(Written September 2011) So, I’d love to say that I’m able to fully regale everyone with my immediate impressions of Kuwait and our neighborhood and our home, but honestly on the ride from the airport, I was dividing my awareness between our new surroundings, and Louie the kitten in a quiet rage in the carrier next to me. I was also just so damn happy to be off that plane that I could have wept.
My very very first impressions of Kuwait, though, were in the airport. First, it was spotless (compared to Cairo – which I remember as being dusty and slightly dirty), the floors were marble and shiny, the signs were in English and Arabic, and as I sat in the waiting-for-a-visa chairs with the three cat carriers around me as my husband and mother wandered off to figure out how to get the visas, I started to realize just how schlubby and exhausted I felt. This was exacerbated by the Arab women around me, who I assume had also just disembarked from a plane, and yet they all looked like they were ready for their photo shoots. Their makeup was perfectly applied, and they looked stunning. Their abayas (loose dress- or robe-like garment worn over their clothing) and hijabs (headscarves) were unwrinkled, matching and thoroughly bedazzled. I was wearing my elastic plants, loose shirt and crocs. I felt like a toad among roses (no offense to toads).
So I focused on keeping my croakings quiet while I waited; then we trundled off to find our six suitcases (we had saddled my mother with a second bag of our crap). With those in hand, we were driven to our new home in Jabriya, which is a neighborhood just southeast of Kuwait City proper.
We pulled in next to our house, or rather "Villa 21". There’s a cement wall surrounding the property and there were two gates, one for pedestrians, one for cars. The interior “yard” area was fairly large (certainly for us, since we’ve only lived in apartments). There’s a large carport area, some grassy bits that were rather tufty and dead, a table and chairs, and about twenty little trees lining the wall. Yup, we have trees.
The house itself was described to us as a townhouse. But it’s not like any townhouse we knew. It’s more of a very large, duplex. We share a common wall with our neighbors, but if we didn’t periodically hear their kids, we’d think we were in a single family home.
The front door opens into the dining room, with the living room off to the left, and kitchen, laundry room, and half-bath (with three sinks, for some reason) off to the right. The stairs also lead off from the dining room and up to the second floor’s family room. The master bedroom are to the left, above the living room. There are two more bedrooms off to the right, one will be my husband’s office (for all our cable-storage and harddrive nesting needs), and the other will be our guest room and nursery. Plus there’s one more full bath here. From the family room there are steps leading up to the roof, but other than accessing the a/c unit or fussing with the satellite dishes, I don’t see us using it much. It’s got a nice sunny landing that Ricky likes, though.
All in all, we love the house. It’s far larger than we need, but we’re thoroughly enjoying the space. There are marble floors throughout and large built-in closets lining the wall in all the bedrooms, plus a separate “dressing area” with more closets in the master bedroom. The kitchen is nice, though I wish it had some natural light. But otherwise it’s big, has tons of cabinets, and room for a little table and chairs.
As with any new house, there are some quirks. First and foremost is that you need a key to not only get in, but also get out. You can actually get locked in. There’s no doorknob. There’s a handle for pulling and pushing, but it’s placed so close to the edge that if you’re holding it when you’re outside shutting the door, you’ll peel the skin off your knuckles. Plus the whole door is metal, and with the sun blasting on it for hours a day, you can’t actually touch it. So we’re getting accustomed to that. The oven and stove are a bit small, and the oven only has Celsius indicators. We call it our little Easy Bake.
We also discovered a door that leads directly into our neighbor's villa. They had piled up some furniture and lamps against the door, signaling the property line, I guess, but it felt weird to have that access. We may be piling up some miscellaneous items on our side as well. We haven’t fully explored the neighborhood yet, but it’s mostly residential; not a lot of shops. During the few days my mother was here, I suggested we go for a little walk around the neighborhood to see what we could find. She was game, but we both quickly realized two things. First, this area of Kuwait is not pedestrian-friendly. Everyone drives. There are nice sidewalks, but frankly I’m not sure why. I think we saw two other “walkers” while we were out. The second realization was that Kuwait is hot, even in September. We didn’t bring any water with us (stupid, I know, and when he heard, my husband railed, “We’re living in the desert, never leave without water!” My husband may have water issues, but he’s right on this count). We were only out for about thirty minutes, but we were red-faced and thoroughly pooped by the time we got home. We later learned that it had been a balmy 108 degrees Fahrenheit that day. Could explain the mini heatstroke. We did manage to find a Pizza Hut, a Burger King, and a KFC a block away, and an odd little grocery store that seems to only sell fruits, vegetables and eggs. Well, so much for my plans to see Kuwait on foot. It did, however, spur me into buying a large thermometer I can put outside on the window, so as to not repeat such lunacy. The irony here was that most window thermometers only go to 120 degrees apparently, but I finally found one that went to 140. If we get that high, I can assure you that I'll be inside with some iced tea watching my new thermometer melt down the window.
Even though it makes the windows too hot to touch, we get lots of sun throughout the day, and it's lovely. We’re learning the best sunspots in case we need to locate a feline. So far the nursery has top marks.
We’d love to say that we're hoping for lots of visitors, but we realize that there are many ways in which Kuwait is nothing like Cairo, and for most of those very reasons, it’s not a highly-rated vacation spot. We’ll share more about “all” that Kuwait has to offer as we dig into it. But I have to admit, that for the first time since January 25 of this year, I feel at home. I feel calm and relaxed and so happy to be here. I think Kuwait is going to be very good for us.