Friday, September 28, 2012

What I've been reading lately

What the book is about (from Goodreads) -

Catherine Bailey has been enjoying the single life long enough to know a catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell.

What I thought about the book -

I was determined to read this book during the summer, while I was at home and not sleeping alone in an apartment. I read it 24 hours...staying up until 2am to finish it. 

Did I enjoy it? I'm not sure. It was similar a feeling to when I read Before I Go to Sleep. It is gripping, but at times the writing was dragged out and quite repetitive. I did enjoy the style of writing; Haynes jumps back and forth in time, from before Catherine's 'final' attack and to a more recent time in Catherine's life. Although, I didn't like the fact that there were no chapters in this book, (This is probably why I was up so late finishing it!) as there is no natural place to stop reading.

If you like thrilling page-turners, you'll love this. If you are a wimp (like me!), don't read it when you are alone in the house at night!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Big Things

It is pay day!! A heavy weight is being lifted off my shoulders.

We all know there is more to life than money. But in reality, we know money helps.
This month, my first pay in Kuwait, will equate to about 4 months working in East Africa, where I was for 3 years. (This is partly due to exchange rates as well as outgoings on my salary).Now that I have left, I really don’t know I how I managed to go on safari, own a car, have a few holidays (yes I do-thanks mum and dad!).  People will say, 'oh, but it is cheaper in Africa'. Well, only people that haven’t lived there will say that. Nairobi is expensive. Yes it is cheaper, than London, Dublin, New York…what are you comparing it with? Kampala and Nairobi were both cities where the cost of living was rising monthly. (Not helped by the UN and big Western NGOs that paid big housing allowances and salaries).
I didn’t leave because of my salary. But I know that I would have had to soon, if I hadn’t gone this year.
It is such a nice thought that soon I will not have to worry about reaching the end of the month. Or have to scrape together my glass bottles to take back to Nakumat, just to get a few more thousand shillings!
Saying that, there is a downside to getting paid in Kuwaiti Dinar (only a tiny one mind)….
My friend and I treated ourselves to a coffee and macaroon at Laduree the other morning.  Only after we left I  converted  the money into dollars and we had just paid over $9 each for a coffee. Bit crazy. Eeek! doesn’t sound that much in Kuwaiti Dinars! Once I am paid, I will stop converting money, it is the only way to spend it! (Ha!) Anyhow, it was worth it, for an hour or so, my friend and I happily pretended we were on an avenue in Paris...quite hard to do in a mall in Kuwait…but we tried!


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Little Things

There were times in Africa, like after a long day at school, when I longed for a coffee in a paper cup. A coffee to go, so I could take it back to my classroom, ready to work again after a caffeine fix. Coffee ‘to go’ started appearing in my last few months in Uganda, in a Styrofoam cup…and there was never any rush for the customer. Kind of defeating the purpose.

Times like that I would go on Google and find where my nearest Starbucks was.  Egypt. Quite far for a coffee fix.

Now I can nip across the street (well, two) come back with an iced latte and get back to work. Or grab a double skinny capachino while I go round the supermarket.

Seriously.  How great is that!?

I tell you-it is easy to forget, but these little things make me happy.

Another thing that makes me happy, is finding all the ingredients to try a new recipe. After seeing these this recipe for Nutella Stuffed Cookies on a couple of websites, I just had to try them.
(It is the sea salt that make them great by the way!)
Looking forward to starting Kuwait Cook Club again!

Friday, September 21, 2012

What I've been reading lately

Synopsis from Goodreads

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

My thoughts about the book

Now that I have finished the book I have been reading some reviews and am surprised it has not been more highly regarded. Are they reading a different book? I can understand why it has done better in the States, with the American college setting, but it seems a lot of UK readers found the writing tedious and the baseball theme boring.
I know nothing about baseball. During one summer, when I was working in America, I went to a Portland Sea Dogs baseball game. I had no idea about the rules of the game, still don't, but I just wanted to be part of the atmosphere. This book is not a 'sports' novel, not a book just about baseball, it is about people.

I quickly was attached to the characters and when I wasn't reading found my thoughts turning back to their lives. I was engrossed. 

I loved reading about the passion of the sport, but more about the relationships of the main characters.There was not one character that I did not enjoy reading. The relationships between Owen and Guert, Henry and Mike, Pella and Guert and the emotional friendship between Pella and Henry. 

I am sure the characters in this book will stay with me for a long time. In short, I would highly recommend it.

Monday, September 17, 2012


For a few years now, Kuwait has been a bit of a shopper’s paradise. Shiny malls everywhere, full of well know British and American high-street stores, as well as all the designer shops. In the three years I have been away in East Africa more malls have been built, more sections have been added to the existing ones and more shops have opened. I have been to Dubai a few times, but I have to say the malls I visited had nothing on the ones here in Kuwait…but maybe I was in the wrong ones! It is hard to imagine the size of some of these…in one there is actually a walking track. (Probably just so we all know how far it is from one Starbucks to another!) I texted my mum the other day when I spotted a Lakeland shop, joking that I may never be leaving Kuwait now…a baker can never have enough pretty cupcake cases or plastic from this shop!

The other day I was taken to one of the new supermarkets. When I was previously here there really was a monopoly on the supermarkets, but now we have other supermarket chains with local produce and more affordable imported treats for the expats…and…two-for-one offers and discounts (previously quite unheard of!).

Well, recently I wrote about my shopping experience in Scotland for Laura’s blog (here-on Yummy Laura), when I was a bit overwhelmed by the size of the supermarket. Well, I was a bit like the other day, picking up in disbelief Weightwatchers frozen meals, Rachel’s yogurts, Goldfish, Kingsmill bread (bit random-but it is here! ) and other well-known items that you can find in Kuwait.  Some things about shopping in Kuwait have not changed  (thankfully!) though; waiting at the fish counter while they shell and clean the biggest King prawns that are as cheap as chips or getting your bags packed and carried to the car. Yep, it is a shopper’s heaven!
I heard Harvey Nichols is opening…shame it won’t have the champagne bar though!
PS- Actually – they are still missing a good bookshop. I would go for it…but with the censorship, I don’t think my cafĂ©/bookshop/gallery would work here. Back to the drawing board on that one...

Friday, September 14, 2012

What I've been reading lately

Book description (from Amazon)-

Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on an inner-city housing estate. The second best runner in the whole of Year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalised trainers - the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen - blissfully unaware of the very real threat all around him. With equal fascination for the local gang - the Dell Farm Crew - and the pigeon who visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England: watching, listening, and learning the tricks of urban survival. But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own. In doing so, he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try and keep them safe. A story of innocence and experience, hope and harsh reality, Pigeon English is a spellbinding portrayal of a boy balancing on the edge of manhood and of the forces around him that try to shape the way he falls.

My thoughts-

I really enjoyed this book. I read a review and someone said that the publishers had missed a trick, that it shouldn't be an adult book, but be pushed into schools. I don't know if I agree. It has a child's voice, similar to 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time', but I don't think that necessarily means it should be for young-adults (Room wasn't). I guess the reason why it may not be selected as a course book in schools or promoted as young-adult reading is because of the often 'bad' (or colloquial) language .

Saying that, the playful language used by Harri, his sister and other characters, is so important, showing how they were flung into this new life in the estate and they are still trying to make sense of it all and follow the rules of the estate; 'asweh' (I swear), 'Gowayou' (Go away, you) etc. 

It didn't take me long to like Harri, the voice of the book. He is caring and loving, wants to please his family and wants to be liked by his peers. He is funny and innocent  (the passages about his 'bo-styles' Diadora trainers that he got from the Cancer shop, made me giggle) and that makes the novel a memorable and enjoyable one.

I didn't really get the passages with the conversations with the pigeon, possibly just showing how lonely Harri was in his new home. I skimmed these to be honest.

I would recommend this book. It shows the harsh realities of the gang cultures in estates contrasted with the young, playful and innocent characters. It was gripping, but remained a light read.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Running in Kuwait

The other day I was asked if I was running here in Kuwait. Yes, I am.

The weather has cooled (ha ha ha!) to a high of 45 degrees Celsius. Running in the morning is the only way to do it. By then the ground (be it sand or cement) has had time, in the dark hours of the night, to cool slightly. My running buddy and I (hooray for being reunited with Kirsten!) have been experimenting with the time we can start our runs, as we have found by 6.30am the sun is just too hot...meaning we have to have very early starts; allowing time for us to cool down, shower and get ready for work, we have to be out by 5am...we had a lie-in on Friday (the equivalent of Sunday) and started at 5.30am! (Our even-more-committed-runner friend, Colin, started at 4.15am!)

Picturesque, the runs are not. But you find beauty in it some where (sometimes!). The dusty and polluted skies make for beautiful sunrises at the moment, like watercolour paint soaking into the paper and spreading out across the page. Those help, while we hold our breath on certain corners where the smell of sewage is pretty unbearable. Or where we jump to avoid the man holes and metal rings (do the metal rings have a reason...?) and the piles of rubbish that didn't quite make it into the skip.

We were laughing the other day as we thought of the Rave Runs in the Runner's World magazine, it would be tricky to find one here. But, mine would certainly be along the corniche (well, more of a promenade), by the coast of the Gulf, where the constant water sprinklers keep the grass green. It is too hot to run there at the moment, with no shade from the powerful sun, in a months time it will be cooler...(about 30 degrees C) and that is where I will be running.

PS- There is an 100km Ultra Marathon in Kuwait this November. 100km on sand. I dare you.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Dear Kuwait, You are starting to look a bit like home again. 
Dear Friday, Now you are the start of the weekend. Two days off work, Friday and Saturday. Friday, the quiet day; the mosques are busy but the breakfast cafes and roads are blissfully quiet for a few hours. I love Fridays.
Dear Call to Prayer, Some new expats may complain about the noise, where as I love the sound of the call to prayer at our neighbouring mosque. It brings with it a rhythm to the day, plus I know I have one hour extra in bed before it is a time to get up!
Dear Morning Runs, Yep-it is still hot. But even on my day of rest (a Friday) it is worth getting outside before 5.30 am and I feel soooo much better for it.
Dear Dear Running Buddy, I wouldn't be able to get out of bed without you, even if I feel good after the run! Thank you!
Dear Immigration Offices,  Although I love the weather here in November, it would be great if I could get my passport back before my half term break, I really want to get on a plane then!
Dear Friends, I am a still a bit here, there and everywhere. I will be better at keeping in touch in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Back to school

The 'w' place is a bit of a maze, even for me. More buildings have been acquired and new rooms have been built. But things are coming back to me.
Things that I hadn't realised I had forgotten. (Like the instant love the children have for you and there wish to declare it on day one.) Brand new resources continue to get dropped off in my classroom, as I unpacked the globe, I remembered something else I had forgotten.

The country that isn't

So many things we do not talk about here and I am not going to be writing about it either.

Boys that I taught in Year 3, found me today, big grown-up boys that are now in Year 9,edging closer to adulthood. Too old to hug now or tussle their hair (too tall too!), with their dark moustaches making me feel old, but their cheeky smiles and charm making me feel proud.

New pupils stumble around looking lost. It is easy to do. I've been there. I remember being lost during my first week as a pupil in the very same building, looking for the way to a violin lesson, and being rescued by a KG teacher. I wasn't as brave as some of the pupils were this week. That was 15 years ago...or 16, I think. It is nice to be back.

It feels like home.

PS-I added a long side-note on my last post in the comment section. It is nearly a week since I wrote, every day is better than the last!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kuwait. Wait, I recognise you!

Here I am, back in the land of sand, or dust and heat. Thankfully it has mostly been the dry heat, that even at 47 degrees Celsius is bearable. Even in the dark, something you forget about, your body gets a slight shock when you walk into the hot night.

The days have passed quickly. With meetings and greetings and lots of unpacking.

My memories of my past life here are now in colour. I turn every corner thinking I will hear familiar voices and expecting to see friendly faces, but only a few remain. The other night I went to a party being held in a building that my dear friend used to live in. A lump was stuck in my throat when I saw her name on the door, but she left years ago, during the same exodus I took part in.

I am a 'newbie' again. We travel en masse; a large group with straight hair and high pitched voices, demanding attention and needing constant reassurance. Walking in their very shiny, high heeled shoes, buying like there is no tomorrow. Racing to be the 'first'. The 'first' to make friends, the 'first' to get the Internet (by the way, I haven't got my Internet sorted yet, but once I do, I will be in touch more regularly!), the 'first' to join a gym, the 'first' to have their classroom ready. I am at the back of the shoes and clothes are a little more worn, but I am just as eager to make a good impression in this cut throat environment.

My return has given some 'long timers' a bit of a shock. They realise that in the three years I have been in Africa, they have been here, getting older. Richer too. But older.

Money. A reason why we are all here. A reason, we are reminded of daily, why we are lucky to have been 'chosen' to be here. Well, I have obviously not come for the scenery!

I am trying to stay positive about my return. It is a paradise really!

PS-  I hope you are well! Email me! x