Monday, February 25, 2008

Kuwait Liberation Day!

Today (Tuesday, Feb. 26) marks the 17th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait following the Iraqi occupation that ended in the First Gulf War. Today is naturally a national holiday here in Kuwait so I am enjoying yet another day off from work. Yipeee!! Tomorrow, however, it will be back to the 'rock pile'. Still, a two-day work week is very nice!!

One personal note: yesterday I drove to Fahaheel Monday morning and purchased about half a dozen DVDs (1 KD = $3.70 USD each). I had made the mistake of coming in on Sunday afternoon and found most (but not all) the shops closed for the mid-afternoon break. A word of caution to the uninitiated (myself included): when shopping in the Middle East, shop early (before noon) or later in the day (after 4:30 pm) to avoid having to deal with most of the shops being closed!

The Metric Week!!

Well, it's finally here!! Yesterday (Sunday, Feb. 24) was the start of the metric week .... that means I have only ten (10) days left to go before returning to home sweet home!!! Another 'mind game' but it helps hasten the passage of time and it seems to shorten the time (if only mentally) until I can fly home.

PS: Today, Monday, February 25, is officially a Holiday - it's Kuwait National Day!! The anniversary of when Kuwait became an independent state.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Working Weekend and Holiday!

Ah, duty calls!! Although Saturday is our weekend, I went to one of our computer network terminals and worked for about 4 hours!! Too bad .. it was a brilliant day outside! Clear blue skies. Although today - Sunday, Feb 24 - would normally be the first day of the work week, it is officially classified as a "day of rest". Since tomorrow (Monday) is Kuwait National Day and Tuesday is Liberation Day (the 17th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait following the first Gulf War in 1991), the Kuwait Parliament voted to make today (Sunday) a day off to 'bridge the gap' so to speak between the weekend (Feb. 22/23) and the two back-to-back holidays (Feb. 25/26). Sweet! The US government would never consider doing such a nice gesture for its citizenry! It's nice that there is still a government in this mean old world that is mindful of its citizens quality of life!

I came in to work at 9:15 am and now, after almost three hours of Email chores, etc., it's almost 12 noon and so I am now heading home. After all, this is a day of rest!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Weekend #3

Thankfully, yesterday (Friday, Feb. 22) was an excellent weather day!! NO MORE DUST!! The sky was virtually clear and so we ventured to downtown Kuwait City and visited the Kuwait Water Towers - the iconic symbol of Kuwait (similar to The Statue of Liberty in NYC or the Burj Al-Arab in Dubai). The towers are THE tourist site that all visitors MUST visit.

One aside: the weather is still rather cold - daytime temps are in the 50's - 60's. This is rather cool for this 'late' in the year.

Monday, February 18, 2008

It's Tuesday .... "Hump Day"!!

When one is working far away from home and trying not to mind the separation from home, family, friends, and colleagues, one often uses these 'mind games' to help with the passage of time. So we call Tuesday "hump day" to denote the fact that today is the midpoint of our work week (recall that here in this part of the Middle East we adhere to a Sunday - Thursday week schedule). Now we are on the downhill slope on the way to another, hopefully fun-filled weekend. By the way, the dust STILL has not completely settled since last weekend's dust storm. Visibility is much improved but there is still a haze hanging over the horizon.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekend II - Dust Bowl City!!

I was all excited during the work week about visiting Kuwait City. I've been to the big City numerous times, of course, but this time I had bene planning to take a friend there to visit the Kuwait Towers. Everything started out fine Friday morning. We left camp (in Al Zour) at 9 am and arrived at the Sharq Mall (a fairly new mall having opened in 2001) and the sky was sunny and clear (see above photo). Then, after our weekly grocery shopping at The Sultan Center, we emerged outside at 11 am to a very dusty sky (see the second photo above the first photo and note the change). Naturally, we vere extremely disappointed since we were forced to cancel our visit to the Towers as the visibility was terrible. Sigh .... maybe next weekend.

So we changed our plans on the fly and simply headed over to the Hilton Hotel in Mangaf where we enjoyed the Friday buffet (10.5 KD per person). A consolation prize, sort of.
I should note that thankfully our driver was very safety conscious throughout all of Friday's events and he drove carefully despite the poor road conditions caused by the blowing dust. Note the posted warning sign above!! A word to the wise - beware of the OTHER drivers here in Kuwait. I don't call them Kamikazies for nothing!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Change in the Weather

Nothing new to report so far this work week except that last night we had some real loud thunder - unusual for this part of the world. We had some rain as well. As of noon today (Feb 13) it appears as though the rain is moving out of our area and hopefully the weekend will see better weather. Also, we are now moving into Spring and the daily temperatures are slowly moving upward. The only non-work related 'excitement' for the week (I won't bore you with work details) is the huge spider I spotted crawling around near my office. Yuk!! The picture tells it all.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Traffic" Jam - Kuwaiti Style!!

Being a veteran of New York City and Houston traffic, I was never quite prepared for these "obstacles" along the road!! This morning's commute in to Wafra Field offered some interesting diversion (see above picture). I had to stop my car to avoid hitting any of these animals. Once the lead camel got it into his mind to cross the road, the others wanted to follow suit no matter what got in their way. I thought I could get past the first one or two critters but the remainder of the herd just had to get across the road so I was simply forced to sit and wait until the entire herd / family crossed in front of me. The only problem was the lack of enough sunlight which caused my digital pics to come out a tad too pixelated (grainy). Anyway, it was an unusal start to another work day here in Wonderful Wafra!

Weekend in Kuwait - I

An enjoyable trip into the "big city" this past weekend (Friday and Saturday). I booked a car and driver who picked my colleague and I up at 9 am and drove us to our first destination: the new "Avenues" mall - the largest mall in Kuwait. (It's still under construction.) We completed our eweekly grocery shopping at Carrefour - a huge supermarket (a French-based chain of stores similar to Wal-Mart in the USA). I like heading into town on Friday mornings as most of the 'Kamikazies' are off the road and driving on Kuwait's highways is noticeably safer! Since our company's camp is situated in the southern most portion of Kuwait (just 30 mins from the Saudi border), we are forced to venture outside and drive at least 35 - 60 minutes in search of a decent sized grocery store in order to get a reasonable selection of food. (Unlike in Houston where there is a major grocery store every mile or so from my home!) In addition, I must cart around an ice chest to help keep the food cool after purchasing the food. Summer time temps here in Kuwait exceed 40 deg C (104 deg F) and food spoils rapidly if not properly preserved. Grocery shopping is typically considered a routine or mundane activity - not worthy of mentioning in a diary or blog. However, when living in remote areas away from our homes, we tend to forget that acquiring food and other of life's essentials can sometimes be a real chore. At least we are blessed with huge markets and malls here in Kuwait!! I remember in Angola we had vistually nothing save for a small commissary.

Following Avenues, we headed over to the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza hotel for the Friday seafood buffet. Excellent food for only about 9 KD ($ 34 USD) per person. A nice treat and a pleasant ending to a very busy work week.

On the way home, we passed by a lot of the "spring camps" (see above picture) that spring up in the desert at this time of the year. Kuwaitis it turns out like to get back to nature and pitching a tent in the desert is, I suppose, their way of keeping their desert-based culture alive. These camps are set up in the Fall (November) and usually come down with the onset of summertime heat in April - May. I've never had the pleasure of being invited inside one of these spring camps / tents, however. Maybe sometime .....

Thursday, February 7, 2008

TGIT (Thank Goodness It's Thursday!!!)

Here in Kuwait, Thursday, is the equivalent of a Friday in the West. Starting last September, Kuwait officially adopted the Sunday - Thursday workweek (they had previously been on a Saturday - Wednesday work schedule) so now I can enjoy the weekend!! I've booked a car and driver and will venture into town tomorrow for my weekly grocery shopping and some sightseeing and fine dining (gotta have at least one nice meal per week). Hopefully it will be a nice diversion following what has been a busy first week of work here in Wonderful Wafra!

By the way, it might be worth noting that the weather here has been unusualy cold for this time of year; nighttime temps are in the low 40's and daytime highs are about 65 - 70 deg F. It won't be long, however, when the desert 'blast furnace' is turned on our local temps reach into the low 100's!!

Ta ta for now ............

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Road to Wafra

Commuting to work here in Wonderful Wafra Field is fun. No traffic at all. The only activity we normally encounter is a herd of sheep or camels that we pass along the way. My daily commute is precisely 58 km (36 miles) and takes about 40 minutes. [Maximum allowed car velocity is 120 km/hr.] At the start of our drive in to work we pass by what I call the Kuwaiti equivalent of a "7-11" convenience store (pictured above). The remainder of the drive is uneventful. One good aspect to driving here in Kuwait is that the roads are generally in excellent condition: well paved and well illuminated at noight. One bad note: the driving is extremely hazardous. The 'Kamikazies' out on the road ignore the speed limit (which is usually applied only to us expats) and typically speed in excess of 180 km/hr!! I'll probably share a few photos of car wrecks at some point in this blog.

Oh well, that's it for now. It's off to work for me ....

Sunrise Over the Arabian Gulf

Ah the start of a new day here in the Middle East! We had been experiencing a huge wind storm lately but, thankfully, yesterday morning saw some relief. We were greeted by a splendid sunrise over the Arabian Gulf. FYI: for you westerners out there - it's the ARABIAN Gulf!! Not the 'Persian' Gulf!!!! [Only Iranians prefer to call it the Persian Gulf.]

Sunday, February 3, 2008

It's On the Road Again!! My Trip to Kuwait - Feb 2008

Hi - ho - hi - ho ... it's off to work I go! Another trip abroad! I boarded my Emirates flight from Houston to Dubai on Wednesday (Jan. 30) and arrived in Dubai on Thursday, Jan 31 after a 13 hr-45 min flight. Not being blessed with the ability to sleep on planes, I was unable to sleep during the loooooong flight over. Naturally I was a 'basket case', a walking zombie! Still, I am grateful for the fact that I can now fly from Houston to the Middle East non-stop and I no longer have to transit thru Amsterdam, London or Frankfurt enroute to the Gulf region.

I managed to spend a night at the brand new Dubai Intercontinental Hotel (it's only been in operation for 2 months). Great hotel. Next to the hotel is a brand new mall - "Festival City".

The following day (Friday, Feb 1) was very dusty and windy (note the dull sky behind the hotel pictured above). Thankfully my flight to Kuwait took off right on time!! We landed at Kuwait International Airport at 5 pm local time. (Kuwait is one hour behind Dubai and 9 hours ahead of Houston time.) After a one-hour drive I arrived at my work camp and settled in for a night's sleep. Saturday was a day of rest and recouperation and an excellent meal at the Blue Elephant restaurant at the Hilton Hotel in Mangaf.

As I post this note, it is Sunday (Feb. 3) and it's my first day of work. Still afflicted with jet lag. My rule-of-thumb is that recovery takes about one day for every hour of time shifting. Hence, it typically takes me about a week to fully readjust my internal body clock to the 9 hour time shift. Just one of the 'dark sides' of international travel. C'est le vie. Oh well, off to work!! More later ....