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Sri Lanka

I never would have believed that Boss Lady would let me and my Partner in Crime take the same week off work, but the joys of Muslim holidays means public holidays give you 5 day weekends. So, with a bit of persuasion we scored two days off together after Eid giving us 9 days to play with.

The original idea (mine) was two nights in Singapore followed by Thailand. We were both in serious need of some R&R and when we looked at the traveling time and the cost we settled on Sri Lanka instead (his idea). And what a great idea it was. My great idea was to spend a bit more and fly with Etihad. My ideas aren’t that great.

We arrived at Kuwait Airport at 7am only to be greeted with the news that Etihad had cancelled our flight booking. Not the actual flight, just we weren’t on it. I have no patience with poor service but Scott has an even shorter fuse than me. We demanded to see an Etihad representative who then kept shrugging and saying he didn’t know why it had happened but we had been bumped to Qatar Airways. I like that airline but it was leaving 12 hours later which meant one less day of our holiday. Not acceptable. The representative said maybe the onward flight from Abu Dhabi to Colombo had been cancelled and that’s why we were bumped. We went online and checked Colombo arrivals. It hadn’t. So we screamed some more and got put back on our flight.

They called for boarding and the plane wasn’t there. We ended up boarding nearly 45 minutes late and our layover was only 90 minutes. In this time we’d intended to buy duty free, get currency and have a drink at the bar. That combined with the 20 minutes changing terminals was raising my blood pressure. I hate lateness.

Thankfully the delay meant a gate change so we disembarked at the same gate we were due to board from again. So a toilet dash, vodka shopping and currency was managed. Well, KD in to USD as they didn’t have enough Rupees but Sri Lanka’s currency is so poor that the hotel driver had asked for USD anyway.

Arriving at Colombo we bought more booze and found our driver who was very apologetic that he was 10 minutes late. The hotel was only 20 minutes from the airport but it was pitch black when we arrived so we couldn’t see much more than a dirt track and white colonial style building.

We’d entered via one door to our room and saw another on the other side. This opened up to a terrace with two seats and blackness in front. We were informed the bar was shut (it was 10pm) so the duty free was a good shout. We opened up the champagne and sat on the terrace with the lizards.

Opening the curtains after an air con-less bad night’s sleep (soon to be rectified by Scott back-handing the man on the front desk) was amazing. The terrace opened up to green grass, palm trees and the Negombo Lagoon. We walked to another building, past the pool and had breakfast outside overlooking the lagoon and the hotel’s own elephants.

We then spent the day by the pool getting very very sun burned, reading, swimming and drinking Coronas. This was pretty much all we intended to do for 7 days.

That night we ate at the hotel and established we were the only people booked in for the week, give or take the odd couple staying one night on their way to the airport. This meant rather than going out at night we spent a lot of evenings having dinner and sitting on the terrace drinking and listening to music whilst putting the world to rights.

We did venture in to town on day 2 as the need for Aloe Vera overcame Scott’s burnt feet. We asked for a taxi and the staff said ‘too expensive, you take tuk tuk’. When in Rome I guess.

I have never been so scared in a motorized vehicle in my life. And the plastic Furby hanging from the roof was not helping as Scott named it the Furby of Death. This 3 wheeled death trap tried to overtake a bus with oncoming cars, nearly took out several cyclists and had to dodge cows that wander along the road. That and the millions of stray dogs.

We were dropped off at the fish market which was apparently the biggest in the country and a tourist must-see. But once you’ve seen one tarpaulin of fish drying in the sun the next 100 aren’t impressive. So we power walked through the market dodging the locals going about their weekly shop. But what I did notice was the colours. The fruit, the veg, the spices and the saris. Sri Lanka is a mixed culture of Catholics, Hindus and Muslims so not everyone wears a sari but everyone dresses brightly. After the sand and black of Kuwait this was an amazing sight.

After a walk through Negombo centre, a peak at the Catholic Cathedral, a juice at the train station (the tracks literally run the side of the road with dogs and children running along them) and stepping around the beggars withered by polio we decided to get a tuk tuk to a bar I’d read about on Trip Advisor.

We found it and the rain started. We don’t see rain so even that made our holiday. The owner of the bar came and sat with us and asked how long we’d been married. He was horrified to find out we have no intention of getting married. Poor guy. Maybe we should have explained that we have the same taste in men.

We got hungry and decided to order a few picky bits. I’d never tried cuttlefish and it was SO GOOD and covered in fresh fried chillis. All the food we are was good throughout the week. I’d been hesitant as I seem to have become lactose intolerant but over there could eat stews, curry, shellfish and spice and only got the runs once and that was Burger King on the way back to Kuwait!

After food we went to a cocktail bar overlooking the beach where the owner took a liking to Scott (we later found out Negombo is the gay capital of Sri Lanka) and he kept choosing different cocktails for us. We went in for one and came out 6 drinks later a bit merry. Turns out tuk tuk rides are easier to deal with when your inhibitions are lowered.

Later in the week we asked the hotel about tourist tours as we both really wanted to see elephants. They arranged a private driver for us so we had a two hour trip in to the centre of Sri Lanka to see the elephants. I had to sleep most of the way as a blacked out Prius weaving around bendy roads and up and down hills made me queasy but what I did see was paddy fields, small villages and more railway lines.

We arrived at the elephant sanctuary and it all went a bit wrong. Scott had been warned about my snake phobia and it was one of the reasons we didn’t go to the beach – because there are people with massive snakes that try and put them on the tourists’ shoulders for pictures. Scott promised to keep his eye out for snakes and steer me in the other direction. The day of the elephant park he wasn’t wearing his glasses. I looked out of the window of the car as it pulled up and there it was – a massive boa constrictor being put on tourists. I panicked and demanded we park the other side of the road. But once I knew it was there I had to keep looking at it to establish it wasn’t anywhere near me. Cue the hyperventilating and the crying. I threw money at the entrance and escaped in to the park. The poor park employee must have thought I was a mad woman as he’s talking to us about elephants and celebrities (especially cricketers) from the UK that he’d met and I’m there with tears running down my face trying to look interested.

He took us to see an elephant bathing and then said it was time to ride one. I’d been expecting a seat strapped to it’s back like I’d seen on the internet. No, I had to straddle this beast bare back with only a withered rope to hold on to. Then Scott had to hold on to me. He doesn’t like touching girls.

The elephant started to move and as its massive shoulders moved I felt like I was slipping off. All the other riders looked calm and relaxed but Scott and I were screaming and praying. Thankfully I’d only thrown enough money at the desk to get the short ride so after ten minutes we were back on dry land with shaky legs. Give me a camel any time!

After a few pictures posing with the elephant and thanking (tipping) the staff we left the park. On exit I spotted the snake again. Our driver realised and steered me to the car and stood blocking my view of the snake whilst I regained control. He then offered to take us somewhere more relaxing. So we went to a spice farm where we learnt about herbal medicines and beauty products. They tested a hair removal cream on Scott and a month later he still has a bald patch on his arm. I bought 4 pots of it. Then we left to drive the 2 hours back to the hotel.

We were sad to leave the hotel at the end of the week but we were both so chilled out and happy. And getting upgraded to business class from Abu Dhabi was the perfect ending. Two course meal and 3 glasses on champagne when all you get on that leg in economy is a sandwich and a coffee was quite a treat.

I’d definitely return to Sri Lanka, for the hotel’s pork curry or sea food platter (including a whole crab) alone.

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The Ambassador isn’t spoiling us

There are changes afoot at the British Embassy in Kuwait and it’s making the expats restless.

To us British expats the embassy is a small piece of home. There’s a beautiful garden (how I miss grass) parties involving dancing (forbidden in Kuwait) and alcohol (also forbidden) yet the weather is always good! I’ve been to balls, discos, ceilidhs and concerts at the embassy in the past 16 months and enjoyed every single one. You may be stuck with a nine drink limit but that’s enough when you no longer sink a bottle of wine with dinner and have the tolerance of a 16 year old again.

So, you can imagine the uproar when it came out that the current Ambassador was leaving and the new guy has vetoed fun. He has children apparently, so doesn’t want drunken expats having fun in his back garden. So far I know of one charity ball that has been cancelled and there will be no more concerts. Ever. The Irish Society have also been told their booking is cancelled.

Having several hundred expats dancing in your back yard may not be your idea of fun however pissing off your fellow countrymen is no way to make friends.

No more will I dine in the gardens sipping a cold glass of Jacob’s Creek before dancing the night away on a makeshift dancefloor. FlyDubai better have some good deals coming up because the embassy was about the only good thing Kuwait had going for it.

The Dubai Weekender

Ok so I haven’t blogged since January thanks to being so busy at work and being a little bit crap. But had I have blogged they were likely to be work related rants which would have a) worried my mother and b) got me the sack (thou shalt not post anything to do with Al-shitty online and have signed a contract agreeing to that).

But as I have recently ticked ‘ride a camel’ off the expat bucket list I had to tell you all about it.

Two years ago I had an amazing 10 days in Italy to be bridesmaid to a very special friend. When she text to say they were spending their anniversary in Dubai I was throwing my credit card at flights and hotel quicker than I do when Chloe have a handbag sale. Well a bridesmaid’s duties never end right?

So I took the Thursday off work and jumped on the FlyDubai 7pm flight out of Kuwait on the Wednesday night. FlyDubai make Easyjet to Benidorm look classy. I know Arabs write in squiggles but how hard is it to match the number on your boarding pass to the number above the fricking seat? No wonder the crew always look miserable as boarding is like herding cats. Wheels up and two fizzy wines ordered and I had an hour to read my book.

Immigration at Dubai international can be horrendous. Well the morons from the FlyDubai flight are competing with AirIndia’s low budget equivalent after all. Usually a few huffs and waving my British passport around gets me queue jumped but this time around the normally slow Arab staff were moving at a glacial pace whilst trying to train the newbies. It took an hour and I was 4th in line. I’d love to see the photo they took of me for my immigration records – not my happy face I can assure you. After a quick detour to duty free for my Sauvignon and champagne fix and I saw the cab line. Leading all the way past arrivals and up to departures. Thankfully cabs in Dubai are highly efficient and what looked like hell lasted about 10 minutes. At the front of the queue the man in charge pointed at a black limo and said I should go in that and not a cab. ‘Will they charge me the same fair?’ I asked. When the response was a chuckle and a no I walked towards the standard cab and told them to leave the limo to the tourists.

I am the sort of person that finds the nutter wherever I go. I attract them. The cab driver was a prime example. After explaining where I was from he decides a girl from Kuwait shouldn’t be kept from drinking and proceeds to drive like Jenson Button down Sheikh Zayed road. I was trying to text my friends to let them know I’d arrived but twice my phone went flying out of my hands as we swerved in and out of traffic at 140km an hour. Then he decides I’m in a different hotel to the one I said I’m in which starts a heated discussion followed by him shouting ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ at the roadworks around the Marina. He then asks if I prefer Pele or Maradona as the World Cup starts soon. It was a relief to get to the hotel and as I threw 100 dirhams at him he was swearing at the underground parking system.

The hotel was one I’d used before so they upgraded me to a balcony room. I threw my bag on the bed and went straight to the 35th floor outdoor terrace where my friends, and more importantly my prosecco, were waiting.

Thanks to a bottle of prosecco and half a bottle of duty free Sauvignon (in bed, at 2am, watching a film) Thursday morning was quite sedate! Late breakfast at IHOP and a few lengths of the pool before getting changed for the Desert Safari. I was super excited by this and had a glass of wine to celebrate. Something which I nearly saw again an hour later.

We set off in our 4×4 and after an hour pulled in to an area surrounded by a few shack-like ‘supermarkets’ and the desert.

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The road literally ran out!
It was also the last toilet stop and a way of the locals selling crap to tourists by dressing them up! Not sure I needed to spend 50 dirhams on a ‘made in China’ purple head scarf but I did. It’s now a table cloth on my coffee table.

The stop was also required to let the pressure down on the tyres of our 4×4 so once this was done we were off to play in the sandpit. By ‘play’ I mean Mohammed, who was obviously trained by the cab driver the night before, threw us up and down the sand dunes. Sharp turns, sheer drops to the side, steep climbs and plunging drops, over and over again. My breakfast, my wine and the recently purchased diet coke were dangerously close to pebble-dashing the windscreen. Then fate intervened and a back tyre came off! The half an hour sat in the sand whilst Mohammed dug out the car and fixed it really helped. Getting back in the car took a lot of persuasion at this point. He promised to take it easy but by that point the slightest bump was causing a wave of nausea through all passengers. Much to Mohammed’s delight. When we finally came to a fence and crossed in to the camel farm no one could get excited by the site of wild deer and camels. We wanted off the ride. As we pulled up to camp the relief was immense. Getting out on shaky legs we took in our surroundings. In the middle of nowhere was a Disney-looking take on an Arabian campsite. Complete with Pringles stand and a bar that stocked Grey Goose. The Corona really helped settle my stomach.

We then had henna tattoos, ate pakora and rode a camel. We didn’t ride him very far but after 15 months of only seeing them from a distance I finally got to play with one. And he was quite friendly despite the master whacking him on the nose to get him to move.

There was then belly dancing and music before Mohammed came to collect us. His joke about taking the same route home wasn’t appreciated. Neither was his ‘watch out for the snakes’ comment which sent me flying across the sand and throwing myself head first in to the car!

Tired and happy we returned to the hotel.

Friday could only be spent one way. Dubai brunch. Friday brunches are an institution in Dubai and involve 4 hours of stuffing your face with food and drink for a set price. I had been given a tip on Table No9 at the Creek and as I’d never been that side before I’d booked us in (thanks Alex, I owe you a beer).
It’s one of the more expensive brunches I’ve seen but well worth it if you’re a foody. For a starter you choose a breakfast item, for main a lunch item and for dessert is a tiered stand of cakes, scones and cheeses. I chose English muffins topped with crab, poached eggs and hollandaise followed by lamb and minted potatoes. And I was stuffed! The food was rich, tasty and presented perfectly. It was a shame the wait was so long between courses and the table next to us had a feral child but I’d definitely go again!

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Unfortunately I’d gone to Dubai with a cold and after all the excitement, excess and air conditioning I felt rotten by Friday afternoon. I could only manage one drink at Barasti (and that’s unheard of as I love Barasti) before my bed was calling. So our last night ended up being a quick bite to eat on The Walk and in bed by 10pm. But, it was the best weekend I’ve had since I’ve been out here and felt so blessed to share it with two very special people.

Immigration Issues

I’ve noticed a lot on Twitter recently about UK immigration policies and, more specifically, how expats such as me are not entitled to an opinion because we ourselves have decided to live and work in another country. Yes I have made the decision to leave the UK for a period of time to earn a tax free salary, but that doesn’t make me a hypocrite when I say the UK government need a tougher stance on immigration.

There’s not much I’d say Kuwait leads the world in. Certainly not traffic law enforcement! But in a country where 85% of the population are economic migrants the UK could learn a lot.

You want to live here, you work. You don’t want to work? Fine, you can have a two month tourist visa and then leave. You cannot convert a tourist visa to a work visa. If you find a job, you leave and come back on the correct visa. To gain your residency you have to have a medical. This ensures that HIV and TB are not brought in to the country. Interestingly the UK used to screen for TB. Those people arriving on long stay visas from country’s with a high incidence of TB used to get referred to Health Control at the airport. Can’t produce your chest X-ray on arrival? You’d get x-rayed there and then and await the results. If you had TB you’d get shipped off to hospital. Yes the NHS then dealt with you but at least you weren’t spreading tuberculosis. Unfortunately government cuts (Labour cuts from what I understand) have meant that this stringent checking process no longer exists. Give it 5 years and it won’t just be the badgers that are riddled with TB in the UK.

If you don’t work in Kuwait you have no access to any form of income. If you want to be here, then work. Getting old? Go home. Once you retire you cannot work. If you can’t work, you can’t stay.

Carrying an ID card here is mandatory. No one moans that it’s against their human rights. You just do it. You have your Civil ID card, it proves your right to be here. The Government have my finger prints as well. I have nothing to hide so I don’t see it as an issue.

Expats in Kuwait do the jobs the locals can’t do, or bring skills to the country that will aid their economic development. You don’t hear locals moaning that we’re stealing jobs. The Filipinos serve you in shops, the Sri Lankan women clean your apartment, the Egyptians drive the taxis and the Westerners bring international Best Practice in business to enable Kuwaiti businesses to compete on an international level. The Kuwaitis get government grants for being Kuwaiti, grants which are increased if you work in the private sector. Kuwaiti businesses are set nationalisation targets to ensure a minimum percentage of the employees are Kuwaiti. They look after their own, and have no problem allowing the rest of the world in as long as those people are willing to work.

I have no issue with immigrants to the UK that want to work. If they want to live in the freezing cold and contribute to society I have no issue. However, I do have issue with the soft policies that allow anyone to come in, work illegally, spread infectious diseases and make no contribution. But that’s the politicians being soft, and not the fault of those that take advantage.

But I’m not entitled to an opinion.

Christmas in Kuwait…

…Sucks.

I could just leave it there. But you may as well read the whole sorry tale.

The decision to work over Christmas came about a long time ago. Flights would be expensive, my mum usually works Christmas so I’d have to go to them (and therefore not see anyone else due to everyone being so dotted about the country) and someone had to work it. I thought if I fell on my sword and volunteered I’d have points in the bank for when I wanted time off at the same time as other people.
I didn’t count on spending the whole week so miserable though.
I wasn’t the only one. Some of my friends stuck around as well and we all felt it. Christmas was happening to everyone else, somewhere else, and we were on the outside looking in. We tried to make the most of it but every single person wanted to be anywhere but Kuwait.
We booked a table for ‘five star dining’ on Christmas Eve. The advert had said ‘watch our restaurants transform into a winter wonderland and share that special night with loved ones in a cosy ambience of tinsel and Christmas lights’. Fully booked they said. Don’t be late they said. We walked in and saw one miserable couple not talking and at the next table were a couple with a baby. No one else, just lots of empty tables. And one tree and a bit of cheap tinsel does not a ‘winter wonderland’ make. It was like having Christmas dinner in a Travelodge. There was a good spread though. Salad bar, sushi bar, cold meats and pates, hot dishes, carvery (which the waiter called a craving… it took a while for the penny to drop) and a huge choice of miniature desserts. Shame the quality of the food didn’t live up to appearances. The turkey was dry, the veg was hard and it took a lot of hand gestures and several members of staff to get gravy. It was one of those really frustrating Kuwait conversations:
“Do you have any gravy?”
“Gravy mam?”
“yes, gravy. For the turkey” *mimes the pouring of gravy over the plate*
“Cranberry sauce?”
“No, gravy. For meat”
“There is stew over there mam”
“I don’t want a stew, I want gravy for this plate”
“Mushroom sauce mam?”
“No, gravy”
“I will check mam”
*wanders off, talks to several people, disappears. Someone else comes out*
“Are you OK mam?”
“I’m waiting for the gravy”
“Ok I will check”
*wanders off. Returns with a bowl of thin brown gravy that looked more like stock*
“Can I have a spoon?”
*hands me a fork*

Eventually we have success and the now almost cold brown water ends up where it is supposed to be, trying to soften the meat. However it then ends up sloshing over the edges of the pate as I walk back to the table. Did I say this was five star? I’d have given anything for a Toby Carvery right then!
By the time we escaped Kuwait’s answer to Fawlty Towers it was getting quite late. This meant that Christmas Day we were all tired, miserable, missing our families and at work. As the UK woke up and Facebook and Twitter went beserk, we were ready to hide under our desks and cry.
Thankfully we had a ‘gathering’ to go to that night so after a quick chat with the folks I got dressed up and headed over to a friend’s for ‘a few nibbles’. A few nibbles turned out to be a platter of canapés, cold meats and cheese from Dean & Deluca. At least the misery of Christmas ended on a high point.
Until the alarm went off at 6am Boxing Day. Another day of work. A day made a lot harder by the cocktails and 1.30am finish.
But… I came away with a massive doggy bag of party food and cheese which means Boxing Day evening on the sofa, with leftovers and the Downton Abbey Christmas special on the TV. So it’s not all been bad!

The Dubai Sevens

So here I am, sat in the Marhaba Airport Lounge at Dubai airport killing time. So the perfect chance to blog about my latest trip. The Dubai Sevens.

It’s no secret that I love my rugby but the Sevens series has always been something I’ve been particularly excited about. But, due to financial constraints all but the London leg were a distant dream. I think I took the job in Kuwait partly because it made the Dubai Sevens achievable. And boy was it! Flights, hotel and spends suddenly didn’t seem like I needed a second mortgage so I decided to make it a 5 day trip. Even if you don’t like rugby I’d highly recommend this event. It’s a beer festival in the desert with some rugby on in the background. It was also quite surreal to see a 4 foot image of a pair of boots carrying the caption ‘Andy Vilk, fastest world’s sevens player’ or in my past ‘the dude that would have been best man had my wedding gone ahead’. That was a special moment for me. Look how far I’ve come.

My two closest friends from the UK joined me for the trip and we did Dubai in style. I got the twin bedroom with camp bed upgraded to a two bed suite that made my UK home look pokey and was congratulated on my bar choices for the long weekend.

The first night we kept it low key. The first morning we went to IHOP for breakfast to set ourselves up and then hailed a cab to the ground. I was informed the ground was miles away from the city and they weren’t exaggerating. There was that much desert I saw camels like you see sheep in Buckinghamshire. Hundreds of the things just chilling on the sandy expanse each side of the motorway.

Walking in to the ground was exciting but nothing matches the shivers you get entering Twickenham. The Sevens stadium in Dubai is more Bath’s ground in the desert… Scaffolding and open to the elements. But the elements are 30 degree sunshine!

The England team were as exciting as an England sevens team always are (although not quite as decorated as the Ryan, Amor, Vilk, Varndell era were) and smashing Wales on the second day was a particular highlight.

Sat behind us on the first day was a lovely British guy working in Qatar called James and we shared the excitement if the pork ribs stand in a way only the expat community can. We also swapped numbers so a Doha trip is on the cards soon. James also had fancy dress which I soon stole and was a Mexican for the latter part of the event. Note to self; fancy dress is obligatory next year.

The trip home on the first day was painful and when the hardened drinkers went out, we went home to bed. Poor form from a girl that’s usually the last one standing at Twickenham.

I think the highlight of the first day was seeing my old rugby buddy Andy though. He now lives in Oman but when he lived in Bath we’d always do the Wasps vs Bath fixture together. Especially the St George’s day one. To see him in Dubai at the Sevens was special.

The next day however, going home was not happening. This was helped by the free sparkling wine at the wine bar. It seems I have wasta even in Dubai. That or I write so much drivel on twitter that one of my followers decided I needed a livener. Thank you to Chris for entertaining my friends by completely flooring me with the comment ‘it’s no wonder you’re single’. Not usually lost for words, I stood there dumbfounded and my best mate started planning my wedding to a random South African from Twitter just because I had no come back.

So we hit Barasti that night. Barasti is a beach front bar I knew I wanted to hit on the trip but it surpassed expectations. We joined a table of two guys; one Irish and one American. Next thing I know I’m dancing barefoot on the sand for 4 hours drinking bull frogs. Bull frogs taste like refresher sweets. And are bloody lethal thanks to the gin, vodka, tequila and god knows what else that’s in them. Mum…. I only had 3.

At 3am we headed home sunburnt, merry and satisfied we had properly ‘done’ the Sevens.

The rest of the trip involved a golf cart down the jetty to 360 bar, a 35th floor rooftop bar and the most amazing dinner at Maya overlooking the beach. Dubai I salute you. I thought you were cheap and tacky but you’re actually more like an adult playground. And I want to play again.

Frustrations

It’s been AGES since I last blogged but real life started to take priority. Work was busy, I started hanging out more with friends and I went home for a week. But now I am off sick (took a lieu day to be sick as I’m that dedicated) and threatening to make voodoo dolls in the image of the washing machine repair men. So, I thought I’d do what I do best, and rant!

I’m not sure if it is the fact I am female or the fact that 90% of people in Kuwait have zero common sense that means I regularly invite a washing machine repair man over to ignore me for half an hour, let him turn the machine on and off and then pronounce there is nothing wrong with it.

The damn thing has never worked. It likes to spend the last ten minutes of the cycle emptying water on to my kitchen floor. Thankfully there is a drain in the centre of said floor and so if I put the machine on first thing in the morning the water has gone by the time I return at 6pm.

Still, it’s inconvenient and so I wanted Xcite, the store I bought it from, to fix it.

The first time I explained, with many hand gestures that the water comes from the back on draining. He kept smiling and nodding and tightened the drawer. I explained that it could not be from the drawer as the leak occurred on draining and not when the detergent was flushed from the drawer. Also, the leak was from the back centre and not the front top left. No, he was adamant that it was the drawer. What do I know, I’m a woman?

So, I set it up again and sure enough, watched water seep from under the machine to cover the kitchen floor. The drawer area remained bone dry.

So I called him back, and took pictures of the water so he could see direction of flow.

He’s turned up again today, with another man. And a tool box. They might actually stand a chance this time. I explain again that water flows from the back. I show them the picture. I explain that it happens during the last 10 minutes of the cycle. So, they turn it on, stare at it for 10 minutes, see no water and decide they know what the problem is. The machine needs tilting. So, they proceed to tilt the machine so that the front is raised. Forgive me as I only got a B in GCSE physics but if water pours from the back, surely tilting it in that direction enables more water to flow?

I then got asked if I was using the correct detergent. I produced Ariel liquid tabs from the cupboard and handed them over. The gazed in wonderment as they turned each one over in their hands like rare jewels and read the box. Yes, these are suitable for automatic machines.

So the washing machine is doing its stuff right now and I’m on leak watch. The man wasn’t interested in my physics lesson or my insistence that they actually pull the washing machine out and look at the back of it. So, you can understand why I have little faith in either of them.

The End is in Sight. We Hope.

So I have survived Ramadan. Nearly. I fully thought I’d end up blogging/ranting about how oppressive it was but I’ve been too tired to care. I’d leave work sometime after 3pm and flop on the sofa with whatever rubbish I’d bought from the shop on the way home. I now have an unhealthy addiction to spicy Cheetos to the point I’m slightly orange.
It’s been great for my bank balance too. I can easily spend 10 hours in Avenues mall without realizing but when you can’t stop for food or a coffee you tend to abandon shopping after a few hours. It’s that or hide all day and head out for dinner followed by shopping. I’ve done that a few times but by 10pm it’s time to give in and go home shattered.

So the end is in sight. Or should be. You see, as annoying as the start of Ramadan was because we had to wait for the ‘right moon’ we are again beholden to this and it’s even more frustrating. We knew all week that Ramadan should end on Thursday or Friday and therefor we’d have time off. Then someone threw a spanner in the works and announced it could be as early as Wednesday. This got exciting as it meant 5 days off and not 4. So Tuesday night I sat waiting for the text from Muslim colleague that never came. All Wednesday

Pre Ramadan Escape

Before Ramadan started a group of us escaped to Dubai. My first time out of Kuwait since arriving in February. To say I was excited was an understatement. I haven’t been that excited by an airport since I was 7 years old and about to fly on a plane for the first time ever. And believe me, there is little to Kuwait airport to get excited about!

After hot footing it out of the office and in to the airport lounge we availed ourselves of the free food and drinks. Quite soon our gate was announced. We went skipping through the airport because freedom was within sniffing distance. Ok, not so much ‘freedom’ as a lukewarm miniature bottle of cava off the trolley as soon as the wheels were up. Landing in Dubai was tedious. Nearly an hour long queue to get through immigration. The flight was only 90 minutes. Thankfully a man in a dishdasha spotted our British-ness and plucked us out of the queue or it would have been 2 hours. Time to step outside…

Now Kuwait is hot. It’s dry, 45+ heat during the day and at night only drops a few degrees. It’s dusty, dirty, burning heat. Dubai is 10 degrees cooler, and worse! I have never known humidity like it. It was gone 10pm and I was sweating just standing at the taxi rank. If that was night time temperature I didn’t fancy my chances in daylight.

We arrived at the, rather upmarket, hotel and hit the hotel bar, luggage still in hand. Never has a glass of prosecco gone down so well. Well, maybe the other 6 did.

The hotel rooms were lovely (we each had our own) with balconies overlooking the sea and bath tubs you could swim in. Not to mention the walk in closest in which to hang my two dresses! After a lazy morning of sitting on the balcony and swimming in the bath I got ready for brunch. I had often been told about brunch by friends who had visited Dubai over the years so was fully versed on what to expect. We went to one of the more expensive places (about £130 a head) but with the free flowing champagne, the 10 food stations and the vodka station we thought it was worth it.

Don’t get me wrong, it was. But for those of us that have been to a Royal Air Force Officers Mess summer ball I wasn’t as excited as most. Oh look a vodka luge, oh look a Chinese buffet, oh look a massive seafood buffet, oh look a dessert room. Been there, done it and it came with men in uniform. I stuck to the hog roast. Give this girl a massive plate of roast pork and Yorkshire pudding finished off with ham, bread and fois gras and she’ll get her money’s worth.

What struck me most was the sights! I don’t mean the beauty of the hotel, I mean the people watching. At what point exactly did Essex throw up in the desert? I have never seen so many bandage dresses and sky high heels in one place (other than a red light district). Is it the thing to dress like a slut to stuff your face these days? (Don’t answer that).

Brunch completed and we hit a bar, went back to the hotel to freshen up and hit another few bars. Then not much else happened. Nothing that couldn’t have happened in any other club in any other part of the world. We spent a lot of time in cabs, couldn’t get in to some places because they were full and my feet started to hurt. I had a row with an idiot boy, I met a nice boy that kissed me and I drank black sambucas. Pretty standard night out by all accounts. And bloody expensive. So for all the fuss and bother I left Dubai feeling it was all a bit overrated. She says. I’m going back in November with my two best friends. I have a feeling my opinion may change with those two in tow!

Ramadan Week One

So the part of the Kuwait experience I have been half dreading, half waiting for expectantly has come around. Ramadan. In the words of a Muslim colleague ‘a beautiful, spiritual time where all Muslims come together in prayer and fasting’. Or as a British colleague put it, ‘a month of the locals acting even more f*cking crazy than usual’. But in my head it was a month of working reduced hours and potentially kick starting the diet again. How hard could it be?

Ramadan involves fasting from sunrise to sunset. Nothing shall pass ones lips during daylight hours. No eating, no drinking, no smoking, no chewing gum etc etc. I figured a nice big breakfast would set me up for the day and a snack when I return home at 4pm. I didn’t factor in that my blood sugar has a tendency to drop quicker than a tart’s knickers and the affect no water would have on my mood and concentration. I also didn’t consider what would happen if I picked up a stomach bug at the start and not want to eat.

Ramadan started on 10th July. On the 8th we had a ‘is it tomorrow or isn’t it?’ evening. You see, the Americans have it right (for once). They use science. Over here a man in Saudi stares up at the sky and decides if the moon looks right. Thanks to a sandstorm on the 8th he couldn’t see the moon and Ramadan was delayed. One more day of eating! (I’m sure it’s more technical and symbolic than a man and the moon, but essentially still correct).

Day one struck and I had toast as well as my cereal. Drank a cup of green tea and headed for work. By 12pm I was confused, spaced out, queasy and tired. I could not stop yawning. I had to hide in an empty meeting room with a bottle of water and a cereal bar feeling very guilty that I couldn’t even hack the first day. Day two I prepared better but still had to slyly eat cashew nuts in the toilets whilst swigging my contraband Evian.

Thankfully day 3 and 4 were a weekend. Although I spent both days with the Kuwait version of the noro virus. Great for that diet kick start, pretty awful for staying rehydrated. So day 5 I have to drag my sorry, weakened self back to work feeling dehydrated and scared that breakfast was going to make a dramatic appearance during my first meeting. I could only stomach some toast, orange juice, water and two slices of pineapple which weren’t enough. It was the longest working day of my life. Imagine going to work with a hangover and not being able to eat or drink anything, and it’s 49 degrees outside. That was my day, minus the fun night beforehand.

So day 5 completed and I am laid on my back on the sofa too exhausted to do anything. I have a meeting tomorrow I haven’t prepped for, a banging headache, the diet has been shelved because I need chocolate to bring my blood sugars up and I’m beyond moody! Not that there’s anywhere to go. All the shops are closed until sunset because it appears the locals’ way of dealing with Ramadan is to eat all night and sleep all day. Anyone else think this is cheating?

So 25 days left to go. I apologize now if I descend in to a starved psychotic state and rant endlessly about this ‘spiritual time’. I’m Catholic, we serve wine. I know whose side I’d rather be on!