Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Confessions of a (Former) Shopaholic

Interesting fact: Kuwaitis love to shop. A lot. What does that mean? That means when I need to get my students engaged in the material I'm teaching I simply bring up anything that has to do with shopping, clothing, fashion, etc., and they're all mine. I ask them what part of speech Prada, Coach and Tiffany are and they can tell me that they're proper nouns. I ask what part of speech the following are words: shop, buy, wear, and the students know that those words are verbs. Awesome.

It's not only the Kuwaiti who wander through and hangout at malls. All different ethnic groups here love malls, or at least spend a lot of their free time there. So why is it that people here love to shop so much (or love being at the mall)? Perhaps it's because alcohol is prohibited and thus there is no real night life. Perhaps it's because Kuwaiti nationals have quite a bit of money. I'm not 100% sure, but it seems like there is much more money flowing freely around here than in other countries I have visited. I know that my students wear clothing that's much more expensive than mine. Maybe because their education is fully funded by the government they can spend their tuition fees on Gucci and Fendi instead? It could be that malls are THE place to be because malls not only house stores, but also movie theatres, restaurants, spas and nail and hair salons (one mall even has some place called Color me Mine, whatever that is). Who knows? I do know that shopping malls are packed from Thursday night to Sunday night (the work week is Sunday to Thursday because Friday is a religious holiday).

Now, once upon a time I would have called myself a professional shopper, but minimal funds and time spent on getting my degree haven't allowed for such frivolity in the past few years. Now, I still don't have time...However, I have managed to get out a few times to Al-kout (the name of the mall). Let me explain a bit about the area I live in first though.

I live in an area called Mahboula. Some of my co-workers complain that the area is a dusty wasteland, but what did they expect??

Mikiko's co-worker: I hate Mahboula. It's too dusty.
Mikiko: Uh, yeah...You know we live in the desert, right?
Mikiko's co-worker: Yeah, well, like, there are other areas that aren't as dusty.
Mikiko: Yeah? Close by?
Mikiko's co-worker: Yeah.
Mikiko: Where's that? Europe? By the way, good luck with the sandstorms.

I understand that sand isn't for everyone. Believe me, I get it. Flip flops are a staple item here because it's like you're always walking on the beach, and forget about keeping your expensive leather shoes or long dress pants in good condition, and anything black will not remain black for very long, but no place is perfect. Anyway, isn't sand part of the experience?!?

Another complaint I hear in regards to Mahboula is the construction. This I also understand, but there's construction EVERYWHERE in the world. Have you ever been to Ontario in the spring, summer or fall??? Below is the beautiful view from my balcony, and yes, that statement is dripping with sarcasm.

Obviously, it's not the breathtaking, panoramic view of the snow-capped mountain range I woke up to every morning in Victoria (BC). Nor is it the outline of the majestic Mount Fuji that I got to see when I was living in Oizumigakuen (大泉学園) in Tokyo. It's rather desolate and noisy, actually, but I still love it. In fact, my new place is just down the street from my current apartment. I think I really like this spot because a.) it's quite close to work (on good days it's not even a 10 minute drive between Mahboula and the university); b.) the area has a nice mix of ethnicities, not only Caucasian expats, or Arabs; c.) if I'm on my balcony and just turn my head left I can see the sea! It's a 5-minute walk from my apartment to the water's edge; d.) I'm literally right across the street from a brand-spanking new hospital (and guess who just got her medical insurance card? That's right. Moi!); e.) I'm not far from Salmiya (a busier area with more shopping and entertainment spots), and Fahaheel (another area with shopping and entertainment spots). Actually, nothing is far from anything in this country, lol!

The view of the sea (to the left) from my balcony

I have ventured out to shop a little bit. I would like to have shopped more, but I want to wait until pay day before I go somewhere where I can really shop, like the Avenues Mall. Renown for being ginormous (gigantic/enormous), the Avenues is beside an Ikea and, apparently, can provide more than enough shopping and entertainment for an entire weekend. Sounds...Hmmm, I'm not sure. I love to shop, but it seems over-the-top. I feel like I'd need to make a plan just to shop and I'm all about planning, but a plan for shopping? Not leisurely shopping, thank you very much. Maybe knowing that I can find Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, DKNY, Michael Kors, United Colors of Benetton (LOVE!), and Top Shop (which only opened in Toronto last year) will entice me? Or just depress me because I can't afford anything from those stores, hahaha! When I do plan that shopping trip, it will have to be done sans boys and, I'm sure, will be an adventure all on its own :)   Check  out the Avenues Mall here: http://www.the-avenues.com/

Honestly, I've really only been to Al-kout a few times and although it's a pretty big mall, it was actually a bit overwhelming when I first went. It consists of two parts divided by a large fountain that's especially beautiful when it's lit up at night. The mall itself is situated on the coast, and people have their boats docked all around the perimeter of the mall. It's beautiful to be there looking out over the water as the sun sets. The first time I was in Fahaheel (the area where the mall is located), on my way to Al-kout, I was with some Lebanese ladies (colleagues), and so fascinated by all of the shops along the street that when they suggested we go to a spot in Fahaheel called V Lounge nothing registered. Then I remembered: V Lounge was frequented by...Let's call him 'Habibi' (a very kind pseudonym considering). Anyhow, Habibi had told me about his visits to V Lounge, but I had no idea where the place was. Suddenly, there it was. I wished I was in Qatar. However, after the past few years nothing really fazes me, and hey, I was going shopping for (what else?) FOOD!!! Really, there isn't much that makes me as happy as food does (I think you all know that by now).

As I walked into the mall, I was hit with a wave of incense that was overwhelmingly reminiscent of Habibi's apartment. This incense stays in your clothes like the smell of mothballs and tatami do in Japan. Wonderful. Nothing fazes you, Mik, remember? Right. Nothing could stop me from accomplishing my mission: get my groceries and get out. If I could just do that it would be fantastic, and once I got to the fresh market area it was fantastic! FRESH fish and seafood as far as the eye could see! Fish that I had never even heard of were being bargained for! Figs, dates and nuts were being sold in bulk! Cha-ching!!! I hit the jackpot. I couldn't stop looking at everything and I must have looked...Odd, as always (weird Asians!). It was all so mesmerizing...Until I got to the meat section and saw the butcher grab a live chicken out of the cage! Then the trance was broken and I was outta there!

This link is a picture (on flickr) of the fountain at Al-kout in the evening:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/-lucie-/2401229622/  If you google Al-kout images, you'll see a lot of different angles of the place. It's very, very pretty.

The second time I went to Al-kout I was too exhausted to browse or really enjoy the trip. I quickly grabbed my weekly groceries and ingredients for spaghetti as it was my turn to cook for the Irish chef (not to be mistaken with the Iron chef), who had made me pan-fried fish with a butter sauce a few nights before (MMMMM! Butter! I love butter!!!), and Moroccan stew earlier that week. Dad's going to love it when he visits and I make all this food for him! The Irish chef has taken it upon himself to ensure that I eat healthy, home-cooked meals, so don't worry everyone, I'm being taken care of and being taught how to cook new food. The Moroccan stew was especially yummy! Since then, There haven't been many exciting food stories, but I will be trying out the Indian joint next door sometime this weekend; it's run by Indian men and many Indian people frequent it, so I think that's a good sign. Also, I think on Thursday night most of my colleagues and I are going out for dinner together somewhere (Congratulations! You've survived your first month here! Only 10 more to go...). Hey, do you think I could open up a successful Japanese restaurant here? I haven't seen or heard of an amazing authentic Japanese restaurant. It's something to think about for a venture capitalist, or someone with a dream who loves cooking...Or both. Although, what's Japanese food without Japanese beer, sake or Campari cocktails??


  1. I feel like I am right there with you. I would love to chow down on the stew it sounds yummy. Enjoy the warmth it is getting colder here as we speak and the colours are coming out lovely for sure. I sure like the idea of flip flops and sand. ....

  2. Leah, the stew was amazing! I got him to give me the recipe, so I can pass it along if you'd like.
    I know you love sand!!! This is the place to be if you like sand, lol!