Sunday, April 30, 2017

Fish Dying in Kuwait - Again

In 2001, I wrote a series of scripts which aired on Kuwait Television in a series called, "Earth Visions;" an environmental documentary on the massive fish kill which took place in Kuwait Bay that year.  The estimate was 2,000 tons of dead fish - mostly meide (pomfret).  If you think dead fish around Kuwait it is bad now, I lived in Salmiya a block back from the sea and I couldn't get the smell of rotting fish out of my apartment for months.

In the article, I predicted that it would happen again (and again and again).  The causes are still there.

In 2001, before the Kuwait EPA was as big is it is today, the Government called in a team of Japanese experts to determine the cause.  I believe at that time they concluded that it was due to red tide; which makes sense because any pollution will cause algae to form; however there were several small differences (see below).  At any rate, the fish stopped dying at that time and people went back to doing what they were doing.  However, if you read in the article, at the time the Government advised people not to eat fish from the Bay for at least 2 years as a precaution. People were eating fish caught in/around the Bay within a few months.

There were a lot of  conflicting reports (as I have noticed there are now, some 16 years later).

2001



Earth Vision 
Director:  Noora Bourisely aired on Kuwait Television (English and Arabic stations) 
September - November, 2001, with video footage of Kuwait

Long before oil was ever found on the land of Kuwait, proud, hard-working people made their livings from the clean waters at the tip of the Gulf.  Oyster beds and sea creatures abound.  Pearlers and fishermen supported their families by harvesting the sea.

Today, Kuwait is facing a monumental catastrophe.  Fish and oysters are harder to find.  The cleanliness of the waters is doubtful.

Lately, if you were not able to notice the troubled waters by walking outside and smelling rotting fish on the shorelines, you have probably noticed the decline of the population’s favorite food at the dinner table.

No matter what cross-section of Kuwait’s diverse population you are from, chances are that you have regularly enjoyed good seafood meals here until recently.

Who would have though several years ago that you would ever hear someone in a local restaurant ask, “Where is your fish from?”  Several years ago, it would have been impossible to find a front-row parking space at any of Kuwait’s fish markets.

Many Kuwaitis and expats alike to turn to the sea for their livelihood – most prominently during the summer months.  Many people here own boats.  As you pass by the marinas these days, you will notice how many boats are in port – and it is not because of bad weather.

We have been hit by a nameless, faceless environmental terrorist.  In 1990, an enemy snuck up on the northern border of Kuwait.  In 2000, a silent enemy emerged in the waters of Kuwait when meide (or mullet in English) began to die mysteriously.

Again this year, the enemy returned to exact a more dramatic and tragic consequence:
not only were meide dying, but also hamoor (or grouper), and other larger species including several sea mammals, a dolphin ad a small whale.  The enemy is still lingering on our sea borders.  Who is this enemy?  Who is to blame?  Why is he still here and why has the population seemed to have turned a blind eye towards recent events?  Will the enemy return next year or the year after to kill again?

This contamination is unprecedented in the history of Kuwait.  It is possibly the environmental catastrophe of the century.  When Iraq pumped oil directly into Gulf waters during its brutal occupation, the world condemned the act as an at of eco- terrorism.  However, the spills were contained and the following year, the fish returned as normal.  What is happening now in Kuwait is different.  The disaster and its impact is continuing and we can not be certain that whatever has killed the fish won’t return because the root of the catastrophe has not been found.

Casual attitudes may be the main culprit. People occasionally toss a soda can or plastic bag into the sea.  How can one small act be a big deal?  Destruction of natural resources begins with complacency.  Our relaxed attitudes are now keeping our children away from the beaches and islands of Kuwait.  It is keeping hamoor and zubeidi off the menu.  We al need to act together to do something now, before it becomes a problem which will take years to reverse.


What are the contributing factors?  We are looking at numerous factors, which may contribute to the problem – either singularly, or as a group.

Iraq has been a suspect by its diversion of the natural flow of water through the marshes of Shatt Al Arab.

An oil processing technique called “oil shifting” may be another factor to the fish kill. Until recently, Kuwait had not used this method.  This process pushes oil from below ground by the use of water and corrosives.  Used water is treated and sent back out to the Gulf.

Ground seepage from years of casual dumping – either in personal use of chemicals and used oil, or by companies and car shops – may take some of the blame.

Is toxic waste being dumped in Kuwait?  Is the problem possibly from tankers in the Gulf?

Microbes are most likely not the main cause of the fish kill because birds that have fed off the dead fish have not been affected.

Raw sewage has been periodically dumped into the water.  If you have ever been in a boat  close to Kuwait’s shores  in the summer, you will know that the sewage is there. If you  live within close proximity to any of the numerous sewage outlets, you will know that sewage is a problem.  Rounding Ras Salmiya in a boat on a hot summers night will make you wonder why nothing  is being done.

Are we swimming in a stew of waste and chemical by-products?  Many countries in other parts of the world have long-understood that water is a resource to be cherished.

What is happening with the fish in Kuwait?  Is it safe to eat fish yet?  What we know is that we still don’t know.  Explanations still vary.  Reports given to the public have been vague and general and lately, almost everyone you speak to has another report – often conflicting with what you’ve already heard.  Most people are still waiting for answers, but nothing is being provided.  We may not ever know for sure what killed the fish this year and we won’t be able to know if the fish will die again next year, or in the years to come.

Some of the population has started to eat fish again, thinking that it is safe, but is it really?  How do we know for sure that it is safe if there have not been any definitive answers to how the fish kill began?  If the reason behind the fish kill is not conclusive, then how can the problem be rectified so it won’t happen again?  What if the cause is infectious?  What if it is of danger to humans?

In August, we were told not to eat fish for 2 months, then later for 2 years.  Is it safe yet? The 2-month time frame has not yet elapsed, and obviously not the 2 year frame. Our love of seafood and the willingness to readily buy it and consume it may be putting us in danger.

The ecology of Kuwait’s Bay is fragile.  Many people don’t take into consideration how gentle this ecology is or how it can be affected by many variables.  We have to look at each variable to determine the answers – not just because of this year’s fish kill, but to keep it from happening in the future.  Once an underwater environment is changed, several things may happen in a domino effect.  Plankton will die.  Floor- dwelling creatures will die.  Small fish will die.  Larger fish will die.  Human life and activity will be affected.  Conservation of our marine ecology must start at the lowest level.


Reduction of oxygen in the bay

Several experts believe that a combination of the high temperature, high salinity (salt content in the water), and low oxygen concentrations in the bay may have been the cause of the fish kill.

What would cause a lowered oxygen in the water?  A high concentration of inorganic nutrients in Kuwait is most likely to blame.  It is likely that the nutrient from sewage, in combination with several nutrients released at the acqua culture site in Kuwait’s bay are major sources.  The sediment found in Kuwait bay (sienna) might also be an important source of inorganic nutrients if the water conditions are such that the sediment becomes mixed.

Bacteria

While searching for answers to the cause of the mystery, a name has often been coming up:  Streptococcus iniae.  Quietly, this killer is known to cause “mad fish disease.”

On October First, the Supreme Council for Environment concluded that this particular strain of bacteria was to blame for the dead fish in Kuwait Bay.

What is Streptococcus iniae?  Streptococcus iniae is a marine bacteria which was first observed in 1972 as a cause of disease among freshwater dolphins (pink dolphins) of the Amazon.  Until recently, findings of the bacteria in salt water have been rare.

The most familiar form of the Strep bacteria is  Streptococcus, group A, commonly known to cause “strep throat”, and impetigo (a skin rash).  Both are contagious. Streptococcus, group B  (group B strep) is a bacterium that causes life-threatening infections in newborn infants. Group B strep can also cause serious diseases in pregnant women, the elderly, and adults with other illnesses.

How does the marine strain, Streptococcus Iniae bacteria affect fish and what is “Mad Fish Disease”?  The bacteria causes the fish’s eyes to bulge and it will swim erratically (in circles or making dramatic moves) before dying.

How does this bacteria affect humans? The Streptococcus iniae, bacteria occurs in different strains, and until recently most did not cause symptoms in humans.  The first recognized case of infection in humans occurred in Texas in 1991 and a second in Ottowa, Canada in 1994.  In humans, the disease causes skin infections, fever, shaking, and in at least one case, meningitis.  During the time frame of 1995 through 1996, several people in Canada  were stricken with the “Mad Fish Disease” contracted from infected fish, which caused meningitis- like symptoms.  .

The disease is contracted through puncture wounds from fish bones or cartilage. Human victims responded favorably to antibiotics, but health officials in Canada advised people to wear rubber gloves when handling the fish.  Should we, in Kuwait, do the same?  There have been no local warnings to the public.

Other Streptococcus iniae-related fish kill phenomena around the world have included a  fish kill in the southern Caribbean islands in 1999– the first time that the bacteria was ever found in the open ocean.  At that time, the primary deaths of fish were concentrated to a bay.  Later, fish began to die in the open sea.  Again, the sea temperature was higher than normal, allowing officials to believe that the fish suffered from a combination of stress and bacterial growth.

 Interestingly, because the causes of the 1999 fish kill in the Caribbean were not readily known, several contributing factors, similar to Kuwait’s, were scrutinized: elevated sea temperature, a northern water flow towards the islands (turning the water a slightly greenish color), poor visibility due to nutrients and particles in the water, possible dumping of hazardous chemicals and toxic waste.  Sewage dumping also increases the likelihood of bacterial growth.

1999 – Red Tide in Kuwait

In the summer of 1999, red tide was blamed for a fish kill in the northern part of the Gulf.

What Is Red Tide? Red tide is the result of a massive multiplication (or "bloom") of tiny, single celled algae called Karenia brevis, usually found in warm saltwater, but which can exist a lower temperatures. It is a natural phenomenon, apparently unrelated to manmade pollution. In high concentrations, K. brevis may create a brownish red sheen on the surface of the water; in other instances, it may look yellow green, or may not be visible at all. Some red tides have covered up to several hundred square miles of water. No one can predict when or where red tides will appear or how long they will last since they are affected by many variables such as weather and currents.

Reports of red tides have been recorded as far back as the mid 1800's.  Red tides can occur anywhere in the world and at any time.

The 1999 fish kill was different that what was/is being experienced this year.  In 1999, no where near the amount of fish died.  During this year’s kill, an estimated 2000 tonnes of fish died.

Is the Oil industry a factor through the Sea Water Injection method?

The oil processing technique, which has been used in Kuwait only during the past several years, called Sea Water Injection, has people wondering if it may be either a contributing factor, or the main reason behind the fish kill.  Sea Water Injection is used to pump oil from the ground by pushing oil from below ground by the use of sea water.The water is taken from the Sabiya power station, filtered, and sent via a 48 kilometer pipe to oil fields in northern Kuwait to inject the wells.  The Sabiya station started sending water to the fields only last year when the sea water injection started.  Many residents of Kuwait have questioned if this method of treatment has harmed the ecology, but officials continue to assert that the disposed water is waste free and clean of ha zardous materials.  The public continues to be skeptical, despite the reports to the contrary.

Officials reason that the used water has not been deposited directly into the sea, but onto land approximately three kilometers away from the sea, where sea birds drink from it.  So far, no information has shown that any of the sea birds has become ill. However, the number of migrating flamingos to the north of Kuwait seems to have diminished, as their migratory season starts this month.  None of us know if ground seepage from the dumping area to the bay has occurred.

There are plans for a 60 million KD project to re- inject water into the Burgan oil field instead of dumping it into the desert.  So far,  Kuwait Oil Company has been spending over 200 million dinars on environment-friendly operations.

Sooner or later – It reaches the sea
  

Regardless of your opinion of the cause of the fish kill – one thing is certain:  We must all take a closer look at our environment.  What we dump will eventually make its way into the sea.  Medical waste, sewage, chemical waste, oil and gas from boats, ground seepage from companies or manufacturing sites – all of the byproducts are eventually going to make their way in to the marine ecology and do damage. Did you know passing tankers often flush their empty hulls in Kuwait waters?  How does this make you feel?   None of us are happy with the outcome, but are we doing anything either individually or collectively to rectify what is happening in our waters?  If you see someone thrown trash into the ocean, does it affect you?  Perhaps not for the moment, but eventually when the beaches become dirty and the water unsanitary to swim in, it does affect you.  Is anyone being fined?  Penalties for those in violation of dumping must be levied.  There must be closer scrutiny of both individuals and organizations responsible  for massive  environmental damage.   All the signs are there - we need to do something.   The general consensus  is that whatever  killed the fish this year will return.   Why?   Because  no one has actually  done anything to fix it.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Where has the compassion in Kuwait gone??

I stopped by the Crowne Plaza this weekend for some pampering at Spa Aquatonic.  It was a lovely day.  When we pulled up to the valet, our usual guys weren't there.  There were a lot of new faces.  When we came out, one of our old friends who has been working as a valet parker for 15 years told us that the new GM has hired a valet parking service and that all the old parking attendants have been terminated.   Some of them have been parking cars there for over 20 years.  They were given their notices with no fanfare or appreciation.

When you share employee accommodations and work long hours for decades, your co-workers become your family.  How stressful it must be for these men to be given notice and told that's it!

I find it very hard to believe that the Bukhamseen family would knowingly do this to people who have been loyal to them in service for decades.  From everything I've ever heard about the owners of the Crowne Plaza, they are humble and decent people.  Perhaps they are just too busy to see (?)

One of my favorite aspects of the Crowne Plaza was going in and being greeted by name by the attendants.  They always had big smiles and treated all their customers respectfully; something that I immediately noticed has been replaced by the opposite from the new valet service.  I loved it that once in a while my old friends would park my car next to the door, or take the time to get the AC going high before bringing it to me.  They always came to shake my hand.  Always smiling.  They always asked how I was and if I had been away for too long, where I had been.  You can't easily replace this kind of personalized service by cutting corners on cost.  It is a service that many companies take years to earn:  customer loyalty.  And you certainly don't DUMP good people to bring in cheaper labor! How do people like that sleep at night?

I felt really sorry about this uncaring move.  Great. You lost one customer.  I've been patronizing the hotel for the past 21 years.  In fact, Sakura was one of the very first restaurants I visited when I moved here in 1996.  I refuse to grace their doorstep again after this. Some of us actually do have ethics and morals and stand for what we believe in.  It was very discouraging to hear.  It made me sad.

So, I knew I was going to post about it anyways and then I came upon an article today in the Arab Times, discussing the fact that many Egyptian fisherman had illegally been displaced from their homes in Sharq.  Full story here.  Their sponsor had already paid the April rent (and today is the 2nd).  They are supposed to be given notice or compensated, but alas, this type of crappy behavior is becoming the norm.  Where have people's ethics and values (and might I also add - religion) gone?  Is there no compassion?  Was that the first to be deported?

Two years ago, I was ready to leave Kuwait  and not look back after something similar; being kicked out and terrorized until I left the apartment I was renting.  I was subjected to psychological warfare and illegal behavior from my former landlord. They threatened to kill my dogs, damage my car.  They turned off the AC and electricity daily.  Threw dog feces at my door and then broke keys off in the locks so I couldn't enter. They put up baracades so I couldn't enter or exit.   I never thought that it could happen to me.  The police never imagined that a Kuwaiti family would be so blatantly awful.  But it happened and I am shaking right now just remembering;  Apartment rental PTSD.

Humans don't get the full brunt of the atrocities.  I'm on social media for animal rescues - quite a few of them, actually.  The amount of horrific acts of torture (many times by CHILDREN) in this country is staggering.  There isn't a week when (and I'm sorry to even write this, but the photos I've seen have caused SO much more damage) an animal isn't beaten to death, or buried alive, or tortured in some unimaginable (by sane-human standards) way.  It's pure evil.  What the hell is happening here?  Is anyone actually watching?

I love Kuwait.  It is so discouraging to see so many bad things happening. Compassion is so much harder to find these days.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

You're Invited! Lialy Line

Your invitation to Grand Opening, March 28 in Jabriya 

My very kind, very beautiful friend, Lialy,  is opening her boutique for lace clothing for ladies and children, as well as luxury lace bedding. All lace is made in and imported from Europe.  Please come and check it out! Promote women in small business!   

Jabriya, Block 3, Street 111 building 129 Mobile 99395951 or25322903/ 25322603  Web:  www.lialyline.com  Instagram:  @ Lialy_line or http://instagram.com/lialy_line

video









Sunday, March 19, 2017

The politics of expat bashing: This week - Medicine

I'm getting physically disgusted to the point of bile-buildup about all the hateful expat-bashing that has become the fashionable trend in Kuwait lately.  I am particularly disgusted by the singular female MP who, in a shrieking tone, stirs up controversy almost daily about the expat "problem" here.  She, like Trump, is using hatred instead of compassion to incite the masses for her own political agenda; gaining popularity through malice.  Not nice.  Now warranted.  And not appreciated.

In discussion with some Kuwaiti (and non-Kuwaiti) friends, they sympathized but said that they agree that foreigners are overwhelming the healthcare system; especially as foreigners in Kuwait represent 2/3 of the population.  In an article today in the Arab Times, it gave reference to a study (unfortunately, not by name or who conducted it)  that indicates that foreigners are indeed NOT overwhelming the system; that the majority of the budget goes to Kuwaiti nationals.

In a press statement issued by Board Chairman of Kuwait Human Rights Society, Khalid Al-Hamidi Al-Ajmi, on March 19, in response to the report on the health support issue, where it was revealed that Kuwait bears about $2 billion annually to provide health care for expatriates and about $3.5 billion per year for health care services to citizens. The report concluded that the health support does not go to the expatriates in Kuwait.

Further, if a Kuwaiti is sent abroad (for realistic or non-realistic treatment of ailments - the later meaning that he/she had wastah to approve being sent), he/she is given a stipend of 100 KD per day for both the patient and a companion. Do the math.  Treatment plus daily stipend for long-term illnesses can be tremendously expensive when the solution might be to either hire outside or train Kuwaiti doctors to practice medicine at government hospitals in Kuwait with the proper tools and equipment.  That is not an expat problem.  Decades have passed and there is little progress.  Patients are still being sent abroad for treatment.

So now politicians are quibbling about the possibility of NOT allowing subsidized medicine to foreigners in Kuwait? I could possibly even remotely consider this if there were any affordable healthcare alternatives here, but there aren't.  If you purchase your own private medical insurance in Kuwait (individually and not through your employer company), you are looking at 600 KD and upwards per year.  If the majority of expats in Kuwait are "marginal" workers, they are making less than 100 KD per month.

I was browsing through Kuwait Times today and came across this article, which on first glance, I thought to be another piece of  trendy bashing.

I didn't see the author's name until I got to the end of the article.  It is written by someone who I respect and admire - a friend from the 'hood in Kuwait. (I didn't even know he was a writer until I saw the article as I rarely ask what people do for a living unless the volunteer the personal information.)   A man and his family who stopped when seeing me walk my dog past their house on the daily, and asked me to join them WEEKLY for their family dinner gatherings, "Just walk in any Thursday night.  No need to call or knock."  They are the kind of Kuwaiti family I remember from back in the day; hospitable, kind, and generous.  Welcoming to foreigners in their country; and not just by sentiment (flowery words), but through action and sincerity.

Price of Expats' Medicine
Source HERE

Instead of suggesting fees on expats’ remittances and making them pay the price of medicine, let us demand deporting them all without any exceptions, and let us then see how this country of inactivity would live without their services. Let us see how high garbage piles will rise outside villas and buildings and how teaching will become in public and private school that mainly relying on dictation and memorizing. Let us just imagine how hospitals and polyclinics would keep functioning without foreign doctors and nurses.

Let us also imagine who will ever replace deported expat construction workers and various technicians; how various state administrations will work when we do away with them; how our houses would look like without seeing a Filipina or Sri Lankan housemaid following a housewife, holding hands of obese children in various malls and co-ops, and how our houses would look like without cooks, maids and private drivers!

Just imagine evicting two thirds of Kuwait’s residents – the population of expats. What will happen to this state and its institutions? Let us just discuss the term ‘marginal laborers’ everybody is calling to deport nowadays. What is the definition of marginal laborer? Is it those people who add nothing to the process of production? If so, and out of justice, we ought to use the term to describe marginal citizens who add nothing to production, who are nothing but a burden created by our revenue policies. Who will be marginal then – those providing the service or the served ones?!

There is already a dreadful fact about disgraceful visa trafficking done by some ‘untouchable’ people beyond accountability simply because they are citizens who know all the ins and outs of corruption throughout state monitoring apparatuses and know how to avoid and manipulate some forgotten laws. However, the game of visa trafficking is but one example of endless corruption in various state institutions, and ending it will not resolve the issue of expat labor or end our state of reliance.

The consequences of most political and economic crises usually affect the weakest joints of any society, and thus burdens are shifted from those politically stronger to the weaker – those who have nobody to defend them except for some human rights activists, which, in our case, is an effort lost amidst an endless state of egoism and narcissism in Kuwait. Expats are being blamed for all economic problems after the fall in oil prices, which is very important in terms of making popular gains by people keen on winning the blessings, support and approval of a large segment of citizens by misleading them.

The majority of expats are not here as tourists enjoying Kuwait’s charming nature or historical landmarks. They are here to do certain jobs, which in most cases, citizens refuse or are even incapable of doing themselves. According to local daily Al-Qabas, 83 percent of expat laborers do not hold any university degrees. So, what do those who wrote the report expect? Do they want NASA scientists and experts to serve in their houses and clean their streets?!

Resolving the demographic problem after oil resources are starting to dry up will not be through political showing off, by shameful, disgraceful proposals and statements made by some lawmakers or by practices the government encourages and then fails to control. The solution is unachievable without exposing this fakery and deception dominating the entire state, without changing the concepts of work and school curricula and radically democratizing everything so that we can make a new reliable generation capable of building. There are no other solutions and this is a huge challenge we believe we are currently incapable of facing.

 – Translated by Kuwait Times from Al-Jarida

By Hassan Al-Essa
(A kind Desert Girl neighbor)


Monday, February 20, 2017

Motorcycle Training Course

A shout out to my friends at TriStar Motorcycles. If you ever have the opportunity to meet owner, Jaffar Behbehani and his lovely wife, you are blessed.  Great people and always help with a cause.

I think these training courses are great and anyone wanting to own a bike should take it.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bark in The Park 2017



Kuwait Society for Protection of Animals and Their Habitat (K’S PATH) - Kuwait's first non-profit animal welfare organization to receive legal status from the Ministry of Social Affairs. We care for 300+ animals in our shelter in Wafra and hold many community events to build awareness about compassion to animals.

Bark in the Park 2017

Our much-awaited dog-centric event Bark in the Park is back! Join us on Saturday 11th March 2017 from 11 am to 4 pm for a doggy and family day out at the KOC Ahmadi 2nd Avenue Garden, our proud venue host We have fun dog competitions, fabulous prizes and great food! Meet other dog owners and their beloved pooches, or just drop by to show your support even if you don’t have a dog. For more info about the dog competitions, rules and venue location, please visit this page: 
REGISTER YOUR DOG & FAMILY SOON!
Hurry! Pre-registration and advance payment is required. Email info@kspath.org to receive the registration form. 
BOOK A VENDOR/FOOD BOOTH!
Are you a business looking to reach families and pet-owners? You can book a booth at Bark in the Park! Contact info@kspath.org to know how!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Better than what?

Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara is sold a Sephora in the US.  The name has been changed to fit local mores to, "Better Than Love."  There is no sex in Kuwait.  Personally, I think the local version should be, "Better Than Majboos."


I also went to buy a friend cologne from Abercrombie & Fitch.  There is no half-neked man anywhere:  Not on shopping bags nor on any of the Fierce cologne products.  Not that I liked him so much, but now I miss him.


Foreign Resident Rant

I am angry about recent politics on two continents; both places I call home - the US and Kuwait. Kuwait's expat-bashing is very similar to the current expat bashing going on in the States. Both administrations (and in Kuwait I refer to the elected parliament and not HH The Emir) seem to want to build a wall to keep others out (Kuwait, figuratively; the US of course literally).

My blood pressure is so high since Trump was elected not-my-president that I can’t/won’t begin to discuss that subject here.  There is too much ammunition and I’m not in the US at the moment; I’m here in Kuwait where I live.  I prefer local ranting.

The recent local issue making my blood pressure rise? "Expats are ruining Kuwait's hospitals." Ok, maybe overloading the hospitals, as the population of actual Kuwaitis is only 1 million and there are 4 million inhabitants in Kuwait.  But “ruining”? 

The highly-skilled Kuwaiti doctors that I know in Kuwait often talk about how difficult it is to perform their jobs at Government hospitals; NOT because of "expats" but because they are not paid well and don't have the resources they require.  Are expats to blame for that?

There is a universal healthcare system in Kuwait.  Yes, that is overloaded for sure.  But, most of the professional-level expats like myself have only set foot in a Government-run hospital a few times. I’ve been here 20 years now and I have been to 1 Government clinic and in a Government hospital only once after a car accident.  (I can assure you, the second time, I had no intention of going there, but I was semi-unconscious and they wheeled me in.)  The first time, I went to get blood tests done and I would never go back. Too many procedures.  Too stressful.   Oh, and then there are the mandatory tests for TB and AIDS when you first arrive.  God help me if I ever have to go through that experience again.  Women were lined up (most of the women in line were domestic helpers) and asked to remove our upper garments entirely and put on a gown to be x-rayed.  I asked where I could find a gown.  The nurse pointed to a pile on the floor of previously-used gowns.  Yes, oh so hygienic.  (Note:  If you come to Kuwait for the first time and are seeking residency here, buy and bring your own hospital gown.)

I have private health insurance through the company I work for.  I also have a decent salary.  I would willingly and happily donate my government-provided insurance to a less-fortunate person if I could.  I don’t use it and it is wasteful.  But then again, so is the mandatory fee that my company has to pay for me towards the government healthcare scheme in order to renew my residence visa (which is normally done annually).  If the Government is looking to save money on their healthcare scheme, make the Government-provided healthcare optional to those in higher paying jobs.  That may give the opportunity to help the less fortunate.

So ok, in general, I don’t like being lumped into a common term of “expat”.  I hope that I contribute to Kuwait because as I said, I consider it home and I love it here (faults and all). But every other word coming from each new parliament is discouraging.  “Deportation” is the common catch-all phrase for all the wrongs in the country.  Cross a red light:  Deportation.  Gather after a football game:  deportation.  Get caught at a party (“immoral activity”):  Deportation.  New Years events:  Deportation. 

When I was volunteering to come to Kuwait along-side my Kuwaiti friends in 1990 at the McLean Hilton to help in any way I could (fight, Red Cross, whatever), would Kuwait have deported me for such petty transgressions? 

It has all become too much.  I am waiting for the moratorium on smiling, laughing and joking (all attributes that made me fall in love with Kuwaitis in general – as in the past, their unique humor and ability to laugh at their own foibles made them very appealing).  I have watched so many die-hard Kuwait fans (professional expats) leave after one, two, and even three decades of life here.  People who contributed and not “ruined.”  People who helped design buildings and roads and to set safety and quality practices for the country and industries.  People who left their own families to settle here.

Sure, there will be small-minded people who will say, “They were here for the money.”  Maybe so, but if they were only here for the money, they wouldn’t stay for more than a few years (and those people come and go somewhat invisibly).  I didn’t come here for the money.  I didn’t come here for the lack of income tax or the fact that I could get a maid (also an “expat”) to pamper me for very little money (so she could support her family back home).  Those things were just bonuses and to me along the way; not the reasons I came here.   I came to Kuwait because I found a unique flavor here. I found that I missed the country terribly when I went back to the States.  I cried.  Kuwait is different.  The people are (and Inshallah it is still present-tense) unique. The Kuwaitis I know closely are like my family.  I came on a two-year contract.  I stayed for two decades because I loved it here and it felt like a second home. 

I have experienced (not read about or heard about) Kuwait’s history for three decades of my own life.  More time than the people on social media; referring to expats as “kafir” (those without religion) or being disrespectful of foreigners’ holidays or traditions while demanding respect from the same people they insult.  More time for me to talk to the parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents of expat-bashers; to learn about what the basic tenants of Kuwait truly are:   hospitality, charity, kindness, respect and compassion. 

I no longer like the term "expat,"  although by definition, the term is correct (a person who lives outside their native country), "Expat" has become a derogatory term in Kuwait.  “Guest” isn’t the appropriate term because we are all contributors to the society in some form.  I’m not anyone’s “guest.”  I pay rent.  I pay fees to my bank and car finance company and satellite TV company and I buy products in the local markets. I contribute.  No one is taking me out to dinner or letting me stay in their home for free.   I’m not here to “ruin” Kuwait.  I’m here to live, work, and positively contribute to a society that I have made a conscious choice to be a part of.  I wish politicians would consider that when choosing their words.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What is the worst parking garage in Kuwait?

I ponder this question every morning now that we've moved into a new office building where the parking structure is one of the  most poorly-designed that I've ever seen.

Not to sound negative (but I will, Sorry American Girl in Kuwait), but there are two words that are almost non-existent in the local dialect:  Planning and maintenance.  (That's a joke, of course, but you really have to question engineers' understanding of either term.)  It applies to my top choices of Garages O'Horror below. #1 and #2 are probably some of the oldest garages in Kuwait.

Parking Garage O'Horrors #1:  Souq Al-Kabeer

My two sexy aluminum rear wheel rims (200 KD/ea)  have been shredded going around the corners and they've installed some kind of bumper car restraints around the entrances to elevator lobbies - which are too low to see when you are driving. Torn it uuuup.  Not to mention, they have installed their own speed humps (those horrible, high kind) every 20' or so.  You have to drive the entire length of Souq Al-Kabeer to get down to the next level. (On off-hours, I reverse so I don't do as much speed bump damage to my car).

To get into and out of the house of horrors, you need to drive up a twisting ramp at angles no car should have to traverse; other than (again) bumper cars at an amusement park or some kind of go-cart race.  The walls of the ramp are equipped with (shityounot) rubber side bumpers; and they're NECESSARY.

Perhaps the best suited vehicle for this parking lot would be a Wrangler with heavy duty tires and a lift kit.

The inbound second ticket gate  is always broken.  So, instead of placing a cone there so people in cars would know, the attendants watch as people get stuck and have to back out and re-enter the other lane.  (I actually giggle sometimes because some of the idiots who have raced around me trying to get one over - and there are many in the morning at this garage - have thought that they'll be faster getting into that lane and they get stuck. ha ha ha ha ha - IN YOUR FACE!)

and ok, ok, ok... Dudes, if you are going to charge KD 1.000 per day for parking (more than I was paying at the lovely KIPCO Tower), then you can afford to make some changes!  I say!

Parking Garage O'Horrors #2:  Souq Al-Kuwait


This garage is very similar to Souq Al-Kabeer.  If you ever have the opportunity to see the ugly under-side of the ramp, you can see that it is deteriorating fast (the mall is scheduled for renovations).  Last time I walked around Souq Al-Kuwait and saw the crackled underbelly of the beast, it was approximately 3 years ago.  At that time, large chunks of concrete were dropping off.  I have refused to park there since.  I have visions of my car dropping 2 stories down.  My Kuwaiti car insurance doesn't cover that.  My private Kuwaiti medical insurance doesn't even cover asprin....

It could be that the same "engineer" designed both ramps.  They both have rubber baby buggy bumpers (rubber side bumpers).  They both have those scary speed bumps (that's 'murican for "humps" in Briddish); the kind that seemingly could break an axle.   In both Garage #1 and 2, you have to do a "grand tour" to be able to get in or out.

Oh!  And if you are "too slow" by any idiot's standards (or lack thereof), they have no problem blasting their horn at you.  Niiiiiice.  Thank you.  (My best F you smile.... NO!  I didn't mean it as a come-on, you moron!).

Dishonorable Mention:  Avenues

I like all the garages at The Havenues (very well designed, well-lit, well patrolled (but they could use sniffer dogs if they are going to pretend that they are doing security by installing x-ray machines at only a few of the entrance points).  However, ingress/egress (in/out) to the garages is awful.  They should offer shuttle bus service to get there from remote locations instead of putting people through the cattle shoots (entrance roads) to get there.  I shop to relax.  Getting there is NOT relaxing.

Enough Turns to Make You Dizzy:  Araya and Safat Home

I dunno 'bout you, but I don't like those circular ramps in parking garages.  I have a low car and it makes me even more dizzy not being about to see over the hood.  It freaks me out.  Both Araya Center and Safat Home in Rai have these.  The parking garages are ok, but those ramps.... I shudder.  If I wasn't driving, I would shut my eyes to drive up those ramps... just sayin.

Of Mention:  Souq Al-Maseel

I only mention Souq Maseel for one reason:  The sign that says, "Firest Basement" (in front of the elevator) that hasn't been corrected in the 20-plus years that I've lived here.  The garage itself isn't so bad.  Maybe a little dark if you are like me (worried about pervs and lurkers in dark garages).  Other than that - no issues.



OK - so.... Which parking garages in Kuwait do you hate the most? Send me your comments.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

My Post About German Shepherds

Disclaimer:  I'm a novice.  I have ZERO claims to knowing a whole lot about the world of German Shepherds, but I can pass along what I have learned along my 3-year journey with my big dog... 



I got my first German Shepherd in 2013; I have him now.  He will be with me his entire life.  I got him because the guy who owned him was neglecting him and after I basically tricked the guy out of ownership, I paid him what he had paid for my dog (and he went on to buy and neglect 2 other Shepherds who both died).  My dog wasn't cheap.  He isn't now.  He's full of allergy problems and his special food costs more than my food does per month.  Boarding him when I travel costs me huge sums of money.  But he's so worth it.  And I love him more than I can say (Mashallah).

I think he has a stupid name, but it came with him, so I kept it.  I would have liked to have named him, "Jake" (which you might think is also stupid), but his name is Mike; or affectionately, "Mikey".

German Shepherds have 2 distinct lines.  My dog is a "show line."  He's pretty and spoiled and makes a good house/family dog (but just don't piss him off because they are loyal and protective when they have to be).  They are usually the show dogs at events.  Very pretty posers.  Work lines are most often used for police work because of their high drive.  They are smaller and more hyperactive than show lines.  The distinction is VERY important in knowing what type of dog to buy if looking at German Shepherds.  Either is a big responsibility and like any breed, you must ensure that the characteristics of the dog matches your lifestyle and family.

At about 6  months old (Mikey), I called a professional trainer and he asked me, "Work line or show line?"  "Show line" just sounded better to me because I had no clue and that is what Mikey turned out to be.  I also had no clue about where Mikey had come from when I first "acquired" him and to my extreme good luck, he is from a very reputable breeder with champion blood lines. He also has a docile and sweet temperament.  I could have been in a whole lot of trouble had he turned out otherwise, but I just got extremely lucky.

NOTE:  Although they may be from champion blood lines from dogs with pedigrees - dogs born in Kuwait do NOT have pedigrees or registration papers (and they can not be obtained) which would allow them into international shows abroad.  KCA is working on changing that by setting standards that would include Kuwait in FCI - see post and information below about their upcoming show.  

Show lines and work lines come in a variety of colors and coat lengths.  My favorite is the sable color.  My friend has a beautiful dog, named Eros, who is a sable.  Mikey is a black and tan.

Mike Stages
Mikey was born on October 3, 2013, and is from the kennel of Jassem Al-Hashash in Jabriya.  His father is Frest.  I have found 2 of his litter brothers, Bruno The Shepherd, and Pix.  If anyone out there has a sibling, please let me know.  


Here are a few abbreviations surrounding German Shepherds that may confuse you.  I had to look them up and I'm still having a hard time with the language of Shepherds:

  • Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)  (World Canine Organization) is an international federation of kennel clubs based in ThuinBelgium.  (For more information on FCI, see HERE and HERE).  Note that my post below relates to a group (KCA) which is trying to get Kuwait recognized by FCI locally.  This will allow dogs here to be issued pedigrees.  Currently, even though a dog may have champion blood lines (like Mikey), they are not recognized as a pedigree if born in Kuwait.  It is very unfortunate for local breeders who want to show dogs at FCI level events internationally.  There are some extremely talented dogs and trainers in Kuwait (as witnessed at this weekend's Sieger show and several others that I've attended).
  •  Weltunich der Vereine fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (WUSV) is the world union of German Shepherds.  (For more information on WUSV, see HERE and HERE.)  KK9A is the only WUSV approved group in Kuwait.  Most of the kennel and dog owners regularly travel to Germany to either perform in or participate in German Shepherd events.

Before I was blessed with my rescue German Shepherd, Mikey, I had no clue about any of this.  I am still learning and at every event I attend, I get to learn more and make more friends with people who have similar interests. This is the true calling of ALL of the dog groups in Kuwait:  Education.  

There are different genres of dog training and types of dogs.  KK9A (the group most dedicated specifically to German Shepherds locally)  is generally focused on sporting events; either obedience or attack (sleeve/bite work) and follow FCI and WUSV rules. Personal protection dogs also differ from sporting attack dogs and they require different training. I have met only a few private owners of dogs who have been trained for sniff work and/or tracking;  and I have never known an owner of a search and rescue dog in Kuwait - although they may be out there. I have known of only one emotional support dog in Kuwait (to a child with autism) and I have never seen service dogs being used by people with disabilities. Sniffer dogs are in use at Kuwait airport and there are also sniffer dogs on contract to the oil refineries.

Alianz group also has a lot of German Shepherd members (and some attend KK9A events also), but Alianz includes many owners of smaller breeds of dogs and they dedicate a lot of their time and resources to public education; including education for children. Worthy causes.

I have no particular attachment to any dog group in Kuwait; I like them all!  As I often say, "My dog changed my life."  I've met some of the nicest, kindest, most helpful people anywhere through the dog groups in Kuwait; and made more new friends in the past years than I can count.  The big dog groups are KK9A and Alianz, and I am hoping to learn more about the recently-new Kuwait Cynological Association (KCA) which is trying to take the steps necessary to join FCI, allowing Kuwait breeders to represent their country internationally (and if you have a chance to attend their show this coming weekend, please show them your support).

Almost all of the dog lovers (breeders and non-breeders) are also rescuers.  None that I have met has ever turned away an animal in need.  I have seen some big, tough guys who have no trouble holding a sleeve and letting a 100 pound dog attack them;  sitting with tears in their eyes trying to console a dying stay.   So, with more education comes more chance of reducing animal neglect and cruelty in Kuwait and (God willing) create better animal regulation and law enforcement.  So, I continue to promote all the shows and all the animal associations, groups and rescues in Kuwait. Collectively, all will inevitably do tremendous good here.

Some words on dog training:
  1. Everybody has an opinion
  2. Everybody knows better than you do.
  3. Just because they've watched the entire box set of "Dog Whisperer" does NOT make them an expert and/or a trainer.
  4. Just because it says, "Trainer" on their card doesn't make them one.
  5. You can be a trainer too - as long as you educate yourself.  Then you can get cards that say, "trainer."  (I should have cards made that say, "Incompetent Trainer"!  Ha!)

I didn't start early enough with Mikey.  Everybody is an expert and I listened and waited until he was around 6 months old to start serious training.  Big mistake.  The OWNER is the most important trainer that the dog will ever have.  If you send your dog to a trainer for a few months, he might learn a few things, but more likely, he will only take commands from the person who trained him.  I learned this from a very wise friend, Mr. Ahmed Hajj.  He was one of the first trainers of K9s in Kuwait and has since retired.  I didn't know that by sitting next to him at a few of the Alianz dog gatherings, I would learn so much or be graced by someone so knowledgeable.  Now, he is a dear friend and I value his advice tremendously; even though he peppers our conversations with comments about how badly I've spoiled my dog and how it may be too late now for redemption (said shaking his head).  

So my advice is:  Learn how to train your dog BEFORE you get a dog (ANY dog). Research the breed for characteristics.  Look on YouTube. Study the videos.  Talk to trainers. Go to trainers who will either work with you and your dog or who will train you to train your dog.  Mikey will not listen to anyone else's commands but mine.  If someone tells him to, "sit," he will often look to me for approval first.  That's what you want.  Don't confuse your dog by too many masters.  Start early - immediately.  Repeat the same commands (don't confuse him by changing commands).  If someone says that they can take your dog for a month or two and he will come back completely obedient and changed; beware. Unless you are comfortable disciplining him yourself or learning what you should be telling him, he's not going to learn.  A puppy isn't much different than a child; he should learn from his/her parent.

And more advice:  
  • Don't listen to others' BS.  I can't tell you how many times I heard (or overheard) people saying, "Your dog isn't 'original' German."  "Look at his tail.  It's too long."  "Look at his nose, it's too big."  Blah blah blah.  So what?
  • Don't listen to people who tell you that an electric collar is the answer to your dog's obedience problems.  He/she will only lose brain cells every time it is shocked and immediately fear everything. Don't  train a puppy on a sleeve.  Wait until 6-plus months because his teeth are still forming.  You can buy toys with the same training sleeve material (kind of a heavy burlap) if you want him to get used to tugging at it; just as long as it isn't hard.
  • Socialize your puppy around other dogs and in different noisy situations to make him self-confident.  I made the mistake with Mikey of not socializing him enough around other dogs and OMG do I regret it. He has no problems with little children or even cats, but goes crazy when he sees any other dog (scary, although short-lived).
What will my next dog be? A German Shepherd for sure!  He looks big and mean and scary and scares the crap out of my neighbors, but he is just big.  That's it.  Big and friendly and scary-smart.  I think he would go to great lengths to protect any of my neighbors if he ever had to.  He's just that kind of dog.  And the only damage he would ever do to my friends and neighbors would be to kiss them to death!  But a dog can smell bad intentions just as well as good intentions.  It is chemical.  There is a chemical smell to a bad person with bad intentions.  Those people should be afraid.

Does the below look scary?  It's the way German Shepherds play.  These two actually adore each other.  It was a morning ritual.

video
Mikey and Lucy

I overheard a woman recently saying, "I could never own a German Shepherd.  Those dogs turn on their owners."  Well hey, I got news for you:  So do Chihuahuas and just about any other breed of dog if it isn't properly handled.  Just make sure that you educate yourself.

Sieger German Shepherd Show a GREAT Success!



This weekend, the kennel I work with, Ghalya's Hunderparadise, participated in the Sieger German Shepherd Show in Mishref.  Sieger means "champion" in German, so it was a German Shepherd Championship.  Sometimes things get lost in translation and I actually had to look it up - even though I've been promoting it for several months!



The show was organized by the Kuwait K9 Association (KK9A).  They usually hold dog shows/gatherings every Friday afternoon in Kabd in front of the police station. All of their events are free to the public.

They were very concerned about finding an appropriate venue, as most hotels and venues don't want to rent to people for anything dog-related.  The Mishref Football Club (located next to Burger King and across from Yarmouk Sports Club) provided the perfect location for both the dog events, and the spectators (as well as placement of vendor booths).  The weather was amazing both days and it couldn't have been better.
Please see KK9A's Instagram Account or Website for Full Photos

It was a 2-day event.  The first day was beauty and obedience (for show lines) and the second day was for obedience and attack (for work lines).

Patron of the show was HE Karlfried Bergner, German Ambassador to Kuwait, who enjoyed the show so much that he stayed both days! German judges, Hungarian professional handlers, and some of the best trainers in the GCC worked to make this an outstanding event.  Several of the kennel owners brought their dogs from the UAE to participate.

I stayed through to the end of the award ceremony and felt like I was attending a family reunion.  Everyone congratulated each other and were happy for their collective successes.  I'm proud to say that my "home" kennel, Ghalya's Hunderparadise, took home two first-place trophies.  I don't think any of us wanted to go home.  Everyone was singing and cheering for each other.  I can't remember when I've been part of such a warm reception!

I've got to add one thing:  I sincerely believe that the dogs who won first place performed out of love. They were the ones trained with compassion and whose owners truly care for them as family members and not commodities.  Mabrook to everyone!


Vendors included BMW, Breadz, Bruno The Shepherd, Crate a Dog House, Pet Pro German, Champ Dogfood, 360 Dogfood, Sloans, Ghalya's Hunderparadise and more. Catering for VIPs by Safir.


KK9A Championship was under the sponsorship of:
Public Authority of Sport
German Embassy in Kuwait
Lufthansa Airlines
Al Hamra Tower
Champ Dog Food
TriStar Motorcycles Establishment
German Business Council
International Optics

Event Hosts (Instagram):
@q8k9kennel
@aldousariq8
@e.o.t_kennel
@turnado14

Coordination Team: (Instagram):
@feedstarplus
@black_hawk_dogs
#wusv #Kk9A






Kuwait Cynological Association (KCA) Dog Show: February 18, 2017 Discovery Mall





Judging Process

The Kuwait Cynological Association is a non-profit national service organization, focused on being the supreme authority for purebred dogs in Kuwait.

The show is free to the public and dogs can be registered by calling their numbers above.  Instagram:  kca_kw.

Islamic Naming Conventions

Names for both men and women follow your patriarchal lineage.  A woman from an Islamic family always keeps her full name even after marriage.  Most names are religious; either one of the 99 names of God, or prophets and their wives/children.

In contrast, in Western countries where women normally take their husband’s last name. This becomes problematic for women who have gone through several marriages; when you marry or re-marry, you must legally change your name on all your official documentation.    

So, in Islamic naming conventions, your name would be:   your given name, your father's first name, your grandfather's first name, your great grandfather's first name, your great-great grandfather's first name (and so on);  and then your tribe or family name as your last name. It really forces you to know your lineage.

This naming convention also explains why in Western countries, we tend to misunderstand names of people from Islamic countries, if not provided with enough information. For example, if someone tells you that their name is "Mohammed Ali," you can usually ask him what his family name is or their full name is; "Mohammed Ali Talal Al-Jassem" for example (there are exceptions, of course). So, some people can get away with passport changes if they only include their father's name, then they can go back and add their grandfather's name also and Western people see it as a completely different person.

Also, the "Al-" (predominantly in the Arabian Gulf Region) is the same as "Mc" or "Mac" or "O'" in Irish, Scottish names. It means "of" (whatever family name).


So..... If someone from the Gulf tells you that their name is just “Al” then they are just a jerk and you don’t need to talk to them anyways. 

Monday, February 06, 2017

Noblesse Cosmetic Surgery Clinic

I just want to show you how things work in Kuwait:  Small connections.  You could be talking to someone who knows someone and then you later find out that you know that someone's someone. Amazing!  Little connections.  Kuwait is a small town.

Here is how I came to know about Noblesse Clinic:


(You might have to zoom in on this.)

Here's what it says, right on their brochure, "Who says you're not a queen?  We don't."  Of COURSE you don't, honey!  You know quality when you see it.



Now, what I'm posting about is for the upper end, but the clinic also tightens your hoo-hoo also, for those of you who are into that.

I'm going for Jeuvaderm and botox.  Then they soft-sold me into getting hydra something or other using RF something radio waves followed by something else that tightens your face.  I said I would try.  Why not?

Now look, I have seen some really scary stuff walking around Kuwait that make, "Botched" look like a fairy tale:  over-done lips, angry bird eyebrows, skin stretched so tight that you can't tell if she's smiling or just staring at you.  It's messed up.  And I'm not talking about on women in their 40's or 50's - I'm talking about women that are in their 20's. I really wanted to check out who I go to first.  So it makes me much more confident that I met with Karina, Dr. Verginia and the staff at Noblesse so they could tell me what would happen and what types of products they would use.

I like the atmosphere.  All the staff is happy (good sign) as well as patients going in and out.  They only work on women, so that is a plus for me too. The decor is kind of a light burgundy color and white (similar to Dr. Verginia's GYN clinic at Mowasat Hospital). It's tranquil. Me likes.

Noblesse is located in Maidan Hawalli right on the circle on Cairo Street (behind Shaab park and the new cultural center).  Their numbers are 66483088 or 60695999.

I will write more about them after my treatments.


Mirror, Mirror Salon 2nd Anniversary

I've posted about Mirror Mirror salon before and I'm gonna do it again....

They are such nice people!  I go in there, they feed me.  They bring me coffee and those little Japanese cracker thingies in a bowl.  And the other day, it was owner, Wendy Al-Omani's 29th (I'm guessing) birthday and they had 2 kinds of cake and a box of cupcakes. All the staff and customers sang her the happy birthday song (in English and in Arabic AND with the "cha cha cha's" in between).  The first day of my supposed "diet" was put off.

We gossip.  I listen to other people's conversations (which, being my mother's child, I inevitably drop in on).  I laugh and get my hair done and have a great time.  I don't make any appointments following so I can just relax and recharge. And when I walk out of there, I always feel like I've made new friends and I'm just up and happy.

So, thank you, wonderful ladies of Mirror Mirror, for all the great hair days and shiny toe days and for lifting my spirits.  I just really like you all a lot and I wish you decades more of success.  You're good people!  God bless and good luck.

Happy second anniversary!



Phone 66338666
Located in Jabriya across from Royal Hyatt Hospital, in the building between Organica and The Burger Co.