Sunday, December 18, 2005

Electro Vinyl

I spent nearly an hour in the electronica vinyls section of HMV today. Found some really good stuff – I wish I wasn’t broke right now! I recently purchased a new Pro-Ject Debut III Turntable. I love vinyls. I love the raw sound, plus they’re so much cheaper than CDs. I have two of London’s most well known vintage collector’s record shops on my tiny little street. Plus, when it comes to electronic music, all the really good stuff usually only comes on vinyl for DJs. Some of the more popular stuff does come out on CD but usually only on mixed compilation CDs like Ministry of Sound or annual-Ibiza-mainstream-party shit CDs which by and large I hate - the only compilation CD that I always get and love is Godskitchen. But still, with mixed CDs (compilations or even proper DJ mixed ones) you don’t get the pure track. So now I shift between vinyls and CDs, depending on what I’m getting. My turntable is a simple one, nothing too fancy but very sexy. I got mine in white and it looks very sleek with the black. When P gets his new turntables I will start buying two of everything and send one to him. Then when the day finally comes when we can pool our CD and vinyl collections together we’ll have a massive record sale. Stallion gets first dibs…

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas on Oxford Street

I just love this city. There are so many different dimensions to it - so many different ways and reasons to love it. Today's London experience: I pushed through the doors of the Bond Street tube station onto Oxford Street to do some last minute shopping and as I walked out onto the street, with my iPod on of course, a sublimely happy feeling rushed over me. The street was totally shut off to cars (to make Christmas shopping easier, which they've done a couple of times the past few weekends), and today it was PACKED (you can see the enormous swarm of heads stretching all the way down the street). I don't know why I got such a warm rush of happiness come over me. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, the weather was icy cold and fresh, the song on my iPod was fab, and I just felt glad to be a part of London. This picture doesn't do justice to the colors, sounds, smells, and feeling on the street. But it was the best I could quickly do with a huge crowd of people behind me! I don't make it out to Oxford Street that often because it's just so crowded all the time and under normal circumstances those kinds of crowds bug me because I'm always in a hurry. I usually do my shopping (if ever!) in Covent Garden or Camden Town. But today, I put my crowded shopping pet peeves aside and thoroughly enjoyed my evening.

Friday, December 16, 2005

This is not about "patriotism"...

I got an E-mail from an old friend yesterday who recently moved back to Kuwait after about 8 years. It was obvious that she is doubting her decision to move back, and is giving herself a 1 ½ year trial period. She mentioned how boring Kuwait is, and how she will definitely be leaving after this trial period is over. Her E-mail got me thinking. I’m so glad I don’t feel like that anymore. When I was younger I was positive that I would never settle in Kuwait. I thought that once I got out I’d never go back. After I finished undergrad I was planning on moving back for a short period, but life circumstances brought me back for sure. Before I knew it, one year quickly turned into four. And boy am I glad I did those four years. One thing that I am sure of now is that I will definitely be moving back to Kuwait after I’m done with my PhD. I love Kuwait, pure and simple. I am so happy I am not the kind of person that loves to just sit around for hours bitching and moaning about how much they hate it there and how “miserable” or “bored” they are. Now don’t get me wrong – I am not judging anyone here, and I know that many people do sincerely hate living in Kuwait (I’m not really gonna get into non-Kuwaitis here, I’m talking about Kuwaitis) – all I’m saying is that I’m glad I’ve gotten over that. And of course this is not at all to say that I don’t get frustrated in and by Kuwait. In fact, I think it’s quite the contrary – because I really do love Kuwait, and I love living there, I see the problems we have even more vividly and acutely than I think most other people do – politically and socially – and they anger and frustrate and even torment me more than they seem to do most other Kuwaitis. I am VERY critical of Kuwait, of its mistakes and problems and lack of direction. But I think I am so critical precisely because I really do love the mixed up little place. I remember having conversations about Kuwait with a good friend years ago, when I first moved back. He loved Kuwait in a way that I couldn’t understand, because at the same time we would talk very critically about it, about all the things we saw wrong with it. But now I understand his sentiment. Now, on the flip side, I am in no way going to deny that there is A LOT missing in Kuwait that you find outside, and in the most general terms if I were to choose to live my life outside of Kuwait, I could do so very easily, and very successfully. Life would certainly be a totally different, and wonderful, experience. But I just don’t feel it in me. Maybe it’s because of what I do, and what I hope to do in the future, but something inside me knows that I have to go back. What’s the point of complaining about it if you don’t do something, big or small, to fix/change it? Being away is hard for the obvious reasons – missing people. Everyone I love most in the world is there – my dad, sisters and family, P, and my closest friends. But I don’t know – it kind of bothers me when I hear people who haven’t given Kuwait the slightest bit of a chance just complain all the time. Not just the people who haven’t lived there (or rather re-lived there) for any significant period of time who sit and complain non-stop – there are also people who have been living there but who are so dead set on hating it that they have not actually let themselves LIVE in Kuwait. Maybe I’m just lucky. I found a world for myself in Kuwait that I feel happy and comfortable in. I have people in my life there who make everything worthwhile. I had a job (and will hopefully have another job!) that I loved, as much as it drove me insane with stress. And I now have the opportunity to do something I am passionate about, strangely enough something “different” in Kuwait, and will have the chance to go back and hopefully really make a difference, and make my mark. Plus, I just have fun there – life is pretty good. Maybe for all those reasons, I have a different outlook on Kuwait. I’m just really glad that I’m over the phase of hating it, because loving it makes life a whole lot better!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Camden Baqala Run

Walking home from Camden Town with a friend from school today, we discovered a Middle Eastern supermarket and decided to check it out. As soon as I walked in I got giddy. Now first of all, unlike most other Kuwaitis I don’t get out to Edgware Road that often (read: EVER), and second of all this wasn’t one of those Arabic mini-marts that you see on random street corners, this was a full-on supermarket. Now as far as supermarkets go, if this was in Kuwait it would definitely not be the place that I would go to do my shopping. But, seeing it here in London, it felt nice. The shelf full of no-name-brand ketchup that usually tastes diluted, and that I usually hate in Kuwait, actually brought a smile to my face. As did the large section of “halal” luncheon meat (that looked just like Americana cold cuts, kind of a pinkish-gray). Then I walked past the fridge and did a double take. They had SHANI (but in short stumpy cans not the tall thin ones like at home)! I didn’t know Shani existed anywhere other than Kuwait. I have Shani very rarely in Kuwait – once in a while I’ll get one on a random baqala run like when P and I are heading down to chalet and wanna get munchies for the car. Today, I got two. When I get back from Christmas break I’m gonna go back and stock up. I don’t know why – it just needs to be in my fridge. Also, when I come back I’m gonna bring those Kitco “Cocktail” chips back with me, now that they come in those Pringles-type boxes and are easy to stick in the suitcase. I brought three with me after my trip in November and they finished in like a week. Kitco and Shani – I’ll be set. How things change, eh? Back in high school it was all about the Doritos and Dr. Pepper. You always want what you can’t get.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I've had insomnia for nearly two weeks. I get to sleep eventually, but rarely before 5am, and so I only get about four hours of sleep. I'm not sure why or what's wrong. I don't feel stressed out or anxious so it's not that. I just don't feel like sleeping. I occupy my time studying, reading, doing stuff online, watching tv, listening to the radio, or just thinking.

These past couple of weeks I have been addicted to two songs. "Number 1" by Goldfrapp and "Silent Sigh" by Badly Drawn Boy (an old one but one of my favorite bands - they just make me feel happy, in a bittersweet kind of way). I more or less have both constantly on repeat, both when I'm working on my PowerBook and when I'm walking around London on my iPod. London is one of those cities that can really make a good song even better when you listen to it while you go about your day. Especially in the winter. It's the same as listening to a good song in your car on a rainy day in Kuwait. P and I always keep each other up-to-date on what we're listening to while we're apart. Music being such a significant part of us, we like to know what each of our weekly soundtracks are. There's also someone else in Kuwait who I have always shared music with. We consistently introduce each other to new stuff - great stuff. We've been doing it since we were in high school. Now that I'm here, we made a deal that we will periodically (about once every couple of weeks) send each other a text or E-mail with what we're listening to so that we can keep sharing our new discoveries (or re-discoveries as the case sometimes is) with each other. We both have equally eclectic taste in music so it works out well. Anyone who has ever been to chalet with us (or anywhere else for that matter) knows who I'm talking about! What are you guys listening to these days?

Christmas Party

Friday night was my Christmas party in my flat - first time I had my friends from grad school over (I use the term "party" loosely, it was actually only 11 people). It went great. I love preparing for a gathering/party. To me it's sometimes more fun than the actual event! My flat looks much brighter here than it really was because of the flash - I actually had all the lights off and had 24 tea lights lining all my windows and shelves, as well as the lights from the Christmas tree. For food, I made a Mediterranean-esque mini-buffet of snacks. Note how everything is red and green! There was a cheese platter (but of course!) with crackers and Milano salami, lemon and coriander hummus, zucchini and red peppers pan-grilled in oil and garlic, two types of mini baguette bites: one with sundried tomato paste, feta cheese, and a green olive slice, and the other with basil pesto spread, feta cheese, and a sundried tomato slice, and finally a cold pasta salad (fussili pasta with chopped red and green peppers, green calamata olives cut in half, red kidney beans, and capers, with an olive oil/balsamic vinegar/garlic/basil/oregano dressing, topped with grated parmigiano cheese). Dessert (not pictured) was a Belgian chocolate log with a plate of raspberries, strawberries, and green grapes, plus stuff that others brought. All washed down with - well - never mind - but it was Christmassy! Everything other than the hummus, cheese platter, and dessert was homemade, and actually didn't take that long to prepare. Each guest brought an ornament for my tree (some store-bought and some homemade like a London Tube map cut into a snowflake), and each guest got to take a mini chocolate Santa and a candy cane hanging on the tree for themselves. Just some ideas for any of you who might be having a Christmas party these next couple of weeks! Or just wait for me to come and plan it for you. Sometimes I wonder whether I should just drop out of grad school, forget all about the PhD, come home and become a Kuwaiti Martha Stewart.

(Btw, off topic, I'm starting to like the look of the scaffolding outside my window because at night it actually makes it look like an NYC apartment with a fire escape outside. Makes me feel like taking out my ukelele and singing "Moon River" like Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's".)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Look familiar?

N and I had been at our friend's place all night last night studying and watching movies, and we were still awake at 6am. We suddenly heard a rumbling (like thunder) followed by the sounds of an explosion. The doors and TV stand rattled. We freaked out for a second but then just assumed it was a sonic boom. Then half an hour later we happened to put on the news and saw that it was a huge explosion at an oil depot in Hemel Hempstead, northwest of London. By noon the smoke cloud reached central London and, since today was supposed to be a clear and sunny day, we could clearly see the dark clouds starting to hover over the city. It was extremely reminiscent of 1991 in Kuwait. It got worse as the day progressed; obviously now that the sun is down I can't tell how bad it is, but it's expected to last a few more days minimum. Supposedly only people with known respiratory problems might be effected, but they still haven't tested the pollution to see what kind of toxins might be in it. The worst part is that it's supposed to rain in a couple of days and they are expecting black soot and rain to fall. Ugh.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Merry Christmas Dad!

Had to share this because it's hilarious! I ordered my dad a headset from amazon.co.uk as part of his Christmas gift for him to use on his laptop so we can talk over Skype. Anyway, it arrived a few days ago and I thought I would just keep it in the amazon box it came in since it wasn't that big and since headsets sometimes come in awkward packaging that's a pain to giftwrap. I figured I'd just take it to Kuwait and wrap it as is, and so I didn't open the box (since anyone who knows amazon knows once you open those boxes there's no closing it again). Anyway, yesterday I had a sudden feeling that maybe I should open the box to check the headset after all...and boy oh boy is it a good thing that I did! Because, instead of my dad's cool new Skype headset, I found THIS!!! LOL!! They sent me the wrong item! Can you IMAGINE if I hadn't opened it and took it to Kuwait and wrapped it and gave it to my dad?!? My favorite part is, on the side of the box it says (as part of the items included in the box): "Cut out template to create your own style"!!! Poor girl who ordered this and got my headset instead - amazon probably ruined a very special occasion for her indeed!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My New Balcony

So I woke up this morning to the sounds of construction outside (and I mean RIGHT outside) my window. I peeked through my blinds and saw this!!! The entire facade of my building (which is a three-floor walk-up), is covered with scaffolding!!! I called my landlord's office to see what's going on and OF COURSE the property manager in charge of my flat was off today so they're gonna call me back tomorrow. Meanwhile I called the landlord's agent (who handles all day-to-day stuff) to see if they knew anything and the lady called me back a while later and was like "OK I've figured out what's going on. There is some building work being done outside." NO SHIT!!!!! Anyway, so I still don't know what's going on or how long it's gonna last. But what I do know is that 1) I now have a balcony that runs around my entire flat, and 2) I now have six English lads right outside all of my windows from 8am to 5pm everyday! If it's only a brief thing it's fine because I'm leaving for Christmas soon anyway, but if it's still like this when I get back my studying is gonna get effected. And the worst part is, tomorrow night is my Christmas party!! It's the first time most of my friends come to see my flat and now look at the state of it - it's so ugly from the outside! Plus I was planning on having all the blinds open with tea light holders running across all the window sills (there are five windows in my living room) and the place was gonna look all nice and pretty with candles everywhere. Now all that hideous scaffolding is gonna be peering in at all of us - mocking me. For those of you who know my party planning ways you'll understand why this is a disaster for me. For those of you who don't get it, imagine waking up on the morning of your prom/graduation/wedding day, with an ENORMOUS zit in the middle of your forehead. That's how I feel right now.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Talk Radio

Every night before I go to sleep I listen to London's LBC 97.3 talk radio (nothing to do with the LBC of the Middle East!) on my Tivoli Audio iPal radio. It's mindless talk but I thoroughly enjoy it before I sleep. At night the presenter is always Peter Deeley but my favorite is James O'Brian who is on from 10am-12pm (so I usually listen to him while getting ready for class). Peter usually puts about a half hour of James' show from earlier that day on during his programme, though, so I get a bit every night if I missed it during the day. Anyway, last night had a funny moment. It was a replay of James' show from that morning and he was talking about what you do when you can't afford the gifts your kids want from Santa for Christmas and how to ease their disappointment on Christmas morning, and then he was asking what you do once your kids stop believing in Santa ... and then his voice trailed. In my head at that moment I was like "shit what if there are kids listening to this right now?" and then a second later he said he was having a sudden mental crisis because he realized the same thing and would "hate it if any young people were listening to this right now" and then he managed to (as we say in Kuwaiti) "ragi3" it and changed his wording so only adults would know what he meant. LOL! Can you imagine if any young children were listening at that moment?? That would SUCK. Anyway, it's nice to lie in bed at night listening to these guys and their callers talking about the most random yet thoroughly entertaining stuff, which on more than one occasion has made me laugh out loud to myself. It makes me look forward to going to bed (but often makes me stay up later than I should). I much prefer listening to talk radio than any other channels because the music most stations usually put is complete rubbish, and also seeing as Frasier is my all time favorite TV show it's no wonder I love talk radio! :) Anyway, one of these days/nights I'm gonna get up the nerve to either text or call in myself.

Study Study Study

I spent the day working on a presentation for this Friday. I have my first paper due and my first presentation both on Friday, and now that I have them both practically done I feel such a tremendous load off. Now I have two more papers and another presentation due the first week I get back from Christmas break. I am also meeting with my PhD supervisor this Friday to discuss dissertation topics. Now THAT is exciting (seriously, I'm not being sarcastic!). The first couple of months of grad school were so unbelievably overwhelming – between getting back into the flow of academia, the enormous reading load per week, the impending issues I will be dealing with once I start working on my MA and PhD dissertations, the intellectual intensity of just thinking about everything all the time (that’s all you do as a grad student is think), coupled with the stress of finding, furnishing, and settling into my flat, on top of being so far away from everyone I love and care about in this world – it was all just mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. But I think that coming home for that week in November did me an enormous amount of good. It helped me put things into a more realistic perspective rather than the sensory overload we all deal with here. Once I got back from that week, I felt immediately more settled, both physically as in “home” and also mentally in my work. And now, having my first two academic hurdles behind me, plus starting to work on my dissertation topics … I can’t explain it. I feel like a totally different person from that first month. It’s fantastic. I feel totally exhilarated. Plus of course, everywhere is all beautifully lit up and decorated for Christmas, which just adds to my good mood all the time! On Sunday night I took a study break and decorated my tree … that was therapeutic. I also have a container of Cadbury’s hot chocolate permanently on my kitchen counter…

Anyway this evening I met up with a friend from my programme and we hit the bookstores on Charing Cross Road. That’s one of the things I love about being here – all the bookstores! I’ve got all the big Borders/Waterstones/Foyles stores as well as the smaller rare and out-of-print bookstores of Bloomsbury close by. Anyway, did a bit of Christmas shopping then we wandered into Soho and got sushi for dinner (I STILL have not found a sushi place that gives me the same warm and happy feeling that Edo does).

Monday, December 05, 2005

I'm here...

Well this is it. I have finally started blogging. I'm still a bit skeptical - not sure if I should really be doing this, but oh well. I'm not even sure if, given my immense work load, I'll even have time to keep this up, but there's only one way to find out! Given that I usually need something to wind down my brain after all my reading and writing before I can go to sleep, this might turn out to be a good way to unwind at the end of my day! As for what you can expect to find on this blog, well, I'm not quite sure. See, one reason I'm skeptical is because it'll be hard for me to share what I'm working on in terms of my academic work/research for obvious reasons, which is such a huge part of my life right now. So a lot of the time the thoughts going through my head I won't be able to share. But I guess what you will find are my thoughts and/or ideas that do not relate to my academic research or writing, as well as my daily experiences, observations, and just plain goings-on! In any event, this will probably be the best way for me to keep my friends and family at home up-to-date on what's going on in my daily life, rather than sporadically sending out those mass E-mails! Anyway, based on popular demand, here I am!!!