radio free kuwait

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Apple of My Eye

Back home in NYC for a little while and loving life. I managed to be in the air when the big terrorist scare was happening so I completely missed out on all the horrible airport delays that everyone else had to go through. Was also upgraded to business class on my flight so all in all a pretty good start to the trip.

My first night here it absolutely poured rain and Monica and I got soaked. A very stark and sudden reminder that I wasn't in the desert anymore. Since then the weather has been amazing, sunny and pleasantly warm in the day, cool at night. I've been trying to spend as much time outside as possible and again it's a sea change from the dash between air conditioned environments that is summer in Kuwait.

It's also perfect weather for hanging out in the Slope. Mon and I grabbed brunch yesterday and the went for a wander down by the park and through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Absolutely gorgeous and a reminder once again that these sorts of public works projects just don't exist in the MIddle East. It's a real shame because I think they enhance everyone's quality of life and help to create a community spirit. Inshallah, like most things in the MENA region it's gradually changing.

Spiritually, it's also nice to be away from a conflict ridden region for a few days. Although, Kuwait is one of the most stable countries in the Middle East, there is definitely an awareness that war is raging all around it. Everyone feel that things can change in a moment and there's a group collective nervousness that pervades the zeitgeist. It doesn't impact on day to day life but there's definitely a tension always present. Of course part of this comes from Bush's "we have to fight them over there, so we don't have to fight them here" mentality. Great for those of us in the Western world, not so great if your house and life happens to be "over there".

For now, I'm just going to kick back and enjoy the rest of the weekend. The sun's up, the coffee's on and there's a street hockey game with my name on it later on today. What more could I guy ask for?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

It's Quiet ... Too Quiet

Actually it's kind of nice to be able to catch up on work. But Kuwait is so dead right now it's lading blogger has been reduced to posts like this.

What really gives you a sense of the doldrums is that 21 people commented on that post!

I'm off to Dubai, New York and Ottawa for three weeks starting Wednesday so I'm sure I'll have some more exciting things to post about then.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Safe as Houses

Thanks to everybody who has made enquiries about my safety over the last few weeks. Recent years have shown us that nowhere in the world is particularly safe but if you're talking about the Middle East, there aren't many better places to be than Kuwait. There are 15,000 US troops stationed here so no one who isn't as loony as Saddam wants to mess with the place. Just to be safe, I live as far away from the US bases as possible and tell everyone I meet that I'm Canadian (well I do that when I'm in the US, too).

Geography wise, we're on the other side of the peninsula from Israel and the West Bank and about a 1000 milesaway from Lebanon (with Saudi Arabia in between). As Bill Murray said, "So I've got that going for me."

Don't get me wrong. Everyone in Kuwait (and throughout the Gulf) is very focussed on what's happening in Lebanon and Gaza. But no one is worried about dodging rockets just yet.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I Wish My Passport Looked Like This ...

I just got an extension on my Kuwaiti visa and it caused something that I've been anticipating for a while. I now have no more room in my passport. This would have happened long ago if I hadn't used my British passport a lot when I was living in the UK. I also lost my Canadian passport a few years back so this is the replacement passport.

I went to get pages added in but "due to security concerns" they don't do that anymore. So I have to get a new passport, even though this one doesn't expire for another year. And of course my Canadian citizenship certificate is sitting at the bottom of a storage locker in New York. So I'll probably get a temporary passport. The Americans will love that.

Think I'm going to take along my Irish passport just in case. It's brand new and very pretty. At least for now ...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Roadside Job Interview

Every morning, Majed and I drive by the sheep Souk on the way to work. And every morning, there is a man sitting by the side of the road who waves to us. This man became a regular part of our morning conversation as we speculated about what he was doing, sitting by the side of the road. Majed correctly concluded that he was looking for a job but we still didn't know what type of worki he might be seeking. Finally one morning, curiosity got the better of Majed and he pulled over the car to talk to the guy. it turns out his name is Salim and he is a butcher for hire. Apparently, he waits there every morning for someone to bring a herd of sheep in and then he makes himself available to cut and dress the animals for anyone purchasing one.

I never knew that there were freelance butchers for hire, here in Kuwait. But it's good to know that if we ever need one, we'll know where to look.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Taking Kuwait's Temperature

How hot is it here right now? It's hard to tell. You see, there are laws that state if the temperature exceeds a certain amount, manual laborers have to be given the day off. However, it's also peak construction season here. So official sources may be reluctant to provide accurate information.

Right now, it's 7:30 pm and my little weather widget is telling me that it's 117 degrees Fahrenheit. It's also telling me that tomorrow's high is 122. Now if you think there is only a 5 degree shift in temperature between midday and early evening in the desert ... I've got some beautiful lakefront property to sell you right here in Kuwait.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Kuwait This Week

Couple of random observations since my last post:

- Went for a haircut the other day and got to experience the practice of "candling". This is a Middle eastern barbershop technique where q-tips are dipped in hot wax and then inserted in your ears. The wax dries and the barber rips it off your ear removing any hair that was on the ear. You know it's been removed because the barber shows this to you. For any women I know who wax their legs, I feel your pain. They also do this to remove nostril hair but luckily my barber didn't offer that particular service. Like a lot of things in the Middle east, you don't have to ask for this. It's just assumed you want it.

-No one in Kuwait that I know has a cat as a pet. Yet there are tons of stray cats roaming the streets. They're all thin and pretty mangy looking but there seem to be more of them every day. Where do they come from?

- I was walking out of physio therapy today and they were bringing in a young girl who looked like she suffered from Muscular Dystrophy. On the one hand, I thought this is a good part of the world for people who suffer from conditions like this since nursing help (like most manpower) is relatively cheap. This girl had four nurses with her which was great. On the other hand, I realized that she was the first young person I've seen in a wheelchair since I came here. You really don't see anyone with any physical handicaps here except older people. I wonder why that is? perhaps it's because they don't need to go out since they can hire help to do a lot of the menial tasks. But it's strange that you don't see more of them.

It's eight o'clock at night and it's 115 degrees outside. All you North Americans can shut up about your heatwave now.