Sunday, September 30, 2012

Moving concerns?

Are you relocating to Kuwait?  Are you concerned about the Arab Spring?  Demonstrations?  Iran threat?

I received an e-mail  from a woman moving from the States with questions concerning the current climate in Kuwait and thought I would post some of the information I provided to her.  Feel free to leave comments.  Everyone's perspective is a good perspective.

Your post about Bedouin and their issues have been more frequent this year, and you did report on "protests" on this issue. You have also mentioned having a "go-bag", which did not make me very comfortable.

"Bedoon", not "Bedouin".   Bedoon (means "without") refers to a group of people who have lived in Kuwait for generations, but have NO NATIONALITY.    "Bedouin" refers to a group of people who were nomadic tribesmen - similar to the American Indians in many ways.

Bedoon are protesting for their basic human rights.  They are peaceful demonstrations and are isolated to the North of the country in an area where Westerners/expats will probably never see.

Go-bag:  I have heard lots of alarming statements over the past 16 years of living here.  The notifications, announcements, advice you will hear from people is often not reflective of the true pulse of the country.  Many corporations don't know the slightest thing about the pulse of the country because the only people coming here from companies are their business development or operations people; their business is not to collect cultural information about the country, but to get down to business.  They pass what limited information they collect on to HR people, who, in turn, form their own opinions and pass it along to people moving to the country.  It is like the Chinese whispering game where it keeps turning WRONG down the line.

There are very few books written about Kuwait by people who have actually lived here for any amount of time. 

I'm very concerned about our personal security. I have two small children and as a mother I do not want to put them in ANY danger in exchange for some monetary gains.

My Western  friends in Kuwait have children your children's age.  This is an extremely child-friendly country.   (And I believe this is a question best posed to other parents who live in Kuwait.)

I know that no one can predict the future, but with your 16 year experience in living in Q8, how do you feel today about your personal security? Do you know if US embassy has any plans to ensure the security of the US expats?  

It is not the mission of the US embassy in any country to ensure the security of US expats.  Be very sure about this.  Their mission is diplomatic.  They will assist in the event of an evacuation, but only in extreme circumstances (you and your family will most likely be long gone by that time).  I have friends of friends who were evacuated during  1990.  The embassy flew them to Dammam, Saudi Arabia (a 30 minute flight). They were charged $10,000/per person for that 30-minute flight.  I discovered all this information when I participated of a mock-evacuation of Americans in 1997.  We met at the US embassy.  They showed us the evacuation forms we were to sign in the case of a real evacuation; stating that we had X number of days to repay the US Government for getting us out (the worse the danger, the more expensive the cost for getting us out).  They took us on busses to an area where Chinhook helicopters (personnel carriers) took us out to an aircraft carrier.  It CAN be done, but it is highly unlikely that it will ever happen.

The American company you/your husband is employed by would be more likely to evacuate family members first.  That is usually the norm from my experience if they feel there is any type of a threat.  Don't worry.  They'll say, "family members/dependants are advised to leave."  Then, you'll get a vacation to the States for a while.

There are 20 US military facilities around Iran.  There are many Patriot missile sites located around Kuwait guarding civilian populations.  Do I think it is a threat?  War is a threat everywhere - including Hometown, USA these says.  Is there a safe place anywhere?  My cousin wasn't safe in Manhattan on 9/11 for example...

I have made a conscious choice to stay in Kuwait and I have never regretted my decisions.

The crime rate in Kuwait is very low.  The majority of violent sexual crimes are committed against the less fortunate (Asian workers).  Murder is not common.  Justice is swift and there is the death penalty in Kuwait (although I don't believe anyone has been hanged since this Emir has taken power).  There used to be public hangings before him.  It is a huge deterrent to crime.  Guns and ammunition are both against the law (unless specifically for hunting what is left of the wildlife).  In Virginia where I'm from, there is a concealed weapons law; anyone can have a gun in a week.  You never know who is packing.  Not in Kuwait.

The driving is the worst crime. Reckless, unchecked road-rage at very high speeds.  National driving maximum is 80mph on the highways and everybody goes faster (like who really remains on 55?)   Get a bigass American-made SUV!  Most people also don't see the need for child seats here.... need I say more?  Crunchy airbags.

If you and the Desert Dawg had to move to Q8 today, would you do it knowing what you know now?

I don't feel my personal security is threatened by anything going on right now.  I feel completely safe.   I stayed here in 2003 and experienced SCUDS and US cruise missiles and even then, it was not a deterrent. 

(I do, however, feel threatened by the growing number of blondes moving to the country!)

I feel completely safe now.  I don't feel a threat to myself or my dog.  Would I move to Kuwait now?  Sure!  However, I'm not 29 anymore (although I’m 29) and I doubt that I would have the courage to do it again alone at this age.

Kuwait and The Arab Spring: Perspective

Following is an interview that appeared in the Arab Times a few days ago, titled, "Street movement seeks reform Kuwait democratic experiment lagging behind in region".  Thanks, Hamad Al-Sabah, for pointing it out on Twitter.

THE Arab Spring has overshadowed the democratic credentials of countries like Kuwait and Lebanon. Now, we are lagging behind as the culture of freedom sweeps across the Arab landmass with people wresting power from the hands of discredited regimes. Dr Shafeeq Ghabra, political analyst, in this interview to the Arab Times, connects the dots to allow the true picture of the political conflicts in Kuwait to emerge. The nod is certainly towards constitutional monarchy or some system where the Parliament will be in the driving seat, he notes. And for that ultimate transition the streets of Kuwait, more than any institution, will have a major role to play.

Question: Do you think what’s happening in Kuwait has a connection with the revolutions in the region?Answer: Yes, there is a definite connection between what’s happening in Kuwait and what’s happening in the region. However, what has happened in the region has far surpassed the Kuwaiti experiment, and if you want even the Lebanese experiment. Now, we are lagging behind other countries in the region in terms of the democratic experiment.
This is on the one hand, but on the other, changes and movements in Kuwait are not seeking to overthrow the political system. They are peaceful. We are only seeking political reforms. Whereas the other countries in the region, especially the republics, sought to overthrow their regimes.

Q: So from that perspective, can we say that Kuwait’s protests are different from the Arab Spring?A: Arab Spring has two components. In monarchies it’s only a reform agenda. It could lead to constitutional monarchies ultimately – look at Morocco and Jordan, while in the republics it’s touching a much deeper level, affecting even the highest echelons of power. It’s a deeper change. Therefore, it’s revolutions in the republics, and reforms in the monarchies. So, monarchies that fail to reform could face revolutions.

Q: Therefore you are suggesting that there is a very serious lesson for Kuwait to learn from these changes. Is Kuwait on the path to reforms or is it on the path to revolution?A: The recent initiative of HH the Amir of respecting the popular demand is a positive sign. There is a level of flexibility at the highest rungs of power. This flexibility is needed to be able to go forward.

Q: You said that Kuwait is lagging behind in its democratic experiments when compared to the changes in the region. Isn’t that too premature a judgement because, yes, while some regimes have been overthrown, we are yet to see what exactly is going to materialize in these countries? Egypt has gone into elections, but we can see that there’s still a standoff between the people and the army. Your remarks.A: What I meant was that in the past Kuwait and Lebanon were models that the region looked up to, we were the most democratic systems in the region. Now that image has been dimmed. The countries where changes are taking place are already aiming at a system that’s much more democratic than ours. The Arab Spring has raised the ceiling very high. The freedom, the criticisms, the levels of organization, the level of involvement by various factions in the society, the call for change, the ability to challenge authority has been taken to a totally different qualitative level in the Arab region. With these changes, we, that’s Kuwait and Lebanon, can no longer say that we are the most democratic countries in the region. That’s true of Iraq also. Even the Iraqi model, which replaced a dictatorial regime, can’t claim to be a leading example of democracy in the region any more.

Q: Kuwait’s democratic culture has always been rated very highly, it was next only to Israel in the whole region. We know that our media is very unsparing of the politicians, including the Prime Minister. So, don’t you think a more correct take would be to say that the region is catching up with our standard of democracy rather than ours going down?A: I am not saying that our freedom in Kuwait has gone down, neither has it gone up. We are in the middle of a change environment. What we have today is a bolder generation. A much more critical mass. It is willing to speak out and there is no limit to what they want to speak about. The bar certainly has gone up over the last two years, generally speaking of the region. Even in Saudi Arabia, Qatar or anywhere in the region. The people are willing to take initiatives. Everywhere the issue of challenging authority is getting stronger, the issue of fighting corruption is getting stronger, the issue of enfranchisement of the people is getting stronger.

Q: What do you think was actually happening in the region when very strong regimes one fine day suddenly collapsed one after another like a house of cards? What is your reading, is there something more to these events, are these events just a small part of a larger script that we are failing to see?A: A tree could look okay in the middle of a desert. It could look great and strong, standing tall for hundreds of years. But when a disease hits its roots and spreads inside, it could get hollowed out, yet keeping its appearance. All of these regimes were hollow inside.

Q: Coming back to Kuwait, what is the real yearning here? Is it only a political wrangling over the change of the Prime Minister and a reshuffle of the Cabinet or is there a thirst for a deeper structural change?A: Kuwait has been frozen for a long time. No initiatives by the government, weak development, weak educational system and so on have tested the patience of the people to its limit. The stalemate between the government and the Parliament kept prolonging, while everything else was slowly deteriorating. There are no formally recognized political parties in Kuwait, the Parliament couldn’t form governments. The conflict between the Parliament and the government made it look as if we were governed by two equal and opposite authorities, constantly locking their horns. One has to give in to the other for there to be any progress.

The youth of the country were now forced to take the initiative to break this impasse between the authorities. So, the demand for change permeates every level of politics, at the level of the Parliament, the government and the structure itself. However, the people are looking at radical changes, we only want reforms to get the system back on track and running. It was in this context the slogan for changing the Prime Minister began. They wanted the Parliament to be dissolved. They also wanted a fresh start, fresh elections. Next, the issue of corruption surfaced strongly, because it was eating into everything: politics, economy, you name it. Corruption is big time. MPs were accused of malfeasance, accepting money from undefined sources.

So these youth movements are playing a role to facilitate a third path between the government and the Parliament to get things moving. They are strengthening the parliamentarians who want change, and individuals in the opposition who want to do something constructive for the nation. So, what we are seeing is a part of the larger change. The result of all these changes could be a constitutional monarchy. May be in the next 10 years, we could be a constitutional monarchy.

However, it doesn’t mean the way to that end could be easy. There could be many impediments and setbacks. But we are definitely moving towards a system where the Parliament will become the driving seat of the government. So, what we are seeing today is just one angle of this overall struggle. At the same time the civil societies are also getting stronger in Kuwait, which will catalyse this change.
What I am saying is that the society itself is gearing towards that change. For example, a majority of Kuwaitis are from tribes that come from the desert regions. This majority is not duly represented in the Parliament though. I am talking about Kuwaitis who come from Jahra, Fahaheel and all these tribal belts. They are not appropriately represented.

Because they are a big mass of people, and because they are not well represented, they have to resort to backdoor connections to get their rights. For these people, Parliament is the only mechanism that can empower them. This is the reason why Kuwait can’t dissolve the Parliament. To dissolve the Parliament unconstitutionally is tantamount to saying that this majority has no say at all anymore. That will never happen. That’s also one reason tribal affiliations are very strong here. They don’t have the workaround or the money that the elite of the country enjoy. They fall back on the tribe to get what they want.

So, these tribes want to be truly enfranchised, similar to the labour enfranchisement movements of the mid 19th century in Europe. It was only the property owners who could vote back then, and the lower classes wanted to be enfranchised as well. To absorb all these aspirations of the masses of tribes, we need political parties, political agendas and so forth. We need better educational systems, better healthcare services and so on. We can’t be telling them even today that they are newcomers to Kuwait.

You can’t keep them out any longer on the grounds that their tribes are newcomers to Kuwait or that they have dual nationalities – some still carry a Saudi nationality. You can’t discriminate anymore on the basis that their tribes did not fight the Jahra battle. Instead let’s appreciate the fact that they fought against Iraqi invasion, which was a much bigger war than the Jahra Battle, and which impinged on the sovereignty and existence of Kuwait to a much greater extent than the Jahra Battle.
You need to have a new approach that can unite the whole of Kuwait – Sunnis and Shias, urbanites and tribes to create a modern and progressive Kuwait.

Q: You referred to a systemic change towards a constitutional monarchy in the next ten years. Is a change of that magnitude possible in such a short period of time? Do you expect the youth movements to take their struggle to a higher level of resistance, more violent perhaps, to push for these changes?A: Yes, 10 years may be too short a time for big changes, but if you analyse what happened with the Arab Spring you will know that you don’t need a lot of time for big changes to occur. So what could be accomplished in 10 years could be accomplished in one year also. We never know.
Every leader, every president or every head of state in the region is racing against time. They know that change is imminent, and are doing everything possible to contain the damage as much as possible. There are mass movements every where, and there are government initiatives for change. It depends on which of the two will overwhelm the other. If mass movements get stronger, the governments will change. If the government initiatives for change get the better of protests, then the mass movements will be absorbed into the system of change.

Sometimes, it’s only a matter of weeks for this equation to play out its full course. In the case of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, you would notice that the drastic changes in policy happened over weeks. One week he said there is no question of stepping down, and the following week he was announcing the date of his renunciation of power.
So, this is a historical period in the region. It is bringing out forces in the society that had been dormant for years. It’s a movement of awakening. The best approach is to be a visionary, to think ahead.
Some of the leaders have lost the moment, like President Bashar Assad. He has lost the moment. He has procrastinated for a long time. He took all the wrong decisions since the beginning of the revolution in his country. He is out. It’s only a matter of time. 2012 will see his end. But there are regimes in the region that are still loved by its people, by more than 50 percent of the people, which is a good support base.

Q: My question is about the move towards that bigger change in Kuwait. So far, the change of the Prime Minister, dissolution of the Parliament and fresh elections... all these were within the framework of the Constitution. But for the deeper structural changes, such as a move towards constitutional monarchy we need to go extra constitutional. How smooth do you think that change would be, and how would the leadership react to such a demand?A: What we have now is elections. This will bring more reforms as the majority in the Parliament after the elections would be the opposition. This does not mean that we will automatically have solutions once the Parliament is formed. We will have to see how the government will perform. To what extent will it be able to move forward. A lot will depend on what the government is able to do after the election. At the same time, you have a structural problem. One of it is that even if you have a majority in the Parliament of one political group, we still have 15 ministers, who are members of the Parliament. This means they have a vote on every issue raised in the Parliament and they will invariably vote in favour of the government. We want to hear more demands to change this status quo. So the majority in the Parliament is not out of 50, but 50 plus 15, which is 65.
This is where the lack of a political party system will be most felt. So, we will see a lot of demand coming for the legitimization of political parties.

Q: For these demands to be passed constitutionally, you will need that magic number in the Parliament, which as you just pointed out would be very difficult. So, then how will the protest movements get around this stumbling block to get their demands? How do you think the leadership will receive these demands for change?A: They may be rejected. But now what you have is there are people who have gotten used to going to the streets. Therefore, I think that the youths in the streets will be a characteristic of Kuwait in the coming years. The street movements will become very common. This will bear a great influence on the way that everyone thinks, including the leadership. The leadership will be keenly listening to pulse of these youth movements.

The way I see it is that these youth movements will see how their demands are not being met politically, leading to their scepticism of the Parliament. So, they will lose faith in their own representatives in the Parliament. When Parliament in their eyes becomes less legitimate, then the street becomes more legitimate. The only way you can make the street less legitimate is by empowering the democratic institutions in the country. That’s what happened in the West. They gave their Congresses and the Parliaments real power. And that’s why most of the protest movements withered away. People’s faith in the democratic institutions was restored and so they ignored street protests.

So, in the near future, I see the streets in Kuwait getting much stronger. The youths of the country will court arrests willingly, and imprisonment of street protestors will become a common narrative in the country’s politics. This will also lay the foundation for the next generation of leaders. They will be the MPs, ministers and prime ministers of the future.

Q: Is there a consensus among these disparate youth movements on what exactly they want?A: Not exactly. Sometimes, these movements build bridges, and get on with a gut feeling. They build on experience. They tend to take initiatives. Every initiative is by a different movement, and there are new groups emerging. If you look at the recent protests in front of the Ministry of Justice asking for the release of the arrested protestors, they were led by women activists. They were independent and did not belong to any group. So, youths are learning and evolving. We are entering this era of mass protests. However, what is good about Kuwait is that we have an Amir who sees these developments, is empathetic to the real needs of the people, and is able to act in a timely manner to diffuse tension. The leadership has to deal with this situation gently with an eye on the long-term consequences.

Full Story in the Arab Times HERE.  Includes Dr. Ghabra's bio.

Emergency book sale for PAWS

     Facing eviction from its premises at short notice, the Protecting Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is in a desperate situation.  With no time to lose, we need the entire community to rally round and help this dedicated, hard-working group of volunteers in their fight for survival.  The lives of some 150 animals in their care depend on us, not to mention the plight of many future rescues.

     An easy way for you to come to their aid is by purchasing books by local photojournalist Claudia Farkas Al Rashoud.  Dame Violet Dickson and What the Camels Said to Santa are being sold, with all proceeds going to the PAWS emergency fund.

     Dame Violet Dickson, “Umm Saud’s” Fascinating Life in Kuwait from 1929-1990 is the remarkable story of an extraordinary Englishwoman and is also a history of Kuwait.  Affectionately called “Umm Saud” by the Arabs, she became a legend in her own lifetime.  She lived in Kuwait for 61 years, first as the wife of the British Political Agent to Kuwait, Colonel H.R.P. Dickson, and later as a widow.  During this time she lived through the age of ancient bedouin traditions into an era of affluence, and ultimately, with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, a period of horror.  The book is illustrated with over 70 photographs including rare and previously unpublished pictures of old Kuwait from the Dickson family collection.  Dame Violet Dickson is also available in an Arabic edition.

     What the Camels Said to Santa is a children’s book about Kuwait’s desert environment, with full color photographs of Santa Claus, his friends the camels, and other local desert creatures.  Meet the gerbil, the Common Black Beetle, the Lacertid Lizard, the Spiny-Tailed Agamid, and of course, the camels, and find out what they have to say about the situation in Kuwait’s desert.

     Also on sale for PAWS is another charming children’s book, In Kuwait, by Pattie Meyer, with original illustrations by Margaret Bosworth’s local art students. 

     The books are conveniently-priced at 3 KD each or two for 5 KD, so why not take care of some of your holiday gift buying while supporting a worthy cause.  You can find them at Greensac, shop number 12 on the mezzanine floor of Galleria 2000, Salmiya; Sandouq Al Sharq gift shop on Sayed Yaseen Street, Block 17, Building 1, Salmiya; and Images Salon and Day Spa facing the Fourth Ring Road in Salmiya, Abothar Al Gafari Street, Fouad Al Rashid Building, number 4, first floor.  They will also be sold at PAWS events and upcoming holiday bazaars.  For delivery of large orders and for any other information please call 97485666.

Leaving Kuwait? Know your legal obligations!

I got a question from a reader which was interesting and I thought I should reply to and post on the blog for others’ information. 

Disclaimer:  I am not a lawyer.  I do not pretend to be one.  I am writing from personal knowledge/experience.

Lady’s son was here on a contract with an American company (but that had sponsorship through a Kuwaiti company), left Kuwait because of an emergency, took another job somewhere else, then returned to Kuwait, only to be arrested at the airport for absconding.

As y’alls know, it is a pain in the derrier to get a residency visa (that’s a whole ‘nother post).  Security clearances, fingerprints, medical tests, etc.  So, when it comes to leaving, you can’t just pack and go. There are things that you must do (legally) to “close out.” 

Those cars you see at the airport parking lot with flat tires and covered with dust: probably belonged to people who did not properly close out. 

American companies often do not fully understand what they are getting themselves into when starting operations in Kuwait (see last paragraph/note of this post).  Then, it becomes a Chinese whispering game to explain the rules of the land to their employees.  There is an American Business Council here, but they will most likely only provide  you with the name of a lawyer.  It is also NOT the mission of the US Embassy (here, there, anywhere) to assist Americans:  They are on diplomatic missions in the countries where they are.  Plus, add to the problem that most embassy staff are only here on 2 year rotations and may spend their time with other Americans working at the embassy.  In fairness, 2 years is not sufficient time to learn everything about the country where they are posted.  They also can't help everybody with everything.  Not their yob.

The relationship between the sponsor and the American company: 

Kuwait requires that businesses are owned 51% by Kuwaitis.  So, if Western companies wish to do business in Kuwait, they need to set up a business with a Kuwaiti partner (at 51% - which is why many Western companies choose not to set up operations here) or a joint venture of some kind where a sponsor company will allow (for a fee) the Western employees to work under the sponsor company's business license - which includes visas.  Some companies provide visas for a fee independently of any shared business interests.   In the US, it would be similar to you or I having a company, and sponsoring a foreign worker on an H1 visa.  You, as the sponsor, are responsible for the whereabouts of that worker.  If he "skips" - you have to fill out a whole lot of paperwork and may be responsible for associated fees (legal and otherwise).

What happens when a person leaves Kuwait without properly "signing out" with the sponsor and the Kuwaiti government:

Each company is only allocated X number of visas per year.  The sponsoring company must prove to the government that their workers are being paid and treated fairly.  (For example, if an employee suddenly stopped getting paid, the sponsor company should – in theory – get in trouble as salaries are being direct-deposited.)   If an employee  leaves without handling the proper paperwork, the government fines the company and can either close their file (meaning they can close the company for a period of time) or the government can decide not to extend any additional visas to the company; therefore the company loses money.  It becomes exceptionally more difficult for the company to file paperwork on an employee - like lady's son - who has left the country without handling his paperwork properly.  There are costs incurred and time spent.  They must (legally) register a case with the Kuwaiti court (to prove that they are no longer sponsoring the employee) that the employee has "absconded".  Sometimes, they must even post a public announcement in the newspaper with the employee's photo. This also covers the company in case the employee has committed/will commit a crime (like theft, murder, whatever... or just decide to hang around illegally in the country) in the future. 

Then it becomes a matter for the government to find the person who has skipped and figure out why they are still in the country; basically, the employee has a “warrant” on them at this point.  If they leave Kuwait and return, they can be arrested – just like the States where if you have an open warrant, you will be arrested until you can resolve the matter.  (Like one of my friends who closed his US bank account and forgot a check still out for $9.  He was arrested on a bench warrant at Atlanta airport as soon as he got off the plane. Not fun to spend 2 days of your vacation in jail.)
 (As a commentor wrote today, teachers who "pull a runner" can be blacklisted in the entire GCC.  If you have a REALLY bad experience with your employer, please seek legal assistance from a local lawyer before it comes to that.)

Anyone moving to a foreign country MUST  know the laws of that country.  Don't take the word of me, your company, or anyone else.  Research and educate yourself.

I’m not saying that the lady’s son was to blame.  It may have been that the American company he went to work for did not properly advise him of his obligations, but that would be hard to prove in a US court, lengthy and expensive.

What should her son have done? 
By law, anyone residing and working in Kuwait must provide 3 month’s notification to their employer before ending their employment.  (The company may make the determination to let the employee go prior to the end of the 3 months, but it is to their discretion.)  Then, the company should make arrangements with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to close out the employee’s file.  He/she will be given 30 days to stay in the country before having to leave Kuwait (and accruing daily fines).   Employees can also go to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MOSAL or “Shaoun”) and cancel their visa, but I believe they require a release letter from their employer.  They may also require a bank clearance.

So, her son should have given his employers’ notice that he had an emergency (in writing).  If he had to leave same-day, he should have returned to Kuwait and cancelled his visa – or – before leaving Kuwait the first time, hired a lawyer and signed a power of attorney to deal with his affairs.

*NOTE:  American companies operating in Kuwait or lawyers requiring assistance in writing “What to Expect” manuals for their employees living working in Kuwait:  Write to me!  My rates are reasonable and I can facilitate/customize your requirements.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kuwait Charity Run: November 17, 2012

This is a charity run to benefit Pumps4Kids (providing insulin pumps to children diagnosed with diabetes so they don't need injections with needles - scary!), K'SPATH, Bayt Abdullah, and Kuwait Association for the Care of Children in Hospital. 

Registration fee is 15KD.  Run management encourages people to get pledges from their friends and family (pledge X amount of money for each mile/kilo that they run for charity.)

Kuwait Marathon: 3 November 2012

Kuwait Marathon is a footrace taking place on the 3rd of November 2012 for the first time in Kuwait. It will be held in the northern desert of Kuwait on hard sand and varied terrain. There will be several Marathon Distances held on the same day. Visit KMarathon for more details.

The website says that the event is being managed by Aymstrong of Kuwait (their website is under construction Who are they?). (Do you think they meant "Aimstrong"?)  Registration fees are between 7KD and 60KD.  I don't know if I agree with their concept of "Prizes for Female participants (for full run)  will be determined based on the number of female participants in the Full Marathon."

Hey - we're in Kuwait.  When did dollars become the national currency?  And yet, entrance fees on the website are in Dinars.  Hmm.... innnnteresting.  So let's say maximum 60KD/$213 entrance fee (for the full marathon) and you may win up to 562KD/$2000.  Let's try to remain consistent, shall we? (It is the editor in me.)

I do think that it is great that Kuwait is getting so much more fitness-minded!

The Wedding

I took the day off work yesterday to go to The Romanian's son's wedding.  Why the whole day?  Because if you've ever been to a Kuwaiti wedding, you'd know that you had better go prepared because it is no joke my friends; those girls primp.  My prep started several days ago with a spray tan.  Yesterday, I got manicured/pedicured, make-up and hair done.  All that takes time.  Plus getting dressed and all that.  OMG the work.  So tiring.

I decided that I will never again have anyone do my make-up for me (I say this every time I go to a wedding yet every time, I have someone else do my make-up).  I'm with Kate Middleton - do it yourself.   I'm just much more comfortable in my own skin when I do my own make-up.   TR and I decided to have Kuwaiti style make-up done at her friend's salon.  I had so much stuff on my eyes that it was hard to drive back to my house.  It wasn't much better at the wedding because the air was so full of bkhoor that my eyes (and a LOT of the other ladies') got red and teary.  One of my eyelashes came off during the reception.  It was bad.  I tear so bad that people think I cry at weddings.  I do not.

I didn't know what to expect.  TR and I were so nervous that we had butterflies.   I always try to anticipate the worst-case-scenario and then back-up from there just to be prepared.  Not to air dirty laundry on a day that was actually happy, but it started for me with loyal-anger for my friend.  Out of the 450 women invited to the wedding, TR, the mother of the groom, was only given 6 invitations; a slight that we both considered a horrible insult.  After asking around, I have discovered that this is not uncommon when someone in the immediate wedding party is a foreigner.  I don't know if they think we don't have friends or family. Or maybe they just don't care.  I was fighting-mad and ready to take on the other 444 ladies in the parking lot if necessary.  When I say, "I got yo back" I mean it literally; and so does she.  We are that kind of friends.

This meant that a lot of our friends who we really wanted to be there with us, TR couldn't invite.  She was very sad about it and for those of you girls reading this - you know who you are and you know that you are loved and would have been welcomed if they had given her more invites.

I am extreeeeeeeeeemely proud of my friend, TR.  She came to Kuwait when she was only a teenager.  She married young, had a baby when she was still out in the yard playing with the kids herself, and had to deal with a family that really didn't want her here at all.  She opted for a life of independence out of the eyes of scrutiny of others, so after more than a decade of marriage, got a divorce and gained custody of her son.  She made the difficult decision to have her x-husband raise her son, "to grow to be a good Kuwaiti man and know his culture."  He has.  He is an outstanding young man with a brilliant future ahead of him (Mashallah).  I consider him my nephew and love him dearly.

Sidenote:  TR and her son do not look like mother and son.  She is blonde and he looks a lot like his father with Kuwaiti features.  His friends have seen them out together and have asked him if she was is girlfriend.  One of his friends, when seeing TR out somewhere said, "Look at that hot blonde."  No one would expect her to be his mother and it is funny to see their reactions.

For almost 20 years, the Kuwaiti family hadn't seen her (and when they knew her, she was wearing niqab, not at all the same person that she is now).   You know I believe that as you age, time changes people's perspectives.  You see things differently and regret when you have treated other's badly.   When TR was married, Kuwait was a different place with fewer foreign wives.  Now it is common.  Then, not so much; especially not among Bedouin society.  The family was pushing for a Kuwaiti wife and eventually, they got just that.  (Be careful what you wish for because different isn't always better.)

When we walked into the wedding hall last night, it was all smiles and welcomes.  She was given a seat of honor on the receiving line.  We were treated very very well by her former in-laws.  We danced, we laughed, we had a great time. 

The male band was in another room and broadcast on televisions in the hall.  I'm still suffering from the flu/bronchitus, but I got down when the band stopped and they put on Rihanna's, "We Found Love." - much to the amusement of the ladies who were still there.  I just about gave myself an asthma attack.  Some of the younger girls came up to dance with V and I.  V loves to dance and took right to it.  I think she had a great time.

The bride and groom met each other in school and fell in love.  The bride was stunning.  Her dress came from Spain and was a combination of delicate Spanish lace, toole, and crystals.    I'm sure the bride is going to be just as kind as her new husband and I look forward to getting to know her.  I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to call TR, "Grannie" someday (maybe 2013?)!  G-maaaaa!

The reception was to be held in The Regency Hotel, but because the number of guests was so high they decided to hold it at the Royal Wedding Hall at Mishref Exhibits area.  It is really a lovely wedding hall (located behind Hall 8) decorated in tones of gold and off-white.  There was an adjacent room - almost as large - for the buffet that looked like a tent and held table rounds and seating around the sides.  It was down a corridor and far enough away from the main hall that you could not smell the food (in other venues in Kuwait, while seated in the main reception/dancing hall, you can almost always smell food). 

Food Observations
Great assortment of food being passed around on trays including food that looked like nachos, but were something else - very tasty; kabobs, chocolate covered strawberries, various chocolates.  The buffet was enormous (stuff I can remember from 12:30am when we ate):  biriyani, Asian noodles, macaroni with beef, steak, rice dishes, ice cream, um ali, cheesecake, fresh fruit, some kind of compote thing.  The army of servers in clean, new uniforms were outstanding by the way.  Service was excellent.

Just incase you are wondering, my favorite wedding venues are:  
Zumurada; The one on Tawoon Street (Extension of Blaajat) with the palm trees growing out of it.   I know I wondered about this place and how the interior decor would look before I ever went there. It is GORGEOUS.  Everything is teak, including the seating.  So pretty (but small compared).  
The Sheraton (elegance and cha-CHING.  Best wedding bathroom in Kuwait for the bridal group.  They even have a chair that massages your legs. Awesome.).  
The Royal Wedding Hall at Mishref. 
The Regency (outstanding lighting and good bathrooms).

My least favorite wedding venues are the local halls.  I've had bad experiences.

Out of 450 women, The Romanian and I were the only blondes.  (Good!!!)
When the men's group arrived, out of 450 women, only 4 of us (3 from TR's group) did not put on hejab. 
Out of 450 women who were asked not to bring their children, only one was rude and brought her young daughter (she was with us which kind of surprised me). 
Out of 450 women, I only saw one eating out of a chaffing dish. (That, my friends, is a GOOD stat!)

Big butts are still in. 
Only a few plastic surgeons are popular in Kuwait. 
Spikey things and metal inserts in clothing are in:  Star Wars, the next generation!
The fabric souq makes tons of money on Kuwaiti weddings.
More women here should take clothing design workshops before considering designing their own gown.
Feathers are still in.
Boobs are still in.
Not everyone looks good in Kabuki make-up.
Not all chocolates being passed around on trays taste good.
Mutton should not dress as lamb.
Fake diamonds have become so good that you can't tell what is real and what isn't.
There were a lot of very short women in attendance. 
Big hair doesn't make you taller.
The fake hair market in Kuwait is booming. (Or should I say, "blooming?")
Somebody in China is making a ton of money selling hair buns.
Not everyone who looks at me like they want to bite my head off actually will.
They had a perfumes table in the foyer.  One of the perfumes was called, "Hot".  It was not.
Too much bkhoor is not a good thing.
I'm tired of being asked, "Have you ever been to a Kuwaiti wedding before?"
I should do more to work the room and make friends at weddings.  I turn into a wallflower.  Not good.
There aren't enough places in Kuwait that sell handbags suitable for weddings. (Honey, if you can fit your iPad in it; it's too big.  And plastic disguising itself as leather is never good at a wedding.  Oh what's that?   It matches your outfit?  You need to change.)
"Move your feat, lose your seat."  And those decrepit-looking old ladies go from zero-to-sixty when there is a good seat available.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I got sprayed

So, The Romanian's son gets married on the day after tomorrow.  SHE has been at the Corniche Club daily for the past 10 days or so working on her tan.  Pasty-white me?  Not so much. I don't like to sit out in the sun.   I do tan-in-a-can.

It has been a while since I've had it done in Kuwait.  I was still thinking that Strands had the same kind of wax-on/wax-off treatment (similar to having a massage, you get neked, lie on a table and a girl exfoliates your skin with a scrub (stop it, pervs!).  Then, you go shower and come back to have the color applied.  It was like getting a massage and a scrub for one price.

I found out that they do spray tan.  So, I'm thinkin' it is the kind that I had in the States; similar to a car wash where you stand in a booth and get sprayed up and down by a machine and then blow-dried.  (Yuh huh - they do too!).

I was a little disturbed when I saw this:

It looks like something that Toddlers and Tiaras do to the little'uns before their big pageants (only not in the back yard).  I thought, 'No, no, no!'  C'est impossible!  But it turned out much better than I thought.  I think Honey Boo Boo gets air-brushed, so why not me?  It is a lot more thorough than a spray-tan machine and not harmful like a tanning bed.  I did a lot of lifting of arms and legs to get the most coverage, but that's exactly what I wanted.

So, now I'm darker than The Romanian.  HA!  And for less work.

Now people at work are going to think I'm faking being sick.  I strategically scheduled the appointment on a Sunday evening so they would see me white one day and dark the next; miraculously over night.  Maybe they'll think that I'm having liver problems... It would actually make sense to those who know me really well....  Did somebody say, "Tequila shots!"??

.... My God my teeth look white!

Thanks, Strands!


Morning-After Update

You have to update the morning after you wash all the spray tan tonic off. That is the true determining factor if the spray tan is good or not.

It's good!

The only problem area I have is around my fingers (which is normal - you can scrub most of that off).  No streaks because technician-lady "buffed" me all over (stop it, pervs!).

Overall - great fake tan.

Another weekend in Happyville

First of all, I'm sick again. That makes slightly over a month of stupid sick things.   It started right after I went to Arifjan last week where everybody was coughing and wheezing .... and hugging me.  Thaaaaaaaaaanks.  Nice to see all y'alls too.  I'm infuckted again.  It started with one eye infection, then bien sur the other, then my throat, then the coughing and sneezing.  I saw that big gynormous bottle of Nyquil at the PX too and pondered purchasing it for a split second before letting it go - cause I felt GREAT (that day).  Snap. 

Anyhoo, sometime this past week I got a series of messages from Ho (first 2 letters of his last name, but it is fitting, so I'm going to call him that - and I think he'll actually like it) - my friend from Saudi Arabia who I hadn't seen since I left the States to move to Kuwait.  He was still studying there when I went.  I don't remember him being around during those days.  Did we have some kind of disagreement?  Shoot, I can't remember what I had for breakfast; how am I supposed to remember 17 years ago?  Anyhoo, instead of calling me (thanks by the way), he sent me WhatsApp messages to tell me that he was coming to Kuwait.  Very cryptic.  When? (I thought he said Friday, but it turned out to be Thursday.)  Who are  you coming with? (I thought he was coming for work.)  "Can I stay with you?  Will you pick me up from the airport?"  Wait a minute... I'm confused.... "Sure. When?"  (I don't want to be rude to someone I haven't seen in 17 years....After all, I have repeatedly invited him to Kuwait since I've been here.  Dude, 17 years and less than a week's notice - puhleeeeeze!)  There seems to be some kind of a lag/delay between here and the Kingdom on WhatsApp.  Why didn't I just call him?  I don't know. 

Dude, why is it everybody is under the assumption that I don't have a man in my life;  and wouldn't my man be upset because another man is staying with me?  (Turns out that BuMerdas was pretty pissed, but that worked to my advantage.  Tee hee.)

Anyhoo, The Romanian (who he kept referring to as "Armenian" and telling a story that his wife wouldn't allow him to get a maid from the Ukraine - WTF?) and I picked him up at the airport and later took him to dinner at Pescado in Costa Del Sol.  The ambiance is amazing:  360 degree view of the Gulf Road, pretty decor - all very nice (with the exception of SCREAMING kids).   The food, not so amazing.  I was disappointed.  Very dry/overcooked.  There were also only 3 tables occupied.  (The Japanese restaurant that is right next door was completely empty.)  The wait staff stood in a line and stared at us most of the night. (Now that thar makes me just want to shout at them.)  Regardless, it was a nice evening because we were having a good time laughing and telling stories of my previous existance.

Ho talks trash but he is married to a beauuuuuuutiful Saudi woman and has 3 children and another on the way.  He's probably more innocent than he appears to be in the side mirrors.

Since I hadn't seen the Ho in 17 years, I thought that I really should have a party to introduce him to my friends.  This, with eye infucktions and brochitis.  Yeah. Ok.  So I did.  I called my trusty side-kick, Hussein, the Party Helper (available for hire BTW - write to me), and he did most of the work for me.  He's such a great guy.  He cleans, he serves, he smiles.  My friends love him and some of them even hug him at the end of the night (not just because of the refreshments either).

Most of the usual players were there with the addition of FlyBoy (a new victim).   I was trying to get him tipsy, but it didn't work..  I kept asking if he wanted to make out.  He agreed immediately, but then nothing happened.  Maybe he didn't truly understand what I was asking him.  Dunno.  He's so cute.  My Irish Cousin gave him a hard time for most of the night about FlyBoy's line of business. Cracked us all up.


Butterfly and her hubby came back from Amsterdam and  gave me salt and pepper shakers in the shape of 2 pigs humping. There seems to be a theme.... Note the little windmill and the "Holland" signature.  Just WRONG!

Ho sat with the "good boys" all night after my 2 other Romanian girlfriends left.  One of them was my physical trainer back in the day.  She used to be MEAN to me at the gym (I called her 'communist torturer') - especially on floor exercises.  She's all muscle even after 3 kids.  She frightens me.  The Romanian and V have been quite naughty of late and left "early" (1am) to go to yet another party until the weeeeeeeeeeeee hours of Saturday afternoon...  Bad girls, bad girls... whatchagonna do?  Whatchagonna do when they come for you, bad girls, bad girls....

Anyhoo, everybody had a great time.

Yesterday, I took Ho to Muhallab at The Palms for some simich and then off to the airport.  Then, I went to bed at 7:53pm because I'm a sick old lady.  Stealth called me to make sure I was ok.  I'm glad someone calls to make sure that I'm not dead and rotting alone in my apartment.  (Ok, so it was less than 24 hours, but still....  I'm needy when I'm sick.)


I was supposed to go to Kabd on Thursday night, but I couldn't.  Maybe I'll make it up there this weekend.  The Romanian's son is getting married on Tuesday.  I put a note about it on my "real" Facebook page, "4 more days till the big wedding!  So exciting!" and my friends are commenting like crazy, "You're getting MARRIED!!! Mabroook!"  Whaaat?  As Stella says, "Don't these people know you?"  Anyhoo, we're all set for the wedding of the century.  There will be 450 women there.  We're the only blondes. WaaaaBAM!  Looks like yet another fassssscinating week.

Shinu Ya'ani

Kuwait Times had an article on my favorite Kuwait-home-grown YouTube group, Shinu Ya'ani in this week's issue of, "Friday Times."  I love these guys.

Kuwait Times, September 21, 2012
By Nawara Fattahova

Media censorship and the prevalence of access to the Internet from any place at any time has given birth to a new popular satire created for Kuwait audiences and uploaded onto YouTube.  The show, called Shinu Ya’ani (so what?) was created by a group of young Kuwaitis.  Shinu Ya’ani is the name of a sarcastic Kuwaiti serial of video clips.  The clips differ in length, some are only two minutes long while others run for more than 10 minutes.  Most of the time the videos include a warning at the beginning which states:  “this clip is not suitable for children.  The following clip may contain improper scenes of language for those who are under 18 years old.”

These funny and sarcastic clips discuss various issues from our community.  Some are about the linguistic differences in various Arabic dialects.  For instance, what can in one dialect mean a dish, in another Arabic dialect is a reference to a body part.  One of the most recent Shinu Ya’ani short clips shows a teacher who is asking a student to mention different types of animals.  When he asks about mammals, the student starts imagining girls scantily dressed n bikinis. Another clip shows an Arab, non-Khaleeji (Gulf) man ordering food in a Saudi restaurant.  When he hears the name of one dish (mataziz) his imagination is provoked by linguistic associations to the word for buttocks because this particular word has a different meaning in his country.

Some clips are directed at fighting negative phenomena in society in an action-style short drama.  In a 10-minute clip an Egyptian restaurant staff member, who is visibly exhausted, is taking an order from a young man calling from his diwaniya.  The caller is making fun of him, while talking to his friends and showing them photos in his mobile, while asking the staff member to repeat the menu and hanging up without ordering.  Soon, the employee’s patience has run out and he heads to the home to kill everyone in the diwaniya, one by one in their house or street.  One of the victims was chatting with his girlfriend, and about to see her naked on the video-cam, when he was killed.  The restaurant employee doesn’t kill the last person in the diwaniya, because he shares some party items with him.

Other clips discuss problems many people face – such as flats for rent.  When the main character goes searching for a flat and finds wearied men renting the flat, they force him to sing songs after kidnapping him.  Another clip shows the daily life and habits of Kuwaiti men when visiting a diwaniya and the topics they speak about, how they fight, and how they behave.

Even in satirical form, Shinu Ya’ani has aired many hits already, offering a glimpse of life in Kuwait, albeit in a humorous way.

- end -

It is too bad that there are no English subtitles because I think English-speaking people living in the community would get a kick out of the movies.  I'm happy to see that they are getting more exposure.  This is the type of humor that used to be a lot more prevalent in Kuwait:  lighthearted self-deprecation at its best.
Kuwait Times, September 23, 2012
Al-Fadhalah in London to refute bedoon allegations

KUWAIT: The head of a Kuwaiti agency that works towards finding a solution for the problem of stateless residents (biased?), headed recently to the United Kingdom to discuss the issue of the ‘bedoons,’ who are reportedly demanding citizenship after having earlier left Kuwait to go to Europe. “After the UK asked Kuwaiti authorities about individuals, who were seeking asylum in Europe on the basis of a claim that they had been kicked out of Kuwait, the head of the Central Agency for Illegal Residents, Saleh Al-Fadhalah departed for London with documents that prove that these individuals are not Kuwaiti nationals and are not entitled to the country’s citizenship,” sources with knowledge of the case stated. Meanwhile, other anonymous sources indicated that Al-Fadhalah also discussed with British officials about setting up “a joint mechanism through which London can differentiate between genuine Kuwaiti immigrants and bedoons, who are wrongfully claiming to have been denied citizenship by Kuwait.”
By A Saleh, Staff Writer
- end -

I would love to be a fly on the wall in the UK at the meeting.  What ARE these “documents”?  Why didn’t the authorities bring them out before?

Right, so all of a sudden, the authorities know for sure there Bedoon come from?  Why not make it known while they are still in Kuwait – when the Bedoon don’t have to risk anything/everything so they can to get granted nationality/political asylum from another country where they will have human rights?  Kuwait has done DNA tests – they know who is related to whom in Kuwait.  SETTLE the matter once and for all before further embarrassing the country in front of the world.

I don’t understand this statement:  “…setting up “a joint mechanism through which London can differentiate between genuine Kuwaiti immigrants and bedoons, who are wrongfully claiming to have been denied citizenship by Kuwait.”  If they are still bedoon  that means that they haven’t been granted citizenship of Kuwait – nor ANY other country in the world. They wouldn’t be bedoon (no nationality) if they had.  Obviously, Kuwaitis have Kuwaiti passports, right?  Or hey - maybe the UK authorities should ask for the DNA results from Kuwait.

So UK:  What happens to these people when they are returned to Kuwait?  THAT should be the question.  Will they be placed in a deportation center? 

Home Repair Handyman Services Update

This is an update to the post I wrote on September 9th about discovering Home Repair Services (handyman services).
I received a very nice note following my initial post from the owner of Home Repair, inviting me to try their services.  I had the "opportunity" immediately; when water started flooding my kitchen.

It is unfortunate that my landlady is of no use to me in emergencies.  I won't elaborate on that, but I would much rather just get it done - in a timely manner - by myself. 

I called Home Repair and literally 45 minutes later, there were 3 men standing in my kitchen.  Within minutes, they had determined the cause of the problem, fixed it, and had mopped my entire floor.  The cost was very reasonable and I was SO HAPPY that I had called them:  Professional, friendly, courteous, AND they cleaned!   They had the parts with them and it was all done so quickly. 

I highly recommend these guys.  They are going to come back and do some other little things for me later.  I am very impressed; and as we all know in this market, that is not always an easy accomplishment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How do Kuwaitis feel about Americans?

I was asked this interesting question yesterday and thought I would post about it.  First, there are always variables:  It depends who you ask and when.


Kuwaitis who are over 40 are mostly very favorable towards Americans. Why?  Because they lived through the 90/91 occupation of Kuwait by Iraq - as ADULTS. 

Very important to state because very little (if anything) is written in school text books regarding the occupation at all; and even less (if anything) is written about American participation in the liberation of Kuwait.  Yes, the liberation is celebrated each year on February 26th.  Everyone knows that Kuwait was liberated from Iraq, but by whom?  American participation (in my personal observance) has been played down over the years; especially after 2003 when those who were too young to remember much of 90/91 suddenly saw the US as an invading force of their brothers to the North.  The US became the big, bad wolf (yet all the rapists and murderers of Kuwaitis and people who executed the Kuwaiti POWs were still living fine and well to the North - and yes,  I have a strong opinion about this.)

Why is so little written/spoken of the Gulf War?  In some cultures, confrontation is handled by avoidance.  This just happens to be one of those cultures. (For example, if you get ten cups of tea instead of a direct answer to a business question, the answer is most likely, "no".) The Gulf War was so disturbing and awful that many Kuwaitis don't want to remember; so they don't talk about it and certainly don't put their children through the pain of having to re-tell the stories.  Horrible things happened within families; POWs were taken off the streets. People were tortured. Women were raped and children were born as a product of that.  People were murdered in front of their families.  Bodies were hung from lamp posts or dumped outside relatives' homes. 

The subject is - in many cases - totally avoided in Kuwaiti society; but at a price:  Post Traumatic Stress.  Can the increase of violent crimes committed by Kuwaitis, and perhaps even the divorce rate be blamed on issues that were never resolved after the Gulf War?  Who knows?  An 8 year old witnessing autrocities committed in 1990 would be 30 years old now.  Is he/she divorced?  Were there any emotional problems?  (And just as a disclaimer:  I'm not saying that everyone who went through the Gulf War/Occupation in Kuwait has PTSD or would do violent things, but those who witness terrible things often don't come out of it so well if it is not dealt with by councelling/treatment.)

An 8 year old also probably wouldn't have cared who liberated Kuwait - just as long as it happened.  Ask someone 40, 50, 60 if he/she likes Americans.


If I had been asked the question, "how do Kuwaitis feel about Americans" in 1993, I could resoundingly state, "They love us!"  When I first arrived in Kuwait in 1993, people would stop me on the street and talk about how thankful they were, how much they loved the people of the US.  A few people even stopped to have their picture taken with my mother and I - we felt like celebrities.  We felt wanted.

In 2004, I spent my last Liberation day holiday on the Gulf Road.  For years, my friends and I had been out celebrating with the masses.  Many cars flew American, British, Saudi and Kuwaiti flags (all Allied forces who took part in the liberation).   Over the years, fewer and fewer US and UK flags were to be found.   In 2004, I flew my American and Kuwaiti flags on my car.  Two teenagers jumped on top of my 4x4 (no small feat), tore off the US flag, and stomped on it.  It was quite a revelation.  That night, I no longer felt so wanted.

During the few years when the stock market was doing great in Kuwait (for a period), logistics work was high and the economy was on an upswing; asking,  "How do Kuwaitis feel about Americans?" might have been answered in a positive manner - even if it was purely economical.

Anti-American Sentiment?

Public sentiment is fickle and cyclical.  You can ask the question, "How do Kuwaitis feel about Americans?" at different times and get completely different answers.

I remember when 9/11 took place in 2001.  I was downtown and walked across the street and a bunch of non-Kuwaitis in a car drove by me and said that they were glad that it happened.  They cheered.  I heard, a few days later, that a group of non-Kuwaitis (foreign nationals from other Arab countries) and their families had been deported for celebrating 9/11 in the streets.

Kuwait took a very decisive and immediate stand.  I don't believe that anyone in Kuwait would have demonstrated (or have been allowed to demonstrate) for any reason against Americans in say... 1992 -2003. 

Kuwaitis at that time stopped me and gave me condolences - on behalf of themselves AND their country, to me and my country.  I made friends that year who are still with me now; all attributed to the time and the circumstance.

How do Kuwaitis feel about Americans?  this month

First and foremost, a majority of the Kuwaitis I have spoken to have said that they don't blame an individual, their government, or their country  for the act of a small group of individuals (or even one person) responsible for the making of a film.  Many Kuwaitis, including lawmakers, have publicly denounced the demonstrations and the problems. 

However, the anti-American demonstrations held in Kuwait last week were the first I have ever witnessed while I have been in Kuwait. I was not there;  I have only heard from others what happened.  I have never even heard of such things taking place since I've been here.  The photos I saw from the demonstrations were frightening; many had looks of true hatred. (Obviously, ALL media can distort if they choose to.)  The demonstrations took place at the US Embassy in Bayan and no where else in Kuwait.  It was small and isolated.  I personally feel there is - at the time of this writing - an undercurrent of disenchantment (I don't want to say "dislke" because I don't believe it is that and it is certainly NOT "hatred") of Americans. 

Obviously, that has a lot to do with the movie, but what else?  [In my personal opinion (and this is my blog and I express my sole opinion), there isn't enough to do here to displace some of the anger that builds.  It becomes a matter of blaming others - out of frustration - and in replacement of hope.]  Kuwait is also a small population and there are still Kuwaiti nationals who have been in Guantanamo since 2001 without trial. Might be nice to get them a trial in the name of "democracy" and in keeping with the US constitutional right to a speedy trial, eh?  11 years is a long time for any family (and the families in Kuwait are large and extended) to wait for justice - in favor of or against their relative.  This situation affects not only the families of those held in Guantanamo, but the lawyers of the Kuwaitis and their extended families.  Information is passed back and forth in diwaniyas and everybody knows there are several means of communication in Kuwait:  Telephone, telefax, and tell-a-Kuwaiti.  News travels faster than lightening in the Kuwaiti community.  (Ask anyone who has ever tried to keep a secret here.)

I have heard that someone/group has called for a boycott of American products.)  I don't have anything to substantiate this other than what I have read on the internet.)  However, if it is true, it will be a very difficult task as many products are imported from the US (and Kuwait has a long-standing relationship with the US.)  Let's start the list with GM products.  Although they are no longer in production, Kuwait was the largest importer of GMC Envoys anywhere.  Chevy, GMC, Ford are all made in America.  The Toyota Camry is the #1 most purchased made-in-America car in the US (although I don't know if the Camry is Japanese-made or American-made and imported to Kuwait.) Many ministries and oil companies give Mercury Grand Marquis to senior executives as company cars.  It will be difficult to boycott vehicles.  Then, fast food:  All the major fast food chains are here in Kuwait and consumed daily by the ever-growing number of future-diabetics in the country.  Then, there are more American products like clothing, appliances, cosmetics, computers (software, gaming), mobile phones, movies.   It should make for an interesting boycott; especially since only the later on the list has anything (even vaguely) to do with why the boycott is being considered.  Will a boycott of American products make a difference to America and/or manufacturers:  No. (Not unless it is a Middle East boycott because)  Kuwait is the size of the US State of New Jersey, yet only 1/3 of Kuwait is inhabited.  Then, how many will actually boycott within the population?  A boycott in Kuwait alone won't make a dent. 

What to do, what to do....

How do Kuwaitis feel about Americans?  If you ask my Kuwaiti friends - who know my family and I personally (or those who have studied in the US) - they love Americans.  We have a connection and a bond. I think it is more difficult for Kuwaitis who have never been to the States or who have never known Americans nor shared some kind of common ground with Americans.  The same could be said for Americans who have never taken the time to know Kuwaitis (Arabs/Middle Easterners/Moslems).  People are distrustful of what they don't know/understand.

Every once in a while, it is time to re-build some trust (and I commend local groups like AWARE and TIES for attempting to accomplish this).  Maybe they can invite some of those who were at the demonstrations to meet with Americans to find a common ground one-on-one rather than trying to take on foreign policy.

I think that culturally, Americans face problems directly and then move on. (Ok so call us "brash" and maybe even "confrontational"...)  It may be uncomfortable for the moment, but works out in the long run.  Little is being written on blogsphere by Americans recently because we all want to be quiet to avoid problems or becoming targets. I don't believe that the answer is just having 10 cups of tea:   If you come into contact with people who don't know Americans, nor share any bond, reach out and find a common ground.  51% of the Kuwaiti population is below the age of 20; buy your neighbors' kid a toy.  It isn't going to change foreign policy, but it might make a difference to that one person who - 20 years from now - remembers that an American was kind to them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Odds are Good, but the Goods are Odd

Ok so my last post was somber, so I thought I would follow it up with some bullshitty fluff for your reading entertainment.

I have been meeting so many men lately (Mashallah) that I'm beginning to wonder if I have something naughty written on my forehead.  Unfortunately, none of them are the retainable types.  We went to have coffee and there were 2 guys who literally waited an hour each, lurking about, waiting for me to go to them (as IF) to get their numbers someplace discreet. 

This brings me to another point.  Let me just pause my story to say this:  I'm not getting up from my comfortable, ass-warmed chair to go to you and get your phone number.  It isn't going to happen.  If dude wants my number, he'd better determine a creative, interesting, and perhaps even awe-inspiring way to give it to me.  IMPRESS me!

For example:  I invented the cake maneuver.  Dying to meet the guy but can't find a way to do it discreetly while he's sitting with his table full of friends?  Send him a piece of cake via a waiter with your phone number.  Bada Bing.

Of course, if you're in a mall where there is a Cartier or Tiffany's, he could always go to the store, buy something nice and put his phone number in the bag; either have a waiter deliver it or drop it off on the table and walk away. I am not opposed to this tactic in the least. Frickin impress me.  That's all I'm sayin.

I am not going to leave my girlfriends and get up to go take someone's number.  Why are these guys so lazy and lame?  They stood around for literally an hour trying to figure out how to give me their number.  It wasn't like everybody else in the restaurant didn't know what was going on.  Of course they did.  Why waste your time?  DO something.  Sigh.

And in other man-trouble.....  I mentioned that Bu Merdas was back on the scene, didn't I?  Oh yes, all full of nice words and bringing me groceries (please have him refer to the 5th paragraph above if you see him).  All very nice.  I forget.  I have a terrible memory. I forget when people upset me or say mean things or do things that are hurtful.  I wish I didn't, but in a way, I believe it is a blessing. (Then, The Romanian who has a photographic memory will vividly recount the offenses in accute detail.)  Anyhoo, I forgot what really bothers me about Bu Merdas:   every time he reels me in, he backs away. What is it - catch and release?  Then he blames it on me (also known as "flipping it".  Kuwaiti men love to flip it.  They make up a reason why it is YOUR fault instead of theirs.  Then, they baffle you with bullshit to the point that you are second-guessing yourself.). Yes yes, I remember now, it is all my fault.   I keep forgetting not to like him or respect him or to show him that I care!  Silly me.  I thought that's what you did when you were into someone.  My fault and now he has gone away again. Adieu, adieu, parting is such sweet sorry.  And here I was thinking that I was going to get some.

N - E - X - T

Okay, back to my story. (Hit "play".)  This weekend, I had several weird things happen.  First, I'm driving home with The Romanian and some guy in a Mercedes as big as a basketball court is making a sign at me like he wants to give me money. I ask him to pull over.  He thinks I'm a ho and got all smiley.  I let him have it.  'Do I LOOK like I need  your money?  Do you know how much my hair treatments alone cost?  Just because I'm not driving a Merc doesn't mean I'm going to jump into yours for money.'  Yada.  Boy, I felt good.  Then later at Casa DG, I'm checking my Desert Girl Facebook inbox and I see that some girl named "Eman" (which, correct me if I am wrong, I believe means "religiously pios")  writes to me and asks me if I want to make 2000KD a month.  Then she sends me 2 more follow-up e-mails almost immediately.  WTF. So I write back to her and ask her what the scoop is.  She says her Lebanese "boss" can help me if I'm "sexy".  WHAAAAAAAAAT?  She IS a ho.  What is WRONG with the Universe?  Where is the morality police when I need them?  So.... switch to later when I'm checking my online dating site and a relatively good-looking man asks me if I would like to "speak about urgent business," naturally I was thinking along the same lines as above and I let him have it with both barrels.  I mean I really gave it to him. Turns out dude really did legitimately want to talk about business with an American.   (Why would you go on a dating site to look for people to help you with military contacts???)  Anyhoo, I'm giving none of the above any more thought.

And what else happened on the weekend:

I had a looooovely lunch with The Man kids.  Only PrettyGirl talked.  She got the chatty gene.  They're such good kids.  I love them.   I like how when we have lunch or get together, people around us try to figure us out.  Am I their blonde mom?  How come the kids wear hejab and I don't?  Gee, maybe she's their teacher... tee hee.   So weird how my relationship with The Man blossomed into such a great relationship with his kids.  Who knew all those years ago?  Life is fassssscinating.

The Romanian and V (have to think of a better nickname for her) were out till the wee hours of the morning at parties.  I get to tired.  I'm going to have to take long naps to be able to keep up with them this coming weekend.  I need to go to the Kingdom of Kabd on Thursday, though, and I think my buddy is coming to visit me from Riyadh.  He's so crazy and I've missed him.  I have known him forever.  I haven't seen him since way before I moved here and we were both living in Virginia.  I used to go to his diwaniya.  (I'm always one of the guys.  Sad, but true.)