Monday, 29 October 2012

The Holidays, Eid Style!


I’m sitting at Starbucks, the Starbucks close to my apartment, on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I’ve already done this once during the break and I loved it. I ordered coffee after coffee while I eagerly read, comforted by the hum of traffic. I was the only person sitting outside, but it was lovely, and once the sun went down, there was an ambiance that was unlike anything else I’ve felt since I’ve been here. That’s when I realized it: I love lounging outside in the sunlight in this country, sipping on coffee, reading my book and listening to my music. Obviously, I stick out like a sore thumb, (for one, no one really even reads books, magazines or newspapers here. I think the other reasons are much more obvious, lol!), but the relaxation that comes with simply sitting in a place with (SOME) greenery, human activity and the entertainment of a good book, well, this is what brings me solace. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it’s the normalcy of simply sitting with a cup of coffee and a book. Perhaps it’s that I feel most like myself when I have the basic comforts of home, or maybe I just love the combination of coffee and novels so much that I feel relaxed and happy anywhere as long as I have the two.

Now, as I lounge, I feel a peacefulness that I have been craving for a long time, a peacefulness that comes from a lack of stress. In all honestly, it’s a lack of financial stress. Sans that pressure, I can enjoy things here in a way that I haven’t been able to enjoy my life in Canada. Sadly, it’s  much easier for me to make a half-decent living here than in Canada. My job, this little journey, has a purpose. Simply put, I want to open a business in Canada, but it is quite a large undertaking. So now I try to juggle teaching, doing research, and finding out how I’m ever going to fund  my ambition. I know that this jaunt to Kuwait is more of a “last hoorah” before I return to Canada and settle down...For another few years until I establish my business, at least. *wink-wink*

In the meantime, I want to enjoy my time here. So yesterday, my Polish flatmate and I headed to The Avenues (mall) with the sole purpose of buying a new blender…Again (her mission), and getting a new foundation and blush (my missions). We looked through Inglot (YES! They have an Inglot here!!!), MAC, Makeup Forever, Boots, Debenhams (a European chain that carries high-end make-up and clothing) and Sephora. Somewhere in between all the shopping, we had lunch outside in a gazebo like structure overlooking a water fountain, palm trees and grass! The restaurant, an Italian spot, was awesome!!! We shared a salad with roasted vegetables and a funghi pizza. We finished with espresso and just enjoyed the sunny weather and quiet patio (not many people like to be outdoors here). To walk off what we'd eaten, we shopped some more!

While we shopped, we got lots of samples since, in Kuwait, you cannot return OR exchange merchandise once you have opened it (we’re definitely luckier in Canada regarding this policy!). We got quite a few samples from disgruntled employees who weren’t happy that we weren’t immediately and unquestioningly purchasing merchandise, but I flat out REFUSE to purchase merchandise that I may not like, that I cannot exchange or return. As per my greatly anticipated Sephora run…Well, it was a very big letdown. It was a tiny shop that barely housed any of the name brands that I’d hoped to have access to. *BIG sigh* One of the employees assured me that by the end of November there would be a bigger selection, but he could tell I was disappointed. A LARGE sample of Marc Jacobs’ perfume, Benefit eye cream and his name and phone number later, I still felt forlorn. My flatmate commented on the customer service rep’s actions; I stayed quiet initially, but then I finally disclosed that I wouldn’t go anywhere near a Middle Eastern man (in a romantic sense). Ever. I don’t know if it was the tone of my voice or my facial expression, but God bless her, she didn’t ask for an explanation and simply dropped the subject while I dropped the samples into my shopping bag and the phone number in the garbage can. That’s when my flatmate turned new, amazing friend suggested we go into Dean & DeLuca. There are no words for what happened next. Who am I kidding?? I will ALWAYS have words! Hahahaha!!

We walked into Dean & DeLuca and I was in culinary heaven!!! To my left was a full kitchen in full swing in the wide open for all to see-including their customers in the restaurant section. To the right was a glorious section of chocolate and candy. I found black licorice AND Allsorts. Be still my heart! I don’t even want to begin listing all of the sweets they had or else I’ll never stop typing! On my left was a beautiful dessert case full of a variety of Turkish Delights, dates (some were even covered in chocolate!), and other sorts of sweet goodness: namoureh, baklava, cupcakes, macaroons and miniature cakes. Straight ahead to the right was a cheese selection that made my flatmate and I cry with joy!!! Next came olives, tapenade, caviar, cured meat and smoked fish…Spices, dips, luxury crackers, cookies, nuts, jams, honey, tea, coffee, pasta and sauces were all snuggled up together. In the back corner was a selection of oils, freshly baked bread, including danishes, croissants and quiche…Oh…I didn’t want to even look because I knew I’d leave broke. So instead I opted for some 60% chocolate with blackberries and milk chocolate with figs for the Irish chef and the Serbian gentleman. I picked up a jar of Allsorts for myself, while I silently apologized to the licorice and promised it I’d soon return. My Polish flatmate settled on fresh bread (she loves her bread), and we headed home. My mini haul: 

Just a few treats! 
The new blender!!!

I assembled the blender as it had been sitting, all alone in its box (my flatmate flat out refused to open it in fear she’d break it), and my flatmate, ecstatic that I didn’t break the blender, enjoyed a smoothie FINALLY! In the afternoon I went to Organica Fish & Chips (I FINALLY got a picture). I was enjoying lunch outside with the Irish chef when I felt something wet on my arm. Afraid of what it might be, I looked down and saw a clear liquid and felt another drop on my head, then my toes and I looked up to droplets of water falling onto my glasses-it was raining! I’ve clearly been without rain for too long since I just stood up and started to laugh while the Irish chef reminded me that my food was getting wet and to get inside. Those who know me will tell you how much I loathe the rain (so much so that I left Victoria, British Columbia). Oooops! I dashed inside with my food and grabbed my camera and went back outside to take photos. I stood under the awning for a few minutes because I wanted to smell the fresh rain scent-something to remind me of home! I’m clearly grasping at straws because it didn’t rain long or hard enough. I returned to my food. It rained again later while I was sipping on a smoothie at The Coffee Bean. I wanted to run outside, but I thought people would laugh, so I merely sat and stared out the window in a trance. Below is a picture of my fish and chips at Organica:

Organica Fish & Chips: exactly what the restaurant name says. It was sooo good! I LOVE the batter. I honestly barely touched the fries. In fact, the Irish chef ate them. I ate TWO pieces of fish :)

The outside patio at Organica Fish & Chips: proof that it rained-enough for us NOT to eat outside. It was still raining when I took this picture.

I had to exchange my foundation (because it was too dark-don’t worry, I didn’t break the seal, just compared it with my current foundation), and the Irish chef wanted to see what all the fuss was about at Dean & DeLuca (D&D), so off we went this (Sunday) morning. I quickly exchanged my foundation (which the store clerk ripped the seal off of) and found myself once again giddy at the sight of D&D! No explanation is needed this time since I took pictures for you!!!

 A shot of registers and back of the pastry case (facing the store entrance)
 Celebrating Halloween: pumpkins were the equivalent of almost $40CAD!
 The candy and some of the chocolate display
 Middle Eastern Sweets #1
 Middle Eastern Sweets #2
 Divine-looking dates #1
Divine-looking dates #2
 
Holy Macaroons!
 Cheese: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."
A carrot cupcake for my flatmate, mint chocolate truffles for the Irish chef, and a sweet dessert (also down below), the name of which I cannot remember, but sooo yummy!!! It had a rose water sauce on it. 

Second little haul: black licorice, "grape jellies," (a.k.a wine gums-because of the alcohol ban, they didn't write their proper name!)!!!!

No more shopping for me for a loooong time! Today, Monday, is my last day off and I'm going to try and get rid of the pounding headache I have :(   Eid Mubarak!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Feel the Love (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0NSeysrDYw)

I was responding to some comments made on the blog this morning and saw that this obscure compilation of musings has been viewed over 1200 times. TWELVE HUNDRED TIMES. That's probably nothing in the blogging world, but to me that's a lot! I'm sure most hits are people who have searched the web for something more interesting and, sadly, gotten suckered into reading my babbling. To those people, I apologize. It's like reading a story that begins in medias res. It's not always palatable either. As my sister says, "I make no pretense of being normal. I'm not". I'm not normal. I'm weird. I can only imagine what complete strangers think when they read this, hahaha! It's interesting because those who have viewed the blog are from all over the world-even in countries I've never heard of (hangs her head in shame and embarrassment)! I still think that it's mind-blowing that anyone with access to the internet can read what I've written! No, I'm not aiming for celebrity status here, but there's something so incredible about knowing that there are people hundreds of thousands of kilometres away who are sharing this experience with me. I know it's corny, but I'm going to say it anyway: I don't feel alone knowing that there are people out there who are keeping up with me (Keep Up With Me-Late Night Alumni: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trsjTz4HigA). Thank you from the bottom of my heart, everyone!

So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, people of all ages, sit back and relax as I go back to posting about food. Yes, MORE food!

The Irish chef has wanted to try out a little hidden breakfast spot by his apartment in Fintas called The Breakfast Club (yes, like the movie: http://www.bananaq8.com/food/first-impressions-the-breakfast-club/). It was a nice treat since we went before work on Wednesday (our last day of work before the long holiday weekend for Eid Al-Adha). I really need to remember to take my camera with me when I go out! I didn't have it, so I could NOT snap photos of my appetizing breakfast wrap with spicy guacamole and fries. It was sooo good! They have risotto on the menu, too (one of my all-time favourite foods in the world!), so this restaurant could potentially be a regularly frequented spot! I definitely think the quaint atmosphere, incredible customer service and amazing food are worth the slightly higher prices. In addition, their coffee was divine. For a second, I almost felt like I was drinking a steaming cup of bean wash in Seattle (USA) from Stumptown, Caffe Vita or Victrola (All Saints-Black Coffee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2WP1yNypHo). Oh, Seattle, do you know that you have so much that I hold close to my heart?

On a side note, I have been craving black licorice. As I've gotten older, I've discovered how much of my mother's oddities that I've inherited: a love for anise/black licorice, jujubes and anything resembling a potato chip/cheesy. Somehow, while my Polish flatmate and I were looking for a grocery store that a friend has recommended we walked straight into a cute little pastry shop that sells cupcakes, cakes and cake pops. The pastry shop, named Crumbs, is a tiny little cubicle that holds enticing goodies. We resisted and went to buy healthy food. While we were shopping, my flatmate discovered black licorice hard candies! I was in heaven!!! I wonder if it's that I'm missing all the delights of the Halloween season or that I miss my mother...Or worse: both. I may have survived my first visit to Crumbs, but today I was heading over to the Irish chef's place for lunch with him, the Serbian gentleman and lady and knew that showing up empty-handed just wouldn't do. I didn't stand a chance against Crumbs. So we're even:  Crumbs-1, Mik-1. I bought a red velvet cupcake, a chocolate cupcake, a brownie cupcake and a pumpkin tart. YES, you read that correctly! A PUMPKIN tart!!! It wasn't all that I was hoping it would be, but it was decent! The pumpkin flavour was weak, but the sweet was something more reminiscent of a dessert that I'd find in Japan (more so than Kuwait). It wasn't too sweet, nor was it too heavy; all the flavours complimented each other. Thankfully, I only bought ONE. We ate our sweets after we devoured shrimp curry with brown rice. The shrimp were HUGE and ohhh, soooo yummy! How succulent the seafood is here!

 The flyer that Crumbs hands out to make you want to go back over and over and over again!
Top Row from Left to Right: Oreo Balls, German Cake Bites and Chocolate Delights (like Turkish Delights?). Middle Row: Red Velvet Balls, Sticky Toffee Bites and Cupcake Pops. Bottom Row: Oatmeal Raspberry Cookies and Chocolate Cake Balls...No Schweddy Balls though. Too bad (If you don't know what I'm referring to, go to YouTube and look up Saturday Night Live and Schweddy Balls). 

Although the food in Kuwait is delicious, I've figured out that there's something missing. It doesn't have anything to do with the food, but rather with the company. Don't get me wrong, my friends are wonderful meal companions, but I miss going out with my partner. When you eat food with your partner, well, food simply is MORE delicious, especially if your partner loves food as much as you do! I need another foody (noun: food-lover) in my life. Think I can put an ad out for that, not a romantic partner, of course, but rather an eating companion who loooooves food as much as I do? Does such a person exist??? Hahaha! That may be taking my romanticized food sentiments a bit too far, eh?

As the weekend unfolds, I will have to do chores: take my work clothes to the dry cleaners, get my cell phone back from Abbas (he had his friend take to Dubai and see if it could be unlocked there-stupid phone has travelled more of the Gulf than I have!), do my budget, clean the apartment, grocery shop, blaaaaaaah! However, I simply want to relax with my friends and get some reading time in as well. I think that a picnic, a visit to the Souq, Salmiya and Marina Mall (http://www.marinaworldkuwait.com/Index.cms) have been planned all in the hopes of relaxing and enjoying the experience of living in Kuwait. It is home for now, after all (Brian McKnight-Home: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLiF3KW3l3Y). It has flaws...Many flaws, but there are so many incredible things about this foreign world that are so similar to and yet so different from the Japanese life(style) that I so dearly miss. I promise to try and be more like my Asian counterparts and keep my camera on-hand at all times for more photo opportunities!

No Use Crying Over Spilt Lip Stain


Firstly, I sincerely apologize for not blogging lately. At the end of last week I was proctoring and marking exams, then it was 60 oral presentations to observe and grade (observing: complete; grading: not quite), and lastly, it was trying to teach a weeks’ worth of material in a one hour and forty minute session…Sigh. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Yesterday was the last day of classes before the holiday, Eid Al-Adha, a long weekend-five days to be exact. I’m a VERY happy girl right now! The holiday will see me lounging at coffee shops with my book and, if I’m ambitious, grading-the operative word being “if”.

I NEED this break. Last week I was “off,” and I realize that my body is not happy with the fact that it was just getting used to the weather and climate here when, BAM, all of the sudden it became a lot cooler and, surprisingly, more humid (and when I say “a lot” cooler I mean the temperature dropped from the 40-something oC to 30-something oC, or roughly 104 oF to around 86 oF for my American friends). It’s also gotten a bit humid…My skin is not happy. In addition, all the construction in the Mahboula area has made walking extremely unappealing. The sand in the air fills my lungs and gets in my eyes-not an enjoyable way to begin the day, so beginning last week I acquainted myself with the gym downstairs, and so far it’s going really well.

Although I’d solved my drab workout routine problem, I still had problems breathing after a gas explosion occurred near The Avenues Mall. The gas did make its way into our area and we were scared because of the toxicity of the gas. We were told NOT to go outside, to shut all windows and not use the air conditioner. Lovely. We didn't want to go to sleep in fear we might not wake up. Sheesh. All was okay, but it was not what we needed the night before the students’ exam.

My Polish flatmate and I had to do some running around, so it was off to 360
o Mall to buy groceries and  a blender so that I could make us healthy smoothies (my favourite breakfast and something I ended up making for dad and I A LOT before I left Canada). We purchased a nice blender and then went to LUSH so I could buy some moisturizing body bars and soap for my parched skin. We were there all of five minutes before I accidentally broke a glass bottle of lip stain. The display case is poorly designed and I have fat hands! I felt horrible and apologized, but the store clerk told me I would have to pay for the broken item. I was very agitated and upset since I didn't break the product on purpose. I angrily paid the 8.5kwd (about $30 CAD), and decided LUSH in Kuwait is not a company I will be supporting in the future. I decided to try and salvage the lip stain (even though it’s a colour I would NEVER wear). Luckily, the break was clean and I put the stain into a different container. Check out the bright hue!!! I am going to wear this because I don't want my 8.5kwd to go to waste! I'll snap a shot and post it once I do :)



Now, this story would just be annoying, but it’s actually more funny since when we got back to the apartment my Polish flatmate was sooo excited about the smoothies that the first thing she did after we put the groceries away was get the blender set-up. I was in the kitchen making tea when I heard the familiar sound of glass shattering on tile floor, HAHAHA! She dropped the blender! Oh, man was she upset. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop laughing because only an hour earlier I’d broken the lip stain at LUSH! It was coincidental, ironic and hilarious! I shrugged it off and spent the rest of the weekend reading. I LOVE my book! I read this wonderful quote and really wanted to share because it's a brilliant theory: “A woman’s dress is a struggle between modesty and majesty: by the treasures it reveals it must hint at the pleasures it conceals.” (Capella, The Various Flavours of Coffee, p. 126, ©2008). That's a good note to end on.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

First Dates and Polish Pancakes

So, after the deep, heavy and, essentially, extremely depressing nature of my last post ("The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth": http://halfieinkuwait.blogspot.ca/2012/10/the-truth-whole-truth-and-nothing-but.html), I want to revert back to focusing on living in Kuwait because I cannot dwell too long on such thoughts. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them." (Mere Christianity). So, let's move on, shall we?

This weekend was a busy one. Thursday after work, I somehow managed to take my sad and sorry self to Baan Sabaidee, the Thai restaurant that a few co-workers and I decided to try out. Well, here it is, folks, my first lukewarm review. I mean, it had to happen at some point, right??? I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be. That's where I made my mistake: I had high expectations even though I didn't personally know anyone who'd ever eaten there. Sorry, co-workers!!! It wasn't that it was horrible. The ambiance was nice, I had some amazing tea (it was a bright rusty orange colour and tasted like vanilla-flavoured, African rooibos tea), and the food was good. So why didn't it win us over? Was it just that we were all tired from the work week? I don't know. None of us LOVED the place though :(  My wonderful Polish flatmate, the Irish chef and the Serbian gentleman and I were in attendance and, despite our mixed feelings about the restaurant, we had a great time. We were all tired, so laughter was-obviously-on the menu. The largest party in the whole restaurant, we definitely were the most rowdy bunch. One thing to note, I didn't see an Arab walk through the door. Curious. I hope that that's not customary, since there were some really great features to the place, like the dessert! Also, the gentlemen ordered a fish plate that was to die for! So really, not bad overall, but not a place I'd go to over and over and over again. Ben Thanh, in London, Ontario (Canada) has ruined me for life!!! If you're ever in London, check it out: http://www.benthanhlondon.com/

I have to admit that I was completely wiped out Thursday night. I've done the ultimate and braved going out walking for exercise here. I wasn't sure how it would go over, but it turns out that if, at 7:30am, you wear tight leggings (because it's so sandy here that you physically can't walk in anything else, except shorts, a no-no in my opinion!), a baseball cap with a brim that you can hide your eyes with and loud enough music, the walk is very pleasant! I have walked for the last three days now and it's incredible!!! I LOVE walking and have been quite consistent with the distance I walk. Sadly, I can't walk as far as I would normally walk in Canada because of the heat and the dry air, but it's a very good workout! I'm a sweaty mess when I get back to the apartment (EEEEEWWWWW! GROSS!!!). I know it's gross to be so sweaty, but I swear I can't help it; I get it from dad! Have you EVER seen him after he's played basketball outside in the summer?!? Yeah, I rest my case. In regards to the hat, it protects me from getting heat stroke and dealing with seeing the drivers drive past me (on Coastal Road. I walk against the flow of traffic, mostly to prevent someone from hitting me). My ipod, ingenious holder of music, makes exercising bearable with a variety of tunes that not only make me happy, but give me a beat to walk to (although I usually walk to the beat of my own drum!). Walking without music is unfathomable. Life without music would be torturous. It's nice not to be able to hear cars honking at you. I think my appearance is quite unappealing when I'm exercising, hahaha!  It's not the most vigorous exercise, but I know that I'll add to it soon and tailor it to fit my needs.


It's a good thing I've taken up exercising again since I don't stop eating! My Polish flatmate has been feeling homesick and wanted to make traditional, sweet Polish pancakes (similar to Dutch pancakes if you know anything about Dutch pancakes). On Friday we went to Al Kout to go to the grocery store and market to pick-up everything we needed. We invited people over to share in the fun! On top of pancakes, she made apple sauce from scratch (and did quite a fine job!). We cut up peaches, plums, fresh dates (This is the FIRST TIME I've eaten FRESH dates! Fresh dates do NOT taste like dried dates! I also learned that when fresh dates begin to naturally "go bad," they become the sweet, dried dates that we would get in Canada! It's awesome!!! I LOVE DATES! Sorry for going off on that tangent), and even splurged by buying some chocolate syrup! We had fresh lemons cut as well, just in case people wanted to be more adventurous, and if not, we made sure we had some honey! There were four of us and we just ate and ate until we couldn't move! We chatted all afternoon over coffee and tea and had a blast. I literally couldn't move for hours after everyone left. I went to bed early only to wake up early, go for a walk and then have breakfast with the Irish chef while my Polish flatmate went to yoga. It was a quiet afternoon as I worked like mad and then made phone calls to Canada (I love you, gtalk!). Although I have a fridge full of food, I just couldn't be bothered to cook and treated myself to Indian food for lunch from the place downstairs. Unfortunately, I came home to more work.

This week, although a relatively easy week, is jam-packed as I prep the students for their first exam on Thursday. The following week is completely dedicated to their oral presentations and then on the 23rd I am off for FIVE WHOLE DAYS for Eid al-Adha! Wooohooo!!! I have absolutely NO PLANS, but who cares?!? I might just pack some books and sit on the beach (just down the street *BIG smile*), or relax with my morning coffee and the newspaper along the waterfront of Marina Mall...I think I might do some "Christmas" shopping for Emi and dad. Since I won't be home for Christmas (I can't talk about it right now, I'm still upset by this news), I bet by the time I figure out how the heck to mail things they'll get to Canada just in time for the holidays. That was no joke about figuring out the postal system here. It was only last week that I found somewhere that faxes internationally AND was able to get the bank to set-up international bank transfers. No comment.

Can you believe it's the middle of October and I've been in Kuwait for a month and a half??? Time is a-flyin'!  Below is another reminder of the importance of perseverance. I need to put this one on a sticky note and slap it on my forehead so I don't forget ;)
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." -James 1:2-4, NIV, the Bible

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

I want to pre-empt this post with the following disclosure: This post is only minimally connected to Kuwait, so if you'd rather sleep than read, well, I don't blame you! In short, it's confessional. *Insert "Yuck" facial expression* Yeah, I know, I'm not interested either, but there are people who read this blog and deserve to know the truth about some things.

I would rather shoot myself in the foot than read confessional poetry and literature, especially  autobiographical and biographical work. I've always thought there's something self-absorbed about the genre. The irony is, of course, that I write a blog that resembles a compilation of "Dear Diary" entries (Homer Simpson "D'oh!" moment). Recently, on Facebook, I admitted that I was frustrated that the number of people in Kuwait reading this blog is increasing while the number of readers in Canada is decreasing. The information made me question why I was writing at all. As I mentioned, I blog as if I were mass emailing my family and friends abroad so that they know I'm alive and doing well (yes, a bit extreme, but not really when I still haven't unlocked my cell phone). I know that my blog is, metaphorically, like Swiss cheese: full of holes. It's incomplete, not comprehensive and even alienating. I don't ever mean it to be, and I sincerely try not to be negative (although I am).

I've been told I'm cold-hearted, closed-off, aloof and extremely abrasive. Not the nicest descriptive adjectives, but they're all accurate, and have been absolutely true, especially since last spring. I have developed thick skin from a traumatic childhood illness (I'm not stating this for any sympathetic purpose or using it as an excuse). I don't dwell on it, and I'm thankful that it happened. So many wonderful things occurred as a result and I wouldn't change a thing about that time in my life. However, these past few years have turned me into something that's not recognizable. I can't blame any thing/event/situation/person for this transformation. The only person I blame is myself. I was the one who changed. I've tried to figure out what triggered it and I think it's several things, but, again, I don't place any blame the trigger(s). I think that the triggers merely allowed me to see who I really am. Unfortunately, I've discovered that I don't like who I am. Phew. That's a burden off of my shoulders! Four and a half years of trying to figure it out, denying it and hurting others just to discover something so simple. Yet it's not simple in any way.

After my I realized how unhappy I was with myself, I plucked up the courage to end relationships, of all sorts, that were toxic in my life. Talk about extremely difficult and painful. I left behind people who I have loved more than anything and anyone else...and still do...People who I loved more than I loved myself...But I needed to let them go in order to stop myself from becoming an even worse person. I am negative and harsh enough on my own, and yes, I've had to be open and truthful with myself and others in ways that have made me appreciate the frank and honest people in my life.

I lost respect for all of the negative people in my life for one simple reason: they were so selfish that I questioned what I loved about them. I know I'm not perfect, but I never stopped working on my relationships with them and I loved them imperfections and all. They, on the other hand, never prioritized our relationship and never communicated (or listened for that matter). Dishonesty and betrayal (cheating and intentionally hurting me) were common themes in some cases. I stopped trying to hold onto people who didn't want me in their lives, and even after relationships that had lasted over 5 years, I ended things and did my absolute best to walk away without looking back. Dear God, there are difficult days-more difficult than easy. Losing my grandmother on my father's side (one of my role models) and my own excellent mother, and calling off my engagement to the best man I know, all in the span of 13 months made me realize who mattered, and who no longer did. What made cutting those people out of my life easy was their (sad) lack of response to my decision to end things. It was confirmed: these people had no respect for me, and no understanding of the value of people-even horrible people! To be so coolly rejected was a slap in the face, one that I absolutely deserved.

The day I lost my mother I knew that the world would never be the same, that I would never be the same. A large part of me died with her, and I still struggle with accepting that I can't bring her (or me) back. I feel an immense guilt that refuses to dissipate to the point that I feel haunted. I think about her everyday. Every cursed day of my life I wake up to an emptiness that I have only ever felt once before, and wouldn't wish on anyone; I honestly mean that. No one deserves to feel such heartbreak. She was my best friend and the best person I've ever met. Without her, I stopped feeling devoted to the people who didn't care about me (including extended family members), stopped feeling any inclination to continue to fight to keep them in my life. What was the point? I knew I'd never be able to feel love (familial, friendly or romantic) the same way again. Losing them wouldn't be a big deal. So, I decided to let go of those people. I had no more energy, patience, compassion or desire to continue with them in my life.

Who was this person who stopped believing in love and the invaluableness of people who made life worth living? The new (and unimproved) me. I truly feel that that's partially why it was so easy for me to pick-up, leave Canada and move to Kuwait. It had nothing to do with Habibi. I knew he'd be back in Canada, not only because he kept telling me he would be, but also because I knew he'd have difficulties with being back to the Middle East permanently.

It is ironic that out of those people who I let go of, that not one of them has ever tried to mend ties or communicate with me. What's sadly true is that my life doesn't feel any worse without them. I wish them the best and hope that they never, ever treat anyone else the way they've treated me. I'm golden: I've learned now to live simply and have finally realized that I only wish for God's forgiveness for my wrongdoings, to take care of my family and make those around me happy.

I apologize for being sappy. I don't want to talk about my feelings. In fact, I've gotten incredibly good at keeping them to myself and not letting anyone in, just ask my co-workers here who have given up on trying to learn anything about me. My feelings are nobody's business-except for anyone who can access the internet, HA! I have to say these things because there are people who mean the world to me, who have been patient, who haven't pushed me or walked away, but instead have given me the support, guidance, advice, time and space I have needed, and I want them to know that I'm trying to be a better person for them.

Am I still working through things? Of course. As my good friend Kim liked to quote (Ani DiFranco), "I am a work in progress." I thought that I had been moving ahead steadily, but when a long-time friend (who reads my blog) told me that although it seems like I'm enjoying Kuwait, that I sound sad, I was shocked. I was shocked  by his insight and it hit me like a pound of bricks: In some way, he's right. I thought that many years of separation from him might mean that he doesn't know me any longer, but I was wrong. An incredibly kind and deserving guy, we've known each other since the days of "How to Eat Like a Child" and Fun Fairs at Oxford Park.  Yes, he knows me very well, clearly...Not very good for a person who attempts to hide her emotions. *Sigh*

I'm enjoying my time here. I obviously miss my family and friends. Sad though? While the answer may seem obvious to everyone else, I feel hesitant to label what I feel sadness. After what's transpired in my life I can't deny it could be sadness. Could it simply be that the last time I was here I was enjoying myself, and tried to make the most of my time with Habibi (the only man I've ever really loved and been in love with), only to find out the truth about him and his actions, and be hurt so deeply by what he'd done, that my trust and faith have almost entirely disappeared? No comment. I don't want to answer or admit anything; I've incriminated myself enough. What I can tell you, my family and my friends (and other readers), is that I'm very sorry. I've become pensive and distracted, consumed by my own feelings. That's not who I want to be. I'm trying to be a better person to you, a better person for you. I don't know if I'll ever be as full of life as I once was, or if I'll ever fully recover. To those of you who care, I'll always try. I promise. That's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me, God.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Souq in the City

I fell in love Saturday. Now don't jump to conclusions! I fell in love with the old Souq in Kuwait City. The Souq was not exactly what I had imagined it to be, but it still was quite the adventure! There were no wooden carts or stalls with hot food, spices or raw materials, you know like the kind of market in Disney's 'Aladdin' movie. However, I knew it wouldn't be exactly like that. It was more like small shops in a few clustered buildings that were all somehow connected. While I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, I did find other treasures and will DEFINITELY be going back. Early in the morning, the Polish lady, the Irish chef and I departed for the Souq with great anticipation! Our taxi let us out on the main street of the city centre. We kept asking the taxi cab driver if we were at the Souq and he kept saying 'yes,' but we were all baffled as to WHERE exactly it was. We were told to go down a tiny side street which would lead to the entrance to the Souq. It was easy enough to find and it was all outdoors! YES!!! I loathe the intensity of the air conditioning used in malls/the university/restaurants here. In fact, I have rarely used air conditioning since moving here (yes, you read that correctly). I know it's hot, but if you're drinking cool water and keeping yourself out of direct sunlight, you'll be fine. People here think I'm nuts because I sit in the sun during my breaks at work to thaw out, but it's waaaay tooooo cold inside the university! When I go outside, I make sure I'm covered or in the shade, but I love sun! My students are always surprised because they think that being from Canada means that I can't handle the heat and that instead I embrace the freezing cold temperatures. No-no! I have my airplane blanket in my office and use it on a daily basis...Yes, that means I usually have blue fluff on me somewhere, but my nails have been turning black lately, so I'm willing to suffer some fluff-age.

Back to the Souq (I think today is a going-off-on-tangents day! Sorry!). We walked up to almost every store front out of sheer curiosity, but then people began yelling at us to eat the food they were selling (dates and nuts in bulk, loose spices and tea, as well as dried bread, fresh fruit and veggies), it was scary actually. One man kept feeding us in the hopes we would buy something and, of course, we did! Everything was sooo yummy!!! We ate fresh dates, ohhhhhh! Our first purchase was dates that were semi-dried and not overly sweet. Oh, they instantly melt in your mouth. Lord, help me! Let me tell you, I COULD stay here just because of those dates! I can't believe how soft and palatable they are! In Canada dates are sooo sweet, but these ones are heavenly, honestly! Once the store clerks saw us buy something they wouldn't stop calling us over to their stalls. The Irish chef got suckered into buying assorted nuts in bulk and I got a great deal on scarves (since I'm always freezing at work I thought they'd be worth it!). While I was finding ways to stay warm, the Polish lady bought olives...Ohhh, yes. They had those, too! All the sampling was killing me (I hadn't had breakfast), so I asked if we could stop for food.

After passing the fresh fruit and vegetable counters, we made it to the..."food court"?!? Sort of. We were ushered to a table while our waiter scoured the restaurant for a menu in English, hahahaha! No luck finding a menu in English. Really though, what did we expect? We only saw two expat couples at the Souq and we were clearly not a common site. Our waiter brought the Irish chef into the kitchen so that he could choose the fish we wanted for lunch. True story. We were being welcomed! We had Iranian style chewy bread and a salad consisting of sprockets (which I didn't know were spicy until I came here), with onions and lemon. Then our waiter brought out a huge plate of basmati rice with a red sauce that consisted of tomatoes, onions and okra (it was AMAZING!). Last to come out was our fish...Oh. My. Goodness. Come here fishy, fishy, fishy...And that was the end of that! We devoured it all and then sipped hot chai. As we were leaving, our waiter grabbed my hand and told me that the Polish lady looks like Cinderella (the only blonde he knows?), and that I was four times beautiful. Yep, that's exactly how to get us to come back :)  He was so sweet though; he was actually blushing when he was trying to communicate with us (no one at the Souq who we encountered really spoke any English). I wanted to take pictures, but after doing research I found out that it's a no-no to photograph places like the Souq and locals aren't usually too happy with foreigners taking pictures of them. Sorry, readers!

After lunch we were off to see if I could find gold or silver (jewellery). My search was in vain and all I ended up finding were gorgeous saris and beautiful rugs! Oh, well. We decided to call it quits after only two hours because the Polish lady and I need to hit a grocery store to buy some household items. The Irish chef, in no mood for shopping at the Avenues Mall with us, sent us on our way in the first taxi that would stop for us (not as easy as you'd think in the city centre). At the mall we picked up groceries (yes, I do that a lot, but I don't actually buy a lot of food), and I grabbed some very healthy food, so if I gorge myself, at least I'll be eating healthy food! I had a terrible headache, so the Polish lady suggested coffee. Yes, please! I hadn't had my coffee yet and I needed a break from shopping (it really is too much for me these days). After the coffee we shopped...A lot. Our taxi loaded with food and goodies, we headed home, exhausted.

After unloading the groceries, the Polish lady received a text reminding us that we had to be at the double birthday party for around 7-ish. So we decompressed, dressed and headed over to the bakery to get a cake (you're sooo Canadian/North American, Mik!). We settled on a chocolate "Snickers" cake (the one food I'm not a fan of), and hailed a taxi. We arrived in Fintas at the Irish chef and Serbian prof's apartment to pick them up on our way to the party. They have a gorgeous view of the water (the beach is literally right across the street from them). We all walked to the birthday girl's apartment and passed a beautiful Thai restaurant, Sabaidee: http://www.bazaar-magazine.com/baz/bazaar/index.php?show=eIndex&show_filter=view&action=article&art_id=ART00000001324.
Um, yeah, guess where I'm going on Thursday night for dinner? Yup! It's a beautiful restaurant and looked more like something I'd see on Avenue Road (in Toronto. Hello, Spuntini!) than hidden away in the suburbs of Kuwait. I'm very excited to try it out. I digress...Again. About eight of my colleagues and I gathered at the Serbian lady's flat for pizza, snacks, cake and...Non-alcoholic beverages. Yay. I passed, obviously. I mean, I barely drink alcohol in Canada, so not being able to drink isn't really a big deal to me (although I most definitely miss the occasional glass of red wine).

 Look at ALL that birthday cake! 

Eeeeewwww! Is that APPLE-flavoured, non-alcoholic beer?!?

We called it a night after lots of laughter and fun! After I got home I was thinking about what a great night I had, and about my colleagues who are from all over the world (Serbia, Poland, Ireland, Hungary, Lebanon, Georgia, Greece, Egypt, etc...), who somehow all managed to meet in Kuwait, and it made me stop for a second because it really is incredible. I get to have this once-in-a-lifetime work experience, and I'm sharing it with amazing people from all over the globe! Even though I come from Canada where people from all over the world encounter each other on a daily basis, I don't take for granted how blessed I am to interact with and know people from all different nationalities! I'm thankful that Kuwait has a lot of expats!!!

Friday, 5 October 2012

There's No Getting Me to the Church On Time

Today, one of my best friends in the world and his fiancée are getting married. Although I'm happy to be experiencing life abroad, I'm not at all happy about missing their wedding. I've known my best friend since I was four years old (yes, that's a whomping 26 years, folks), and ironically, thought all those years ago that I would marry him (yes, I was in love him when we were kids). He's the guy who ended up keeping me grounded, gave the best advice, and the one I would talk to on the phone for hours until the wee hours of the morning. My bestie even came on my family vacations because that's just what he means to me. He was also the first person to laugh and poke fun at me, but he taught me how to laugh at myself and keep it real because life is too short NOT to laugh! He's getting married today and I love his fiancée (you know when two people are meant to be together? That's this couple). I attended her bridal shower just days before I flew to Kuwait. Below is a group shot of another good elementary school friend's spouse, me, the groom's mother and the bride-to-be enjoying the quiet after all the guests had left.

The boys came to finish all the leftovers and, of course, take group pictures for us

I know this blog is public to a whole lotta people who don't know me, but let me assure you that I'm not a wedding person, so the fact that I had ended up at three bridal showers and two weddings this summer was a bit overwhelming for me. Despite my feelings about weddings, the friends I've been blessed with have reminded me that love is amazing, and I was surrounded by it all summer and thrilled and honoured to be present at all the wedding events. I KNOW that this particular wedding will be a blast (not stiff or stuffy like weddings can be)! I'm sad and disappointed that I won't get to dance with my best friend or his father, or celebrate the occasion with our friends, so much so that I have to remind myself that I'm here because I have to be, or else the guilt will seep in. So, I'm in Kuwait, thankful that I left Canada on such a good note (it will make going home all the sweeter). Look at all the smiles in the snapshot below! Of course, I'm eating in the picture, but the groom's mother made AMAZING cupcakes (Oh, yeah, I was all over that frosting recipe!).

Tea leaf reading and inside jokes about "invasive" Asian friends

To my best friend and his fiancée  I love you both and I'm so happy for you. I've thought long and hard about it and I think you should name your first born Mik since it's a unisex name. Awesome.

The first shot of the happy couple as husband and wife!

On a side note, this weekend in Canada it's gobble-gobble day (or more commonly known as Thanksgiving). I would miss experiencing turkey coma (or as my family fondly calls it, "turkey comma." after my mother made a one-time typo), but my family is forgoing turkey for...Pizza. Well, at least they won't have to endure turkey comma, hahaha! To all my friends and family in Canada, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I'm very thankful for all of the people (family and friends) who have committed to their relationships with me, stuck with me through thick and thin and made me a better person; I'm even more thankful to those of you who have walked out of my life, making me appreciate those amazing people and teaching me about the quality of people who I deserve to have in my life.

Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Kuwait (as I'm sure most of you know), but birthdays are, and that's what I will be celebrating tomorrow! That's a good thing since I need a reprieve from the stress of moving. Today I spent half the day packing and moving all of 100 feet to my new apartment. It has been a stressful week. I was told by my roommate (Lebanese lady #1), that she didn't want to move into the apartment we had planned on moving into. Even worse, she wanted to live alone because her family has decided to visit and there wouldn't be enough space if we were living together...Ummm, yeah, Tuesday was NOT the day to tell me this (we were planning to move in three days time), but that she did and I was pretty upset. However, I knew that things would somehow work themselves out, I just wasn't too thrilled with receiving this news at the last-minute. As I scrambled around trying to figure things out, my amazing friends (because they're really not ONLY my colleagues), came to my rescue and offered me a place to stay while I tried to find alternate housing arrangements. Although the Irish chef and the Serbian gentleman offered their sofa, I'm old-fashioned and couldn't agree to moving in with them. I could just picture my father's face if I told him I was moving in with not one, but two guys...Sorry gentlemen, but my dad's still a traditional Japanese man (Kyushu danji) at the end of the day and definitely wouldn't be the first person to give us a house warming gift. The Serbian lady then came to the rescue, but her place is so tiny I felt like I was taking advantage of her kindness. It was the Polish lady and the other Lebanese lady (#2) who saved me (that's not an overstatement). The Polish lady's roommate (the  Lebanese lady #2), was originally planning to live alone and so the Polish lady and the Lebanese lady (#2) agreed that the Polish lady would move in with me. It was settled, and today the Polish lady and I moved our (few) belongings into the new place (fully furnished, expats only). 

We unpacked, freshened up, chatted and hit the corner store for a case of water, which Abbas (the gentleman from Iran who works at the store and helped me out my first day in Kuwait), carried to our apartment. Wow! Quite the service! He calls me "Mickey Mouse" because he can't remember my full  name, nor can he pronounce it-too cute! Although, if I were being honest, no one except Japanese people pronounce my name correctly. Tomorrow the Polish lady, the Irish chef and I are going to the Souq and then the Polish lady and I are going to hit up the HUGE grocery store in the Avenues Mall so we can get some food for the week. She also wants new shoes. I'm going to attempt to purchase some body butters from Lush (to moisturize my dry skin...Oh, desert air, you're cruel to my finicky skin). I think I want another "Buffy" and I want to try "You Snap The Whip"....With a name like that who wouldn't want to try it?

Since my co-workers and I all had to find our own places (our company had prearranged our living accommodations for our first month here), most of us moved to other areas in clumps. The Turkish ladies and their husbands moved to Mangaf, the Serbians and the Irish chef moved to Fintas, the Georgians are closer to Salmiya (I think), and then there are the few ladies who stayed in Mahboula because we actually really like it here. I now directly face the coastline. I'm charmed. I also discovered a new gem of a restaurant just a few hundred feet from the apartment; it's an Indian joint and I LOVE it! The Irish chef and I decided to brave it and I'm so glad we did! Hello SAMOSAS! The food's delicious! I haven't had ONE problem with sensitivity to the food and it's ridiculously cheap. Look at the spread below (we'd already devoured the samosas, ooops!):

Biryani (with sauce), veggie curry, nan and salad

Then, the Irish chef and I had our "last supper"; he made me shrimp curry and home made pumpkin soup because I've been missing autumn.

 I am SO going to learn how to cook with curry powder! It's amazing!

Mmmm, fresh pumpkin soup to warm me up in the desert, ha!

It's obviously not horrible or difficult to live here (or in many other countries, I think). You just have to find amazing people to surround yourself with. That's the difficult part. I've been blessed with exceptional company wherever I have lived-something I'll always be thankful for.