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Expat wanderer

Only in Kuwait 2

This is what I love about reading Kuwait newspapers. It is a society full of contradictions, and a population not afraid to point out and comment on those contradictions. I remember the first time AdventureMan yelled at me for stopping at a stop sign; he was not being abusive, he was afraid someone would hit me from behind because NO ONE stops at the stop sign. It was LaLa Land driving:

 

Only in Kuwait – 2

GhannamThis is the second episode of the things you see happening in Kuwait even though our country is considered a “modern state”.

Maybe the honorable reader thinks I am being pessimistic, of course when I compare Kuwait with other countries in the region.

1- Only in Kuwait you could be run over when you cross the road on the pedestrian crossing. Always wait till there are no cars because they don’t care.

2- Only in Kuwait please, please don’t stare at anyone even if you admire him or her otherwise you could put yourself in trouble and end up in a fight.

3- Only in Kuwait the stop sign means GO. If you stop you could be hit from behind or encounter angry faces from maniacs who do not respect the law.

4- Only in Kuwait you see public bus drivers race and compete on the roads and they may not stop for you.

5- Only in Kuwait when many people see a sign saying ‘do not enter’, they do the opposite.

6- Only in Kuwait doctors are beaten just because they want to organize the queue.

7- Only in Kuwait you see people who had been fighting outside continue their contest inside the hospital.

8- Only in Kuwait policemen guard hospitals.

9- Only in Kuwait housemaids get kidnapped when they go out to throw the garbage.

10- Only in Kuwait teachers who don’t help students pass get their cars damaged by paint, punctures or even fire.

11- Only in Kuwait when you approach the traffic light you must be extra careful if your side of the light is green because some maniacs run the red light from the other corner.

12- Only in Kuwait our soaps are full of crying and beatings in order to prove it is real drama.

13- Only in Kuwait public bus passengers have to wait under the searing sun for their bus ride without having a decent shade or bus stop.

14- Only in Kuwait many Kuwaiti plays and soaps put down other nationalities and make fun of them, not knowing that people from those countries possess nuclear weapons and we only use what other nations invent for us.

15- Only in Kuwait we call the tea boy sharekah, meaning company, without even respecting his name. I have seen this a lot in police stations and at various state institutions.

16- Only in Kuwait drivers ride their cars close to 200 km per hour thinking this speed will take them to heaven fast.

17- Only in Kuwait we build apartment buildings without adequate parking.

18- Only in Kuwait we enjoy parking on the yellow/black zone and occupy the bus stop area.

19- Only in Kuwait a 400 sq m empty land is worth KD 300,000 while in Khafji in Saudi Arabia, it’s KD 20,000 only for a 500 sq m piece of land.

20- Only in Kuwait contractors do projects inefficiently and once these are done, they find out that something is missing and have to do it all over again

By Talal Al-Ghannam
local@kuwaittimes.net

March 15, 2014 Posted by | ExPat Life, Humor, Kuwait, Law and Order | 6 Comments

500,000 in Kuwait Banned from Travel

From the Kuwait Times:

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Mostly for people who have not paid interest on their loans? The banks have that much power, that they can put a travel ban on their customers?

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Travel | Leave a comment

Happy Kuwait

You gotta love this :-)

And then an almost entirely male version:

March 8, 2014 Posted by | Entertainment, ExPat Life, Kuwait | 4 Comments

MERS Virus Found to be Widespread

Thank you, John Mueller, for this fascinating article from Science NOW:

Middle Eastern Virus More Widespread Than Thought

28 February 2014 12:45 pm

 

Trail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia CommonsTrail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.

It’s called Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, after the region where almost all the patients have been reported. But the name may turn out to be a misnomer. A new study has found the virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting that Africa, too, harbors the pathogen. That means MERS may sicken more humans than previously thought—and perhaps be more likely to trigger a pandemic.

MERS has sickened 183 people and killed 80, most of them in Saudi Arabia. A couple of cases have occurred in countries outside the region, such as France and the United Kingdom, but those clusters all started with a patient who had traveled to the Middle East before falling ill.

Scientists have uncovered more and more evidence implicating camels in the spread of the disease. They found that a large percentage of camels in the Middle East have antibodies against MERS in their blood, while other animals, such as goats and sheep, do not. Researchers have also isolated MERS virus RNA from nose swabs of camels in Qatar, and earlier this week, they showed that the virus has circulated in Saudi Arabian camels for at least 2 decades.

Malik Peiris, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues expanded the search to Africa. In a paper published last year, they showed that camels in Egypt carried antibodies against MERS. For the new study, they took samples from four abattoirs around Egypt; again they found antibodies against MERS in the blood of 48 out of 52 camels they tested. But the most interesting results came from taking nose swabs from 110 camels: They found MERS RNA in four animals that had been shipped in from Sudan and Ethiopia.

Peiris cautions that it is unclear whether the infected camels picked up the virus in Sudan and Ethiopia or on their final journey in Egypt. Abattoirs could help spread MERS just like live poultry markets do for influenza, he says. “You cannot point the finger exactly at where those viruses came from,” he says. “But I would be very surprised if you do not find the virus in large parts of Africa.”

If so, that changes the picture of MERS considerably. No human MERS cases have been reported from Egypt or anywhere else in Africa, but if camels are infected, they may well occur, says Marion Koopmans, an infectious disease researcher at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “It would be important to look systematically into that,” she writes in an e-mail. “Health authorities really need to test patients with severe pneumonia all across Africa for MERS,” Peiris says.

The researchers were able to sequence the virus of one of the camels almost completely, and it is more than 99% identical with viruses found in people. “I would be very surprised if this virus cannot infect humans,” says Christian Drosten, a virologist at the University of Bonn in Germany. But the virus also shows a few intriguing differences from known camel samples, he says. “We have to analyze this carefully in the next few days, but it looks like this sequence broadens the viral repertoire found in camels,” he says. If the viruses found in camels show more genetic variation than those isolated from humans, that is further strong evidence that camels are infecting humans and not the other way around.

Anthony Mounts, the point person for MERS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, says that it is very likely that human MERS cases occur in Africa. “Wherever we find [infected] camels, there is a good chance we’ll find [human] cases if we look closely,” he says. And humans may be exposed to camels in Africa much more often than in the Middle East: There were about 260,000 camels in Saudi Arabia in 2012, but almost a million in Ethiopia and 4.8 million in Sudan, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The more human cases there are, the higher the risk that the virus will one day learn how to become easily transmissible between people, which could set off a pandemic.

The researchers also looked at the blood of 179 people working at the camel abattoirs for antibodies against MERS virus, but found none. That shows that the virus is only rarely successful in infecting human beings, Peiris says. “What we need to find out now is the reason for these rare transmissions.”

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy National Day Kuwait

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Happy Liberation Day and Happy National Day to all my friends in Kuwait. Party hearty :-)

Almost twenty-five years since the Invasion of Kuwait. Imagine. There are young Kuwaitis graduating from college who weren’t even alive when Iraq invaded.

February 24, 2014 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, Entertainment, Events, ExPat Life, Kuwait | , | 4 Comments

A Stalwart Falls

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“Are you catching colds?” our friend asked as the funeral ended.

“No, no, I said, funerals just find us very vulnerable, and we have to deal with losses, past, present . . . and future. We have an ongoing fight over who is going to bury whom.”

We did not know the man well who had died, but we knew him as a stalwart. He was a greeter and usher at our service, and he was only rarely ever not there. He served the church. He was always there. I had asked his wife to help me with tickets, and she had laughed and said “of course, I’ll be there because my husband will be there, and if you need me just holler.”

They weren’t there. It made me uneasy, it nagged at me. I didn’t need her, but I missed her, and as I said – they are ALWAYS there. Sometimes it’s what is missing that catches your attention. It caught mine.

When I learned her husband had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, just as the Antique Fair was starting, it came almost as a physical blow. It’s not that I knew him that well. It’s that his presence at the church was something we took for granted, he was stalwart. You could count on him. We attended out of respect, respect for him, support for his wife.

And I know that the two of them spend (spent) as much time together as AdventureMan and I do. I don’t like to think that it could happen to me, that I could be suddenly left. AdventureMan was a military man, he would often leave, all these years, and he might tell me where he was going but I never knew for sure where he was going. We had a code to use if he was lying, but although he never used the code, I know there are times he lied, all for that bitch, national security. Yes, yes, I know, strong language from Intlxpatr, but strong times call for strong language. We both knew that there were times when there was a risk he wouldn’t come back.

We didn’t have to deal with death a lot in our life abroad. Of course, in the military, everyone is young. In all the countries where we worked in the Gulf, there were upper age limits – people retired and people left; you can’t live out your years in Qatar or Kuwait, there are laws against it. You can’t even be buried there without special permission. We learned to deal with the losses of people coming into our lives and leaving, but we didn’t have to deal with the great finality of death. We’re learning.

AdventureMan insists he is going to go first. I am tough in a lot of ways, but I don’t know that I am tough enough to go through his funeral. The very thought of it makes me sick to my stomach.

He tells me not to worry. He wants a Viking funeral; he wants to be sent out in a kerosene soaked ship and for archers to set it on fire as it sails off, disintegrating in flames. Isn’t going to happen, AdventureMan, but if it did, I might give some thought to pitching myself on the ship as it departs . . . otherwise, I’m afraid I might live the rest of my life as the one of the walking wounded.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Kuwait, Lies, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

‘Putin’ On The Ritz in Moscow, LLOOOLLL

Oh Hayfa, this is one of the best flash-mobs ever! I wanted to be there!

I always thought Kuwait was ripe for a flash mob at the junction where the Fintas Expressway joined 6th Ring road. Never had the courage; even though you’d have to wait 6 – 9 light changes to get through. Figured the morality police would have me up on charges, LOL.

Best Best eveh!

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Humor, Kuwait | | 1 Comment

“Extinct” Shark Found in Kuwait Fish Market

January was always the best month to visit the fish souk in Kuwait; cooler weather = less smell. One of my best memories is my friend who was living in Teheran going through with her camera, taking photos of every fish to show her husband – they didn’t get a lot of fresh seafood, and they missed it so much. It was January, it was cold – but so much less fish-y smelling than in July :-)

This is from AOL News:

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A shark species previously thought to have been extinct was reportedly found in a fish market in the Middle East.

This is the smoothtooth blacktip shark, and the last time anyone ever reported seeing one was was in 1902 in Yemen. Scientists eventually labeled it extinct, or vulnerable to extinction in the 1980’s.

Then in 2008, the Shark Conservation Society took a trip to a fish market in Kuwait. They were looking at sharks and noticed one looked ‘very similar, but different, to a couple of other species.’ So of course they decided to investigate.

Further analysis confirmed it was in fact the smoothtooth blacktip shark.

But there’s more: Recent studies of Middle Eastern fish markets also counted as many as 47 more have been spotted.

Now this doesn’t mean the species is necessarily thriving, but it does mean scientists have a greater chances at learning more about the shark and possibly even ways to save the species.

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Cooking, Environment, ExPat Life, Iran, Kuwait, Living Conditions | Leave a comment

Kuwait Posts New Speed Limits Effective NOW

From the Kuwait Times:

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UPDATE:

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January 2, 2014 Posted by | Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions | , , | 4 Comments

Kuwait: Operation Hope Keeps on Giving

Brava, Sheryl Mairza, brava for the good work you are doing that makes so much difference in so many lives. May God bless the work of your hands! From the Kuwait Times:

Spreading cheer in the land

Sheryll Mairza

Operation Hope, an NGO established by Sheryll Mairza, is touching people’s lives throughout the world. A grassroots humanitarian outreach that is motivated by compassion to alleviate suffering in Kuwait, Operation Hope serves those in the greatest of need through the support of the local and international community. Since 2005, more than 50,000 bags of winter clothing have been distributed to impoverished workers in Kuwait.

Operation Hope is now slowly reaching out to people around the world through organizations and individuals. After the recent typhoon in the Philippines, Operation Hope contributed relief goods for the affected areas.

“For the Philippines, we contributed some of our collected goods when we were approached by organizations and individuals to help them in their relief efforts. We have a lot of gently used clothes ready to be sold, but we gave it to third party organizations that shipped it to typhoon victims in Philippines,” Mairza said.

Another instance where Operation Hope reached out to people of other countries was through a proxy. Mairza said a Gambian woman who wanted to stock her library with books had her wish fulfilled. “We were approached by a woman from Gambia who had started a drive to fill her local library with books so she could help boost the literacy rate of adults there. We have an abundance of books here, so we helped her and shipped the books to Gambia,” she said.

According to Mairza, Operation Hope has a very limited budget and people to do international relief efforts, but through third party organizations, they can reach people on the other sides of the world. “We cooperate with people in areas where need arises. If people there want to start volunteering work similar to Operation Hope, they can do so. I allow the use of Operation Hope’s plans,” she mentioned. “I don’t personally want to go to different places to set up Operation Hope. If volunteers like to spread it in other countries and set up their own NGOs, they can take my blueprint and apply it there. They can be founders of Operation Hope for example in Malaysia, Indonesia or Philippines. I will be happy to share the formula I used to set up this NGO,” she said.

Creative Ways

Mairza admitted Operation Hope was affected by the global financial crisis of 2008, which saw a great decline of support from donors. “When it became evident that support was dwindling, we came up with more creative ways to keep the funds flowing. We started Christmas bazaars and sold used clothes and kitchenware to raised funds. With the support of locals and expats, we opened a boutique inside a compound of my in-laws’ house to sell gently used household items.

The need is great and extended beyond winter, so we organized more frequent bazaars. A vast place in my in-laws’ property in Rumaithiya was utilized to display the products. We received so many donations – from toys to clothes to household things – that we didn’t know where to put them; even the embassy shelters had no place to store all of it, so I thought of selling these items,” Mairza said. “With the help of the British Society of Kuwait, we renovated the facility and opened it on January 12, 2012. We are generating income from it and we distribute it in the form of tickets for the repatriation of runaway maids. We also regularly send toiletries and sanitary products for women in the shelters of the Ethiopia, Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka embassies,” she explained.

A few months ago, according to Mairza, an Ethiopian woman fell from the third floor of her employer’s house, and her leg was amputated. “Operation Hope provided her with a prosthetic leg, and we helped her rehabilitation,” she noted.

Asked on how he she was able to monitor and control the flow of donations to Operation Hope, she said, “We don’t keep a substantial amount of money in the bank. Whatever we get we give it right away to the needy. We need donations to flow regularly to carry out the work at Operation Hope. We are also lucky to have the support of a woman from the Behbehani family, who has a heart of gold. She is always ready to contribute; always ready to support us financially and emotionally and with words of encouragement. She is a shining star, and one of the Kuwaitis who have been contributing to our cause. This woman calls us and asks what else she can contribute. She is very passionate about helping and serving others

Charity Work
The need for a charity work is great according to Mairza. Apart from individuals and organizations, she is also thankful for the support given to her by educational institutions in Kuwait. “I get phenomenal support from schools. They are very helpful and volunteer time and effort to collect things,” she added.

Mairza dreams a time will come when Operation Hope is no longer needed. “I know this dream is very idealistic, that the gap between the haves and have-nots will narrow,” she said. Realistically, her vision is to continue moving forward to raise the younger generation to be aware of realities and look beyond their personal goals and ambitions.

“I want them to see the persons to their left and right, because at the end of the day, we are brothers and sisters. We come from different places, but we are all brothers and sisters. We need to continue to strive to support and help one another,” she mentioned.

In May 2013, she was presented with $10,000, an award she received for inspiring women of the GCC, sponsored by Philadelphia cheese. “It was a very amazing award which I used to add to our winter program. It was a huge blessing for us,” she concluded.

By Ben Garcia

December 26, 2013 Posted by | Biography, Character, Charity, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions | , | Leave a comment

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