Saturday, April 29, 2006


Two little bits of info to share:

1) I have £1.40 to last me till Tuesday (that's about 700 fils). Literally. (I could have withdrawn from my Kuwaiti credit card except that I just discovered it expired in March and I didn't realize it before to have it renewed while I was home.) Any suggestions on how to make that last? I desperately need laundry detergent to wash my towels (I'm down to the last drop) but at the same time, I need food. Then again, three days of no food could be a good weight loss regiment. I have a bag of pasta so I could keep making penne with olive oil, garlic, and herbs everyday. Maybe I should get a guitar and go sing in the tube station.

2) I came home the other night and noticed some big browish-yellow lines/stains on my ceiling in my bedroom. No water was dripping so I decided not to fret about it for the night because I didn't feel like having another confrontation with my neighbours. Next morning I called my landlord's maintenance guy (who knows me all too well by now) and he said the idiots upstairs had a boiler leak for days and didn't report it - they just kept mopping up the water - until it finally completely burst and flooded the place! B.L.O.O.D.Y-M.O.R.O.N.S. Uhhhh - EVICTION?? Haven't they done enough to get kicked out by now? I can't wait till the girl who's actually on the lease comes back into town - I'm gonna have a loooooong talk with her.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Almost there

I can't believe I am almost done with the coursework for my MA. I have comprehensive exams starting in about three weeks (three exams in total). Then I'll be independently working on my dissertation for about 3 1/2 months. That's the fun part - I'm really excited to get started on that. In the meantime, all my time is being spent revising and preparing for exams. It's a bit nervewracking because I haven't taken an exam in about six years. The way our exams are structured (three thematic essay questions in three hours - per exam), it is as much about strategy as it is about content. Each exam is worth 50% of the total for that course. That's the scary bit!

Meanwhile, the weather is getting warmer. It's still chilly out but the sun is becoming more visible and the skies are getting bluer. It's the kind of weather where you just want to lay down in the park and read, or sit outside at a café or pub with friends and just blow off the whole afternoon. But, sadly, I can't do either, because the library has become my second home! But I'm looking forward to May 22, the day of my last exam. Only then will I be able to really appreciate London for the glorious city that it really is!

I can't believe I've been living here for nearly a year. It's really gone by fast. Sometimes I catch myself, walking down the street, going to class or whatever, and it hits me: I'm really here - in London - doing my MA/PhD. I had been waiting for this for four years before I finally managed to put my life in Kuwait on pause and get my ass over here. I had gotten so caught up with work and life, that "grad school in London" slowly became that thing that you always know you're gonna do, but the image of yourself actually doing it starts to fade. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to actually see yourself doing it. So when I actually made the decision to finally get up and go, the process of applying to schools, applying for scholarships, packing up, etc - they all became motions that I was going through without really thinking too much about the actual thing I was doing. And then, suddenly, one day, I looked around and found myself in London. And now, it's nearly a year later, and I'm almost at the end of the first big step.

Life's a funny little thing, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's never gonna end

Holy crap I think my neighbours are doing karaoke upstairs. It's either that or they have a band playing live. I HATE THEM!!!

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I found a list of phobias online (don’t ask why) that gives the proper “scientific” name for an endless number of…umm…legitimate fears. Now, I really don’t think all of these are legitimate fears – the guy must have made some up – but a lot of them either are definitely or at least sound legitimate, so you never know! Otherwise this guy had waaaaay too much free time on his hands! I actually have some of these phobias (some of which I didn’t even know existed in quasi-scientific terms!). Anyway, there are some highlights that I just had to share because they are laugh-out-loud funny. This is all in good humour and I sincerely hope I don’t offend anyone reading this who might actually have one of these fears (if you do have any of the fears below I truly hope that you are seeing somebody about it). Here it goes (the parenthetical comments are my own):

Aibohphobia - Fear of palindromes – not necessarily an actual word; aiboh is not of course Greek or Latin for Palindrome, but is simply intended to make the word itself palindromic. (FYI: a palindrome is a word, phrase, verse, or sentence that reads the same backward or forward.)

Alliumphobia - the abnormal fear of garlic that may extend to a variety of plants characterized by their pungent odor including onions, leeks, chives, and shallots. Allium is the onion genus. (Garlic? What if it comes out of a tube? My sisters will get the joke.)

Allodoxaphobia - Fear of opinions. (I think everyone on our Parliament has this one.)

Anemophobia - Fear of air. (That one’s gotta suck.)

Anthrophobia, Anthophobia - Fear of flowers. (They watched Alice in Wonderland as a kid.)

Arachibutyrophobia - Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. (Yeah, I got this one.)

Atelophobia - Fear of imperfection. (I really do have this one.)

Aulophobia - Fear of flutes. (Hmmmm…maybe someone had a bad experience at band camp.)

Autophobia, Eremophobia, Ermitophibia, Isolophobia, Monophobia - Fear of being alone or fear of oneself. (That’s gotta suck as bad as fear of air. Can you imagine if you had both?)

Bolshephobia - Fear of Bolsheviks. (Hey!)

Bathophobia - Fear of depth. (I know lots of people with this one! They prefer to remain nice and shallow.)

Bibliophobia - Fear of books. (Finally we have a name for our social condition!)

Blennophobia, Myxophobia - Fear of slime. (These were kids who used to be on Nickelodeon in the 1980s.)

Button phobia - Fear of buttons. (Well, when you think about it…they are kind of weird.)

Cacophobia - Fear of ugliness. (Abso-friggin-lutely!)

Cathisophobia, Kathisophobia, Thaasophobia - Fear of sitting. (Thank goodness for Turkish toilets.)

Chelonaphobia - Fear of turtles. (I have that. I really do.)

Chinophobia - Fear of Chinese people, customs, etc. (No comment. Oh, found out my neighbours are Chinese, btw, not Korean.)

Chronophobia - Fear of time. (Jazz Central must have this one.)

Dextrophobia - Fear of objects at the right side of the body. (LOL!)

Dikephobia - Fear of justice. (Another one for our MPs.)

Doxophobia - Fear of expressing opinions or receiving praise. (You got this one if you graduated from the Kuwaiti government school system.)

Euphobia - Fear of hearing good news. (Huh?)

Eurotophobia - Fear of female genitalia. (Sucks if you’re a woman. Sucks if you're a straight man, too.)

Europhobia - Fear of Europe, Europeans, or alternatively, the European Union. (The EU – Hahahahahahahahahaha!!)

Genuphobia - Fear of knees. (Cool. If anyone has a fear of knees please leave me a comment. I’d like to meet you. Seriously.)

Hegelophobia - Fear of Hegel. (Marx must have spent his life looking over his shoulder, waiting for a pissed off Hegel to creep up on him, twist his arm, and yell: “Flip it back! Flip my dialectic back!” That must be where the phobia came from.)

Heresyphobia, Hereiophobia - Fear of challenges to official doctrine or of radical deviation. (Oh geez, we know too many of these to list.)

Levophobia - Fear of things to the left side of the body. (Can you imagine if you had that and dextrophobia? Hee hee hee!)

Papaphobia - Fear of the Pope. (Povero papa!)

Pogonophobia, Pognophobia - Fear of beards. (I HAVE THIS ONE! Stick a mini-dishdasha into the mix and you’ll see me run so fast you’ll develop Tachophobia - Fear of speed.)

That was a nice little study break. Here’s the link for you to play around with. Enjoy! Shall we see if we can come up with some of our own? I'll start - Niqabophobia: Fear of mitnaqbas or people dressed like ninjas.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Back in London

My flat wasn't robbed, and so far no signs of breeding mice. Whew.

The weather's getting warmer - it was 15˚ today. Went to Sainsbury's without a jacket on. But now that it's night my apartment is chilly but it's not worth turning the heat on because gas prices have been soaring this year so I only turn it on when I absolutely have to.

I slept for one hour the night before I traveled (Thursday night), and then I slept for about two hours on the plane. I got bumped up to World Traveller Plus because my TV wasn't working back in economy. This flight restored my faith in British Airways (I've been having terrible experiences with them in the recent past). Anyway, I was exhausted when I got home and thought I'd sleep for a couple of hours on the couch, wake up around 6pm and then study. Well, I slept at 4pm...and woke up at 1:30am!! Now I need to force myself to go back to sleep so that I don't give myself jetlag.

Well, I'm off to go watch "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on TV and try to fall asleep.

Oh, and I miss Kuwait and all you guys terribly.

Especially my P...

Monday, April 17, 2006

A brief history lesson

Old Kuwait Town. Photo courtesy of British Petroleum Archives collection.

I love driving and walking around Kuwait City. It's my favourite part of the country. I'm shocked at how many new buildings are coming up in the city - the crane:building ratio is starting to compete with Dubai!

But the new stuff is not what makes me love that part of town so much - it's actually the old buildings that I get so attracted to everytime I drive around. I'm glad that so many of the old original buildings that were on the verge of collapse have finally been renovated - like the nurse's residence near Amiri Hospital and the old American Mission Hospital. I'm hoping that the palaces of Sheikh Khaz'al (behind the British Embassy and new diabetes hospital - the smaller palace of the two is more commonly known as Qasr al-Ghanim) get fixed up as well - they used to be beautiful but have almost completely disintegrated. It's such a shame that our government waits so long before finally deciding to preserve such significant bits of our history. They either tear everything down or wait until it completely falls apart, and then they decide to build a "replica village" to recreate what they tore down or neglected all these years.

There's so much history in Kuwait City that so many people, especially young Kuwaitis, just don't know about. So I'm gonna take a few minutes now to share some random little historical tidbits about Kuwait City (and environs). Many of you might already know some of these, but I'll only include facts that were unknown to at least three people that I have previously shared them with.

* The old Kuwait Town used to be built on a hill, with a gradual incline leading up from the sea toward the soor (old town wall). Both the wall and the hill were leveled after the advent of oil urbanization.
* The sea actually used to reach the first line of houses that are now on the non-sea-side of the Gulf Road (where many old diwaniyas still stand, and where the front gate of the Dickson House is). (I'm surprised at how many people I encounter don't know this!)
* In the old town, the old mudbrick houses built directly along the seafront were usually painted a bright white, and as you went further up the hill towards the desert the walls of the houses became progressively duller, until reaching the houses along the soor which were mostly unpainted and brown (mudbrick). This progression from white paint to brown mudbrick reflected the affluence of the families living inside the town (the most affluent lived on the sea, and so on up the hill).
* Four out of the five original gates of the old town wall are still standing today (the fifth was destroyed during the Iraqi invasion in 1990). Most people drive past at least one of these gates on a regular basis, on the Sheraton round-about (known as Jahra Gate), which many non-Kuwaitis actually think is just some fake monument that was built to beautify the round-about! In fact, the round-about was built because of the gate's position.
* Speaking of which, Jahra used to actually be a beautiful desert oasis. So was Fahaheel.
* In the old Kuwaiti mudbrick houses, it is usually 10˚ cooler when standing in the central courtyard (although it is outdoors), than when standing outside the gates of the house (the walls were built extremely thick to absorb the heat).
* Most old mudbrick houses consist of long and relatively narrow rectangular-shaped rooms of similar width. This is because they always used to use chandal (wooden) beams on the ceilings that were imported from India, all of which were delivered pre-cut into the same size (hence the uniformly narrow width of all rooms). The first house to break this pattern was the Dickson House, formerly the British Political Agency - in the very early 1900s Captain W. Shakespeare, one of the first PA's to Kuwait, added the second storey to the Agency in which he built a large drawing room, that had to have much larger chandal beams custom-made, and which held Kuwait's first ever fireplace (much needed too, as Kuwait's winters used to be freezing in those days!).
* Kuwait's first airport was in Nuzha.
* Ever wonder why, until recently, Kuwait had such strict laws concerning visitor visas? According to Zahra (Dickson) Freeth, in the 1960s, Western hippies used to transit in Kuwait on their way to India, and they used to leave the airport and "hang out" on the streets around town, waiting for their connecting flight. A bunch of free-loving hippies on the streets of a just-barely-modernizing Kuwait...what an interesting image!
* I could go on like this for hours, so I'll end here with a photo. This is of the gate of the old Seif Palace, and this quote was added around 1918. In Arabic it says "Low dammat lighairek ma ittasalat ilaik" which, in my own crude translation, is: "If it was left to others it would not have passed on to you." It has been speculated that this quote alludes to the way Sheikh Mubarak I came to power (I'm not going to enter into controversy here - not yet - not until I am armed with my PhD!). Anyway, of course, the quote will always remain subject to interpretation, and different people have different explanations for it. If you look carefully when driving past you can see the quote from the street, but be careful because you kind of have to crane your neck while simultaneously keeping your eyes on the road!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Two Years

Today was our two year anniversary...me and P.

It's such an amazing feeling, being with the person you know you will spend the rest of your life with. Someone who you love endlessly and who loves you back exactly in the way that you've always wanted to be loved. P and I are best friends on top of everything else that we are. We can spend hours on end just driving around listening to and talking about the music we both love. We can run around and play like twelve year olds, laughing hysterically and not caring what anyone around us thinks. We can lay around for twelve hours straight watching 24 or Frasier or back-to-back movies eating Le Petit Ecolier biscuits and chips and Diet Coke. We can talk for hours and hours and hours about everything under the sun. We can sit together for hours without talking, him working on his designs or music and me writing, and we will be perfectly in tune. We have identical taste - in music, film, art & design, food, clothes, friends, and everything in between. We think the same way. We feel things the same way. In short, we fit. I feel happiest, safest, and most like myself when I am with him. He lets me be whatever I want to be, and loves me for everything I want to be. Which makes me want to be...well...me.

There is no one I enjoy skipping through life with more, leaving two pairs of Puma tracks in the sand, like we did tonight while walking along the beach.

Friday, April 07, 2006

I'm Home

This just feels so good in every way. I spent my first evening, last night, with my P and our group of close friends at Edo for dinner. Then P and I had brunch this morning with my sisters and their husbands at Le Pain Quotidien at Marina Crescent. It was a gorgeous day, and it felt good to wear a T-shirt without a jacket. When we arrived at the crescent area and I got my first glimpse of the blue sea, my heart skipped and I felt so sublimely happy and relaxed. After brunch P and I spent the day just running around town, having fun, talking, laughing, and making up for the past three months since we last saw each other. I've been on a natural high since my plane landed. The weather is beautiful, the skies are big and blue, and boy am I excited to hit the chalet next weekend! And I'm surrounded by the people I love most in this world (except I still haven't seen my Dad because he's out of town and coming back later in the week). Aaaahhh...home!

I love it here. It's just such a different world. The longer I live in London, the more I realize that, no matter how much we complain about it here (and sure, there definitely is a lot to complain about), we really have a good thing going when it comes to living in Kuwait. There are a million and one things that bug me, that drive me insane, that I would love to change if only they'd make me president - but then again, everyone feels that way about their country. At least we can escape to chalet when things get too much to handle...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Why I love movie soundtracks

Raine recently wrote a post about memorable movie scenes and as I was commenting on my own favourite movie scenes, I realized that all of them were connected to the music playing during that part of the movie. To me, the music score and soundtrack is one of the most essential parts of a good film. All of my favourite films have brilliant soundtracks. What's great about good soundtracks is that you're not always stuck to one particular genre of music, but all the tracks on it fuse together to create one general feeling or mood - so you get variety but in a way that (usually, if it's good) works.

By coincidence, I happened to be listening to the "Lost in Translation" soundtrack today, which is a brilliant example, except for the fact that there are a couple of tracks in the movie that didn't make it onto the official soundtrack album, including the best track in the film, "The State We're In" by The Chemical Brothers (from their Come with Us album). Anyway, when you fuse "The State We're In" with "Too Young" by Phoenix and "Just Like Honey" by The Jesus and Mary Chain (who I LOVE) and "Girls" by Death in Vegas, you end up with...well...perfection!

Some of my favourite movie soundtracks:
Lost in Translation
Beautiful Girls
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Garden State
Almost Famous
Human Traffic
Anita and Me
Ma Vie en Rose [1997]
About A Boy (which was all done by Badly Drawn Boy)
Reality Bites
Romeo and Juliet
and, perhaps the best of all, In the Name of the Father.

I might be forgetting some, but what are your favourite soundtracks?

Sunday, April 02, 2006


I still haven't found a sushi place here that gives me the same warm and happy feeling that Edo does, and especially one where you can eat so much for so little (money-wise). Five years ago, there only used to be two main sushi restaurants in Kuwait - Sakura and Kai. If you were a real sushi person, then you were a devoted customer of either one or the other (barely anyone I know liked both). We used to spend all our time at Sakura back in those days. Then Maki opened and everyone went nuts (although I never caught the Maki bug). And then Edo opened, and our lives changed forever. The original Edo gang that first started going there like every other night, from when it first opened, was just me and two others, S and A (part of the old Sakura gang). I can't remember what year it was - I think it was around 2003 (when everyone else was still all hyped up about Maki). We were the original Edo regulars - in fact, S and I were the first customers to ever sit outside in the garden. We used to go all the time and on most nights it was totally empty and I remember at the beginning we were scared that it was going to shut down - I guess now that Edo has become so popular that is no longer a problem. Now our table for three or four has turned into a table for 10 or 15! Edo was the place where we first converted JC to sushi-ism...he used to hate it before we came along! Aaaahhh the good old days. While I'm glad Edo has become so popular and they're doing so well, I do sometimes miss the old days. The beauty of Edo was that you'd go and barely ever see anyone you knew. Now, on most nights I walk in and literally know at least one person from nearly every single table in the joint. But I guess, at the end of the day, it's still ours...

How do you know if you're an Edo VIP? If you call to make a reservation or take-away order and the guy who answers the phone immediately knows who you are by name from the sound of your voice; if the waitress comes to your table (or your side of the table if you're in a big group) without a pen and pad; if you get a free meal before leaving town; if the valet guys let you park your car there even if you're going to the café next door (usually because he knows you'll end your night there anyway); if you go to another sushi restaurant in Kuwait (which will remain nameless) just to 'try something new' (and leave disappointed wishing you'd just gone to Edo), and the manager there knows you from back in the day when he used to be the manager of Edo; if you can personally request who you want to be your waitress when you call to make a reservation or when you first walk in; if you knew the waitress that got scared out of her mind for forgetting to put a lemon in a Diet Pepsi. So, are you an Edo VIP?

Saturday, April 01, 2006


I've been venting (reading: bitching) about stuff going on here too much these days, and I don't want people to get the wrong impression about how I feel about this city. I absolutely love London, and I love living in London - it's just that sometimes life here can get so stressful and tiring, especially when you have academic pressures on top of it all. But then suddenly, out of nowhere, you'll be walking down the street and something will suddenly remind you about how much you love this city. I had another one of those moments today. The weather has been getting warmer these days, and today was absolutely gorgeous. Blue skies, white fluffy clouds, a nice cool breeze, and the sun was shining. I had an errand to run on Oxford Street today and I was walking along the busy Friday afternoon streets, with only a light jacket on, with swarms of people bustling about, with my iPod on, and I suddenly felt in a better mood than I've felt in weeks. It's almost spring, and I'm starting to feel it - that wonderful energy you get when spring suddenly descends upon the city and you can finally take your coats off the coat rack in the entrance hall and pack them away in the suitcase under your bed. Restaurants, café's, and pubs have put their tables back outside, and people were sitting around today having an afternoon pint and enjoying the end of winter. Winter seemed never ending, and it was damn cold this year (apparently one of the coldest winters London has had in years). I love this weather now - when it's not quite warm enough to leave the house without a light jacket, you're still wearing your sweaters and Doc Martens, but you're no longer bundled up under layers of coats and scarves.

It's so true how the weather can totally change your state of mind. It was such a shame I had to walk back to the library this afternoon and hit the books.