Posts Tagged With: travel

Back to sand, friends, and adventure…

Phew!

 

A long and much needed absence! But, as the saying goes….
I’m baaaaaaaaack!
So here I am, round #2, in Kuwait. It’s interesting coming ‘back’ to a place, because so many things are the same, and so many things are different. For instance, this time when I arrived at the airport, I knew exactly where to go. I knew I needed a visa before I could go to the luggage area, and when I was in the security area and the gate closed after the lady in front of me (meaning I was cut off), I didn’t throw a tantrum like the poor westerner behind me.
“How rude!” she exclaimed.
“Are you new here?” I asked tentatively.
“It’s my first time,” she said, a heavy dose of fury in her head.
I didn’t quite know what to say. Get used to it? Shit happens? This is nowhere NEAR as irritated as you’ll find yourself in the days to come?
Having good friends makes a difference. I need to have a shout out to all the amazing friends I have here. They really are the most amazing group of people. I have been so blessed to find people who treat me more as family than as friends. They’ve helped me a lot through my loneliness without my Megan, and they’ve done so much for me. I am so, so blessed.
I think the best thing about coming back is that I get to see everyone again. People are so important to me—I was joking with a friend the other day that I’m like a black lab: I love ‘my people’ and I’m so eager to see them. Falafel nights with Clare, weekends with my Iraqi and Lebanese buddies…..life is good. Plus, the second time around, you sure know a lot more. Life is easier now. Plus I know the best places to get all the foods I craved over the summer and couldn’t have: tabbouleh, hummus, fatteh hummus, lemon with mint..mmm!!!
There are new challenges this year, but to maintain professionalism, we’ll leave them out of the blog.
But here I am again, back in my ‘other’ home, and I am looking forward to a great new year of traveling. Perhaps Lebanon again, but definitely Europe, and definitely some new places in the Middle East!
I am living farther out than I did last year: last year I was in Salmiya which is pretty cosmopolitan and filled with things to do. This year I am farther out and it’s more of a pain to get into places, but my apartment has lots of the things I missed out on last year. All in all, it’s good.
I miss you all very much! There will be an update soon! Aiming for a twice a month kind of thing!

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Ah, Pah-ree!!!

Well, we got back from Paris, and what a trip it was! This was Megan’s first time in Europe, so it was extra special. Ii remembered the Trocadero subway stop, so when we got there, I made her close her eyes until I steered her in front of the Eiffel Tower and said, “open!”
She got a bit teary because seeing it for the first time is such an overwhelming experience! It was really something wonderful.
I haven’t been to Paris in almost 8 years so it was really exciting for me. I got to see a few sites I’d never been to before, either: Versailles (amazing, and Marie Antoinette’s was super cool), Notre Dame (out a candle for my grandma s s others), and Invalides and the Louvre. Such a rich history in that city. There’s something about the crusty baguettes, the hot, mulled wine, the cobblestone streets and the accordion music that makes it live up to every standard people set for it. The food is just as good as you hear it is, and the people are just as romantic.
We took a dinner cruise which was pricey but worth every cent, and although our hotel was minuscule and set deep in the northern ghetto of the city, we rather liked the treat of grabbing pastries and cheese and wine and eating it as we watched French television before falling asleep and waking up to our next adventure!
Paris was freezing, and living in Kuwait…,well lets just say I wasn’t very well prepared for the weather! A ended up buying a cape in the subway station and even another scarf!
Another cool item was catching up with a friend I had worked with at UNBC, DI. She moved to Paris right before I finished teaching at UNBC and left for Kuwait. She took us for a great pizza dinner and we munched on some Parisien goodies at her place while cuddling her Persian rescue cat, Nelson.
It was a feast for the eyes after being in Kuwait—you miss grass and trees and fresh air living in the Middle East! It was a great girls’ trip and one I hope to sequel. 🙂

Enjoy some pictures!!!!

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Categories: Counting down..., In Kuwait | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Camel MANIA!

The best thing that could have ever happened to me in the desert happened to me on Thursday, the 15th of November. I got to go to a camel farm with some friends, and spend the day petting, kissing, and riding camels! This was a source of constant excitement for me during the week, and by the time Thursday rolled around, I was flipping out with eagerness. My iPhone was charged and ready for pictures, my mind was ready and prepped to have an amazing day, and my hands were shaking at the thought of snuggling and stroking the sweet little camels.
We drove out the the desert, where lots of people choose to ‘camp’. I use camp in quotations because this isn’t the “let’s set up the tent and enjoy some wieners and hot dogs buns around a fire” kind of camping. These guys go all out. Kuwaitis drag their low-rise couches, Persian rugs, and take these huge, elaborate water tanks to hang out in the desert for a while. It’s crazy and over the top, like everything else in this country.
So the man we went to see has a camel farm and right when we arrived, the camels were called over for lunch. It was amazing. There you are just standing in the middle of this camel ambush as they walk-trot towards you for lunch. I managed to corner and molest one before it got to its dinner, stroking its little camel nostril and little camel eyes. I kissed the daylights out of that camel, make no mistake. That camel was FONDLED.
Next we went to see the camels eat lunch. Lunch is dates, and let me tell you, they enjoy their dates. Foaming at their cute little fuzzy mouths, these guys were munching and crunching away happily. At one point I was bashed into when one of them was trying to get closer to the big tub of food. 
There was a moment of confusion and hilarity when I was petting a camel who decided to move toward me. I back up, and as I did, I slipped out of my sandal, which he promptly stood on. I made every attempt to push him out of the way and grab my shoe, but I just ended up laughing. Pictures are posted below!
Riding a camel was another interesting experience, because it was a bit jostly and higher than a horse. Still, it was amazing, and it was a feeling that almost familiar. Perhaps I was an Arab in another life!
At then end of the excursion we got to drink camel milk, which was a bit of a disappointment. It was foamy on top, and the milk itself tasted like part skim milk, part hot water, and a few tablespoons of salt. Others exclaimed it was “surprisingly sweet”, but I’m not sure where this description came from!

Anyways, it was an amazing experience. Check out my photos for proof!

 

Love and miss you all! Image

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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:

 Lovely 

 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.

 “A…..A E I O UUUUUUUUUUUU!”

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 small tarnish on an otherwise golden summer…

I think I mentioned in a recent post that when I last went overseas, I worked at a pizza place before I left to make some extra money.

Funnily enough, the same thing seems to have happened this time around. I am truly working at a pizza place.

This temporary career move may seem odd, and, well, slightly stupid to some readers. You may have read that I have an extensive academic background now, and have worked at higher level (and thus, higher income) positions.
“You’re a teacher,”  you’re saying to yourself. “Why on earth are you working at some godforsaken pizza place?” 

Bear with me.  There was a method to my madness when I first signed onto this crazy mission. I had reasons! I had reasons, dammit! I had….I had…….

Truthfully, I did it on purpose. I finished up my job at UNBC and didn’t resign my contract. I worked for the school district until late June, and then decided I should do something completely unrelated to teaching for the rest of the summer. After all, I would be teaching again in September in Kuwait, y’all.

So I purposely dropped off a resume at a pizza place (a different chain than my pre-Scotland workplace), and I was hired. What can I say? After a few years of marking, editing, coaching, praising, planning, writing, reflecting, passing, and failing, I felt very strongly like I needed a break for a few weeks. I felt very strongly that in comparison with the importance of getting report cards out, dressing a pizza wouldn’t be overly worrisome. In fact, it would be welcome. I’d put on one of those terrible visors, a stupid t-shirt, and fling cheese around. Perfect. Easy, unimportant, and menial. Exactly what I was looking for after the stressful (although very fulfilling) job of teaching. I looked forward to concentrating on my own writing (my novels and blogs) and lesson planning for my upcoming high school classes in the fall. I didn’t need to do anything education related for 8 weeks. It would be so refreshing!

And it is!!! With only a fewwwww teensy weensy little problems.

My job as a pizza woman extraordinaire is far from luxurious. You might be thinking that my explanation for wanting to work there makes a little more sense now, and you’re understanding (although perhaps not agreeing) with my reasons for working at a pizza chain. However, let me assure you that all is not the grandeur you might think. Despite my best efforts to ‘relax’ my mind, I somehow forgot that in the absence of mental strain comes laborious intensity.
When I worked at Panago in 2005, I was a delivery driver. I zipped around town in my little Toyota wearing an oversized and extremely comfortable fleecy. No stupid hat. I ditched the fleecy when I arrived at the customer’s house, so that the man (if it happened to be a man at the door) could see my generous chest and tight black t-shirt. I giggled with the men that flirted with me, and I was kind and professional to the women. To the tired mothers with babbling toddlers and bawling infants, I was sympathetic. I made a fucking killing. I would sometimes make in the neighborhood of $150-$200 on a busy night. That was in tips only. I banked my cheques and flew to Scotland to live like a queen!

Now, however, the ‘get rich quick by pizza’ scheme has lost considerable luster. Firstly, I applied to perhaps the ONLY pizza place in the universe with no delivery service. My tight black t-shirt dream disappeared like a fart in the wind. No $150 tip nights for me. Instead, I have to clean an impossibly heavy metal dough wheel and touch meat. Gross.
Sorry, did I say $150 tips? Forget the extras. Let’s talk about the embarrassing rate of pay in the capital of the north. I am making less money now than I did grooming dogs when I was 19. I get no tips at all, and I have to wear a stupid visor and a stupid t-shirt. There are no fringe benefits to this round of Let’s Play Pizza. None at all.

Okay so I fell short on the money part. That’s depressing enough, because all I’m really doing is (barely) paying off the bills I have here before I go. The initial concept of ‘saving’ is not looking so hot right now. Then there’s the staff. Back in the golden age of Panago, I was the queen of the pizzeria. I entered the palace with my fleecy billowing behind me and everybody stared in awe. Granted, by ‘everyone’ I mean the two large creepy guys who read fantasy novels and lived in their parents’ basement, but still. I was the adorable, cheery, intelligent delivery girl. Everyone liked me. I had little competition, since the only other two girls were Candace, a marijuana enthusiast with dreadlocks and a constant half-smile on her face akin to the face a baby makes when they are taking a baby dump, and  some girl named Kara or Kira, who belonged to some sub-culture of fundamentalist Christianity, and spent a lot of our down time talking about all the sex she and her boyfriend didn’t have.
So yeah, I was enjoying my last few months before Scotland.
Now, I work in a place devoid of men. Completely. No funny thirty-somethings who play WoW to try and flirt with me. No entertaining teenagers who make fun of my music. Instead, I work every day with my boss, a girl a few years younger than me, until later at night, when the workplace is invaded by 17-19 years olds. They all have names like Sara and Nicole and Cait and Niki and Emmaleigh. They can’t pronounce my name very well because it’s an ancient form of 80s tongue. They would probably have an equally difficult time saying “Destiny” or “Janet” or something, so I don’t take it personally.
I stay out of the way when the girls arrive. I don’t wear my Lululemon pants to a filthy pizza place, and they do. Our ‘at work’ fashion sense is innately different. I thought I’d found some common ground when one of the girls (Niki? Nat? Nicole?) played a rap song on her iPhone. “I really like this song,” I told her. She brightened. “Really? Hey, do you like Justin Bieber?” Without waiting for a response, she took off and proceeded to turn her iPhone up full blast to a song that made no sense and sounded like a bastardized version of hip hop. I receded like a snake to the sink, where I scrubbed hardened dough off of oversized cookie sheets. It is appropriate that I slink away every now and again, because I don’t speak with a lisp and have braces and say ‘like’ as much as I should. If there was a tower in this pizza place, I would be in it. I am Quasimodo, and I embrace my no-name work pants and scrub hardened dough with quiet relief. If I spray the tap on hard enough, I can drown out Justin Bieber. I love this age of teenager to teach, but working alongside them is a terrible species of brutal.

I am also very aware that I am using this job. I didn’t tell my boss I was leaving in 6 weeks. This affords me the luxury of saying things a long-term employee would NEVER say and not worry about the repercussions. Today I sighed in blatant disgust at the chunks of seasoned sausage that rolled lumpily off the dressing table. I come out with these comments like, “Man I wish I could just go home right now” and “this place is hotter than the devil’s cloakroom.” My boss is either immune to rude employees or agrees with me. Most times she is kind, which will make telling her I am leaving harder. But not hard enough to stop me from taking a week-long vacation to Vancouver the week before i give my notice. She has failed to give me the hours I asked for, and so these are the concessions I make. Give me fewer shifts, prepare for my unmatched lippyness. I don’t mean to imply I am a terrible worker. Quite the contrary. I am one of the few employees who works on something every part of the day. I am very dependable, and I work when I’m at work. I just don’t censor myself very much.
I have already almost told her I’m leaving. I’m so excited about Kuwait that it’s on my mind a lot, and I am also busy preparing for it every waking minute, which makes not talking about it at work extremely difficult. I just about told her about my tetanus shot that I received yesterday, and on more than one occasion, I have almost said, “when I’m gone” which wouldn’t be good. She thinks I am a student right now, which is only a half-lie, but it serves well as a potential scapegoat if I falter: I can always say “Oh I meant when I go back to school in September.”

I have become desperate at my low-income pizza hell. I need something else. I start working weekends tomorrow at a pancake house. I’ll keep you all posted. This job is different in that it’s only 12 hours a week (6 hours each weekend day) and I told the manager right off the bat that I was leaving AND taking a week off next week to go to Vancouver. She was extremely supportive and hired me anyway. This will result in no back-talk, because I was aware of how many hours I was signing up for, and I have nothing to hide. We shall see how it goes.

Well, off to watch a movie before I rise tomorrow, bright and early. Until then, er’body cool.

Categories: Counting down... | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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