U.S. Citizen being held in Kuwait prison; Jermaine Rogers

A dear friend contacted me yesterday and asked if I would be willing to post a petition for a friend of hers who was arrested and jailed in Kuwait. Like other cases previously, my friend is certain Jermaine is innocent and being held unjustly. Furthermore, his court dates are set well in advance but no action seems to be taken on these dates and they often reschedule for a month or more away. Leaving Jermaine sitting in a jail cell with zero answers.

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Yes, there are people who have opinions about such things and for the most part I agree; follow the law of the land you’re in. But, until there’s evidence that a real law was broken it’s terribly unfair to endlessly violate one’s human rights. Not to mention, it’s just nasty to point fingers and judge without knowing the entire story.

In the past there have been a number of Americans arrested in Kuwait and given harsh sentences for manufacturing and distributing drugs. I was intimately familiar with a few of those cases and saw the evidence firsthand. I believe their sentences were fair and just. But there is that random case from time to time that just doesn’t quite offer the type of evidence one would like to see before holding a person in a foreign prison without the right to a timely hearing. Especially when their own Attorney is telling them the Police in Kuwait planted the evidence and falsified drug test lab reports.

That being said, my friend asks that you take a moment and sign the petition in hopes of getting justice for her friend. In a time when America is feeling terribly divided, let’s do something nice to bring forth a little unity.

Petition can be found here.

Self-proclaimed ‘fashionistas’ jailed in Kuwait

It seems I’m way out of the loop in terms of Kuwaiti fashionistas and exactly what the term refers to. A few days ago Mark of 248am posted an article of one of the self-proclaimed fashionistas being jailed for 10 days for using someone’s passport to travel from Kuwait to Dubai. While seeking out further details on the story I came across another article in the Kuwait Times regarding yet another (or the same?) ‘fashionista’ who was arrested on prostitution charges late last year.

All of this ‘fashionista’ chatter piqued my curiosity and I started seeking them out on Instagram. Within minutes I had located several — which became quite easy as they all, in some ways, linked back to one another. Not only the ‘fashionistas’ but their photographers, their ‘glam squad’ (I puked a little typing that), and even Kuwaiti male ‘stylists’.

It didn’t take long to discover their primary goal was to resemble something that popped out of a Kardashian vagina. I have never, in all my life, seen so much fake hair, fake eyelashes, fake lips, fake noses, and facial contouring. They make the Kardashian clan look au naturel.

Don’t get me wrong, these women were probably once absolutely gorgeous… naturally. But then, in their tiny society of judgement, something convinced them they just weren’t good enough. Some comment by a random stranger prompted a once gorgeous young woman to alter her appearance to the point of being unrecognizable — as herself or even human. Most of these women were in their early 20’s (guesstimate based on comments) yet appear to be easily in their mid-30’s. Any look of innocence disappeared while undergoing some unnecessary cosmetic procedure.

I recall a number of years ago in Kuwait, perhaps in 2006 or so, I mentioned to a friend that so many of the young women appeared to have stepped out of cookie cutters. They all wanted to resemble one another while managing to be the most admired. There was a rapid competition to be exactly like the next girl yet convincing themselves they were unique. It was interesting. Sadly this competition has evolved to extensive cosmetic procedures and developing a ‘fan base’ (thanks, social media!).

Sure, the Kardashians have managed to make an empire by capitalizing on young ‘fashionistas’ and their insecurities, but does one really want to follow in their footsteps? Have any of them genuinely contributed to society in a positive manner? Does that even matter anymore? Is there really a great satisfaction in going to sleep at night thinking, “At least I’m pretty”?

I once wrote¬†an article for a local newspaper discussing abandonment issues and the role it plays on individuals. The article evolved into the affect abandonment issues potentially play on entire societies and Kuwait was my primary example. The result? A large number of people with detachment disorders who desperately want to be accepted but lack the depth of emotion to truly love anyone other than themselves. In other words ‘likes’ on a photo is their sense of validation.

On an even more depressing note, while looking at their photos (for hours… seriously, hours!) I found myself thinking, “hmmm, perhaps I should get my lips injected?” First let me say I am old enough to be these women’s older sister ūüôā and second I’m not a shallow person. I mean, I do like to dress well and take care of my physical appearance but it’s not all consuming. I have a life other than the shape of my eyebrows. So for someone like me to view their photos and question my own physical presence truly brought to the forefront how young, impressionable girls must feel — but on a much more realistic level. Instead of accepting themselves for who they are and loving their natural beauty they must be saving their lunch money for a nose job. It’s scary.

That being said, if you’re a self-proclaimed Kuwaiti fashionista and find young girls running up to you in malls to give you hugs with tears in their eyes as if they’ve just seen the Amir; make a difference. Don’t be just that pretty face. Be an inspiration. Be someone they want to grow up to be and not because of the brand of bag you’re carrying. Be kind, compassionate, caring, and hope those young girls don’t grow into the terribly insecure women you’ve all become.

Disclaimer: I’ve never met any of the women I’m referring to in this post. Therefore, my opinions are based strictly on visual perception and reputation.¬†

Kuwait <--> Washington, DC on United Airlines = Nope

Less than a week ago the determination was made that United Airlines would no longer operate their direct flight from Washington, DC to Kuwait (or Bahrain). At this time, and since 2006, they’re the only American carrier offering a direct flight out of Kuwait into the US and for many of us it was quite convenient even if not as luxurious as the Middle Eastern carriers.

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Rumors are swirling as to the reason for the ending of this relationship; Kuwait being found guilty of discrimination on their flight from JFK to London by refusing Israeli travelers service is the most talked about possibility. The other is that United is stating the flight just isn’t meeting the financial expectations. Of course this too is a possibility considering the decreased number of US Contractors in Kuwait and the fact this was once a daily flight which has been scaled back to just a couple of times a week over the past years.

Either way the service is ending January 2016.

On a personal note, and the only reason we even remotely care about this… we have a number of tickets booked on this flight between March and September of 2016. Us going there, family coming here, summer vacations, holidays, etc. Tens of thousands of dollars and just as many MileagePlus miles. I’ve spent my morning cancelling flights and seeking out alternatives. However, United has a very strict cancellation/refund policy which obviously we’re requesting an exception to. They’ve explained it will take at least 7 days to process. Let’s just hope they don’t make this difficult.

Intercultural marriages; where to live?

When my husband and I were first married 4 years ago the question of where to live came up… a lot. No, not which city, or which neighborhood. We had to decide which side of the world we were going to call home, settle, and plan our future in. This meant one of us was going to spend much of the year away from the country and culture where we spent our childhood and made a number of memories.

By the time we were married I had already lived in the Middle East for a decade, so in a lot of ways it too was my home. However, all of my family was still in America. All of my memories and childhood friends as well. But, my family is quite small, consisting of only 4 immediate family members. While my husband, on the other hand, has about 25 immediate family members. Then of course there’s the cousins, the aunts, uncles, etc. I don’t have any of those in my family. So staying in Kuwait seemed like the logical choice. But, it wasn’t the the choice we made.

After a couple of years of marriage I started longing for life in America. We visited several times a year, but it just wasn’t the same. And with each visit I was reminded of so many things I truly missed a lot more than I had previously thought. My husband, being one who never meshed with his culture, also started missing things from America. So, we packed up most of our belongings and our beloved cats and made the move.

Should all women married to Arab men expect he’ll be willing to do the same? Probably not. That culture is deeply rooted in family. And for a man to make the decision to move to the other side of the world¬†with his Western wife is a pretty big decision. But, over the past several years I¬†have met a number of American/Kuwaiti couples of have relocated to America together. I’ll admit, I was surprised.

So, how is life now that we’ve been here a couple of years? Well, we’re completely acclimated, have a large group of awesome friends, invest a great deal of time into the happiness of our furry family members, have our favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and a solid schedule. We live what most people would consider the ‘typical American life’ and we couldn’t be happier. I’ll occasionally ask my husband how he feels about the possibility of moving back to Kuwait one day and he doesn’t seem to be to keen on the idea. Right now he’s perfectly happy with a few visits a year to spend quality time with the family. And I suppose I’m OK with that too.

The old and the new; self definition within cultural norms

Though we no longer reside full time in Kuwait we certainly make an effort to keep up with the daily happenings there considering we do still have family and other interests there. Let me rephrase that, I keep up with the daily happenings. My husband has almost zero interest in what’s taking place in Kuwait. He’s never really ‘meshed’ with the culture so to speak, he’s often had to pretend certain behaviors and put on the fake smile, and always knew he just didn’t belong in some odd way. In my humble opinion, and in no way trying to offend anyone; I think, over time, he just consciously educated himself beyond what was/is accepted in his culture. He not only thought outside of the box, but he left the box all together.

Perhaps it’s because I’m away from Kuwait more than I’m there I see it through different eyes. But over the past few years it feels as though Kuwait has become divided within itself. There’s the older generation who want to lean more in the direction of big brother Saudi Arabia, and the younger generation who want to follow the lead of the UAE. And if you’re familiar with Saudi and the UAE you’ll understand the stark differences between the two though their foundation of beliefs are the same. Just like the population of Kuwait.

The elders in Kuwait are also divided on some level — the open minded and those with a beard. OK, not nice, but you get the idea.

The open minded older generation are all for change in Kuwait. The type of change that resembles their childhood when Kuwait was ‘pre-invasion’ and there was a sense of freedom and equality in the country. Women didn’t always cover their heads, married couples attended mixed gender events, and people even danced without finger pointing or the fear of being arrested.

The other half of the older generation, those sporting a beard, well, they want change too. However, while their idea of change is also a glimpse into the past, it’s so far in the past few would even recognize it. In their minds Kuwait should revert to a primitive lifestyle where every action is dictated by religious beliefs.

You can see how this could lead to conflict both personally and politically. Now throw into the mix the Kuwaiti youth. Those who truly want to see a change which resembles something from the future. They’re proactive, progressive, intelligent, and educated. But sadly, all of this forward movement makes them appear to be running from the past. Obviously upsetting the elders who cling to the past like a lifebuoy preventing them from taking their last breath.

All of this internal conflict isn’t good for the country. It leaves them discombobulated, confused, and lacking any real direction. And from the outside, they appear to just be a mess. Imagine what other local governments must think of them. Saudi has managed to hold onto their ancient past… and even enforce it for the most part. And the UAE has managed to seamlessly bring modern day freedoms into their Islamic country while maintaining their values and culture. Bravo!

Kuwait? Well, Kuwait is just struggling from within to find its identity.¬†Quite similar to¬†many of those Kuwaiti (and non-Kuwaiti/expat) youth who are dying to be trend setters yet are only following things the modern world accomplished decades ago. And while I watch them face a number of interior challenges, I’m always rooting for their win. Kuwait holds a piece of my heart and will always be a part of my life. I love Kuwait and beam with pride while sharing stories with friends here at home. I long for the day the country finds itself and unites — because I do believe that can happen. Until that day comes change will never happen, whether it be forward or backwards.

Below are a couple of videos entitled ‘Kuwait Then & Now” (parts 1 & 2). I’ve only watched the first few minutes but found it to be quite interesting.

 

British Airways Kuwait Documentary

This is the first of a four part documentary about Kuwait that British Airways will show on board their flights. Etihad does the same thing for the country to which you’re traveling. It’s a nice way to give a brief introduction to the country you’re preparing to visit as the plane lands, and it certainly highlights some of the more interesting aspects of the country. The video below is absolutely gorgeous and presents Kuwait in such a positive light.

I found this video on 2:48AM blog. You can check it out for other posts about the British Airways short films on Kuwait.

 

Updated video emailed to bloggers. Enjoy!

My expat interview.

As people are contemplating a move abroad they often seek out a number of available resources in hopes of getting a little insight into their new ‘home’. I get a number of emails from those preparing to take that plunge and jet off to the fabulous land of sand I call home; Kuwait. Over the years I’ve hoped my blog has helped out some of those expats in finding a sense of comfort in Kuwait. The readers are the reason I’ve continued to blog as long as I have… and as boring as I’ve become. I don’t check stats, I’m not in a numbers competition, I just enjoy knowing I might be helping someone out there in the cyber world. Whether it’s someone who is taking a new job in Kuwait, or someone who’s considering marriage to a Kuwaiti — I hope I’ve helped.

Recently I was contacted by the lovely Erin at Blog Expat and asked if I would be willing to participate in an interview about my life and experience as an expat in Kuwait. Though I’ve never been into self promotion, blog promotion, or any type of ‘look at me’ behavior, I was honored by her request because I have such a great deal of respect for their site. It really is the go to website for expats planning a move to any country! I truly admire the effort they’ve invested in putting together such a fabulous wealth of information.

So yeah, if you’re interested in reading more about me, my life, my experiences, and what life in Kuwait as an expat (from my perspective) is like, you can find my interview here. Or on the badge to the right, near the bottom of the page titled ‘expat interview’.

Ramadan TV schedule [Jacqui — CouchAvenue re-post]

Every year one of the things I really look forward to during Ramadan are the fabulous (that’s debatable) television shows. I prefer the ones that are filmed locally in Kuwait so I can say, “Hey! Look! I lived there.” or “Look, honey! There’s our favorite restaurant”. They feel more personal to me. And though I don’t fully understand everything they’re saying, I understand enough to get a solid grip on what’s taking place. The acting is often mediocre, the story lines are sometimes silly, and the production isn’t Hollywood standards by any means… but they’re awesome!

A few weeks ago I asked my husband if he could start Googling what programming we could expect this year (especially since the titles are sometimes written in Arabic), and I had planned on asking my sisters in law if they could give me some insight as well. Then it dawned on me… Jacqui!!

Each year Jacqui invests a great deal of time and effort into creating these incredible programming guides for the Ramadan shows. She even separates them into Khaleeji and Arabic categories. She makes similar lists for American programming, new shows, cancellations, etc. It must be quite time consuming but she clearly does it because she enjoys sharing this information and she’s great at it.

Below is 1 page of the Khaleeji Ramadan program guide she’s prepared, however, there are many more listed on her blog which can be found here. Definitely worth checking out!

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this list and how I’ve obviously come to depend on it. Thanks, Jacqui, for your time, effort, and making my Ramadan in America feel a little more like home.

*Click image for source

*Click image for source

Recruiting Americans

I was recently contacted by a former colleague to see if I could assist in recruitment for their US company with a large contract overseas (Kuwait and Afghanistan). Though I generally stick to recruitment for local companies located throughout the GCC, I agreed to give her a hand. O.M.G.

First of all, in 2014 the medical requirements changed a bit and became more strict when it comes to overall heath and weight. BMI now plays a significant role in whether or not someone will be offered a contracting position. And this isn’t just for new hires… this applies to current employees as well. There are a number of ‘replacement’ positions being filled because the previous employee wasn’t ‘medically fit’ to perform their duties. Ouch!

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OK, I understand the need to have semi-physically fit employees working on the US camps. Not that they’re toting weapons or fighting in a war, but they are employed on a government contract in support of the US Military.

However, these changes leave me facing a number of challenges.

When recruiting in the US there are a multitude of laws that apply. Such as discrimination. And though ‘weight’ isn’t a protected class, not hiring someone because of their weight can quickly turn into a discrimination lawsuit — with enough evidence. Additionally, I’m conducting interviews via telephone. I can’t even see these people to make a fair determination as to whether or not they might be a qualified candidate. Obviously saying, “Hey lady, are you fat?” isn’t an option. So I have to go into the ‘BMI’ speech, explaining the new requirements set forth by the military. Seems reasonable enough, huh? Well, have you ever seen someone (man or woman) wearing something that would look super cute on a size 2 but not on a size 22 yet they’re flaunting it as if they’re modeling for Victoria’s Secret? These are the people who have an over-inflated ego and delusions of grandeur. They think they’re showing off the perfect body all wrapped up in the perfect BMI. They’re totally out of touch with reality.

Speaking of out of touch with reality;

During this little recruitment project I’ve viewed a number of resumes/CVs from individuals who are obviously desperate to find employment in Kuwait (I say desperate because they’ve applied for 38 jobs and are qualified for 0). It’s been rather fascinating to come across a resume belonging to someone you’re familiar with realizing everything they portray publicly doesn’t resemble anything factual. We do check references, verify education (even when it’s supposedly overseas), and contact previous employers. As will any reputable employer — even those not affiliated with the US. So when you make claims about your education and/or employment history, make sure they’re accurate. And, if you were recently terminated from your position as a US Contractor because of medical/weight issues, disclose that at the beginning of the interview! As badly as some might want to keep that information a secret, it’s not. Not when you’re applying to work overseas on a US contract.

Note: Please do not ask if you can send me your resume/CV. These positions are all listed online through a number of companies bidding on an upcoming contract. Each position much be applied to individually and online. Wishing you all the best in your search for employment.