Thursday, November 30, 2006

Girls weekend out!!! Destination: Bahrain

A favorite nearby getaway for expats living in Kuwait is the small island Kingdom of Bahrain. It is situated in the Arabian or Persian Gulf (the name changes depending on which ethnic group you are talking to!) off the coast of Saudi Arabia. There are TWO ways to reach Bahrain if you are a single male, but only ONE way to reach it if you are a single female... If you are a single male, you are allowed to drive through the kingdom of Saudi with minimal problems and a four hour drive. You would cross this causewaywhich bridges Saudi and Bahrain, one of the world's longest such structures. The red tower is on the Bahraini side of the causeway, and the green marks the Saudi side. We took a midnight ride on the Bahraini side, and of course turned around halfway across, because women are STILL not allowed to drive in Saudi NOR are they allowed to be in cars with men to whom they are not related (except for their employed chauffers). So my girls and I flew to Bahrain, which still takes four hours. It's just a lot more expensive than driving!

My favorite hotel in Bahrain is the Novotel Al Dana Resort. It's quiet, has a beautiful swimming pool, the service is generally quite good, and the buildings themselves which comprise the resort are designed in the traditional Arabian style of architecture complete with wind towers. This is the view from the balcony of our room at night.

We celebrated Dianne's birthday (funny, she never did tell us how old she was!!??) at a fabulous restaurant called "Upstairs, Downstairs." It is designed to look like Bourbon Street in New Orleans and has live jazz music on the weekends. We were lucky enough to enjoy a Bahraini band playing Calypso music the evening we dined.

The birthday girl gets her groove on!!!

After dinner, we visited one of Bahrain's famous "souks," or traditional shopping areas.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Soyaras and Gatwas

This is my "soyara." "Soyara" is the arabic word for "automobile." I really like my car. It's a late model Toyota Yaris. It's about the best deal a teacher can find on a rental car at $400 U.S. monthly. Now, look very, very closely at my car, because this story isn't really about a car...

For every adventure in Kuwait, it seems there is also a mis-adventure.

This sweet little kitten decided to hitch a free ride from Kuwait City to Fintas (a 40 Kilometer ride at speeds up to 100 m.p.h. on the Kuwaiti Autobahn). Al Hamdulilallah, the gatwa (cat) survived. Does she look a bit stressed??? Or did she enjoy the ride???

ONLY after being doused with water, prodded with a skewes and broom handles, enticed by kitten food, and having a team of auto-technicians from my car rental company scratch their heads for about 30 minutes trying to figure out how exactly to extract the kitten from the front end of my car did somebody happen along who could actually put an end to poor Gatwa's woes.

An Indian guy named Kola (above in white) was ambling down the street and stopped to check out what all the fuss was about. In no more than 5 seconds of assessing the kituation, he effortlessly popped out the plastic grill of the car's front end, and off scrambled Gatwa faster than you can say the word pussycat!!!!!!!! I will sleep much better tonight knowing we were able to safely get Gatwa to her final destination. I can only hope that dumpster diving is bettter in Fintas than in the big city. And I hope Gatwa learned her lesson that there is no such thing as a free ride. Bravo, Kola!!!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

When your family is far away but never forgotten...

Friends become family in Kuwait... Below is Cynthia, a dedicated Language Arts teacher in my department (the Learning Support Unit for students with dyslexia) from Canada who ventured to Kuwait this year after teaching in Hong Kong. Cynthia and I are traveling together to Keralla, India, for winter break. We will spend some time at an Ayurvedic Spa/Resort, take an overnight cruise on a traditional river boat in the lush, tropical backwaters of Keralla, then head up to Malapurram for one of my Adult EFL student's traditional Indian wedding. (I teach English as a Foreign Language at the Hilton Kuwait Resort one evening a week). Richa Arya, center, teaches Science in my department. She is working on her Ph.D. in seeking alternative methods of teaching hearing impaired students. With her Hindu religious upbringing and vegetarian lifestyle, she has taught me SO much about Indian culture... What AMAZING ladies!!!

Richa (below) shows me how to make Indian bread. "It's SO easy!" she claims. "Yeah, right!!!!" I'm thinking as I digest my first ever homecooked, first VEGETARIAN Indian meal. My favorite was the fried green chili pepper dipped in green chutney which is made from cilantro. (And by the way, Cynthia is a darn good cook, too!!! Not an ounce of Greek or Italian in her heritage, but she sure makes a mean tzatziki and caesar salad... )

After Richa made us a FABULOUS first taste (meal!!!) of homemade Delhi cuisine, we went to her best friend's villa to try on traditional Indian dress in preparation for our upcoming trip to Cochin. Ahhhhhh... the choices!!!!!!! Whatever shall we wear to Yasser's wedding?????

Below: Make Mine Melon!!!???!!!! (I'd say "Salmon" but we've got the vegan theme going on...) Don't EVEN ask how much this cost me!!!!???? And this isn't the finished product. A tailor will fashion the top, which is underneath the SEVERAL yards of buttery crepe sari wrapping, to show a bit more skin. Yep, my voluptious belly will peek through and I understand "spaghetti straps" will be most suited to the Sari ensemble. Thank God curves are heralded on this side of the globe!!!! Will post the finished product after Yasser's wedding, IF I don't gain any more weight!!! Of course, if I can get used to this vegetarian thing (NOT!!!) it shouldn't be a problem.

Our lovely day didn't end here... Alas, I was off to my Jordanian friend and colleague Amal's home to EAT SOME MORE!!!!! After helping Amal make "fattoush," a traditional Arabic salad comprised of diced cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley and cilantro laced with the BEST olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, we supped on the most tender pieces of lamb served with a warm yogurt sauce. It was served with two different kinds of rice AND roasted chicken. GEEEEEZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!! All we do is EAT in this country!!!!!!!!!! THEN, Amal taught me how to make Malfoof. I love the word "malfoof" which translates to "rolled." It is quite an art and apparently takes alot of practice. I thought of Greta (my mom, who is ALWAYS close in my heart) as we tediously filled boiled cabbage leaves with a mixture of rice, fresh pureed tomato, onions, dill and other herbs then carefully rolled our malfoof "cigars." It only takes 2-3 hours to make malfoof...

So, this is what we finished after about one hour. But it is SO worth the effort!!!!

Okay, so this is about 1/1ooth of the malfoof we had to roll, and poor Amal had to finish the rest as I was off to yet ANOTHER meal with Richa, Cynthia and Maryeri (below). Maryeri is from Venezuela (I think I covered THREE continents and FIVE countries in ONE day....) Maryeri is also in the Dasman Model School Special Needs Department. Well, Maryeri wanted MORE vegetarian food. So we had to eat AGAIN. I ended the evening with another new favorite: Ginger Lassi - A sweet yogurt milkshake flavored with fresh ginger. Maryeri suggested it because AFTER ALL THAT FOOD I needed SOMETHING to settle my stomach!!!! Alas, TGIWF... Thank God I've Wonderful Friends....