All the places I’ve been

In a recent conversation with my dad, I realised that in his 70+ years, he has travelled to a huge number of countries, (34 and counting!) so I thought it was worth listing all of mine out too to see how we compare!

My dad also pointed out that the majority of his travelling happened in his 20’s and 30’s, as like most people, once you settle down and have kids you tend to travel less often, so here is our combined list:  Continue reading

Leaving Kuwait

Saturday 16th June 2007

Hello there all,
Well, leaving Kuwait has been a hell of a drama, as predicted, but thankfully it’s almost over now!

I was due to receive my summer pay and gratuity, which amounts to three half month’s pay altogether – a fairly hefty chunk of money, and I had been nervous for a while that the school were somehow going to screw me over.
Last year there were some members of staff who didn’t get paid at all, and it was all very stressful and difficult.

So, for the last few weeks I’ve been gearing up to leave, but also getting increasingly paranoid that something would go horribly wrong.
And then it did.

Mishra, our school administrator (and our boss’s son) told us that we would need to have our civil ID cancelled, and to do this we need to go to the Ministry of Education and sign a document to receive our gratuity cheques.

He insisted that the document (written in arabic) was only to say that we had received the correct amount of gratuity, but almost everyone else we spoke to told us we were signing that we had received all pay due to us from the school.

Now, obviously we weren’t going to sign this piece of paper before we received our pay, as it would effectively waive our legal rights to our money, and getting the school to pay us after signing it might result in hiring a lawyer. Every member of staff leaving had agreed not to sign the paper until we had been paid.

So on Saturday (the beginning of the week for us), Mishari tells us we are going to be paid on Sunday and we’ll go to the Ministry on Tuesday.

Betty, Bryn and I went to see Mishra and explained that because we were with a different bank, it would take an extra day or so to clear into our accounts (just like every pay day), so he will need to pay us early enough for it to go through before we can go to the

No problem, he tells us.

On Sunday, no-one has been paid.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, says Mishra, no problem. On Monday, no-one has been paid. By the end of today it will go through, Mishra assures us.

On Tuesday morning, no-one has been paid.  11am, says Mishra.
Nothing happens, although all of the staff are frantically checking their bank balances every ten minutes!

Mishra tells us we’ll go to the Ministry on Wednesday, which is the last day of term.
By 2.30pm, everyone’s money suddenly goes through.

Except for me, Betty and Bryn. (of course)

So the next morning, all the staff members gather to go to the Ministry, except for us, and Mishra hasn’t come in to work so we can’t ask him what to do.
Thursday and Friday is the weekend, and the Ministry won’t be open again until Saturday. However I’m supposed to be on a plane on Friday night.

We waited around for 2 hours outside Mishra’s office, and eventually tried to talk to him about our situation. Betty and Bryn had booked their flight for Saturday anyway, but I would have to change mine. We arranged to go on Saturday morning, but then realised
that banks here are all closed on Saturdays, and we couldn’t cash our cheques anywhere. Mishra was insistent that we had to receive cheques, not cash, and was really unhelpful – he seemed to imply that this mess was somehow our fault for being with the wrong bank, rather than his own incompetence!

We had to go to Madame (our boss) a very scary french lady who’s close to seventy and had so much plastic surgery her face is pulled back tight in a constant manic grin. She came down and started yelling at screaming at us for not trusting her and the school to pay us and asking why didn’t we go with the others etc.
We tried to explain that it wasn’t personal, and we did trust them (not!) but we simply couldn’t sign a legal document in a language we don’t understand regarding pay that we haven’t yet received.  Madame was unimpressed, and getting yelled at didn’t help matters at all.

(It was particularly unfortunate that on our way out, Bryn accidentally kicked her on the foot too!)

Eventually we worked out a compromise, and Mishra promised to let us exchange our cheques for cash back at school, and later that night our summer pay went through to our banks.

I managed to successfully change my flight without too much aggro, and things were looking up.
On Thursday Betty and Bryn went to collect their flight allowance along with everyone else and discovered that their names were not on the list. Poor Betty broke down at that point, and was pretty much inconsolable. She was convinced that it was deliberate and very personal, although Bryn maintains that it’s pure incompetence once again.
Eventually they got their flight money, although Betty was in tears most of the day poor thing. (I came on the group flight so the school bought my ticket for me).

So, Friday was a bit miserable, because I was supposed to be going home but was stuck in crappy Hawally, so we all decided to go to the Hilton and spend the day in the Spa, which was lovely.

This morning we got our cheques, changed them for cash and for once things went smoothly.

I am now at the airport waiting to check-in (my flight doesn’t leave for 6 hours, but I couldn’t bear sitting in my flat doing nothing, so figured I’d come here and wait instead).

It has been an incredibly stressful week, as I predicted it would be, and it’s such a shame to end on such a miserable note, but then, I’ve known the school were like that for a while, so it’s not too much of a surprise sadly.

Anyway, that’s about it really, I should be back in lovely England on Sunday morning, and will be found sitting in the garden, rain or shine, with a large glass of wine, should anyone wish to contact me!

hope you’re all well and looking forward to seeing you

tons of love

down-with-incompetent-fuckwits-(and scary french people)-Maya



24 hours of madness!

Saturday 2nd June 2007

Hello again!

Well I’m just back from our weekend away, and it was FANTASTIC!!

It was actually less than 24 hours in the end. Our flight was at 3.50pm Thursday, but was delayed by two hours. We got into Bahrain at about 7pm, and went straight to the pub! From there we went out to a lovely restaurant and on to a club.

The drinking was awesome, although I must admit I felt like a serious granny inside the club!
Betty and I had both brought our “going out” tops to wear for the occasion, but both of us felt they were too revealing to wear in Kuwait, so we wore our regular clothes to the airport and changed in the pub loo.
Now, we both thought we were wearing quite dressy, revealing clothes, but then when we got to the club we realised that a year in Kuwait has really warped our sense of propriety!
The girls in the club were wearing little strappy tops and boob tubes and halter tops – nothing you wouldn’t wear in England, but poor Betty and I were there in our below-the-knee skirts and shirts that still fully covered our shoulders and backs!

We are so used to being fully-covered all the time in Kuwait that we really thought we were quite risque with our calves showing and everything!

Anyway, it turns out neither of us could remember how to dance either, which ended up being highly amusing, and didn’t stop us at all!  (Neither Betty or I have been in a proper club since we were shamed out of dancing in a salsa club in Beirut last April).

Hmmm, what else?
Oh yeah – Betty saw her first bar fight! Well, actually it was one of the lamest fights ever – no actual punches were thrown! Two guys standing next to Betty just started shoving each other (exactly like the kids in the playground!) and after about 5 mins of angry shoving, one guy grabbed the other guy around the middle and tried to push him over in a rugby tackle.
Unfortunately, the other bloke was bigger so he just stood there while this guy pushed him, until eventually they started knocking the rest of us over too! I went into uber-protective mode and grabed Betty in a bear hug (cos she’s only little!), but Betty is pretty feisty and decided that she was NOT giving up her spot at the bar for anyone, least of all some poncy blokes shoving each other!

It all ended fairly calmly, and Betty got our drinks, so everyone was happy!

The next morning we woke up feeling a bit rough. I went to the bathroom and on the way discovered that I had lost all motor control! I was staggering around like Frankenstein – my mind was saying walk but my legs were a few seconds behind!  I suppose that if you haven’t drunk any alcohol for a while you’re should really ease back in gently, but
instead having a massive binge left my body completely battered the next day!

However, we made it to the champagne brunch on Friday morning, and although the first sip of champagne didn’t go down easy, once we mixed it with orange we were away! The food was excellent, the mimosa’s even better, and the fact that we were buzzed by 1 o’clock made the Phillipino karaoke cover band a lot easier on the ears!

We were back in the airport by 2.30pm, and I floated through duty-free on my way to the bar for a last drink before our flight took off.

It was a totally awesome night out and has completely revived my spirits for the last two weeks of term – mostly exams, reports and marking, but it seems a lot more manageable now!

I really never thought I would miss alcohol nearly as much as I do. I thought it would be easy to give up for a year, but it really has been a struggle. Sadly, I think I’m much more likely to become extremely alcoholic when I get back home, despite the protests from my liver!

Ah well, only two weeks to go now, so I shall see you all very soon for some more drunken antics around and about Suffolk!

Hope you’re all well and happy – here are some piccies for you too,

lots of love
Granny Maya

Birthday giggles!

Saturday 26th May 2007

Hello everyone,
Well, I had a really crappy week at school, possibly one of the worst since I’ve been here, but after coming close to an annuerism over some ridiculous thing that got blown out of proportion, I decided to fuck them all and have a bit of a time-out!
I got so stressed out – the evil music teacher and I had a huge fight and he then went and complained about me to my boss, so I had to go and try to explain my side, which she wouldn’t listen to and then made it clear that she doesn’t trust me at all – despite HIM
being the arsehole!
Anyhoo, I threw a sickie and gave myself a break in order to avoid a total meltdown, but managed to successfully decompress enough on Wednesday to be fully relaxed and ready for my birthday!

I had a lovely birthday, got lots of nice pressies, and had a really great day.
We went to Aquapark (Me, Betty, Bryn, Rita and Bill) in the morning and had some fun whizzing about on flumes, jumping waves and generally being silly. It would have been awesome to take some pictures, but it’s not allowed because of the swimming costumes.

We learnt some of the finer points of Kuwaiti logic too – as women we had to wear t-shirts and shorts over our costumes (for modesty’s sake), but the boys decided to wear their t-shirts too, (less out of solidarity than to avoid burning to a crisp – it is still the desert after all!!).

However, the lifeguards (or Gaurd as their uniform clearly stated in a less-than reassuring fashion) were insistent that the boys had to take them off, even though us girls were wading into the water practically fully dressed! The boys won in the end, by pointing out that they were in fact white, and white turns to red when left in the sun!

Then while waiting for the flumes, we watched in amazement as a bloke who was having a fag with the lifeguard at the top, saw us coming, stuck his fag in his mouth, jumped on his rubber ring and went down the chute still smoking!

Another bloke had a nasty cut that was bleeding profusely, but waved our concerned looks away and rinsed himself off in the pool.

So, we thought, men aren’t allowed t-shirts in the pool, but cigarettes and blood are ok!


However, it was really fun, and we spent the rest of the day recovering before going out for a nice dinner in a posh restuarant. On Friday we chilled out and then went to Rita’s house to make jowsa (Chinese dumplings) which were yummy!

Even better news was that Jazeera airways (the middle east’s answer to eazyjet) were offering 3KD flights to Bahrain, an offer too good to pass up!
It actually came to a fair bit more than that when you throw in airport taxes etc, but we decided to do it anyway, and booked flights for next weekend. We’ve literally only got 24 hours there – we arrive at 4.30pm Thursday and have to leave again at 3.50pm Friday, but it’s only a half-hour flight and it’ll be so worth it! A big night out in an actual bar, plus we’ll have time for the champagne brunch the next morning before heading back!

I can’t wait!!!

Anyway, thank you so much for all my lovely birthday messages from everyone, and especially thank to those of you who’ve donated on my website – I’m doing really
well and only have 1300 quid to go now!
I have to have all the money collected by the 1st July, so there’s only a month left. If you would like to donate, but haven’t yet done so, please make sure you do it soon!

Thanks again everyone, and I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing you all soon,
tons of love and happy thoughts


My birthday dinner


Posing on the boat

Camels and Lizards and Goats, Oh my!

Monday 14th May 2007

Hello again everyone,
Well, last weekend I had an awesome time quad-biking in the desert, so I thought I’d tell you all about it.

The quad bikes

We drove out north towards the Iraqi border, past a few tiny airfields and military camps (like you do) to the quad bike rendezvous. They didn’t have enough for all of us to go at once, so we went off “Lizard-spotting” in the car while the others biked.
We saw LOADS of them, they’re big and yellow with fat bellies! The biggest one we saw was almost 2 foot long, but most were about a foot or so.

We drove past Bubyan Bridge – a bizarrely giant humpback bridge that goes to Bubyan Island, a vast island of uninhabitable mudflats. The bridge itself is intriguing because it’s been closed pretty much since it was built, and you’re not allowed to cross it.
We’re not really sure why, although given the island’s proximity to Iraq, they may have wanted to stake a definitive claim on it by building a bridge.
Who knows.

Bubyan bridge and a giant fat yellow desert lizard

After the lizard fun we headed back for our turn on the quad bikes, and drove past loads of camels, from sun-bleached almost-white straggly ones, to sleek looking well-fed black ones (possibly racing camels).


The quad biking was really fun – there was a little herd of camels feeding behind some rocks – they are so used to the noise of the quad bikes that you can drive right up to them and they barely blink at you (although at one point I was taking pictures and realised the others had all driven off behind a ridge. There’s nothing scarier that a completely silent desert and 20-odd camels staring at you from close proximity!)

Actually, there are lots of things scarier than that, but nevermind!
The boys raced up and down the dunes, while us girls explored the flatter deserty bits, and we even found a herd of desert goats with their shepherds behind another ridge.
It was really fun, and I’m keen to go again, although the desert’s a tad hot these days!

Keeping with the wildlife theme, I discovered a cockroach in my bathroom the other day. There was a fairly involved capture process, which lasted so long that I decided to name him Gomez, but he has since been disposed of, so there we are.

In fact, for a deserty country, Kuwait has rather a lot of wildlife, including the scariest feral city cats you’ll ever see in your life!
These cats are monsters – I’m pretty sure they’re half-lynx, (very panther-esque), gigantic great buggers with straggly fur and battle scars (these cats are seriously ‘street’) – the kind of cats that go around in gangs and carry knives. I think they’ve gotten so big because there’s such an excess of rubbish everywhere, but then, if it weren’t for them, Hawally would be over-run with rats and cockroaches. They’re completely used to people, and aren’t remotely scared of us, although I’m pretty scared of them and
their diseases!
When you come across them hanging around the wheelie bins, they just stare you down until YOU cross the road to give them a wide enough berth (yowling the feline equivalent of “Yeah you’d better keep walking buddy!”).

On that note I’ll say goodbye, hope you’re all well and I’m looking forward to seeing
everyone soon!

lots of love
fraidy-cat Maya

Back to the grindstone

Friday 13th April 2007

Hey guys,

Well, I’m back in Kuwait again, but had a fantastic holiday!! The last two days on Phi Phi were great (although that bad prawn returned to haunt me after all – not so much a bad prawn as downright evil, frankly!!).
I was a bit ill for a couple of days, and shan’t be eating seafood for a while (if ever), but it was still lovely!!

Betty and Bryn really enjoyed their romantic night alone, and the last two days were really great.
Then we went up to Bangkok for a night and a day, which was nowhere near long enough, but we only had a week off school, so what can you do?
We went to an amazing bar called Vertigo, which was on the roof of a hotel on the 60th floor. It was completely open air with no roof at all and had AMAZING views of the city, as well as Appletinis (my new favourite drink by the way!!). We managed to get to the Grand Palace before heading to the airport, which was pretty special too.

It was a very long and tiring journey back, and I arrived at my flat at 3.30am to discover the power was out and my living room was flooded. It turns out Kuwait has had freak storms all week, torrential rain, hail and sandstorms, most of which ended up in a muddy puddle under my sofa! Apparently there’s a gap at the bottom of the door to the balcony from the living room, and while it usually lets in a bit of dust now and then, this time the balcony filled up with water and it just poured into my front room!!
The water heater shorted out rather spectacularly after that with a flash and a bang, and the water on the kitchen floor apparently wasn’t from another flood, but my defrosted freezer, becasue the power had been out!!

So, I’m very tired, and sooooo don’t want to go to work tomorrow, but I’ve mopped, shopped and re-frosted my freezer, and am about to hit the hay. I don’t think I’ve ever come back down to earth from a holiday with such a decisive bump – reality really hit me in the face!!

lots of love,
Sleepy Maya

(I can hear thunder outside again, better start blocking up the door!)

The Kuwaiti towers at night

Kuwait at night

Mais al Ghanim – our favourite Lebanese restaurant

Dust storm

Getting old and over-excited

Friday 30th March 2007

Hello everyone,

Well, I’ve been contemplating my upcoming birthday with the rather scary realisation that I’m actually very old.
I know it’s still 2 months away, but according to British Rail, at 26 I will officially cease to be a Young Person!
Also, I discovered on my brief trip home last summer that while Radio 1 plays nothing but the same new crap pop songs over and over, Radio 2 actually has some good songs on offer! One might even say golden oldies!

I never thought I’d say it, but I’ve become a Radio 2 listener – it just seemed to creep up on me!

Anyway, Life in Kuwait remains pretty mundane, fun things to do here include watching paint dry and, well, camel racing. I look forward to our weekly West Wing marathon a bit too much, and, frankly, I’m so excited about our easter holiday next week I can barely contain myself.

Let me tell you the lack of alcohol here is BORING! I’m starting to really miss going out, but luckily I’ll be home soon, and then the wild world that is the Suffolk countryside will probably, frankly, be too exciting for me.
God knows what would happen if I went to London. I think the excitement might kill me.

Basically, I’m old and over-excited by the plot-lines in House and West Wing, and even thinking about going to the pub has me drooling in anticipation!
Luckily I’m off to Thailand next week for our easter break and we have a 3-hour stopover in Dubai, so the first stop will be the bar!!

Hope you’re all well and appreciating alcohol appropriately!!
lots of love

Making plans…

Friday 23rd March 2007

Hello everyone,

Not much has been happening here I’m afraid. Our concert has come and gone, exams are over, although the marking and reports aren’t quite finished yet!

However, in just under two weeks, I am due to fly off to Thailand for our easter break! I’m very excited and am busy planning what to pack! Betty, Bryn and I are going to Kho Phi Phi for a week of sun and booze!

The fundraising for my Nepal trip is going well, I am now a third of the way to my goal, so thank you to all those who have donated!
I am also obviously getting ready for that as well, so I’m full of plans at the moment!

I will be coming home in mid-June, probably around the 15th or 16th, and will be home until roughly the 1st of August, when I leave for Nepal.
So, any of you wanting to see me, that’s probably the time to do it!
My brother will be coming over in mid-July to visit with his lovely wife and kids, so I shall have a chance to be a doting aunt once again!

I’m afraid I’m a bit short of other interesting news and gossip.
In fact, all my emails from Kuwait have been considerably less exciting and funny than Korea. I wonder if the lack of alcohol has affected the hilarity of my life at all?

Ah well, I’m sure there will be lots of amusing anecdotes from 6 weeks of drinking in Suffolk soon enough – I’m bound to do something embarrassing!

Hope you are all well and chirpy and cheerful – I’d
love to hear all of your news.

Lots of love
boring Maya

p.s. Here’s a picture of the famous Kuwaiti Water Towers – one of the only distinctive landmarks in Kuwait!

Kuwait Water Towers

Back in the desert…

Thursday 8th March 2007

Hello there everyone,
well, I’ve had half term, which was fantastic. Betty and Bryn and I went to Bahrain for a week to stay with our friend Leila. We drank an obscene amount, ate more bacon than we could imagine possible, laughed a lot, Betty and I did a couple of cultural things and basically just relaxed.

Massively over-excited about gin and tonics!

Blind basket-weavers

Some more ruins

Over-excitement at meeting the lead singer of the worst band in the world!

Since coming back, we had a very hectic four days getting ready for our concert, but then the performance went well and it’s all over now, thank god! I’ve also added some pics of the concert, feel free to admire the giant snowman and dancing clocks (all my handiwork!!)

The concert

Admire my giant snowman and dancing clocks!

Me at the back of the hall reminding the kid of all the dance moves!

On the upside, Bryn and I made an incredible discovery on Monday. We were in the city at our favourite Thai grocery shop, stocking up on curry paste etc, and we found, deep in the depths of their freezer a slab of frozen meat. We asked the guy what it was, and he said
…. meat”
“…puh meat”
“PUK meat!”
“Oh my god!! Pork???”

Turns out, he knows a guy, who knows a guy, etc, and has a sercret stash of pork in the bottom of his freezer!! It was totally awesome, and we celebrated by having bacon sarnies for dinner!

Not much else to report at the mo, I’m still fundraising, so if you know anyone who would be interested in donating (friends or relatives) please pass on my information to them too.

I hope you’re all well and happy
lots of love

Beauty and the Beast

Friday 9th February 2007

Hello everyone,

Things here are trundling along slowly and are as busy as ever.
In two weeks I’m off to sunny Bahrain for a week of drinking and pork (yay!), and will no doubt have some interesting stories to tell from there.
Life here is a tad mundane at the mo, so not much to report I’m afraid.

I went to the photo shop the other day to get some passport pics taken, as I will soon need to replace my beloved passport. The new guidelines for the biometric passports are two pages long and extremely anal. From the bottom of the chin to the top of the head must be no more than 34mm, but the distance form the bottom of the chin to the hairline must be no less than 29mm and no more than 34mm!!
I explained all of this very carefully to the lady at the shop, who insisted that it was no problem.
When I came back an hour later, She had done a lovely job, and to my amazement, she had photoshopped out all of the blemishes on my face! It’s one of the nicest
pictures I’ve ever had taken, and it turns out I really look lovely without acne, even if I do say so myself!

Sadly, my head was tilted down too much, and so the proportions of my face didn’t fit the requirements. I went back for another set, and explained that while it was lovely, the key factor was the size and measurements, not on how nice the end result was.
The lady was adamant on removing my spots, and even when I aked her not to bother, to just check the size, she got really upset, zoomed in on my face and stood there exclaiming “Look!! Look!! It’s very bad! I MUST remove!!” I had to get quite tough with her, and when I went back to get them, she very dramatically refused to look at them because they were that awful!
In the end they had to digitally squash my head and stretch my face to make it fit the specifications, and the lighting and background made my acne stand out even more than it actually does in real life, making it one of the worst pictures I’ve ever had taken in my
So, I’ve now got both the beauty AND the beast of all passport pictures, but I’m not sure either of them will actually be acceptable, so I may have wasted my money!

However, speaking of money, I have just set up my new shiny website for my venture in Nepal, so anyone wishing to donate (or even just wanting to have a look around) can do so!
Feel free to donate at will!!

Anyway, take care,
lots of love