Monday, January 28, 2013

Yes, I am

I got some mail from concerned parties that perhaps I should try to date Americans, followed by questions as to why do I have such a prejudice against America and Americans and "what are you - a Moslem?"  WTF - I AM American.  My preference is just not to date Americans.  Not my flavor.  I think I have stated this emphatically.    

I get to complain on here because it's my blog and that's why I started it; not to try to please others to try to conform to what they think I should or should not do.  Thought I would have a little rant-chat about it here and in the usual Desert Girl-fashion, tell it like it is, baybee.

I was asked once by a family member (in reference to why I choose to live in Kuwait), "What's wrong with America?  Why don't you love your country?  What's wrong with our religion?"

Oh, okay, so we're going to go there...

I love the States.  If I had my druthers, I would spend 6 months in Kuwait and 6 months in the US.  But alas, I am not that wealthy.  I love both Kuwait and the US for different reasons.  I just choose to live here now.  If that changes one day, then so be it.  Am I chained?  I can move anywhere.

So the woman who asked the questions me is a lovely person, very docile and serene and even-tempered.  I draw positive energy from her and loved the few times that I attended church with her.  But when she asked me this question, it was as if it had been bothering her for a very long time.  She could have sat me down and asked me.  I would have told her...

In 1989, I walked into the Grand Mosque in Washington, DC wearing hejab (as one should do when entering a mosque) and told them I wanted to change my religion.  I walked in alone.  No one pushed me to go there.  No one knew  Not my family.  Not my friends.  I didn't have a boyfriend/love/friend who told me I had to do it.  I made a conscious, well-informed, well-educated decision to convert to Islam.  Yes, I am an American.  Yes, I believe in Jesus as do all Moslems.  And yes, I like to go to church services too.  It calms me.  I have both Saudi and Kuwaiti Moslem friends who like to go to church while they are in Western countries also.

And yes, I love Christianity and Judaism and I respect all people who love God  (through whatever religion they choose) and show compassion towards their fellow humans and towards animals/living things.

Why did I choose to convert?  Because after studying comparative religion (both in school and through independant study), Islam made sense to me.  My Kuwaiti friend and neighbor in DC, Adnan, used to bring me books about Islam in English and just handed them to me - never said a word.  He taught me more about faithful Moslems than anyone ever did.  Islam is a religion that encompasses both Christianity and Judaism. It is also (at its purist) color blind.  There are no religious statues/symbols of white guys with blue eyes.  We are people of the world.

Do I tell people that I am a Moslem?  No.  Noneyor business.  For the same reason I walked into the mosque alone, I choose not to make it public (oops - ok this is an exception, but whatever and supposedly I'm still anonymous).  It is ALL between myself and God.   I'm not a "good" Moslem.  I don't believe in labels.  Who am I to judge who is "good" and who is not?   People can judge me if they want (and they have consistently and as recently as this week); I don't care.  Your actions are between you and God.

Do I feel hatred against those who might judge me or give me their opinion?  No way.  Why should I?  God made us all different for a reason.  (He has a reason for everything.)  Everyone is entitled to an opinion and a perspective.  I've got my own, but I try not to send out e-mails to people to tell them how I think they should live their lives.  If I have a question, I try to be polite about it and ask in a non-accusatory manner.

How did my family take it when they found out that I had converted?  I told my mother right away.  She's so open-minded and kind that she told me, "Whatever makes you happy."  I told my father 4 years later at dinner with my step-monster.  She was going on and on about "them" and "that religion of theirs" (in reference to my friends/Moslems).  I don't have a good temper and sometimes I have a hard time putting a cork in it.  'I AM one of 'them'  (My father put his fork down.)  Step-Monster:  "Well honey, you didn't actually con-vert, did you?"  (Said with her fake Southern accent.  God rest her soul.)  'Yes, I did.'  (My father picked his fork back up and started eating again - probably osso bucco because it was his favorite - without any response.)  That year, my dad gave me an antique mother-of-pearl encased Quran as a Christmas present.  I couldn't stop crying.  It was one of the biggest gestures of my life.

Yes, we are a diverse family and we celebrate a lot of holidays as we do.

My family probably thought that I was finding myself - as many younger people do and often change their religion/spiritual beliefs looking for God/answers.  I have definitely found myself since then.  I'm very very content with who I am (but of course, with all things, there is room for improvement and I'm still a work-in-progress, as anyone who reads this knows!)  Have I found God?  Was He ever gone?  He's everywhere.

Whippin' out the "Moslem card" can score me points over here.  I think I probably got my first job in Kuwait just because they knew I was "a sister."   I don't do it.  Seems like it sets you apart from "all those other ajaaneb."    When I do mention it (usually because somebody is up-in-my-face demanding to know what religion I am and I won't lie), I usually feel like I've been granted access to some special club - which just totally weirds me out.  "Oh, Mashallah!  You're Moslem?"  (Big smiles like I've known their family for years.)     Or well-intentioned friends telling other people or their families that I'm Moslem and then it seems to be a game-changer.  Puhleeze.  Was I any different 10 minutes ago?

So, yes I am.  I don't hate anybody.  If you want to judge me, I get it. That's your call.  I just don't need to engage other than stating all the above.  However, should anyone send me comments with labels and judgement  ("You're not a Moslem, blah blah blah blah...."), I'm only going to delete them.  Go look in a mirror.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Driving a Jeep

The rental car agency, Automall, where I have been renting my Envoy since 2009 pulled a number on me.  I got the Envoy at zero mileage and have been driving it ever since.  It was in great condition (with the exception of a few dings).  I offered to buy the car from them.  When I returned from the US/vacation this time, the agency offered to upgrade me to an Acadia.  I said that I would try it for a few days, and if I didn't like it, I wanted my Envoy back.

Driving the Acadia,  I felt like I was a mom driving a mini-van.  Ick.  Should have baby seats in the back and grubby hand prints on the windows; SO not ME.   The Acadia is NOT as heavy-duty as the Envoy (I don't believe in speed bumps; no such thing). I pulled it out of alignment on the 2nd day.   It has a lot of nicer features than the Envoy, but it was not for me.  So, I called and asked for the Envoy back.

They SOLD IT.  Whaaaaat?  I was furious.  It had been less than a week since they gave me the Acadia and told me that I could have the Envoy back if I wanted it.  Automall has been very good to me over the years; at a price, of course.  They pick up and deliver.  Payments are easy.  They are very nice.  However, I have been renting cars from them for well over 5 years (at an average of 220KD/mo).  Then, they choose to pull a fast one on me?

Not cool.

Why have I chosen to rent and not lease?  I travel a lot.  I mean a lot.  When I travel, I return the vehicle and  I don't pay for those days/weeks/months.  If I chose to lease I would have to put down a down payment and pay for every month - regardless of if the car is sitting in a lot or if I'm driving it.  It was more economically feasible for me to rent than to lease.

Why lease at all?  See my post below about car loans and being an adult.

So, after I had an ugly-American-angry-white-woman hissy fit, they offered (at a price) to give me a Jeep Cherokee.  It's a nice car for the winter, but is about as fast as my former 400-year-old Discovery with a blown head gasket.  Even Corollas are passing me.  No respect.

My nephew had (until last week) a Grand Cherokee Laredo which was a really nice car with nice features.  It's a guys car.  This Cherokee is a guy's car too, but it is pretty basic and reminds me more of a toy car than a real car.  What's good about it is the easy switch from 2 wheel to 4 wheel drive.  It is a comfortable ride in the desert and handles the little ruts very well.  Would I buy one?  Nope.  Too basic and not enough pick-up.  Too much plastic.  But its cute and it will do for a while.

My family buys black cars.  We've had a long series of black cars.  People in our neighborhood call us "the CIA house."  I don't feel comfortable driving something white, but whatever.

And if anyone out there owns one - how the Hell do I turn on those smaller lights under the headlights?  It has been driving me nuts.

Inshallah, inshallah, inshallah, Allah Kareem, Inshallah, I won't have to drive this for too long because I'll be buying my dream car.

Why can't I be an adult? Car loan in Kuwait

When I was a teenager to twenty-something, my credit history wasn't (there) that good.  Like most people of that age, I had to get my mom or dad to co-sign on my car loan.  That's fine when you're that age.

I'm a grown up person.  My credit score in the US is 740.  I pay my bills on time (usually by the end of the month - which is why I LOVE my American Express card) and I'm responsible.

In Kuwait, I need a cosigner to finance a car.  Why?   Because I'm a foreigner.  (I WISH the US would impose this rule on foreigners also so we would all be on an equal playing ground.)  The co-signer must be Kuwaiti and he/she must have a current job.  My friends who are x-ministers/undersecretaries (whose retirement payments are more than most people's normal salaries) can not co-sign because they don't have "jobs".  (Bu Nawaf is my oldest friend.  I've known him since I was 17 and he offered, but wasn't "allowed" to co-sign.  Thank you, God, for blessing me with people like him in my life.  I never forget to be grateful.)

So, I have to go begging my Kuwaiti friends to be a co-signer.  It is so humiliating and degrading.  I don't like to ask anyone for anything.  Just thinking about it now is making my palms sweat.  I don't want to put my friends in a position where they might have to say no, based on their own financial status (they may have loans or be co-signers for other people or whatever).  I don't want it to be a relationship changer.

THIS is exactly why I have been renting cars for the past 5 years.  I pay KD 230 a month so I don't have to degrade myself.  Now I found a car I love and I might not be able to get it.

Mashallah, I make a good salary. I pay my bills in Kuwait.  I don't have any loans.  I insisted that my Kuwaiti credit card is secured (it is already paid for with a hold).  The car I want, I can pay off in 4.5 months salary, yet that isn't good enough for me to get a loan.

WTF Kuwait?  You want to play in a grown-up economy and this is how you conduct business?

I'm disgusted.

If anyone knows of another way, please let me know.

28 January Update

Dudes!  I AM an adult!  Wow.  If I knew min zamaan that I didn't need someone to kafeel me, then I would have bought a car way sooner.

Apparently, it depends on your salary. I'm not quite a VIP at KFH yet, but an IP.  Who knew?  No need for a co-signer.

Sidebar:  I would like to thank Jaber, Bu Nawaf, Adel, and Ali for offering to co-sign before I even opened my mouth (I would rather shoot myself than to have to ask for something. I hate it.  I've been working since I was 14 years old - no joke - and I take care of me).  You know your friends when you need them.  I love my friends and I thank GOD always for bringing them into my life.

And reader-dudes, thanks for your advice on Al-Soor.  They are really helpful too and the payments were less than KFH.  However, when you finance through Al-Soor, they put the car in THEIR name until you pay it off; unlike KFH which lets you have it in your name and therefore you can sell it immediately for cash if you want to.  KFH has "Profit" as an Islamic bank (based on an interest rate).  They can't take interest because that's haram, so they call it "profit" (based on an interest rate).  Funny that, eh?  Anyhooser, even if you pay off the car early, you still need to pay the profit margin.  Al-Soor also charges an early pay-off fee (penalizing you for paying off the loan early); and I heard it was around 3%.

Al-Soor NEVER answers their phones.  It took me an hour to even locate their number (2296-0300).  You have to go there:  They're located on the 5th floor of Jassem Tower on Soor Street.  From what I have heard from co-workers, you can get all kinds of loans from them.

I've decided to go with KFH.  They have been EXTREMELY good to me during the 16 years I have been banking with them.  I've never had a glitch (MASHALLAH) and the customer service has been outstanding. They have been nothing but kind.

I didn't go to Commercial Facilities.  I bought a crap Discovery from them years ago and I didn't like the service there.  I can't tell you about their current offerings/service.

In a few days, Inshallah.......

UPDATE:  I am closing this post for comments.  I am getting spammed by too many loan companies and that's not what this is about.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Drifting in Kuwait

Photo:  Desert Girl

Adrenalin Junkies Demand Place To Practice ‘Drifting’
Arab Times, 20 January 2013

Give us ‘playground’: More than twenty youths gathered in an open area at Salmi performing stunts with their cars and blocked the Salmi Road to traffic for almost 60 minutes, reports Al-Anba daily. As the police questioned the youths, they blamed the government for not providing special grounds away from the residential areas to practice their favorite sport.
- - -

I completely agree with the junkies.  Drifting is going on around Kuwait and it is in public areas where people might get hurt.  Give them a place, regulate it, and make safety awareness mandatory!  

Many people in Kuwait don't see what goes on if you're not visiting the areas where the drifting takes place.     Its been going on in Kuwait for as long as I remember (since I arrived here in 1996 and probably before); in Kabd, Salmi, Wafra - places outside of the city and often late at night.  You can hear the engines gunning from long distances away; and in the morning, you can see the evidence on the roads; shredded tires and rubber marks on the pavement.  The police in these areas turn a blind eye ("boys will be boys" mentality -  that is, of course, until someone gets seriously injured).  Drifters are going to do it whether it is legal or not.  Why not give them a place?

Bu Merdas has a farm in Kabd and he regularly calls the police as people drift in the co-op parking lot.  People who want to get in and buy food often can't.

Now as it becomes more mainstream, drifting is taking place during the day.  In Wafra on a Friday afternoon in front of the mosque, thousands of people line up to watch cars drifting.  While I was there, the Imam actually got on the microphone and asked them to stop (they didn't).  (Personally, I found it very disrespectful.  Some people were even laughing.)

View from the parking lot of the chabra (veg market)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dr. Geza Fehervari and Tareq Rejab Museum Family

The below is an article I wrote and was published in 2004.  I posted earlier that Dr. Geza has died recently after several years of illness.  I only met him this once, but he made quite an impression and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Some people stand out.

I noted that my dear friend (from a distance), Claudia Farkas Al-Rashoud, has a lovely tribute to Dr. Fehervari in today's arab Times.  If you can get the paper today, please check it out.  Claudia is a brilliant writer and has quite obviously put her heart into this article.

Below is mine (not, I believe, as well written...)

Tareq Rejab Musum

The Tareq Rejab Museum is not only a collection of artwork, but a collection of people who share the same interests and love for their work.  The staff is an extended family that has been brought together by luck or fate or providence. The collection of people who have come together to work at the museum are as interesting as the objects they protect. 

The museum is located in the house belonging to the Rejab family, behind the Iranian school on Street 5 in Jabriya.  There is a sign above the door and (friendly and considerate) guardsmen at the main gate.  The only other differentiating characteristic of the building’s exterior is the dark colored woodwork.  It could be a house anywhere in Kuwait.  The Rejabs and Dr. Geza live upstairs and the museum is in the basement.

The collection is divided into areas for calligraphy, manuscripts, miniatures, ceramics, metalwork, glass, jade, wood, stone carvings, costumes, textiles, jewelry and musical instruments.   The collection boasts 140 Qurans (early, medieval and recent) and the largest collection of antique silver jewelry in the Middle East.  The costume jewelry collection is interesting because it contains tribal jewelry and pieces from various Islamic countries; unlike collections in most galleries around the world.  In addition, the museum also has a total of 17,000 books; 7,000 of which cover Islamic art.

One of the most interesting pieces at the museum is a wood and metal door from the mausoleum of Sultan Barquq, ruler of Egypt and Syria from 1382-1389.  There is an identical door in the Barquq Mosque in Cairo.   In a twist of fate, the door was thought to be a replica and on show on and off for 100 years in the United States.  Mr. Rejab purchased the door from Christie’s International auction house in New York and brought it to Kuwait.  It turned out to be the original door; not 100 years old, but 700 years old.  “New York’s loss is Kuwait’s gain,” as Dr. Geza says.

Everything happens for a reason and there is a time for everything; therefore giving me an explanation of why I have never visited the Tareq Rejab Museum in Jabriya before this month.  Had I visited sooner, I may have missed the opportunity to be personally guided through the collection by the museum’s curator, Dr. Geza Fehervari.

Dr. Geza as he is referred to around the museum, has been working as Curator for the past fifteen years.  He is in his 70’s, but one would never know it by the way he enthusiastically flies throughout the corridors and up and down the stairs, as if in a dance around treasured objects.  His bright blue eyes sparkle as he talks about a profession he obviously loves and takes great pride in.  Before taking over as Curator of the Museum, Dr. Geza was Professor Emeritus in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the University of London and is the former Hungarian Ambassador to Kuwait

Dr. Geza met Tareq Rejab in London and was offered a position as curator. Before he could take the job, Dr. Geza was offered ambassadorship in Kuwait, so the museum waited for him until he could join.  He has since “retired” and spends approximately 3 months a year in Kuwait working for the museum.  The rest of the year is spent between exhibits in other countries and in his home in Hungary with his wife of approximately 50 years (a marriage which extends a span of time as long as Mr. and Mrs. Rejab’s).

Ali Jazi is another notable member of the extended Rejab family. He describes his job title as, “Buyer and Whatever They Need Me to Do".   "I am not an achedemic like Dr. Geza.  I worked for a famous antiques dealer in London.  Mr. Rejab used to buy from him.  He had only one good customer and that was Mr. Rejab.”  Mr. Rejab would often call Ali for particular types of pieces and after many years, it was Mr. Rejab who prompted Ali to work directly for him.  “Mr. Rejab asked me many times to come to Kuwait.  I enjoy my job.  Mr. Rejab is addicted to art.  He can’t stop buying it.  Sometimes he tells me to buy things and I don’t know why until later.” Of his friends, Ali says, “Geza and I have been working together for more than 10 years.  He is more than a friend.  He is also my teacher.  I am Iranian, but Geza knows more about Iran than I do.  I am so lucky and honored to be here and also to be working with Tareq.  Many scholars wish for the opportunity to spend time with Mr. Rejab and I am with him all the time; swimming and eating.   This is a great opportunity for me.”  (The residence where Ali lives, Dar Al Cid has an enormous and sparklingly-clean pool.  Museum and NES employees frequently spend time at the pool or share meals with Mr. Rejab.)

Mr. Tareq Rejab and Mrs. Jehan Rejab are the most famous of the museum’s personalities.  Tareq Rejab was the first Kuwaiti to be sent abroad to study art and archeology.  Mrs. Rejab had always been interested in art and foreign cultures, growing up in Scotland.   They met at the University of Bristol in the UK, realized that they had the same interests in archaeology and culture, fell in love and got married.  “They compliment each other,” as Ali and Dr. Geza explain.  They started collecting art far before the formation of the museum in 1980.  At the age of 14, Mr. Rejab went to Baghdad and purchased his first manuscript; starting a collection which has now spanned a lifetime; weaving a tapestry with other people’s lives.
Mr. and Mrs. Rejab opened the New English School in 1969 (his grandfather built first public school in Kuwait in1904), which is within close proximity to the museum. Another property within walking distance of the museum is Dar Al Cid. 
Opened in 2000, it is a residential complex which also houses two galleries on the lower level where exhibitions are often held.  Dar Al Cid is like a museum unto itself: it is extraordinary in its architecture and design; Ali received calls years ago from Mr. Rejab, asking him to buy any pieces of antique stained glass that he could find (before the prices increased dramatically).  Ali didn’t understand why, but realized what had happened when Dar Al Cid started to take shape:  Mr. Rejab asked the builders to create windows around the various-sized stained glass pieces that Ali had purchased for him years before. As Dr. Geza says, “That man is a genius.  He designed the museum, the New English School, and Dar Al Cid; down to the tiles and the fixtures.”  

Everywhere your eye turns in Dar Al Cid is met with art:  mosaic tiles, wood carvings and carpentry, stained glass, arches – and of course the collection of art that is either hung on the walls placed to catch the eye. 
The property is extremely well-kept; not a spot of dust in any corner and everything shiny and clean; another indication that the cleaning staff is more like family than paid employees.   The style of the complex is similar to an old Arabic house with rooms around a central courtyard (in this case, the courtyard holds a large swimming pool) and there is a garden with fountain in the rear of the building; wonderful for relaxing evenings.  Mr. Rejab is selective about who occupies the building; most residents are either employees of the museum or the New English School.

Mr. Rejab seems to breathe artwork; it is infused into his body and soul.  Several years ago, Mr. Rejab was very ill and was in a hospital in the UK.  He was diagnosed with blood poisoning and wasn’t doing very well.  Providence again intervened when a buyer literally walked into the hospital with an extremely rare piece of artwork; an Islamic bronze incense burner from late 10th or early 11th AD (pictured on their website).  As Ali explained, “He got energy and he immediately got well.  His body fought.”

The Rejabs’ energy isn’t limited to collecting and sharing art through the museum.  The museum will soon release a book about the door from the mausoleum of Sultan Barquq and it’s mysterious past.  Mr. and Mrs. Rejab have both published quite a few books over the years; many can be found in local book stores. 

The museum also holds exhibitions; both in Kuwait and abroad.  Many of the museums’ pieces are lent out to foreign museums; most recently in Singapore.  The museums news for exhibits, publications and other information can be found on their website.

The Tareq Rejab Museum does not receive grants from the government and must rely on Mr. and Mrs. Rejab’s limited funding alone.  “When the Kuwait National Museum of Art is re-opened (anticipated in 2007), we hope that they will have a section for the Rejab Museum.  It is not certain.”  

It is a shame because the collection is truly amazing and should be shared with a broader audience in a much larger, brighter area.  There are so many objects, that there is not enough room to house them all.  Art is stored at several locations, in basements and even on rooftops; art that should be revered by the local community.

As Dr. Geza explains, “Most of our visitors are foreign.  We also offer tours to school children, but the majority of local schools who show interest are Western, not Kuwaiti.  It is a shame.”  

Unfortunately, most charitable Kuwaiti philanthropists have chosen other ways to donate their funds and often build mosques throughout the country.  When Islam was first introduced, the Prophet promoted the building of mosques and the methodology was that if you build a mosque, God will build you a house in Heaven. 

Currently, the Kuwaiti Government donates land and construction is discounted to those who build mosques.  It is evident throughout Kuwait that many wealthy individuals have gone to great lengths to create mosques; sometimes situated very closely together (generating a question of how many worshipers there can possibly be); and are often architectural wonders.  Unfortunately, the same is not being done for museums or historical sites; much of the country’s historical and Islamic heritage has been neglected.

Part of the museum’s funding problem may be that Mr. Rejab is a humble man.  As Ali explained, “We have a bulletin board in the kitchen.  Every day I see invitations there from dignitaries, sheikhs and famous people inviting Mr. Rejab. He seldom goes.” Instead, Mr. Rejab prefers to spend time with a close-knit group of friends and family members.  “Several days ago, I saw him eating with the workers.  Every day he sits with them and they tell him their problems and he listens.”  

Occasionally within close-knit families, members seem to be able to read each others’ minds:  Ali and Geza are convinced that Mr. Rejab can read their minds.  He anticipates what they will say before the words have left their mouths because he knows them well. “That man is a genius.  He reads my mind. I say, ‘How do you know?’ He says, ‘Because I know you.”  The extended Rejab family meets on Fridays for dinner and Geza and Ali have breakfast with Mr. Rejab every morning. 

Dr. Geza’s only regret is that he has not had more time with the Rejabs, “What a shame we hadn’t met before.  If I met them sooner, we could have achieved more.”  As Ali says with a smile, “We are all still young and we have a long way to go.”

The Tareq Rejab Museum The Museum is open to the public from: 09:00 - 12:00 noon and 16:00 - 19:00. On Fridays open only in the morning from: 09:00 - 12:00 noon.  During Ramadan, the museum is open from 09:00 - 12:00 noon  and 18:00 - 21:00 Fridays the usual time. Their phone number is 2533-9063. Website:

Pet Shops in Kuwait & Where to Take Your Dog

Kuwaitiful blog has a very good post about a number of pet shops in Kuwait and what items they have for sale.  I'm not going to re-post because it has a lot of photos that I don't want to plagiarize.  Kuwaitiful does very nice work!  To see the entire post CLICK HERE.

In addition to the list, International Veterinary Hospital and Ace Hardware are also good places to buy dog toys, accessories (even doggy clothes) and food.

I've been sent quite a few questions recently from people who are bringing their dogs to Kuwait and want to know where they can take them off the leash to run around.

I keep Desert Dawg on a leash at all times.  She's bitchy and vindictive and she would probably pull a runner on me just out of spite.  I'm super-afraid of her becoming bait in some dogfight somewhere or being sold in the Friday market.  Even the thought of it makes me tear up (sniffle). It happens here and if people do steal your dog to keep it as a pet, eventually the novelty wears off and they might even dump them somewhere in the desert.  Kabd is full of a variety of dogs - some of them purebred - that people have dumped.

Get your dog microchiped at IVH or RAH.  It won't make much of a difference, though, because the only places some good samaritan can go to check to see if your pet has a chip are at IVH or RAH and they may not want to bear the expense or the drive time.

As a dog owner, you've also got to be aware that the municipality leaves poison out for strays.  That means your pet (or your child) is at risk in public walking areas and other places.

So where do you go?  My recommendations are (this time of the year) to take them out to the desert somewhere and let them run around.  Just get in your car, newbies, and drive out to an open area. Don't be afraid.    Or, sometimes the beach at Zoor is empty (write to me for directions).  Unfortunately, Kuwait doesn't have dog parks and pets in public green parks (from what I've heard) are not allowed.  Sucky, but true.

I think that dogs, like people, adapt.  I've had to adapt to the hot weather (staying inside for long periods of time).  Get a treadmill, put your dog on it, and put him/her in front of the TV with the AnimalPlanet on.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Approval required for mixed marriages in Kuwait

Welcome to Saudi Arabia.... here we go again with more backward, archaic laws.  I thought this parliament was going to be different.

Interesting that this was published in Bahrain and there was nothing about it in the news today in Kuwait.  Figures.
Approval Required for Mixed Marriages in Kuwait

Manama: Foreign women who married Kuwaiti men after January 2010 will need the approval of a special committee to be able to live in Kuwait.

“The interior ministry has stopped stamping residence permits to the foreign wives of Kuwaiti nationals and whose marriage took place after January 1, 2010,” security sources said.

“These couples now need the approval of the committee set up by Interior Minister Shaikh Ahmad Al Humood and which includes representatives from the interior, foreign and justice ministries and the National Security Agency,” the sources told Al Rai daily.

Mixed couples married before 2010 will not be affected by the decision and will continue to submit the wife’s papers to the immigration authorities.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Virtual Relationships

I spent the weekend at the camp again in sub-zero temperatures.  It was NOT a warm and cozy couple of nights, and it wasn't because of the temperatures outside (which were sub-zero this weekend).  I think it was colder inside the tent - especially Friday night.  I should have slept with the dog, Rose.

DGy professed his love for me this weekend. (Relationshit tactic?)  I had already heard it from his friends, "He loves you" (giggles).  They think it's a big secret.  I'm a "Prove it" kind of girl.  I need the action to back it up, not just the words and so far DGy isn't scoring so well.  I don't hear the words unless I'm feelin the actions.

He's with me but he's not with me...

Rudeness:  Sitting next to someone (YOU consider special enough to be spending your valuable time with) and they pick up their phone (or phones in this case; his 3 phones:  BB, iPhone, and Samsung) or computer product, and start chatting.  I can understand if it is a quick thing; everybody checks their messages once in a while. I on and get off and get back to reality.  But when it goes on for hours and suddenly you're forming a closer relationship with the piece of lint you've been picking at than the human sitting next to you - Houston, we have a problem.

He takes his phones (yes, all 3) to bed with him.  He chats while driving, while eating, while watching TV, while talking to me.   He sometimes doesn't hear what I'm saying during a conversation because he's chatting with someone else.  Its constant and there is no end to it.  It isn't a small problem; it is more like obsessive compulsive disorder.  And this is just the beginning of our relationship;  It should be a happy time.

I respect who I am with.  If I choose (and it is a choice) to be next to someone and go to do things with them, I usually have my phone on vibrate or even turned off on the weekends.  I don't ever want to make someone important/valuable to me feel like they are second-best (which, I believe, is exactly the message that they convey by paying more attention to an electronic device than a real person).  Who I CHOOSE to be with should have my total attention/focus.

And who is he chatting with?  ShooShoo and Loody and Shoug (x-girlfriend).  The facebook accounts are full of friends like "Sweet Sara" and that kind (the kind who don't have a problem posing for the camera with tilted-head-pouty-faces-and-boobs-everywhere as if propped up with an unseen-to-the camera 2x4).  DGy:  "Do you expect me to ignore them (the girls, I suppose, not the boobs)?  I've known them for 10 years..."  Really?  When do I get to meet them?  (What's that?  They don't know about me?  hmmmm....)   Why isn't one of them with you right now as I am?  I haven't seen them around for the past months.  What's up with that?  Oh, did they make you coffee yesterday morning?  The day before?  Were they in the car with us?  The tent?  The apartment?   Did I miss something?  Oh, you mean they were all there, but virtually.  I see.

I know every relationshit has it's growing pains - especially in the beginning.  I don't argue that.  I'm the last one to bail for silly reasons, but... I don't consider this silly.  I usually try to work things out, so I did.

... .and got not the response I was looking for.

"This is my life (followed by Kuwaiti style, "Ufffff...." - translates to something being a burden.)"  He was put-out and acted like I'm some kind of 50's housewife who shouldn't be complaining to her hard-working husband.  "I don't have a girlfriend because I don't want problems..."  If you know me, docile and submissive are not words I comprehend;  So therefore, I'm a "problem."   I don't do, "sit back and take it because I'm a man and you're not."  Uh, no.

Bottom line is this:  Actions do indeed speak louder than words.  You can't love me if you don't respect me.

Welcome to the, "You will so regret this" club, my friend.  You will enjoy meeting the other members.  (The last member to join, Happy, was blowing up my phone around his birthday in December and then again around New Years Eve.  "Lonely" is one of the activities they offer at the YWSRT Club.)

(I've gone from a guy who wanted me to be in bed with lesbians to a guy who wants me to be in bed with a hundred virtual women.  Not fair.)

Will DGy be able to change?  Should I even consider it?  Is it going to be part of the puppy training?  There have been numerous articles about how social media sites are leading to divorce.  Is it cheating?  Should I consider it that or just let it go?

 I always try to seek out the reason why for everything. It appears that DGy himself isn't necessarily the reason why I was brought to him.  I think it was to bring my best friend, The Romanian, to find love with his cousin.  They are so happy together (Mashallah, Mashallah, Mashallah).  I love her guy.  He's a MAN.   He's doing everything he can to make her happy.  He's a great guy and I wish them the best.  He looked like he was going to cry when I told him that I'm going to leave DGy.  Habibi.

RIP Dr. Geza Fehervari

I had the unique opportunity to interview Dr. Fehervari for a magazine article years ago on the Tareq Rejab Museum.  I just learned that he passed away.  What a tremendous loss for Kuwait.

Dr. Geza loved Kuwait and loved the history of the Country.   He was a former Ambassador to Kuwait and returned to become curator of the Rejab Museum.

I found him to be a fascinating and wonderful person.  I'm sure he will be missed dearly.

You can read more about him HERE or just do a Google search.  What a rich and interesting life he led!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bazaar Magazine's 2013 Dining Guide is Out!

I Y Bazaar Magazine.  Those guys have treated me so well for so many years and they are just decent, kind, compassionate, care-about-your neighbor kind of people.

Their 2013 Dining Guide, “Eat”, is out for circulation.  It is FREE.  It is available at 250 locations where Bazaar is  distributed, as well as in most of the restaurants and cafes that advertised in this year’s guide.  

For the first time evah, they created a digital edition  which can be either read online or downloaded (good because mine is either at home or at work - where ever I am not - when I need it most).  Cool.  Bet that was a sh&tload of work, huh?  

Kuwait Labor Law Webite - Woo Hoo!

This website is just what we've needed.  I wonder who runs it.

"I am Kuwaiti"

Mona Kareem forwarded a tweet on the Bedoon (stateless) community of Kuwait containing a link to a VERY good article by Sebastian Kohn from Open Society on the subject.  Mr. Kohn is a good writer and I enjoyed reading his article.

You can read the full article HERE.


"You've had a lot of experience photographing stateless populations—including the Nubians in Kenya and the Rohingya in Burma. What were your first impressions of Kuwait and of the bidoon community?

The first thing that struck me was just the huge disparity between the Kuwaitis and the bidoon. The Kuwaiti government provides social and financial benefits to its citizens that are unlike anything I have seen before—enormous housing benefits, health benefits, almost assured employment, free education, and financial benefits for being married and for having children that would dwarf the incomes of a huge percentage of people in developing countries around the world. In Kuwait citizenship is clearly more than the right to have rights—to have a passport and be recognized and so on. It is an open door to a secure future for you and your family.
The bidoon are cut off from all of this. They live in slum-like settlements on the outskirts of urban areas. They're denied access to birth certificates and somewhere between 90,000 and 180,000 people are refused access to essential services, including health care and public education.

When you speak with them, you hear about the history that many of the families have in Kuwait, many of which pre-date Kuwait’s independence, and very quickly you see these stark differences and inequalities—inequalities that have been created and perpetuated by the state. You hear how, since the mid-1980s, the bidoon community has been almost completely excluded from Kuwait’s elite—be it political, professional, military, etc. The word “bidoon” in Arabic means “without” and it's an apt description of their situation."

When I first came to Kuwait and for many years after, NO ONE would publicly discuss the subject of statelessness in Kuwait; especially the Bedoun themselves, for fear of repercussions.  Now, they are speaking up and people are listening.  Articles, like this one, are popping up around the globe discussing the issue.

When a person loses hope, he loses everything.   I believe that the Bedoun issue is a ticking time bomb.  Crime is on the rise and the situation seems to be worsening instead of getting better.    I sincerely hope that the Government resolves this situation.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

My new life in the desert

I arrived in Kuwait from Virginia on New Years Eve.  The plane was empty.  Apparently, Kuwait isn't a big New Years Eve destination.  Who knew?

Desert Guy picked me up at the airport.  We drove directly down to his desert camp in Zor. The Romanian was there with her boyfriend, who is DGy's cousin.   We spent New Year's Eve together - about 10 of us - around the fire watching fireworks all around us, set off from other camps.

TR and I never - ever - ever have spent a night to sleep at a friends camp (or anywhere else in Kuwait).  We always go home no matter what time it is. We didn't go home for 5 days (even my die-hard Bedouin friends said, "You're CRAZY!  It's cold out there.")  I slept in DGy's tent; the Romanian slept in her guy's chalet.  They found a dog the week before,  running around in the desert with a cable around her neck.  We've adopted her; a German Shepherd named "Rose"  (Desert Rose).  She slept one night next to me on the floor.  I love her.  The entire group (7 of us who stay at the camp) woke up late and The Romanian was usually awake already and had coffee ready for us.  It was cold, but none of us felt it.  (I, for example, had my 2 huge suitcases brought with me back from the States full of cold-weather clothes.)

The camp consists of 3 portable cabins ("chalets"),  8 tents and an RV ("caravan").  There are 2 kitchens and each chalet, and at least 2 of the tents have bathrooms.  2 generators for electricity.  There are four 60" (or more) TVs, ATVs, a dune buggy and various other forms of entertainment.  (It's not 'zactly roughing it.)  At night, friends stop by and come and go.  We eat very very late and most of the time don't sleep until the sun comes up.  (There are 24/7 restaurants not too far away - like McDonald's and an Indian restaurant we went to one "night" at 5am.)

I noticed that a little gerbil has made a hole into the tent where we eat.  He's a fat little thing I've named "Mickey."  I feed him rice and fruit. He doesn't seem to like vodka, but he's really friendly.

I could live there full time during the winter if I didn't need to have money (aka - go to work).  I love it so so so so much.  Mashallah.

Desert Dawg hasn't been there yet, but I'm planning to take her this weekend.  I hope she gets along with Rose (I didn't name her - I think it is a stupid name, but whatever.)

We had so much fun that I almost cried when we left.  It wasn't reality there.  We were someplace else.

I woke up in the night in my own bed in my own apartment and had no idea where I was.  There was no DGy next to me or big dog sleeping on the floor next to the bed watching over me.  Where was the sand?  Where was TR with my coffee? Where was the rest of the desert family?  Sadness.   I turned on the radio and that song, "Back to Life (back to reality)" was on (ironically, played right after "Diamonds" which was our theme song for the whole week).  Went to work; back to the routine.

I sincerely can not wait for this Thursday evening to arrive to get back there.  This reality thing sucks.

I have been granted a behavior waiver

So like, um, I haven't posted for a while.  Why?  Because I've just been having too damn much fun, that's why.

Let's back up (it is Kuwait after all) a bit to when I travelled to the US of Hey for Cwimmas with the fam.  As you may recall, I had just started hangin with Desert Guy and was really happy to be where I was, but knew I would be happy going to see my en-tire family for the holidays.

The United flight (XanaxAir) from Kuwait was fully booked.  I sat next to a very nice man who didn't seem to mind that my snoring most likely has damaged his inner ear.

Got to Virgin-yuh and immediately started driving Miss Daisy (my mother).  I  pay no nevermind:  She doesn't drive; I do.  She's my ma.  I would do anything for her and I'm happy with it.  Mom's wish is my command.  Here is our schedule:  Cleaners, the library, and Trader Joe's.  She won't go to Steinmart  with me.  Too much pressure.  (Ironically, at Steinmart they were wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.)   Did a little shoppin.  Did a little eatin.  Did a little more shoppin.  Drank a little.  Good times.

Similar to the "Miami Incident of 2010," I went a little overboard in the purchase of footwear.  Shoooooes!!!  How many pairs of boots is too many?  I just don't know.  What would be the appropriate stopping point?  I don't know.  Neither does my credit card.  Neither does that DSW gift card that my sister gave me for Christmas.  Let's just say it was vulgar.  Really really offensive over-the-top boot shopping.  And it felt good!

Whip out that behavior waiver!  Waaa BAM

Random thought:  I am TOTALLY addicted to Rihanna's "Diamonds" song.  Owmahgawd!  I could listen to that song a thousand times in a row.  ...and we did... in the desert... more to come....

We had some really good times with my family.  For example, there is a garden park close to our house with trails and ponds.  Most of the year, it is full of different varieties of flowers and plants.  I love it there at  Meadowlark Park.  Well, this was the first year that they decided to decorate the entire park for Christmas with lights.  It was amazing!  The trees were all lit. They had blue lights on the ground that resembled a stream and fish lights jumping out of the water.  They had a section where the trees were decorated totally with blue lights and white falling lights that looked like snow.  Then, there was an entire hillside decorated like a strawberry patch.  Thousands of green lights with red balls that resembled the strawberries.  We went there with my family.  Froze my arse off, but had a good time.  Oh, drinking a whole lot before we went helped a lot.

For some reason, I can't get photos off my iPhone right now and it is driving me nuts because I want to post some. Okay - I'll try later.

One night, my sister rented us a limo bus (it is like one of those Vegas party buses, but without the stripper pole) and took the fam to Occidental Grill.  It is close to the White House and is known for hosting politicians.  My older brother-in-law from Texas looks very stately, so we kept referring to him as, "Congressman" all night.  The waiters caught on and asked him as we were leaving how he was planning to vote on the fiscal bill.  We were all so wasted that it was 10x as funny.  After dinner, we drove around to some of the monuments and ran out to take pictures at the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials.  They look totally different when you're not a teenager kissin on some boy late at night!  So cool. I can't remember the last time I have laughed so hard as I did on the way home that night.  The cooler of booze that we had with us was probably the reason why...

Another night, we went to one of those fondue restaurants, the Melting Pot.  Ok, I'm glad that we went, but I probably wouldn't do it again.  They bring you big pots and long sticks and you cook your own food and then you pay the guy a tip.  Whutup with that?  Anyhoo, we all came out of there stankin' like food.  Dudes, get a vent system.  Got home and immediately took a shower.  I smelled like cheese and wine and boiled meat.

Went to see "Guilt Trip" with Barbara Streisand.  GREAT movie if you get a chance to see it.  I love her.  She's just so cool.  The relationship was a lot like my sister and her son.  Not because of guilt, but because Babs is constantly telling her son to hydrate, "Drink your water."  Too funny.  My sister took my nephew to his first overnight camp and then snuck back to check on him the next day when he was playing soccer.  From the grassy knoll above, she's shouting, "HYDRATE!!  HYDRAAAAAATE!"

Christmas was great.  This was possibly the best Christmas EV-vah.  So nice.  My sister, her husband, and my niece came up from Texas.  The mother-in-laws were there.  My nephew's friends came and went.  So happy.

The flight back to Kuwait was great.  I had an upgrade voucher.  Got to sleep in business class on a flat bed.  Yesss.  Very very very nice United rep at the gate at Dulles, named Bonnie, assisted me; she made my whole trip.

So... snap to 2013 in the next post....

Western Employees on Arifjan Sue for Labor Benefits and Win

The article below appeared on the front page of the Arab Times.

USG contractors working in Kuwait MUST abide by the Kuwait Labor Law or face consequences.  Just because employees are working at a US military installation does not mean that employers get to bend the rules to suit them.  

It is good that the article includes the full name of the lawyer, Musaed J. Al-Riyahi,  that is handling the employees' case.  He has successfully won cases for Westerners fighting for their rights.  More people with similar circumstances can now contact him.  Only wish they had published his contact information!  I just did a quick Google search and couldn't find him.  Why don't these guys at least get on LinkedIn?

The Kuwait Labor Law states that a work week is only 48 hours.  Any time over 48 hours is considered overtime.  No such thang in Kuwait as "exempt" and "non-exempt" employees.  It all the same.

Kuwait Labor Law, Article 64
"…it is forbidden to allow workers to work for more than 48 hours per week or 8 hours a day..."

Article 66
The overtime work should not exceed two hours a day, a maximum of 180 hours a year, three days a week or 90 days a year. The worker shall have the right to prove by any means that the employer required him to perform additional works for an additional period of time. The worker shall also be entitled to a 25 percent increase over his original remuneration for the period of overtime."

I wonder how many employees filed the case.  Interesting.

Bottom line is that either the company has knowingly violated legal labor practices to make more money;  or whoever was in charge of overseeing their contract (compliance/contract management?) did a crap job.

Ultimately, if employees don't do anything about it, unscrupulous companies will get away with it.  The Kuwait Labor Law is available online.  Any employee in Kuwait with a Kuwaiti residency visa is governed under the Kuwait Labor Law.  Get edumacated.