Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Comfort of Strangers

So the Irish chef loaned me the novella, The Comfort of Strangers (1981), by Ian McEwan, two weeks ago. Although I wasn't rushing to get through it (it was rather disturbing), I couldn't help being drawn to it. The novel, which was made into a movie in 1990, starring Christopher Walken, Rupert Everett, Natasha Richardson and Helen Mirren, is quite the sadistic story and makes 50 Shades of Grey look like a Harlequin paperback (I think 50 Shades of Grey is a romance novel in the guise of S&M. I'm not a fan). Anyhow, if you haven't read McEwan's haunting gem, go and do so. McEwan sums it all up on the last page (he makes certain claims about relationships) and, I think in many ways, he gets it right. Maybe it's his theories [about relationships] that disturb me the most, I'm not entirely sure. Whatever it is, the story was engrossing, and I haven't felt that way about literature in a long time. Next up? A massive novel entitled The Various Flavours Coffee, written by Anthony Capella. I purchased this bad boy from Costco in Canada (NOT a frequent habit of mine). I'll keep you posted and let you know how it goes. I'm also going to borrow the Irish chef's book of poetry by the Caribbean poet Derek Walcott and a compilation of Chekhov's short stories. I'm very excited to rediscover my love for poetry!

You'd think with all of this reading to do that that's what I would have done on Thursday night (TGI...? Wait a minute...). However, I spent my "Friday" night with some co-workers, buying groceries (we like to live on the wild side), and then having dinner together (I'm really trying not being an antisocial hermit). The Polish lady, the Irish chef, a Serbian lady, a Serbian gentleman (a prof at the university) and I all went out to a highly recommended fish and chips restaurant called 'Organica Fish and Chips,' located quite close to our apartments in Mahboula. I have been dying to try out more restaurants here! Organica Fish and Chips is a  cozy place and feels more like a surf and turf eatery you'd find  in Florida or a sleepy cottage town in Ontario rather than in Kuwait. We all had fish and chips, but I couldn't resist and also ordered some calamari (yep, just me!). The chef of the restaurant is Southeast Asian, the cuisine is British fare, and yet it's in the Middle East...I didn't know what to expect, but I can assure you it was delicious! The batter, resembling the lightness of tempura batter, was crispy and golden. The fish was cooked perfectly and the steak-cut fries were yummy! Instead of covering the food in table salt, we were given various types of rock and sea salt, malt vinegar (yes, I doused my fries in that), tartar sauce and fresh lemons. The calamari was awesome!!! I would have been happy with just the fish and calamari (this is likely because they didn't have mayonnaise). Ohhhh, man! I am DEFINITELY taking dad to this place when he visits! We stuffed ourselves silly and dragged our sad and sorry butts home. The gentlemen sent us ladies home in the first taxi and followed behind in another. We managed to find room for ice cream bars for dessert then called it a night since at that point, gluttony was upon us, not to mention the fact that we were exhausted from our first week of teaching. Organica Fish & Chips gets our seal of approval: http://www.cafeorganica.com.kw/fish.pdf

Speaking of our first week teaching, all went well. The school has mostly segregated classes (boys or girls classes), and my sections are girls (only). The girls are kind and quite smart. I think they like that my classes allow them a chance to speak openly about-almost-whatever they want to. Since some topics are off limits (religion/faith, romantic relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol and even sometimes familial relationships), I am continuing to learn how to hold back (non-communicative, stand off-ish and cold? Yep, that sounds like me alright). Part of the perk for this first month of work is that everyday, my colleagues and I are driven to and from work by a driver, and one night last week we were stuck for over 30 minutes in a traffic-jam about a five-minute walk from our apartment/flat. The driver refused to let us out to walk home and so we tried not to be frustrated. We were all pretty tired and it was hard to deal with the drivers behind us laying on their horns. The cacophonous symphony was a useless show of frustration considering we couldn't move ANYWHERE. What could possibly make the situation worse??? How about the police cruiser behind us continually honking and using its siren. I expect it wanted us to move, but to move where? There was honestly NOWHERE for our van to move and so the cruiser hit us because...Well, I have no friggin' idea why it hit us, but our driver began to yell and people were yelling on the street at other drivers. Needless to say, my co-workers and I have all decided not to pursue obtaining a driver's license here.

Friday was a group journey to the airport to go to the ONLY bank open on a Friday in this country. We were packed like sardines into two taxis and lined up to get some cold, hard cash. I tried to see if any of the mobile phone stands/booths would unlock my phone, but was told that I'm not going to find someone in Kuwait who'll do that because unlocking phones isn't common. Raise your hand if you believe that. It doesn't matter, because I could care less. This is only the second place I've inquired about unlocking my phone. I'd rather not have a phone at all. I'm seven hours ahead of my family and friends in Ontario, ten ahead of friends on the west coast (both in Canada and the U.S.), and six hours behind family and friends in Japan. There's really no point. Especially since I don't know anyone in Kuwait except my co-workers and we all live close to each other and have email. I do LOVE being unattached because it makes me have to communicate with people by actually making an effort to talk with them face-to-face. Besides, I'm not popular enough to need a cell phone.

After returning from the airport I decided to brave it and go to the Avenues mall. So out I went with the Irish chef...Except the taxi driver took us to 360 degree mall....A very nice, posh place, but not what I had been expecting. So there we were at 360 on a Friday night. We got dinner at Shabestan, an Iranian restaurant, and it was delicious!!! I ate slowly and thoughtfully, but I ate heartily! The pictures below don't do the food justice.

 Pita with salad (cheese, olives, walnuts and tomatoes with lemon) and barley cream soup

I did a very bad job at capturing the meal. It was a fish dish with saffron, dill and plain basmati rice.

The following website has pictures of the restaurant and they're gorgeous shots. http://www.965malls.com/shabestan-fantastic-iranian-restaurant-at-360-mall/ 
The restaurant itself is beautiful and has a very intimate and exotic ambiance. A good date spot. Too bad you're not supposed to date openly here. We weren't on a date, so no worries there. I've never had Iranian food before and I can tell you that I really like it and want to see if there are other Iranian spots closer to my apartment so dad and I can try it out.

At 360, I tried not to drag the Irish chef around too much and, obviously, buying the things I really needed (unmentionables) was out of the question. So I purchased some work clothes (which I also needed), and then snapped a shot of this glass masterpiece. Again, my picture doesn't do it justice. It's HUGE and incredible!



This afternoon, I made my second attempt to get to the Avenues Mall, hahaha! The Serbian lady and gentleman and the Irish chef and I all went to the Avenues with the hope of getting different things: The Serbian lady needed things from Ikea to furnish her new apartment, the Irish chef wanted new cooking utensils, and the Serbian gentleman was on the hunt for a new laptop. I went on a mission to look for more work clothes...And also to see if the new Marilyn Monroe collection had been unveiled at MAC. I found more clothing, but the MM collection has not been released at MAC here! NOOOO!!! WHY??? The ONLY good thing about this is that my wallet was thankful, but honestly, I did want to treat myself to just one small thing this pay day *Sigh*. I tried to hide my disappointment, but instead I just got homesick. No pumpkin spice lattes or pumpkin loaf, no MM collection at MAC...Nothing that I can easily get at home. I was feeling a bit down and was passing by Bath & Body Works and saw huge sale signs; I thought I would venture in just to check if the autumn candles released in North America had magically been released here, too. Guess what? They were! Not ALL of them mind you, but I did manage to get an apple cinnamon candle and one called leaves that smells like fall in Ontario. Yes, I'm very weird. I bought a bag full of them and I have been extremely giddy all day. I'm burning the apple cinnamon in the main room and the leaves scent in my bedroom right now!!! I feel autumn in the air...or at least in my apartment!!!

I would have loved to do more shopping because I'm in the mood to shop now, but I'm going to be good and wait until later when I can splurge at Makeup Forever, MAC and Sephora. I want to try the new Tarte Amazonian clay blush in 'Exposed' and I need a new foundation since mine is too dark. I blame Damir (but not really) for taking me to the beach sooo much this summer and "making" me relax, hahaha! Lucky me, I was in very good company this summer.

As I prep for teaching this week, I'm already looking forward to the weekend! Plans for next weekend include, but are not limited to: TWO birthdays (the Serbian lady's and the Irish chef's, at their new place in Fintas), a trip to the Old Souq (Souq Marbarakia) in Kuwait City and FINALLY dinner with a Lebanese co-worker and her new husband from, where else? London, Ontario. This kind of chance encounter reminds me of the Epps. I'm suddenly not homesick.

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