Sunday, 30 December 2012

All By Myself

On Saturday last week, my Polish flatmate, the Irish chef and I all ventured back to the old Souq in Kuwait City. I LOVE the SOUQ!!! I think I love it so much because it’s not packed with expats (no offense, expats!), and that I feel like it’s the closest thing to authentic, traditional culture in Kuwait. We headed back to the Souq because my flatmate was preparing to leave and she wanted to pick-up a few gifts. As before, we gravitated towards the fruit and veggie stand. I bought green apples, grapefruits and kuri (Japanese for chestnuts). I always think it’s hilarious when I don’t know certain words in English because I learned them in Japanese first, or never learned them in English at all-yes, that’s happened with quite a few words! “Kuri,” meaning chestnut(s), is one of those words. I didn’t even know that kuri meant chestnut(s) until my father told me when I was in my 20s-please don’t judge! Hahaha! Anyhow, I thought it would be cool to buy (raw) chestnuts it being the Christmas season and all, and 2.5kd later (almost $10CAD), I HAD chestnuts. For someone who does NOT know how to roast/cook chestnuts, I was taking a big food risk. We ate a LARGE lunch consisting of waraq inab (stuffed grape leaves, similar to Greek dolmathes, which I think I’ve already mentioned), fatoush, kebab, tabouleh, chicken and YUMMY bread! My flatmate and I bought some dates (of course), and the Irish chef bought some nuts (of course), and my flatmate and I bought some gifts for family-‘tis the season!

 Lunch: Sorry for the pistachio shells :S
Lots of food to go around!

From the market to the mall, we arrived at Marina Mall and went straight to Decathalon, a sports goods store that we don’t have in my hometown and that I’d never heard of before moving to Kuwait. I’d been in Decathalon at Marina Mall a few weeks back in hopes of finding an arm band to put my ipod (mini) in while I walk/jog (I was unsuccessful). The Irish chef went off to look at the bikes and my flatmate went to the bathing suit section (she needs a suit for her trip to Budapest). We left Decathalon sans a bathing suit and plus one foldable bike. After Decathalon we met two other co-workers: the other halfie and a Georgian who I’d never hung out with socially. Sitting with my Polish flatmate, the other halfie and the Georgian-all fiery women (as in passionate)-and the subdued Irish chef was interesting. I tried to sit back and observe as much as I could instead of getting into the conversation(s). Here’s what I concluded: the Irish chef doesn’t like to talk about “girly” topics (no surprise there, lol!), the ladies, all intelligent and highly educated, are so impressive. Every moment I’m here I’m reminded how incredibly blessed I am to have the chance to be here with such amazing people. I’m able to work in Kuwait with people who I likely never would have encountered at any other point in my life. I’ve never even met people from Georgia until this autumn! My halfie co-worker has admitted things about her identity and feelings about being a halfie that I haven’t ever heard another halfie talk about and it was refreshing! I’m not alone in my sentiments, frustrations and struggles!!! I had such a good time just listening and chatting that I didn’t want to go home, but I’d promised the Irish chef some Japanese curry, so off we went.

At the coffee shop, PAUL in Marina Mall: My first macaroon ever!!! I was a bit disappointed because it was filled with jam, not cream :(

We ate Japanese curry for dinner, but prior to eating, I’d washed the chestnuts, tried a few raw (they’re tasty raw!!!) and threw them in the oven (which my flatmate started for me because it’s gas and I don’t know how to use a gas oven *sigh*). I had NO idea how long to leave them in the oven, but once the sound of exploding chestnuts resonated in our apartment I thought I’d better take them out. I was too scared to simply take the chestnuts out of the oven, so the Irish chef stepped up to the manly call of duty and did the honours and did he ever get a blasting! A huge chestnut jumped off the baking sheet and hit him in the chest! It was unexpected and hilarious and I couldn’t stop laughing and squealing like a delighted child. Geeeeeez. Like over-excited kids, we hovered around the chestnuts, too impatient to wait for them to cool, and hurriedly attempted to peel the tiny morsels and try them roasted! They were delicious! We laughed so much and so hard I almost momentarily forgot that Christmas was almost upon us and that we would be at work and I wouldn’t be with my family.

 Pre-washed and pre-cooked chestnuts
After washing, cooking and exploding!

Christmas was quiet at the office since a lot of people took the day off. The whole week was off due to a New Year’s exhibition on campus which consisted of loud music, acting, food stalls and restless students itching to be socializing instead of learning English grammar. Thursday night was my flatmate’s last (partial) night in Kuwait. She flew out of Kuwait at 4am for Budapest where she’ll meet her partner who is driving to meet her there. She hasn’t seen him since the summer and I feel for them; long-distance is the worst. We had dinner with our Lebanese co-worker who lives upstairs and the other halfie. We picked up some Indian food and pop (I haven’t had pop in this country). As we gathered around the table and chatted, I was delighted to hear that things are headed in positive directions for all of my friends. Everyone left around 12:30am and I couldn’t hide my exhaustion. I decided to take a nap until my flatmate had to leave. I couldn’t fall asleep (because of the caffeine in the pop?). I did finally manage to doze off, but I was soon awakened by my flatmate whose taxi driver was waiting. We said good-bye, although I admit I was so out of it that I didn’t feel the full effects of what was actually happening. Only when I looked out the window and saw her leave did it hit me: she was gone and I wasn’t sad at being alone again (naturally), but rather that I’d lost someone more like a friend than a co-worker, more like a sister than a friend…You don’t meet people like her everyday and now I was losing her. She’d only come into my life a few short months ago. It isn’t fair. As I sat in bed Friday morning, I felt off. I wanted to run, but didn’t have the enthusiasm for it. My flatmate was the one who inspired and motivated me to run. I thought I should bake, but decided against it. Who would have been my taste tester?

Yesterday I woke up, decided not to be lazy and went for a walk/jog. For some reason it was incredibly difficult to exercise (it’s not normally, surprisingly). I finished up my run and came upstairs, showered and did some work. I got so involved in it that I forgot about my plans to meet up with the other halfie. I looked for her phone number and couldn’t find it for the life of me. We finally somehow managed to meet up and we went the Souq Sharq. What is the Souq Sharq, you ask? Why it’s a mall, of course! I shopped quite a bit, but I only bought things I actually needed: sweaters, socks, dental floss, lip balm, the last present for my secret Santa, and some groceries. I picked up a gift for my sister, too! My friend was very talkative and confided a lot about her personal life. I learned that she and I have had similar experiences. I didn’t talk about mine, but listened to hers and I felt for her. She’s smart, hilarious and gorgeous! We were driving around (she parked in front of the Kuwait Towers so I could take a picture because I don’t want to actually go IN them, lol!). She told me all about this famous road in Kuwait that’s well-known here for either picking-up or dating. She related that because dating (for Kuwaiti especially), is illegal, people will drive on this road and in the surrounding area instead of sitting somewhere in the open where they can get caught. This (fairly long) road also serves as a place for men to pick-up women and vice versa. I didn’t believe her until we actually drove on the infamous street (al-hubb, the love street), and were stopped at a light where a male motorcyclist picked up a woman in an SUV. Once she started to drive he began following her and if I didn’t know any better I’d assume they were a happy couple, in love and driving off into the sunset. No, no, Mik, you sill, na├»ve, girl!

Other halfie: They’ll probably go and park somewhere and have se…
                                                                                                                                                              Mik: WHAT?? NO WAY! Really?!?

I was shocked. She laughed at me. If you don't know, there's a deep-seeded obsession with s-e-....Well, you know what I'm talking about. It's honestly as simple as cars pulling up to each other, the passengers exchanging numbers and...Well, you know. My friend even explained that driving patterns, signalling, etc., all have different meanings! Kuwaiti culture 101 here, seriously! I don't know why I was so surprised, but it's a completely different world to me. I'd read recently that "re-virginizing surgery is actually one of the most popular surgeries in the Middle East and was shocked, but then put two and two together. At Souq Sharq Mall I needed to go into Boots (a British pharmacy/drugstore here) for dental floss and lip balm. While we were there, my friend pulled me over to the, uh, "dirty" section (excuse the 13-year old-esqe lingo, but, uh, yeah, my dad reads this. Gotta keep it PG, y'all!). She showed me this "virginizing" cream, or gel, or whatever (that stuff is 65kwd, roughly $235CAD!!!). I couldn't stop laughing! Honestly? We were trying to figure out exactly what the stuff does. When we got to the counter my friend whispered, "LOOK!" Sure enough the Kuwaiti female next to us was buying a cheaper version of the "virginizing" product. HA! Although we were driving, we weren't looking for love, or a one-night stand. We WERE on the hunt for the infamous "juice" (awar gelb), which is sold at a run-down, strip mall in the suburbs where, before, during and/or after the chase, men and women may chat, swap numbers, decide on a meeting place, etc. If I showed my 18-year old students the "juice" cup, they'd know what I'd done on my Saturday night, lol! If I'd said I'd gone out "gizing" they'd know I'd gone driving on al-hubb, perhaps I'd believed I'd gotten some numbers and maybe their opinion of me might change a little, hahaha! My friend wasn't sure about physically getting out of her car to buy awar gelb because of all of the guys around. Oddly (or not?), there were no women out and about. Sensing how uncomfortable she was I told her I'd go alone and get the awar gelb. She wouldn't let me go alone though, so we BOTH ended up getting it. It was a tasty (but very sweet), smoothie that is SOOO popular they have a ton pre-made! Conclusion? I'm obviously not into gizing, but I can understand why it happens, and now I can say I've done things that the locals do, but not the dirty stuff-just clarifying for my dad!

Awar gelb


  1. Haha the love street thing is hilarious. Would it be like a red light district then? You should just waltz into class and set that cup on your desk casually to catch their reactions!

    Now I'm trying to think, does Doha have a street like that? hmm. I think people are more open about dating here so there isn't like a "pickup area". But there are some hotels that are known to be popular with prostitutes. I don't know, if there is a street like that here I've never heard of it in my 5 years here.

    Happy new year!

  2. Dear Gabek,

    My co-workers told me to tell the students what I'd done as well, hahaha!

    I know that there are certain areas here that are famous for prostitution as well.

    I hope you had a wonderful new year!

  3. I like my chestnuts wrapped in bacon and soaked in different soy's and sauces and grilled till crunchy... mmm.

    If you restrict a society then they will find a way LOL can't stop human nature.

    1. Leah, PLEASE teach me how to make the chestnuts you mentioned!!! I ended up boiling mine in sugar and water (we make something similar in Japan).

      As for the restrictions...Well, trust me, if you were here you'd laugh. EVERYONE goes against the rules/laws/etc.

  4. I usually us canned chestnuts - Water, So boiling them etc would probably be a good base. 1/2 slice of bacon wrapped around the chestnut. Secure with a toothpick. Marinate a few hours in Soy or other sauce. You can cook in a microwave until the bacon is crunch and then chow down. The toothpicks help a lot to pick up the chestnuts. Salty Crunchy and good...

    1. ohhh, sounds good! turkey or beef (halal, of course), bacon okay??? lol! i don't even think i've seen any pork, which isn't surprising :) i will try this out when i get home. i'm sure my dad would love it!

  5. beef!!! do they call it beefcon? LOL (tasts just like chicken!) I have not had this. I don't know if that would work but pork defiantly is the one I was talking about.