Apartment Improvements

We’re already over a month into year 5! We got back August 9, spent a couple weeks helping orient the new staff, prepping for the new school year and getting settled. Jeff had 2.5 weeks with students and we had 4 days of U14 Girls’ Soccer tryouts before Eid Al Adha. Today is our last day of a 9-day staycation (our longest ever) before we head back to school tomorrow.

During the break we’ve been able to get some things done around our apartment. We’ve slowing been improving our apartment since we moved to the 15th floor after our 1st year so this break we did a few more updates: two pendant lights, curtains in the bedrooms and a honeycomb shelf. Our apartment definitely feels like home 😍 Come visit anytime!






Food opposites

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Some food in Kuwait is cheaper than you could even imagine. This deliciousness from a random, hidden but incredibly busy “restaurant” in Kuwait City was incredibly cheap. So cheap that when I asked Jeff just now if he remembers how much it cost (we went over a month ago), his reply was “nothing.” According to Saud (who introduced us to this place), the shawarma were about 300 fils each. That’s $1. Throw in the samosas and we paid a couple cents over $1 per person.

On the other hand, there are items that are unbelievably expensive in Kuwait. This week we decided to treat ourselves to some fresh US strawberries. 


1.790KD = $5.96. For strawberries. But every once in a while you just gotta have some juicy, beautiful strawberries. And other times you find cheap shawarma that satisfies other taste buds. It’s all about balance.

The family that coaches together, stays together

Last year Jeff took on coaching U14 Girls’ Soccer and Forensics & Debate. Still a little overwhelmed by my MEd, I opted not to coach for the 4th year in a row. By the end of the year I was hopeful that this year would give me a little more flexibility to start coaching again. Unfortunately there were no spots open for the Track & Field team. Then Jeff got the crazy idea that we should coach together. Unfortunately again, his assistant had already been chosen.

Fast forward to August – the U14 boys’ coach got injured and had to give up coaching. Jeff’s assistant (a man) was moved to the boys’ team…which left an opening for me! After having 2 male coaches for the girls’ team last year, it seemed perfect that this year we could have some female influence. Fortunately, I got the job 🙂


Our first practice; also Jeff’s 31st birthday!

We’ve had a lot of fun. It’s been nice to spend time together in a new way. And on super busy weeks it gives us the chance to actually be together. Last week we had our 1st game (our 2nd was canceled because of storms). Our girls won 8-0 🙂


Saudi bound

Jeff and I were excited when we were asked to present at a GAFE Summit in Saudi Arabia…we’re only 1.5 hours from the border and not many people are able to actually set foot in the country.

It’s been a bit of a process to get visas since it is one of the most difficult countries to travel to. We ended up going with transit visas which means we are allowed to be in Saudi in transit to Bahrain. With Saud as our chauffeur, we’ll leave early morning and aim to be at the border by sunrise (we’ve been advised that the road from Kuwait to Dhahran is curvy not not well lit). We’ll present 1.5 days (we have to miss the 1st morning) with a trip to Bahrain for dinner & drinks before heading back to Kuwait (again early am to be back at school for the afternoon).

Besides obtaining visas (which are safely in our passports) and prepping our sessions, there are other things we’ve had to take into consideration for this trip: I need to be wearing an abaya & hijab when not at the school. As we approach the Kuwait – Saudi border I’ll have to don my cover. We saw this as an opportunity: Abby and I have wanted an excuse to go abaya shopping!

Yesterday after our monthly pedicures, we headed to the old souq with Jeff & Saud.

1st stop: tasty snacks.

This entire bag of goodies cost us 1.2KD (~$4). Our ‘snack’ ended up being dinner for 4.

2nd stop: when you find chips Oman in Kuwait, you must buy them up. 

Then it was time to start perusing the shops for our favorite abayas. If you think an abaya is just a simple black cloak, think again. There are as many varieties (if not more) of abayas as jeans.   

We wondered in & out of shops, trying on different abayas and deciding what features we were looking for. I fell in love in an abaya (not shown) that had a unique cinched waist & v-neck but between the price tag (20KD) and extra fabric, it wasn’t as flattering on me as the mannequin.

Abby's face has been cropped because she wasn't posing.

Abby’s face has been cropped because she wasn’t posing.

After much deliberation, Abby and I both ended up with front opening abayas with lace details. Both hijabs are mine (because of course I needed a summer and winter one). My abaya was 12KD + 2KD summer hijab & 3KD winter hijab. Abby’s abaya was 10KD. [The exchange rate is currently 1KD = $3.30.] Not bad for gorgeous new clothes! I’m ready for Saudi & Abby has her textile from Kuwait. We’re open to ideas for where else we should wear our new outfits 😉

Just realized this is our 100th post. How fun 🙂

An epic day of thunderstorms

We don’t post much. I’m going to blame it on the fact that we’re too busy living & enjoying life. We had a wonderful summer – visited France with my grandpa and then soaked up family & friend time in the US. Since we arrived in August, we’ve been to Bahrain for Eid and Sri Lanka 2 weeks ago for a spur of the moment trip (seriously, we booked it 1 week before we went #risktakers).


This morning I woke up at 4:40am to some crazy sounds. And then realized it was lightning. I was going to go back to bed but was mesmerized for 2 hours by the storms. Turns out watching from the 15th floor is pretty dang great. {This is probably only the 2nd time we’ve had thunderstorms like this in our 3+ years here.} 99% of the time our radar is completely clear. Not last week!


Kuwait when it rains is a lot like South Carolina when it snows – chaos. To be fair the flooding in other areas was significant. However it has been difficult to hear people talking about the flooding here after the extreme damage that happened in South Carolina after an actual hurricane.

We can’t complain about the sound of thunder & rain, a rare occurrence in our lives here.

The ministry ended up cancelling school after many of our staff & students had arrived. School continued with about half of our students present (that might be high). Wednesday night, after we went to bed, the ministry cancelled school for Thursday. This time we had a (very productive) teacher work day. It has continued to rain on and off. Maybe this means we’ll have a green winter!


Arrived with a headache, left with a fractured toe

Short story: I went to the International Clinic to get my headache checked out. Two hours later I left with a headache and a fractured toe.

Long story: Last Saturday, while doing push-ups during Body Pump at the Corniche,  a sudden & excruciating headache started above my right eye. It continued for the duration of my lifting session. With some water and meds it dissipated throughout the day. Megan (friend, colleague & Body Pump instructor) wasn’t sure what it was but thought maybe I wasn’t breathing correctly during my workout. I took a couple days off lifting, ran and it mostly went away (except when I touched the spot).

Tuesday morning (graduation day – we aren’t allowed in the school) I tried Body Pump again. My headache started almost immediately. I made it through the hour and asked the instructor what she thought. She’d never heard of anything and suggested I get it checked out since I was flying in the next week. While lying by the pool, I decided to head to the International Clinic with Megan (who already had an appointment). I don’t go to the doctor often because it seems like they usually tell me something I already know or can’t find anything. I decided not to risk it this time and go.

The doctor thought maybe it was my sinuses (umm…no). So I went downstairs for a head x-ray and blood work. After my x-ray, I went into the adjoining bathroom to put my hair back into a ponytail. And smashed my pinky toe against the door. I immediately fell to the ground. Then hobbled to the other side of the building to get my blood drawn. By the time I left the small room, I was balling. My toe freakin’ HURT! Luckily Megan was there to console me. She helped me walk back over to x-ray and ask for a foot x-ray. Sure enough – I had fractured my pinky toe WHILE GETTING AN X-RAY OF MY HEAD. WTF. Who does that?! The doctor helped me get to the ortho department (outside & across the parking lot – what a cruel joke) for a consult. They wanted to tape it up and cast it. Thanks but no thanks. He predicted my fracture would take about three weeks to heal. No running, no working out and minimal walking. ARG. I have already registered for a 5k and 10k in the next month 😦

After getting it taped and the supplies to do it myself, I (finally) headed back up to my original doctor to get the results of my x-ray and blood work. Clear (of course). After a 2-hour visit, I left the International Clinic with a headache and a fractured toe. THIS is why I don’t go to doctors. You never realize how much you want to work out until someone tells you that you can’t. Times like these are when I want to ask “Why?” But these are also the times when there really isn’t a good answer for that question.

At least my pedicure looks good!

At least my pedicure looks good!

What we really think about living in Kuwait & the Middle East

Recently we’ve been asked by two different people about what it’s like in Kuwait. One was a potential hire and the other a friend of a friend who will be traveling here next month. I thought you might be interested in our responses since they aren’t things we talk to family & friends about as much. Some of the responses may be reiterated but it’s easiest to just copy & paste them for you.

From Jeff to potential hire:

Have you had the opportunity to travel around your area?  Outside your area? 
Working in Kuwait we have 4 major breaks per year and we travel for 3 of them, plus on our way  home to the states in June. We’ve gone to Greece, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Oman, South Africa, Germany, Iceland, Bahrain, Turkey and probably one or two more I’m forgetting. The opportunity for travel is incredible, and we take advantage of it every time we can.

How safe do you feel when traveling? 
Teaching abroad offers a different perspective on world events, untouched by American media. Working in the Middle East helps, too. Using this newfound “sense,” we only travel to places we deem safe enough to go. We’ve never felt unsafe anywhere we go, and are quite often surprised at how congenial and friendly people are of Americans. Omanis currently sit atop my list of friendliest people in the world, followed closely  by Sri Lankans. Ask me that a few years ago and I wouldn’t have been able to point either of those places out on a map. That being said, we’re never foolish enough to put yourselves in a bad position, so we’re already mindful of safety no matter what.

How safe do you feel around your school and home? Shopping, walking, ect.  Night, day..
As a white male, I feel extremely safe. The people in our community are, for the most part, very nice. They happily wave or greet me when I walk by, and I’ve developed a lot of friendly relationships with shop owners. Theft is an extreme sin in Islam, and people rarely, if ever, do it. At the grocery store I could leave my backpack and Lissa’s purse in our cart, walk away for 5 minutes to go find something, come back, and everything would still be there. There are many times I feel safer in Kuwait than I do in the US.

What are some experiences that you have had traveling in the places you have gone?  Good, bad…
We’ve only had good, and there’s almost too many to tell. I’ll share a few of my favorite and Lissa can share hers.

Our first night Kruger National Park in South Africa found us in an air conditioned hut a few hundred meters above a giant river full of talking hippos. We sat on our covered porch having drinks while dinner was cooking on the grill and the sun was going down. Although I had simple modern amenities, I felt very much in the African bush. It was amazing.

Another one of my favorite times was our last day in Greece. Our plane took off in the early afternoon, so we got up really early and hoofed it a half mile to the Acropolis. The sun was coming up and we had the place to ourselves. I’m always in awe of historical sites that were built by hand and the Acropolis was no exception.

In general, one of my favorite things to do when visiting a new place is to go on a run or walk with Lissa. We’ve found it’s one of the best ways to “see” a city for the first time. We also geocache, which is a fun game anywhere but especially when you travel 🙂

What have been some of your experiences with other cultures?
Oh man… just the other day, in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, I posted on Facebook how hard it is to reconcile the wonderful acts of the Muslims I interact with on a daily basis with those I see committing terror in the name of Islam abroad. Our experience in Kuwait has been eye opening, both good and bad. As white westerners, we’ve never felt in danger here. However, we’re in the top tier of citizens, right beneath Kuwaiti’s and other rich gulf arabs. We’ve seen some pretty atrocious attitudes towards the working class, and we can’t ignore the fact that human rights aren’t on the same level here as we’re accustomed to in the US. On a positive note, I’ve come into contact with so many unbelievably friendly people from numerous cultures that I would have never had the opportunity to before. I’ve mentioned Omanis and Sri Lankans as being some of the friendliest people on earth, but the arabs, muslims, and arab muslims I interact with every day are wonderful as well. I’ve become a culturally richer person with little to no threat to my safety.

What percent range of salary do you think you can save beyond daily expenses?
With our school’s package, we don’t pay taxes on our salary, rent, or utilities. Our expenses are food, internet and cellphones, and depending on your preferences, that can be extremely low. We are both enrolled in Master’s programs (which we pay for in cash), we are paying our undergrad student loans and and we still take (what feels like) exorbitant and luxurious vacations 3-5 times a year. We also have a maid that cleans our house once a week. It’s silly, really.

  • Kuwait is extremely family friendly.
    • There’s first class medical facilities with western doctors (and it’s cheap!)
    • Nannies, maids and even cooks to an extent are unbelievably cheap, easy to hire and extremely reliable. We pay ~$90 a month for a maid that comes once a week for 2-3 hours at a time. We guess we’d pay about that much for 1-2 hours in the states.
    • Everything is deliverable in Kuwait, and they have almost every western restaurant you could want. Out of coffee? Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Tim Hortons and Caribou will happily bring a latte to you. It’s amazing and lazy 🙂
    • There’s a distinct lack of green space here, so playing outside will be much, MUCH different than in the states.
  • Food is my favorite part of living abroad. I can get sushi, thai, sri lankan, indian and turkish without traveling more than a mile or so from my apartment – and that’s if I don’t want it delivered! Bonus; it’s astoundingly cheap. I can also get 4 feet of little ceasars pizza brought to my door if I need some good ‘ole fashioned american grub. I love trying food from the countries we visit, then finding restaurants that specialize in it in Kuwait.

From Lissa to potential hire:

  • We’ve also been to Dubai, Ethiopia and Tanzania for conferences (on our own dime). Next month I’ll be going to Qatar and then back to Istanbul in March. We’re planning Sri Lanka (again) for spring break and Paris on the way home in June.
  • In general I feel extremely safe here in Kuwait and abroad. My experiences as a woman are slightly different than Jeff’s. I feel comfortable walking in our neighborhood (and to the grocery store & gym about a mile away) by myself both during the day and at night. However I am extremely aware of my surroundings. I’ve been yelled and honked at from men in cars but it hasn’t felt much different than when I’ve been running down Capital Ave and get honked at. I have never felt threatened. That, however, does not mean that all women have had that same experience. We have had harassment incidents in our neighborhood but I’m not sure it would be any different in a big city. We live in a big city and need to continually be aware of what is happening around us and who is around us.
  • I don’t wear tank tops, shorts or low-cut shirts. I dress conservatively because it makes me more comfortable. I don’t make eye contact with people when I’m walking outdoors (but didn’t do that in France either). In general I stay more to myself while being 100% aware of my surroundings.
  • Another amazing experience we had was in Oman – Jeff found an Omani guy who owns a hut on the beach. We booked to stay with him for one night with my sister (who also teaches here), my mom, dad & two siblings in high school. We loved it so much we ended up staying two. On our first night we piled in his car and he took us to a beach where turtles lay their eggs. We slept on the floor of his hut with no locking doors. He also took us fishing on his boat (with no life vests, etc), we caught barracudas and then he grilled them up that night for dinner. We all hopped on the boat quickly when he told us there were dolphins – we drove through an enormous pod of dolphins (hundreds). My mom was a little uncomfortable at first but looking back it was one of our highlights of Oman. He ended up calling my mom ‘Mommy’ and we could have stayed for much longer.
  • I am all for women’s rights but neither of us have ever felt like we need to bite our tongue. Or even had to make the choice to bite my tongue. I’ve learned a lot about Islam since moving here – although it is a patriarchal society, women are a very important part of the family. One of the biggest insults you can give a boy at our school is to say something bad about any of the women in his family. Most men seem to feel a strong need to protect the women in their family. Women make the choice to cover – it is a decision between them and God. No one else is supposed to influence or affect their decision. They usually choose to cover because they want to keep their beauty for themselves and their husband.
  • In Saudi, women’s rights are severely restricted (must wear hijab & abaya, can’t drive, etc). For these reasons we have no desire to ever live there. In Kuwait it is more about your nationality than your gender. The working class is low on the totem pole and often isn’t treated well. That has been the biggest adjustment for me. However I do my part to treat the maids, drivers, etc well. It’s all I can do. There are only about 1 million Kuwaitis in a country of over 3 million people. It is extremely difficult to get Kuwaiti citizenship. Thus life can be difficult/frustrating here for other nationalities, especially the ones deemed not as good. Jeff and I believe strongly that life is what you make of it. We choose to be happy and see the good in life/people – but not everyone here does.
  • The biggest reason that I wear what I wear is out of respect for the culture. Their culture is more conservative than in the US and I acknowledge that. Christina and I run 3 mornings a week before school (you’d be welcome to join us!). When it is hot I wear shorts & short sleeve shirts. I’ve learned that the material matters here, not necessarily how much skin I’m showing! Sometimes we get honks from cars but this happens no matter what we are wearing. I also wear tight capris & leggings to run to walk to the gym. I know that if I’m going to wear something that is extremely tight and not cover my butt, I might get some stares. We are Western women in a Middle Eastern country. Just like we have stereotypes of them, they have stereotypes of us. They have seen all the American movies where women are portrayed as ‘easy.’ So they think that if they honk and say hi maybe we’ll be easy too. It gets HOT here. But I never wear tank tops or shorts (other than bermuda). I would rather be a little warm than feel out of place. Blond women & children are going to get more attention – people aren’t used to seeing that here (same goes for Asia). There are Arabs of all countries here. In general the Lebanese women wear whatever they want without regard for who sees them. This isn’t the choice I make. But some of the things I’ve seen moms at our school wear I wouldn’t wear in the States either. I’ve never felt judged or harassed by other women.

Lissa to visiting ‘friend’:

I feel safer here than I do in most big US or European cities. Because of the harsh penalties for stealing, murder, etc, crime is very low here. I routinely leave my purse in my shopping cart and then walk away to grab something else. Although the media has sensationalized any news about Westerners being attacked in the Middle East, I have never felt threatened or fearful for my life. Or even close.
I choose to dress conservatively out of respect for the culture. The extent to most men’s (both workers & Kuwaitis) interaction with Western women have been Hollywood movies (where women aren’t always portrayed accurately). Even when it’s hot, I don’t wear tank tops or short shorts. In general I refrain from showing my shoulders, chest, & stomach. I don’t always cover my knees (Bermuda shorts and pencil skirts). I usually try not to wear anything too tight but I’ll wear skinny jeans with a loose top or loose bottoms w/ tight tops. For men, there really are no restrictions. They’ll be comfortable in shorts and t-shirts.

Headlines in Kuwait

We have officially started our 4-day weekend for National & Liberation holidays. Yay!

Every morning when I sign in at school there are newspapers on the desk. They are usually quite different than the headlines that I see in the US (or see friends/family posting). Today I thought you might like to see our headlines.

 They are both similar to and at the same time different than yours. Yes – the Middle Eastern countries are also fighting IS(IS).

Kuwait Blackout 2015

Yesterday was Wednesday. Wednesday is family night. Jeff, Abby, Saud and I were enjoying our dinner when the lights flickered. Then the apartment went black. We thought it was just our building. However our view from the 15th floor told us it was way more widespread than that. It was black for miles and the traffic on the highway next to our apartment was all backed up.

Our phones were dying. It luckily we have 20+ candles on our apartment to sustain us in these circumstances. We only had to use one because Bath & Body Works candles are so awesome. About 45 minutes to an hour later the power went back on. Turns out almost 80% of the country lost power. Here are some more articles to peruse.

Both fortunately and unfortunately we had school today. The dust blew in about 10am and the rest of the day was gross. Here’s hoping for a nicer weekend!