No poppies, delicious Italian, and a things to look forward to!

Okay, okay. I slacked off again. Big time. But hear me out—it was report card week. It really should be called “Report card TIME” because a week is just the last fraction of time you have to get grades in. Leading up to that week is actually harder: chasing kids down for lost assignments and adding up said late assignments in your grade book is time consuming. Then let’s not forget that we have to add comments to students’ work. It was a harried week, friends!
We also returned from Bahrain, which I tried really hard to like, but which was really nothing more than an expensive, smaller version of Kuwait. We did go to the souq, which was cool, and I got a little wooden camel, which was also cool. I liked that part, and I also liked going to the Hard Rock café with Megan and getting a free breakfast from a rich Saudi guy whose Bentley I admired.
The weekend, however, was wonderful. Thursday night was a movie night. Megan and I went to see Wreck-it-Ralph, a hilarious and witty story featuring characters from our favorite 80s and 90s video games. It was clever and sweet and was made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we had an incredible Italian meal beforehand. We had this delectable pasta with creamy mushroom sauce and amazing lattes.
In other news this week, I read “In Flanders Field” to my kids, and am finding it hard to get a hold of a poppy in Kuwait. I assumed the embassy would have them, but since they have hours reminiscent of an understaffed medical clinic in Canada, it’s impossible to get there before 3:30—closing time. SIGH.
Mom and Linds have sent me a package, which is exciting. It does have poppies in it but I can expect to receive in about three weeks, which is sadly long past Remembrance Day. It does, however, have pyjama pants in it, so I’m a happy camper.
Nothing else new to report. The countdown to Christmas has begun! It is a sad state of affairs to be in a country where it is hot and snowless when I am such a Christmas freak. I am missing the festive décor (although I almost wept seeing trees and decorations at IKEA on the weekend) of the malls and the twinkling of lights on the houses.
I hope you are all well, and now that I am back and settled, I can fully guarantee a quicker update for next time!

And remember! “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me!”

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Sirens and a visit to Bahrain

Every time I come on here, I am aghast at how long it’s been since I last posted. AGHAST!

Things have been interesting in Kuwait lately. There have been some hiccups over Chez Parliament lately because of some legislative changes. Protests ensued, and now there’s some concern about the future of the country’s stability. EXCELLENT! I love that the papers read this as “the most unstable Kuwait has been since Irag’s invasion” and THIS is the time I chose to come here, HA! Situational irony? Dramatic irony? Bad luck? Who knows.

On a happy note, it’s Eid, so Eid mubarak! This means vacation time in Kuwait. Megan and I will be going to Bahrain, a cozy little island near Saudi Arabia that boasts ridiculously cheap Indian food (have I mentioned my obsession with paneer?) and has alcohol, so Megs can finally get her glass of wine! I am excited because it’s somewhere new, and Bahrain, for whatever reason, holds appeal for me. We are staying at a 4 star hotel and it’s going to be awesome!

Last night, we went out to a restaurant with swinging chairs and shisha with our Kiwi friend, Clare. She is going to Dubai for the holiday. We had a great time, and I greatly enjoyed my halloum sandwich. We took some pictures, and here are the results. Although I should mention I don’t smoke anything; the picture of me is just me holding the piece, not smoking from it. Honestly, I think the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland is cool and I wanted to be like him.

So I’m excited about Bahrain! And I will definitely post pictures of Bahrain, and tell you stories about Bahrain, and probably shop in Bahrain. Let’s just say that after the craziness of work lately, this is a welcome holiday. WELCOME, holiday!!!! Welcome!

Have a great day everyone and blog soon!



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Thanksgiving and a dash of humdrum

Not to sound blah, but seriously? Eating Indian food (leftover Indian at that) while I picture the rest of my family gathered together over a boiling pot of wayyyyy to many potatoes (we do it every turkey dinner), I feel sort of melancholy. I’m sure this feeling wouldn’t be as salient if it wasn’t for the brutally bad day I had at work and the fact that the kitten I adopted from the side of the road last week ended up dying. I can’t say it’s been a very magical week—I’ve had fun teaching my students, but there has been a bit of an imbalance of luck in the past few days.

It starts with the kitten. We’ll get to Thanksgiving soon.

Digest version: So there’s this little black kitten. It lives with its dumpster-diving family near a tree beside our school. The thing is so tiny it has developed an infection in its eyes, and by last week, they’d seared shut. Being an animal lover, I felt incredibly drawn to the stinky little feline. With Megan’s help, we catnapped it, drove it to the vet, and got the little girl some shots. I bathed her twice a day, cleaned her bedding, bought a kennel, and coaxed her to have some milk. She seemed to be gaining strength: she was meowing and clawing around in her little towel post-bath, and I felt so smitten. Then, Thursday after school, I come home, she’s gone. Brutal play, universe. Brutal.

Then my toilet continued to NOT work, then my kitchen flooded. Then I had the WORST day at school today, and this feeling was coupled with the fact that today is the first Thanksgiving in my life that my grandma hasn’t been alive, and to top it off….I’m not there. I felt extremely guilty (damn Catholic guilt) that I wasn’t there to help my mom and aunt and cousins prepare dinner and play with my dogs and visit with everyone. Our family is very close, and we celebrate big. So today was a particularly bad day. I can see the colours of the falling leaves, I can hear my dogs bark when the doorbell rings, and I can smell autumn, stuffing, and cranberry sauce amidst the voices of my loved ones.

Feeling a bit reflective, I am posting pictures of Gateau, the kitten whom I loved, if only briefly, and will be thinking of my family. xoxoxo


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Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Summer is here! Meaning, that in the Middle East, it never really left. Every day is summer.

There is something sobering about waking up every day and knowing what the weather will be like. Coming from Canada–where you can arise to sun, drive to work in hail, admire a rainbow in a sunshower around noon, and fight the blustery wind and snow by early evening–it is very unusual, but very welcome kind of change. When I wake up in the morning, it’s beautiful outside. The sun blazes through an eerily cloudless blue sky, and the weather is either ‘hot’ or ‘hotter than yesterday.’ After living in a country where weather is a species of Russian Roulette, it’s actually refreshing to wake up and know that you’re either going to be hot or hot and very sweaty.

That is one of the things I love about Kuwait. There are others. Like, for instance, the luxury.

In Canada, we are rich in resources, and enjoy a fine standard of living. But it’s not obscenely wealthy, mainly because the government chooses to enjoy a wealth of political stability and fine friendships by exporting goods and resources and not enjoying the spoils with its people. The opposite exists in Kuwait. Most foreigners are initially appalled at the obscene wealth: Masaratis are not uncommon sights, and the most popular “middle class” vehicle is a Land Rover. Canada is conservative with wealth, so seeing this kind of blatant money in architecture, vehicles, and shopping outlets was shocking for about 24 hours before I recognized the sensibility in it. Kuwait is oil rich, and they use the money from the oil to take care of their people first. They enjoy the fruits of their labor instead of shipping it off and denying everyone a Land Rover. There’s something really admirable about that. 

I also love beach parties. We went to one on Thursday night (remember Thursday is Friday here….the last day of the week) and it was a blast! We grilled houloum cheese, dipped pita into fresh hoummus, and ate veggie burgers. It was amazing. We swam in the bathwater-temperature water, which was a dazzling blue, and collected an array of pearly shells. We took some pictures too. Allow me to share!






All in all, it  was a great night. 

On Friday (the new Saturday), I went to the Palms for a brief workout and lounge by the pool before I went to lunch at a dear colleague’s house. She’s a good friend already, and we had one of those 6 hour visits that are so special. I enjoyed her company, and she made a vegetarian feast of rice and dill and beans, lentil, carrot and zucchini soup, and this amazing salad with pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs, and oil. It was delicious.

Today was a day of rest. We soaked up the heat of the Palms and swam in the pool. All in all, it was pretty marvelous. Tomorrow is school again.

There are some exciting things happening too: potential travel plans for the Eid holiday at the end of October, my plane ticket home for Christmas is booked, and it’s almost World Teacher Day at school. Excellent!

I miss everyone dearly, but I’m having a great time. I have been sick since Wednesday, but inshallah my cold will subside and I’ll feel better soon.

Love you all. Go and love life! 


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Roam (if she wants to)!

Exactly a week since my last post! Not bad, not bad. Today was the first day of school (actual ‘teaching’, not planning time) so I have been extra vigilant about writing. I don’t want to be one of those people who starts a blog, writes prolifically for a month, and then…….well……stops.

Because there is so much I want to share with you!
Firstly, the shine of being in a new country has not become tarnished. That’s exciting. It’s nice to be able to wake up, look outside, and still feel excited that you’re “somewhere else.” I know so many people who are quick to point out that I won’t “feel that way for much longer” or that “this is the honeymoon period”, but I would argue that such people don’t know me nearly as well as I know myself. From the time I was young, I loved to travel. I looked out an airplane window on the way to Vancouver with a mixture of eagerness, excitement, and anxiousness. I felt tears spring to my eyes when I hiked the rugged terrain of the Shetland Islands in Northern Scotland (it felt like ‘coming home’ if that makes any sense….there was a huge feeling of ancestral bonding), and I grinned like an idiot all the way to the top of the city when I went to see the Acropolis.

I am–and I sincerely do not mean this to sound arrogant–a great traveler. I adjust quickly to culture, trends, and bad transportation systems. I would rather face sunstroke waiting to see the Sistine Chapel (it almost happened was hot) than to curl up in my room, sob in the fetal position, and wish for home. This is not to say I don’t miss home. I miss it. But I can hold that part of myself entirely separate from the thrills of navigating an entirely new corridor of culture. While I sigh and have fits of frustration, I am also at once aware that even the frustration itself is foreign, and that presents excitement. After all, I’d rather have a bad experience shopping in the Middle East than Prince George. So I feel weary at the throngs of people, who, for whatever reason, seem so quick to try and assert their experiences with Kuwait with my own. Let me look out onto the palm trees, feral cats, hazy sky, and blue ocean and leave me the hell alone.

This week has been full of fullness. Let me elaborate in case  that was too eloquent to decipher.
This week has been packed with STUFF. Teaching stuff: getting my classroom ready (which looks AWESOME by the way), and planning awesome lessons for my students. Doing stuff: it’s been tough hanging out poolside these days (said nobody, EVER) but I’ve made the best of it. Thursday night (which is the equivalent to Friday here) was a beach party with some teacher friends. It was in the dark, on the beach, and I saw two rats. It was exciting in the way that dirty beach parties are exciting. There was litter on the sand, but it was accented by great friends, and incredibly good veggie dogs, so the scum easily washed off when I got home.
I also got a toaster. Guys…I know. I know that sounds sad.

“Did you read Kristin’s blog,” you whisper to friend B. “She got a toaster and she’s all ‘hooray it’s the greatest thing ever.’ Kinda sad, hey?”
Friend B: “I don’t actually read her blog, but that’s fucking depressing.”
Friend A: “Nobody reads her blog. Maybe that’s why she’s excited about a toaster.”
Friend B: “That’s soooooo sad.”

Don’t feel bad for me. Feel happy! Because although the little things are making me happy, I can appreciate that I took the toaster I have at home for granted. NOT having one sucks. We arrived here on the 22nd, so it took two and half weeks into my life here to grow weary of tearing into raw bread. The toaster was a bit of an indulgence, too. Although I am fiercely against Wal-Mart’s poor ethics, I still sheepishly cash in on a few of their items from time to time. You know, like Tylenol, Soy milk, and cheap toasters. So it’s not like this one was ridiculously expensive or anything, but it was more expensive than a Wal-Mart toaster. So I finally got to have toast. That was a big thing guys. Big thing.

So..toast, beach parties….living the life, right? Well, yeah, sorta. I mean, again…my apartment’s ghetto, but I wake up every day knowing that there will be blue sky and +35 temperatures. That’s pretty awesome when this time of year in Canada is reminiscent of conceding to shoes instead of flip-flops, seeing your breath in the morning, and watching leaves fall from the trees. So yeah, I’ll take it.

I’ll report this weekend, after the craziness of the week. 🙂

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Palm trees and treadmills

“So you’ve been here over a week?” the various people at the expat breakfast gathering ask me. Well, yes, I guess so. 

A week? Already? my mind asks.

It also responds, Has it only been a week?

Having arrived on the 22nd, it’s one of those feelings where you feel like you’ve been somewhere for three years and yet only three hours. I’m glad we arrived when we did, because a week and a bit has given us the luxury of getting to know the culture, identifying our neighborhood, and settling in. 

Since my last entry, lots has happened, but by far the best thing has been getting a membership with The Palms beach Club and Spa. I initially heard about this from my friend Nicole, who encouraged me to look into it when I was in Kuwait because a lot of expats gather there and it’s somewhere teachers hang out on Fridays (the Kuwait version of Saturday). Yesterday we went to an expat breakfast and it was great. We met tons of Canadians and the food was very western. Omelettes, pancakes, french toast, waffles, has browns, a cheese platter, tons of fruit, and lots of juices. It was a great start to the weekend!

The Palms is pretty amazing. It’s big and has a selection of classes to attend: Pilates, Zumba, Yoga, etc. It has a ladies’ section with an AMAZING view (see below) that helps inspire one to obtain that sought-after bikini body. The downside is the incredibly expensive membership fee (squeeze eyes closed and punch in that PIN really fast. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid) and the sub-par equipment in the Ladies’ section. The lounge chairs don’t adjust very well (they look like maybe they would have been top dollar in the 80s somewhere) and there are kids EVERYWHERE. It’s a very nice place, but it’s like that slightly dated all-inclusive resort you go to, where you know you paid a little too much for a little too little, so you have to amp up the good parts of it whenever you go. I’ll be telling myself how awesome it is the whole time I’m under the sun-bleached umbrellas and getting ignored by the poolside staff. In saying that, I really like it, and it’s one of the best places to go, so say the veteran expats. It’s certainly the most luxurious gym I’ve ever been to!


So…yeah. Pretty impressive. It was definitely good motivation. I wanted to get in that pool so bad, but not before a workout. 

In addition to the incredible view while working out, there are three pools, and for whatever reason, a hot tub. The pool water itself is reminiscent of water that cools down when you’re in the bathtub for awhile, hovering somewhere hotter than lukewarm, but not actually heated anymore. In any case, it’s WARM pool water, and I felt the hot tub water to compare. The conclusion is that anyone who needs to enter a hot tub in the Middle East is officially NUTS. 

I was sort of romanticizing the place though, because I thought that the people who would be using the Palms would be mostly expats. The opposite was true of our first day (I shouldn’t jump to conclusions….maybe it sort of increases on other days), when we saw a few expats, but nothing crazy. We were still the minority, and despite my currently pathetic tans and post-workout sweatiness, there were still constant calls of “Hey lady” “Hello” ‘I like girls” while I tried to swim. One area of the pool was so saturated with men just gazing at the female potential in their vicinity that it was actually impossible to do more than tread water. I admit my treading is pretty elegant; I love the water and I’m an excellent swimmer. Still, I wouldn’t think that bobbing around like a moron in the middle of the pool would have attracted so much attention. My hair was plastered to my head in a sweaty ponytail, and I was wearing a three year old swimsuit. No matter. At the Palms on Friday, it was indeed ‘raining’ men.

This slight mishap could have been okay if the expensive poolside meal we chose to indulge in had been a bit better. In their rush to serve the throngs of hungry families that were vacationing, the kitchen succeeded in delivering a lukewarm sandwich and sickly fries. On the other hand, the hummus was amazing, and our second dip in the pool was liberated from the catcalls. Success!

Later on, we were supposed to go to a party, but I had a headache…the first of its kind overseas. This made waiting for our taxi driver (who spent the drive back justifying his lateness with every excuse in the book: “there’s traffic” “you need to call earlier” “blah blah blah”) exponentially more annoying. The taxi drivers in this city are a disaster. Despite having a large expat base, their English is poor, and the past three drivers we’ve had cannot find our apartment despite crystal clear directions. I was slightly irritated, but I was furious when I got home and found out my internet wasn’t working, an unfortunate incident because I wanted to talk to my family and the family friends who are taking care of Noel for me (who isn’t doing very well, sadly). Incensed by the cruelty of the universe, I cursed creatively while I tried everything: shutting the Macbook off, restarting it, plugging the Ethernet cord in, taking it out: repeat process. It finally started working again today, but I might not have the luxury of seeing my little Noellion now, and that bothers me. 

Today is a lounge-y day. I tidied my room, and will probably indulge in some reading in bed because like a good girl, I cleaned the day before yesterday. 

Tomorrow we get to see our classrooms, which is super exciting, because I want to decorate. It’s an exciting time for teachers, so today being slightly low-key after a busy expat breakfast yesterday is just fine with me. I suspect a Subway dinner (yes, they have it here) and some Netflix is in order tonight. 🙂

Goodnight my fair Canadians! I miss you, I love you.

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A day in Arab luxury!

I had….the BEST day on Sunday. The BEST day.

I have many students from Saudi, and although some of them have already gone back to Canada for university, some have stayed behind and are leaving later. One such student is Mohammed, or ‘Mo,’ a student I’ve had twice: once for level 30 and once for level 50. He’s a shy boy who showed up on time for class and worked very hard, so I was delighted when I found out he wanted to come see me!

He came last night, and met Megan and I at Avenues Mall, a mall that successfully exhibits Arab extravagance at every turn. We had a wonderful day here. There are more Dior shops per square km than anywhere else in the world. Children’s stores abound so that the adorable little long-lashed beauties can dazzle everyone in their pretty garb. Megan and I had spent hours here yesterday, and one of the things we did was indulge in a beautiful pedicure. You have to understand how bashed up your feet get as a teacher, and that is compounded once you’re a traveler. For instance, my two front toenails have been torn and bruised because of bonking into luggage and tripping on the stupid concrete in this city. So, to treat ourselves, we went in search of a place to get a pedicure. We ended up in front of two places that were side by side, and looked, to be honest, brutallllllllllyyyyyy out of our price range. We don’t get paid until the end of September, so for now, we are trying to be sensible. We share mayonnaise, soy sauce, and one pot. That species of sensible. It can also be interpreted as ‘frugal.’

So anyway, this one place looks too expensive, so we go to the other gold and marble structure with Joury written in gold letters. We walk up the silver-flecked black marble steps fully aware we will be walking them again in a few moments when we find out a pedicure costs about as much as a small home in BC.
Surprisingly, they don’t. The nice ladies at reception told us it was KD7, which is like $24. Megan and I were whisked through glass doors and into comfortable seats which delightfully massaged your back, shoulders and bottom. We drank orange juice out of delicate fluted glasses and tried to envision our lives in a month, when we would be able to do this kind of thing every month. It was amazing. Pictures below:


 Lap of luxury


It was such a beautiful day. We left with sparkly new toes and slipped out feet into our sparkly new sandals! Then we went to meet Mohammed, his brother, and cousin, who took us on a tour of the city. We first went to dinner, which I have to say, was also amazing. If that luxury spa had been a restaurant, it would have been this place. It was right out on a pier so we were on the water. You could see the dazzle of city lights all around you, and the service was exquisite. We were waited on like royalty, with the friendly servers delivering plate after plate of succulent hummus, olives, fresh pita, salads, and an array of meats for the boys. Everything was fabulous, but there was something in the hummus that was out of this world. That stuff was addictive. It was topped with pomegranate beads and olive oil. Amazing.
After dinner, I ordered a hot chocolate and shared it with Megan, and we drank it alongside our coconut and rosewater almond pudding. Have I said the word amazing yet? Wow. I can’t even describe the size of the complementary fruit bowl they bring you, so here’s a picture:

Then the boys did shisha. I told Mohammed I wanted Megs to try it, because it’s very traditional, and I think it looks cool (caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, anyone?) and it smells nice.
So we ordered some shisha and it was fun to watch everyone having a good time.


To top off this evening, the boys paid, which was unbelievably sweet. I haven’t seen Mo in a while, and I’d never met his brother or cousin before yesterday night, so for them to take us to a ritzy restaurant and take care of it was very sweet! They only added to the sweetness by taking us around the city, going first to the Kuwait towers, which were closed, sadly, and then to places along the beach, where we got to enjoy some true Kuwaiti nightlife. Kuwait is super hot, so people typically sleep until the early afternoon, and then go out at night if they don’t work during the day. It’s cooler at night, even though ‘cooler’ is still hotter than the hottest day at home, but it was nice to walk around and not feel like dying. We took pictures and just enjoyed having a few hosts to show us around. I am grateful to the boys for coming to do this for us. I can’t wait until they come again! I am grateful to Megan for bringing up the pedicure idea, because it was a great way to treat ourselves to a wonderful day. What has your Kuwait done for you, lately???? 🙂


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A shaky beginning, mysterious furniture, and American cereal

I am here, in Kuwait. I am safe and sound. Here is how it all played out:

We landed in Kuwait on time. There were about 10-15 other teachers from schools around Kuwait on the flight with us, and a few of them wee returning. Although I’d already been told that there was a large ex-pat population in Kuwait, this really had me excited!

We landed, and from there…it was chaos! There was momentary confusion about if we went to get luggage first, or whether we let it spin around endlessly on a carousel as we got visas. We soon found out. Spinning on a carousel it is, then! Off we went to get visas. Visas are interesting in Kuwait. Nothing orderly happens, like your school getting you a visa before you arrive. No, no, no. Why do that when it’s more fun and exciting and chaotic to apply for a 3-month visa you have to renew several times a year? Why not, really? So you line up at this desk. You give the guy your stamped criminal record check. HE looks at your passport.  He gives you a card with information to fill out. He points you to go get a number for the line. Then you get the number, then pay for your visa, which is pretty cheap, and so you print out this plastic card money, and then go back to the line once you’ve gotten the fake money and filled out the card. This is the BEST case scenario, which is already made insane by the lack of clarity around lines, the grumpy people, and the stupidity of the paperwork. For me, I found out after I got a number that I had to get paper money (I only had a master card) to get the plastic money, so I had to go back to the exchange desk TWICE  to get cash, in which time my number had been called and passed. It took forever.

After that craziness, it was time to go to get luggage and wait for the driver who was picking us up. Megan had already got my luggage from the carousel while I was busy “plasticating” my Kuwaiti money. We went through security, and somehow it was thought that my little acrylic paint tubes were alcohol, which, to those of you new to Kuwaiti culture, is illegal! So there I am digging away in my stupid backpack trying to explain to the security men that I don’t even DRINK alcohol. But you know the reputation we Westerners get. Yep, we’re all winos.

Thankfully, that part passed uneventfully, and once every single pair of underwear I own had been scanned, we were off to find our driver.

Um….hello? Driver? Where art thou? Where art thou in a literal SEA of sign-waving drivers advertising every other possible school in Kuwait: ACA, ICA, ASU, AKC, etc. Where was our guy? Nowhere.

“This is totally normal,” I said. “This is Arab culture. They’re always late.” Still……despite the truth of my statement, I was unconvinced. What was going on? As the population of our flight members dwindled, we were forced to call the emergency numbers we’d been given. A sleepy voice expressed surprise we’d arrived today, and that someone would come get us. That someone did, and somehow we survived the 120km an hour speed limit to his house to finally (FINALLY) get some sleep after an extremely long flight. This came after a failed attempt to bring us to our apartment AND to a hotel (full because of Eid).

We settled in, and drifted off to sleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

The next day  (just yesterday, actually), we got to go shopping! YAY! This was exciting, because I love food shopping in other countries. Kuwait is no different. Coming from Canada, where things are expensive to import, and thus expensive to buy (in addition to being very limited for choice), I was excited to see what Kuwait had for us. It has…everything! The best part was the selection of American cereals. As a cereal conoisseur of sorts, I was excited to see a selection of cereals that USED to exist in Canada, but somehow don’t anymore. Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Cookie bites, etc. It was a veritable feast. They also have the thing going on where there are brands you recognize, but not necessarily the product. Kraft processed cheese in a tin, or Heinz soups, for example. I could have stayed there all day. In the end, I left with the necessities. Cereal, arabian cream cheese, and chocolate.

Our apartments finally ready for us, we ventured into Salmiya, which was ablaze with expats and locals of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Our apartments are small, well-worn, but are comfortable enough and have been jazzed up a bit with touches from home. Sleeping in our own beds was a great luxury. The only odd thing is that we seem to have half of everything. It’s like one person left Kuwait but left a furniture set and other household items, and Megs and I each got half of the things. I got a couch, she got three chairs. She got a garbage can, I got a shower curtain. Curiouser and curiouser!

Enough for now…..I’ll post again soon. Kuwait is great so far….friendly people, hot but lusciously so, and full of little treasures I can’t wait to explore!

Until nest time…….

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The Roaring 20

I thought it would be fun to write down the top twenty things I would miss about Canada, and then after about two weeks of living in Kuwait, I would compare it to what I ACTUALLY miss about Canada. I was fairly accurate with my list when I lived in Scotland, let’s see if I’m close this time!

*The list is in order from the most missed (#1) to the least missed, which are in no particular order.

1. My family. Obviously. I’d be a schmuck if I didn’t write that. Anyway, it’s true. I will miss the comfort of the people who I see all the time, who know me, love me, and care about me. I include my dogs and my friends in this category.

2. Freedom. Daily freedoms to do what I take for granted every day: wearing what I want, saying what I want, watching what I want, listening to what I want, and doing whatever I want. I can do these freely in Canada without the fear of reprisal or punishment.

3. My culture: I will miss knowing where I get certain items, Canadian interactions, and culture cliches like iced caps. Immersing yourself in a new culture is typically most difficult because it’s like learning anything new–it’s hard to understand, it doesn’t always make sense, and it’s frustrating.

4. Driving. When I’m in Canada and I have a car, I have the luxury of being annoyed when I have to drive somewhere to pick up a last minute item. This species of snobbery is quickly identified when you have to walk everywhere, or risk your life in a questionable taxicab. Not to say I don’t love walking. It has many benefits, and I learned to enjoy it living abroad. Still, there is something to be said about having the freedom to go wherever you want.

5. The weather. Most Canadians leave to get better weather, but I can bet that a week into the Kuwaiti summer (which is rumored to peak somewhere in the high 50s or low 60s by the by), I will be missing the coolness in the air that is the end of a Canadian summer. In fact, I guarantee it.

6. Autumn. Once I left high school, I dove into university, where I still am, so in a sense, I never really left school. For the past 6 years, the red and yellows of the leaves have signified a feeling of going back to learn. I associate falling leaves and cooling weather with English class and buying textbooks and learning. Even as the teacher, autumn has always held a special place in my heart. I will still be going back to school in September, but the leaves and the weather will sadly be behind me,

7. Halloween. I think we get the option of dressing up at the school I’m teaching at, and I know that the ex-pats do something for this yummy North American holiday, but it won’t be the same. Remember how much fun it was dressing up….and then putting your coat on OVER your costume to hold off the -30 weather? Yeah, I’ll miss that shit. And all the Halloween movies, too. And dressing up my dogs and making them miserable.

8. Trees. Canadian ones. North American ones. I’ll miss looking out the window and seeing them as I hang out.

9. Food.The good stuff. The kind that you know what it tastes like, you know what temperature to bake something at without worrying if the STIFLING humidity will play a role in how it rises….that kind of thing. Kraft Dinner, when I choose to indulge. Vegetarian options. 

10. A cold pillow. 

11. Hockey season. I have an online GameCenterLive package that lasts until October. I’ll deal.

12. Christmas stuff. Because I will be back before Christmas, I technically won’t miss this tradition completely, but I will miss the bulk of it: I will be forced to rush my Christmas shopping in the few days before the 25th, and the cookies and other goodies will have been made without me. I will miss the decorating, too. Enough. My eyes are watering.

13. Plugging stuff in. If this sounds remotely silly to you, you have never lived anywhere where you have one adapter for several devices that need voltage adaptors. 

14. Going to see a movie. A simple task, and again, something I probably take for granted in Canada. Going to a movie for me is all at once therapeutic, and somewhat divine. Almost like going to church for some people. Cathartic. I mentioned the chaos that is supposed to be a Kuwait movie theatre earlier on. Please read for more insight. 

15. Kissing my dogs a million times a day.

16. Convenience. In my experience, Canada runs like a well-oiled machine. Things get done, for the most part. Stores stock supplies, channels run what they advertise they say they will, cars stop at lights, and people are generally in the mindset of wanting to work together to make progress. I have heard horror stories of what lineups look like in the Middle East. I have heard there are no seat belts in taxis. I hear they exist, to a degree, on what some might know as ‘island time’ (despite not being on an island). This scares me. A lot.

17. Almond and soy milk. Does it exist in Kuwait? I’ll keep you in the loop on that one.

18. Snuggling with my dogs and my gerbil.

19. Get togethers.

20. Other Canadians.

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Gettin’ all emo(tional) in my old age…

Remember how I said a few blogs ago that I feel different about going overseas this time around? Well this is true, for sure, in terms of the ‘red tape’ I discussed, but I’m also keenly aware of myself trying to push away thoughts of leaving my animals behind. I won’t see them until Christmas, and if I think about that too much, I am dangerously close to the edge of weepiness. I am already squeezing my dogs a little tighter, walking them a little longer, and pretty well letting them do whatever the hell they want.
A note of good news is that I have found a home for Noel, my gerbil. This was an area of deep concern for me, because I take extravagant care of my little mouse. I make her food from scratch, I scrub her little terrarium condo religiously, and I make sure she gets to run free in a large room for at least an hour a day. I found a kindred spirit in the daughter of our longtime family friends, the Dunns. Miss Emily is a fellow animal lover, and pocket pet enthusiast. I can’t believe it took me so long to remember her tender care for Peanut Butter, her hamster (since passed…gods bless him) as I rocked back and forth on my bed, chewing my nails down to the nub and wondering what in the far-qua-harson I was going to do about my little kangaroo. Thanks, Em. You are a golden, shiny star that soars through the night trailing silver gemdrops and rubies as you fly. You are that awesome. No joke.

So now that I can envision Noel safely ensconced in her new home in Edmonton, it leaves me time to turn my mind to all the other things I have to get sad about. And I am a fucking PRO at this, ladies and beasts. Having always had a flair for the dramatic, I am able to become uber-sensitive quite easily (notes: serves one best in Musical Theatre…not in real life), and having a soft spot for all creatures living, it is not uncommon for me to start to anthropomorphize everything in sight, designate it a soul, and start to get teary about leaving it.

“Oh god. I am so seriously going to miss my bookshelf. I hope my bookshelf knows that I’m its owner, and I love it, and I’m not going forever, I’ll be back to be with it someday.”

“I really should leave my dark blue Bench hoodie here. I don’t want it to get lonely. I mean, it’s been hanging in Mom’s closet for 9 months. Would it really be fair to take it away from the blouses that live on either side of it? No. That’s just fucking selfish.”

Is this normal? I doubt it. I mean, it’s something I’ve lived with forever, but I recognize that it’s probably a species of low degree insanity. I often see small children doing this, and it makes sense to me. That can’t be good. Children eat their own boogers. But when I’m teaching them, and they look at me with that degree of seriousness and say, “I have to have this pencil sit next to this one because they’re  best friends”, I don’t smile with false understanding and relay the adorable childhood antics later that night at the dinner table. I get it. It makes sense to me. Why the hell shouldn’t the pencil have a friend? Who am I to wreck such a beautiful relationship? And who am I to bring my hoodie to Kuwait anyway when it obviously would tell me, if it could speak, that it would rather stay home with my mom’s clothes. These are the teary, deep and serious issues I have to deal with every day.

When I’m not entertaining my insanity, I focus on normal things to get sad about. I was at the movies with my friend Angela the other week, and this preview for a movie I would want to see came on the screen. “I can’t wait to see that!” I exclaimed, only to suddenly realize that it comes out in October, and I won’t be here to see it.
I know what you’re thinking. There are movie theaters in Kuwait. I can go see it there. Quit bellyaching. And you’re right, with your cute, “all theaters are like Canadian movie theaters” mindset. The thing is, I’ve looked into this. I’ve checked it out. Apparently, Middle Eastern movie theaters are designed after North American theme parks, so the standards for quietness is about as enforceable as a ‘no cell phone’ policy. I could technically see the movies, but I wouldn’t hear them. I suppose that if I was one of those eternal optimists, I could argue that it would be totally AWESOME to go and experience this–it would be like a moving talkie from the early part of the century and I LOVE period pieces and 30s literature so why wouldn’t I like this? But that sort of forced gusto wanes quickly. No…I will experience many cool things in Kuwait, different things, but some things were meant to stay in Canada. I fear I will have to watch them when I get home.

So dogs, gerbils, inanimate objects….I’m really going through my mental checklist to make sure I am getting weepy about every possible item I can. Right now I’m getting ready to take my amazing dogs on a walk. One of the last as the days dwindle down to departure.

I am also celebrating everything. I am rejoicing in the little things; readily available almond and soy milk, wearing whatever the hell I want (dressing like a heathen, in other words), being with friends and family, and just being at home. I think if I wasn’t getting a little sad at leaving it all, it would mean I had nothing worth leaving in the first place. I think my reactions prove that it’s quite the opposite that’s true: I am leaving the best.

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