May 31, 2012

Safety First! Protecting Your Expat Children in Kuwait


Not since 9/11 has anything in the news devastated me more than reading the tragic true story of what just happened in Qatar. My heartfelt prayers go out to the residents of Qatar and every single person affected by this tragedy. I have wept each time reading what happened because it's such a tragic loss of innocent lives that could have easily been prevented.

What stands out in my mind is that rescue workers were not informed until a half an hour after arriving on the scene that there was a nursery inside. Without trying to sound preachy, this is a gross error and crime! This kind of incompetence makes my blood literally boil and I can't comprehend that such a deadly mistake was made by the mall. Time is the most critical part of any rescue operation and the fact that no one was alerted to small children being inside the nursery is unforgivable.

I read (here) that the Moroccan fireman and "hero", Husam Shahboun, was found dead lying on the floor with two children in his arms and several surrounding him and his Iranian colleague.

When something like this happens the most important thing we can do is learn from the mistakes and prevent them from ever happening again. Safety starts with you first. Every morning when you get in your car you should think safety for you and your family. The first steps are checking your tires and do a visual of your car. The next, put your small children in car seats, buckle up yourself and drive defensively with a well maintained car. That's common sense but what many may not realize is that the country of Kuwait can be a safety nightmare. I’m sorry if this insults some but it’s a fact. I work in safety and I know what I’m talking about. The good news is that Kuwait is coming around to realizing the importance of safety in the work place. There is a great improvement in many local companies and that is a good, positive thing.

My advice for anyone with small children in nursery schools here in Kuwait: Go and have them immediately checked out. I’m saying this because I live in Kuwait but you should do this no matter what country you live in. Yes, that includes the USA.

If you are an expat working in Kuwait contact the safety staff of the company you work for and ask them to do you a favor and go with you on an inspection of the school. It’s your right to inspect your child’s school or nursery. Please do not wait until it’s too late!

Click (here) for a safety presentation I found online that helps you identify safety risks at your child's school. 

I just want to write that my heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the victims. If there is any legitimate website for donations for the firemen and nursery’s victims families please comment or email me. Thank you!


May 26, 2012

It's Fleet Week in NYC!

Photo & Article credit: (Link)

Young guys and gals answer the call to arms when Fleet Week hits New York and brings boatloads of sailors and Marines.

The boys are back in town!  It’s Fleet Week and come Wednesday, boatloads of sexy sailors will hit the streets.

By Nicole Lyn Pesce / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

And as anyone who’s seen the infamous “Sex and the City” episode knows, these lonely servicemen are looking for a good time after months at sea.

Step up, New York gals — and do your duty.

“Women love men in uniform,” says Lori Zaslow from Project Soulmate, a Manhattan matchmaking service, “and New York is happy to be a good hostess.”

The thousands of Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard members flooding the streets add fresh blood to the city’s overcrowded dating scene.

“That’s a lot of men, which increases the odds in your favor,” Zaslow says. “Get into a little sailor skirt and introduce yourself — you don’t have anything to lose, because you’re probably never going to see them again.”

Netting a sailor or muscled Marine can be a shore thing — if you know where to look.

We’ve rounded up the ports of call where the Fleeters are definitely dropping anchor, as well as some suggestions for sealing the deal.

To read the rest of this article click: (here)

*** This article almost sounds like it's telling girls in NYC to do their duty and surrender the booty to support the troops. I promise you we are not told this on the US Camps in Kuwait! It's the other way around...

Kuwait in the US State Department Human Rights 2012 Report


US notes Kuwait lapse on ‘rights’ / Hope for change from Arab Spring

Arab Times (Link) Washington, May 25, 2012: (Agencies): The US State Department says that the principal human rights problems during 2011 in Kuwait included limitations on citizens’ rights to change their government, trafficking in persons within the expatriate worker population, especially in the domestic and unskilled service sectors and limitations on workers’ rights.

“This is in addition to restrictions on the freedom of speech and assembly imposed by the authorities, especially on the foreign workers and stateless people known locally as bedoun,” adds the report.

The report also says, “Other human rights problems included reports of security forces abusing prisoners, restrictions on freedom of movement for certain groups, including foreign workers and bedoun and limitations on freedoms of the press, association, and religion at times during the year. Bedoun also faced social and legal discrimination, and women did not enjoy equal rights.”

To read the rest of the article in the Arab Times click: (here)


World Report 2012: Kuwait

Article: (Link)

Hundreds of stateless people in Kuwait, known as Bidun, took to the streets in early 2011 demanding citizenship and other rights. The government violently dispersed the protests, but later promised to restore to the Bidun social benefits, including government-issued documentation and free education and health care. However, Bidun claims to Kuwaiti citizenship remained unresolved.

Kuwaiti authorities continued to restrict free expression, increasing internet surveillance and arresting individuals for criticizing the government.

Migrant workers in Kuwait, who comprise 80 percent of the country’s workforce, continued to face exploitation and abuse under the sponsorship system. Although Minister of Labor Mohammad al-‘Afasi announced that the government would abolish the sponsorship system in February 2011, the government made no major sponsorship reforms during the year.

In May Kuwait won election to its first term on the United Nations Human Rights Council, stepping in after Syria withdrew its bid.

Bidun

At least 106,000 stateless persons, known as Bidun, live in Kuwait. After an initial registration period for citizenship ended in 1960, authorities shifted Bidun citizenship applications to a series of administrative committees that have avoided resolving their claims.

While maintaining that most Bidun are "illegal residents" who deliberately destroyed evidence of other nationality, the government has not provided individualized review of Bidun citizenship claims. Kuwaiti law bans courts from ruling on citizenship claims.

The Bidun cannot freely leave and return to Kuwait. The government issues them temporary passports at its discretion, mostly valid for only one journey. As “illegal residents,” the Bidun cannot legally hold most public and private sector jobs, and Bidun children may not enroll in free government schools. Unregistered Bidun, whose citizenship applications the authorities have either closed or refused to register, are even more vulnerable than others, with restrictions on their freedom of movement and constant fear of deportation.

In February and March 2011 hundreds of Bidun protested the government's failure to act on their citizenship applications. Security forces used water cannons, tear gas, smoke bombs, and concussion grenades (sound bombs) to break up the demonstrations; they beat some protestors, and detained dozens. Bidun detained during the protests reported beatings and physical abuse in detention.

In response to the protests, the government promised benefits, including free health care; free education at private schools that primarily serve Bidun children; birth, marriage, and death certificate; and improved access to jobs. Bidun have confirmed receiving many of these benefits, but continue to cite problems accessing employment and increased difficulty receiving passports.

Freedom of Expression and Assembly

While 2011 saw some gains for free expression, authorities increased internet surveillance, and continued to detain and criminally prosecute individuals based on nonviolent political speech, including web commentary.

In early February the emir ordered the Ministry of Information to withdraw all lawsuits it had filed against local media. However, the local Al Jazeera bureau, closed by government order in 2010 after covering security forces’ crackdown on a peaceful gathering, remained shuttered.

In June the government arrested and detained for four months Nasser Abul, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti man, for Tweets critical of the Bahraini and Saudi royal families. According to his lawyer, state security officers beat and insulted Abul in detention. Kuwait continued to crack down on public gatherings and demonstrations. In addition to violently dispersing Bidun protests in February and April, authorities repeatedly warned foreign nationals not to participate in public demonstrations and threatened to deport them. In August police officers turned non-Kuwaitis away from protests calling for the expulsion of Syria’s ambassador from the country.

Migrant Worker Rights

In June the government voted to adopt the International Labour Organization’s Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which establishes the first global labor standards on domestic work.

The government passed a new private sector labor law in February 2010 that set maximum working hours, required a weekly rest day and annual leave, and set end-of-service bonuses. However, the law excluded migrant domestic workers, who come chiefly from South and Southeast Asia and work and live inside employers' homes in Kuwait. Many domestic workers complain of confinement in the house; long work hours without rest; months or years of unpaid wages; and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

A major barrier to redressing labor abuses is the kafala (sponsorship) system, which ties a migrant worker's legal residence to a “sponsoring” employer. Migrant workers who have worked for their sponsor less than three years can only transfer with their sponsor's consent (migrant domestic workers always require consent). If a worker leaves their sponsoring employer, including when fleeing abuse, the employer must register the worker as "absconding." This can lead to detention and deportation. In September 2010 the government announced that it would abolish the sponsorship system in February 2011, but made no major sponsorship reforms during the year.

Few perpetrators of abuse are investigated and prosecuted. In November 2010 doctors in Sri Lanka removed 14 nails from the body of V.R. Lechchami, a domestic worker recently returned from Kuwait. The government failed to properly investigate Lechchami's allegations that her employers inserted these objects after she asked for six months of unpaid salary.

Women's Rights

Kuwait's nationality law denies Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men the right to pass their nationality on to their children and spouses, a right enjoyed by Kuwaiti men married to foreign spouses. The law also discriminates against women in residency rights, allowing the spouses of Kuwaiti men but not of Kuwaiti women to be in Kuwait without employment and to qualify for citizenship after 10 years of marriage.In June 2011 Kuwaiti women were granted the right to sponsor their foreign husbands and children. However, this privilege is not extended to women who were previously naturalized, if they are widowed or divorced.

In 2005 Kuwaiti women won the right to vote and to run in elections, and in May 2009 voters elected four women to parliament. However, courts have denied women the right to become public prosecutors and judges.

Kuwait adjudicates family law and personal status matters for Sunni and Shia Muslims pursuant to interpretations of Islamic law, with no option to seek adjudication pursuant to a civil code. The law in particular discriminates against women in matters of divorce, inheritance, and child custody, granting men privileged status in these matters.

Kuwait has no laws prohibiting domestic violence, sexual harassment, or marital rape.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In 2007 Kuwait passed an amendment to article 198 of the penal code, which criminalized "imitating the appearance of the opposite sex," imposing arbitrary restrictions upon individuals' rights to privacy and free expression.

Police have since arrested scores of transgender women (persons designated male at birth but who identify and present themselves as female) under this law. Human Rights Watch has documented multiple arrests of 33 transgender women, many of whom have reported ill-treatment in detention, torture, sexual harassment, and assault. Victims say they rarely report police abuse due to fear of retaliation and police threats of rearrest.

Key International Actors

The United States, in its 2010 State Department Trafficking in Persons report, classified Kuwait as Tier 3—among the most problematic countries—for the fifth year in a row. The report cited Kuwait’s failure to enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, provide a large-capacity shelter for trafficking victims, and pass a law on domestic work.

Logo credit: Human Rights Association

* Disclaimer: YES! We have human rights violations in the USA.  This blog is about my experiences while living and working in Kuwait and not in the USA. I respect and love Kuwait but it has many human rights violations that need to be addressed just like the other countries in the world.


May 19, 2012

The Quest For The Perfect Spa in Kuwait

The Crown Plaza Hotel has the famous Spa Aquatonic and when I was still with Hayati he asked me to give it a try.  He wanted to buy me a yearly membership so I could go with him to the aquatonic pool several times a week.

I was very impressed with the size and beauty of the spa. It's just gorgeous! My photos do not do the spa justice at all.  I felt like I walked into a calming sanctuary.  The ladies room was beyond amazing and very large.  I went when it wasn't crowded so I almost had the place to myself. 

I immediately met an American lady who wasn't the least bit friendly. She was almost rude as I asked her several questions (utilizing my best Southern manners) about her experience at the spa.  Of course she was a damn "Yankee"! ;) LOL! I finally got her to open up a little. She didn't seem like the spa type and kind of looked like a prison guard. :P

I was quickly whisked away to the aquatonic pool where a spa attendant gave me a tour and explained they would let me try it out for free.  That day was mixed but there wasn't any ladies in the pool.

I wasn't allowed to take pics inside the pool area so this one is from the Spa Aquatonic website (here).  I loved my experience in the pool and everything about the spa up to that point.

Every detail of the spa is well thought of and immaculate.  You really feel like you're in a 'real' spa and not a tiny space made to feel like a spa.

The lobby where you can sit and have tea and juice.

Ginger tea

The front door and the parking lot is out to the right.  They have valet parking in front of the Hotel door.  One thing I do not like about the spa is the location.  You have to drive to Farwaniya and it's not pleasant.  Still, the amazing Spa Aquatonic is worth it.


Inside the room I was shocked how large it was compared to other spas. Their rooms are very quiet and the massage tables are even heated.  Unfortunately the room was freezing cold and I kept asking the massage therapist to make it warmer but she never fixed it.  I literally had the shakes from the chill and asked her to turn up the heated table and cover me with extra towels. :(

Everything about this spa is amazing except for the actual massage.  The massage therapist was the worst one I've ever had in my life.  She was just terrible and I'm not a difficult customer.  Her English was good but if I asked her something she wouldn't do it.  I asked her to concentrate on two key areas and she just ignored me.  I asked her again and she did the opposite of what I asked.  She kept talking the entire time and I just kept getting more and more agitated.  She didn't even seem to know how to give a massage so I asked her if she was new.  She said that she had been there for years.  Apparently they had just lost several of their best therapists because a new salon owner came and hired them.  I was beyond disappointed with the massage and on the verge of getting sick from the freezing cold air.


Lovely attention to details.

This is where you go to relax after your treatment and I was alone.  I thought about complaining but then I didn't want to get her in trouble.  I knew nothing could fix her technique and that only those who do not get regular massages would think she was decent.



I would definitely go back and try another massage therapist because Hayati said they are usually top notch.  I was disappointed in the treatment but my overall experience with the acquatonic pool and spa itself was amazing.

Lazy Friday Morning in Kuwait

My one true love: Coffee <3

Fresh baked waffles drizzled with melted butter and chocolate sauce.

Bubble Bath while reading a new trashy romance novel and sipping on a strawberry smoothie.

Now the stressful work week seems like just a bad dream...

May 17, 2012

Hey Expats in Kuwait, The Party's Over!



Yesterday, I received this email below from MJ:


Dear All, (please see flyer above)

We regret to inform you that the PARTY NIGHT by Iszonica Modelling School scheduled to be held on 25th May 2012 at Zafran Restaurant in Salmiya has been cancelled. This is due to the recent clamp down on social events in Kuwait which have resulted in a number of events ending early or being forced to shut down even though a licence was obtained.

We apologise for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.

Kind regards,

MJ - Managing Director


This morning in the Arab Tiimes we read:


Crack down on ‘fun-seekers’ - Expats to be deported

Arab Times (Link), Kuwait City, May 16, 2012: Assistant Undersecretary for Criminal Security Affairs Major General Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khalifa has instructed officials from all General Security Departments to carry out security campaigns against immoral activities and corruption in all areas of the country.

An informed security source said special security teams have been formed to investigate suspected places and to arrest all visitors to these places.

He stressed that securitymen were instructed to carry out security campaigns during the weekend and those involved in immoral activities should be dealt with in a strict manner.

Expatriates arrested during the campaign will be deported to their home countries.

The security campaigns will be carried out at chalets, livestock pens, stables and suspected flats.

_______________________________________

After living as an expat in Kuwait for quite a while I’m rather used to censored books, magazines, movies and the non-existence of legal bars and clubs. If you drink water, chew gum, smoke or eat between sun up and sundown during the Holy month of Ramadan you can be arrested, fined and spend the entire month in jail. Did I mention this year that Ramadan is the month of August and outside temperatures reach over 130F?

Before those of you that are not familiar with living in Kuwait die of shock, please understand that Dubai and Bahrain are just a 50 minute plane ride away. Eleven months out of the year you can fly in, hit duty free and then board your expat magic carpet ride to lavish hotels, five star spas, live music, rave parties on the beach and cocktails while shopping at luxury stores in gigantic, exotic malls. Have you ever snow skied inside a Middle Eastern mall, during the month of June with a tequila buzz? Well, I have! :P Living in a dry country really doesn’t affect me since I’m not a drinker except a few glorious cocktails, tequila shots and fine wine while on vacation outside of Kuwait.

Lately I’ve seen several ads in Kuwait from popular Hotels with dinner, live music and dancing, advertised “party” events and fiesta boat cruises. I was kind of surprised these events were publically advertised since we do live in Kuwait where even most wedding parties are held separately for local men and women. I wouldn’t feel comfortable attending most of these events for fear that we would all get busted by CID, put on the front page of the Arab Times newspaper and deported. There are only a few select, exclusive, unadvertised parties I would attend in Kuwait. They are very safe and quite amazing if you are lucky enough to score an invite. That’s all I’m going to write about that…;)

The point of my little post is that I love living in Kuwait and try to respect its laws. I may not agree with all of them but I’m a guest in this country and I must respect it. Anytime I feel the need to have a “Girl’s Gone Wild” time I can just put myself on a plane to Dubai with my girlfriends. However, I do feel that there is nothing wrong with certain events like MJ’s above that was cancelled after she obtained a legal license. What precedent does this set for the small business community in Kuwait that is trying to promote their legal products and services? I hope this is not the new trend of things to come.

E&TC

May 16, 2012

Cheering For The Kuwait National Football Team!

Photo credit: Kuwait Times

KUWAIT: (From left) Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas, Kuwait’s football media officer Talal Al-Mehteb, Kuwait’s national football team coach Guran Tufegdzic, Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho and Kuwaiti football player Jarrah Al-Ateqi pose for a photo during a press conference yesterday. Real Madrid will play a friendly match against Kuwait’s national football team today at Al-Kuwait SC stadium. (Inset) Real Madrid players Cristiano Ronaldo (left), Marcelo (center) and Pepe arrive at Kuwait Airport yesterday.

To read more about Real Madrid coming to Kuwait to play against the Kuwait National Team click (Here).

Kuwait Risks Exhausting Oil Savings by 2017: IMF

Article below by Reuters (Source) Kuwait City

Kuwait will have exhausted all its oil savings by 2017 if it keeps on spending money at the current rate, the International Monetary Fund said in a report published on Tuesday.

The IMF, which held a regular consultation with the OPEC member state in the last two weeks of April, said Kuwait would not be able to save oil receipts into its future generations fund.

It needed to diversify its economy and improve its infrastructure and climate for investment if it was to remain in good financial health.

It said the Gulf state would have to cut the fiscal deficit excluding oil and debt servicing by at least 7 billion dinars ($25 billion) by 2017 to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability.

That compared with projected state spending of around 25 billion dinars in 2017.

“The need of fiscal consolidation is larger and more urgent in a scenario of lower oil prices,” it said.

Kuwait had a sound fiscal buffer thanks to thirteen consecutive years of fiscal surpluses, the IMF said, estimating its budget break-even oil price at $44 per barrel for the fiscal year that ended in March.

That compares with current market prices above $112 per barrel.

But rising public sector wages, an “onerous” pension system and rapid population growth would put pressure on public finances.

Kuwait’s early statutory retirement age of 55 is one of lowest in the world and about 60 percent of the population is under 24 years old.

Kuwait’s economic recovery was expected to strengthen, led by high government expenditure, the fund said in the report, part of which the country’s central bank governor commented on Sunday.

But the government and parliament needed to push through an agenda which improved the investment climate and promoted sustainable and inclusive growth, it said.

Failure to do this would put the timetable for Kuwait’s 30 billion dinar development plan at risk.

 
* This isn't a surprise to most of us living in Kuwait. Hopefully this will help wake a sleeping giant.  All  you have to do is travel to other Gulf countries to see most are moving forward when Kuwait is clearly stepping back. It's time to take a stand and remove one's head from the sand.
 
I love Kuwait and I only want the best for my adopted country.  I pray that a miracle will happen so Kuwait will have a bright future for generations to come.  

Also in the news: (Wage hikes and Custom's / Airline strikes.)

Reuters on Kuwait


 

May 15, 2012

Fresh Baked Bread and Pastries From Paul's on a Friday Morning at Al Kout Mall in Kuwait

Seating is available inside and outside by the fountains.

Their bread is just scrumptous!

I like almost everything at Paul's but wish they would start serving breakfast by 8 AM.

Berrylicious!

Friendly Filipino staff.

Everyone is sitting outside while we order our bread and pastries.

Very clean and look at all the fresh ingredients...

Slicing our fresh baked bread for a very happy ending. <3


The Boats at the Al Kout Marina in Fahaheel, Kuwait

Photo credits: Expat and the City




My happy place is being surrounded by boats just like my home in the USA.




Love you Daddy! Muwaaaaaaaah!!! :*


Breakfast at the Mugg & Bean in Al Kout Mall, Kuwait


The Mug & Bean is South African and they have plenty of outdoor seating near the fountains.


The Indian and Filipino staff is friendly and attentive without overdoing it.

I had breakfast with Bama and we ordered omelets with hash browns, sausage and American coffee.

The hash browns came from a box frozen before heated and were not fresh or homemade.  That is a sin where I come from in the South so I just took a bite. :P The omelet looked amazing but unfortunately there wasn't any flavor. We could barely taste the veggies, cheese or egg.  It was just strange and even salt and pepper didn't help.


The cafe is really cute and in a great location.  I would definitely try their food again to see if we just went on an off day.

Yep, that's my finger. :P

Disclaimer: I am obviously not a food critic or working for a rival Ad agency.  This is just our opinions as Expats living in Kuwait.