My SLR camera is on the blink, so Kerry managed to capture our time in the dam on her i-phone, gluhwein and all.
Amsterdam was amazing. Maybe more so coming from Kuwait. We did the tourist things but then just enjoyed catching up and spending hours hopping from one cafe or brown bar to another via a market or two, walking by the canals and dreaming of our own house in Jordaan.
I can't wait for my next visit...when it has warmed up a little...!
We don't do Christmas at school here. The word isn't mentioned. With two days to go before our winter holidays I have not had the glitter out once and the red tissue paper is still in the packet..bah bloody humbug!
(I remember Santa visiting every year at school here before...! Not sure what happened to that...but that is by the by.)
Anyhow, not to let the season pass completely unnoticed, tomorrow we are getting our hands sticky and making chocolate snowballs (I am linking it in with Forces and Friction...tenuous link much!).
It will be a mad dash for the airport on Thursday...I'll be literally running for that plane. Before that I have mulled wine at the embassy, a whole lot of chutney making to do and my three hour long run to fit in after work...
but...I can almost taste the holidays!!!
On other news...today I sold my Surf in Nairobi. Bitter sweet. I had wonderful pipe dreams of taking it on a massive safari this summer and then ditching it in a lake somewhere (for insurance purposes only of course!). I am still dreaming of Africa, I'll just need a new car the next time I go!
Ahhhh-such a good looking car.
PS- I'm off to Amsterdam for some good times with a great friend, then home to Scotland. A bit different to last Christmas in Ethiopia. This is my first Christmas in 5 years that I won't be in Africa. Snoooooowww!!
I know things are bad when my Dad (my biggest cheerleader) says my posts haven't been that great recently on my blog. Hmmmm.
Well-this one isn't going to be much better...I warn you now...!
I came back from this past weekend in Dubai with booze blues. (Good thing I live in Kuwait...totally ready for a wee detox!)
It was great seeing my dad and catching up with a friend. (I am now making more of an effort to find new places (for me) in Dubai when I visit.)
My friend Sam and I went to an ice bar. Sounds so cool doesn't it! Well, it wasn't. Not really. I went, so you don't have to my friends. But, it does make for some fun photos! (I would rather sit outside with girly drink with bubbles in them!)
It took me a couple of runs and a good few Christmas songs and whole lot of coffee to get my spring back.
My highlight this week was getting caught in the massive storm when I was out for a run with my buddy. There was thunder, lightening and enough water to swim in. It was bloody fantastic! (That pair of trainers will take another 3 days to dry though!)
Oh yeah-and eating my first mince pie of the season.
Happy happy days!
This weekend marks the start of Christmas bazaars. Bring it!
Next week, when reports and assessments are out of the way, and thoughts of Africa don't take over my every waking moment, I will work on that post...the decent, heartfelt, descriptive one about life in the sandpit...it might be a short one!
Currently reading - The Night Circus (I finished The Paris Wife this weekend crying in bed. To me, that is a good thing!)
Currently listening to - Fun. The same few songs again and again and again, mostly We Are Young, love it.
Currently watching - 30 Rock. I have the 5th season (having never seen any of the other seasons) but I am enjoying it. Not loving it, but I do like it and would probably get another season. I also watched a couple of classics over the weekend; Breakfast at Tiffany's and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? (which is now a new favourite).
Currently baking- I've not been baking so much as I am trying to be good (ish!). But my friend and I hosted cook club on the weekend, so was in the kitchen all day. I made my own ice-cream for the first time (with no ice-cream maker), lemon tarte, cheese straws, foccacia and meatballs from scrath. I had such a great time! (Really!)
Currently eating- Nutella, from the jar (why waste the calories on toast!?). And lots of soup. I am all for having a balanced diet!
Currently loving - My long runs. (not sure I will for much longer though....).
Currently making me happy - My friends. Spending time with old friends here again is just so much fun. Even food shopping becomes fun. Mail continues to arrive from friends and family to wish me happy birthday-I love that!
Currently looking forward to - This weekend. Tomorrow I'm heading to Dubai to see my dad and catch up with a friend that I haven't seen for a few years,
Running in Kuwait is not the most pleasant of experiences. It is flat, that is mostly nice really. Not so nice when you have to do hill training over a bridge over the busy expressway. It is often dusty and polluted, however, we have been lucky so far this year and we have had lots of clear mornings on the weekend for our long runs.
But even still, my runs are my favourite time of the day and week.
It is a time to catch-up and gossip with my running buddies and there is always something amusing that happens.
Like the other morning, when at about 17km my friend and I were followed by a guy (not because we were looking super hot in our running gear with water belt accessories, I think!) who was still partying from the night before. He was driving and smoking and holding out a bottle of Black Label...I'm guessing in the hope we would stop running and take some. He drove with us for about 500 metres, when he realised that we were not going to do this. Bow down at him, drink his whiskey and then what, carry on running. Ha. Too funny. I might have taken his drink if it was water mind
Anyhow - this race was a good experience. A clear day, water stations and pretty cool views (well as cool as they get here in the sandpit if I am honest!).
I was giddy with anticipation all day. We knew it would happen. This week uniforms change from summer to winter, timely as ever. Gone are the gingham dresses, now it's stiff blazers and ties. It was only a matter of days.
Yesterday was as good a day as any. The clouds rolled over and darkened the sky, and as the last of the pupils were leaving the school an almighty crash filled our ears.
I felt like I should do a welcoming dance, tap my feet to bring in the rain. To ask it to stay a while. To bring the temperatures down. But this is not Africa. The storm brings back vivid memories and fills my mind. It sounds like I am back in East Africa, waiting out the storm in my classroom, waiting for the hour of rain to pass before I go, listening to the hustle and bustle of people heading for shelter, but we are far from the lush land of the pearl.
We don't really need it here. The farmers aren't waiting for it to come, we don't rely on it. People can't really cope with it here. Roads aren't build for rain and 4x4s are certainly not meant to go through those puddles here. No.
But all that banging and crashing was for nothing. It didn't come. Just sprinkled us with hope and dirtied the cars.
We don't need the rain. There are not many trees to drink it up or animals that are thirsty. Why have water? There is oil instead, buckets of the stuff. But I want rain. I want the temperature to drop from 33 degrees to 23 degrees by Saturday morning, only rain will do it, is that too much to ask in November. I am going to dance for that. If not for the weather, at least for a good run. My first half since Lewa (that seems a long time ago!!). I won't be spotting zebras and giraffes on this run, that is for sure, more likely to be counting fast-food restaurants-that is a good game actually!?
have you seen Kuwait in the news over the past couple of days?
You may have. Not because the Amir dissolved parliament last month, or because protests were held over upcoming elections (and the Amir' actions over electoral boundaries)-this is the 6th time since 2006 that parliament has been dissolved). You may not have even heard the news that last night Kuwait broke the world record for the biggest firework show to mark the 50th anniversary of its National Constitution (I don't think that made much of mark on the international news) in the same area that mass protests were held only the week before, or that the Amir woke up yesterday morning and announced that schools would have a holiday (messages went flying round at 6am...so I went back to bed with a cup of tea and The Paris Wife before a run )...hmmm...bribe for happiness much???
Not that I am complaining of course, the fireworks were amazing, the pilots that came all the way from New Mexico were worth their 6 digit fee for their 4 minute show, lighting up the sky with shooting starts.
The constant golds and reds sparkled like jewels and reflected on the water as I watched from the beach. People had camped out from 10am to get a good spot for the show, to see the 77,282 fireworks. Where the roads were opened, Kuwaitis were partying in only a style they could, on top of their car roofs, waving flags and tooting (no, not as delicate as tooting...blaring) their horns and firing their air rifles. Everyone was up for a party under the dancing bright sky. Beautiful they were; creating a diamond and emerald covered sky for more than an hour. Worth 10 million pounds (4 million KD), I guess I can't judge as it is all just silly oil money anyway. Money here doesn't have the same worth as other places. A boy in my class was given 100KD from the tooth fairy the other day (that is over £220) and I was given a DKNY watch for my birthday from a parent of another child in my class. Silly money.
All that probably won't have made the news. What has made the new recently is Kuwait's fast-food loving society.
There was a special on CNN on Saturday night, did you see it? No, me neither... I was watching the fireworks...but you can read the article here.
Should I leave that chat for another time. Maybe. But let me just say...as I ran past McDonald's (one of the 65 in this tiny nation), at 6.30am the other morning, it was jam packed. Packed. Some parents of mine still think giving their children crisps (chips) is healthy because 'it is potatoes'. In my work place there are at least two teachers that have had bariatric surgery (stomach stapling). And me...I have put on weight since I have arrived. I have never ran so much, but eating here is one of the few things to do...so we do it! (But that is different to the generation here that don't know that 'junk' food is unhealthy, I know it...) So my running buddy and I have decided to do healthy cook offs.
I think the Amir might be pretty peeved that the same night that he spent 4 million KD on fireworks, a programme on international TV was on, the the fireworks didn't even get a mention. Ah well-we enjoyed them!
Dear Friends and family, Thank you for all your birthday wishes. I felt like I had a week of celebrations, with my trip to Dubai, a weekend boozy brunch and then bowling on my actual birthday. Blessed.
Dear Jenn, Snail mail is great. Thank you for the inspirational card that I recieved on my birthday...what are the chances! Hollie, this was a great idea!
Dear Kerry, Thank you for my brilliant card! Honestly...love it! (The gift too-but the card was great!) I loved your positivity about the parcel getting here before my birthday! Brilliant! (Was very close though!).
Dear legs, I think you are tired from hill training the other night, (I ran over a bridge/fly-over multiple times...exciting AND good for you...not!) but you did ok on my 19km long run today.
Dear Avenues mall, You have outdone yourself. The new phase is pretty awsome-just like shopping outside...but inside. Loved William Sonoma and now own my first Kitchen Aid...go me....so grown up!
Grand Avenue, Kuwait
Saying that...think you might need to build a new carpark if it stays this busy...crazy busy!
So...going back a few days...I recovered from my wee trip to Dubai and just enjoyed a couple of quiet days in Kuwait for the rest of my Eid break.
I have visited Dubai three times previously and although I have had lots of fun every time I go (thanks go largely to the Irish Village for that...remember....I live in a dry country (dry...dry...no alcohol people...not a drop...cough cough), but even still, I have never been overly enamoured with the Dubai.
This time though, I was pretty much blown away by Dubai. If there was ever an icon of the shiny city-this could be it. Coming from Kuwait, a place built on oil and money but, lets be honest, quite an ugly place to live in, to go to Dubai, where roads, buildings, parks and green spaces are planned and where things just seem to 'work'. It is so much more 'civilsed'. It is hard to explain, but there just seems to be more respect by the people that live in the emirate than there does here.
There are air conditioned bus stops, a high tech metro system, road signs (road signs everyone! Signs before the junction you were supposed to take!), police men doing their job (!)...what can I say. I was blown away.
Fine, Dubai is in a still climbing out of the dark hole of recession, even with the help of a $20 billion 'get out of jail' bail out from Abu Dhabi. (Factoid-In 2011 over 2500 expats left Dubai every month, many leaving debts behind and cars unsold at the airport with keys in the ignition). There is a long way to go before the country is financially stable once again, but when people are wanting to spend, Dubai is ready and waiting. Ready and waiting I tell you, with smiles as they stamp your passport and shiny white gloves to help take your suitcases.
During Eid, Dad treated me to birthday champagne (and a martini or two) from a fancy-smancy bar in a fancy-smancy hotel, with views of the Burj Dubai Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain. We weren't the only ones around that area though. When it was time to go, literally hundreds of people were waiting for taxis. But rather than having to sharpen our elbows, the taxi queue was organised with military precision, security patrolled the lines to make sure there was no queue jumping (I know, amazing!), free bottles of water were handed out and the line filtered down until it was our turn for a taxi. Dad and I got in the taxi a little lost for words. (And he does not get impressed with much, but I think I made him look at Dubai in a whole new light!)
The crowds at the Dubai Fountain
Dad in a Disney shot!
Yep-it was pretty great. You should check out this very funny post on the nutstopolis, considering the writer doesn't live there, they pretty much got it in the bag.
Teenage boys are left to 'play' and entertain themselves on the streets with their air rifles. Fun. (This goes on into the small hours of the morning!)
Their are lots of happy Kuwaiti drivers on the roads, new cars are often given as gifts at Eid. (Nice gift huh!)
The roads are much quieter in the morning (everyone stayed up too late shopping) - you'll be sure to be able to find a seat at your favourite cafe for breakfast.
Blood stained bricks and cement from the slaughter is still evident (even though street slaughter is apparently , from this year, now banned in Kuwait).
All this aside, I realise that Eid Al-Adah (or 'big' Eid) is a very religious celebration for many muslims. Even I am drawn to watch the rituals in Mecca (on TV). There is something quite hypnotic about watching the masses of people circle the Kaaba. (It is forbidden for non-muslims to go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but the Hajj (the holy pilgrimage) is on nearly every local channel.)
(I would tell you why Eid Al-Adah is important-but I don't know if it is interesting. Basic fact-it is to remember Prophet Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his only son- he didn't have to do it in the end, Allah intervened and he was able to sacrifice a ram, so it is tradition for muslim families to do the same).
On the Hajj, the men dress in simple white clothes and move like waves (there would be little choice in the direction, toilet stops would be a tricky one!). Nearly 3 million people started the Hajj this year. Pretty much a logistical nightmare. Scenes on the TV showed men trying to create shade for a rest in any space they could find in the 35 degrees heat.
It is quite a sight at Kuwait airport alone. Planes are turned into buses, with hundreds of men (and women, but mostly men) just waiting to get onto the next one to enable them to start the Hajj. Sleeping at the airport until they are next in line. Many just hope to go once during there life time and save up all their savings to take the journey. After the Hajj, the airport is again heaving with the pilgrims and their gallons of holy water that they have brought back.
But then, the bit that we all love...the sales start!!
I am just back from spending Eid in Dubai, visiting my dad and having an early birthday celebration (basically just a wee excuse to leave Kuwait and travel again, Megan! )
After stocking up in products from the 'non-muslim' section of the supermarket (mmm-pooorrk!) and having a drink (or twenty), I need to have a healthy week. I got up for a 16km run this morning. Now I only have enough energy to unpack my bag between naps!