Friday, August 22, 2008

I Want My A/C!!!

OK ... so this isn't a travel-related posting! But I am moved to say something since my air conditioner compressor went out last Thursday (Aug. 14). Let's face it, being in Houston, Texas without air conditioning in the middle of August is terrible!! My apartment complex wasn't able to replace my defective compressor until Monday (Aug. 18) so that meant I had to do without proper cooling for four (4) whole days. Thankfully the apartment loaned me a portable A/C unit that cooled my place somewhat. It's times like this that make me appreciate what I often take for granted the rest of the year. Anyway, the new compressor is now installed and I am cool again!! My old A/C unit sat outside for a few days (see photo, above) before being hauled away to the graveyard, no doubt for a proper burial.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Long (and delayed) Road Home

Sadly, I must complain about Emirates Airlines. My flight home started last Wednesday, August 6 aboard Emirates 856. As we were rolling down the runway at Kuwait International Airport, our plane - a Boeing 777-200 LR - came to a screeching halt. Two fire trucks rolled up and deployed their fire hoses. No word on what happened (Emirates only said it was a 'technical problem') but all of us passengers were eventually ushered off the plane and into the Pearl Lounge where we sat from about 11 am until about 4 pm. Finally, Emirates flew another jet to Kuwait to pick us up and fly us to Dubai where we arrived about 8 hours late!! Fortunately, my connection wasn't until the following morning so I only missed having a pleasant afternnon in Dubai to shop. Unfortunately, most of my fellow passengers missed their connections to Europe/Asia and had to make other arrangements.
I arrived at my hotel - The Intercontinental Hotel - Festival City. I only had time to unpack and go to bed. I got up the followng morning, Aug. 7, at 5:30 am, headed over to the Dubai Airport (the lower photo of the above two photos attempts to show just how crowded the Dubai airport is at such an early hour) and I boarded Emirates 211 at 8:30 am. Thankfully my flight home took off ON TIME at about 9:30 am Dubai time and landed in Houston a few minutes early at 4:00 pm Houston time. The next time I go over to Kuwait I am thinking of flyng KLM!

Tea Time

One of the more pleasant aspects to daily office life in my office in Wafra, Kuwait is the presence of a complete staff of workers who are constantly around to serve us office people tea or coffee at any time of the day. The wait staff are referred to as "tea boys" .... or waiters as I prefer to call them since the phrase "tea boys" seems a bit insulting as most of these 'boys' are in their 20's or 30's!!. In the USA, our company would never spend a penny on hiring waiters to serve tea/coffee - rather, we all depend upon ourseleves to make our own drinks. I presume it is the low cost of labor in the Arabian Gulf states that allows local companies there to hire workers for tasks that would never be seen in most Western countries (USA, Canada, Europe). I must compliment these fellows (no women are hired as waiters!) as most seem quite pleasant in attitude despite the low wages they receive by their contractor. The waiter who works in my area is named Zubair and says his salary is less than 100 KD/month ($350 USD/month). A few years ago they were paid only 30 KD/month but now their salaries have been 'upgraded' but are still relatively quite low by Western levels.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Final Weekend in Kuwait Before Heading Home!

Well, time flies when one is having fun! It seems like almost yesterday that I came over here and now I must soon return to home-sweet-home. This weekend lasted three days with Thursday being a religious holiday (the Ascention of the Prophet). Thursday: I had an excellent buffet lunch with some friends at Teatro at the Hilton Hotel in Mangaf. Cost = 11.5 KD per person ($43 USD or 28 Euros). Friday: My colleague and I enjoyed the seafood buffet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel which is located in the Farwaniya section of Kuwait City. Total cost was approximately 13.5 KD (tip and water included). On Saturday I stayed at home (way too dusty outside) and cooked for myself. I can't eat out every day because if I did that I'd soon be as 'big as a house'.

The Sharq Mall - opened around 2001. This mall was once THE mall to see and be seen in. Although time has past it by (the Avenues Mall is now the 'IN' place to be), the Sharq Mall is still a nice place to shop.
Naturally, with all the petro dollars rolling into the country, Kuwait is in the midst of a building boom. Most new buildings utilize a typical construction crane. This particular building has an interesting network of wooden scaffolding.

When in Kuwait, ALWAYS DRIVE WITH CAUTION!!! Expats are normally obliged to obey the 120 km/hour speed limit - but Kuwaitis and Saudis frequently zip by at 150 - 180 "klicks" (km/hr).

A collection of sheep grazing reminds one of the fact that not too many years ago, most of this part of the Middle East was more dependent upon farming and raising animals (sheep, camels, etc.) than on oil production.