Hello my lovely readers!
I am writing to you from Kuwait and I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to finally be able to say that! Because my life is usually a series of unfortunate events it pleases me to say that getting here was a relatively smooth event (I did throw up on the flight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi, missing the toilet almost entirely, though…) I flew on Etihad Airlines and I was so impressed with this airline that I wasn’t even scared! (Not even on take-off!) They provided each passenger with a thick blanket, cushy pillow and a case with a sleep mask, toothbrush & toothpaste, socks and the good kind of ear-plugs. I was only in Economy Class, people. It was great.
The school that I am teaching at in Kuwait provides its entire expatriate staff with apartments in a large complex. We pulled up at our apartments in Mahboula at around 12:00pm and because I slept almost the entire way over, I was relatively awake. I decided to use my time constructively and unpack my things in my gorgeous new apartment! Special features in my apartment include: washing machine, drying rack, gas stove, queen size bed, ass-hose (more on this later), make-up table and most importantly, air-conditioning. It’s been a scorching 40-45 every day. Last night humidity was added to the mix and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t ever leave my air-conditioned apartment again. I’m only half kidding.
Over the course of our three orientation days I met an amazing cohort of teachers and administrators who have come from all over the world. The staff here has been very kind and welcoming so far. Our principal gave us a tour of the school and it should be noted that the building is a gorgeous relic from the past. The building is reminiscent of old Kuwait, just over 100 years ago, when schools were built with classrooms facing open courtyards. Fortunately the individual classrooms are air-conditioned because this is heat like I’ve never experienced. Have I mentioned that it’s hot?
So far I’ve had three opportunities to get out of the house and explore a bit of Kuwait. A group of teachers went to the Lu & Lu Hypermarket (affectionately known as LuLus) and we went grocery shopping in a 3-floor grocery store. They have ramp-style escalators so you can take your grocery cart with you to each floor. It was really neat. And, Kuwaiti grocers carry almost all of the creature comforts from home and so I was able to purchase a number of familiar items. My Honey Nut Cheerios are simply “Honey Cheerios” and there are many veggie-friendly options everywhere you go. I also bought lots of coffee because I have all the jet lag.
I purchased my Internet stick, called a Mada, at a kiosk just outside of Lulu’s. A lovely Arabic-speaking friend helped me to communicate with the sales representative. I was told that I would be given my password at the end of the transaction and thus, I was on my way to communicating with my family! Or, so I thought…
I came home and installed the device on my laptop without any problems. It was then that I realized that I did not have my password – the company was going to email it to me instead (slightly counterintuitive…), and that they also took down my email address incorrectly. After frantically, and unsuccessfully trying to find a staff member who both had a phone and spoke Arabic I ended up at my Head of Department’s apartment and she phoned an English-speaking representative who then passed along my password for the device.
I attempted to log-in and wasn’t having any luck. I had been told by some other staff that Mada USB sticks do not always work right away on a Mac (I’ve only been with my Mac for 2 weeks or so. It was gifted to me by my Mama Bear, P, Blue & Super Mom C – Blue’s Mama. All the love.) and so navigating a new operating system and attempting to troubleshoot for myself was out of the picture. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the device hoping that this would solve any problems, but in fact, it only made things worse. When I reinstalled the device, my laptop no longer recognized that anything was plugged into the USB port.
The next day, on my second Kuwaiti outing, we headed to The Avenues Mall. This mall is unlike anything I’ve seen before. The sheer size of the mall is intimidating. It has every shop you can think of including a full-sized Ikea store and three separate Pottery Barns (one for adults, teens, and kids – of course!). I don’t know if we even saw ¼ of the entire mall in our 2.5-hour venture. After a short trip to Ikea to purchase a few household necessities I headed to the Mada kiosk with my laptop & USB stick to explain the problem. I ended up at iCity (the Kuwaiti Apple Store) and relinquished my MacBook to them so that they could downgrade my operating system in hopes that this would override the problem. Since I have 2KD to my name (approximately, $6.50CAD) the iCity sales representative offered to do this for me at no cost! I strolled around the mall for an hour waiting for my laptop to be ready and I encountered the loveliest site for sore Canadian eyes: a Tim Hortons. I didn’t have a lot of money left so I did not purchase a coffee, but I did get a plain bagel toasted with plain cream cheese – YUM! And, after perusing some shops with my fellow ex-pats I headed back to iCity to pick up my laptop. The Mada was working again! But, I had to reinstall the program and log in just to be sure. So, after heading back to the Mada kiosk we discovered that the password that I was given was incorrect by one letter.
And that’s how I got Internet in Kuwait. (Thanks to Emo & everybody who put up with my tears and frustrations on the journey to connectedness).
I was stressed not because I’m an Internet junky, but because I was waiting to hear a health update on R who had just visited the vet before I left. And, readers, your prayers & thoughts have not gone to waste: R’s levels are entirely back to normal and she is eating consistently again. She will likely have to be medicated for the rest of her life to delay the Cushings from causing more problems, but this is the absolute best news and best scenario we could have hoped for. So, I thank you for caring, the Vet for their compassion and medical expertise, and I thank R for being so resilient. I love you so much, pup!
AUK & The Cheesecake Factory
The third Kuwaiti experience I’ve had so far was at the American University of Kuwait. The AUK hosted a dinner for all new ex-pat teachers. Upon arrival I immediately spotted a friend from back home, QR, who is teaching at a different school than me. We sat together and chatted about our experience so far and then we caught up with another friend PM (from my hometown and my B. Ed. Alma Mater!) and agreed to make a date to hang out and explore the country!
The event was sponsored by a number of national and international companies. The Cheesecake Factory just opened a store in Kuwait and graciously came to the event and gave us all free cheesecake. I had the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake – but there was also coconut, key lime and chocolate. We were also given free Starbucks espresso upon entry. Needless to say, I was altogether too energetic all night because I was hopped up on adrenaline, espresso & sugar. I paired this with a massive salad, hummus, veggie samosas, lasagna, and far too many other delicious things to name from our buffet dinner.
It’s been a whirlwind so far – and I have been getting so much love from my family & friends back home and this has made my transition from lush Canadian landscapes to Kuwaiti desert all the more easier.
Three facts about Kuwait:
- Kuwait was originally settled by desert tribes who traveled here from Saudi Arabia.
- Kuwait City used to be surrounded by walls to prevent other wandering tribes from unauthorized entry. There were relatively small city gates in the walls that allowed in one tribe at a time. The walls are no longer erect, but the gates remain.
- Everyone in Kuwait delivers. No, but actually. From electronics stores to food and water to laundry services and even mani/pedi and massages can all be ordered to your door with one phone call! (Get with it North America!)
New (to me) Arabic Word:
Shukran – Thank You
I’m already planning some weekend getaways and vacations to a number of very exciting destinations throughout Europe, the Middle East and further east into Asia! Stay Tuned my lovely readers and