Monday, February 25, 2013

Seville Marathon...done!

5 hours and 3 minutes.

The holiday can now really begin!

(P.s. Things that went through my head that I will forget...
1. The half marathon is my distance.
2. I don't need to do another marathon just to break 5 hours!
Remind me of  these things.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

3 Beautiful Things

It has been a while since I wrote my 3BTs, inspired by Clare, but tonight I feel like sharing!

1. A friend makes a quick stop during his 26km training run, to knock on my door and wish me good luck for my marathon. I gave him a yoghurt and a glass of water in return.

2. Goodbye hugs from my class. It will only be a few days...and we ALL need a break from each other...but we will miss each other too.

3. Packing for the holidays! Sometimes packing can be a chore...but I am off to Spain...tonight it is a pleasure!

Kuwait National and Liberation Day Celebrations

It is Kuwait Liberation and National Day coming up. The flags have been out for a couple of weeks now. Lights brighten the normally dull drive around the neighbourhood.
Friends who have lived here for many years all have there own stories of the Gulf War. 
I was with my family living in Scotland then, but we were aware what was going on in this far off sandpit.   My dad has done work in Iraq before, so Kuwait was familiar. For me, it was just a place near to Bahrain…a name that was used in stories of my past again and again. My mum was driving me to the hospital late one night with stomach pains when we heard on the radio that Iraqi troops had invaded Kuwait...we will always remember that.
Not long after Kuwait was liberated, my Dad returned to the Middle East for work. Shortly after Mum and I joined him. It was not unusual then for strangers to stop British/American men in the street and shake their hands and thank them for their support in the war. This happened.
My friend, a great story teller, spoke the other night of a few of his ‘great escape’ moments, when he was a POW in Iraq, taken when Kuwait was invaded. Stories can’t be told too lightheartedly, as his family and friends were back at home worrying about his safety. However, now, years later and over a good bottle of rioja, we heard of trip to the church with the other prisoners, when once inside, would sneak off to the local bar. In those months in Iraq he became a very devote Christian!

Nothing says ‘Happy National and Liberation day’ like Barney wearing the Kuwaiti flag!
PS - I am off to Spain TONIGHT!!! I am running the marathon in Seville on Sunday and then hanging out in tapas bars for the rest of the week! I'll send you a postcard!

Monday, February 18, 2013

White Noise in the Sandpit

Traveling makes writers of us all. We make memories and commit them to mind, if only to retell them on a postcard.

Even a short 45 minute flight to a neighbouring Gulf state is inspiring, making me a bit more wide eyed once more.

This was certainly the case when I popped over to Bahrain recently.

Apart from the usual pre-race nerves that makes my mind noisy with advice on everything from my morning routine to my self-doubt for the run, there was the welcome noise from outside; the sounds of night crickets flirting with one another.

I no longer felt like I was in the sandpit. Not my sandpit anyway.

I used to write about the African night, that brought the outdoors in (this is always a bit more intense on in Tsavo!). The screeching of the hyraxes, or Coco, 'my' guard dog, barking after a wild cat in the tree, or the chatter from the askari hut.

Now, the sounds that I fall to sleep to are of the local boys (who seem to be on a year-long holiday from school) playing football late into the night on a piece of dirt-sand that is used as a car-park. This, thankfully, is no longer punctuated by the fireworks or air-gun rifles that were available at Eid and lingered long after the holiday! Construction is always taking place. Through the night the sound of cranes, trucks and hammering...somewhere. Rubbish is being collected. Trucks are reversing. Horns beep. Bikes and cars race. Brakes screech. Oh, and then it is prayer time again. The mosque, that I can see through my window reminds my neighbours that it time to worship Allah (this is not a gentle reminder, more of a bucket of water poured on your head,with the drill sergeant shouting, "GET OUT OF BED!!!"), to me, it is a sign that a new day is here...but not just yet...5 more minutes or so.

It is not a peaceful place to drift off to sleep, but after a while, the noise that keeps you awake becomes everything in the place that you live. My writing seems to reflect this recently, at a loss of how to report on the unusual, tending to recount the mundane.

I have such talented friends, who write about the region with more of a flair. If you are interested, check out these blogs.

Life in a Dust Storm - a great story teller (I actually want to retell some from dinner the other night), everything from being a POW to good old rants about low-cost airlines.

Sand in my Teacup - if we all gang-up on her, we may get her to write more!

Yalla Bo - an athletic idol of mine writes too!

Happy reading.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Same same, but different

At a glance the Gulf States in the region all seem pretty much the same, apart from a few obvious differences in alcohol laws.

But really, each little Gulf state is so different. There is such a different vibe when entering the countries; some more relaxed than others, the Nationals happier, some more arrogant, others more competitive perhaps. (It is harder to answer the question of 'why' it is like this, but a lot, I think, comes down to money and oil.)

(I have written the next two sentences about six times and deleted them, as really, it is quite hard to explain how they are different, without using the word 'different' again and again. So...I'm going to give you a wee example.)

My friend and I arrived in Bahrain in the evening. As it was coming up to the 14th February and the anniversary of the protests at the Pearl Roundabout, there was a wee bit of waiting to do while they did background checks to see if I was a journalist. I got the all clear (blog writing obviously does not count..ha!) and off we went.
We decided to get a taxi, leaving our friends (that we were staying with) more time fluff up the pillows and leave sweets on our beds (no joke) !!
The Bahraini taxi driver was all smiles,  welcoming us to his car and his country. I was explaining how I too am a Bahraini (am not really- but it is my country of birth) anyhow...
the banter in English continues and when we stopped at the first set of traffic lights, the driver takes out two small clean cups and offers us some tea for the journey.


I had to ask him if I could take a photo. He laughed and agreed. Ehh, this would not have happened in a taxi in Kuwait!
My friend and I had been outside the airport for 3 minutes and we loved it. We knew it was going to be a great weekend and it was.

Then...jump forward to arriving back in Kuwait. (Quite depressing at the best of times). I was arriving on a different flight from all of my friends. I considered hanging around at the airport to get a lift, but I was so shattered and only thinking about my bed, so jumped into an airport taxi (something my friend Kirsten has forbidden me to do!).

The taxi smelt of stale cigarettes and had burns in the seats. The driver spoke no English (pretty much everyone in Kuwait speaks English, apart from those with jobs in the ministries or at the airport it seems) so I bumbled through my instructions in Arabic, asking him to drive slowly-slowly.
We got on the way, zooming down the expressway (no notice was given to my earlier instructions) and suddenly we had pulled into the side of the road with cars screeching past at 120km per hour. I thought we had ran out of fuel (this is more likely to happen in Uganda than in a land floating on oil...but still)-but no, my driver had gotten out the car to face Mecca and pray.

Fine. Who am I to judge? Although...wasn't that happy about the cars careering past me.

Anyhow- my Arabic is obviously not quite up to scratch, or maybe it was the fact the driver was busy talking on his mobile and that was the reason we missed my turning and ended up with a 10 minute diversion.

I fell out of the taxi when it reached my apartment (after flying over speed bumps and sharging through roundabouts) and vowed never do get in an airport taxi again.

Welcome back to Kuwait!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bahrain Marathon Relay

After a few too many drinks with my friends in Dubai a couple of weeks ago, we decided to sign up for the Bahrain Marathon Relay. My buddy Kirsten and I were the sensible ones out of the group and decided to do split the marathon between the two of us, so we both did 21 km...a few of the crazies did the full.

It was such a fantastic, low-key event. The support among all the runners on the loop course was brilliant and I hope to do it again next year.

Three of my friends were leaders in their field (yes-I have amazing friends!)-the trophies were presented by Brent (above) who was made Bahrain his 199th marathon! 199! Inspiring stuff!

The split times haven't been published yet (and as I still have no watch, I just tried to enjoy the run and listened to my body) so I don't know my half marathon time- but together our time was 4 hours and 21-pretty chuffed-this meant that the 14 hours of drinking that followed was definitely deserved! Right!?

PS- I'll tell you more about my wee trip to Bahrain, my country of birth another night...but tonight is a night for rest and recovery!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Life Changing Stuff - Salted Caramel Sauce

Well, more of a 'life changing sauce' really.

I've made this salted caramel sauce three times since Christmas (sounds very excessive, but I don't eat it all myself!).

It is perfect, you don't need to change anything.

Great on ice-cream, popcorn, my favourite salted brownies and now as a wee gift to keep people sweet.

(Recipe on Smitten Kitchen)

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Currently (re)reading - I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallmann

I finished Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, which was fabulous. I enjoy escaping to Africa before I sleep, so I thought I would reread one of my favourite stories about a life full of love and loss in Kenya. Although, I think this is a bit like looking at photos of an ex, kind of opening all the wounds maybe I should stop it.

Currently training for - Seville Marathon.
My running buddy are doing the Bahrain marathon relay this weekend (half each), then we will just fit in a few short, fast (for-me) runs before Espana. Ole! I am so excited about my second marathon- the tag line, 'the flattest marathon in Europe' sold it for me!

Currently watching- Mad Men Season Five. Love it. Makes me want to wear red lipstick and high heals more. Still watching Downton Abbey-but limit myself to one episode per week.

Currently thinking about- running. Really, that is pretty much it. I'm not worried about anything and just plan my meals and my training schedule, that is it. I work hard, but this year it is so much easier to leave my work head at school. I think much more in the short term at the moment, weekend plans, holidays, races. I have no idea where I want to be next year, but that is OK, I am not thinking about it at the moment.

Currently enjoying -the weather. Our short winter seems to be over and Spring has arrived. No more tights and jackets for 11 months (oh, apart from the summer in Scotland!).

Currently listening to- Milo Greene (perfect for weekend cooking sessions), Silent Way and 1957 are favourites.