Living Arrangments

25 May

I have found an apartment! (That I like/accepts Kuwaitis and Westerners/is in our price range/is in a good location) WOOT! WOOT!

Meshari and I are going to meet with the gentleman tomorrow to fill out all the paper work and pick out which floor/layout we would like. That may sound a little odd, but that’s because the whole building is completely new. Each floor is the same, with three different layouts. I’m hoping to get the 9th floor. We have heard that once you go higher than that the wireless gets weird. (I’m not sure why)

That being said…we can’t move in right away. They will be finishing construction as soon as possible and plan on having everything fuctional by August. So we will have to wait. However, we don’t want to wait in Hawally anymore. the screaming children and the traffic has driven us absolutely mad!

Our next course of action is to live with Mama Oda for the next two months. This means we will have to move twice, but saving money and getting away from the chaos here will be worth it.

Once the paperwork is official, I’ll post pictures and more details.

 

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Apartment Hunting

20 May

This phase has never really struck me, until yesterday. I have been researching, searching and talking about apartments for three months now. The first month was really light, just looking at prices and seeing what’s available. Now as the date of moving out of our current apartment draws near, the hunt is on!

The only issue…I don’t know my prey.

I am a hunter. Like many people. I hunt deer, I hunt for art supplies, I hunt for wild blackberries, I hunt for jeans and so forth. Everyone in a sense is a hunter.

Example…Deer vs Kuwait Apartments.

We will start with deer. There are laws for when, and where you can hunt them, with that comes a license. The best times to hunt, early morning as the sun comes up, and late afternoon. That’s when the deer are moving to find breakfast/water/dinner/a safe place to sleep. (Depending on if it was a full moon and clear out, normally deer will stay up and eat all night if they can see. PARTY!) Smell, I like smelling like dirt, because I don’t like purposely putting deer piss on me. I prefer hunting in a ground blind so I can nap without worry of falling out of a tree. Unless it’s winter, then I will be in a tree, it’s too cold to nap in the winter. Sounds…the difference of “Lets get out of here!” compared to “what is that?” to just them walking/running. Knowing what to pay attention too. What else…how to dress, is really important. Your weapon of choice. Each has it’s pros and cons. Etc. Etc. I am a capable independent hunter.

Apartments in Kuwait…I don’t know arabic, BOOM half if not more of the ads I see need to be translated. So already I’m not independent. Where should I look?…I’m learning what places are considered safe, others not safe at all and the nice areas. However, I’m learning as I’m looking. I spend a couple hours out tracking down places to see them only to find out from Noor, the family driver that this is a very bad area. Mark that off the list. I have searched countless websites, I have talked with friends, I have gone building to building. “Shlonik! Are there any apartments open?” Then continues the mix of arabic I know with the english they know. Normally I have Noor with me as back up, but I’m learning that when I enter and get the ball rolling I am less successful. Because of language? Because I’m a women? Because I’m white? I’m not sure…either way I’m a hunter. If my “prey” gets startled because I’m a white chick asking direct questions in semi broken arabic. I’ll taken another approach. I have now been seeking out apartments that are not even build yet. For one, I know that they have openings. Two, the men are distracted with working to really focus on what I’m doing. (checking water pressure, looking in the cabinets/closets, checking windows for drafts…the normal apartment check.) I’m starting to think that’s not a normal thing here. Next, the fun fact that Kuwait likes having ghettos, meaning a part of a city for certain groups of people to live. (social/economic) I have seen written/posted ad saying “Westerners Only” Some that say “Western Females Only” For one, that is incredibly creepy. Next there are areas where it says “Kuwaitis Only”. I have been hung up on twice now when I call these places. Now before anyone asks…Meshari is Kuwaiti and I have found myself in the position where Noor tells whoever is behind the desk “Her husband is Kuwaiti .” Boom, I get whisked to a different (always cleaner) room. Or I get taken care of next. Another prime example of discrimination. Sure, I am benefiting from it, but I feel like an asshole. It’s not fair. When I brought it up to Meshari’s dad he didn’t understand how it was unfair. He just saw it as “Of course you are treated better! Why should you have to wait?” I replied “I’m a person. He is a person. She is a person. They were their first.” And he retorted with “But they are not Kuwaiti.” It’s ingrained that they believe they are better than others.

WHICH brings me to my next problem. Most/Some Kuwaitis believe that they are better than everyone else and don’t have to follow laws/rules. Enough so where landlords do not accept Kuwaitis as tenants. Weeeeeeelllllll why is that? What are they doing/Not dining?! It has become common for a Kuwaiti to rent an apartment to serve as his/her love nest. However if that Kuwaiti doesn’t feel like they got full usage of that love nest. Maybe the couple broke up for a week, or one of them were on vacation for three weeks and they didn’t get to use the apartment. They do not pay rent. And to be clear, I have heard and witnessed this from friends, relatives and realtors.

That being said, yesterday I found myself at an apartment which I had already seen. They were using two different realtors, and they never post the names of the buildings. You literally have to make an appointment to come see it for them to give you a location NEAR the apartment. Then you call again as you get closer until they can give you the final location. It’s really irritating. Either way I was going to speak with them, maybe they would give me different information. I straight out tell them, I saw this apartment last month, the other realtor said that the landlord did not want us here because my husband is Kuwaiti. Is this true?

Come to find out…they do accept Kuwaitis…they just have to pay a whole year in advance. Excuse me? A year? 450kdx12= 5,400kd…I was saying “what the fuck?” over and over under my breath. Never have I heard of having to pay a whole year in advance! Who has that kind of money just laying around…and let’s just do the math for shits and giggles. 5,400kdx3.55 (exchange rate) = $19,170 USD… Stupid money…I can’t even imagine just being like ‘yeah sure, here ya go! No problem!”

Again…I don’t know how to apartment hunt here…or I’m just not very good at it.

How do you like Kuwait?

18 May

I cannot count how many times this question has been asked. At first, I would answer politely with a smile. “The food is really good! And there is so many different people and cultures here!”

I have been AWOL for the past month or so because …to put it in lame man’s terms…it’s been shitty.

It really started with a “baby shower” aka Look at how much fucking money I have! SHOW CASE *throws glitter*

Women were being completely rude by American and Kuwaiti standards. “What is she?” They made me feel like shit because I wasn’t like them. They made me uncomfortable because I wasn’t wearing a pound of gold around my neck, or had a diamond the size of my eyeball on my finger. I was pissed because I was in a room full of shallow humans beings who were wearing enough money to feed a small country for years. I talked with women who were confused as to why I worked, who were confused as to why I had a bachelors degree. I couldn’t even mention my masters. I went to a baby shower to celebrate new life…and I didn’t even see the baby. I saw a waste of life instead.

Next, the blatant racism. It’s everywhere. The worst part is everyone is used to it! To them it’s normal.

I can feel this turning into a list…

I just read an article asking students to report any classmate that may be gay so they can get “proper treatment”. What the fuck?! It was in the newspaper! And it distinctly stated “They are not supporting any homosexual activities.” I knew before I came here that they are not openly supportive, it was more like “don’t ask don’t tell”. So seeing it published in a paper was over the edge.

Next, I have yet to hear ANYONE say “thank you” to servers or cashiers. (besides Meshari) But the looks we get from them when we say thank you, it’s like we turned green.

Next, it’s Kuwait they can afford to pay their workers a decent living wage. They choose not to.

It’s a fucking shit show.

OH Copyright…yeah that doesn’t matter here. Steal whatever you want. It’s disgusting.

In short, how do I like Kuwait?

I don’t.

 

 

Take the bull by the horns.

19 Mar

I am so excited and nervous I’m feel like I’m going to blow chunks! (throw up, vomit, etc)

Yesterday was my 26th birthday. Meshari and I did nothing special because money is tight and a wedding is happening so everyone is running around with their heads cut off. Plus I had two meeting, plus normal designing work to catch up on. So we are pushing my birthday back to April 18th, gifts, small party what have you.

But the most exciting/stressful nervous thing is….I am in the works of starting up my own design studio. That was what my first meeting was about. And while writing this post, I have gotten three phone calls, a dozen texts and what looks like our first client and we haven’t even established our own branding yet!

This is so overwhelming, the cart is way ahead of the horse! But I’m excited and want to keep this ball rolling!

I have so much work to do!

Word Vomit Rant

11 Mar

This was going to be called “Job Search & Being Productive”…but as it developed into “word vomit rant” suited it better.

Since the age of 12 I have been working. Baby sitting and yard work were so I could join ski club and get those cool hoodies with your name on the back for all the sports I played in middle school. I upgraded to a horse farm where I worked for riding lessons. Then I milked cows at a dairy farm when I was 15. I rode my bike back and forth before I got my driving license. I had to save up for college, so while also working on the farm I worked as a secretary in the middle and high school during my flex periods. And if I couldn’t be busy enough during high school with cross country, musical, yearbook, the farm, track and the secretary gig…I started working at Subway so I could transfer that job to the city my college was in. In college I worked for subway till I found a job on campus that worked better with my cross country and class schedule. Then I added working for the graphics department…and so on. And this pattern of always working continued through till I left the States.

I have always planned. I have always worked. I have always had a car. I was independent.

In 4 days it will be two months “without” me working here. I am still designing remotely…and I am developing a class to teach online over the summer for Oswego. So I am WORKING…but I feel because I haven’t landed a job HERE I am a complete and utter failure. It’s sounds dramatic…but I have always had the plan and routine of one job flowing into the other. Or even having 3-4 jobs happening all at the same time. With the confusion of work permits, criminal records, health blah blah blah…I looked at jobs but never applied because I knew it would be months before I even set foot in the country and now once in Kuwait the paper work itself is taking exceedingly longer.  I have been actively searching for a month…I have a few nibbles, which is good, but my confidence is shot to hell.

“Hi, we love your work! Ohhhh your paper work isn’t complete…” *Click*

They don’t say that…but I feel I can’t push forward the way I want because both my feet are not on the ground.

And this last piece of paperwork that needs to be done is literally a fucking bitch. If I was in the States it would be easily taken care of…here a big “sucks to be you” at every turn.

If anyone in Kuwait tells you “Oh that will be easy, don’t worry about it.” Don’t fucking believe them. Do all your homework, understand the ins and outs…even if you THINK you understand…you don’t. Nothing is updated, nothing is a sure thing, whoever you go to will give you different information than the guy sitting next to him. And honestly …if you ask the same person the same question…you are going to get a different answer.

In lame mans terms…I am in a cluster fuck.

….

Anyway…I’m in the second day of this very odd, tech support, super non formal interview via text. So I have that. And many little birds have told me…that “I don’t exactly need the paper work to be done…to work right now.” Sounds fishy, right? Because it smells fishy and looks fishy too. Remember cluster fuck…but everybody does it and everybody is in it. Everyone is in the cluster fuck storm. I can’t change the weather…but I can sure wear a rain jacket…but if this storm is a monsoon…I guess I’m SOL.

Learn to dance in the rain.

National Kuwait Day & Liberation Day

9 Mar

Gulf Road is the main drag along …wait for it…the gulf, it is normally filled with cars, bumper to bumper for the celebrations. Fireworks are creating beautiful displays of color in the skies. Children are covered from head to toe with the green, red, white and black of Kuwait’s flag. Even some cars are covered in the flags. The children carry around an assortment of water guns, spraying into the cars and the people singing and dancing in the streets. This continues for two days. One to celebrate the National day, which represents when Kuwait gained independence from the British in 1961. And second day to celebrate their liberation from Iraq in 1991.

I did not get to personally witness this type of celebration, just like any place in the world celebrating isn’t a cookie cutter event. I must admit I was caught off guard with the invitation to the farm in the middle of the work week. There have been celebrations the entire month, so I wasn’t completely surprised, but Meshari and I gladly accepted.

We packed our bags to stay overnight. I packed my camera and laptop because I still had a few designs to finish, and if work needed me they could reach me.

The farm is 45min outside the city. It’s amazing how quickly and dramatically the landscape changes from huge glass and concrete buildings to tents and sand.

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The quiet was so nice. In the city the constent noise is nothing like a slow moving river, or a gentle breeze though the trees. Some people claim that cities have their own song. Their own music. My experience has given me the impression that this city is just a city filled with cars. People are not talking. There is no music coming from shops or cafes. Vendors are not welcoming you to see their wares. Just cars. Angry honking. Impatient honking. Enough where I have had half a mind to slash every tire in this entire country. Maybe one day I will hear it as a sweet melody… But that day is not today.

So back to the farm, chickens are happily clucking. You can hear goats bleating in the distance. Every other sounds are bird songs I don’t recognize and the wind. Voices of people talking and laughing. It’s a place where all friends are welcome. A place where you can really relax, almost as if time moves slower here.

We played football in the yard and didn’t bother to keep score. Just chasing and kicking. The best kind of sport.

When lunch on the first day rolled around food began to appear. Lamb ribs, chicken, lamb kabobs, grilled onions, garlic and potatoes. Seared pieces of fat that just melted in your mouth. Warm pieces of bread that made perfect mini sandwiches. Colorful salads and desserts. Everything was delicious and delightful. All the food over the holiday was like that. And after all the meals a huge display of fruits and nuts would be placed on the table outside.

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As night fell on the first night we started playing music from one of the vehicles. Everyone was talking and laughing. We enjoyed another huge meal after evening prayer. Meshari and I took a walk, we watched as a man was trying to get, what must of been a new horse, used to the trouble maker of the group. We were at the edge of the desert so night much darker than in the city. And we could see an oil field on the horizon burning. With all the dust and sand in the air the fire looked like something out of Mordor. In the nicest way…

Once we got back most of the women were dancing. The men were smoking shesha and laughing. I danced, a bit of my style mixed with some of the moves the women were showing me. I tried to get Meshari to dance but he didn’t want to. They were saying I must have “arab in my blood” based on how I jiggy down. Throughout the night there was continuous eating, drinking, smoking, dancing, and just good laughs. As some people started to head back to the city, a hand full of us went to one of the large tents to play hand. (It’s a card game similar to rummy…but only by a little bit.) More fruits and nuts were brought out, some continued to smoke shesha. It was starting to make me dizzy, which is why I think I was doing so poorly during the game. It’s was around 1:30am that Meshari and I turned in for the night.

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This holiday was almost two weeks ago. I thought for a long time of how I should write it, what to include and what would be better left unsaid. I’m not one for lying. I’m not one for sugar coating. And I received an e-mail from a beloved friend she wrote…

“Write. Write a lot. Photograph things and post them – don’t edit yourself – be real, be raw and be all of you, even when that can only be true through your blog site – use the blog to rediscover your spirit – and you are not being negative, you are just being honest. There is a difference.”

Meshari and I woke suddenly to doors slamming, and many voice yelling. All in arabic. We sat up in bed, just listening. Was it a fight? An argument? The main voice was so angry I couldn’t quite pin point who was so upset. I started pulling words out mainly because they were being repeated. “Stop!” and “Enough!” We both wanted to go see/help/understand what was happening, but without actually knowing what was being said made the decision difficult. Meshari quietly put himself between the door and myself. The voices left…we whispered to each other…we had no idea what could have made him so angry. All I could think about was how this must be similar to what it’s like to be in a verbally abusive family. I felt very small. If I understood the language I’m sure I would of felt and acted differently…looking back there are so many what ifs in this situation…I felt embarrassed for the man. Being around his friends and throwing a tantrum. Not being able to control yourself and being civil. The voices returned…doors were slamming again, and then all was quiet.

The next morning we saw that the angry man, his family and maid were gone. We went outside and said our good mornings…it was as if it never happened. Ignore the problem and it will go away. We started drinking coffee before I asked “Is everything all right?” From what we are told, and what we all pieced together…the wife had hurt her hand/wrist. She was on pain meds. From what I witnessed she also enjoyed being the center of attention. The mixing of the medication, and shesha was not a good idea. Staying awake into the wee hours of the morning when you should be resting is not a good idea. On top of having a very protective, competitive husband. In a country where you can beat your maids/servants if you want to. PLUS the notion that a gold watch went missing…if it was even brought in the first place, who can say. A formula just waiting to explode. Still uncalled for.

The rest of the holiday was calm. We cleaned the dust off the pouch with many buckets of water and sqeeggy booms.

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We continued to play games and eat. We took walks around to other peoples farms. There was a fair mix of horses, goats, chickens and camels.

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I wanted to find a camel to pet, so we drove out to the main rode. On our way there we found a dead horse just laying on the side of the rode. You can see that there are wires around his back hooves. So either he died and was dragged…or he was just dragged we don’t know.

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As we reached the main road, we could see a trail of dust raising up in the distance. Once we got closer we could see that it wasn’t just one, but two trails of dust. Two 4-wheelers were chasing a horse. And as we got even closer we could make out a man leading a beautiful white mare and the horse that was being chased was her baby. By the time we stopped in front of them the two children 7-8 years old. (little punks) Had gotten one of the 4-wheelers stuck in some loose sand. (Karma is a bitch) But the gentleman stopped and let me pet the mare. The baby kept his/her distance, which I can understand.

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The sun was setting so we had to quickly find a herd if we wanted a chance to pet some camels. And as we were looking for a turn around point, boom camels!

We stopped and asked if it was ok to take pictures. As soon as I stopped walking and put my eye up to my camera, I see a huge dark camel plodding his way over to me. One of the men who were with the herd whips out some bread and slows him down as he still moved closer to me. They didn’t speak any English but is was clear that they wanted me to pet (maybe) his prize camel. He did have a personality that’s for sure. They are just and awesome animal. They are so tall, and their fur is so soft and curly, I love it. The camel kept trying to eat my hand, but growing up around horses and cows, I wasn’t worried, even though with my hand flat he could almost fit it in his mouth. From middle finger tip to the bottom of my palm…so yeah camels have huge mouths.

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We started heading back but before we could a man had also found some loose sand and had gotten his SUV stuck. With an odd mix of english and arabic we lent our pushing power. From the looks of it getting stuck in sand is very much like getting stuck in mud. You want to move slow and not dig yourself deeper.

The rest of the holiday was the same, games, music, food, drinks, more food, more games.

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I started putting small sentences together. “The horse eats grass.”, “My name is Alesha.”, “I am an American.”

And that is that.

Saturday Lunch

22 Feb

In the states Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter are the big important meals. In addition to Mother’s day and Father’s day. And maybe Birthday dinners.

In Kuwait however, you bet your ass you better be at either Friday lunch or Saturday lunch every week. These meals are huge, normally there are 6-8 chickens, two different types of rice dishes, fish stew and a fish the size of my thigh, in addition to salads, fresh veggies, finger foods and red sauce. Kuwaitis (from my experience) really take family face-to-face time very seriously. Which can be really great, there is always someone who has an answer to your issue, or has at least some insight.

Yet it seems everyone is always meeting up for coffee, weekly men’s gatherings, weekly women’s gathering, lunches, dinners, breakfast…everything really is with family… Which can be really suffocating if you normally are independent. It just feels like you are expected to be present. Actually participate…maybe…but you must be present. An extra face…for example…I can show up to lunch say hello to everyone in turn, sit, and no one will talk to me, everyone will be speaking arabic (which is great because this is where I learn most of my new words) but I’m not included. I will ask how someone is, I’ll get an answer, and the conversation will end. We eat, have chai, everyone will talk more, say good bye and that will be that. 2+ hours of being an extra body. However, if Meshari or I happen to miss a lunch, either of us…we will be asked about it 4-8 times.

Some days I don’t want to see anyone…other days I would like to be around people… maybe it’s because I still don’t feel like they are family yet. Some of them are caring, don’t get me wrong…but I still can’t hold anyone in true confidence. Does that make sense?

I did say I would be more positive didn’t I? I’m being fair…which is MORE positive than being negative…yeah…let’s just roll with that…it is getting better. I have stopped directly comparing my side of family to Meshari’s side. There are more conversations…which is normal…I’m new to them…and they are new to me…anyway here are the left overs of today’s lunch…

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