@The_Avenues – where Fast Food is Not So Fast!

Once upon a time ago I came to the abrupt realization that, despite its namesake, fast food is really not that fast.

To avoid giving anyone, as my good friend Noor would say, butthurt, we will refrain from posting a picture, and instead rely on words to paint this lexiconic portrait.

Picture if you will the following scene; you are hungry and feel the hankering for something greasy, fried and fast. You head to the food court at the Avenues Mall, the one near the Grand Avenues extension. You look to your right and find your chosen poison, and GREAT! no line! You think you will be done in record time, and mentally begin enjoying your meal, unwrapping your sandwich, tasting those succulent fries…

Your order is placed and the tray comes out, in record time you are given a smile by the cashier and your meal is ready to be carried away to be consumed. You turn around and…

You stop abruptly, your mental manger (Francais) erased as you realize the chaotic scene before you; tables strewn haphazardly across the area, chairs unceremoniously picked and grabbed and placed elsewhere, tables bedecked with leftovers and not a chair in sight, attacked by a different type of vulture – the chair stealer.

Yes, to anyone that has been to the Avenues food court, finding seating is a painstaking, time consuming task. Firstly, the area is underutilized with great expanses of open areas with no tables in them. Secondly, the seating issue is abysmal – there are never enough chairs.

At times you think you find salvation in the form of a table and chair in the corner, you rush there with hope in your eyes and saliva accumulating in your mouth at the thought of finally getting to enjoy your food which is slowly turning cold, soggy, lackluster… only to discover that this is the reject area, with broken tables and chairs placed precariously together feigning seating. For a half second, you contemplate shifting your weight to your right butt cheek in order to balance on the chair and placing your tray in your lap in order to consume your now cold meal.

And there in lies the trade off; for to go to the food court is to select quickness and variety, as well as bring relief to your purse strings by not being too expensive. However, the time factor during peak times almost makes the venture abundantly useless. Whereas on the other hand, if you opt for gourmet restraunts, seating is immediate – the selection is limited to their offering, and the price is up to your appetite.

However, you do settle the business of finding seating.

So what will you choose?

The Killing of Childhood in Kuwait

For those of us that have lived in the same area for many years, witnessing change is not uncommon. More often than not however, that change is for the worse.

This sign post was errected in Hawally, near the intersection of Tunis St. & Beirut St. It is right behind KFC.

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No playing Football – Municipality of Kuwait – Under threat of legal action

As the translation suggests, anyone caught playing football will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. As you can see, the area is relatively wide and offers expanses of open space that might appeal to children wishing to partake in a friendly game of football. It is a dead area in that traffic is minimal, with few parked cars around.

Unfortunately, it happens to be right-smack-dab near a municipality building (which I always thought was abandoned).

If you are to compare the state of childhood 20 years or so in the past, you would find that back then there was an expanse of space available in every building where children could enjoy their youthful folly. Fastforward to today however, and you will find that every available space in any building is being used for parking, or storage of some sort. Buildings are now much larger than they were back then, with much fewer open spaces.

Now in addition to this, the available open areas are being “closed off”?

Childhood is murdered, and the culprit is the mad dash for cash and supposed “progress”.

Hang your heads in shame.

PS to those that will tout that Kuwait has made available football pitches that can be rented etc. to those I say, since when are children expected to pay for their childhood? Whatever happened to the open sand pitches that were strewn across Kuwait? Most famously the ones right next to Mubarak Hospital in Jabriya; those pitches hosted inter-school football tournaments, there were PLENTY. Now? Only 2 remain, the rest of the area was converted into Parking, a road, and government structures.

Goodbye outside, hello obesity and connection obsession.

How to save money on Flights

Let’s face it, one of the greatest advantages of living in Kuwait is the ability to go on vacations. Now, we are not all teachers, blessed with 2 months of Summer Vacation along with countless public holidays in addition to Sand-Days, I digress.

The major detrimental factor however is always the cost of the flight.

I am here to tell you however, that those days are no more.

It started when a dear friend, A running friend,  A friend I will miss terribly when she leaves as she was my one running wonder, well, was was, haven’t met throughout 2014-2015 for our regular weekly runs in a lifetime (you will be missed Wendy-Lady!), I digress again… It all started when she told me about the wonders of  a website known as SkyScanner (link)

Now, what this website does is quite literally scan the skies for the prices of tickets, and inform you of them, and where to purchase them. It goes a step further by allowing you to set up an alert whereby you get a weekly email of the price fluctuations of tickets. And trust me, they fluctuate.

Lets assume you have already selected the days you wish to fly, most people try to book as early as possible with the hope of scoring a good price. The thing is, prices change weekly, up and down, and booking 4 or 5 months in advance is not necessarily a sure-fire way to get the cheapest ticket.

I found this to be true right now. I am in the process of booking my young brothers honeymoon (they grow up so fast :’) – digress), the initial cost of the ticket when I checked in March 2015 was 233KD for both him and his bride to fly to Bangkok from Cairo. I was waiting to use my new Miles Credit Card (topic for a future post) to book their flight so as to benefit from the 5X points per KD. Once it was issued, I rushed to the airlines website only to discover that the tickets were at KD 322. Of course I was shocked. I set up the alert and sure enough, I received an email yesterday saying that prices have gone down; and on the airlines website, it was down to KD 250.

The only way I can rationalize it is that sometimes airlines give out their “super-saver” seats to booking agents, and then those seats are returned to the airline, and so on and so forth, much like foods near expiry are moved to the discount aisle, and last years fashion is moved to the flash sale rack. So the prices change due to the availability of these super saver seats.

Therefore, if you are thinking of going on vacation, set the dates in your mind, set up an alert for said dates on skyscanner, and watch the rise and fall of tickets, then jump in when the price drops from what you initially saw on the first day you decided to go on vacation.

Your purse strings will thank you for it.

Meeting Readers – Healers of Blog Writers Rut

To the Reader I met yesterday at Lakeland Marina Mall around 12PM – Thank you, you have renewed my writing vigor at a time when it was at an all time low.

It happened roughly after my 29th Birthday, on April 29th, I lost the will to write, so to speak. It was a period of self reflection that took us through to our present day (yesterday) where something quite unexpected, out of the ordinary, and much uplifting occurred.

As we all know, Kuwait is a small country. A Very Small Country. If you go to enough diversified events, you are bound to meet almost everyone and find out the strangest ways in which you are connected (not by cheating and checking friends in common on FB).

It was a regular day, my wife and I along with our friends were enjoying a morning at Marina. We passed by Lakeland to marvel at the copious amounts of utensils we never knew existed, and never knew we needed. Twas roughly around the time we were about to leave that a stranger came up to me and said, congratulations. First thought to my mind, I’ve been married for a year now, oh well, yay! I said thank you, we shook hands, he said you’re a blogger right. Second thought, he must have me confused with someone else, so I said, yes, I blog. He then goes, Mybloogle right? And at that moment I split a smile from ear-to-ear wide enough to be misconstrued with the joker from Batman:

"Hopefully it was not this creepy"

“Hopefully it was not this creepy”

This has served to reinvigorate my fountain of blog.

So, dear stranger, thank you for walking in to my life at the exact moment I needed you.

God bless.

@PizzaNasser – Kuwaiti Born, Italian Taught Pizza

As you all know, Kuwait is a very small country, you go to a few events, and you are likely to meet everyone. Kuwait’s borders have also extended to the online-verse,and it is there where I first came upon Nasser A. N. al-Sulaihim. I believe he had commented on a photo I posted to Instagram (or Kuwait-2), I checked his profile, saw that he was a runner, followed him and here we are today.

I am not easily impressed, scratch that, I am easily impressed, but the mind behind the following concept blew me away.

We have never been formally introduced, and yet I feel as though we’ve been friends for a long time. If one word can be used to describe Nasser it is “DIY” or “Do It Yourself” (OK, that is 3 words). Through his instagram account I learnt of his love for running and love for crafting, and cooking! Many a time I showed his time-lapse vids to friends (the one where he cooks steak on a marble slab) and family.

Another word that can be used to describe him is “eclectic”, a jack of all trades, not only does he run and cook, he is also an avid anime fan and makes his own weapons (I also believe he is rolling it out commercially, as evident by his instagram vide0s)

Now watch the video below, where he mentions how he worked in several fields such as a translator, a salesman, a teacher and a tour guide, before finally following his passion to the kitchen, where he whips up various culinary miracles:

As the video is in  Arabic, here is the gist in English:

Nasser was a full-time employee, one time it dawned on him to try to make his own pizza, so he dedicated his time and effort to building a kiln at his chalet, and the experimentation began. Initially, it was a hobby, and he found great taste in works of his own creation, much beyond what you buy at a store. He then decided to take it a step further and signed up for a one-month crash course in everything pizza in the land of Pizza (and the tower of Pisa) itself; Italy.

Self financing his self-improvement, at the end of the course he asked his instructor whether he was ready to open up his own business, to which the instructor said you now know how to make the food, you need to learn how the corporate kitchen works, so he suggested Nasser work in a restaurant. Which he did. He came back to Kuwait, sent a few emails out, and was hired not based on his impressive CV, but on virtue of his smiling photo from Italy, which he attached to his application.

At this point I believe he was still juggling a full time job as well as part-time kitchen duty, (I am reciting all this from memory of watching the above vid once so please excuse any fuzzy details). He then came to the realization that he needed to devote his full attention to his passion, and pursued it with heartfelt abandon (abandon here used to mean The trait of lacking restraint or control; reckless freedom from inhibition or worry).

In the last few minutes he urges all to follow their passion, but to heed caution in that the mind and heart are different. If you believe you love carpentry, go work as one, start small scale, find out where your passion lies and then pursue it with all the love in the world.

Nasser is the definition of entrepreneur; his drive and passion are something that many hope to achieve but little have the heart to follow through with. He truly is inspirational.

you can follow Nasser on instagram (@al_sulaihim)

PS you can also follow his business through instagram @PizzaNasser, their menu is on instagram, they take orders from 4PM to 9PM.

Civil ID copy is Proof of Identity in Kuwait

As an expat, and as a runner, I find myself constantly roaming the streets without my civil ID for fear of losing it, much like I lost the keys to my house 2 days ago (-_-) (>.<) (they slipped off the keychain as I was walking with my wife!)

We always read in the news that police arrest those that do not carry ID, I always saw that as a challenge seeing that I was never asked to produce it whilst running before, despite running in some pretty conspicuous places i.e. the island between the lanes of the Gulf Road! And since I was recently pulled over for having stickers on my car (which I had on since I bought it from the dealership 5 years ago), it seemed high time to get a proper law opinion regarding carrying a copy of my civil ID when exercising.

I sought the help of the awesome Fajer (link), friend to expats Kuwait-wide and regular columnist with 248am.

Here is her response:

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So there you have it folks; spend the extra time at the office copying machine, make a few copies of your civil ID and bombard it into your running garments; personally I want to make a wrist band with my civil ID on it that is laminated.

Now my dear wife asked, well what if the ID is fake – to which I replied, they run the number through their system and check to see if everything is clear.

This also reminds me of an incident that happened to me waaaay back in the day, I guess I was 12 or so; we were sitting outside our building in the dead of night, around 2AM, there was an AC repair shop annexed to the building and we were sitting in front of it, a police car passed, then it either doubled back or someone else came later and they asked for our ID. Now mind you we were literally 10 METERS from our house, and the stubborn policeman refused to let us go up to get our civil IDs; it was me, my elder and younger brother, and a friend. Our friend had his ID. After much bargaining, the officer allowed my younger brother to go get our IDs; he was able to find his and my older brothers, however mine was not where I thought it would be. He did bring me my wallet though and I produced all my bank cards in my name, which was the same family name as my brothers, however this did not interest the officer and he still wanted to take me in, citing I could have, at the age of 12, stolen the identity of someone else.

In the end, due to my loquacious attitude, we were let go, and the officer said that when he travels to Egypt, he carries a copy of his passport on his person, therefore solidifying the fact that a copy of your ID suffices as ID in the eyes of the law.

Memories :’)

Is age a disability?

Should old people be treated the same as the disabled?

Please bear with me, I am in no way, shape or form attempting to be rude to our senior citizens.

A friend of mine noticed that a car was constantly parking in the disabled parking spot at work. This car was not carrying any sign/ badge that the owner has a disability. It was later discovered that the owner is in fact a geriatric.

disabledparkingsign

Does this give them the right to use the disabled parking spot?

Now, I am not against preferred parking spots being reserved for the elderly, the ones that are all over the parking area, however the disabled parking should be strictly for those that meet the legal requirement and have attained the proper documentation to prove such.

A disabled parking spot should not be allocated as a designated parking spot for a certain individual, a “premium parking” if you will, based on their seniority. There are others in the company I am told of similar age that park in varying areas.

What do you think?

PS note that I am writing this on my own birthday, very aware of my mortality.

Setting Precedent – Expat Junkie evades Deportation in Kuwait

The law is fickle; to the educated mind, it is a minefield of mostly grey landscape, with few things ever being clearly black or white.

Take for example the following scenario:

A person, upon seeing a patrol car, attempts to hide from it, arousing the suspicion of the officers inside. They stop the person and find he has no ID, so they arrest him. Person drops clear plastic bag before getting into police car, which the officers note and upon inspection find that it is drugs. The person, now a suspect, confessed he was planning to consume the drugs.

Clear cut case right? Wrong.

According to the suspects lawyer, the arrest is to be nullified as the person was not a suspect to begin with, therefore making the whole process that followed null & void – i.e. illegal.

In an Arabic nutshell – ما بني على باطل فهو باطل, meaning whatever is built on a wrong foundation is incorrect.

Now, there are several ways we can take this news:

1) Feel terrible that a drug abuser is loose on the streets once more, and that since no conclusion can be established regarding whether or not he was actually going to consume the drugs or sell them, he could potentially be a drug dealer.

2) Feel happy that this sets precedent to police that they cannot randomly stop you and check you without a warrant.

Going back to the second point, now I am no lawyer so please do not take my words literally, however it would seem that in order for a “checkpoint” to be placed, certain procedures have to be followed and approvals sought. Police do not have the right to inspect you IF YOU ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG – for example, I reported a story called the Mishref Marauder a few years ago; whilst waiting in the parking lot where a known felon was breaking into vehicles, I was beckoned forward by an unmarked car, which happened to be housing two undercover cops. When I refused to approach, they approached me, and checked my ID, he then asked to search my vehicle, which I did not refuse as I had nothing to hide. In retrospect however, I had the right to refuse them to search my car as they did not produce a warrant to do such. It should be mentioned that my reaction and the reaction of the Kuwaiti’s in the running group later when they arrived and were similarly asked questions by the police were COMPLETELY different.

(link)

It is unfortunate that we learn a valuable law lesson through this occurrence; I would probably assume his lawyer also filed that his “confession’ was obtained under duress and hence is also null and void.

justice is blind, kuwait, law, expat, deport, drugs, tramadol, police

News before the News – Predicting Tomorrow’s headlines

Let’s face the facts; the internet has taken ambiguity out of our daily routines. Where once we would wait patiently for the newspaper to arrive on our doorstep, or diligently whilst the intro theme played for the news at 11, nowadays it takes no more effort than a simple click to be bombarded with news from every nook and cranny of the world.

However; it is becoming a prevailing trend to find news articles leaked from Facebook. Videos tend to pop up on our newsfeeds without our consent, either viewed/shared/tagged by our friends, which leads to you either a) watching the video or b) reading the title and making a mental note of it or c) reading peoples comments.

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Now it seems that Facebook has become precognitive of tomorrow’s headlines, whereby today’s posts/videos are tomorrows news. Allow me to explain with the following examples:

1) The story of the cat stuck in the wall at a metro station in Cairo was shared (and re-shared) on Facebook several times. I read the news, felt bad for the cat, and moved on. At first I questioned the source, wondering how a cat can be trapped for 5 years. It made no logical sense.

No later than a few short weeks did an article in a newspaper, a verified source of info, confirm that the cat was rescued from its underground prison (link)

2) A few days ago a video made its way around social media of airline employees at Saudi Airport in Riyadh mishandling passenger’s luggage, tossing it unceremoniously onto the conveyor belt behind the scenes.

Lo and behold, the following article stating that the employees have been fired (link).

Now this is both a good and a bad thing; it is good in that the news has taken on a dynamic form whereby stories that arise on the fly are quickly dealt with.

However, it is bad in that journalists no longer need to scour the streets looking for a scoop, they need only log onto Facebook.

This can be viewed as the natural progression of printed media.

I digress.

NES Gala 2015 – a 13 year trip down Memory Lane

If someone were to tell me, 13 years ago (17 if you take it from the start date of my journey to high-school) that I would be sitting in the hall of the New English School watching my relative perform on stage, I would have taken you to the school nurse for possibly ingesting hallucinogens.

Last night, I had the opportunity to take a much needed, self-reflective trip to NES to watch the talents of 2015 capture the collective attention of the audience through the masterful handling of their instruments.

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Walking through the gates, my heart skipped a beat. It is amazing how so much time could have passed and yet so little has changed. Upon initial passage, the first change is that the seating area on the left is now occupied by rows of lockers, and the water fountains on the right were “replaced” of sorts by one HUGE water fountain, built-in.

The hall from the first staircase, which I remember vividly as the examination hall, has either shrunk or my tired eyes no longer remember it – 13 years ago it seemed as though it were massive – stretching 20 students in all directions from the middle.. I still recall how during one exam my table was squeaking, and how Mr. Straney propped it up with blue tack.

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Everyone stood for the playing of the national anthem, afterwhich the students took to the stage for their renditions of pieces made famous throughout history. As I looked casually to my left I spotted a familiar nikon camera behind a white mane and beard. To say that my eyes bulged at the sight would be an understatement; my jaw dropped and I was literally flabbergasted. Could it be, Mr. Johnson? The Biology teacher from 17 years ago? My relative confirmed this, and my expression changed to that of awe; for how little things had changed.

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It seems that when English schools began trickling into Kuwait, there was a meeting of all of the Heads in which they agreed that the four houses in any school would follow the Google Chrome color scheme (which leads me to believe that time travelers walk amongst us since Google, much less Google Chrome, did not exist back then in the 19-God-Knows-When) of Red, Yellow, Green and Blue (stated in the order of the limerick – R(ed)oy O(range)f Y(ellow)ork G(reen)ave B(lue)attle I(ndigo)n V(iolet)ain). Each school was given the autonomy to name the houses as they please; The English School decided to go by naming them after famous castles in the UK – Windsor (my house), Balmoral, Buckingham and Sandringham which if memory serves followed the following color scheme – Green, Red, Blue and Yellow. We moved to NES and suddenly the houses were named after Kuwaiti Islands – which was very confusing indeed! Now they have taken on a further metamorphosis, to what I can only assume is cooler islands (without reverting to Google for clarification).

[editors note: old habit got the best of me, and I Googled the 4 houses only to realize its still the islands of Kuwait but with different names – most likely Greek]

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The program was simply amazing with plenty a mirthful anecdote interjected to keep the mood light and jovial. The music was a delightful harmony of classic and modern, with songs that predate me as well as those that were released recently (fortunately I could sing along to a few – like Yesterday and All of Me although the first was a bit off which can be attributed to the intended pianist not making an appearance).

Given the number of ukeleles present, as well as guitars, it would seem pertinent to assume that they were being handed out to students as they entered school premises. The rest, their talent, being up to them.

The idea of requesting students to mentor other, younger students was by far one of the best things I heard that day, so much so I wished it were true 17 years ago, maybe it would have plucked the musical string within.

All in all, it was a truly delightful experience.

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August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

September 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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