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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Ready for RunQ8?

RunQ8 – one of the few annual runs available for the Runners of Kuwait, will be kicking off their 3rd such event tomorrow.

I for one shall not be participating, as the organizers low-balled me out of participating after changing the date from November 2nd to November 30th. The problem is I was extremely looking forward to this event, because of this:

RunQ8 2012 (92)

This year I had been planning a feat like none before, testament to the fact of being a runnertainer; I’d had a costume specifically made for the occasion (runner friendly), went out and bought certain accessories to make the costume even more believable, and was really hoping to get a chance to show it during this run.

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In solidarity with my running buddies in Kuwait however, I will go for a 10K run where I am currently stationed: Hyderabad, India.

And no, I am not hoping the event will be rained out tomorrow (fingers crossed) as was the case last year.

Good luck to everyone participating, remember:

1) to do dynamic stretches, as opposed to static;

2) Have a nice carb-loaded dinner tonight (not too much though! White pasta should suffice);

3) when running, slow down to drink water so as not to choke (you do not need hydration during a 10K run if you hydrate properly the night before).

4) A little competition is a good thing, but be a good sport! In the end, its for charity, not an Olympic gold medal!

5) Smile, be courteous, be wary of your peripherals when runners are attempting to overtake you, try not to run in someones path.

6) HAVE FUN & ENJOY!

Running Bucket list: Taj down, 6 to go!

It all started when I visited Egypt after resigning from a job I’d had and loved for 3 years. Having spent years upon years visiting home and never checking out the pyramids, I decided to remedy the situation. In fact, I decided to merge my desires and link running with sight-seeing. I came up with an epiphany; visit all 7 wonders of the world and run there, track it via GPS to prove the point.
The pyramids, not being part of the official 7 now (albeit maintaining honorary status as the 8th wonder) were the first, so to speak:

Fast forward to this month, and I find myself on assignment to India of all places! You know what that meant right?

Taj Mahal, congratulations on being the first on my list.

Stay tuned for a detailed write down of the journey, as well as the scenic beauty that is Agra!

Stand up for Comedy in Kuwait @georgetarabay

Mark this down in your calendars people:

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All the details are right there; what are you waiting for?

How to Solve the Traffic Problem in Kuwait

In light of recent road closures and initial public holiday offerings, and despite not being one of the lucky stiffs that were given the day off yesterday, this reporter has had a sudden stark realization best explained in a series of now popular “internet memes” to prove my point, mulled in my mind as I drove to work yesterday and arrived in record time, a feat unbeknownst mid-week:

traffic in kuwait

Give the sudden clarity that follows such an enlightening moment, the mind ventures to rather morose ideals:

close down the schoolsThat moment you realize:

Traffic problem solved

 

 

Take the third ring road

If you’re working in shuwaikh and heading home now, avoid the 80 (Jahra Road) AT ALL COSTS!

Take the third ring road. Very moderate traffic, you wouldn’t think anything was the matter.

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Kuwait: More than the Land of Sand & Camels?

It was once said in the Gulf region that Kuwait represents the past, Dubai represents the present and Qatar represents the future.

Being an expat that has lived their entire life in Kuwait, I resented that statement, until just recently when I realized just how true that statement was; hear me out before jumping down my throat (and please save the “if you don’t like it leave” speech or say something more original).

When people say, “let’s go visit Dubai!” what usually comes next after that sentence? They have:

– Burj Khalifa

– YAS Island

– Sky Diving

– In-door skiing

– Various sports events/ concerts

Dubai Then & Now

Dubai

Dubai Then & Now

Dubai

Dubai Then & Now

Dubai

What about Qatar? Slowly but surely its list of activities is growing as well, all though Qatar is choosing the path of monopolizing sports/ arts in the region. What makes Qatar different than Kuwait is that its Corniche has been taken over by restaurants at every corner! You can still enjoy a long walk on the pavement by the sea and not have your view obstructed by Golden Arches or Winking Colonels, or a restaurant named “Penguin” that strangely enough neither caters to nor serves their aforementioned namesake!

Qatar

Now ask yourself this; when people think “lets go to Kuwait!”, what comes next? What have we got to impress them?

It will come as no surprise to everyone that has been living in Kuwait for a prolonged period of time that very little commercialization has taken place in Kuwait over the past decade.

The only thing expats dream of doing in Kuwait is going to the desert, and having a camel back ride. I’ve checked. And maybe Souq Mubarakiya as well, however it has lost its touch of antiquity as of the latest expansions – it is no longer what it once was a few years ago – a cultural equivalent of a trip down memory lane.

The malls that are popping up all over Kuwait, including the many extensions of the Avenues, 360, the Promenade (or whatever it is called on the Fifth Ring Road), the Plaza (or whatever it is called on the Third Ring Road) are not what people visit (or stay in) the country for; malls can be found anywhere, and all they offer is the same exact shops selling the same exact goods in a different location.

The list of activities to do in Kuwait is dwindling; there are only so many times you can do certain things before they become monotonous.

Just recently Oman hosted its inaugural ultramarathon in its desert, a 165KM affair over a 6 day period. Kuwait has vast expanses of desert, why is such an event not hosted here?

It is not Kuwait’s fault, I blame the media. Take for example Al-Hamra Tower; from an architectural perspective, the tower incorporates never-before-used designs whereby all the offices are shaded as a result of the curvature of the tower. This was mentioned in a documentary on the Discovery Channel; however it has not been mentioned again since. Now the only thing synonymous with the Tower is Grand Cinema (and maybe Elevation Burger, Versace Cafe etc.). Anything that has a slight chance of creating a media pull is not covered well enough in international media.

In over 20 years, Kuwait should have more to offer than malls and Retail Therapy.

Maybe Kuwait can take the offensive when it comes to television; Kuwaiti shows are highly regarded in the region. Maybe Kuwait can become the Hollywood of the Gulf, or Gullywood?

That’s two ideas to move forward; use them and give me credit (and royalties).

Kuwait: not the Land of the Lawless

Ask any expat in Kuwait and they will most likely tell you the same thing: Kuwait is the land of the lawless. I have evidence to the contrary, despite prolonged delay, the wheels of justice do in fact move forward.

Slow and steady, slowly but surely, things will get done here. Expats in Kuwait have a habit of throwing in the white towel when bullied, especially by other expats. Take the following example; a few months ago, September to be exact, on a Thursday night after a long day at work much like today, eagerly looking forward to the weekend as I pulled up at my building and was delighted to spot a great parking spot, as I moved in for it, I realized my happiness was short lived. A person living in the building next to mine decided to place two metal poles in the middle of a ground in front of the fence of his building to deter anyone from parking in that spot, as it caused him grief in taking his car out of its parked area. Everyone responded by either parking sideways, or park far away.

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Perp A

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The empty parking lot belongs to the car parked beside the fence; complete opposite mentality of live and let live

Regardless of the geography, what this person did was criminal, as it is considered encroaching upon government land. Not only that, he had the audacity to call the police on me as I insisted on parking there, and blocking his vehicle in the process.

So in return, I called up the emergency number for the municipality, and attempted to file a complaint. I was told it would have to be in person. I tried circumventing this by submitting a written report through their website of the encroachment along with several others around the same area, as the major problem with expats is they simply state, its not my problem and move on. Not me. Given the nature of what I do for a living, if I see something wrong, I have to exhaust all possible efforts to correct it. Again, no dice. With the written method, I wrote an essay that basically had this neighbor working in cahoots with Saddam Hussein himself in 1991.

I received a call from the municipality, they checked their email which was great, however again I had to go in person, with pictures. At the time I was working from 10AM to 7PM. I live in a densely populated part of Hawally, and anyone that lives close knows that the morning drive is MURDER. Huge traffic jams, rush hour is a terrible thing. So I decided to mount my bicycle and ride from Hawally to Salmiya where their office is, at 7AM in the morning on September 24th.

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The Route to get to the Municipality from my house; all 16.36KM of it

I got there, made small talk with the male secretary who was taking my statements and was disheartened when he told me that in order for my complaint to be lodged, I would need to bring a copy of my rent agreement, my civil ID along with 6 other tenants, write a formal letter of complaint that this person encroached upon government land, and also get the landlord to file the complaint themselves. He might as well have asked me to have it officially notarized and stamped at the foreign offices. I was told that without wasta, nothing would happen. However, I refused to give up.

Not one to be disheartened, I wrote another letter on the municipality website, this time accusing them of not wanting to do what is best for Kuwait; and that is prevent the likes of this neighbor from hell from getting away with such heinous crimes.

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The grey path made into a parking lot is supposed to be a road in between two buildings, not belonging to either, taken over by Perp B

Fast forward to last weeks Thursday, and I received a call from a municipality employee who, albeit insisting on calling me Nasser, had noble intentions at heart and asked for directions to the scene of the crime. Upon explaining them over and over as he took wrong turn after wrong turn and I found myself having to visualize the map of all shops in the area in my minds eye so as to get him where he needs to go. I rushed to the scene and found him furiously writing citation after citation for the three buildings surrounding me, each with its own transgression, including the foul neighbor that verbally abused me (which he did, actually). He informed each hares to take the citation to the owner of the property, he was not phased when the hares of one building told him it belonged to a sheikh, he merely informed him that the law is the law, and that the chains and poles had to be removed. He then told me that they had 3 days to remove the poles, if they were not removed I was to call him. Last week, 3 days later from the date of the citations, the municipality guy called me up to check on the progress.

The foul neighbor had finally removed his poles, and I got to park there, in a sign of poetic justice. The other two had not done so. That’s one point for the working stiff!

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The shaded parking is supposed to be a road between two buildings, not belonging to either, taken over by Perp B

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Not one to miss the fun, Perp C (yellow building) also capitalized on the closure of half the road by taking the other half to themselves

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Apparently neither Perp B nor C recall who erected these poles, as explained to the Ministry Man

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The extent of Perp C’s territory is as far as the paved area goes, the tarmac’d area does not belong to them

I received another call from the Ministry this week asking if all obstructions were removed, I informed them that B & C were still at large. They are on it.

It may take time, but in the end, justice prevails. Expats should not be complacent Yes-sayers, if someone breaks the law, you report it. You follow up on it. You do not turn the other cheek, for that empowers others to likewise perform similar acts of transgression.

 

 

Delights of the Desert: Camping in Kuwait

Camping: the act by which inhabitants of the city foolishly attempt to persuade themselves that they can cut it in the wild, or an incorrect comparison drawn between people of today and early prehistoric human beings, a fallacy of tenacity whereby we believe we have the capability to “rough it” in our nylon tents, with our disposable barbeques, smart phones, ATV’s and most importantly, toilet paper.

Having never embraced the outback myself, I jumped at the opportunity to be “one with the desert” when two amazing ladies decided to organize a desert camping trip.

Kuwait turned out to be a lot bigger than previously imagined; at most I drew my borders around the CBD – Kuwait City, Salmiya, Jabriya, Hawally, Shuwaikh. Quite recently I ventured out to such far off areas as Fintas, Mangaf, Mahboula, Abu Halifa and Egaila. Now I have added Abdali to the mix.

The encampment where which we set up shop was quite astounding; an expanse of war torn buildings were all around us, uninhabited for decades, they served as a shocking reminder of the mayhem that was witnessed during the Gulf War. They served a new purpose now; cover for rave parties (glow sticks were found in the vicinity) as well as a supply of burnable wood for bonfires.

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The beauty of the bonfire

I digress, for this is not a history lesson, this was a fun session, and fun was passed out in excess as we arrived at roughly sun down. The tents were set up, I finally got my tent maker badge (thank you Robin!) and understood the mechanics of it all. In windy  conditions, rocks are your best friends. The sound system was hooked up and the music blared as the people ate and danced in merriment into the night. Highlights would include the song and dance of the Syrian People, the American People and the Egyptian People.

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The view from the tent… amazing

Helping hands were offered to people that were previously strangers, but by the end of the night had transcended to friends.

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At first thought, anyone would shudder at the idea of leaving the comfort of their homes for the “thrill” of sleeping beneath the stars. Yet all it takes is one look at the majestic sky to quell all fears. By 6PM the night sky was dark, given the absence of man-made illumination. To our right stood lights that we believed to be Iraq, to our left, Kuwait. The mind can play terrible tricks at night, with thoughts of marauders and bandits creeping into everyone’s minds. They were however unrealized, gone with the wind as the sun rose over the horizon.

Squeezing myself into an ill-fitting tent, lying diagonally so as not have enough space, bunching a cover beneath my head to serve as a pillow was part of an experience I would never forget. You learn to appreciate the small things in life; like the ease with which we have bathroom breaks during sleep. To go to the bathroom, at 6AM, after sleeping at 4AM, was quite the task as it involved wearing extra layers of clothes, as well as shoes (although I was ever thankful for being born a male for the simple pleasure of having the ability to pee standing up).

Running in the desert at 6:30AM though, I have a new appreciation for the Marathon Des Sables! Sand as far as the eye can see, and nothing but you and the dunes, priceless.

Camping is addictive, and once you have your first taste, it is impossible to forget. Rest assured, this will be revisited!

So in closing, thank you Alexis and Ligia for the amazing adventure!

Cris Craita represents Kuwait in Inaugral Oman Desert Marathon

In the world of Ultra Marathons, Oman is joining the fracas by kick-starting its very own Desert Marathon, 165KM over 5 days.

Oman Desert Marathon

Representing Kuwait in the launch of this premier event is Kuwait’s local expat runner and bootcamp sensation: Cristian Craita!

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Those of you familiar with the running community of Kuwait will remember Cris as also being one of the first participants in the Kuwait Border run in 2012, being the sole expat in the mix that traversed Kuwait from its Northern border to the South, a distance of almost 240KM:

RunKuwaitTeam

Cris remains the sole participant from Kuwait in Oman. His tenacity and determination are most likely to carry him across the finish line, as well as your support.

He remains to date the major influence in my own running path; a full time employee as well as a husband and father; Cris never fails to find the time to pursue his passion of running. And if that is not inspiring, I do not know what is.

Good luck Cris, and God Speed!

Go get ’em tiger!

Follow him on Instagram: @Firespell

Join the Bootcamp group on Facebook (here)

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

September 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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