Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Kuwait: The Final Chapter...For Now

I tried my hardest to spend as much time as I could with my students and my friends these past few weeks. I saw the other halfie, the Irish chef, the Lebanese lady, the Turks and Georgians as much as I could on social outings. I can barely distinguish the past few days from each other…I hate jetlag; it makes my mind fuzzy and I can’t focus. Let me begin with the last two and a half weeks since I have avoided blogging (on purpose), and haven’t kept everyone up-to-date.

Over a week ago, I was invited to my student’s aunt’s home. I spent an evening with my student and her female family members. It was an amazing experience as I got to see what Kuwaiti life is like! I had barely sat down for two minutes altogether when I noticed that a small table with tea, water and food was placed in front of me. I was being treated so well and was so enamoured with the food in front of me (of course I was) that I almost didn’t hear the first question that someone asked me: “Are you married?” Well, let’s not beat around the bush, and let’s face it, we’re in a country that is very clearly focused on marriage (it truly does hang in the air there). “No,” I replied. My response came with mixed results, but the general reaction was one that lacked amusement. The conversation completely died after that and it was as if no one knew what else to talk to me about. Eventually, people started asking me other questions about family (always a tough topic), Canada and my feelings about Kuwait. I started talking and while some family members translated what I said I could see that it was clearly a new experience for them, too. It was awesome as kids were running in and out of the room and food was being brought in and everyone seemed so content. It was a whole family coming together and I couldn’t believe so many extended family members were in attendance. I couldn’t tell you the last time my ENTIRE family on either side was together. If I had to try and recount the time it would definitely be centred on something like a funeral or wedding. It made me miss my family terribly.

They kept feeding me, and even though I only picked at the food, I was very full. I was planning my exit when someone said to me, “Come! Come! Dinner is ready.” I looked at her like I clearly didn’t believe her and asked my student, “Is she joking?” My student laughed at me and pointed to the room next door. “No. Go, Miss” I exited the family room and entered the main room to see a large table covered with food. I felt my stomach turn. I had no idea how I’d be able to eat anything else. I managed to pick at a few things (it was mostly Lebanese food), and I hoped no one would notice, but they did. They remarked that I was too thin and needed to eat more. I wanted to say, “My jeans beg to differ,” but I didn’t want to be rude, so I ate a bit more. After an invite to my student’s brother’s wedding the following Saturday I left with presents and a warm feeling inside.

Two days later, I found myself at one of the Turk’s apartment with both Turks, my Hungarian co-worker and her friend (a new colleague). We took pictures, had coffee, snacks and chatted for a few hours. I adore the Turks! They are always laughing and smiling and they are so warm and welcoming that they make me want to try living in Turkey! I love simply sitting and chatting with them! The time came when I had to leave and prepare for the wedding, so I left and headed to the China Queen Salon in Jabriya. I only had threading done and then did henna. The black henna design wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it did look beautiful. I waited for my student to finish her hair and nails (her make-up was already finished). The taxi driver had some difficulty finding the salon, and when I walked in I got a lot of confused and curious looks as most of the employees were Southeast Asian, Indian or Sri Lankan. I know that people assume I’m the help rather than a professional and that I’m an oddity in Kuwait, but people never say anything outright to confirm this; it’s just written all over their faces, hahaha! No one could speak English in the part of the salon where threading and henna are done, so just trying to explain what I wanted was an adventure all on its own! I had black henna done, but I wouldn't do it again, nor would I recommend it as I was told that chemicals are added to black henna to make it last longer. After we were done at the salon we went next door for frozen yogurt and then back to my student’s aunt’s house to get dressed.

As I mentioned before, I didn’t bring any formal wear to Kuwait. My student’s family told me not to worry, and with the amount of women in her family, I knew there was likely someone who was close to my size. As everyone was hustling and bustling around I sat and spoke with the families’ newest addition: a Nepalese nanny. She was so sweet and gave me tips about how to maintain the henna. Somehow we managed to communicate and she was so sweet. She smiled so happily and I envied her innocence. Our conversation ended as I was given a dress, shoes and jewellery to change into. I looked at the dress that had been picked out for me and almost died. The tiny, and I mean TINY, black tube top dress barely left anything to the imagination. I slipped on a pair of lace stilettos that had an additional platform that, even for an experienced shoe-aholic like me, were going to be difficult to walk in. I couldn’t fathom wearing the large jewellery, so I skipped it. I thought they were going to make me cover up, but instead they offered me a tiny (100%) rabbit fur stole and I silently cringed, but when I put it on it felt warm and heavenly. I came out of the changing room to approving eyes, but was advised to wear flashy jewellery and heavier make-up (I added darker lipstick). I tried to make polite excuses and told them that if my dad could see me, he’d kill me. “He’s not here! Don’t worry!” were the most common replies, lol! Sensing my discomfort someone said, “Don’t you wear things like this in Canada?” I wanted to reply, well perhaps if you’re confident and 19 or a prostitute, but I didn’t. If I tried to pull the dress lower I would expose my non-existent chest. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

The fresh henna (black)

The wedding itself was beautiful. The bride and groom looked happy and I hoped that they would defy the statistics about marriage in Kuwait (the divorce rate is extremely high). I refrained from dancing (it was an all-female wedding with the exception of the groom making a brief appearance) as I already stuck out like a sore thumb. There were a group of ladies in front of me who I didn’t know and we began speaking a bit. They seemed kind and they encouraged me to dance, but I was already feeling so self-conscious that I declined. We left the wedding before I could eat (it’s a long story). Perhaps that was a good thing. I barely had any room to spare in the tiny dress as it was.

At this point, I'd already moved in with my Lebanese friend, but she was in Lebanon for the weekend and I returned to a quiet and empty apartment. I don't often feel lonely even if I am alone, but for some reason, I felt lonely. I don't mind feeling lonely because it reminds me how precious those around me are, but it was as if my departure from Kuwait was already weighing heavy on my heart. It still weighs heavy on my heart. I left Kuwait on February 6th (for who knows how long) because I left my job. I left amazing people and a country that was very easy to live in. I left sunny, 20 degree weather for -10 snowy, gloomy Canada (London, Ontario). I love my family and friends in Canada, but I did not want to leave Kuwait. As I begin yet another job search, I hope that I will return to Kuwait very soon because it treated me very well and brought the most amazing people into my life. A far cry from the place Habibi said I wouldn't be able to survive.


  1. You left Kuwait!!?? Sorry, I've missed a couple of posts. I do hope you come back. You'll still continue to blog right? I sure hope you do.

    Haha, your Kuwaiti wedding ordeal was fun to read about. I had the privilege to be invited to a wedding last year. Oh gosh, I must have agonized over what to wear ever since I knew that the wedding was going to happen. Ended up getting a beautiful dress from (can you believe this) Forever21! I felt so proud in my 10kd dress! :-)

  2. Layla: Don't worry. I handed in my resignation awhile ago. It was not working out and I'll post about it soon. I really hope to return to Kuwait (for work) very soon! I wasn't sure if I'd continue blogging...I can, I guess. There are lots of great places to eat here in London, Ontario (Canada). Thank you for your support; I really appreciate it.

    The Kuwaiti wedding was awesome, but I should have just coughed up the money and dressed myself. I probably would have found a great deal like you!!! I'd love to see a picture of the dress :)

    Thanks for the message and I will blog again soon!

  3. Lol I don't check your blog for a few weeks, and when I do you've left Kuwait! My goodness! I hope everything's alright. You should look at Education City/Qatar Foundation in Doha. Tons of Universities here such as Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon, University of Calgary, College of the North Atlantic, Weill Cornell etc. I think Harvard Law is even opening up soon. In addition to the foreign universities there's also Qatar University. (You do work in Universities, right?? lol)

    I think we were in Dubai on the same weekend! The weekend of January 25/26? I'm glad you had fun there!My group and I did end up doing a lot of shopping there. We couldn't resist the Dubai Shopping Festival sales.

  4. Hi Gabek! I know :( It's bitter sweet. Everything is fine, but I'll explain what happened in my next blog. Thank you very much for your suggestions for schools in Qatar! I didn't realize how many western universities were there! I will definitely be spending this week sending out resumes! I do work at a lot of levels of education, lol!

    I was in Dubai the same weekend as you were! Yes, we had fun and I know that the festival is hard to resist. At that point I knew that I'd be leaving Kuwait and I'd already accumulated a lot of extra things (what else can you call what you collect/buy/receive really?), while I was living in Kuwait-too much to bring home with me! Was that your first time to Dubai??? I LOVED that there was GREENERY there!

  5. Yes, Education City is a huge operation. That's not even all the universities!

    It was the first time I had spent time in the city of Dubai. Previously I had gone en-route to Musandam in Oman, only stopping for lunch at Festival City. I noticed the greenery in Oman, but not at all in Dubai. I think in that regard its pretty similar to Doha.

    1. Well I know where to start looking for work then! Really, a big thank you as I was not aware of these schools prior to you mentioning them! I hope that I'll return to the Gulf soon!

      I think ANY greenery in the Gulf is a beautiful sight! There's certainly not much in Kuwait :(