Saturday, 24 November 2012

Part 2 of 2: Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough...Popcorn!

The fun didn’t end with the laughter at work! My family friend in the Canadian military was in Kuwait this week, too! She was only in town for a few short days, but we met up on both Wednesday and Thursday and had such a nice time. I wondered if it would feel surreal seeing her here. When I came to Kuwait in June for the job interview and saw Habibi it felt like we were in a parallel universe...Or not…Maybe it was just that I was so excited to see him? Whatever it was, it was odd to see him in a completely different environment, in a different world, really, especially one that I knew nothing about and one that he was familiar with. It actually didn’t feel the same way with my friend from Canada. In fact, we have met up in Ontario, B.C., the U.S. and now Kuwait. She has been travelling on a military ship in the Middle East and is headed to Oman next. After work I met her and her co-workers at Hard Rock Café in Salmiya. It was a gorgeous night out and I was really excited to see my friend, but the ride from the university to the restaurant was enough to make me NOT want to go to dinner since the last time I had been in Salmiya I had enjoyed an amazing evening with Habibi. As I made my way into the restaurant, any discomfort dissipated and I, at least for a few minutes, forgot about my ex. A dessert consisting of mini strawberry cheesecake and chocolate peanut butter pie made me feel better, lol! My friend picked at them…I devoured them, lol! Her co-workers gave me their impressions about Kuwait and asked me about it and my experience. It felt sooo good to be around Canadians!!! I felt a surge of pride and silently gave thanks again for being blessed to come from a country with so many great people! Yes, Canada has many problems. Yes, Steven Harper is one of those, lol, but it has a lot to offer. I felt something that resembled calmness and feeling safe. It was awesome!

Mini strawberry cheesecake and chocolate peanut butter pie (the better of the two) @ Hard Rock Cafe in Salmiya 

After dinner my friend and I quickly popped into the Sultan Centre (a grocery store). I was in heaven since the products there are SO MUCH BETTER than the food available at the Sultan Centre in Al Koot! I found tofu, edamame and the most delicious tea!!! I also found black licorice and an O’Henry chocolate bar. Ironically, my friend had asked me if I wanted anything from Canada before her departure and I had asked for an O’Henry chocolate bar and for some rubbing alcohol (yes, that’s right. You can’t find it anywhere here!). Unfortunately, I replied to email too late, so she was unable to get me the O’Henry bar. However, she DID get me a whole whack-load of alcohol wipes and black licorice babies-yum!!! After we shopped, I dropped my friend off at her hotel and went home.

Thursday evening after work I headed to The Avenues to meet my friend again. My friend loves to shop! We met in front of IKEA and immediately got coffee…Yes, it had been a loooong teaching day for me, so I needed a pick-me-up. While we sipped on coffee/tea we talked more about my family, her future (she recently got engaged), and Kuwait. We people-watched because it’s always interesting to people-watch in a foreign country. Then, after her failed attempts to use the wifi there and my quick shopping trip to American Eagle (my sister will be so happy that I have FINALLY bought my own sweatshirt so I won’t steal hers!), we went to the new phase of the mall. It was nice…A little too much to take in, although half of it is still either under construction or the stores haven’t opened yet. Anyhow, we DID find Coach, and more importantly, Garrett Popcorn, the Chicago-based popcorn company. Uh oh. Popcorn. Mik AND popcorn. Uh oh. My friend was so good and only got herself a small bag of caramel corn with almonds. Me? Oh, there was absolutely NO restraint happening. I DO restrain myself when it comes to certain things…Like dieting. In addition, I can easily restrain myself from chocolate. I can also restrain myself from McDonalds-that’s a very easy one, but popcorn? Nope. No way. I bought a small bag of butter popcorn AND another small bag of their signature “Chicago Mix” which is a mixture of cheese and caramel popcorn…Yeah, I’m not a fan of combining the two, so I just pick at them separately. As my thighs can tell you, those bags aren’t small at all! The “small” at Garrett (Popcorn), is the equivalent of a medium at Kernels Popcorn or popcorn from the movie theatre.

 The famous "Chicago Mix" although...I think it's clear that I prefer the cheese flavour to the caramel, lol!
Yes, of course I took pictures. Mmmm, popcorn!!! Nom, Nom, Nom!!!

My friend had transportation provided for her from the mall to the ship, so I saw her off, waved ‘good-bye’ and headed home at 11:30pm. Yes, shopping IS the nightlife here, lol!
Yesterday, I went for a jog, cleaned, did laundry and also some research. I made a yummy curry soup for dinner and watched a movie with the Irish chef. Today, I went for a jog (it was a lot easier jogging today-I think I’m getting used to the running!), did some work, cleaned, made TWO HUGE batches of pancakes (I finished up the apple & cinnamon batter and the pumpkin walnut one as well), had brunch with my flatmate and then read a bit. Not too shabby! On the agenda this week: The students’ second exam…And then marking. Time is a-flyin`!

Part 1 of 2: "I love to laugh/Loud and long and clear"

My blog post was sooooooo loooooong that I had to split it into two parts.

I feel like this week has been a week full of laughter. Last weekend was a long weekend. The Kuwaiti LOVE holidays! I spent the whole afternoon on Thursday chatting online, catching up with an old friend. I haven’t spoken to this man in many years. He moved to the Middle East many years ago and we haven’t even really had a GOOD talk since he left. It was an unexpected surprise and a great way to begin the weekend. Saturday I had an awesome Skype date with my sister and my father. She showed me new clothes she bought and also opened some parcels that had arrived for me. The laughing began when my sister stated that my father has a new hobby: squirrel-chasing. To clarify, I’m not poking fun at my father. I love him and respect him. He’s a brilliant scholar: He obtained his PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo. He then continued his academic career by graduating from UWO’s prestigious Richard Ivey business school. Never one to quit learning, he continued to study (on his own), the dictionary (no joke. He reads the dictionary “for fun”), and then wrote two novels (published in Japan) on the topics of the linguistics of Japanese and English. His brilliancy leaves me in awe. So, why is my genius father chasing squirrels? My sister said he’s taken over our dog’s duties; our dog passed away this past summer and was on official squirrel duty most of the 8-years of his life…To be fair, the dog chased after birds, too. Now my father chases the squirrels away. As my laughter subsided at the thought of my father LITERALLY chasing the squirrels I couldn’t help but wonder if he missed the dog THAT much or if he had some other ulterior motive. His reasoning was so sweet it made my heart hurt: he was making sure the squirrels weren’t eating the seeds my sister had planted in her garden. I hated myself for it, but I explained that Emi had planted those seeds before I left for Kuwait, and if nothing had sprouted yet it never would. I couldn't help it, I was still laughing inside picturing my father banging on the glass window pane trying to scare the squirrels…Oh, Ranma (our dog), would have been proud!

The work week, although long, was full of laughs. I don’t know if we were tired or bored, but the Irish chef and I were munching on almonds one afternoon when I had a brilliant idea: he should let me see if I could throw almonds directly into his mouth. No…I’m not 5 years old, but maybe spending so much time around teenagers is rubbing off on me. I kept hitting him in the face which made me laugh harder until I thought we were going to get in trouble, so we stopped. I felt like my mom who, if you knew her, was always a kid at heart. At one of my sister’s birthday parties my mother got us all excited by suggesting a crazy game of hide-and-seek in the dark (at night), and then scared us all by yelling “boo” and squirting us with water when she found us.  Another time a few of my male friends came over (including my friend who just got married and the other gentlemen who I mentioned told me I seem sad). My mom suggested we play spoons. She was notorious for, when she had collected all the necessary cards, grabbing a spoon and then throwing the remaining spoons all over the place so the other players would scramble like mad. This particular time when she sent the spoons flying, my friends also went flying and one went flying over our dining room table.

I don’t know why I noticed laughter so much this week. It wasn't just me laughing either! At the end of the week I was busy working at my desk when I heard my flatmate and one of our female co-workers both burst out laughing really loudly! It was that genuine, deep-belly laugh that’s infectious and it made me start laughing. I had NO IDEA what they were talking about, but I just started laughing. It made me think of Burt and Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins, hahaha! Just hilarious! I love laughing! I love feeling happy and smiling! As my American friends celebrate their Thanksgiving this weekend, I feel I should add to what I'm thankful for: I'm thankful for the moments here that make me laugh....To be continued.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

As the days grow cooler and darker, I've accepted the fact that I'll have to do some clothes shopping for winter. Luckily, it will be (almost) guilt-free shopping as I donated almost all of my clothing before I left Canada. I mean, I'd already donated my hair, why not my clothes and shoes, as well??? So, I'm actually in need of a new winter wardrobe. The third phase of The Avenues Mall has been completed and apparently there's a new Sephora AND the Cheesecake Factory. I have fond memories of the Cheesecake Factory, and while I actually can make cheesecake all on my own, I can also appreciate a nice slice of cheesecake that someone else has made :)  I'll let you know what happens. I'm off to the Avenues Mall tomorrow to grocery shop. I need more popcorn kernels. Ohhh, yeah. You read that correctly: popcorn kernels! I have made it work: popcorn with butter and seasoning!!!

My very first bowl of popcorn in Kuwait: Popcorn (popped in a pot-my uncle taught me how to do it that way), butter and ranch seasoning!

Okay, onto my short, but eventful week:

Saturday: My flatmate and I met up with (one of) our Georgian co-worker(s). I finally decided to brave a sushi restaurant here. I knew that I was potentially entering rough waters because the idea that a Japanese sushi restaurant owner would venture to Kuwait seems extremely unlikely. I was right. The sushi restaurant, a chain, called 'Sakura' (note the originality of that name, folks! Too much sarcasm?), was staffed entirely by Filipinos. *Sigh* The maki was interesting and it was okay...But considering the main ingredient in sushi rice seasoning is rice WINE vinegar, you could tell that something was lacking. The wasabi paste wasn't strong at all and it just felt like it was a very bad attempt. *Sigh* However, it looked delicious, so I took pictures, just for you!!!

The sushi restaurant: さくら (sakura)

Sunday: My work week began on November 11th, Remembrance Day. I was hit by the onslaught of Facebook pictures and status updates and felt thankful, but I also felt a sadness because I live in a part of the world where war is still a not-so-distant memory. It's eye-opening and it's a good reminder to be grateful for and to the men and women who fought and who continue to serve Canada. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like...Yes, I'm extremely privileged and naive. It still hits close enough to home though. My mother's father was psychologically scarred after returning home from the Korean War, and my father's uncle was a kamikaze pilot in World War II. Thank God my grandfather returned home. However, my father's uncle never returned to Japan and his whereabouts are unknown, although we're all quite certain he perished during his mission. To those who defended Canada and continue to do so, we will never forget and shall ever be grateful.

Although Sunday was a holiday, I still had to go into the office. Have no fear! I made sure I used the time wisely: my flatmate and I meandered over to the college campus to The Coffee Bean and treated ourselves to specialty coffee. We sat outside in the blazing sunlight for a few hours avoiding work and air conditioning! When we finally wandered back to the office, the Irish chef told me he wanted to take me somewhere special. Special? ON campus?? Well, he certainly piqued my interest! He led me to an area full of books and DVDs and I couldn't help but smile: he had brought me to the school library, a place that I thought only existed in legends. Sorry. I couldn't help it. Most Kuwaitis don't read anything unless it's a text message or Facebook. Many people here don't even have an email address. No lie. In the library I wasted even more time browsing...Yes, it's tiny, but they had a boat-load of literary criticism (that was a shock to me!), and also study books for learning Arabic. I only paused momentarily in that section though, bad Miki! I actually spent time looking at the DVDs and settled on two: A historical look at the Dark Ages and a documentary about the Great Wall of China, which actually CANNOT be seen from space. Am I the only fool who believed that? Sheesh. It was honestly the FIRST thing that scholars clarified, hahaha!

Monday: I sucked it up and made an appointment at the dentist. It's only been 7 years...Yes, I KNOW that's bad, but I didn't have coverage and when I did I was still too poor to pay the advance fees. Don't reprimand me, please! At least I made the appointment on my on free will and went! In the evening I had my coatings sanded down and re-filled. It was painful. The dentist kept hitting nerves and even today I while I was drinking tea my teeth hurt-booo! I still have to do the other side of my mouth...Yay. The weird thing about the dentist? The hideous glasses you have to wear are EXACTLY the same make/model as the ones in Canada-no clips on the bibs though. The bibs here tie. Good grief, am I really talking about this??

Tuesday: Nothing crazy happened, it just rained. There was thunder, too. It was nothing special, but watching everyone's reaction to rain WAS interesting! Some of my co-workers even got excited. Many students wouldn't drive to school because the roads. Apparently, when wet, the roads can actually be quite slick because of the sand. Crazy. Many students took pictures and recorded the storm on their cell phones. Others were just plain frightened. Oddly, the sky was never very dark. It wasn't anything to get excited about, but the combination of water-deprived people and rain is truly unique! I wonder what they'd do if they were in Japan during rainy season.

A rainy day on campus (the view from my classroom).

Wednesday: I went in to the office early because I was summoned by the HR department; I was to do my fingerprinting and also supposed to give blood...As most of you know, I am paranoid of needles. It's a ridiculous phobia. If I know I'm going to get a needle or give blood, I get anxious and panic. Sweating and shaking usually follow and I get myself so worked up that by the time the blood's been drawn I HAVE to eat a cookie or drink orange juice so I won't pass out-even if they've only drawn one vial. It is THAT traumatizing to me. I can't look at what's happening, I can't talk. I just get clammy and wait in fear...For both the needle prick and the laughter from whoever is drawing blood. I used to use a topical cream to numb my skin, but I could still feel the sensation of the needle entering my arm (UGH!), so I stopped buying it.

Soooo, off to work I went, accepting the fact that I would have to give blood. I went along with seven other teachers/profs and when we first got there I was a bit shocked to see we were simply at an apartment building with armed guards. Unfortunately, the wait was going to be too long, so we all piled back into the cars and the drivers took us to another place. Location #2 was still an apartment building, but at least it looked more like a government facility...Kind of. Anyhow, the third spot looked like a mosque. It wasn't, but that's what it looked like. By that time my cup of coffee, cup of tea and large glass of water were pounding on my diaphragm and I asked our driver if I could use the washroom. He looked at me with an expression that was either one of horror or shock. I'm not sure which it was since he doesn't speak English. Great. He told me to wait at the car and went inside. When he came back out he said that there's only one washroom...For men. Seriously??? I looked at him like, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?" I didn't have to go THAT badly, but I know what NOT going pee-pee can do you, so I started to panic (Isn't it a bit early for that? It's not like he's got a needle, Mik). I took a deep breath, said "Okay," and turned to get back into the car. I think he felt bad because he said again: "Wait! Wait!" Okay, dude. I'll wait. You don't have to yell at me, lol! He went back inside and came back out and directed me to follow him. Immediately, I thought, "Oh, geez. Where's he taking me?" He took me to the men's washroom. Sensing my hesitation he went inside first and said, "It's okay! Empty." Pointing at himself he asked, "I stay?" Uh, YEAH. What would happen if some random guy walked in and I was there alone?!? I looked at him desperately and said "Yes, please." He was not expecting that. "Okay?" He asked. I looked around...It was disgustingly filthy. I couldn't even handle looking at the place. Nope. NOT okay. There were only Japanese-style squat toilets. No worries-I've mastered those-cha-ching! What I couldn't fathom was squatting in filth-covered stalls with not a square of toilet paper to be found. I just looked at the poor guy and said, "No, thank you" and nodded for him to follow me. Poor man. He didn't understand, "There's no toilet paper." I wanted to shower immediately after I walked out of there, that's how disgusting that washroom was, and I think it will forever haunt me.

After all of THAT trauma, I never did my fingerprinting or my blood work. Guess visiting my friends in Oman will have to wait. I don't mind being here, to be honest. However, after looking through some photos of the Epp's recent vacation in Oman, I realized that I definitely want to visit my friends there before I leave the gulf for the summer! My friend, who lives in Al Qurum (in Muscat), insists that I visit. It IS beautiful. Look at images/pictures online and see for yourselves!

However, the trip to get my fingerprinting and blood work done was not entirely a waste. One of the profs in the car is a nutritionist and we talked a lot about the kind of food I should be eating because (even though I don't talk about it), I'm hypoglycaemic. My mother always said I was hypoglycaemic and continuous problems with my blood sugar levels dropping was always a worry to her. The nutritionist and I talked about what kind of food I should be eating and how to get proper nutrition. I wrongly assumed I shouldn't consume sugar, but that's not the case. Years of catering to my mother and father's diets have left me with a very skewed understanding of my own nutritional needs. It was awesome! She even recommended a whole grain bread, natural peanut butter and sugar-free/low sugar jam sandwiches. Seriously??? My mother wouldn't let us eat pb&jelly sandwiches because they weren't healthy! I'm excited to see how this affects my health and how it will help give me more energy!!! I will keep you posted and let you know how it's going. For now, here is what breakfast looked like PRE-blending, lol!

Smoothie ingredients: Laban (liquid yogurt), sunflower seeds, almonds, oats, banana and maple syrup-yum!!!

Wednesday night: After a traumatizing morning, hahaha, my flatmate and I decided AGAINST cooking (we both cook quite a bit), and decided to hit-up the Indian restaurant across the street. I have to admit, her chicken tikka masala was waaaaaay better than my butter chicken. Note to self: get the the chicken tikka masala next time! Ohhh, yeah!

For my sister: butter chicken!!! I'd already eaten quite a bit by this point, hahaha!

Thursday: NO SCHOOL!!! Today is a holiday because of the Islamic New Year (Al Hijri), so I haven't done much (laundry, cleaning, catching up on work, etc.). I WILL get my rear in gear tomorrow though! I hope everyone has a great weekend! I'm off to read Hullaballo, do my nails and put a facial mask on ;)  P.S. Honey has been doing wonders for my face (my skin is not happy-breakouts and dryness) and eggs have been doing wonders for my flatmate's hair (moisturizing and volumizing). Go read Babushka's Beauty Secrets: Old World Tips for a Glamorous New You. It's awesome for natural beauty tips and recipes that will help with any hair/face/body problem! Plus, most of the recipes call for natural ingredients. LOVE it! <Exclamatory sentence meaning I love the book. Yes, I'm weird. LOVE it. <Imperative sentence meaning love my weirdness. V(^ - ^ )V

Friday, 9 November 2012

Canadian Pancakes and Various Flavours of Coffee

As we head into November here, the weather, as my flatmate and I have noted, is getting quite cool…By that we mean we’re having a problem adjusting to the 30+ (Celsius) weather that we’re now experiencing (Mik, you’re a pathetic wimp!). Yes, I think it’s safe to say we’ve now acclimated to Kuwait’s weather. It’s quite cool at night and I’ve accepted that I’ll likely have to do some clothes shopping after our next pay day. Ugh. Yes, I’m not looking forward to shopping for clothes here. I don’t like the fashion; the loud colours are too much for the girl who’d rather blend in than stand out. The good thing about this next jaunt out to the malls? I’m going to invest in a nice pair of boots…No, not winter boots, you know the kind that actually keep your feet warm, are snow and water proof and have treads! Why would I buy those?!? Hahaha! Since it doesn’t snow here and I won’t be returning to Canada for Christmas (I won’t be home until July or August 2013 actually), I won’t need boots that serve any purpose except to make my hideous feet and calves more attractive ;)

I admit that I can’t stand November. Being in Kuwait during November is no exception. The sooner this month is finished the better, in my opinion…Except for ONE thing: an old and very dear friend will be in Kuwait on the 20th of the month and I’ll be spending time with her!!! I CAN’T wait!!! This lovely lady knows me very well and seems to meet up with me in various locations all over the globe even though we’re both from little ol’ London, Ontario. I know we’re going to have a blast! The last time we met was at Christmas last year when we saw each other for the first time after my mother passed away. It was a bittersweet time, but there was a new addition to our get together: my friend’s new partner. The two are now engaged and I love seeing how happy my friend is!

Last weekend was a bit busy (as has this week, actually). After my Polish flatmate made Polish pancakes, everyone wanted me to make traditional Canadian pancakes, so I did. I found apple cinnamon batter at Dean & DeLuca and a pumpkin walnut mix in Al-Koot. Add my homemade applesauce, pure Canadian maple syrup and, of course, butter and it was a feast! I made everything at the Irish chef and the Serbian gentleman’s apartment since their kitchen is HUGE! My flatmate invited a girl she met from Tanzania. So the five of us hungrily digged in and ate a whole whackload of pancakes! I couldn’t help but think of my ex-fiancé who loves pancakes. I’d make him pancakes on the weekend. I don’t think he ever got sick of them!

I'm not going to mention names, but let's just say the girls were NOT in charge of peeling apples. LOOK at the cleaver! Awesome.

 I didn't burn the pancakes, I swear!!! This is a picture of the table just before eating. Although the pancakes look burnt, they weren’t! I think I really need to invest in a new camera!

This week has been incredibly busy because I have been writing FOUR different versions of the kids’ next exam and marking oral presentations, blaaaaaaaah! However, this week also marked the height of my frustration with, well, everything. I usually hit a point when I’m living away from home when absolutely EVERYTHING aggravates me. This was the week, which is the only reason I haven’t blogged or rather had anything to blog about. I won’t go into details, but what set it all off was seeing a horrible car accident that could have easily been avoided. A car smashed INTO a coffee shop. The car completely destroyed the outside patio and broke through the front of the coffee shop; the car was literally IN the coffee shop. The car had been hit by a huge SUV and the damage done to both cars was shocking! They were in a bloody PARKING LOT! I couldn’t figure out exactly what had happened, but speed was definitely a factor. I was both annoyed and scared because I had been sitting not three feet from where the car was only a week earlier AND, even worse, the EMPLOYEES OF THE COFFEE SHOP WERE CLEANING UP THE MESS THE CARS HAD CAUSED. No, I’m not trying to complain, but it’s extremely difficult to stomach the treatment of non-Kuwaiti and non-Arabs, especially Indians, Pakistani and Asians. I regret to say that I now know why Habibi used to joke that I’m a Filipino boy, and it makes me nauseous.  Everyone: "Don't ruin everyone’s day, Mik!" I'm sorry :(  

I did begin the weekend right! My Lebanese co-worker and I visited The Breakfast Club and this time I took pictures. However, I somehow managed to forget to take pictures of the food! I was really hungry-I’m sorry!!!

The view from the patio at The Breakfast Club #1

The view from the Patio at The Breakfast Club #2

Today I checked out Caribou Coffee. Friends in the U.S-is this an American chain?? The coffee is quite good AND they offered Christmas specialty coffees and desserts!!! I was a pretty happy camper! I spent my time there doing research about my business venture and then trekked home. I bought some food, made homemade soup and read some of the new book I’ve started: Kiran Desai’s Hullabaloo. I like it so far, but I’m only about fifteen pages in, hahaha!

This is one of my favourite quotes from Anthony Capella’s The Various Flavours of Coffee: A Novel ©2008:  “…all ideals are linked. That is what she sees now—that the world is divided into those who want to exploit it for their own ends and those who want to change it for the benefit of all. If you are on the side of change, you make common cause with other idealists. Whether your particular interest is suffrage, prison reform, the Poor Law or pensions, you are all on the same side, working together for power” (Capella 308-9).

This is a great book! Go check it out if you haven’t already. I’ll keep you posted about Desai’s novel!