Sunday, 23 September 2012

Fruit & Veggies

So, aside from my last washing experience things have been pretty quiet around here. There are somethings that just aren't that different about living in a foreign country, and there are some that are! Today I am going to talk about groceries.

For all immediate needs I just run to the local ' Bacala' - there are about 5 within a 2 minute walking distance.

Bacala's have all your basic necessities: laundry detergent, peanut butter, milk, eggs, nutella, eggs, some fruit and veggies, olive oil, pepper, other spices, and ice cream.

You have to imagine the size.
These stores are TINY they are so small that it is uncomfortable for two people to be in them at once. They usually have two aisles with a center rack stuffed with goods separating them. they are absolutely STUFFED with goods to buy. They utilize ALL the space up the walls, any bit of floor that isn't necessary for walking on is dedicated to stuff. It is amazing the amount of things that you can find in them. Almost anything you need!

I go to a place called Sultan Center for my groceries, similar to any Safeway back home. There are most of the same products...but they randomly also sell runners, and home goods, and actually almost anything you need. Maybe it is more like a Superstore or Walmart, without the benefit of cheap prices. It is a very nice grocery store, but alas they only have International delight coffee cream, not my favorite Coffee Mate!

For fruits and veggies it is best to go to the local market because they have cheaper prices. You are then also buying local produce (though how they grow it in the desert is beyond me...), making me feel like a better person - despite the fact that I guzzle bottled water like it is going out of style.

The market is a large hall with lots of stands. They all sell pretty much the same selection- pre-wrapped portions of fruit and veggies in Styrofoam and saran wrap, for the same price. It is the quality you have to hunt around for. The men (yes, ALL men) shout at you to come over to their stand

"Miss please, fruit! I have some nice pomegranates!" 
                      "Tomato! Cucumber! Avacado!"                           
                                                "Grapes! Apples! Come miss!"

The sounds of their voices all overlap and it is very overwhelming, you just have to tune them out, select your stand and try to ignore the grumbles when you pick one that isn't theirs. I don't like how I am unable to touch the fruit I want to buy, it makes it harder to ensure that you are getting good ones.

The experience of going into the market alone, it enough to make you want to turn away. But once you taste their oh man is being shouted at by 50 men ever worth it!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Drowning in My Bathroom

So, being a lifeguard back home has given me some useful information regarding water safety. Not much of which is applicable to daily life...However, some of these tidbits do come in handy. Such as "it only takes two inches of stagnant water to drown."

After being here a week, with limited amounts of clothing, and a necessity to look good every day the time came to do laundry.

Now, laundry is the same everywhere right? Put in clothes, turn machine on, wait, buzzer sounds, take clothes out, hang up. Simple process.

Well, apparently not.  I mean, why would it be!? Everything has a learning curve.

Clothes in. Soap in [this took some figuring out as I had never used powdered laundry detergent before, and the label was mostly in Arabic.] Turn washer to "Normal Soiled" and turn on.....

Nothing Happens...repeatedly push button. Still doesn't work. Ugh, Okay. 

Is it plugged in? Yes. Hmmmm....Oh yea..electricity. 

The electricity to certain outlets is controlled by the light swtich...I only know this because once I accidentally unplugged my fridge [ooooooops].

Electricity on. Washing Machine ON! Hooray for laundry...Walk away. Usually Laundry takes about an hour, so as an hour passed and I still heard the machine chugging away I went to check on it. Little to my knowledge....SPLAT! There is water ALL over the floor, causing me to slip and fall right on my bum. Ouch.

Turns out that the washing machins in Kuwait are NOT attached to the pipe system. No, they just drain out a hose in the back!

Now I understand WHY there is a drain in the middle of my bathroom floor! [Light Bulb]!

Lesson learned for next time; affix the host to the slot in the drain BEFORE starting laundry - otherwise it is a very real possibility for me to drown in the bathroom!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Good Tips, Funnier Stories.

A few good tips have been passed onto since I have arrived. Some of it has sparked some interesting events,and funny stories. I will keep this post ongoing as more and more tips come my way, so that when you come to Kuwait, you are prepared!

1. "You will get honked at and cat called. You're white, cute and female. Don't turn your head or give any indication that you've heard. It only encourages them, they can be persistent."

This is very true. I did not believe it at first but it is! It is unnerving. Just remember when walking outside keep your eye ahead of you, don't look at anyone, and most important of all - don't make eye contact.

2. You will get used to the heat, but you will not get used to the smell.

A myriad of smells have given my nasal passages a workout since I have arrived in Kuwait. There is the stench of garbage baking in the sun on my way to school in the morning when I walk past the dumpster. There is the stench of sewage when you walk by certain areas of the sea (they dump raw sewage into parts of it), and finally the smell of food cooking throughout the apartment building. These cooking smells are not always pleasant or unpleasant, they are simply always there. A vanilla scented candle and a wallflower unit pumping out "Aloha Vanilla" have made my apartment smell lovely and remind me of home.

The worst smell to reach my olfactory sense so far happened to cross my path on Tuesday. The American and I headed to Al Kout Pier for some sightseeing, shopping and to grab some grub.  We were admiring the water feature outside of the mall when a strange smell started to creep towards us. Now, seeing as how these unpleasant odors often come from outside we gradually started making our way to the side of the pier that we hadn't explored yet. As the smell started to intensify and our gag reflexes started to kick in we scurried, holding our breath, right along.

Just ten more feet...five more feet...two more...IN! Finally, deep breath in! Oh my goodness.

What IS that?!!?

It was awful...taking a look at our surroundings we saw that we had entered a meat market.

Fish to the left, beef to the right, live chickens (LIVE CHICKENS?!?) at the end of the hall.

Now, a sight to see it may be...but it smells awful. Like meat that has been left to bake in the sun, mixed with the smell of blood. Not good my friends. It was a smell to linger in my nostrils for hours. No matter what I did I could not get rid of it!

My tip to you: Always ensure that you have a spot of perfume just under your nose when you leave your apartment!

3. Always have a light sweater or Cardigan with you; Otherwise you will freeze when you enter a building. The A/C is THAT good!

Fact. My apartment is freezing, my classroom is freezing and any public building you enter will be col. It may be 40 degrees outside, but it is quite chilly inside. Yes, it is enjoyable for that initial relief from the heat, but after a while I start to shiver.

For a while, the temperature regulator in my apartment wasn't working. No matter what I did, the fan kept blowing cold air all day, every day. Needless to say, I went from school professional attire to comfy sweats and a hoodie, and dove under the blankets as quickly as possible. Still shiverring; and unpleasant.

After a few attempts, multiple stare downs and hitting the regulator a few times I managed to get it off the fan and onto automatic. Thank goody-gumdrops. I now can sit in my apartment without my hoodie and sweats on!

Here are some pictures of Al Kout Pier for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Arrived Alive!

Well, I' m here! Finally in Kuwait! My home for the next 10 months. It took a while for everything to be sorted and to actually get here...but such is the way with international jobs, I suppose. I wont bore you with details of my nervousness about whether I would actually make it here, how confusing the whole visa process was, and how desperately I waited to receive my airline ticket...Let's just say August was intense. 

My amigos back home are wanting to know all the details of my travels, so a handy dandy blog should do the trick for informing them =).  

First things first: My Entrance.  

"Excuse me passengers, we have now arrived in Kuwait. Will all those passengers who are disembarking the plane here please do so now, for those of you continuing on please remain seated."

I thought to myself, FINALLY. Longest plane ride ever. Never again do I want to repeat THAT experience.Well not until June anyway.  I stumbled off the plane mumbling my thanks to the lovely flight attendants and the Captain, so exhausted, eyes drooping. Then it hit me. I am HERE. What a wake up call that was. Suddenly alive with adrenaline, I nervously followed the herd of people. I was sincerely hoping that they were heading to customs/baggage claim because I had no idea where I was going.  After waiting inline for 35 minutes passport/work visa in hand, 

"Miss your visa is not Valid go see number 17." Heart sinks. Pressure drops. Colour runs out of my face. 

Number 17....Number 17...Number 17...Ah there it is. At least there is no line?

I hand my documents over, gulping. Maybe the other one had it wrong? 

"Miss you needed to get this stamped by the embassy."

"No, it doesn't say that anywhere. My employer told me I didn't have to." 

"Miss yes."

"I have everything else on the list stamped!!" Tears are now running down my face, and I am thinking to myself: I don't even have a phone number to call her, how am I supposed to get back...what do I do?!?!?!

Wipe face. Deep breath. "What do I need to do?"
"You have your criminal record check stamped?" 

"Yes, here!"

"Okay, this once, for you *Stamp - Stamp* Go."

Stammering my thanks, at my unbelievable luck, I rush out to baggage claim. 

Two words: Gong Show

My bags were already off the belt in a heap in the corner. Find one, find the other, head out to the meeting point. I have never seen so many people in my life. The one person I am looking for, is the one person I cannot find. So I head over to a post and wait...10 mins...getting nervous...15 minutes...where is shee??? Ah there she is! A sim card set up and a brisk jaunt in the blazing heat and we are in the SUV on the way to my new home!