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Expat wanderer

Kuwait Detains Teacher

I received the following e-mail this morning; it is being forwarded throughout the Western communities. If this continues, it will make recruiting teachers for Kuwait much more difficult. And what does a child learn, when his parent exacts revenge for a mild – and justified – discipline? This was not a physical act of harm to the child, only an in-school suspension – for fighting!

It is shameful that this is happening, it is an outrage that the embassy is not outraged. I am sure they are doing their best to achieve an incremental diplomatic solution, and the injustice of it is palpable.

I have deleted names because I don’t want any trouble . . . I even considered not publishing it at all. I publish it because people read my blog and want to come to Kuwait to work – and it would not be even-handed not to reveal some of the risks involved. This woman was doing her job, and has become the focus of a vengeful, angry parent. Not good!

International Schools Review received this letter on June 23, 2007
from an international educator being detained in Kuwait. If you can
help her, or know of someone who can, please act immediately.

FROM: Al-Bayan Bilingual School Middle School
Deputy Principal, Kuwait

TO: Whom It May Concern

DATE: June 21, 2007

RE: Detained in Kuwait/In Fear for My Safety

I am a Middle School Vice-Principal at Al-Bayan Bilingual School in
Kuwait. I have been employed in Kuwait for 6 years at the same

One of my primary responsibilities is student discipline. On March 8,
2006, three boys in grade 5 were suspended for fighting. I
interviewed the boys, met with my principal and followed normal procedure. There
is no stigma here regarding suspension. Students spend the day in the
office where they study, are visited by teachers, and are taken to
the canteen, etc. It’s a normal consequence for fighting; all students
are aware of this and the procedure is clearly defined in our Parent

In the afternoon of March 8th, I received a phone call from one of
the boys’ fathers, (name deleted) who is a powerful man in Kuwait. He
called to inform me that this situation was “personal,” that he is
“friends with the emir” and that he planned to “destroy” me. This
conversation, which last about 9 minutes, was littered with
profanities and threats.

On March 11, 2006, the parents met with me, my principal and our
director, (name deleted), to discuss the suspension. The father
requested that if there was an issue involving his child that I would
call him immediately.

On April 27, 2006, I was requested to write a synopsis of events and
to visit the Ministry of Education to answer questions regarding the
suspension, describe the room in which the boys spent the school day
and provide a copy of our handbook.

In June 2006, the father transferred his children to a different
private school in Kuwait. Also, we received notification from the
Ministry of Education that in-school suspensions were no longer to be
applied; instead, parents must be contacted to take their children

In February 2007, I learned that a case had been filed against me at
the Jabriya Police Department in Kuwait; the charge was “illegal
detainment” of his son on March 8, 2006. I answered questions in my
director’s presence and the Consul from the US Embassy, (name deleted). My lawyer was also present. The police did not suggest that
there was any reason for me to be concerned as all of the questions
were answered to the apparent satisfaction.

On June 13, 2007, I was at the Kuwait International Airport intending
to fly to Bahrain. I was stopped at immigration where I was informed
that there was a case against me, pending further investigation and
that a travel ban had been placed on me. I had not been informed. My
lawyer had not been informed. This travel ban was placed upon me
15 months after the boy was suspended. The parent said that he would
make this personal and this seems to be what he is intent upon doing.

On Saturday, June 16, 2007, I visited the American Embassy where I
met with the Vice Consul, (name deleted), who informed me that he
sympathized but could do nothing to lift the travel ban. He suggested
that I get an older Kuwaiti man to appeal to Mr. M. I was told
on Wednesday that my file would be transferred to another agency for
review so the ban could be lifted. Five working days later, the
whereabouts of my file are uncertain. I have been told that my file
is in 2 different places; this seems to be a delay tactic. Why? Because
I angered an influential Kuwaiti national who is at the top of the
social register both locally and at the US Embassy?

On I visited the office of a police inspector named (name deleted,)
whose office is in Salmiya. He is a police official who was to
evaluate my file and determine if I could leave or not. He stated
that he didn’t have my file. I visited him on June 17th and 18th. On June
18th, not five minutes after I left his office with my director, the
Business Officer of my school and another school representative, I
called Mr. C, Vice-Consul at the US Embassy to gain his
insight into the situation and to see if any progress had been made
to help me leave. He was completely aware of my visit to Mr. (name deleted)
office and instructed that I not return as it “interfered.”

Several Kuwaiti families are aware of my situation but they are not
in a position to help or they don’t want to get involved. They have ALL
said that I should go to my embassy because my embassy can help me.
The fact that the embassy can’t seems shocking to everyone. Many
people also question why this accusation from Mr. M is placed
solely on me – not the school, not the principal, not the director of
school. I feel that I am being used as an example because I am a
single, American woman and he wants to show others that he can do
what he said which is to “destroy” me.

Yesterday, June 20, 2007, I received a paper from Mr. (name deleted)
office in Salmiya which lifted the travel ban. This waiver had been
granted by the Kuwait Minister of the Interior. Not long after the
Minister released me, he reversed his decision at the request of the
(name deleted) family or his representatives. I went to the airport last
night, only to learn that I couldn’t leave.

I am in fear for my safety. If the Embassy can’t help me, then who
can? I contacted the FBI in Riyad, Saudi Arabia yesterday and talked
to (name deleted) who couldn’t give me his last name. He was non-committal
but did suggest that he thought the embassy should be able to get me out.

(name deleted) has informed me that they are “working on it.” That
seems a little vague and I am not sure if the US Embassy completely
realizes the level of danger that I feel that I am in. Why does Mr.
M want me in Kuwait during the summer when no one from my
school will be in country to offer their support? To make me feel

He is well-connect and his friends are supporting his mission to
damage me in any way that he can. What’s next?

I do not feel safe. I am not safe. I need someone from the US to
acknowledge the urgency of my situation and coordinate my release. I
committed no crime. I am simply the victim of “wasta” which roughly
translates into “influence/pressure” at a high level.

For the inside word on International Schools

This message was sent from International Schools Review

June 26, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues | 45 Comments

The Nativity of John the Baptist

This will be a long, technical post that you can skip if religious matters don’t interest you. It is aimed at my colleagues who enjoy comparing points of religion.


This week, we celebrated the feast of the birth of St. John, known as The Baptist. There were several scriptural readings (see below which is from the online Lectionary on my blogroll)

We had a reading I hadn’t heard before:

An account of the mercy of thy Lord bestowed upon his servant Zachariah, when he called upon his lord in low tones, praying: My Lord, my very bones have become feeble and my head has turned hoary with age, but never have my supplications to Thee, Oh Lord, remained unfruitful. I am apprehensive of the behavior of my relations after my death, and my wife is barren. I beg Thee, therefore, do Thou bestow upon me from Thyself a successor to be my heir and to be the heir of the blessings of the House of Jacob; and to make him one who should be pleasing in Thy sight, O Lord . . . .

(it tells of Johns conception and birth)

We commanded Yahya (John): Hold fast the Book; and we bestowed upon him wisdom while he was still young, as a token of tenderness from Ourself and to purify him. He grew up righteous, and was dutiful towards his parents and was not haughty or rebellious. Peace was on him on the day of his birth, and on the day of his death, and peace will be on him on the day he will be raised up to life again.

As I am hearing this reading, I am thinking “I am pretty familiar with our scriptures, and while it sounds familiar, I don’t think I have ever heard this reading before,” and I thought maybe it was from one of the less often read books that not all churches agree is part of the scripture.

And then – the reader said “This reading on John is from the Qu’ran.”

I was amazed. First – I had no idea John was mentioned in the Qu’ran. I know Jesus is in the Qu’ran, and my Saudi women friends told me Jesus’ name is in there more than the name of the Prophet Mohammed. (Peace be upon all the prophets!) But I had no idea John was in the Qu’ran, Chapter 19, which is called the book of Maryam, and also tells of the life and ministry of Jesus.

Second – I’ve never heard the Qu’ran read in a Christian church service before, but why not? It added, not subtracted, from our understanding of John. I thought it was pretty cool.

Here is what our Lectionary has to say about John the Baptist:


(24 JUNE NT)

Our principal sources of information about John the Baptist are
(1) references to his birth in the first chapter of Luke,
(2) references to his preaching and his martyrdom in the Gospels, with a few references in Acts, and
(3) references in Josephus to his preaching and martyrdom, references which are consistent with the New Testament ones, but sufficiently different in the details to make direct borrowing unlikely.

According to the Jewish historian Josephus (who wrote after 70 AD), John the Baptist was a Jewish preacher in the time of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36). He called the people to repentance and to a renewal of their covenant relation with God. He was imprisoned and eventually put to death by Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great, who was king when Jesus was born) for denouncing Herod’s marriage to Herodias, the wife of his still-living brother Philip. In order to marry Herodias, Herod divorced his first wife, the daughter of King Aretas of Damascus, who subsequently made war on Herod, a war which, Josephus tells us, was regarded by devout Jews as a punishment for Herod’s murder of the prophet John.

In the Book of Acts, we find sermons about Jesus which mention His Baptism by John as the beginning of His public ministry (see Acts 10:37; 11:16; 13:24). We also find accounts (see Acts 18:24; 19:3) of devout men in Greece who had received the baptism of John, and who gladly received the full message of the Gospel of Christ when it was told them.

Luke begins his Gospel by describing an aged, devout, childless couple, the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. As Zechariah is serving in the Temple, he sees the angel Gabriel, who tells him that he and his wife will have a son who will be a great prophet, and will go before the Lord “like Elijah.” (The Jewish tradition had been that Elijah would herald the coming of the Messiah = Christ = Annointed = Chosen of God.) Zechariah went home, and his wife conceived. About six months later, Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, a kinswoman of Elizabeth, and told her that she was about to bear a son who would be called Son of the Most High, a king whose kingdom would never end. Thus Elizabeth gave birth to John, and Mary gave birth six months later to Jesus.

After describing the birth of John, Luke says that he grew, and “was in the wilderness until the day of his showing to Israel.” The people of the Qumran settlement, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, sometime use the term “living in the wilderness” to refer to residing in their community at Qumran near the Dead Sea. Accordingly, it has been suggested that John spent some of his early years being educated at Qumran.

All of the gospels tell us that John preached and baptized beside the Jordan river, in the wilderness of Judea. He called on his hearers to repent of their sins, be baptized, amend their lives, and prepare for the coming of the Kingship of God. He spoke of one greater than himself who was to come after. Jesus came to be baptized, and John told some of his disciples, “This is the man I spoke of.” After His baptism by John, Jesus began to preach, and attracted many followers. In fact, many who had been followers of John left him to follow Jesus. Some of John’s followers resented this, but he told them: “This is as it should be. My mission is to proclaim the Christ. The groomsman, the bridegroom’s friend, who makes the wedding arrangements for the bridegroom, is not jealous of the bridegroom. No more am I of Jesus. He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:22-30)

John continued to preach, reproving sin and calling on everyone to repent. King Herod Antipas had divorced his wife and taken Herodias, the wife of his (still living) brother Philip. John rebuked him for this, and Herod, under pressure from Herodias, had John arrested, and eventually beheaded. He is remembered on some calendars on the supposed anniversary of his beheading, 29 August.

When John had been in prison for a while, he sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask, “Are you he that is to come, or is there another?” (Matthew 11:2-14) One way of understanding the question is as follows: “It was revealed to me that you are Israel’s promised deliverer, and when I heard this, I rejoiced. I expected you to drive out Herod and the Romans, and rebuild the kindom of David. But here I sit in prison, and there is no deliverance in sight? Perhaps I am ahead of schedule, and you are going to throw out the Romans next year. Perhaps I have misunderstood, and you have a different mission, and the Romans bit will be done by someone else. Please let me know what is happening.”
Jesus replied by telling the messengers, “Go back to John, and tell him what you have seen, the miracles of healing and other miracles, and say, ‘Blessed is he who does not lose faith in me.'” He then told the crowds: “John is a prophet and more than a prophet. He is the one spoken of in Malachi 3:1, the messenger who comes to prepare the way of the LORD. No man born of woman is greater than John, but the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John.”

This has commonly been understood to mean that John represents the climax of the long tradition of Jewish prophets looking forward to the promised deliverance, but that the deliverance itself is a greater thing. John is the climax of the Law. He lives in the wilderness, a life with no frills where food and clothing are concerned. He has renounced the joys of family life, and dedicated himself completely to him mission of preaching, of calling people to an observance of the law, to ordinary standards of virtue. In terms of natural goodness, no one is better than John. But he represents Law, not Grace. Among men born of woman, among the once-born, he has no superior. But anyone who has been born anew in the kingdom of God has something better than what John symbolizes. (Note that to say that John symbolizes something short of the Kingdom is not to say that John is himself excluded from the Kingdom.)

Traditionally, the Birth of Jesus is celebrated on 25 December. That means that the Birth of John is celebrated six months earlier on 24 June. The appearance of Gabriel to Mary, being assumed to be nine months before the birth of Jesus, is celebrated on 25 March and called the Annunciation, and the appearance of Gabriel to Zechariah in the Temple is celebrated by the East Orthodox on 23 September. At least for Christians in the Northern Hamisphere, these dates embody a rich symbolism. (NOTE: Listmembers living in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, southern South America, or elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, press your delete keys NOW!) John is the last voice of the Old Covenant, the close of the Age of Law. Jesus is the first voice of the New Covenant, the beginning of the Age of Grace. Accordingly, John is born to an elderly, barren woman, born when it is really too late for her to be having a child, while Jesus is born to a young virgin, born when it is really too early for her to be having a child. John is announced (and conceived) at the autumnal equinox, when the leaves are dying and falling from the trees. Jesus is announced (and conceived) at the vernal equinox, when the green buds are bursting forth on the trees and there are signs of new life everywhere. John is born when the days are longest, and from his birth on they grow steadily shorter. Jesus is born when the days are shortest, and from his birth on they grow steadily longer. John speaks truly when he says of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

(Of course, it is to be noted that none of this symbolism proves anything, since the Scriptures do not tell us that Jesus was born on 25 December. The symbolism of the dates is used by Christians, not as evidence, but as material for the devout imagination.)

FIRST LESSON: Isaiah 40:1-11
(Isaiah speaks of someone who will cry out, “Prepare the way of the LORD.”)

(The long exile is over, God has retored his people, mercy and truth are reconciled.)

SECOND LESSON: Acts 13:14b-26
(Paul preaches about Christ, and how the prophets, including John the Baptist, all pointed forward to him.)

THE HOLY GOSPEL: Luke 1:57-80
(The birth of John the Baptist; his father Zechariah’s song of praise.)

by James Kiefer

June 25, 2007 Posted by | Blogroll, Christmas, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Kuwait, Locard Exchange Principal, Random Musings, Relationships, Spiritual | 10 Comments

Gulf History Source

Thank you, Kinan, for bringing this website to our attention yesterday on the Kuwait boats blog entry. I had been to the site before, while looking up information on Gulf Architecture. The blogger writes from a particularly Qatar point of view, but what he learns and documents applies greatly to all the countries along west side of the Arabian Gulf. And I am adding him to my blogroll.

I love this man’s attention to detail. I have lifted a photo from his page on Arab Gulf boats. This is the typical toilet on the bigger old boats. It is called a zuli. Ugh!


The website is and if you click here, it will take you to his fascinating and fairly thorough website on Arabian Gulf boats. If you click here, you will find a long article on Gulf Architecture but he has an entirely separate entry for Islamic Architecture. It is not easy reading, but it is not something you will be tested on at the end of the hour, either. It’s just a great opportunity to learn more about a subject you never considered.

On his About page, the author tells us his name is John Lockerbie and:

In addition to working in the areas of project management, architecture, planning and urban design I have taught architecture, graphic design and presentation. I have had a wide scale of design involvement ranging from the exciting design worlds of crockery, cutlery, glass and napery, rising in scale through other aspects of graphic, interior, architectural and urban design to strategic planning. I have also been lucky enough to have worked in change management and primary education.

On a hot, lazy day when you have nothing better to do, you can spend a couple hours getting lost on his website, and come away a more knowledgable person for having done so.

Again, thank you Kinan, for a truly GREAT weblink.

June 25, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Blogroll, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Photos, Public Art, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Stress Management

A friend sent this to me today – she knows I am going through a hard time. And she’s the kind of friend who would bail me out of jail and say “didn’t we have fun?!”

A lecturer when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.

The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter.

It depends on how long you try to hold it.

If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem.

If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm.

If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance.

In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the h eavier it becomes.”

He continued,

“And that’s the way it is with stress management.

If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later,

As the burden becomes increasingly heavy,

We won’t be able to carry on. ”

“As with the glass of water,

You have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.

When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden.”

“So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down.

Don’t carry it home.

You can pick it up tomorrow.

Whatever burdens you’re carrying now,

Let them down for a moment if you can.”

So, my friend p ut down anything that may be a burden to you right now.

Don’t pick it up again until after you’ve rested a while.

Here are some great ways of dealing with the burdens of life:

*Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.

*Always keep your words soft and sweet, Just in case you have to eat them.

* Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

* Drive carefully. It’s not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.

* If you can’t be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

* If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

* It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply be kind to others.

* Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won’t have a leg to stand on.

* Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.

* Since it’s the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

* The second mouse gets the cheese.

* When everything’s coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

* Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

* You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.

* Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

* We could learn a lot from crayons… Some are sharp, some are p retty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, b ut they all have to live in the same box.

*A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

June 24, 2007 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Humor, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, Spiritual | 17 Comments

Kuwait Traditional Boat

You can have your sexy sleek powerboat, your modern cabin cruiser, your fabulous yacht. Give me a sunset cruise and evening barbecue on this old boat, with a few old friends, and I’m a happy camper. Every time I see this boat go by, it gives me a grin.

It reminds me of the old Kuwait pearling boats. Can anyone tell me the specific name of this kind of boat?


June 24, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lumix, Photos, Random Musings, Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Qatteri Cat Wants to Play

Look at those eyes. Mom is busy. Won’t you come play with Qatteri Cat?

You can chase him, and then let him chase you. Or you can hide his babies. Or you can put him in his Sakura sack and let him try to snag your finger. (Ouch!)


Oops. too late. He’s decided to take a cat nap.

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Kuwait, Lumix, Pets, Photos | 14 Comments

Family Beach

Every now and then, I get a good giggle. Usually it is a European family, and it only happens once . . . they go to our local beach. They are in normal beach attire – swimsuits. And they head for the “Family Beach.”

They haven’t been here long enough to know that “Family” is a little different here, it means mostly women in abayas and scarves, or some form of head covering.Even for those not in abayas, it means body parts are modestly covered, at the very least, with a Tshirt. You will see women swimming in abayas and scarves, floating in inner tubes, fully covered.

There is usually a wide circle of empty space around the European family; people regarding them with fascinated horror. I rarely see them come back. I am hoping they find other beaches, maybe more private.



June 23, 2007 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Lumix, Photos, Privacy, Social Issues | 13 Comments

Friday Fun: Wishin’ and Hopin’

To hear this dusty old Dusty Springfield classic, you can go down to the U-Tube video below, or you can put on My Best Friend’s Wedding, just for the intro, where the song is acted out, all in pink if I remember correctly, a very 50’s rendition.


Here are the words, found at And a big thanks to Little Diamond who by finding all the lyrics to “Put the Lime in the Coconut” for me, taught me that anything, ANYTHING is available on the internet, if you have the time to search!

Artist: Dusty Springfield Lyrics
Song: Wishin’ and Hopin’ Lyrics
Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’
Plannin’ and dreaming each night of his charms
That won’t get you into his arms

So if you’re lookin’ to find love you can share
All you gotta do is
Hold him and kiss him and love him
And show him that you care

Show him that you care just for him
And do the things he likes to do
Wear your hair just for him, ’cause
You won’t get him
Thinkin’ and a-prayin’
Wishin’ and a-hopin’

Just wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’
Plannin’ and dreamin’ his kiss is the start
That won’t get you into his heart

So if you’re thinkin’ heartbreak
True love is
All you gotta do is
Hold him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him
Yeah, just do it and after you do, you will be his

(You gotta)
Show him that you care just for him
Do the things he likes to do
Wear your hair just for him, ’cause
You won’t get him
Thinkin’ and a-prayin’
Wishin’ and a-hopin’

Just wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’
Plannin’ and dreamin’ his kiss is the start
That won’t get you into his heart

So if you’re thinkin’ heartbreak
True love is
All you gotta do is
Hold him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him
Yeah, just do it and after you do, you will be his
You will be his
You will be his

So on this lazy Friday morning, ponder this – Is My Best Friend’s Wedding really a comedy? Is there both truth and fiction in the above song lyrics (the song itself is a hoot – irresistable! Go take a listen!) And while we are laughing, to what extent do you sacrifice who you really are to attain a mate?

Update: Holy smokes, Skunk, it’s THAT easy???? Thanks again!

June 22, 2007 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, Family Issues, Lies, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Music, Women's Issues | 6 Comments

Trains and Boats and Planes

Adventure Man, this is for you . . . old Dionne Warwick, as good as ever, singing the smokey, soulful Trains and Boats and Planes

I’d forgotten how GOOD she is!

June 22, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Cultural, ExPat Life, Humor, Language, Mating Behavior, Music | 4 Comments

Best Dates in Kuwait

I often look at the Search Engine Terms part of my Blog stats to see what searches brought people to my blog. Some of them are hilarious, and some of them – I wish I had the answers!

One of yesterday’s questions was “What are the best dates in Kuwait?”

I am not an expert on dates. I remember our first visit in a Kuwaiti house, and how at the end of dinner, the host brought out dates. There must have been ten different kinds, some dry, some moist, one very soft sugary one that I adore) it probably has about 10,000 calories in each date, but oh my, what a taste!) All the dates were from his own trees – he has a date plantation all his own! What luxury!

I remember that when I lived in Qatar, and had a date tree in my yard, the date harvest usually occurred somewhere around now – or maybe July.

So I ask my Kuwaiti readers and fellow bloggers, on this lazy Friday, to help me out. And not just me, but the likes of me, people who read my blog because they are fascinated with life in another country and learning more about different ways of life – What is your very favorite Kuwaiti date, and why?

June 22, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Generational, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Shopping | 14 Comments