Friday, 25 November 2011


So, when we entered Kuwait on August 31st of this year, they let us in on visitor's visas valid for ninety days.  That means that before December 1st, we had to leave the country to get another visa; hence this week's quickie trip to the Kingdom of Bahrain.  

Based on our trip, I have been able to make a few comparisons between Bahrain and Kuwait.

1.  Bahrain has fewer lunatic drivers than Kuwait.  The speed whimsical and erratic behaviour of cars on this freeway to Manama City pales in comparison to drivers on the Fahaheel Highway of Death in Kuwait.

2. Bahrain has pubs that serve (gasp!) alcohol.

3. Bahrain has a Trader Vic's Restaurant.  And they serve alcoholic beverages.

4. Bahrain has Kumon.  And since I've recently enrolled the Bambina in Kumon and there's no Kumon Centre in Kuwait, it looks like we're going to be doing it by correspondence with the Kumon Centre in Bahrain, which is why we visited there during our trip.  It's run by Fiona, a lovely Irish woman who did a great job of encouraging the Bambina to do our worksheets every day.

5. Bahrain has a slightly nicer, less polluted skyline than Kuwait.

6. Bahrain is greener than Kuwait.

7. And finally, there are just as many Ferraris, Infinitis, Porsches, Mercedes, BMWs and other very expensive cars in Bahrain as in Kuwait (all owned by locals of course.  We poor expats get a rented Toyota.)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Avoiding Fast Food on the Road

Call it a parenting quirk of mine, but in all our travels, we have never, ever, stopped at a Mcdonalds.  Or even driven through.  This means that my 7-year old daughter has never been to Mcdonalds.  Or Burger King.  Or KFC.  Or any other restaurant that serves meals in throw away containers, with the exception of the time she had a slice of oven-baked cheese pizza in a food court in Sun City, South Africa.

How have we managed to avoid it?  Well, it was easy to avoid in Madagascar because there were no fast food restaurants there at all.  In Europe (and we have spent a lot of time in Europe), fast food outlets are abundant - French people love "Mac-DOE", as they affectionately call it. And here in Kuwait, there is a fast food chain restaurant of some kind about every 100 metres.  It's not surprise that obesity is such a problem in Kuwait, there is even a Wikipedia entry on it!

The answer is that we just don't go there.  In France, we just didn't when we were living there and we don't when we visit. We find a real restaurant or brasserie that serves food that our kids like, and we go there.  Sometimes, we go there again and again if we can't find anything else.  In Italy, the food is so good, why go for fast food?  In Kuwait, we don't eat out much anyway and when we do, it's usually Pizza Express, a UK restaurant chain that serves wood oven pizza the way they make it in Italy (or pretty close ;-)). It's eat-in and the food in served on real plates with real cutlery.

I know people who think that we can't, realistically, maintain our "abstinence program" in Kuwait, or who ask,"why continue with it?  Doesn't a fast food boycott just make your lives inconvenient?  And after all, everything in moderation, right?"

I can see greater, long term inconveniences in taking my kids there.  You see, my original reason for not taking the Bambina to Mcdonalds was only partly ethical and nutritional and more to do with keeping the whine factor to a minimum.  I knew that once she had been one time, she would ask, beg, and plead to go again and again and again.

Are all kids like this?  No (so please don't write in the comments that I must be wrong because your children never did this and you go to MacDonalds once a year, no problem).  But my daughter is and so is my son.  I'm very happy to avoid this trap.

As for the "everything in moderation" argument, that only counts for things that are actually *good* for you in moderation - like salt or brown sugar.  Mcdonalds isn't.  As a nutritional matter, Macdonalds meals are too calorie-dense, too high in fat, too high in sodium and not balanced.  The fact is that there is no good reason to have a meal at Mcdonalds if your kids will enjoy a meal elsewhere.  Not one.  Macdonalds is not good for nutrition, not good for calories, not good for agriculture and not good for the environment.

And the reality is that Mcdonalds is just one option when you're on the road with kids.  You don't need to take your kids to Mcdonalds at the Pantheon in Rome.  Take them for some yummy pasta and sauce at a local trattoria instead.  In Paris, take them for a delicious burger at Hippopotamus.  The beef is excellent and they even have mashed potatoes and green beans on the side as an alternative to fries.

Even on a highway in the States, surely stopping at a diner or other truck stop and getting a burger is better than stopping at Mcdonalds (or Burger King or Wendy's or KFC...).  At least at the truck stop, the hamburger patty is more likely to come from just one cow and not 20 different ones.  Here in Kuwait (and throughout the Middle East), Pizza Express is a good alternative.  There are also some good Italian and seafood restaurants.  And there is delicious Middle Eastern food if your kids are open to trying new tastes.  Wherever you are with your kids, finding a local restaurant, or even just a place where you can sit down and eat food on real plates, will almost always be a better choice nutritionally and environmentally.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday- Habits that could make me go broke in Kuwait

Friday, 4 November 2011

Camping in the desert of Kuwait

It's certainly not one of the more beautiful deserts, but last week we decided to spend the night in the Kuwaiti desert with other members of the Amicale des Français au Kowëit (that's the association for French people living here, in case you didn't pick up on that).  Some observations:

- About three-quarters of the desert is covered in trash.  What the heck is with that?  I expect to litter in poor countries like Madagascar, where the government doesn't have the money to provide garbage collection services.  But a rich country like Kuwait?  Not only is there trash everywhere, there are no "Don't litter" propaganda campaigns in this country like they used to have in Canada in the 1970s.  In Canada, we don't need those ad campaigns anymore.  We stopped littering a long time ago.  The Kuwaitis need to get with the programme!

- On the way there, we drove by lots of tents where, presumably, Kuwaitis spend their weekends (the Canadian equivalent would be the cottage in Muskoka,  or the cabin in Waskesu).

- The wind was as strong as on a winter's day in Saskatchewan.  Try putting your tent up in that.

- There is about one dune in the entire desert.  That would be the one that we camped out in.  The rest of the place is entirely flat... like Saskatchewan.

- No toilets.

The Bambina railed against the idea of going.  Said she wanted her own bed.  But once she was climbing up and running down the sand dune, she was having a blast.  She also met some other French kids, which is good, because right now the only French speaking person she has to talk to in this country is the Frenchman and I worry that her French is going to deteriorate as a result.

The Bambino was happy sleeping with his parents and sister in one little tent.  He probably wishes every night could be like that.