Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

2013 has been an interesting year for me.  I don't know what it was about this year, but I lost a lot of friends.  I also gained new ones and re-discovered a few old ones.

I lost several friends to illness; like my dear friend, Jaime, who passed away of liver problems.  She went to the US with her family from Vietnam in 1975 as a baby.  She was one of my crazy friends; most of her friends were Vietnamese gangsters and that made for some "interesting" situations.  I felt (feel) guilty because I didn't call her and hadn't seen her in many years.

Other friends, like The Romanian, I lost to "friendship complications" (and I'll leave it at that).  She was a long-term BFF  of 16 years, so it was very traumatic for me.

Then, there was the love loss of Mr. Clean/Dirty.  I had a really hard time recovering from him and I've had to stop waiting for the apology that will never come.  (He's told his family how bad he feels, but he's never said it to me directly.)

Business was a mixed batch this year too.  Although we won a little business, we lost a lot.  I felt a lot of responsibility towards quite a few of our employees on a contract we had held for many years. I obsessed over minute details of the re-bid proposal, which we were destined to lose to a cheaper bidder.  When we did and people lost their jobs, it hit me hard and I don't think I realized how much stress I'd been under until I got here to the States and took several steps back.  People have been gracious and kind about it even through their hardships, "Don't worry.  Everything is in God's hands..."  I tried my best, honestly.

On the positive side, I have learned who true friends are who were in the background for years and I never worked on being closer with.  Now that I have, I regret not knowing sooner how fiercely loyal they are and how they were there all the time for me.  All I had to do was to reach out - and there they were.

I've gained a family this year.  While things didn't work out with Clean, I gained his family.  I'm considered one of them and his dad has taken me under his wing.  He is my surrogate dad and I'm so happy about it that it is difficult to describe in words.  They've become a support system that I didn't know how badly I was missing.

I've also gained a new family member, Mike.  Mike is a German Shepard puppy that one of my friends bought to breed.  Dude was keeping 1-month-old Mike in a cage, outside, with no blanket or warmth when I volunteered to take him home and train him.  That was over a month ago.  Mikey has settled in permanent now.  Desert Dawg isn't too happy with him, but it might do her good to have a little competition in the house as she has been getting cranky and mean lately.  Several of my friends have remarked that Mike may have come along at the right time since DD is now pushing her 17th year and may not have longer to go.  I don't want to think about that.  I've always wanted a German Shepard and I was planning to get one when the time was right.  This little guy just kind of fell into my lap.  He's smart and he'll make a great companion in my old age.

I would like to say thank you to all you readers (there are like 2 now!) who have taken the time to write nice things to me this past year.  Little kindnesses go a long way and you may not know the value of a few small words, but they have meant a tremendous amount to me.  I do not take the kindness of strangers lightly; you never know when God is sending you angels - which is exactly how I feel about all of you.  Kind words are invaluable and there is real power in gratitude, so thank you all so much for your continued virtual friendships; sometimes throughout the years.

And on that note:  If there is anything I can do to help you (or information I can provide that might help you here on the blog) for 2014, please let me know.  I will do my best to try to assist.

May you all have a happy, healthy, prosperous, and love-filled 2014.  God bless you all and keep you safe.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Almost Cwimmas

I'm in Virginia with the fam.  There is still snow on the ground from last week, but today they said it will get up to 60 degrees, so that will all go.  It is so nice to be here, but of course I miss all my peeps in Kuwait.  Everything is all Christmassy and pretty here.  Mashallah, I'm happy.

I'll write more later when I'm not cutting into my shopping time.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Happy Birthday, Reyadh-O

I would like to say a special  happy birthday to my friend, Reyadh, at Al Boom Dive Center.

I've known Reyadh since I was 18 years old when he was just starting his career as a diver.  That was a while ago... (I am not going to date either one of us by revealing HOW long ago, but it has been a  little while).

We've been through a lot of ups and downs and we are still life-long friends.  He taught me much of what I know about Kuwait through kindness and generosity; as did his family.  I sincerely regret never having had the opportunity to meet his mother in person (God rest her soul), but she is someone who has made an impact on my life and I think of her whenever I drive by Daiya.  She was a kind woman who welcomed me into their family.

I am still friends with some of Reyadh and my mutual friends.  I still see them as young 20-somethings as students; hanging out in clubs, driving cool cars, being cool in general.  I was one of the gang.  I cooked for them, helped them with stupid things like problems with neighbors or bank accounts, and invited them to meet my family (hopefully extending a little American hospitality).

I was driving down the Gulf Road, many years later, when a ranking officer in a fire truck leaned out the window and say, "(Desert Girl)!  Is that YOU?"  I see him in the newspapers sometimes these days.  The hair is a little different, but they are just older cool guys now.

Reyadh was dear to my family.   They all expected him to be part of us forever, but we took different paths in life.  I am thankful that he is so happy and he has so many wonderful blessings in his life (hey - including a friend like ME!)  He has (Mashallah) 7 children and a job that he loves working on the sea.  He's extremely popular in diving circles and (again Mashallah) has many friends throughout the world now.

So to you, Schmed:  I will always remember you as that cool 24-year old guy with the sports car and the awesome group of friends.  The apartment in Rockville and Saleh's house guest who broke the toilet trying to squat on it Arabic-style.  Traveling to see Sami and Talal in LA.  Taking the boat to that little island in Hawaii.  Bob's Big Boy.   Daytona beach.  Hanging with my dad in Baltimore.  Fetah's major crush on my sister.   My mom's fierce loyalty to you.  Defending you when your downstairs neighbor said, "You Arabs are cooking in your living room."  You defending me from the Monster.  Salah cooking mowish and Shannon hating it. ... and many more years of endearing memories that I owe to you.

Happy birthday, dear friend. I hope to be wishing you the same well into our '90's!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013


Is it in Kuwait?  Is it?  Is it?

Monday, December 02, 2013

Animal Care: WATER!!!

So this weekend, I was at my camp.  We have a friend who just added a tent (our camp has now become an expansive "compound" with more friends adding more tents all over the place.  More on that later).  Anyhoo, new dude brought 2 dogs with him:  His prized English bulldog and a French bulldog (I could tell causa their accents and one wore a beret).  The English bulldog got to sleep in his tent. I don't know why he didn't let the French bulldog sleep inside too (maybe because he was trying to hump the little guy all night, doggy style; come to think of it, also known as "French-style" so either way, it makes sense.).  Anyways, Dewy (French dog), was tied outside to one of the tent stakes.  Well, it gets hot in the morning and Dewy was out there with his little pug face in a hot pant with NO WATER.

Ok people, but to me (and I'm sure others) -- this is just animal abuse.  You do not leave an animal (ANY animal) in your care without water.  You wouldn't do it to your kids (well shet - maybe a lot of people over here might...).  Anyways, Dewy was so hot that he was trying to dig up the tent stake so he could set himself free.  I got him some water and moved him into the shade.  [I also replaced the chain/wire that was around his neck with a proper collar and leash (I keep them in my car just in case I have to rescue some critter.)]

Then, prized English bulldog came out when the owner woke up. Dude tied him up and again - NO WATER.  WTF. Pugs and bulldogs are NOT good breeds for Kuwait anyways:  It is too hot here and they have breathing problems to begin with because of their short snouts. (United Airlines even refuses to fly them during hotter seasons of the year because of the risk.)  Without water, they can die very quickly.

One time, I was at the Friday Market (I believe it was around 1998 - the last time, I vowed, ever to go there again).  There were a bunch of dogs in small cages, panting heavily and looking near-death.  I asked seller dudes where the water was.  They pointed to empty plastic water bottles littering the ground.  Uh... noooo.... unacceptable.  I went and bought a plastic container, filled it with water, and brought it over to the dogs.  Phucking ridiculous.

When I was 10, my evil step-father came to pull me out of school because I had forgotten to give my dog water that morning.  He totally humiliated me in front of the whole class.  I never did it again.  Maybe what these people need is a good, healthy dose of humiliation.

Always, always, always have fresh water available for your pets and livestock.  It is just common sense.  How would you feel?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Kuwait bride jumps from moving car after divorce threat

Seriously, is the dog worth it???
 (No insult intended towards dogs.)

Divorce rates in Kuwait have reached alarming levels
By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Published: 13:04 November 27, 2013

Manama: The spectre of divorce has led a two-week bride in Kuwait to throw herself out of a moving car. The newlyweds were out on a drive alongside the esplanade in the capital Kuwait City when they had an argument.

When the husband threatened to divorce his wife, she opened the door of the moving car and threw herself out, local daily Al Rai reported on Wednesday. Fortunately, she was not hurt and was able to run away from the vehicle, leaving the husband perplexed. Unable to follow her, he headed to the police station in the posh area of Salmiya (Really??  Has the author ever been to Salmiya??) and informed the officers about the incident.

Contacted by the police, the wife said that she could not control herself when he raised the possibility of divorce and that she threw herself out of the car as she panicked.

She added that she deeply loved him and that she could not bear the thought of being without him. Comments on the daily’s site expressed mainly dismay over the events.

 “Today’s young people have become totally irresponsible,” a user writing under the moniker “Patriot” posted. “In the past, couples spent up to 30 years together without either spouse uttering the divorce word. Now, two weeks into their marriage, the man mentions divorce and the woman throws herself out of a moving car.”

Another user said that “marriage is not a game to be taken lightly” and “people should truly appreciate its significance.”

Divorce figures in Kuwait have reached alarming levels despite state efforts to curb the phenomenon by promoting awareness campaigns and introducing pre-wedding counselling sessions to guide and advise future couples.

Official statistics indicate that the highest divorce figures were among couples who held intermediate school certificates, followed by couples with high school diplomas.

Couples with university qualifications had the lowest rate of divorce in the country.

--- End ----

The Desert Girl School of Pre-Marriage Counseling

Rule #1:   Bitch please, put a lot of money in the termination of marriage clause.  Low mahar/high out-clause.  "Don't get mad, get everything."  Make sure you write enough in there, so you can take yourself to a nice spa somewhere - maybe even buy a home in a vacation spot.   Write in that if he wants to divorce you, you want jewelry and maybe a sports car (wouldn't THAT be a thang:  He wants to divorce you, but has to buy you a 5K rock and a hot car first!)  Write in all the things that make YOU happy, girlfriend!  Maybe a little some-in, some-in for your moms too.   Then, once you're married, if he ever says the D word -  remind him of this:  "Yala, divorce me and pay up or shut up!"

Throw yourself from a moving car?  Why????

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ethiopia bans housemaids from working in Kuwait: And more on Domestic Helpers in Kuwait

And another nation opts out....

Kuwait times, 26 November 2013
Ethiopia bans housemaids from working in Kuwait

KUWAIT: Ethiopian authorities have banned local domestic workers to travel to Kuwait for work until recruitment procedures as well as regulations that organize the work of recruitment offices and medical tests in Kuwait are reviewed, a local daily reported yesterday, quoting Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor insiders.

Speaking to Annahar on the condition of anonymity, the sources warned that the decision is likely going to increase fees for housemaid recruitment with the number of main markets becoming limited to the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka. Several attempts to contact the Ethiopian embassy to confirm or deny the report were unsuccessful. If true, Ethiopia would join Indonesia which banned domestic workers from traveling to Kuwait in 2009 as well as other southeast Asian countries including Vietnam.

The step would also increase fees that recruitment offices collect which currently ranges between KD 650 and KD 750 to hire a domestic worker from the Philippines, according to the sources. The sources also confirmed that local recruitment offices contacted the interior and social affairs ministries with demands to finalize requirements necessary for Kuwait to sign agreements of understanding with countries that export domestic helpers that protects the rights of both workers and employers.

- - - End - - -

That comes on the heels of stories like this....

Death upheld for Kuwaiti woman
Kuwait Times
KUWAIT: The supreme court upheld yesterday a death sentence against a woman for murdering her Filipina maid after torturing her, and confirmed a 10-year sentence on her disabled husband. The Kuwaiti woman was convicted of premeditated murder based on evidence that she had regularly tortured her maid before driving over her in a remote desert area.  The husband was handed the jail term for “assisting her”, according to a copy of the ruling. The couple were both sentenced to death by the lower court in February last year. Three months later, the appeals court upheld the death penalty against the woman but commuted the sentence against her husband to 10 years in jail.

According to the ruling, the woman beat her maid for several days until her health deteriorated. The couple then took the maid “unconscious” to a remote area in the desert where they threw her from the back seat of the car and then drove over her until she died. More than 100,000 Filipinos, many of them women working as maids, live in Kuwait, where some 600,000 domestic helpers, mostly Asians, are employed.

- - - End - - -

Times are a'changing.  Kuwait is finally getting serious about abuse/violence against domestic helpers (mostly because of international pressure from not only human rights organizations, but from the countries of origin of the helpers), but on the other hand, it is now more difficult to find full-time, live-in maids.   Pretty soon, there will be daycare centers and retirement homes in Kuwait because no one will be able to get a maid to look after the elderly and their kids; or it will just cost too much  (like in the US where you must pay an hourly minimum wage and provide benefits).  

I look at it from both sides:

Point of view of the employer:  My friends are decent and I know that when they tell me that their helpers are doing things like stealing or neglecting their children, I believe them.  They have paid a fee to a recruitment agency and they have to return the helper to an agency and request another helper who they've got to then train and build a relationship of trust with.  That's all very stressful.  When both the mom and dad work, they need someone to take care of the kids and run the house.  For many young Kuwaiti couples (and some that aren't so young), a maid/helper is really a necessity.  It isn't like there is affordable daycare here.  I ask my American friends with full-time, live-in maids and they tell me the same thing; it is difficult to find a good helper.

DG POV:  I know that I would have a really hard time inviting a stranger to live in my home and entrusting her with the care of my dog.  I can't imagine what it would be like entrusting your children to a stranger.  My part-time maid does weird things and I suspect she's trying to do some kind of magic (yeah, it happens).  She leaves long strands of her hair throughout my home (including in my personal items) and it not only grosses me out, but freaks me out at the same time.  A former maid who was working PT for both myself and one of my American friends stole around $10,000 worth of jewelry from me - and stole my friend's diamond engagement ring; then left the country.  She had worked for both of us for years.  If they ever implement employment regulations/pay like they have in the US, I wouldn't be able to afford a maid.  I LIKE that I can afford one here; even have a live-in maid if I chose to do that.

Point of view of the helper:  What if you're sent over here, you don't know the language, you don't know the people you are going to live with, and they all seem demanding and arrogant (and in extreme cases, abusive). You don't have any friends and if you do, you can't get out to see them.   The employer may or may not abide by the law, paying salary on time (or at all), and giving a day off for rest. What do you do?  Who do they call?  The "maid's rooms" in many of these homes is more like a cell.  Or they're asked to sleep somewhere like the living room and roll up their bedding in the morning.  Do that for a few years?  Not me.

I've been here for 17 years and the majority of my friends are Kuwaiti.  Of course, I consider my friends to be good people (if they aren't, I wouldn't stay friends with them).  I've only seen 1 case in all my time here when I went to a friend's home and saw that they were abusive to the maid.   It was 1997 or 1998 and I saw the eldest brother (around 45-50 years old) slap a maid.  He wasn't my friend; it was her family's home where we went for lunch.  It was shocking and I didn't go back. You can usually tell when a maid/helper is happy or not just by looking at them - even at the malls.

I HATE to see domestic helpers dressed in uniforms walking through a mall.  Their low-class employers must consider it chic to have them dressed up and paraded around in public.  I find it disgraceful.  I always want to run up and say, "Who the hell do you think you are?!"  These people are NOT of the upper classes. My friends who are from the Kuwaiti royal family or upper class wouldn't do something like that.  In fact, the people I know treat their employees like friends and the helpers have been with them for many years. My dear sheikha friend has a helper who raised her; and sheikha has no problem telling  you that she did.  She loves her and it is obvious; helper lady smiles and laughs from the heart and often (similar to other helpers I know working for other friends).

One of my friends brought his maid/nanny to the camp last weekend to watch his 3 young boys (it didn't do any good because they are little "skamps" and the oldest almost got his head cut off riding a bungee).  Anyhoo, she had on tight jeans and looked like she as his girlfriend not his nanny... until he asked her to go clean my tent (I had a little hissy fit because someone I didn't know went in there without asking).  One minute girlfriend is sitting around joking with us and the next she's sweeping dirt off my carpet.  She was happy and didn't mind at all.  I brought her a Pepsi.  She seemed to be a very happy domestic helper.

On the other hand, I have an acquaintance who posted a video of an Ethiopian domestic helper walking with a suitcase out of a neighborhood, crying, at 2 am.  He videotaped her as he asked her what had happened (she had been abused in a home that night and was leaving); and then, instead of helping her get to a police station or someone safe, he drove away!  I wouldn't leave an animal on the side of the road and he just drove away!

I can see how countries would ban their workers from going to a place where they had too many complaints.  The next step to that would be to create agreements with the government so that there are enforceable laws in place or measures so that their workers would be protected.  Yeah - kind of like the balls that the Philippines Embassy in Kuwait grew a while back.  Be nice, or we send our help elsewhere.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Butterfly is flying home for good

Many of my readers have gone to Butterfly/Libra for her amazing services including Xtreme Lashes, Hair, Make-up and lately for her outstanding photographic talent.

Well, she's moving along and out of Kuwait on December 12, so if you want to say goodbye, drop her a line before she departs. bflyonthewall@gmail.com.

I am going to miss you, girl.  You've been an dear friend and I will truly truly miss you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

More 2013 Kuwait Flood Photos

I went to my camp this weekend.  I wanted to witness the destruction, basically.  I took the photos below,  4 days after the storm on November 19th.  Likesay, our camp is fine (Mashallah - we were very very lucky)  but there is a lot of destruction all around.  Some of the people (who had just installed their camps only 2 weeks prior) dropped some serious dime on furnishings, electric/lighting, TVs, bathrooms, tents, etc. I really feel for them.  This is temporary living, but just like a flood anywhere, they've got to throw out most of the camp contents and/or try to air out the rest and salvage it.  I don't know if my tent carpets (which got wet from the rain) can be salvaged.  They smell like cat pee. Ew.  Anything that I had left on the floor of my tent was soggy, but no big deal.  It is weird because our camp is not on high ground.  Looking at it, you would think it would have been flooded.  Totally random.

As usual, the Kuwait "media" (if you can even call them that) didn't mention the full story.  My best buddy was IN it on Tuesday (after leaving our camp and trying to head home before it got really bad) and said that lightening was hitting the ground all around him; that he witnessed cars being washed away with occupants inside during flash floods; and last - that he saw a TORNADO funnel (which I have not heard mentioned anywhere - and which would explain a lot of the intermittent/random damage and extremely high winds.  He said that he tried to park his truck (an Avalanche) next to a concrete barrier because the winds were so high that the car was being moved.

I have asked people why the media doesn't report the full story.  The response has been, "They don't want people to worry and become stressed."  Whaaaaat?  Are there not adults in Kuwait?  "The truth?  You can't handle the truth."

There just isn't enough entertainment in Kuwait:  this weekend, there are ponds (not puddles) created by the flood and people took their kids there to picnic next to them!  Some idiots drove their cars through for fun to see if they could make it to the other side.  Ha ha - big fun; many didn't and got stuck in the middle.  That's gonna cost ya...

There is one flood lake that is being pumped on Fahaheel Expressway at Dubaiya.  There is a succession of water tankers sucking out flood water day and night.  And, this weekend, most of the street lamps were out all the way down 30 making it difficult to see if there was mud or debris on the road.  I heard that part of the road washed out further South also (I don't know if any of this has been repaired yet or not).

I loved this guy's camp (photo above).  I liked how he (I'm being sexist and assuming it's a "he") did the lighting and it was a landmark to get to our camp.  Unfortunately, the fence acted like a water barrier and at one point, it looked like a swimming pool. I guestimate there was about 4' (little over a meter, metric people) of water trapped inside.  You can see the water line on the tents in the background.

This (above) is actually the water covering the road that leads down to our camp.  I took the photo as we were driving through in a 4x4.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Storm Pics from 19 November 2013

I didn't take the ones below.  They're floating around the internet

Monday, November 18, 2013

If you don't like my dog, you can get the F out

There are 2 residents in my home:  my dog and I.  WE live there.  It is OUR home, not just mine.  For the past 16 years, people have come and gone from my life and there is one constant being:  Desert Dawg.  She  has been with me through sick and sin, good times and bad, happy and sad.  She really doesn't complain much (unless I try to wake her up in the morning or get in between her and her chicken).  She's always happy to see me.  She puts her head on my chest when I'm sick.  She gives me kisses when I cry.  I occasionally get a hug - but only on her terms.

So, it pisses me off when people come to OUR home and say, "Take 'that' outside.  I don't like it." Emm nooo,  you must have misunderstood the sign on the door that reads:  All guests must be approved by the dog.

I have literally thrown people out of my house for infractions - and I don't care.  I believe that if someone respects you and likes you, then they show caring for what you love.

One of my friends invited people to a party at my house one time.  My rules are simple:  Don't bother the dog, don't bother my neighbors, be polite.  Well, one of the girls that I didn't know didn't like my dog.  Desert Dawg rarely makes noise when she's in any kind of distress, but I heard her yelp.  I walked over and not-very-politely said, "Whoever hurt the dog should leave NOW."  5 minutes later, rude people left.

On the flip side, if my dog doesn't like someone, I don't either.  She's a great judge of character and intuitively knows if people are good or bad.  (And if she loves someone, that's it.  She remembers them and gets upset when they don't come to visit her.)

I had a visitor the other night.  First time in my home.  He sat down and told me to put the dog outside (as IF anyone should tell you to do anything in your own home).  Dawg looked at him strangely.   I made him so uncomfortable that he left a short while later.  I don't put up with any BS on this subject.  'There's the door, now get the F out.'

Now, I have had religious friends who don't want Desert Dawg to touch them and I completely understand that.  My dog even respects them.  All I have to do is give her the commands and she won't go near.  But, there is a polite way to say it and let's be real; if my dog is going to respect your wishes (seriously!) respect mine.  Kindness is different than rudeness.

There is no question.  Love me, love my dog.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I want girlfriend

Thursday night, I stopped by to see some friends as I hadn't been hangin' with them for a while.  There was a puppy there.  You know - the kind of guy who sits there mooning at you all night with big, round puppy eyes.  We had a little discussion about his wife and how she had suffered in childbirth and went to see a doctor in the States.  Nice enough conversation.  Ok, so blah blah blah... sittin with the friends.... and I left.  He didn't hit on me or anything.  I didn't even get his name.

Cut to Friday night and I start getting text messages from some unknown person who turns out to be puppy dude.  No sooner had he typed his name, he follows with, "I want girlfrynd."  Niiiiiice.  WTF.  I shoulda probably shot him down, but he was a friend of my friends and I just said, 'I don't date married men.' Puppy countered with, "Do you have friends?"  I found out which one of the A-holes gave him my number without my permission, and then I blocked him.

So, I blasted the "friend".  Dumbphuck.  Don't mess with someone who is prone to get you back at your own game.  I'm evil when it comes to this stuff.  I may just have to post his number in bathrooms around Kuwait or perhaps register him on sites....

Anybody want boyfriend? I got a number.

More thoughts on this....
Every now and then, I get this stupid question from people who make the wrong ASSumptions (probably about females from Western countries in general).  What would make anyone think that women would just droptrou and want to be with 1) anyone and b) anyone married?  Just because you are married AND you don't have a mistress at that very second in time does not make you desirable.  (And, to me, neither does having a lot of money.)

I like my friend, Butterfly's response to men (before she got married).
"You're not him."
"Him who?"
"My husband.  I'm a wife and you are not my husband."

Mistress/girlfriend/toy doesn't fit in the equation.

Oh... and one more thing:  MOTHERS!!!   It is up to YOU to teach your sons respect for women.  What kind of women are raising generations of misogynistic/womanizing/disrespectful men?  Let me just tell you that all the gender segregation of schools bullshit isn't helping this society either.  Creating divisions is just that:  dividing.  How can male and female understand each other (or even like/respect each other) when they are staring at each other from a distance?  Stuuuupid.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kuwait's Urban Crisis

Did anybody go to this?  How was it?

Rise of Violence in Kuwait

Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa is one of my very favorite inspirational people in Kuwait.  He is doing so much for Kuwaiti society in innovative and creative ways.  The below is his article and it comes at a time when thinking people are starting to question what is really happening in Kuwait.  I say "thinking  people" because I've read comments lately posted by sheep who say that what is happening in Kuwait is not unlike anywhere else in the world - and then, of course, you get those who say, "violent crime is not committed by Kuwaitis, but foreigners."  Okey dokey.....

Thanks, Dr. Naif, for once again providing interesting and thought-provoking perspective.

View in Arabic

Parents who fail to discipline their offspring properly are creating a generation of angry children who lash out in the classroom. Pupils are twice as likely to be aggressive and disruptive if they had parents who were violent, critical or inconsistent in what they allowed them to get away with at home. In contrast, children tended to be better behaved if their parents combined warmth with clear and consistent rules and boundaries.

But what if your government is acting like your parent? What if your government provides everything? Your income, your housing, your allowances (which they actually call an allowance), your healthcare, your education and is inconsistent in its rules and boundaries? Can that cause a violent and conflict ridden culture?
Last December, a young Lebanese dentist mothered by a Kuwaiti woman got into a parking dispute at the Avenues mall in Kuwait. One of the people he got into a dispute with walked into Carrefour bought a knife and butchered the young dentist to death. This was the beginning of a trend that has led to multiple knife fights and deaths throughout Kuwait over the last year.

Two months later getting into a movie theater in Kuwait became a little like boarding a flight. Rules to do with age restrictions on movies became implementable with Government issued IDs. Let there be no mistake. The Parent when it came to Parental Guidance is now the government. Someone dug up newspaper headlines from the 1980s linking violence on television to violence in reality and decided to implement them 40 years later. And in fact there is research to suggest that 9 year-old boys who watch violent TV are more prone to violence at 19. But that is besides the point and worth of a lengthier discussion and debate.

The government went from a non-enforced law to an over enforced law, from one extreme to the other.
Example 2: The number of citations issued in Kuwait against women driving with veils on their face (niqabs or burqas) has been steadily falling, the latest figures from the Central Statistics Department (CSD) indicate.
While their number was 2,351 in 2005, it steadily went down to 529 in 2006, 180 in 2007, 102 in 2008 and 19 in 2009, Al Watan daily reported. Kuwait bans women wearing niqabs or burqas from driving.

The department did not explain the dramatic downward trend, but the paper speculated that it could be attributed to fewer veiled women sitting behind the steering wheel or to better compliance with traffic rules. The reason could also be more leniency from traffic policemen now getting used to seeing veiled women drivers, the paper said.  Let me tell you a secret. The numbers did not go down. The rule is unenforced.
Example 3: In 2011 airport management started the smoking ban and it was publicized that violators that were caught smoking at non-designated areas were directly sent to Jeleb Al Sheyokh police station and received penalties. If they did implement that law, it lasted for five minutes because the first thing you see when you come into Kuwait’s airport is airport personnel smoking in defiance of the law that is literally on placards on the wall.

In 2013, Kuwait instituted a public ban on smoking in all public places including malls and restaurants but the first thing you experience in any mall in Kuwait it the large level of smoking.

Perhaps the government is waiting for a mall to burn down or a huge car accident cause by someone in a Niqab. Either way having laws that are inconsistently enforced and that go from no implementation to over implementation is the epitome of the type of bad parenting that leads to aggression and conflict. Children whose parents are violent, critical or send out mixed signals on where boundaries lie are twice as likely to be aggressive or disruptive.

So how do we solve this problem in Kuwait?

The media does not only reflect reality. The media can change reality. We have seen many cultural attitudes change through the use of media, whether it is attitudes towards African Americans after a successful run of the Cosby show in the United States of America, or more recently in China by a television show called “The price of being a victorious woman” that combats the stereotype of China’s “Shengnu” or “leftover women” replacing it with the morale boosting “victorious women”, referring to women in their mid to late 20s who have not married.

In fact even Kuwait has had success after the invasion by using media to get people to seek psychological help making it “ok”. As a young psychology trainee I can’t tell you the amount of people who came through our doors in the early 1990s blaming the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait for issues they have had since years prior. It really doesn’t matter what brings them through the door as long as they come in before it’s too late.
I highly recommend that television shows that are funded by the Ministry of Information and other entities in Kuwait that are historically heavy on violence, tragedy and family breakups tilt more towards a balanced approach. The focus should be on where society can go, not where it is at, especially if where it is at is not flattering.

If the Ministry of Information wants to censor, I would advise leaving the love in and taking out the violence. Or better yet leave them both in for balance.

We don’t need to wait for a butchering in a mall, or the airport burning down or a huge car accident cause by driving with a Niqab to spring into action because when that happens we go from one extreme to the next and this does not solve the underlying problem and only causes violence in society.

If the government wants to be the P in a PG movie and wants to parent, I highly recommend stable enforceable rules and consistent implementation because going from one extreme to the other just doesn’t work and causes conflict and violence. Either ban smoking or make smoking legal. Either ban Niqab driving or make Niqab driving legal. Do not make it illegal and then not enforce the law. That causes a violent society. And we are going from bad to worse.

And maybe when our rules are consistent, and our laws are enforced and our society less violent, maybe, just maybe the World Economic Forum’s rating of the world’s friendliest nations will no longer have Kuwait as the 4th unfriendliest country in the world.

One can only hope.

Naif Al-Mutawa is a Kuwait-born, U.S. educated psychologist who created “THE 99,” a comic book about a group of superheroes based on Islamic archetypes. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shameless Promotion of Friends Businesses: Camp, Fishing, Food

... not for profit, just to be a good friend to them.

This camp is in Julai'ia area.  It is not to be used for parties.  As you can see, it is a very large camp, so good for sharing.  They rent for 3 days over weekends.  They speak English also which is helpful.

Boat rental (with driver) for fishing trips.  They will advise you on the best places (seasonally) to catch fish.  These guys don't speak much English, so you may need to have a translator around.

[I deleted the info about the restaurant.  I'm mad at him and not promoting him.  Phuck that.]

2013 Salon Picks

This is an update to a previous post (and update) on salon picks  LINK HERE.

Ashlee at Strands (25711237) is still my all-time favorite colorist.  She is also good for keratin treatments and extensions.

Followed second by a colorist, Rose, I've just tried at (messed up name) Al Modalalah Salon in Salmiya (25612545).  Two of my very elegant friends always have amazing hair.  I assumed that they were going to a high-end westerner salon, but it turned out they frequent Al Modalalah.  I just went there the other night and paid a mere 25kd for foil highlights.  I was really impressed by Rose and my hair looks great.

Candice (formerly of Beach House) has never done my hair but I still get a lot of requests for her phone number.  I have it if anyone wants to get in touch with her.

Boudoir is still my favorite place for pedicures.  They have a great signature pedi with a mint wrap and extremely comfortable massaging pedicure chairs.  Phone:  25335951/2.  Also see my story on Boudoir HERE. I haven't been there for a while.  I need to make time to pamper myself more.

Oriental Princess is kind of a Walmart of salons, but they provide great services for not a lot of money.  They have 2 locations (one in Salmiya on the corner of Baghdad and Amman streets; and one in Dasman in the City Suites hotel).  They have good mani-pedis, styling, massage, deep conditioning treatment, eyebrows and more on the cheap.

I have medium-long hair and I don't really care about the cut anymore.  Stella goes to Tony & Guy at Corniche for her short haircut and swears by them.  I had a deep conditioning treatment done there not-too-long-ago and spent 25kd.  Ouch.  My friend, Libra, cuts my hair every now and then and she does a great job.  She also does eye lash extensions. (Contact me for her info.)

Make-up:  I have not tried this lady, so I can't tell you, but someone recommended her to me.  Her name is Reham Al-Shatti and can be contacted at 97925553.  I'm going to try out her services sometime soon and I'll let you know.  What I do NOT want is to come out of there looking like I'm about to go to a Bedouin wedding - which is exactly why I've never tried Hanan Dashti's make-up salon after seeing some of her sample photos online.  I think they target a different audience than me.

Lazy girl?  No time to go to a salon (or just making that excuse?)  It's ok.  Call Pinkies.  They will come to your house (for ladies only) and do mani/pedi, hair, massage.  Their prices are extremely reasonable and the techs are all highly trained.  They even serve you tea or coffee  (they bring it and set it up for you!) and play relaxing music.  97189700.

If y'alls have any favorites, please post a comment.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chinese Massage for Men in Kuwait by Women: Caught on Film

First and foremost, let me reiterate ONCE AGAIN:  Massage by a member of the opposite sex in Kuwait is ILLEGAL and even without the "happy ending", it is still considered prostitution.

I'm reposting from Expat and The City's Blog today.  I dedicate this post to my "porn star" ex, Mr. Clean (who I can no longer look at without picturing him naked and sweaty in front of a webcam....)

Expat girl say:

It's bad enough they're bringing disease back to their wives and children but now their massage 'experience' is being secretly recorded and sold as porn online.  So watch out dumb dumbs...your 'happy ending' just received a million hits on YouTube.

Emirates 24/7 re-post: Kuwaiti police stormed a suspected apartment run by four Chinese women as a massage centre and found that it was equipped with hidden cameras filming male customers for sale online, a newspaper reported on Monday.

Police said they decided to raid the apartment after noticing that customers must fill forms containing 14 questions, the last of which made them even more suspicious.

“The last question says ‘do you want to have only a massage or something else’,” a police spokesman said, quoted by Al Anba Arabic language daily.

He said police raiding the place in Kuwait City found film processing equipment at a next door apartment, also run by the Chinese.

“We found that all the customers who have a massage at the first apartment are screened alive in the other flat, where the films are then processed and sold online,” the spokesman said without making clear if the ring was involved in vice."

- - - end - - -

Your face on the internet with no clothes on and/or in sexually compromising positions:  the internet is forever.  Love you real longtime!

You know what to expect when you re-heat leftovers (Desert Guy)

.... the same thing you had before.

That's what I got with DGy.  He can be so incredibly charming and attentive.... for a little while.... and then it is back to normal self.  He was attentive for a while:  picking up the phone on the 2nd ring every time I called; responding immediately to SMSs; smiling when I talked to him; giving me hugs and insisting that I sit next to him; doing things for me without being asked; extending invitations.

That all stopped.  It just ran it's short course and was done.  Now he's back (well, it was always there, just hidden or put to the side for some time) to being a rude egomaniac.  And I forgot about the unnecessary lies - and so many of them!  You know you're going to get busted when you have too many lies and can't keep track of your own BS (which is why I stopped lying in my early 20's - BUSTED!)

I am friends with some of Desert Guy's long-time friends and cousins (and the fact that he introduced me to them is something that I see as a blessing).   They have all related stories to me (which I find hard to believe because blood is usually thicker than water...), "He has a good heart, but..."  and "20 years ago he was a totally different person and didn't do any of these things...." "Don't you know that he's a liar?"  ".... I have a girlfriend, but when she goes to work in the morning, I don't call another girl and cheat on her...."   Ouch.  I hope my peeps never talk about me like that.

DGy does have a good heart, but all the peripheral stuff is just not worth the trouble:   a massive tornado of BS-infused drama.   DGy stopped by and put on a bit of a show in my benefit one night last week.  I left before the second act.  "Where are you going?!"
'To my camp....gotta go....'  

Monday, November 04, 2013

Mediumship Weekend, Isle of Man

I want to go to this.  Anyone want to go with?

Sunday, November 03, 2013

My Visit with a Very Lovely Medium

A friend of mine asked if I would like to speak to a visiting psychic/medium while she is here in Kuwait.  I am a big fan of the metaphysical.  We are all energy and afterlife is a part of every major religion.

I wanted to know what happened to Shamlan.
He was (and is) the love of my life.  I believe that I will most likely go to my grave loving and mourning him.

I know that some of you reading might believe (like La Senza did) that I make this stuff up.  I honestly couldn't make it up if I tried.  Let's just say that I have an "interesting" life and .... well, things happen.

I have never known the full story.  He died in 1995.   The official cause of death (in the police report - which I have verified) was suicide by gunshot wound to the head.  His family still tells people that he died of a heart attack (his uncle told me that when I called to ask for Shamlan).  He was found with a pillow over the face, shot through to his forehead.  Differing and confusing stories:   It has all been a mystery.

The night before I learned of his death (February 13), I dreamt that Shamlan was holding my hand.  It wasn't like a dream. I could feel the warmth of his hand and the pressure of him squeezing down.  He sat close and told me that the days he spent with me were the happiest days of his life.  He spoke in that sexy, sultry voice he had.

The next day on Valentines Day, I called him.  His mobile phone was disconnected.  His house phone was disconnected.  His business phone was disconnected.  I called his family.  He was gone.  I called  our mutual friend and he told me that his brother  believed strongly that Shamlan had been murdered.   I immediately knew it to be true; a gut feeling.  Verified, I believed, by a succession of dreams I had about him that continued for years.

I never knew the reason why he had been killed.  I knew he was (and is) always "with me".  I can feel him close.  Several of my "seeing" friends can tell also.  Naz knew the minute he walked into my home for the first time and said, "Who's the guy with you?"  I just smiled and let him continue ("thought to exist, but can not be verified....")

So this weekend, I was searching for answers about Shamlan and I believe I got them.

Medium Lady (ML)  didn't use any props or hocus-pocus.  She just greeted me with a handshake and we sat down to chat in a hotel apartment living room.   She accurately told me several things that no one knows about me.  And then I asked her about him.

I told her that he had died tragically and I wanted answers.  I didn't provide details.  She said she thought he was a soul mate; and that she felt that his death was related to the heart and that he had died very suddenly; not prolonged.    She went on to tell me that his death is something that his family has never recovered from and he just wants them to move on.  ML said that 2 sisters were very close to him and that his brother was still having problems moving on.  And then, ML, who comes from London and knows very little about the Arabic culture said, "His brothers name is Ahmed."  I just smiled because I knew Shamlan was talking now. There is no way ML (or anyone else because I have never mentioned his name) could know that Shamlan's brother's name is Ahmed.  There is no way that she could have known that he had 2 sisters (as Shamlan called them, "my 2 little monkeys.")

ML said that he was killed by someone that Shamlan knew (as I had strongly suspected) and it was over a business dispute (this is something that I never knew, but now it all makes sense).  It was not direct; someone was hired to kill him.  Shamlan was the oldest son in the family and had, by obligation, taken over the family business (although I remembered when we talked when I was 15/16 - he really didn't want to).  Their businesses were located on land that was very valuable in the middle of Dubai.  He was killed so the family would sell.  And they did. His family's businesses are gone.  (Again, I've confirmed this.)  ML said the family still lives in fear and that's why they tell people he died of a heart attack (which is why she kept holding her heart and thought it was his cause of death).  It probably causes the family pain to carry on the lie, I can imagine.

For as long as I can remember, Shamlan didn't like the murderer's family. He was vocal and public about it and was even arrested for it once (long before all this political spring stuff was even a whisper).   I don't know which of them specifically killed him, but he was right not to trust them.  His long-held political beliefs may have contributed to his death and/or the cover up regarding the way he died.

What did Shamlan have to say to me specifically?  ML said that the dream I had about him on February 13 wasn't really a dream; it was his message to me.  He had always felt restricted by family obligations and I was the one person who never judged him.  He felt the happiest with me.  He also told me to follow my heart, as it is a good heart, and I will always do the right thing.

My visit with her really did give me comfort.  She said he was a lovely soul and he was happy that he had lived his life as fully as he had (very true because he, even at a young age, had travelled the world, was an amazing artist, knew more about politics in his 20's than many of the people I know even IN the world of politics, and had an "old soul"/was very wise for his age).  She said he was at peace and only wants the people he loves to be at peace as well.  I'm much closer now.

Rest in peace, my love.  Someday we will meet again when none of this will matter.

Camping Season

It is now November 3.  Camping season officially opened on November 1.  My camp (shared with a bunch of friends) is almost ready.  This is the first time I have my own tent (not shared with someone).  I'm all happy about it.  I'm working on decorating now.

One of my very best buddies included me in his camp this year and set up my tent.  I'm surrounded by good friends and I'm sure we're going to have a great winter.  Unfortunately, they set up camp in a very noisy neighborhood.  It isn't too far from the City, but it is in an area where there are a lot of parties and kids in Julai'ia.  I preferred further South near Khiran/Wafra (where Desert Guy and the Toxic Group have set up their camp), but not my choice.

Things aren't cool with Desert Guy.  Although he promised that we would be together this winter at his camp, he's been down there for 2 weeks working on it and 1) hasn't invited me and 2) hasn't been very attentive.  By that, I mean that he has been going back to his old ways of ignoring me. I believe there is either another woman in the picture or other women.  Whatevah.   Everything is from God, so maybe it wasn't all meant to be (the camp or the man).  His friends are awful anyways.

Funny how he was so incredibly attentive and kind for about a month (didn't have anything better to do?) and then all of a sudden, stopped responding to my SMSs and phone calls (which, trust you me, were at a bare minimum as I was trying not to provide even the slightest implication of smothering).  I was hopeful, but all my eggs have not been in one basket, so I'm good to go.

The short-term-re-heat wasn't without benefit, however.  He introduced me to his circle of cousins, who  have turned out to be a lovely group of people who are now friends.  They have a villa where they all gather on the weekends and the owner has deemed me worthy of being one of the gang.

They have also given me unsolicited information/advice about DGy.  I love people who are direct and to the point.  These are just honest (older/wiser) guys and spoke to me freely. I have a much better understanding of DGy now:  "He has a good heart, but...."   (and the "but's" went on and on as discussed by every person sitting there -- and these were blood relatives.)  So, I spent the weekend with the cousins and not with DGy.  Some people run hot and cold.  He's cold right now.  I'm fine with that.  Many more tents in the desert and I have my OWN. Woo hoo!

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Idiot Friends & Pepper Spray

So I have 2 very nice younger surrogate Kuwaiti brothers.  They occasionally take my car, get it gassed up and washed for me (and it is an excuse to go cruising around in it).

I keep pepper spray in the door compartment for emergencies. It is in a pink canister.  It has a safety lock.

The idiots (and I say that in the nicest possible way) 
thought it was perfume and started spraying it in the car.

Yes,  you can imagine what happened next:  coughing, choking, and tearing eyes.

Don't just spray stuff in other people's cars....  Who DOES that??

... hey... did you know that there is also a pepper spray attachment for the iPhone?  ... and ... once again...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Pants Off Dance Off

(I keep changing the title because better ones keep popping into my mind...)

So, after all my BMCing about Clean and his questionable internet practices, he finally got

I went to see the fam for lunch on Friday.  Right before I left my house, I checked my e-mail and Facebook and there was a comment waiting from one of his sexy little internet bitches.  Secretly not wanting to see him at lunch and now armed with ammunition, I took a screen shot and sent it to him.  Mission accomplished:  He didn't show for lunch.  Bada bing.  And that's where I thought it would end.

At the end of lunch, one of his brothers was sitting next to me when Clean called him (I have GOT to change his name to "Dirty").  He asked who was there.  Bro replied that I was, and then he got up and left the room.  When he came back in, he explained what the situation was.

"The girl on the internet isn't a girl.  Clean has a problem.  It is a man and he's blackmailing him."
'Blackmailing?  Why?'
"Because Clean was having internet sex with a webcam and the girl turned out to be a guy and videotaped everything.  Now he's demanding money."

My immediate reaction was nausea.

"Can you help him delete his Facebook account?"
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?  He wants MY help?  No phuckin way!

Sidenote:  Now, as La Senza says, "I used to read your posts and think you had a creative imagination and you were making most of the stuff up.  Now I know you and I know that you're not lying."  No, I'm not.  I'm not making this stuff up.  This is what happens.  This is my weirdass life and I've got to live it (and then, of course, dish about it herein.)

I'm still nauseous just thinking about this, but apparently there are quite a few "men" who have gotten caught in this frenzy of internet activity.  DUMBASSES!  When you put your junk  out there (literally) on the internet, you are taking a HUGE risk - not only to you, but to your future generations and to your family. That stuff stays out there.  In Clean's case, he is from a very large, very well-known Bedouin family.

I (again) didn't react well.  I got on Facebook and wrote to "her" saying that I would buy the video and to name a price.  This, posted to Clean's Facebook wall.

Then, I wrote an SMS to Clean saying that the culprit is probably one of my friends, as everybody knows how evil he has been to me and I'm sure they all are doing mean things to him that even I am not aware of.  (This is also known as psychological warfare.)  I mean, God only knows what my police friends are doing...  Then I intimated that his family might find out and followed with a kicker, 'Habibi, do you need money to pay off the man you had sex with on the internet?'  THEN he called me.  Wow.  So his dialing finger isn't broken after all.  So he still knows how to call me.  Bien sur, I didn't answer.  He finally sent me a message saying that, "I'm a man.  So what if someone sees my face and my d**k?"  (Obviously, he's now a celebrity porn star and proud of it.)  Wow.  Enjoy the show.

(Now, Clean, imagine these are GUYS!)

(Ick, I feel bile rising up again.)

It's karma, bitch.

So, all those times I asked him to please stop making "friendships" with/adding strange women on Facebook/the internet; please stop adding girls; please stop; please my family sees all that; please ......  it all comes back to him.  I suspected, but I have never had solid evidence until now (because, of course, the truth always comes out eventually).

He wanted me to wear hijab and to pray.  He asked me to be more religious.  He posts constantly about religion on his twitter account.  Hypocrite!

I'm going to stop thinking about this after this post because I've already vowed to myself that I never want to discuss him again in any way/shape/form, but...

This bothers me deeply because
1)  He disguised who he was so well and I allowed (yes I did) myself to believe he was a good person
2)  If his family ever finds out, they will have the same reaction that I did because his parents are good, decent, devout people
3)  God only knows what else he has been doing.

Khalas!  End of Dirty subject.

Attention potential  internet wanker 
Not all that is cute and feminine is what it appears to be.
It was a GUY.
After much discussion with my male friends in Kuwait, this is not an uncommon occurrence.  It seems to happen.  Why are some men so willing to put their penises where they don't belong?  I seriously don't get it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Roundup: Eid Al-Adha

I didn't really have any big news to post about my 9-day-long Eid holiday.  I stayed in Kuwait.  I couldn't imagine how awful the airport would have been and,  having checked the prices for ticket,  it was like forgetaboutit.

It was worth staying in Kuwait anyways; kinda quiet, but overall really nice.

I spent a lot of time with Desert Guy.  He has been keeping me busy lately.  We had a heart-to-heart talk, with the help of one of his friends who played moderator once I told him that DGy hasn't ever really been forthcoming with his feelings for me. DGy is one of those guy-guys who doesn't like the touchy-feely stuff, so if I bring it up (sans moderator), he usually brushes it off or changes the subject.  I guess we got him at a good time because he spoke up like he never has before.  I was kinda shocked, but it was so nice that I just let him continue.


I think he must have really missed me. Sometimes time apart makes you see a situation in a completely different light;  This time around, we are on a whole new and different level.  Maybe because after all the stuff with Clean, I am not ready to trust anyone again right now, so I'm seeing Desert Guy as more of a friend that I love than a guy who I'm IN love with.  I tell him I love him - and now - he actually tells me back (in both text messages and in person - both surprising the bejeezus out of me).  He's not a vocal guy.

I think some of my sister's "Train-Your-Man Boot Camp" techniques are working.  (I cannot disclose the secrets, unfortunately.)


He introduced me to some of his friends and cousins who I have heard a lot about, but I had never met before.  I've known DGy for almost 8 years, but I guess when a guy isn't that "into" you, he's not going to take the time to introduce you to the important people in his world.  Which is why I trusted Clean so easily because he made important introductions immediately.  Anyways, DGy's cousins are a totally different class of people than the people who had visited the camp last winter; much higher class.  I like them.  They are the types of Kuwaitis that I have known in my Previous Existence - much before I came to Kuwait.  The laid-back, totally un-superficial types.  I love that.  I have felt so comfortable that I've even cooked for them - a few times.  I NEVER do that (cook for a guy's friends).   Not EVER.  Totally unlike me.

I was in such a domestic mood this Eid that I even brought a big jidder of machboos lamb to Clean's family the day before Eid.  I knew they were all fasting, so step-mom was really happy when I brought it at sunset.  They were so appreciative and made such a big deal about it and it was really sweet.  His dad immediately told Clean how good it was and how I knew how to cook Kuwaiti and blah blah.  Ha!  Rub it in, Dad!  I love that.  Clean came back with, "SHE knows how to cook machboos?!"  His step-mother said, "She even bought Kuwaiti lamb with no fat...."  ha ha.  I saw his family several times over Eid.  His father told me that he's changing my last name to his.

Clean has been sniffing around.  He's asking his brothers about me, " Did she talk about me?"  "No."  I don't talk about Clean because 1) The whole family should be totally sick of listening to me whine about him by now and I don't want to prolong their suffering and 2) to be really honest, I'm out of the emotional danger zone that I was in even a month ago with him.  (It should have come a lot sooner.)  I changed my locks and moved on.

Desert Guy - Mashallah

I was talking to one of his cousins and one of the first things he asked me after meeting me was, "Do you read a blog called Desert Girl?"  Oh snap!  Sometimes people are too smart for my own good.  Sometimes people bring things up and it is almost like God is channeling something through them.  Cuz is far enough removed from both of us that he can't possibly know....

And speaking of cousins, there is the subject of Teddy.  After the, "Not Without My Camaro," issue (read the post under the same title), I don't know how I can ever be near him again.  Desert Guy understands:  He's not an insensitive person; he understands how bad (and how afraid and betrayed) I felt.  I later heard through a friend-of-a-friend that the situation may have been created intentionally.  I don't want to think about that.    I don't know how I will react when I see Teddy (he is still DGy's cousin and one of his closest friends).  I don't think violence is the answer (I might break a nail or worse - a knuckle).  I'll keep my pink vial of pepper spray in its home in my car.  I think I will hide behind DGy and hope for the best.  I really don't want to see Teddy.  The past is the past and that's where it belongs.  He doesn't belong to my present - or future.

I'm going to stop thinking about hurtful things right now because I want to write about something closely related to the Teddy subject and I'm not allowing any of it back into my world.

Anyhoooser, Mashallah.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kuwait Tourism (an Oxymoron Case Study)

(Image by deviantart.com)

The Kuwait Times is running a story this morning entitled, " Eid sees loads of cash spent, big chunk of it abroad – Call to boost local tourism."  To wit I say, 'No shyt, Sherlock.'  It is an interesting article and I'm not degrading the writing (by Nawara Fattahova) by any means (well written, good factual content).  I'm just tiring of the subject after so many years of hearing about it with no movement from the Government.  It seems that regardless of how many people make the point:  it is all falling on deaf ears.

The article states:   Estimates show that more than 250,000 passengers left Kuwait during the Eid holidays. According to General Directorate of Civil Aviation, more than 121,000 passengers left Kuwait through Kuwait International Airport within the first three days, while about 70,000 travelled through land borders. Hajaj Bukhadour, an economic analyst, believes Kuwait lost another KD 1 billion which the potential tourists may have spent in Kuwait if it was a touristic country. “All countries pay attention to tourism as it is an important economic source for the country. Unfortunately, Kuwait is not one of these countries and tourism here is appalling. Kuwaitis and expats who have accounts in Kuwaiti banks spent around KD 1 billion during this short holiday inside and outside Kuwait, so if there were tourists visiting Kuwait, they would spent a similar amount here,” he told Kuwait Times. “If local tourism was attractive this would be an additional income of Kuwait. Unfortunately the awareness of the importance of tourism is very low in Kuwait between the people as well as the government and parliament. To have tourism in the country requires having laws for visa and residency and touristic projects to attract tourists and encourage local tourism,” ...

There was another interesting article in the Kuwait Times, quoting Nabila Al-Anjari on how "Kuwait placed last in GCC tourism, 101 worldwide: Al-Anjeri."  Ms. Al-Anjeri was former Assistant Undersecretary for Tourism Affairs at the Kuwait Ministry of Information.  I recall that she worked very hard to promote the 20-year tourism plan for Kuwait (which resulted in the building of many of the hotels you now see in Kuwait – with a current occupancy rate at about 30%)  and endeavored to work towards promoting Kuwait.  I also recall hearing that she was met with bureaucracy and brick walls.  That is a pity.  Ms. Anjeri provides valid points in this article and again – an interesting read.

When I first came to Kuwait in 1996, Kuwait’s tourism tag line was, “Kuwait:  It’s Different.” (With an illustration of Kuwait Towers).  I loved that!  It is exactly what I think of Kuwait.  It IS different; no other country has the flavor that Kuwait has, nor the ability to remark on its own quirkiness.  What is the slogan now?  Does anybody know?  “Kuwait:  Don’t Come Here.”  Or maybe, “If you’re gay, don’t even think about it.”  Or perhapsee, “Kuwait:  If you want a drink, go to Bahrain or Dubai.” or "Come to Kuwait:  We'll F up your national anthem too"   (I could continue…)

Ok, even back then in 1996, the official Kuwait tourism board, “Kuwait Touristic Enterprises Company” (KTEC) was well-maintained.  We went to Entertainment City in Doha.  It was fun.  Most of the country-run facilities were clean and well cared for.  Who goes to these places now?  It is a national joke.  The stats speak for themselves – people want to leave.  Those who can’t afford to leave stay here and make barbecues on the Gulf Road (hey, wasn’t that a law they passed a while back – you could be fined 1,000KD for making a fire in a public place?  Enforcement?)  If you were here during this Eid, you couldn’t find a parking space anywhere along the 25km Gulf Road.  That is where everyone went.  The majority of Kuwaitis and expats aren’t going to go near any of the KTEC’s properties.  When was the last time you went to Kuwait Towers, for example?

In my personal experience, I found that the KTEC properties are not English-speaking expat friendly.  If I go to one of those properties, I want to feel welcomed.  Am I alone in this?  There are what – 2.5 million expats in Kuwait?  A whole lot of us can’t read signs in Arabic.  And if I go someplace that I’m being stared at blankly by an Egyptian security guard, I’m going to turn around and leave.    Not to bash the KTEC too bad (but I will), even their website is a turn-off (if you can read and understand the link – in English – you are a better person than I). It’s a shame because Kuwait has SO MUCH potential.  There is just no marketing!  Have you ever seen a KTEC facility marketed on Instagram or Facebook, for example?

What happened to Hala February (in competition with Dubai’s Shopping Month)?  It was a good idea.  It fizzled out much like everything else.  Why not have the Proud 2 Be Kuwaiti exhibition at the same time as Hala February and work in conjunction with each other to pull off something great.  P2BK – those guys are promoting Kuwait at a grass-roots level and should be looked at as a case study in how to do it properly.  Why doesn’t Kuwait have a cultural festival?  Oh wait, I think there have been a few, but all the “advanced” advertising was done about a week prior – and in ARABIC.  Exats want to experience the country where they live.  Why aren’t they being given that opportunity in a common language?  

The Local Economy

Kuwait is going to have to wake up to some cold, hard facts (wake up and smell the chai 7alib). The proposed Kuwaiti 20-Year Tourism Plan kinda died in 2003;  around the same time the US Forces moved into Iraq and planted themselves - and about 20,000 local-economy-boosting Americans and their families (I write that figure only because I know the stat for that particular year.  This number does not include Westerners of other nationalities or TCN laborers brought in).  All of a sudden, a multitude of new services were required:  accommodations, transport (vehicles, trucks, etc.), logistics services, sponsorship services.  Contractors brought their families, so schools and other related child services flourished.  All this drove the economy.  

The ramp-up was staggering.  Local companies made millions (and if you want to write to me for specifics instead of commenting that "blab blah blah that wasn't the case" - I will tell you who and how).  A record number of new apartment complexes were built.  On average, a 2 bedroom apartment in Salmiya (for example) went from 200KD/mo to 450KD/mo (and more) almost immediately.  Trucking companies were doing great as convoys were going in and out of Iraq constantly.  At the height, you could lease a truck head for 1700KD/mo.  People couldn't bring enough trucks into the country to meet the demand.  There weren't enough drivers; all had to be recruited (and hey - in some cases, even trained). Leasing companies were renting out 4x4's as fast as they could get them to roll off the ships. Sponsorship?  The main sponsorship company went from a decrepit office in a very old building into a high-rise tower that they purchased.  They diversified to suit the needs of almost every logistics requirement a contractor might require.  Need full coverage insurance to go with all that?  Sure.  Medical?  Sure.  How are all these people getting in and out of Kuwait?  United Airlines put on daily flights - and they were always full (they recently cut back to 4 flights per week).


There are no more US troops in Iraq.  There is no more need to support them through a hub in Kuwait. CSA lost their Army support contract in 2010.  The contract went to the lowest-cost, technically qualified bidder:  ITT (emphasis on "lowest-cost").   It's no secret that as the military has reduced their numbers in Kuwait, ITT has had to cut back also.  Gone are the days of the over-the-top accommodation, individual lease cars (they are often shared now), and other benefits.

Kuwaiti real estate companies practice the “cut off your nose to spite your face” methodology of business.  They continue to charge the same rates for apartments around Kuwait, hoping to draw Western renters.  (I say, ‘HA! Where are they going to come from?’  There hasn’t exactly been a huge re-introduction of Westerners at the same scale:  educational institutions top the industry, perhaps seconded by Al-Shaya, as probably the two largest employers of Westerners in the country.  Still, nowhere near the number of Westerners previously in Kuwait prior to say 2011.)  Regardless, real estate companies in Kuwait would rather have their properties sit empty for months, hoping to rent at a higher rate, than to reduce the rent and lease today:  A philosophy that is stupid and short-sighted.

I also get a kick out of the number of people with “logistics” and “defense contracting” companies in Kuwait that are now scrambling to diversify their businesses.  “Can you help us get a military contract…”  NO!  There ARE NO contracts.  It’s all gone.  Forget it.  Go buy a sheesha cafĂ© or a mini-anything-bakery; You’re SOL.

Less talk, more action

Kuwait needs to revisit it’s tourism plans in order to boost the local economy.  It’s gotta happen.

So now we have all these beautiful hotel properties around Kuwait (just waiting for all those Saudi families to come visit – because that is the main tourism draw right now).  They’re marketing only regionally.  If there is a special offer; expat couple beware.  You need to have a copy of your marriage certificate with you or you may be turned away.  This is not something that is advertised and if even one couple was turned away, they can just click over to somewhere like Trip Advisor, make their comments, and BAM – the hotel has lost potential business.  Further, many hotels will not welcome single female guests.  Isn’t that nice?  It doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer or doctor or professional of any kind; the connotation is immediately that you are there for prostitution (chicks love this).  They can turn you away.  I had a nice conversation with a representative of the Kuwait Hotel Owners Association regarding this issue.  The KHOA is the Kuwaiti conglomerate that dictates hotel rates in the country – giving very little margin for variance on pricing to any hotel in Kuwait.

In my DG opinion, Kuwait should promote more private entertainment projects like Dubai has.  But alas, that goes back to Ms. Al-Anjeri’s article citing necessary infrastructure requirements for cultivating a tourism industry.  And (for those of you who don’t drink - you can’t speak from personal experience, but I can) people who understand the importance of a quality glass of wine with dinner at a 5 star hotel aren’t going to come here unless you ease the rules.  It isn’t going to happen.  I also believe that until Kuwait hires serious public relations communications experts (go get Hill & Knowlton, for Gods sake!  Look what they did for Kuwait in 1990!!!), they are going to have a bad reputation throughout the globe (case in point:  Homosexuality testing in the airport = negative communication impact; like it or not.)  You must have a common communication and present that in a positive manner.  If there are any negative impact statements, again, a common (damage control) communication must be provided.

Promote Kuwait!  Promote the culture, the diversity, the desert, the sea. This is a fascinating country with so much to see – but nobody knows what’s here!   Offer incentives to small companies to join into a group so that resources are shared (for example, the small tourism companies, the dive/boating companies).  Offer assistance to those wanting to start tourism-related businesses.  Create real marketing documents, websites, etc.  Hire people who are experienced in tourism (wow – now that thar is a thought).  Outsource English copy writing to English speakers (and even then, have it edited again by an independent source so that you don’t look like an idiot if it’s wrong).  Think “welcoming” and “friendly”.  Train first-line employees at the airport to be welcoming and friendly.

Sigh…. Again, this is all going to fall on deaf ears.