Monthly Archives: June 2013

50 Shades of Homesickness

Two weeks in to my Kuwaiti adventure a contact of mine through work gave me some advice. She’d been living the expat life in Dubai and was originally from West London. It was nice to chat to someone outside of work who came from somewhere near home. She explained the newbie timeline. She warned me that the first month was a blur of meeting people and getting stuck in to work. The second month you’d feel like home and think moving was the best thing you’d ever done. The third month would bring on the completely irrational depression that is homesickness. You’d feel lonely, you’d miss your friends and family and you’d be making plans to get the hell outta the desert as fast as British Airways could take you. By the fourth month you’d accept that this was home now and you just had to knuckle down and get on with it. After that it really would be home. So much so that once you get back to the UK for a holiday you’d be itching to return to the smog, dust and dodgy tap water of the Middle East. I’ve now been here four months.

I debated writing this post as I know my mum will read it and get all upset that I struggled in month three as my contact said I would. So mother, don’t get so dramatic, I’m fine.

I’ve decided to write it as there’s truth in that timeline, as my flatmate proved this weekend when she announced she was ‘going out, and may be some time’. Thankfully Facebook informs me there wasn’t a suicidal undertone and I think she’s checked in to a spa to cheer herself up. I wish I’d thought of that. I just spent a couple of teary evenings thinking everyone hated me and crying my eyes out when my new friends tagged themselves somewhere online and hadn’t invited me. So I’ve written it in case any of your reading this are toying with the idea of the expat life, so that when you’re crying your eyes out for no reason other than you’ve run out of Pringles, you know this is completely normal behavior!

My homesickness was a combination of things. Mostly that some my old friends have dropped off radar. People that used to text, email and whatsapp all the time now do no more than click ‘like’ on Facebook statuses. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. But that’s completely bloody irrational thinking because I can’t remember the last time I messaged my Big Bro and I bet he’s not angry with me (might be if he’s had to take my old car to the garage again but that’s a long story). So it works both ways. I could message them and haven’t, so why expect it to be one way traffic?
Then I was missing my folks (mum, no crying). It was fine when they were 300 miles away as I could get in the car. I rarely did but the option was there. I found myself asking my dad for advice on which TV to get just to keep him on the phone one night. I know what damn TV to buy, whichever one is the cheapest! Then the bloody connection dropped out and I got upset. Again.

And then there were the new friends. You get told to accept every invite going when you first arrive and so I did. I fell in with a group of lovely girls but they were all a very close-knit group prior to my arrival. I don’t really do the big group of girls thing. Boys are far simpler and won’t slag you off behind your back. I started to question whether they actually liked me or were inviting me out through a sense of duty. So then I’d get paranoid when they didn’t invite me out. It felt like school again. Although at school I knew the girls didn’t like me as they told me often enough. I gave myself a talking to and started to be the one suggesting trips out. If they made excuses I had my answer. They didn’t. In fact one of them wandered round a mall on her own for an hour whilst I had my nails done just so we could have dinner after.

So month four has hit and my flights home are booked to see my friends and family, giving me something to look forward to. I have also taken the ‘sod you’ approach to the ‘do they or don’t they like me’ paranoia. If eventually they don’t then fine. I’m a great laugh so their loss! Besides, this lot wouldn’t have invited me to Dubai if they didn’t like me right?

It’s my flatmate that worries me. She’s not been here as long as I have so is only half way through month three. I can’t think of a way of cheering her up so I’ll have to wait until month four. If she ever gets back from that spa…

Thinking Money

I’ve started to think in Dinars. When I first came to Kuwait I would double the prices and add 20% to everything I bought but as time has gone on I have started to think in Kuwaiti Dinars, and it makes the UK very cheap. I earn near enough the same amount in KD as I did in Stirling so as a percentage of my income my rent and expenses arent considered extravagant. At 2.3 KDs to the Pound I have doubled my disposable income. Had I have been in the UK I would never have considered the rent on a one bedroom apartment being cheap at £850 a month. My UK mortgage is less than that!

I set myself a budget each month, like I did in the UK, however back home that budget ensured I could eat and drive. Over here I can eat, pay my driver, pay my cleaner and buy shoes and stay within budget. I’ve bought a lot of shoes. And two Chloe bags. But I’m coming home in September for a week and this is where thinking in KD has really got exciting. I’m coming home for the London Double Header at Twickenham Stadium. I haven’t missed that fixture in years and moving 3,000 miles wasn’t going to change that. Rather than get from Heathrow to home and back to Twickers 24 hours later I thought I’d stay at the Marriott at the stadium for two nights. When I looked at rooms a suite was only 50kd a night more than a twin room. I have quite a few mates to see that weekend and my Partner in Crime is joining me at the hotel. So, the thought of one room with possibly four bodies passing out in it made the suite and it’s bedroom and separate living room appealing. So my Titanium credit card came out and I booked the suite for two nights at around 200kd. The email confirmed the booking at £468. My old budget would have needed to save for 6 months for that. But it’s my holiday. And more than that it’s a gesture. Last year, when it was a toss up at month end whether to fill the car up or buy food I could always still have a night out because of my wonderful friends. From the PIC and the bottles of wine at the pub, Mr Always Right and the dinners or cocktails in London to Wizbit and Tubes turning up on my doorstep with prosecco before dragging me out for jaegers, I have always managed a social life because my friends are amazing. So, they have a bed for the night post game, they’ll be booze in the room and they’ll be jaegers at the bar. It’s not a conventional thank you but I think they deserve it, and it’s about time I repaid the favours!

Ps. Tubes, I know you can’t make the rugby but pork belly and prosecco are on me the week following.

A night at the theatre

Shopping and eating as a social life gets a bit tired so I jumped at the chance for a night at the theatre for something different to do. By ‘theatre’ I mean an am dram production of Grease but I was assured that it was an established theatre company and their last production was fabulous. So four of us parted with over £10 each and set off for a night of Pink Ladies and T Birds.

We set off after a pre theatre dinner and non alcoholic cocktail at Dean & Deluca and drove for what seemed like forever. The buildings fell away, the airport lights faded behind the car and the motorway stretched on. We finally arrived at a strange compound-type get-up in the arse end of beyond. Oil country. It was the Kuwait Petroleum Company’s offices/town and had the feeling of an RAF base with pre-fab offices and signs directing you to the ‘medical unit’ or ‘passport office’. We pulled up to a massive Anderson Shelter with Kuwait Little Theatre signage. I wasn’t expecting much but what looked like a World War Two bomb shelter was what I got. I fully expected Damn Vera Lynn to do the sound check.

We got our programmes (how professional) and took our seats in the stands (slightly tiered theatre seating) and waited for Grease to begin. I should have valued that few minutes of silence as I was soon aurally assaulted by what sounded like a drunk hen party sharing one mic at a karaoke. Grease is The Word being screamed out was the theme tune to what became the worst two hours of my life since landing.

Everyone knows the plot line to Grease. I’d count on most people being able to list at least three songs from Grease. The cast and Director have clearly never seen Grease and decided to loosely base their production on the plot line and chuck in a few songs no one knew for good measure.

There were a couple of glimmers of hope. The girl that played Jan was really good. Rizzo had the odd moment of brilliance when she acted alone. She couldn’t interact with anyone else but was great if this wasn’t required. Although the fact that most of the cast stumbled over their lines and repeatedly missed their cues wouldn’t have helped. Frenchie looked like Frenchie and for the first few scenes was actually a good likeness. Then she lost it. The T-birds were the funniest of all though. Danny, the ‘cool dude’ and supposed ‘heart throb’ of the show was a slightly tubby Irishman with very little charisma and one of this ‘hard’ group of leather jacket wearing ‘punks’ was so camp you thought it was a panto not a musical.

Thankfully you got the odd break to let your eyes and ears stop bleeding as between every scene was a five minute break to rearrange the minimal scenery. None of which added anything to the show. It gave something for Sandy to sit at whilst she missed the high school dance. You know, the dance she actually goes to in the film?

I am starting to get used to the censorship in this country. Even ‘Hello!’ magazine gets the odd picture blacked out. I do NOT expect an amateur production of Grease to get the same treatment. Greased Lightening is a well known song, it’s probably one of the ones every fan can sing along to. It does not contain the line ‘she’s a real dragon wagon’. It’s ‘pussy wagon’. The chicks won’t scream, they cream.

At the interval the two rows in front of us left and never came back. One of our party suggested we do the same but as painful as it was I was fully prepared to stick it out for the big finale. As there was no big car race it was interesting as to how they were going to engineer the final showdown but it happened. Sandy walked out in cheap, skintight leggings and a manky looking wig and approached Danny… ‘Tell me about it, stud’ being the line to lead in to the big final tune and…
I had never heard the song that then started up at that moment in my life. I was ready to throw things at the stage at this point. I had been robbed of the best moment of the show.

They did play it eventually. As an encore. Too little, too late.

Needless to say I won’t be returning to the arse end of beyond any time soon. Torture by amateur theatre in a dry country. At least if there was wine flowing I may have seen the funny side.