Monday, March 31, 2014

Sample DG FAQs and Local Activities

Reader Mike wrote to me and asked me some questions. I often get asked these types of questions and I'm happy to provide my (NON-PAID-FOR) recommendations.  Maybe they can help some of youse (?).  This is just a simple samplin'.  For more detailed information, please browse through some of my previous posts and see "DG Index - " for categories.

Newspaper
Kuwait Times or Al Watan Daily (I read the Arab Times, but I also read the National Inquirer...)

Restaurant
(I'm going to recommend my favorite Kuwaiti restaurant because we're in Kuwait....)
Kuwaiti restaurant:  Shateya Watiya in the Behbehani complex downtown. 

Kuwaiti food delivery online - see: http://www.talabat.com/kw/en/cuisine-food/19/kuwaiti-restaurants-in-kuwait.  Or my review:  http://desertgirlkuwait.blogspot.com/2012/03/kuwaiti-food-and-restaurants.html

Beach
The best beaches are in Khiran, approximately 45 minutes South of Kuwait City.  Take the Khiran Resort exit from 40 until you see a bridge and water towers.  Make the U turn.  Take the next right (road goes to Zoor).  Park next to any of the chalets under construction.  Walk over berms to the beaches.  Completely isolated and very clean.  There are many inlets - just pick one.

Ideally, if you can get out to Khubar or Um Al Moradim islands, they are awesome.  Al Boom Dive Center will take you there.  Mr. Reyadh Al- Bannow, Tel:(+965) 24613445/6/7/8, Fax:(+965) 24613449, Email: reyadh@alboomkuwait.com

Night Out
Depends on what you want.  Movies?  Dinner?  Maybe a twilight boat cruise around the bay?  Night life in Kuwait centers around coffee shops because there are no bars.  Make Kuwaiti friends; get invited to parties..  In the summer time, at the chalets (beach houses) or yachts; in the winter in tents.

Fishing/Boating

Call Yousef  at Amwaj Boat Trips, 6688-7475, E: amwajboattrips@gmail.com, Instagram: @amwajboattrips

Diving/Snorkeling/Island Trips
NAUI Middle East service Center – Al Boom Marine, Reyadh Al-Bannow, Tel:  (+965) 2461 3445/6/7/8, Fax:  (+965) 246 13449, Email: reyadh@alboomkuwait.com.  Diving trips (for certified divers – equipment rentals), dive courses, snorkeling and trips to Kuwait’s Southern Islands; Garoh and Um Al-Moradim (from Khiran).

Week-End Resort
Seashells or El Joan in Julai’ia.  Bring a marriage certificate because most resorts/hotels won’t rent to singles.  (They  also won’t validate certificates... just sayin.)

Massages
Spa Aquatonic, The Missouni Hotel, Corniche Club

Souq
The BEST/oldest is Mubarakia in downtown Kuwait.  They have souqs within the souq:  gold, fish, meat, clothing, spices, perfumes, household goods, cosmetics, Bedouin weavings, antiques, etc.

Eat at Sheesha King (outdoors in front of the mosque).  Order fresh grilled meat, fresh fish, or hameesa shrimp.

Art Gallery/Museum
http://www.artkuwait.org/art-galleries-art-museums-art-institutions-exhibition-halls-in-kuwait

Local Tours of Kuwait
               
Ali or Fran at Morqab Tours, 6510-0772 (Will tailor for smaller groups/individuals).  Ali is Kuwaiti and his dad was a ship-builder.  He is VERY proud of his Kuwaiti heritage and offers truly unique and wonderful tours of the country he loves.  I highly recommend them.
            
            Nuzha Tours,  25755825/35 Web:  www.nuzhatours.com (Require minimum #s)


GO SEE KUWAIT!!!

Kuwait: Security crackdown on Bedoon community renews tensions

I am sharing a very interesting article on the recent events in Kuwait within the Bedoun community.  Alakhbar is a Lebanon-based newspaper and reports on

Kuwait: Security crackdown on Bedoon community renews tensions


The article is too long to re-post, however it is a good read.  We often do not hear about what is happening within Kuwait in Kuwaiti media.  

My prayers go out to those going through this ordeal.  I wish they would just solve it.

Back in Contact With Old Friends and Cool New People

So, when I joined the company I work for, I had 2 titles and worked at both of them.  Approximately 2 years ago, they dropped the first title and left me with the second title, which eliminated the need for me to go out and network with business people in the community.  The second title implied inside-office work so that's what I've been up to.  Fine.  I'm flexible.

For 2 years, I have really not been involved in business associations or attended meetings or functions.  Ever since the US went into Iraq (I don't want to be PC and say "invaded" because that would be wrong, right?) in 2003, I've been working my back side off with defense contracting and the like.  I've made a lot of friends, but I've been bad about keeping in touch (as you see those friends when  you attend the business meetings/events as we are all so busy that you never get to see each other at any other time.  Maybe Thanksgiving if you're lucky, but even then, not everybody).

Anyhooser, now the company I work for has dropped the second title and bestowed me yet again with my first title (somewhat "salesey").  Okey dokey.  I'm flexible.  No problem.

[Personally, I think it was just a matter of the business owner not knowing my personality/me in general.  At that point - because I was so rigid at my job on the legal side of the fence - he probably thought I was a downer and not much of a personality.  BAM. I'm pretty sure he knows me now.]

I have started to attend the meetings and functions again.  I've really missed it.

Last night, I attended an absolutely lovely event at the US Embassy.  It was a large gathering and it seemed like I knew everyone in the room, but I just hadn't seen them in years.  Some assumed (always wrong) that I went back to the States.  I guess that is logical enough, since many expats go home.  Not this girl.  I'm kind of a lifer.

I saw several people that I hadn't seen in - OMG - almost 10 years.  Can it BE that long?  Wow.  Time flies when you're doing inside-office work.  Well, he wasn't the norm.  Most I hadn't seen in just a few years.  I ran into a Sheikh friend. I  ran into a few chairmen friends (not "chairholes" - as I sometimes refer to people in those positions).  These are nice guys.  So good to catch up.

I also made some new friends.  You know - I have a very hard time keeping up with Embassy staff (and to make matters really worse - I am terrible at names.  I should create flash cards with photos, but I can't bring my camera to the Embassy).  If you think 10 years flies by; what about 2 years?  I still think that Peter Alois (who I liked a lot) is the Commercial Attache, for example.  But wait, that's not true.

Last night, I met the Sr. Commercial Officer.    I've seen him around at various business gatherings, but I never knew who he was or what he did.  [I don't know why, but the American community in Kuwait is often the least likely to whip out their business cards at functions.  The Brits whip it out at every opportunity.  (Sorry, but you do and we like it.)  Americans are more - how do I say this - stoic, maybe?  I thought it would have been the reverse, but not so.]  Anyhoo, this cool guy with awesome hair and I start talking and joking around.  On my second glass of (Fanta), I let it slip about the blog.  Ooopsie.  I usually don't do that (anonymous and all that), but we were talking about some friends of his who will be visiting Kuwait and I said I might be able to point to the right direction.  We later exchanged business cards and I found out he was  Dude.  Let me just say, Department of State, keep sending people like him! Intelligent and holding a high position, but approachable and friendly;  as were several of the other "new" faces at the Embassy.  Kudos, DOS.

I also feel the same way about the current US Ambassador to Kuwait, Matt Tueller.  He is a very busy man, but always stays through the entire duration of most events (rather than dashing in and out like others) and has always made it a point to attend every AUSA event so that he can show his support to US service people in Kuwait.  That's admirable.  He's also a genuinely nice guy.  He will be leaving Kuwait soon and I wonder who will replace him.

Ok, back to me....

I don't think I'm unlike many working people (Kuwaiti or not).  You get into a rut.  You do your job, get tired, go home to your routine.  You don't push yourself to do new things or to leave your bubble.  Lately, I've been doing new things, but it has involved the outdoors and not much contact with humans (which has been great, but at some point, you need to speak human again).  I'm going to push myself.  Well, I kindof have to (for work) until they change my title again.  That's fine.  I'm flexible....

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Just in a foul mood lately

You can tell when I'm in a shetty mood when I only post about stuff that's in the newspaper that I need to vent about.  Yeah, that's me lately.  I've just been in a funk.  It happens.  I'll snap out of it fer sure, but now it is just like one big pity party.

I just got back from vacation and I need a vacation.  Unprofessional people have been really getting under my skin.  Yeah, I know.  Like - where do I live?  Right?  I should be used to it by now, but recently I've had to interact directly with peolple who are irking me to all ends.

Hmmm... where to begin....

Well, my day started off pretty bad.  When I moved into my apartment in the house, the landlady said that they would start painting the house, "soon."  Now, 4 years later, and without 24 hours notice, they have started.  The new building hariss stopped at 10pm, by to ask me my wi-fi password .... and to OH... let me know that the painting would begin in the morning and that I should move things.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!  At 5:30 this morning, they started putting up the painting scaffolding (that I'm pretty sure were the ones used on
the Pyramids).  They still use hemp rope and wood planks in this part of the world.  A tiny car full of Egyptians in gallabiyas (man-dresses) showed up, made tea (somehow?  With water from my outdoor hose), stouted at eachother... and so a MONTH will go by (at least) they say before it is finished.   April 1, I'm moving with the guys back to the farm in Kabd.  F that.  I'm not waking up to people shouting at 5:30 am on a weekend. Someone will DIE.  I sent my landlady an SMS:  "What's up with the NO notice on the painters?!  NOT nice."   I think I've been too nice.  I pay my rent early.  There's going to be some late-rent mischief this month.

KFH has been very professional lately and the caliber of service has risen to new levels.  Having said that, I just got a new credit card from them and canceled it within 10 days.  They never explained the full terms and conditions; and never provided anything in English that might help me (that's right - a foreigner who doesn't read Arabic).  Now, while I understand that KFH has been historically considered a "local" bank, doing business in Arabic; guess what?  All banks are in competition and 2/3 of the work force is foreign.  Anyhoo, after they deducted 250KD to secure the credit card (which I had not been informed about), I cancelled it.  And guess what (again)?  There was a KD25 fee to cancel it.  What Tha Phuck.

Bimbos:  I have been in contact with bimbos lately.  I try to limit my exposure to bimbos as often as possible. Its like a form of cooties that I don't want.  I've had several bimbo-related incidents lately that have made my jaw drop. I think I'm equally shocked at my own reaction to them because... well... you know... I used to BE a bimbo myself.  It is kind of a jolt for me to realize that I'm so far beyond all that tight-jeans-wearing (to work), gum chewing, OTT dressing,  kind of stuff.

[Katherine Stellock of Chevy Chase, Maryland:  My former boss at Woodward and Lothrop.  If you are out there, I sing your praises ALL the time.  You taught me so much about business etiquette and composure. You'll never know.   Mrs. Stellock (as I was only allowed to call her) always came to work in pristine, elegant clothes - mostly black - with pearls.  She walked with a straight back and head held high.  She never gossiped.  She would look at me from head to toe with a watchful eye and say, "Mmmm hmmm..." (distastefully)  and walk away. I learned more from what I perceived as her meanness than any other business education.  She led by example and I worship her skills in hindsight.]
I'm not writing about anything work-related because hey - I have been told to keep it positive.  Perky, perky, perky!  Yes.  Everything is beautiful and wonderful and happy.  However, I just went to get a motivational speech from the one guy who I know is positive (and told me to be) and he totally brought me down.  There should have been some of that "music to commit suicide to" sappy stuff playing in the background.

I need a Xanax weekend.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Refugees International Report on Kuwait Stateless

Refugees International Report on Kuwait Stateless


This is a cut/paste repost from Refugees International Blog
Article by Sarnata Reynolds
LINK


On March 2, a 14-year-old boy named Ali Habib was put in a Kuwaiti jail and charged with disturbing the peace. He had been arrested while participating in a peaceful demonstration for the right to citizenship, one of many in a decades-long movement demanding that Kuwait’s stateless people, called the bedoon, be recognized as citizens. 

After two days Ali was released, but eight other stateless activists remain in jail on trumped-up charges including participating in an “illegal gathering” and “damaging police property.”

For the last three years, peaceful gatherings in support of the right to nationality have been met with rubber bullets, tear gas, sound bombs, beatings, and detentions. And yet the protests continue. In response, some elected officials have taken up the cause, and in March 2013, Kuwait’s parliament passed a law that would grant citizenship to 4,000 “foreigners” – although it has not been implemented.

In April 2013, activists held the first international conference on statelessness in Kuwait, which led to the formation of a National Committee on the issue and a four-year plan for the realization of citizenship rights. Despite an attempt by the government to shut down the conference, it was attended by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, foreign diplomats (including from the U.S. and UK), and non-governmental organizations including Refugees International. Just last month, the U.S. government officially and publicly documented the mistreatment and exclusion of the bedoon in its annual report on human rights, with the UK having previously documented their persecution.

The movement for citizenship rights in Kuwait is undeniable and growing. The bedoon are not going anywhere, their supporters are steadfast, and the international community is increasingly calling for recognition of their human rights.

While the Kuwaiti government has the authority to determine who makes up its citizenry, it does not have the privilege of rendering people stateless. Therefore, a just and transparent procedure should be approved that both protects every person’s right to a nationality and honors the government’s power to impose fair criteria for citizenship. Granting citizenship to Kuwait’s longstanding, multi-generational and loyal residents is both the right thing to do, and inevitable.

To get there, the Kuwaiti government should immediately recognize and document the Kuwaiti citizenship of all individuals and families with relevant links to the nation, including birth on the state’s territory, descent, marriage, or habitual residence.

Until their nationality claims can be resolved, the government should: protect the human rights of all stateless people, including the right to liberty, assembly, education, healthcare, and due process before the law; file a court complaint if a person’s citizenship is under suspicion, provide conclusive proof of their foreign nationality, and protect the right to due process; and incorporate stateless Kuwaitis into all aspects of public life, including public schools, residences and employment.

Among the more than 100,000 stateless people in Kuwait are the spouses and children of Kuwaiti citizens, veterans and police officers, hospital technicians, taxi drivers, poets, and little boys like Ali. They know no other country and identify themselves with the people, culture, and history of Kuwait. They may currently be without citizenship, but they are not without rights. They must be respected 

- See more at: http://refugeesinternational.org/blog/kuwaits-stateless-not-giving-fight#sthash.DYFAyPl2.gl71akGe.dpuf

Kuwaiti Stateless Issue being "studied" again - OMG!

"Stateless" or "Bedoun/Bidoon" refers to those in Kuwait who have NO nationality.  No passports.  No identity.  How can that be, you ask?  There are several countries in the world with this issue.  Kuwait is a prime example.

Imagine you can't get a credit card.  A car, a phone, or a home in your name.  You can't travel because you don't have a passport.  It is up to a government to determine if you may/may not get birth, marriage, and death certificates.  How do you live?  How do your children live? Children can't get public education because they have no nationality. How will they go to private schools if there is no money to pay for them?  What about health care?    With the number of Stateless Kuwaitis increasing by birth every year, isn't this a national crisis? THINK!


Arab Times
24 March 2014

‘Steps Under Way To Solve Problems Of Illegal Expats’
2,000 Out Of 90,000 Rectify Residential Status

 KUWAIT CITY, March 23: Around 2,000 expatriates facing residency-related problems have rectified their status as per the instruction of Assistant Undersecretary for Citizenship and Passports Affairs Major General Sheikh Faisal Al-Nawaf to ease procedures for these people, reports Alam Al- Yawm daily quoting sources.

Sources confirmed the directive of the assistant undersecretary was implemented after he conducted a study on the issue and submitted results to the interior minister as part of a purely humanitarian security plan to correct the status of nearly 90,000 foreigners staying illegally in the country.


Sources said other studies are currently being conducted to gradually fix the problem - a step which needs time, intensified efforts and governmental support.

---

I had to re-read the "article" above several times because the writing is so God-awful that I missed the point the first 20 times I read it, but I understand the overall point. Perhaps it sounds better in Arabic, before the Google translation?

I have so many comments about this that I don't even know where to begin.  First, gradual BS "studies" have been going on for decades.  They study.  They talk.  They have tea.  They study some more.  They talk some more.  NOTHING happens.  Bidoon (which means "without" - NOT "Illegal") people who have the right to Kuwaiti nationality are still waiting and being treated terribly by just about everyone.  (And before I get any bullshit from the peanut gallery:   by saying "People who have the right" - I mean the ones who can prove that they were here before the 1964 census, have documentation, and have DNA directly linking them to their KUWAITI family members.)

They said they would naturalize 4000 Bedoun per year.  I forget what year that was, but it was years ago and no movement has been made, but "studies."  

Meanwhile, my friends like AHE,  who served in the Kuwait military for 40 (FORTY) years, representing Kuwait as a competition sharp-shooter around the world, still doesn't have nationality; nor do any of his children.  Their home is in someone else's name.  Their cars are in other people's names.  The sons get less salary than anyone else in the same job category and they are perceived as "non-Kuwaitis".  WTF.  The man is a prouder Kuwaiti than most 1st nationality category (there are 17 levels I believe) Kuwaitis that I have ever met.   (17 levels of citizenship, and yet everyone in the country talks about "national unity".  Funny that.) 

The same with HS.  He's been in the Kuwaiti police force for decades, serving his country.  He has all the necessary documentation and he still can't get anyone to even listen to him.  He, like others, hates to go to the governments bedoun agencies because they are treated worse than cattle; they are degraded and humiliated.

Sidebar:   hearing, "Ana usli Kuwaiti" ("original Kuwaiti") takes you down many levels with me (insert expletive starting with "a" here).   WHO is "original"?  People have asked me if I'm, "usli Amreekia" before. Ha.  That's funny.  WTF is that?! 

I've been requested to ask for help from my friends in "higher places."  I want to, but I see the looks on their faces when I even mention the Bedoun. They don't even want to hear it.   Then, the insults and slurs start. I feel awful and humiliated just for bringing up the subject.  The conversations never get far enough for me to provide specific details.    It hurts my feelings to hear how people I consider friends feel about those who I love and are suffering.  They know me better than to say, "You don't understand the complexity of the problem.  You're a foreigner."  No - I've heard that from people (and people commenting here) who DON'T know me.  I know the issues, all the complexities; and I also know people facing serious humanitarian issues in their lives here and now.


Don't make it about the politics; make it about the people.  
NATURALIZE THOSE WHO DESERVE CITIZENSHIP!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 27, 2014: Kuwaiti Traditional Food Exhibition and Dishdasha Night


March 27, 2014: Kuwaiti Traditional Food Exhibition and Dishdasha Night

This exhibition will offer visitors to the AWARE Center the opportunity to sample the wide variety of Kuwaiti’s traditional foods. Look forward to trying Margoga, Tashriba, or Balaleet. Whilst trying something squishy, you have to have a go at sago worms, locally called butod, a feat which will win you many local friends. Visitors can also try on the traditional clothes on and have their pictures taken. Men can try the Dishdasha and  women can try the Darra’a. 

This event is scheduled on March 27, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm and is free of charge; however, prior registration is requested at 2533-5280 or email info@aware.com.kw

Kuwait's Sea Life

Yes, this was taken in Kuwait (not by me)


I thought I had posted this before, but looking through my archives, I can't find it anywhere. I used to write a lot of freelance articles for various magazines and newspapers around Kuwait. This story has been published before (so it is a wee bit dated, but most of the information is still accurate). It was written at a time when I had a wonderful editor, Tim Waddell, who I miss.  He and Sue Day both 
 made me a better writer and I miss working with).  

I thought it would be a good time to whip this article back out, as it is dear to my heart and  with the summer quickly approaching (one day it will be 60F and the next 110F - that's summer in Kuwait).  

Some have said that Kuwait is one of the "unfriendliest tourist destinations," intimating that perhaps people won't want to "Go See Kuwait".... Well, unfriendly as some aspects are to tourism, Kuwait is still an interesting place to be discovered by many (and by many of us who live here and haven't seen it all).  After all these years in Kuwait, I still learn something new here EVERY day.  Your environment is what you make of it.  I don't think that it is a secret that I love Kuwait.  I think everyone should see it through new eyes.

GO SEE KUWAIT!   - - -

Most Westerners picture Kuwait as sand and camels; perhaps recently as a semi-dangerous country along the front line.  I will always associate Kuwait on the still sea at sunset; a heavy smell of salt and oil lingering in the air and a pinkish mist coming off the water, as curious sea turtles pop their heads through for a brief moment of contact.

I have had Kuwaiti friends in Washington, DC,  for many years.  My interest in Kuwait was flamed by different people from different walks of life;  diplomats, business people, housewives, students.  All shared the same commonality; an intense love for a little country.

My closest friends turned out to be fishermen.  I had always lived around the ocean, but I wasn’t much interested in water; the type of waters where  I grew up (in Rhode Island in the North East of the United States) were deep and turbulent; scary to a kid. I grew up with images of “Jaws” in my head, as the filming site of Martha’s Vinyard wasn’t very far from where we were.  The different variety of stories I heard from Kuwaiti fisherman intrigued me;  strange and uncommon fish and what sounded like an abundance of them at that, turquoise-blue waters that sometimes looked like glass.

My favorite fisherman story, recounted to me while I was in Washington and which captured my curiosity,  was that of a mysterious creature that lived in a sunken ship. Four men were there that night – my friend, Reyadh Al-Banna, was with them. Fluorescent lights shined in the water to attract more fish. The
boat was anchored next to the shipwreck; an oil tanker with the stern sticking out of the water close to the international maritime border between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait;  split apart on a sand bar in the early 80’s and empty of cargo.  The sea air was hot and thick. Mist surrounded the area and there was no sound.  They were pulling up the lines as fast as they could bait them. The fish mysteriously disappeared; then reappeared for no explainable reason in an ebb and flow.  No one spoke or questioned it, but wondered silently to themselves why it was happening.  Suddenly, Reyadh looked down at the water and lost his breath.  The night air became frighteningly still and quiet; He couldn’t speak. He pointed frantically towards the water.  The fishermen turned and saw the creature;  A face about 3 to 4 feet across with a nose described as “pushed in” and the eyes bulging on the sides, starred  back at them from the depths.The vessel was 18’ long and the creature was longer.  Reyadh cut the anchor,  the boat drifted out of reach and they raced back to the shore.


I, and not the creature, had been hooked.  I had to see that shipwreck someday. I had to see the sun on flat waters where dolphins and tortoise and thousands of fish swam. Fifteen years later, I was there.  We went to see the wreck on a choppy day. I went with a strong-willed British friend who is was eager to dive at the site. When we arrived, he changed his mind.  It was eerie.  We all had the same feeling and didn’t want to be there.

Kuwait’s sea life is amazing:  tortoises, dolphins, sea rays, lion fish, whale sharks, barracuda, and an amazing assortment of both tropical and larger fish like grouper and tuna.Unless a Western person knew someone with a boat, or ventured to find one of the many rental boats or day trips, this valuable part of Kuwait would be overlooked.

There are eight interesting and diverse  islands in Kuwait:  Warba, Bubyan, Failaka, Awhah, Maskan, Kubbar, Qaruh, and Um Al Moradim. (For a list and map of Kuwait islands with GPS coordinates, see LINK HERE.)  There are many types of tropical fish around the islands and the coral should not be missed by divers visiting the area. If you throw bread into the water at sunset, thousands of multi-colored fish surround your boat to feed. At sunset, the water has an “oily” look to it and turns a shade of pink.

Summertime in Kuwait, you can find almost every type of Kuwaiti from any walk of life on Kubbar Island.  Approximately an hour’s boat trip from Kuwait City, Kubbar is a tern sanctuary, but is commonly known locally as a Friday picnic island. Small boats to very large luxury yachts race to get there after Juma prayer – and there is struggle for a mooring space unless you arrive at Kubbar in the morning and stake out your space.  Kubbar is to Kuwait what Sunday picnicking is to America; food is prepared, put into thermos containers or coolers for the trip; either sandwiches, chips, and fruit or if you are really lucky, a home- cooked fish and rice meal (motabbag simich).

Qaruh Island

The ultimate mooring is to position the back of the boat facing the island with about 20 feet of water between.  Umbrellas are set up on the shore and everyone has cool drinks in the water. It is like a small, watery back yard.     People  talk and greet friends in other boats;  some play music, many rip around on jet or water skis.  A recent addition to Kubbar pass-time is the mechanized parachute for interesting displays of aeronautical maneuvers.    At lunchtime, offers are always made to surrounding boats (neighbors) to join – even if you don’t know the people.  As longtime Kuwaiti fishermen like Abdulwahab Al-Tahir insist, “At sea, you care about others who are there with you; what you have, you share.”  This may come in the form of food or assistance – it doesn’t matter.

At 4:30, it is time for the Kubbar fashion show.  Everyone retreats to the water and watches Kuwait’s variety of pretty ladies strolling around the island.  Bathing suits have become smaller and smaller as years go by; On Kubbar, you may think that you are on a small island in the Mediterrenean, rather than in a conservative country.

Um Al Moradim (the Southern-most island of Kuwait) is much more quiet.  It was recently disputed by Saudi Arabia, wanting to claim the island as their own. Occasionally, there are arguments between Kuwaiti fisherman and the Saudi Coast Guard or Customs officials.  Kuwait maintains a Coast Guard post on the island.

Um Al Moradim has a thriving rabbit population.  Years ago in the late 1980’s, bored Coast Guard men brought a pair of rabbits out as pets. Now, thousands of huge rabbits inhabit the island;  the size of the fabled and elusive Western American “jackalope” (minus the antlers).   The rabbits are so abundant that you can pick them up and they readily eat any fruits or vegetables left for them.  There just isn’t enough vegetation or to go around;  the government has plans to humanely take the rabbits off the island – donating some to schools and others to homes.

Um Al Moradim has a nice surprise for night-time swimmers:  phosphorescent algae.  This phenomenon has been documented in other parts of the world, but is not well-known in Kuwait;  Any movement in the water creates  tiny lights like “fairy dust”, similar to that given off by fireflies.  On a starry night when the moon is full,  it is magical. The water is clear enough to see the sea floor and hot as bath water.  The sky is a blanket of stars and the lights from the mainland shore and the off-shore oil rigs twinkle in the distance.

Qaruh is the spot of choice for nesting sea tortoises.  Surrounded by  a wonderful array of coral, it is difficult for larger boats to navigate to, therefore not popular with the masses.  During several months of the year, oil creeps up from underground wells and boats become black with tar; a lingering smell of oil in the air also makes it unpleasant. If you are lucky enough to get to Qaruh when it isn’t  oily,  you will see incredibly blue, clear waters with an amazing assortment of fish and jellyfish.  Dolphins often come within arms reach of the boat.


Sea smuggling is a problem for the Kuwaiti government, which limited the number of allowable engines on a boat to 2, as faster boats are more difficult to catch. Coast Guardsmen and customs officials are eager to catch smugglers as they are often awarded bonuses for catches. There was a story of Russian diplomats years ago who were also divers: They were diving in an area close to Um Al Moradim for no particular reason and came across several crates of contraband alcohol on the sea floor – most likely thrown overboard by escaping smugglers.  They didn’t want to bring the entire cache to the surface for fear of being caught. Instead, the kept the latitude and longitude coordinates (via GPS) and every now and then would go out to their “store” if they needed a bottle for a dinner party.

The fish in Kuwait are less in number than they have been in the past, according to fishermen. Almost everyone owns a computerized fish finder,  brought to


Kuwait in the 80’s. Spotting the fish finder owners is easy: large groups of boats gathered on single spot, trying for the same schools of fish. Pollution from various sources (including raw sewage, washing of tanker hulls into the bay, and littering) is also adding to the diminishing sea life and an increase of algae problems in the bay.
I have had the good fortune of knowing Kuwaiti fishermen at a time when Kuwait’s sea life is still abundant. Without them, I think I would still be afraid of the water instead of swimming in it. I would have missed too much.

My friends at Al Boom Dive Center take weekend trips to the islands.
Whether you dive or not, it is a great experience.

My favorite island is Um Al Moradim, the southern-most island in Kuwait.  I love to be there after the other boats have gone; staying from sunset to feed the fish cheese puffs (looks like they are playing basketball as thousands of little yellow fish pop the cheese puffs out of the water trying to bite them); until after dark when there is a moon and you can see clear to the sea floor.  After almost 18 years, I'm ashamed to say that I've never been to Bubiyan Island, but there is always somewhere else remaining to discover.

There is a very good book on the varieties of fish in Kuwait (with photos) titled, "The Coral Reefs and Coral Reef Fishes of Kuwait"  available for free download in .pdf format HERE.  (Actually, the site has a lot of downloadable books in English for free.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kuwait's Tent Market


I went to the tent market last night to have a canvas cover made for my gate door which leads into my yard.  I've had one on there for several years so that the neighbor's kids can't see in and discover I have dogs and start playing with them (or worse).  The kids thought they owned the place when I first moved in, and the canvas cover has really helped. Before I came up with the canvas idea, I debated a lot of options from building a screen to putting up accordian exterior doors (KD 500 - 3000 depending on materials).  For KD 5 at the tent market, it was a no-brainer (and something that I can easily replace and won't do any structural change to the house).

Anyhoo, I love this market and I've never seen a Westerner there.  The above is a crappy picture taken from the car.  I need to go back there and take more photos during the day.

If you're even remotely thinking about camping next year, the summer is the time to buy a tent at the market.  you can bargain and they have all kinds and sizes (they even have some small enough for me to put in my back terrace - It would be a great idea for kids.  They also sell the fabric for shading (as above) if you have a yard or patio you want to shade from the sun this summer (it really helps - especially as the plants tend to burn).  Or covers for outdoor furniture, or whatever.  Tent dudes sew on-site.  They also sell the traditional Egyptian tent fabric (which I wish they would sell more of in Kuwait in different colors - so cool!)


The tent market is behind LuLu Hypermarket (off 4th Ring Road and 55 in Rai) and down the little road from the Friday Market (and close to The Avenues if you need a major landmark).  If you aren't terribly adventurous, you can drive through it to check it out.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Happy Dog

I took my boy to the beach this weekend.  It was the 2nd time he's ever seen the sea, so he was a little happy (Mashallah).

video


It was such a gorgeous day.  I went with my camp buddies and came back so relaxed.  I will be back down there for sure a lot this summer.  

I used to take Desert Dawg to this very same beach when she was younger and she never played in the waves.  Now, she's so blind, deaf, and frightened by even the smallest things that I don't dare take her too far from home.  She's just too fragile at 17 years old.  She runs around my apartment, but I think that's just because she knows where all the furniture is.  (For that reason, I've been too afraid to re-arrange anything.)  Poor little thing.  I'm just trying to make her as comfortable as possible.  Mike has taken over all her old toys; she's not interested in anything but her food and her favorite wool blanket.  I love that little dog so much and it is so hard to see her fading.  Almost 17 years is a long time for a dog to live, so I've been blessed.

Anyhoo, Mike came along at the right time.  It is so different to have a big dog again.  I grew up with big dogs. He's so strong and athletic and it is going to be fun to take him places.

Oh ok, and something I want to say:  I've been seeing a LOT of messages on Instagram and Facebook for people trying to get rid of their pets.  Most commonly is, "Please help us in re-homing (Flan) as the mother has decided she no longer wants animals in the house."  My standard answer is always (and will always be "Re-home the mother.")  Deciding to take a pet is a responsibility.  You are teaching your children responsibility.  You don't just teach them that it is ok to dump your responsibility when you no longer feel like taking care of it. Piss-poor parenting.   Pet ownership should be (and is to me) a life-long commitment (for the full life of  the pet).  Now that the cooler/camping season is over, you will see a lot of pets being dumped.  It was fun to have them outside and play with them (as puppies/kittens) and now that it is going to be hot and the animals are a little older, people are looking to get rid of them.  THESE PEOPLE DISGUST ME.   (End of sermon.)


Anyhoo, I had a great day with my big, hyper-puppy.  Hope all y'alls had a nice weekend too.  Wasn't the weather amazing?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mikey's Obedience School Orientation


I joined a group on Instagram called Group German Shepherd Dog Kuwait (group_gsd_kw).  They have gatherings every Saturday afternoon at Messila Beach from 2:00 to 4:00 and post photos of the events. They look like a totally cool group of people and I've been trying to get over there to see them in action.  Everyone is invited.  I wrote to the group admin guy and asked him if he could recommend a good trainer (as he is a hyper 5 month old and I can't wait to get him into school).  I've been interviewing schools and trainers for a while now.  (This is nothing!  I interviewed 6 dentists before having my root canals done.... Its what I do.)

Group GSD immediately got back to me with a contact for GSD_Q8 Kennel (add BU_NOOO7 on Instagram for contact details).

This is what happens when I try to take a shower.
(He now also answers to "A%&hole!"  So wrong.)

Last night, I drove up to The Kingdom of  Kabd to check out the facility for Mikey. They primarily train German Shepherds and working security dogs.  

I told them that I wanted to talk to them before leaving my dog there, etc.  We had coffee outside in cool weather with lots of dogs barking in the background.   They were LOVELY people and I felt completely confident with them.There were other trainers around bringing out happy dogs. They answered all my questions immediately and sincerely with confidence and direct eye contact.  

Usually if you leave your dog at an obedience school, they keep him for about a month and you don't get to see him.  These guys have another philosophy:  Every dog is different.  Every dog requires a different training schedule. There is no reason why an owner can't visit the dog or take him out for a few days. They don't use punishment with the dogs, but rewards, and that training must continue when the owner takes the dog home (so they must also train the owners).   So, I will pay the fee and it will be on-going (and the cost is less than other schools I've spoken to).  

The trainer, Peter, is from Slovakia and showed us his personal dog that he brought with him; a really beautiful and intelligent GS.   I asked them how they train and if they ever have to hit the dogs.  The guy literally sucked in air and said, "Of COURSE not!" (THAT is the response I was looking for!!) ; and then brought out a dog that had been trained by another trainer operating in Kabd (I'll just call him S for Sadistic - also the first letter of his real first name.  San&*s), who has been known to beat dogs into submission.  The female GS was a beautiful animal, but cowered every time a command was given.  It was heartbreaking.  They said that she will never be the same, but they were trying to rehabilitate her.  

What is really ironic is that I have had S's number on my phone for months; it was given to me by someone who told me that he is a great trainer.  I just never called.  I called these nice guys at GSD_Q8 Kennel instead.  And for 3 years running back, I have had friends with a farm right across the road from S's training center.  They kept inviting me there to see the dogs and I was always reluctant (and shouldn't normally have been as I love dogs and usually am happy to go visit them).  God keeps me out of trouble and I'm always thankful.  I would have never forgiven myself if I had given Mikey to someone like that and they had broken his spirit.  Seeing that poor cowering dog last night broke my heart.  I can't imagine how her owners must feel.  

The trainer told me what to look for in a true trainer:   He reached into one pants pocket and brought out a tennis ball and a leash.  He reached into the other pocket and brought out dog treats.  He was also wearing a uniform and told me that he wears it so that the protection dogs are familiar with it and know immediately who he is.  (I asked him if he was also wearing Kevlar underpants. He just laughed.)

Mikey will start school as soon as he's had his last puppy shots at the end of this month. He is not socialized around big dogs. (Totally embarrassed me last week at IVH and wouldn't stop barking.  Eeek.  I kept saying, "He's just a puppy.  He's just a puppy."  At 50 pounds/21 kilos, he doesn't look like a puppy.)  He's great with humans (children and adults), small dogs and cats, and my goat,  Paco.  (They had a cat at the kennel who is used to the big dogs and Mikey walked right up to say hello, nose-to-nose.  The cat hissed and Mikey flew back about 5 feet. LMAO!)  Mikey is dying to play with the big dogs so I'm happy about it.  I'm trying to arrange a reunion with Mikey's litter's brothers and sisters.  From everything I've seen and heard about the breeder, he's a wonderful person with amazing dogs.

All this German Shepherd stuff has added so much activity to my life!  More things to be thankful for.  More blessings.  More amazing people to meet.  Mashallah.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Black Market Alcohol Prices Reach Staggering Levels

I would never buy alcohol in Kuwait because it is haram and it is illegal (and I'm a girl and I don't have to).... but I've heard....


Johnny Walker Red Label 1L (the most commonly-found black market alcohol in Kuwait) is now selling for approximately KD 100 (US$ 355) per bottle.  Whaaaaaaaat?! Normal price in the US is around $30.  And the scuttlebutt is that you can't find original alcohol - it is all bootlegged/fake and some people are even said to be selling ethanol colored by saffron and put into original bottles and sold as whiskey.  What's goin' on?! And people are buying at these prices? Dayum.

Johnny is no longer walking;  he's driving a Ferrari (and he's got Skinny Girl seated next to him) because he's making an &%itload of money.

Some wonder why there is now such an alarming drug abuse problem in Kuwait:  PRICE.  It is cheaper for thrill-seekers to get a quick buzz with drugs than it is to buy alcohol.  Hel-looooo.

No wonder Kuwait needs to build a bigger airport.  Thursday nights (start of the weekend) at KWI are no fun trying to get OUT to Dubai.... Our Islamic neighbors allow alcohol:  Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Oman. They also have flourishing tourism industries.  Hmmmm.... coinkidink?

(Thanks AA for planting the post idea in my head!)


Monday, March 10, 2014

The Era of The Skanky Hook-Up


Arab Times
10 March 2014

Kuwait:  Nude pictures: The Misdemeanor Court, presided over by Judge Abdul-Nasser Khuraebit, sentenced a woman to three years in jail with hard labor and immediate execution for posting her nude pictures on Twitter. The woman, who is unmarried, is said to have posted the indecent pictures to entice a man to commit immoral activities. The man forwarded the pictures to detectives who later arrested the woman. During interrogations, the woman admitted that she posted the photos to lure the man.

----

You know what?  GOOD FOR THE JUDGE!  I can't tell you how many of my female friends with boyfriends or husbands in Kuwait have the same problem:  slutty whores sending them skanky nude photos or posing seductively in some way.   All of those Shoo Shoo's, MeeMee's, Toota's, Sweet(something) all over virtual reality.  ICK.  

Ok, but on the flip (and I've posted about this before), I've received quite a few pictures from men of their (male parts), "to entice me to commit immoral activities."   I've talked about this with other girlfriends and it seems that I'm not alone in the receipt of this type of thing.  It's like a bunch of animals posturing for females.  "Look at me, look at me!"  How BASE can you get?!

It is the era of the skanky, bare-all hook up and I DON'T LIKE IT.  Meet online; send each other nude photos.  Get in, get off, get out.    Romance and dating have gone.  Love has no meaning.  And it's all about the next-best-thing.   

There was a scene in the movie "Demolition Man" (set in the future) with Sandra Bullock and Sylvester Stallone.  She asks him if he would like to have sex with her.  He agrees.  She then hands him a headset and a towel so they can have virtual sex.  I fear that's what the world is coming to.  No connections.  No intimacy.  Just neked pictures and a towel.

Technology is the bitch that you can't slap (unless you get busted, I guess.)

Kudus to you, Judge Khuraebit, for giving a little decency back to Kuwait.  I look forward to seeing more of these cases in the news.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

13 Year Old Arrested and Later Freed for Participating in Bedoun Demonstrations

Arab Times, 6 March 2014


13-year-old freed on bail: The Juvenile Public Prosecution released a 13-year-old Bedoun, identified as Ali Al-Habib, on KD 200 bail after listening to the statements of the officers in charge of the case. Case files indicate the teenager was arrested for participating in the recent Bedoun demonstrations.  Sources revealed he cried in front of the prosecutor, saying he was not aware of the purpose of the demonstration.


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Bedoon/Stateless Charity Organizations in Kuwait?

Does anyone know of any charity organizations (in Kuwait or outside) that provide assistance to the Bedoon/Stateless people in Kuwait? For example, donations for scholarships, schools, tuition, home assistance (food, furniture, etc), for Bedoon children, legal fees, etc? Please pass this along and help me answer this question as it is a humanitarian effort and important for companies (CSR) and individuals to become involved with. 

I have a list of the Bedoon rights groups, but I'm not coming up with anything for charity and I'm being asked by caring individuals.


Don't make it about the politics.  Make it about the people.


This is Taima, Kuwait (yes, this is Kuwait), where many Bedoon people live.  They are basically squatters (for decades) and the government can make the determination at any time to bulldoze the area (there have been discussions over the years about "relocating" the Bedoon in Taima, but to where?)


Sunday, March 02, 2014

DG Responds!

I would like to respond to some of the fassssssssssscinating hate mail that I've received lately (in a funny way because it has all been so hilarious that I think I should).  Let's break it down:

"You're desperate and no one is ever going to want you."
Subjective.  Desperate about what exactly?  I have everything I need.  Mashallah.  I write about lots of things - inconsequential relationshit type stuff tops my list because I love to over-analyze interpersonal stuff. It is a pass-time.  I over-analyze; I buy shoes; I  over-analyze some more; I buy some more shoes....  Some people read.  Some people study.  I over-analyze and buy shoes (oh, and these days, I clean up puppy pee).  
As far as "no one is ever going to want you" - I don't know how to answer that without sounding reeeeeeeeeeeally egotistical, arrogant, and downright conceited.   Shall I provide references of those who do/did want me?  In what format?  Access DB?  Excel spreadsheet?   I know I'm blessed (Thank you, God!)  If I wrote about the perfect/hot/super-nice guys I know, there wouldn't be anything to write about.  This is all about the drama, people.

The desperate statement always makes me believe I am dealing with someone sad who is projecting.  Or someone who I've really upset and knows me personally (and yeah, there are a few and one in particular with some troubling mental challenges.  2484-3900, honey!   Call now.  Operators are standing by!)

"Your Camaro defines you."
This one (not exact verbiage, but something similar) was left on Mark's blog and I kind of like it because I've always thought of people who drive muscle cars like mine to be the penile-challenged (ok, I secretly still think this about Mustang drivers, but I'm trying to change my ways).   But hey - I never had a penis to begin with so what to do?  Should my car define me, then I'm somewhere between the Mercedes I drive in the US and a Camaro.  Does the car make you a better or worse person?  Does your watch define you?  Shoes?  A designer bag?  Define me by panties,  if at all (now THAR ya go!)

I will respond to this one like this:  I had a choice of cars that took me years to solidify into an actual purchase.  I love the Camaro. Unlike most of the cars I looked at, the Camaro made my heart go pitty-patter. (And I drove a few Mustangs too BTW.)  The Camaro makes me happy (Mashallah).  When I got behind the wheel, I felt invigorated (or wait... was that just a hot flash??).  The Mercedes is pretty and elegant, but it doesn't give me the same rush I get with that Camaro engine.  Define away.  Je ne giveashit pas.

And I'm not out to prove that I do have a penis by racing you, either.  (Yawn.)

I thought that the misogynistic stereotypes of  what a woman "should" drive went out decades ago.  I guess there are still some throw-backs out there.

"Who wants an old lady who is going through menopause?"
Ok... emm how do I respond to that?  I can say (truthfully) that I'm not going through it;  although my volatile mood swings and hot flashes started when I was 14, so I really don't know.   And who cares??  My "change of life" came when I moved to Kuwait (I've you've moved here, male or female, you too have had your "change of life":  Kuwait:  It's different!) - and it did too involve hot flashes because it is FRICKIN HOT in this country.  Lots of the men in my office get hot flashes and quite a few are really moody;  are they going through menopause?  Hmmmm.

It is quite a revealing statement about the person who would say it:  Que misogynistic!  I've never heard a woman (or girl)  say to a man (as an insult), "Who wants an old man who has erectile dysfunction?" and yet the menopause card is tossed around frequently and freely.  Are they woman-haters to that extent?

"Old lady" is really a subjective statement.  I guess if you're 12,  everyone is older than you, right?  Et perhaps your youthful vocabulary is such that you can't come up with alternative words to cause what you interpret to be emotional damage, perhaps "old lady" is a phrase you might use.  Dunno.  So creative.  They must work in advertising, me thinks.

"You're a racist."
(This spoken by someone I have actually helped through this blog.)   I'm sorry if I offended anyone through any comment I have ever made and I am sure that it was never intentional.  I've been in Kuwait for almost 18 years.  Kuwait is a melting pot of cultures, religions, and backgrounds (and so is the DC area where I come from).  If I were truly a racist, I wouldn't have spent as much time as I have with so many friends from so many different places and walks of life.  I don't use racial slurs.  They (directed towards anyone) insult me.  My mother didn't raise me to be a racist.  She raised me to be a decent person who doesn't see all those peripheral things:  look into the soul to see who the person is.  The soul is what I believe defines a person.

"Go back to your country."
(Picking food from between my teeth while yawning.)  Honestly, hasn't this been said enough?  (Snooze.)  Self-explanatory, really. Lacking in creativity.  Yes yes, I'm a F foreigner and I do go back to my country.  Frequently.  And then I come back here.  And then I go back.  And then I come back here.  Wait... what was the point?  Oh, "go back to  your country."  I get it.

In Summary
There are other nasty common comments, but these are the most common/most recent that I receive.  I don't publish them.  I occasionally respond to them.  In short, these people's approval means EVERYTHING to me.  Yeah.  That's right.  It does.  Live for it, really.  Crave the approval of strangers.  Yup.  (And yes, Expat, you're totally right - it all helps my stats!)

It must be a heavy weight to carry around so much hostility and anger and then to unleash it on a stranger - anonymously.  How bad must  you feel in life to go around setting out to intentionally hurt others?  I can't judge what is going on in other people's heads.  Maybe they're going through horrible things in their life.  Maybe they have been raised to be that way and don't know any better.  Maybe they have no religion or faith.  It is hard to say.  Bless their hearts.

Like my mother says, if you are going to put your stuff out here on the internet for everyone to see, you're going to have to expect some people to hate you.  I guess it is to be expected.  She says you're a nobody until you get a death threat (seems like a lot of bloggers in the US get those, but if it happened in Kuwait they would probably be tracked down and arrested).  

I sincerely believe there are a lot more people who care and are compassionate, decent people. I get a lot of very nice mail from those types and I'm thankful that it tips the balance.  Mashallah.  Thank you, God.

What goes around, comes around: Live life with no regrets my friends and take the high road.

Peace (oh wait... is that an old lady saying?  Dayum.)