding all of our scattered pieces together at the new home.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trip to DC - Miami - DC (so far!)


I left Kuwait on April 11th to go to Miami for a conference.
I companioned an Animal Friends League dog named Luke. It was such an easy process and I urge anyone who is travelling to the States to volunteer to take an animal with you. AFL needs the help right now as an animal shelter in the DC area has agreed to take 20 dogs. AFL meets you at the airport with the dog in the appropriate crate, does the paperwork, pays, and when you get to DC, someone is waiting for you and you just hand over the dog.
I had 3 days in DC and then flew down to Miami for the conference.
I really did intend to get down, get busy, and do serious business, but alas, it was not that kind of a conference. I thought it was going to be more rigid like some of the other conventions/conferences I've been to, but this one was way more of a social/networking gathering. Usually, there are speeches, forums/panel discussions, and workshops going on during the conventions, but the exhibit floor is still open and there is still a lot of floor traffic. At this one, the 625 registered participants left the exhibit floor and went to the other activities. That meant that we exhibitors were left to stare at each other for hours on end until break times when people would pass through again. Our booth was tiny; and thank God because there was no need for extravagance.

The cool thing was that the association served a continental buffet breakfast, a banquet, and daily cocktail receptions (open bar) with food. Honestly, we did the most business when people were passing throught with their cocktails and wanted to talk about Kuwait.

My colleague and I took shifts manning the booth; I got the morning shift because I stayed at the same hotel. I think I got the short end of the stick (I don't mind) because there weren't a lot of activities in the afternoon until the cocktail receptions. I got to go do stuff by myself in the afternoons.

I love Miami. It is so pretty. I also love Cuban men. Oh My God! Yummmmm. I stayed at the Hyatt Regency downtown which was really nice. Everybody was so friendly.

The first day, I set up the booth. Not all of our stuff cleared customs (we had to send it back to Kuwait) so it took me all of 30 minutes! So, I took a shuttle to Dolphin Mall and went shopping at outlet stores.

I took a duck tour (an amphibious vehicle) that went around South Beach and toured homes of the rich and famous from the water. I had lunch on Espanola way (pictured on right): the best mojito I have ever had at the Mojito Lounge and also the best lobster bisque. It is a gorgeous place. The next day, I took a bus tour with some other lady friends I had made that went to Little Havana, Coral Gables, and Coconut Grove (my sister tells me that I'm geriatric! Don't care - I loved it.)
The final night of the conference, they had a dinner cruise which was awesome on a 3 level, 150' yacht that took us out for 4 hours around Biscayne Bay. We caught the sunset and saw dolphins! There was a band on the open-air top level of the yacht where most of the people were. The banquet hall and buffet were on the 2nd level and on the lower level, there were several large, opulent living room/salon areas. Awesome cruise. (I took the photo on the top of the post on the cruise.) My sister tells me that "booze cruises" are becoming more popular in business circles (probably because you don't have to drink/drive). I've been out of the States too long to know this, but I think its a great idea. There were 3 open bars on the top level and 2 where I was. I had a lot of fun. People were dancing, but it wasn't pretty, so I stayed in a quiet corner with a new friend I made.

So, then I flew back to DC on my birthday. My older sister arrived in the afternoon from San Antonio and we started drinking martinis and more mojitos (this trip is ALL about food, alcohol, and shopping - ok, in between business days!). I never giggle as much as I do when I am around my 2 sisters. I love it and we don't get together enough. We had a little birthday party and one of my oldest friends stopped by (she used to be my room mate in the early 90s). We had a big fajita/mojito (there is a theme!) dinner followed by rum cake (I told you so).

The next day, my sisters and I checked into the Four Seasons for a spa day (and more food/alcohol). We were giggling so much that people around us (servers, reception staff) were laughing with us (ok, maybe AT us!).

My older sister, Martha, could only stay a few days, so she left after the weekend. I have more business in DC (that got approved by our way-cool new Chairman/CEO) and I'll be in DC through the end of the month. I'm loving being with my family.
I have a week of work next week with meetings in DC and I'm really happy that it is all working out so well. Wooo hooooo. Serious shout out to my employers for letting me mix business with being with family.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Friendly Skies: United Donates to AFL!

Thank you, United Airlines
for your kindness and support to
the Animal Friends League
for donation of transport of
Luke the saluki
to his new home in the US!

Any and all contributions to AFL help!
(this means YOU! if you are a company in Kuwait!)

As Ayesha says, "It might take a million little steps, but we'll get there."

Kuwait Information Guide, Published by the British Ladies Society



Foreigners! I found a great book you should own. IT IS EXCELLENT!

I can't believe I have been living here for so long and haven't purchased one of these. I knew about it, but I just never got around to it - until it was right in front of me.

The British Ladies Society publishes and (and God love 'em because its a PITA) updates a Kuwait Information Guide; which is much more comprehensive than any other I have seen in Kuwait. (One of my biggest gripes is that you can't obtain a comprehensive country guide on Kuwait - even from the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry. RRRRR! How are you supposed to promote trade?)

I meet a lot of people through this blog. Many are moving to Kuwait or coming her for the first time. Many are business people; All want to know more. (Most of the blogs are outdated, unfortunately.) What I have found is that travel guides on Kuwait are published by people who bop into the country, try to learn as much as they can, bop out, and start writing as if it is reality. It isn't. Unless you have lived here, you really don't know (and the same could be said for anywhere else in the world). The longer you live here, the better.

Brits tend to stick around Kuwait longer than Americans (over the 15-year mark). Americans are bossy and arrogant and can't understand why things don't bend to our rules. (C'mon - we do too!) (Yes, yes, I admit to being a "brass American".) We also have good weather at home and pay less tax. It rains a lot in the UK and there are a lot of cold, white people who flock to places like Kuwait with sun. Brits are also better brewers than Americans are (you know its true). They can adapt. This is my Desert Girl hypothesis.

So, having said that, the British Ladies Society are the ideal people to write a guide on Kuwait. I enjoy their pithy writing style too: "Its censorship of movies often makes a night at the cinema an exercise in guesswork as you try to piece together a chopped-up plot." "You'll find that Kuwait is the land of harmess stares, wherever you go." Pith! We like.

If you know me, I always recommend that newcomers obtain 2 books: Kuwait Pocket Guide and the Kuwait Top List. For my first year in Kuwait, I kept the KPG in my handbag! The Kuwait Information Guide has just moved up to my new favorite. It provides EVERYTHING you need to know in an in-your-face manner (which is, bien sur, true Desert Girl fashion). I can't believe I haven't been recommending this book all along. It probably would have saved friends a lot of time and effort.

The book is 105 pages and contains a yellow pages section listing businesses, and maps of Kuwait including various areas with places of interest. For information on how to buy one, see their website. The cost is a minimal 5 KD or free if you become a BLS member (and you don't need to be Briddish!)

I am very interested in joining, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to get to their meetings as they are held in the mornings (sadness). I may just join to promote their work as they are a wonderful group of people and I believe in what they do (like the charity event last night in support of Animal Friends league).

Kuwait Information Guide table of contents.


Way to go, British ladies! You ROCK!

The British Ladies Society, Phone (965) 9780-6950, e-mail: info@theblskuwait.com, http://www.theblskuwait.com/

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Facebook

Those of you who are my friend on FB know that I love FB. I comment about everything. And now - you get to see me comment here!

I got this stupid, superficial Facebook quiz from a pal yesterday. I couldn't tell if someone created it as a spoof on Kuwaiti society or not (maybe you can tell me?). (If you even attempt to answer this first questionnaire, I immediately know which type of Kuwaiti you are: superficial.)


It irked me so I created my own:



Facebook spoofs: I frickin HATE Farmville! (I know, CK, you are addicted and you can't help it.) I don't care if someone's cute little whatever needs more powertools on their farm. OFF to the butcher!




Monday, April 05, 2010

Wedding Faked for Sex

Today's Arab Times had an interesting story:

"Police have arrested a Kuwaiti man for cheating an unidentified young woman, reports Al-Anba daily.

According to reports the man wanted to have 'fun' (also known as "sex") with the woman and he to fulfill his wish said he wants to marry her. (DG Note: first, that is written completely wrong and the punctuation is incorrect, but hey, we get the point.)

He then allegedly took her to a marriage officer in Ahmadi and married her in front of a marriage officer. However, a few days later when the girl asked to see the marriage contract, she was shocked when she discovered the marriage officer was a fake person. (DG: Again, that is F-ed up writing!!! What the F is a "fake person" - a plastic blow-up doll? A robot? A droid?)

Police are looking for the marriage officer."

I have some questions. Otay, where is the girl's family in all this (especially if she is gone for a few days on her "honeymoon" in somebody's borrowed F flat)? Doesn't she know she has to have witnesses? Where are your fake friends? Girlfriend, you get a dowry and a dress and a party and all kinds of cool stuff. One word: CHABKA! If you're gonna give it up ("fun"), make it worthwhile - even for a fake marriage! Men try to pull that stuff on us foreign women all the time - at least get educated about your fake wedding! (My girlfriend got a new set of tires and a refrigerator. GO FOR IT. Aim high, baybeeee.)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

2010 Health Club Prices & Info


Thanks to DA of ChillNite for posting the following updated health club information.


Happy Easter!


I LOVE Easter (don't let my sick sense of humor fool you). It reminds me of my mother and my sister and going to church on P Street. It is funny how little glimses of life stay with you. My sister and I had matching kelly green Easter coats and I always associate that color with Easter. My mom was outstanding at Easter arrangement: she would hide candy all over the place and say that the Easter bunny brought it. Dayam - I wish I was there with her today.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Wok N Roll Jabriya and Elements Spa at Royal Hyatt

Slapperella very kindly invited me for an early birthday present to a massage at the Elements Spa at the Royale Hyatt Hospital. I have posted before about how much I like the RH services - both as a hospital and as a Pampering Palace. The women's hospital is managed by Banyan Tree Resorts and everything is Thai-tranquil. Very relaxing.

I had a hot stone massage. Slaps went in for the stretchy kind of Thai massage that I had once and then decided that some of my parts were just not meant to go in that direction (she's a lot more flexible - or so I hear!) tee hee.

My massage was 2 hours long and was a mixture of deep tissue, some stretching, and hot stones. It wasn't the traditional hot stone that I'm used to, but I still liked it a lot. The young lady who gave me the massage was quite petite and small and didn't look nearly as tough as she turned out to be. She was so soft spoken that I could barely hear her and she probably thought (not unjustifiably) that I was one of those loud Americans. 'Whaaaat? I can't heeeeeear you!' LOL.

The massage rooms at Elements are nish. Dark wood, green linens, marble. They start off by washing your feet as you relax in a chair (my robe was too small/tight in the girl-places and so it was kinda hard to concentrate on me feets) and sip on lemon grass tea. Quite nice.

Thai Lady found a place on my back "ooooh, very much tension!" and proceeded to kneed the bejezus out of it for what seemed like 45 minutes. Wait... didn't this start out by her saying, "If you want me to stop anytime, just tell me." No means No, Thai Lady! It huuuuurt, but eventually the kinks were out and we were on to the stretching. Now, it is a very odd feeling to be neked alone in a room with a woman sitting on your butt (at least - for some of us). It is not a way that I would usually go, but hey, it was all about the massage. There was some accompanied stretching (Britany money-shot style) which was also slightly unnerving, but hey whatever. She seemed to think it was all very normal. After all, it is an ob-gyn facility so they are probably used to all that. Okey dokey.

I hope I don't seem like a whiney, ungrateful biotch. I have to watch myself because I tend to push the boundaries of "perspective" verses downright complaining. It was a great massage and I am really grateful to my dear friend for doing that for me.

But now I will complain....

So after the massage, we walked across the RH entrance to Wok N Roll. It is a somewhat-new (7 months) Japanese restaurant. I wasn't sure if it was the same place, but I had heard that there was a great new place in Jabriya that some of the staff from the Crowne Plaza had moved to. Turned out, it was one in the same. I think The Romanian first told me about it. Her friend owns it or something like that. If I was still talking to her, I would tell her to tell him how terrible the service is and that he should fire his manager NOW. (People need jobs right now and they should be given to people who actually want to do a good job.)

It is a beautiful restaurant - similar to Maki in decor. They've got pretty cabinas with sliding doors. Everything is done with slate tiles. Way cool. We loved the food and there is a huge selection. My friend from the CP, Abdul Qader, has moved to Wok N Roll as a chef. We had a nice conversation with him (before he left and we had a chance to tell him what happened next). As I sat down, I thought that I might be able to write a restaurant review about it since I don't believe anyone else had yet - and there is a REASON for that as it turned out....

The service was so bad that their customers were walking out before they finished their food - it was just that crappy. They had (I counted) 6 servers in a small restaurant; and not one of them was paying any attention at all to the customers. Our entrees arrived before the appetizers. They brought the wrong order. The 2 female servers stood behind the prep bar the entire time, talking about the customers loud enough for (you guessed it) the customers to hear them! When the busboys did appear to finally clear anything at all off tables (we did it ourselves, moving the food onto the empty tables next to us), they shouted across the restaurant at each other; while customers sat staring in disbelief. The "manager" bullied the waiters (who were all standing in a corner of the room) to do something, when he did the same as them. So much for "lead by example". When we complainted to the "manager", he never said a word - just walked away. We asked for our check; they brought us someone elses and then never apologized. I had asked for the phone number of the owner and a take-away menu; never got either. "Manager" just walked into the kitchen and never returned.

Wok N Roll: As Slaps said, "Possibly the worst service we've ever had anywhere." I wrote to the owner - let's see if I get any response.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

YOU are invited to an Event to help AFL!!!!


GENERAL AUDIENCE: OPEN FOR MEN TO ATTEND !

British Ladies Society Event
in support of Animal Friends League


Where: Movenpick at Bidaa
When: Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Time: 6:30 pm - 10pm


Ayeshah Al-Humaidhi will be the guest speaker at the dinner at the Moevenpick Al Bidaa.

She will talk about just how much they have achieved in the last 5 years & where they will go from here. As well as the fantastic work that they do with companion animals at Animal Friends. She will also cover the amazing work that they do through KsPath, (Kuwait Society for the Protection of Animals & Their Habitat), with Wildlife Conservation, the treatment & conditions of Farm Animals here in Kuwait, Stray Cats & Dogs & Marine Conservation.

Proceeds from the evening will go towards their effort to rebuild this amazing facility.


There will also be great raffle prizes so why not come along with some friends for a great evening and support a very worthy cause.


The prices are for BLS Members: 6.500kd
Non-Members: 8.500kd


Please e mail events@theblskuwait.com to reserve your place.
BLS Website: http://www.theblskuwait.com/

Desert Girl Special Announcement:
I have heard that there will be simultaneous translation telecast from Briddish to American.

AFL - 10 days after the shelter fire

From the AFL Newsletter


It has been over a week since the night in which a devastating fire killed 40 animals and destroyed the Animal Friends Shelter. It has been a sad and emotional week for everyone involved. As dark as our future has seemed, a beam of light has begun to emerge from the end of this tunnel. For the last 9 days, the outpouring of support, the messages of condolences and the offers of help has been inspiring. The media coverage of our disaster has been widespread and extremely effective. Our story has appeared in newspapers, blogs, radio and TV. Thank you to everyone who has been spreading the word and gathering support. This public support for Animal Friends is heartwarming, and we hope it will continue not just for the next few days or weeks, but well beyond this crisis. Indeed, it is our goal that the growing support for Animal Friends will continue for years and years to come.


Here is an update of what we have all achieved so far…

Fundraising


We have received many generous donations over the last week and they all add up to KD 28,456.696!!

Your generosity has been amazing. But we need more help to rebuild the shelter…KD 21,543.304 to be exact. We will also be approaching large companies this week about sponsorship opportunities, so if you work for one of these big businesses, or own one, please contact Olivia at olivia@animalfriendskuwait.org or call 9737 7867. We hope that during the reconsruction process, with the permission of our donors, we will also be able to not only rebuild what we had but will also be able to make it bigger and better than it was before. If you have already donated money and do not want it to be used for expansion, please let us know. We want you to be comfortable with how your donation is spent.

Our Animals
Thus far we have held four fostering sessions at the Royal Animal Hospital.

Already, 29 dogs, 16 cats and 2 bunnies have found loving foster homes.

We still have 15 dogs that need to be fostered. We will be holding another fostering session on Sunday, April 4 from 10am to 12pm and again from 4pm to 6pm at the Royal Animal Hospital.

Volunteers
The sheer number of volunteers that have turned up to help with care of the animals as well as demolition has been tremendous. Agility sent out a team of about 10 peeople that have been working for an entire week. We certainly owe them a debt of gratitude. Individuals have showed up both in Wafra and RAH prepared to do anything. Men have turned up with a tool box and shovel asking how they can help. The show of support has brought tears to our eyes at times so thank you to all of you that have put aside time to help. We still need volunteers both at RAH and Wafra. If you are interested in volunteering at RAH, please call Lynda at 66724485 so she can schedule you in. Please do call first because we actually have run into the problem of having too many volunteers there at once. In Wafra we still need people to walk the dogs that are here as well as to help us save as many of our belongings as possible and prepare the building for renovations. We still have plenty of clean-up to do around the shelter and we are trying to erect a second corral for the donkeys. We need strong men and women to help us dig holes and get the fence up. If you are able, please plan to come on Friday, Saturday, or both.

The Shelter
Most of the salvage work is nearing completion. We have been able to save many of the interior doors and fittings. Volunteer groups have demolished the ceiling, removed all doors and windows including frames and removed, washed and stored most loose items.

The remainder of the demolition will start early next week and repairs of the main steel structure of the building has already started. We feel hopeful that things are moving along in a timely manner and we will have an operable shelter in the next few months.

We also need help with donations of construction items and materials. If you own a building supplies business or know someone that does, here are some of the things we will need…

• 40 2 ton split reverse AC Units that can be switched to heat
• 2,500m2 Insulation
• Electrical Wiring and Supplies including Conduit
• Electrical installation
• Industrial lighting
• 4 Large chest freezers
• 4 large refrigerators
• Fire retardant foam to cover insulation
• 4,000m2 bricks
• Mortar
• Kitchens including cabinets
• Kitchen taps
• Toilets
• Sinks
• Tile
• Kirby
• Metal girders, beams, trusses
• Steel
• 50 Small bathroom ventilation fans
• Epoxy based industrial paint
• Industrial shelving
• Galvanized steel gates
• 2 Industrial washing machines
• 2 Industrial dryers
• Plumbing supplies
• Windows
• Aluminum doors


We will try our best to stay in touch on a regular basis. We truly appreciate your support and generosity and hope you will all be part of Rebuilding AFL.

Congratulations Lulu!!!!

WOW!

I just found out (because I haven't been keeping up with friends as much as I should) that one of my dear friends (and fellow former blogger), Lu2 (aka "Mediagirl" or "Big Curls") got married.

I met Lulu through blogshere (as I have met many people): blessings.

Lu2 came to Kuwait several years ago and it wasn't her place. I think Kuwait made her miserable. (I remember that the very first time I met her, we were at a cafe and she sat down and cried. Lu, honey, it was probably your sign!) I just checked out her photo album and she looks content and gorgeous and happy. MASHALLAH.

As she told me back then, she came to Kuwait to become more centered and more spiritual. I think it was probably just a stepping stone on her Journey. Next, Jordan, where she started wearing hejab, and now she's living with her hubby in California. From what I hear (and strongly admire), Lulu's mother is a child of the world and I see how the same has happened to Lulu. They both hail from a line of strong, independant women who LIVE life.

Congratulations, Lulu, on your marriage and your new life. I know your other friends here in Kuwait wish you the same. I couldnt' be happier for you!