Saturday, 16 December 2006

Soon after I arrived in Kuwait

Being a Muslim country the weekend falls on a Thursday and Friday, Friday being the holy day. It is very confusing. We often have to clarify whether we are talking about virtual or real Saturday when organising an evening event because we often get mixed up, even those who have been here for years! Some people say the weeks seem to go quicker because the weekend is in the wrong place. The Christian churches go with the flow and have their services on Fridays too.

There really is not much entertainment here. No theatre, orchestra or nightclubs. There are a few funfairs though. There is a Little Theatre which houses the amateur dramatics, and the two choirs each put on two shows a year in one of the many posh hotels, and there is a group who organize musicians to come and play a few times a year. There is an enormous Dow, a traditional Arab boat that has been built attached to the Radisson SAS hotel, (on land) which is used as a function room. The rugby club put on a ball in October. Most people go shopping for their entertainment. The Arab days are split with people having a sleep in the afternoon and subsequently are out late at night. Some shops close at midnight with children still up, because they had a split day too. I went into the grocery store last night at 11:45 after coming back from a friend’s and there were people in there doing their weekend shopping! Ramadan was weird because some people stayed up all night partying with family and slept most of the day because everyone had a shorter working day. Westerners don’t join this lifestyle. We just struggle with having to get up early in the mornings.

There are 2 singing groups for ex pats in Kuwait. I joined the Kuwait singers. It is very cosmopolitan with 21 different nationalities among 55 members. It is interesting to mix with them all. (The teaching staff at school are British with 2 Australians.) We have just performed in a good Christmas concert. We were of a high standard which is gratifying to be part of. It was lovely singing the British versions of Christmas carols because for the last 3 years I have had to sing them to the US tunes. Both the choirs hear have English musical directors at the moment.

I joined the British Ladies Society early on because the membership secretary is a mother in my class and the handbook has useful information and maps of the various places drawn by members. The Christmas ‘do’ was free to members so I went and had a great time. I happened to be on a table made up of parents from my school.

Most western ex pats belong to either a gym or a beach club. If you want to go on the beach here there are very few places you can do it if you are not a member of a club. I joined the Kuwait Hilton Resort Beach Club. All clubs have special deals for teachers as they make up a large part of the western ex pat community. We were invited to several places to sample their facilities. The Hilton is the farthest away, about half an hour in light traffic, with 3 beaches and lots of well-maintained greenery. I like seclusion so it suits me, I can go to the furthest beach and pool.

It is illegal to drink alcohol in this country, not that it stops many people, Arab and westerner alike. Ex pats tend to brew their own wine and/or smuggle, and Arabs buy on the black market. The school proposed having the Christmas ‘do’ in a hotel but that was voted out because there one couldn’t imbibe in ‘ribena’. So, it was held in someone’s large villa with catering by a hotel. The hotels do this a lot and send waiters for the food and bar. Many villas actually have a bar built into a room. Someone said that when they go back to Britain they have been known to get their drinks and just walk away from the bar without paying because that is what he is used to here. I was at a party held by an Arab once and asked the waiter for water. I had to repeat it. He said ‘On it’s own?’ I said yes, thinking well I don’t want whisky with it. (I don’t drink alcohol). He brought me half a tumbler. I was thirsty so took a swig and it was vodka! He had obviously never been asked for water before and assumed it was my version of vodka. I stopped going to parties after a short while, as they really aren’t my scene.

I have a cat called Treacle who is 15 years old. She is a tabby and very quiet apart from 2am if my bedroom door is closed! I like to sleep with my door closed and do not like having animals on my bed but I’ve had to compromise with this old lady as she makes such a racket! She does not like for there to be a door closed between her and me but does not necessarily want to come in the same room, although she does spend all night on my bed. One of the teachers is moving on to Australia and so needed a home for this cat. I also got her large plants so now the place looks homier.