Qout Market Love

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about Qout Market yet!

In my opinion, the atmosphere in Kuwait has changed a lot in the last 2+ years. I attribute it to the starting of Qout Market in November of 2013. Qout has helped move the underground culture above ground. New locally owned restaurants have opened, grocery stores have started carrying a larger variety of health food, other markets have started, there are shoot-off events like Nourish…it’s a beautiful thing!

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Qout Market is the 1st Saturday of every month from November to April and is open 9am-5pm. Abby and I have been in attendance at every market since the first one. We seriously love it. I could spend the entire day on the rooftop just walking around, soaking in the atmosphere. And of course eating delicious food! In my opinion, Qout Market doesn’t happen often enough!

2013-14 Qout Market season:

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There were a lot of upgrades this year. Everything just looked more put together and organized. And just plain beautiful. Emad (of eWood Woodworking) does amazing work and I loved seeing his touch all around the market. My favorite thing about the market being back was re-connecting with all the vendors. A new community is emerging and it truly keeps me going! Abby and I are now on a first name basis with several of the vendors and it’s been really fun getting to know new people outside of our school.

Some of my tried & true Qout favorites:

Here are some pictures from the first market of the 2014-15 season. Enjoy!

 

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Bonus: Jeff made us awesome Halloween costumes :)

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A random Crossfit competition

Yesterday morning Jeff and I were discussing what to do that afternoon. We weren’t really sure – it wasn’t nice enough to lay by the pool, we didn’t really want to sit at home & watch TV all day, we didn’t really want to work (everyone needs a day off). We thought about maybe walking somewhere to get food. Instead of making a decision, I headed to Body Pump. At the beginning of class, our instructor asked us if we were going to some battle Crossfit thing (I couldn’t really understand him). When I got home, I googled it. And found out that there was a pretty big competition happening at the Marina Crescent – Battle of the East. It had just started so Jeff and I hopped in a taxi to go check it out!

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We stayed for about 2 hours and watched the competition. We were really surprised at how legit it was! They had really cool cameras that were able to get all angles off the competition area. There was a DJ who was up above the competition and when the camera was on him all you could see were beach, water & sky behind him. It wasn’t a nice day to lay at the pool but it was a perfect afternoon for watching an outdoor competition. Best of all – it was free to watch! Only thing I’m bummed about is that I didn’t buy one of the shirts.

Check out more on Instagram.

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Kuwait – where you seek out your own happiness

In general, Kuwait is a pretty easy place to live. We work at a good school. We can speak English pretty much everywhere. There are a ton of Western amenities (there are more American restaurants here then there are in Holland & Battle Creek combined). We make enough to travel where & when we want to. We belong to a beautiful gym. In general, our daily life isn’t too bad.

However it’s not always that simple. Kuwait is a dry country and thus there are none of the activities typically associated with alcohol. We can’t just go hang out at the bar for the evening. There aren’t professional sports. You can’t really take a weekend trip anywhere in the country. There’s only 1 geographical feature (and we’ve been there). You get the idea. What we’ve figured out is that this is a place where it is up to YOU to seek out your own happiness. It is not going to come to you. There is a lot of stuff happening in Kuwait but you just have to find it.

Here’s what I/we’ve been up to:

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This weekend is Halloween (even though we can’t celebrate it at school). Trick-or-treating for staff kids is on Friday night and then there’s an adult costume party. 7 Market is Friday and Saturday. And finally Qout Market is back on Saturday…so excited!!! There’s a lot going on…you just have to seek out what you’re passionate about and make your own happiness.

Fall is here (for now)

We don’t write much. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot to write about. We do. But we’re also pretty busy living such a kick-ass life and enjoying moments that we don’t always have the time to write about it. Among other posts, I want to write about spring break in Oman, June in Iceland, our summer, and Bahrain.

In the meantime I’m going to write about weather (again). I just can’t help it. It’s our daily life. And when it changes it’s a pretty big deal. Yesterday was incredibly windy. And then it was DUSTY. Probably one of the dustiest days we’ve seen since moving here (it hasn’t actually been very dusty in our 2+ years here). I was in a classroom for 30 minutes and when I came out the dust had come. It was gross – all in your mouth and nose and the weather turned orange. It kind of looks like when it’s snowing a super fine light snow in MI. We didn’t take any pictures. But check these out from Kuwait UpToDate:

This morning we woke up and it was still super windy. Then we walked outside. It was GORGEOUS! It was in the low 70s with a cool breeze. I wore fall colors and loved every minute of it. We got back to our apartment and realized it was one of the clearest days we’ve ever seen. And the water was a DEEP blue. And the sunset was beautiful. The weather here is static for so long it’s refreshing to have something a little different.

 

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Four days in Ethiopia

We have a lot of updating to do. But right now I’m inspired to write about my trip last week. I used my PD money from school (and some of my own) to go to Learning2 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As I wrote about on my professional blog, it still seems surreal!

Since direct flights only go to Addis Ababa every couple of days, I arrived EARLY Wednesday morning (about 30 hours before the conference officially started). I ended up being the only non-Ethiopian on the flight that was staying in the country (a lot of Ethiopian women work in Kuwait). I was a little surprised at how small the airport was…until I realized that we flew into the domestic terminal! An Italian pilot for Ethiopian Airlines helped me find the shuttle for my hotel and thus began my trip of helpful & kind people!

I shared the shuttle with two women (one from Boston, the other from Quebec) who were in Addis for a UN conference on human rights. We ended up chatting, seeing each other around the hotel and taking a 15-minute excursion in a taxi to the souvenir area of the city on Thursday. We didn’t buy anything but it was totally worth it. Traveling alone is something I haven’t done in many years but I was able to step outside my comfort zone and meet lots of amazing people!

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Shortly after arriving to my hotel on Wednesday, I realized that I had booked at the WRONG hotel! There are two Jupiter International Hotels in Addis…the only difference is the location. The rest of the people at my conference were staying at the other one. Wednesday was also the epic day that I lost my voice for the first time in my entire life. Laughing at my luck and staying positive were what kept me going during my stay in Ethiopia! There were no available rooms at the correct hotel, so I jumped in a taxi to go hangout at the school. It was incredibly interesting to talk to the taxi driver – he spoke pretty good English and we talked about Ethiopia, traveling, open-mindedness and perspective on the world. It would be the first of many great conversations while in Addis.

Thursday morning started a little later than I would have liked…but I got to switch hotels! When I woke up there was one hotel room left at the correct hotel. However the internet was out at my hotel and I needed to call Agoda so that they would approve a switch to the other hotel. It was my initiation into Africa – unreliable internet and power. When I was checking in at the correct hotel I realized that I had left my passport in the safebox in my room at the first hotel! But I got it all worked out with the help of the great staff at the hotel. That left me time to explore the city a little (see above) and make it on the 11am bus to the school. That put me at school just in time to have lunch! ICS’s cafeteria is awesome – super cheap, super yummy Ethiopian food! I had the Tegamino Shiro. 20 birr = $1. And I couldn’t eat it all!

IMG_5625Because I was at the conference early, I got to meet and hangout with people that I’ve been communicating with for years on Twitter and through blogs. One of my favorite parts of the conference was that it was all inclusive (a surprise!). The only meal I paid for was the one above. And I never had to pay for drinks (they flowed freely every night!). Best $400 I’ve ever spent!

The conference was intense – pick up at 7am and back to the hotels around 9pm. It was like no conference I’ve ever been to before and I’d go back to every single one in the future (they also have them in Asia and they’re coming soon to Europe & the Middle East…and Mars?). The conference is build around the concept of being social and it didn’t disappoint.

Since we didn’t have any time to explore the city, the conference organizers brought Ethiopia to us. There were traditional dancers at the opening session and we had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant on Friday. There were also vendors at the school on Friday & Saturday and I made sure they got my money ;). I bought an Ethiopian opal for a friend (did you know that they’re famous for opals?! AND they’re so different!), a painting for us and a couple other small gifts. Unfortunately I didn’t buy any coffee on Friday and they didn’t come back on Saturday. So the owner of the art gallery let me “borrow” his driver and we went to Tomoca to stock up on coffee. I made it back to the school alive!

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The collaboration was inspiring, the school was beautiful and the RAIN was divine! The cool weather was a beautiful break from Kuwait. I even got to speak some French! I met teachers from la Cote d’Ivoire at the conference and some people from the Congo in line at the airport. I can’t wait to go back to Ethiopia to explore with Jeff (and Abby?). My only regret – I was in where coffee originated and I don’t like it!

Check out all my pictures from Ethiopia (all taken with my iPhone)!

 

Our Guide: Sri Lanka

[Note: Sorry this is so late!]

Where we stayed:

Our visit to Sri Lanka was divided into three distinct parts; Kandy, Ambalongoda and Haputale. In Kandy we stayed at a hotel called Amaya Hills and it was fantastic. It’s a bit more than we would normally pay, but we only stayed there a few nights. Their food was delicious and their location was perfect. From there we ventured down to the small coastal town of Ambalangoda. We used AirBnB to book a villa owned by a man named Wolley. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we were beyond impressed (more on this later). I’d recommend Wolley’s villa to anyone headed to Sri Lanka. After Ambalangoda we headed back up into the mountains to Haputale. Again, we stayed at a nicer-than-usual hotel but weren’t concerned because of the money we saved at Wolley’s.

What we ate:

We stuffed ourselves silly with rice and curry as often as possible. Check out our food pics here, but if you really want to understand the deliciousness of this food, go find a Sri Lankan restaurant near you. I promise you won’t regret it. Lissa particularly enjoys putting pol sambol on everything while I favor the late-night dish of chicken kottu roti. Bonus: you’re expected to eat with your hands – no utensils!

What We Did:

Visited Buddhist temples & monasteries, lounged on the beach, drank with locals while they taught us the rules of Cricket (we still don’t get it), ate even more rice and curry, took a train to Galle, drove dizzying roads into tea plantations and took in as much of the lush landscape as possible. I’m positive I’ve missed a few events, but there’s something for just about everyone in Sri Lanka.

Pro Tips:

* Hire a driver. They’re fairly cheap and will save you an incalculable amount of stress. Plus, they can take you to local restaurants where you eat in the dining room of someone’s actual house. Let us know if you want a recommendation and we can put you into touch with our driver. He was awesome.

* Be careful drinking local liqour. “Arrack” is a sneaky rum, and will knock your socks off if you’re not diligent.

 

Celebrating in Sri Lanka

December was a big month for us! We celebrated our 5 year anniversary two days after Christmas :) Sri Lanka is a direct 5.5-hour flight from Kuwait – the perfect distance for 2 weeks of exploring! It also has a variety of landscapes and is quite cheap.

We started with a few days in Kandy. We did some sight-seeing and convinced our driver that we wanted to eat where the locals eat. Highlights: bottle feeding elephants at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, the botanical gardens, Kandyan dancing, and sipping on drinks while enjoying the view from our hotel.

Then we moved on to Ambalangoda…with Patrick and Ashley! Although it was our first Christmas away from ‘home,’ we still had family with us and loved every minute. Our daily routine: homemade 3-course breakfast, beach, snacks w/ drinks and cards and then a homemade rice and curry dinner. The owner of the house we stayed at was a wonderful cook and we ate like royalty. My mouth is watering just thinking about the food! Highlights: beach, food, relaxing & chillin’ w/ Patrick & Ashley, riding in tuk tuks, river safari, turtle farm/hatchery, riding the train, beach and FOOD (always eating with our hands of course!)!

our Christmas tree!

We ventured to Hikkaduwa by train one day and explored Galle and Unawatuna another.

Hikkaduwa

Galle

After we said bon voyage to Patrick and Ashley, Jeff and I headed to the mountains and tea country (Haputale) for a quiet New Year. We were reunited with Dama (our driver) and found as many hole-in-the-wall Sinhalese restaurants as possible. Pure bliss. Highlights: miles and miles of tea, drinks and learning about cricket with Dama and hiking.

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We had the pleasure of eating with Dama’s sister and her family twice. We could have stayed forever drinking tea, hanging with locals and eating homemade Sri Lankan food!

We loved Sri Lanka so much we almost went back for an impromptu visit in February. But we didn’t get any additional days off school and decided to stay in Kuwait (more on that later too).

Hopefully they’ll be a blog post coming soon from Jeff with ‘Our Guide’ to Sri Lanka. Until then, here’s all our pictures!

Kandy
Ambalangoda
Haputale
Sri Lanka iPhone
FOOD!

Accidental twins

Thursday (tomorrow) is twin day in the elementary. Abby and I decided that we’d be twins together. We racked our brain for shirts we could wear with jeans. Monday night Abby looked through my closet to find a shirt. It was tough!! We finally decided on a Banana shirt that we both have (in different colors).

Then I walked into her classroom yesterday (Tuesday, NOT twin day) morning and this had happened. I guess we have more clothes in common than we thought!

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Today (Thursday) we were planned twins! Look closely…our shirts are the same just different colors :)
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[Fall 2013] A Kuwaiti restaurant…in Kuwait

Seriously there aren’t that many. There are just a few Kuwaiti restaurants in the country and a friend of ours helped us find a good one. It’s not too far from our apartment and it was a pretty cool to be able to sit down to a Kuwaiti meal (we’ve tasted Kuwaiti food before at AWARE Center functions, but never a whole meal).

Because we went way back in August I don’t have a lot to say besides it was a great experience! We ate lots of yummy food for cheap and we’d definitely go back. Check out Desert Girl’s post for the low-down on Kuwaiti food & restaurants. We ate at Freej Suwaileh.

all our pictures