Rounded | Bavarian Kachelöfen

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Traditional Kachelöfen in Bavaria

Are your heaters on already?

When I first saw this thing in Abensberg, I thought its some kind of a weird corner decoration, I thought for a minute that its  just a ceramic or brick patch work, with bowls plastered to create a unique texture. I was mistaken. I didn’t know that this is a “Kachelöfen” or simply , “a heater”, a built-in  heating system in an old-fashioned way.

Very timely, as almost all of the leaves of trees are falling down outside, the cold chilly weather and the gloom arrived here in Bavaria and  “Heaters” (or Heizung in German ) are definitely essential to every home. You’ve got to have your heating system working properly if you want to survive the looongggg German winter.

The Kachelöfen  as a means of heating and a lot more dates back to the Middle Ages. Stoves  became a central part of the household, erected in the  ‘Stube’, the hub of family life. Not only did it give warmth, it was also used to dry clothes, keep food warm or even cook it in it and to sleep on a platform on top of it during the winter as was the case in Russia.In Eastern and Northern Europe and North Asia, these kachelofens (or steinofens) evolved in many different forms and names: for example the Russian Stove/Fireplace (RussianРусская печь), the Finnish Stove (in Finnish: pystyuuni or kaakeliuuni, “tile oven”) and the Swedish Stove (in Swedish: kakelugn, “tile stove” or “contra-flow stove”) associated with Carl Johan Cronstedt. The Chinese developed the same principle into their Kang bed-stove. The masonry heater has gained renewed domestic popularity recently because of its heating efficiency. No wonder that here in Bavaria, many of traditional homes still have this type of heating system.

First, the stoves were big but rather plain, but in the 14th century, the tiles were  decorated and the simple Kachelöfen often became a work of art. Castles featured elaborately carved Kachelöfen as standard equipment and masters of masonry created  pieces of great value.

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Kachelöfen in Austria

I remember from our holiday in Austria where we had the pleasure of dining in one of the restaurant in the city center, I noticed something similar to this. At first glance, you won’t see it as a heating device, but rather, again, as an eye-catching ornament built in the corner of the room. It creates such a homey atmosphere. Some can even be touched by hand. I think this looks far better than the mundane rectangular heating device in steel or cast iron that we have nowadays.

What do you think of Kachelöfen?

Would you fancy having one in your home?

This post is inspired by the Daily Post’s Photo Challenge |Rounded

Fasching and Kinderball

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My daughter in her first experience of Kinderball 

Did you know that Germany has a version of Mardi Gras?

It’s called Fasching, Karneval, or Fastnacht  which all refer to the pre-Lent season, locally known as Faschingzeit and also referred to as the Fifth Season, mostly in German-speaking countries.  These celebrations date back hundreds of years, rooted in both Catholic and early Germanic traditions.

I notice this from mid- January, when all shops changed their displays from Christmas theme  into a wide, colorful arrays of costumes for young and old, masks, and various kinds of dress-up materials. And no– this is not Halloween.

Although there are carnival observances all across Bavaria, it should be noted that Fasching customs vary from place to place. Franconia (northern Bavaria) is where most of the action happens, but the capital city of Munich (München) has one of the largest Fasching fests in Bavaria – although the Sunday Fasching parade in Würzburg is Bavaria’s biggest. After the crowning of the Fasching prince and princess (das Faschingsprinzenpaar) in mid-January, everyone prepares for the start of carnival in the week before Ash Wednesday.

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Faschingzeit in Germany

Here, Fasching is not that big compared to the ones in the neighboring regions. Most clubs have a Fasching party but I don’t know how does it looked like since I have never been into one. We don’t have those big parades and street party. But they have this big event for the Little ones, where kids and the kids at heart enjoy the festive and cozy dress-up celebration. Kinderball is an event organized by Narrwalla, where kids and their parents are all dressed up in all different costumes. Most of them also have a Fasching event in their Kita and Kindergartens.

 

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Kinderball 2017

If you’re a parent, this kind of event is something that you would want to bring your child to enjoy hours of concert, singing, dancing, entertainment, and socializing. The kids jumped happily and more, interested to see the tricks played by the clowns, the light show, and of course there’s the Fasching songs that makes it so exciting. My Little Pumpkin surely loved this event.

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My Little Pumpkin 

The locals dressed up seriously and it’s obvious that they really enjoy it. Fortunately, it falls on Sunday so most families are there. I originally planned to dress up my daughter in a princess but she keeps on eating the sleeves so I decided to changed it into a Pumpkin where she personally choose. There was a service from the restaurant so Fasching food and drinks flooded the tables.There were cold cuts, sandwiches, different cakes, ice cream, potatoes, sausages and much more.

There’s a nice gallery posted online about this event. You can check it out Here.

What is your favorite costume to dress-up?

 

Hala February Kuwait!

 

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Green, Red & Black are the colors of Hala February  in Kuwait

February is a beautiful month in Kuwait. The weather is cool and  at its best, (Hooooraayy! ) and super perfect for outdoor activities. This is the best time to spend more time outside and explore because there’s so much things to see. If you’re new in Kuwait, then this is the best time for  Expats to get to know more about this country and participate to this most-awaited national holiday. From the beautiful street decorations up to the fresh spring flowers that adorned the landscapes of Kuwait, the whole K- town becomes alive.

February is the month of the colorful festival “Hala February “  highlighting the National Liberation Day which falls on February 25-26. Usually there are lots of varieties for a month-long activities and events everywhere. From winter Bazaars, Light shows & concerts, Outdoor Markets, desert camps, cultural tours, concert parades,  local community  festivals and so on. There’s so much going on everywhere that your weekend is packed with events to suits your lifestyle. In relation to this festivity, recently, Kuwait flight its 2,000 meters National Flag- (  Guinness World Record by making the Longest Flag-February 9,2016).

When I was a newcomer here, I was amazed while observing  how nationalistic Kuwaiti people are. I distinctively remember how I knew that the festivities have begun. All the villas in our neighborhood has Kuwaiti flag hanged in their  walls. During the whole month of February, Kuwaiti national pride come to super boost. From the Kuwait Towers, up to the smallest Bakalas, the Red, Green & Black color is all around. Small flags adorned the windows, doors, shops and even cars. So many shops that mainly sells are stuff for the Hala February event. They sell costumes, decorations, hats, flags & banners and so much more. Most buildings have beautiful light decorations and shows which are quite a sight at night. It becomes so alive in the evening. This is one of the attractions during this month. If you love Architecture then you’re in a treat, all the towers & Skyscrapers are decorated with  beautiful lights. I love watching them.

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Little boy in a costume during the Hala February  Festival Parade.

Since this post is about the National Day of Kuwait, I think its just  fitting that I shared with you some of the  interesting facts that I have learned about this country . These facts have made this dynamic country to be a popular Expat destination in the Middle East and stand out because of its unique charm, spirit & flaws.Read on.

  • Until 1962, Kuwait celebrated its National Day on June 19, the anniversary of its independence, but in 1963 it changed it to February 25 to avoid the hot weather of June.
  • February 25 was the anniversary of Sheikh Abdullah becoming Emir of Kuwait in 1950. February 26, 1991 was the day Iraq’s occupying forces were driven out of Kuwait.
  • Kuwait has the world’s fifth largest oil reserves.
  • The national bird of Kuwait is the Falcon.
  • There are 1.43 males to every female in Kuwait.
  • In 2006, Kuwait became the first country to introduce the sport of camel racing, with remote controlled robot jockeys.
  • When Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait in 1990 and named it the 19th Province of Iraq some dissidents called it “Wimbledon” which is SW19.
  • Kuwait has won two Olympic medals, both bronze for Fehaid Al-Dehani at trap shooting.
  • Kuwait is the only country in the world with no natural water supply from lakes or reservoirs but it did open its first grass golf course in 2005.
  • Eating, drinking, playing loud music and dancing during daylight hours in public are against the law in Kuwait during the month of Ramadan.
  • Kuwait is on top  in Fattest Country in the world with 70% of Kuwaiti men over 15 are obese and over 80% of women.
  • Coke beats Pepsi internationally but only in the Middle East does Pepsi beat Coke.
  • Kuwaiti Dinar (KD ) is the highest valued currency.
  • On November 12 2012, Kuwait marked its Constitution’s 50th Anniversary with outraging fireworks.With the cost of nearly KD 4 million, featuring about 77,000 fireworks, they earned the place of “The largest fireworks display” in Guinness World Record. My neck got so cramped watching fireworks for almost an hour! It was insane!
  • Kuwait has 15,000* registered leisure boats (as of 2012)
  • Kuwait has the third highest density of millionaires in the world.
  • Fifty percent (50%) of Kuwaitis are Divorced.
  • The minimum legal age of marriage varies according to gender, where the age of marital consent is 15 for girls and 17 for boys. Arranged Marriages is still the norm in this country.
  • Kuwait has broken world record in number of traffic deaths, with 17 deaths recorded in every 100,000 cases on the average.The worst record ever that Kuwait has. According to death statistics of 2014, 5,819 death cases were registered out of which 3,186 cases were of Kuwaiti citizens and 2,633 of expatriates. The total population of the country has reached 4.202 million out of which 1.298 million are Kuwaiti citizens.
  • Kuwait ranks #80 with 2.48 (2015 )  for Total Fertility rate of Kuwaiti women around the world.
  • The largest supplier of goods and service for Kuwait is United States. Therefore, both countries have strong cooperation.
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Water Towers lights up in Kuwait

How about you, do you know any interesting facts about the country you’re living in right now?

I hope you get to know more Kuwait through this post. Thank you for reading!

Bakala , 711 of the Desert

Picture this :  It’s Friday and its your day-off from work . You wanted to make some pancakes and checking out your pantry you realized that you ran out of eggs & your box of milk is not enough to make a batter. You quickly get loose coins and head on to the elevator to go to the Bakala right in front of your building .Easy peasy right? Very convenient! Even better , you just call them to deliver !

If you are an Expat in Kuwait, it is for sure that you have a favorite Bakala around in your neighborhood. It’s totally a Kuwaiti thing. I have never seen a Bakala version in the neighborhood in the Netherlands or in Europe.

Bakala is a mini-store, a version of a supermarket , a one stop shop that sits on almost every block all over Kuwait. You can even find a Bakala before you get lost in the vast desert near Wafra , Julaiah, and further most of Sulaibiya. Normally its located on the corner of a building , right next to residential flats, right in front of the mosque [masjid ] or across from the busy streets in the city. It’s uniquely tucked in or adjacent to main shops. Its size is so incredibly small and packed up with various goods.

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 Bakala storekeeper in Kuwait

They sell fruits, bread, milk, soap, soda drinks of all kinds, cigarettes, and even toys for the Little ones. You can find everyday staples in here. Their door is decorated with inflatables or stuff animals that eventually attracts the kids playing in the streets. My favorite is their KDD ice creams in cones. Here, people normally just honk their cars and the storekeeper comes to get their orders. Like a take-away in restaurants that you don’t need to get out from your car. They even deliver goods right to your doorsteps if you are too lazy to go out. I often ordered  boxes of our drinking water from the Bakala right down in our building.They have Phonto pay system for your mobile & internet bills, as well as recharging system.

Once i moved to Kuwait, i noticed the existence of Bakala is quite part of Arab culture.Every Bakala has a distinct identify . Some are really decorated well, some are so tiny that only 1 person can get inside. Normally in every municipality in Kuwait there is a nearby  Coop Shops which is subsidized by the local government. This place is frequently visited by Kuwaitis, other Arabs and Expats too. But also, array of Bakalas to choose from. What surprised me is that i found Filipino stuff in their shelves, like noodles,sardines, soy sauce and even vegetables!

If Sari-Sari store stores exists in Philippines, then this is their local version. The only thing that differs is that in Philippines, they are privately owned by families, they don’t deliver to houses and they accepts credit. In Bakala, you can only pay by cash, or by K-net ( or Debit card /electronic payment ) for some subscription bills .Whenever i miss something from my groceries, i can always rely to the Bakala . A total lifesaver.

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Bakala in the Desert in Kuwait

What about you, do you find any fascinating things  in your new country ? If you like this post,please feel free to leave your comments.

If you are planning to move in Kuwait then you might find more interesting Expat views of Kuwait in my post “Kuwait : from an Expat point of View “ post .You will know more about Culture shock and Typically Kuwait things we found while living here.

Until then and thank you for stopping by and  reading !

 

 

Typically Dutch : Clogs

Last Christmas , my husband & I with our daughter are watching a Walt Disney ‘s animated cartoon movie. I forgot the title but it was all about children from all over the world trying to help Santa Claus in his chores . The children are dressed in their traditional costumes.One of them is Dutch . We recognized him eventually because He is wearing Clogs! He makes so much noise while walking . The other children tried to put anything under his clogs to lessen the noise  so Santa Claus will not be waken up. We were laughing out loud of how funny it is .

Clogs or locally known as Klompen are important part of Dutch cultural Heritage . This traditional footwear becomes a national identity of Dutch people . Clogs has been a popular protective  footwear for people who work the land , mostly farmers. Because of its durability and ability to withstand sharp & heavy objects and harsh concentrated chemicals. It was even certified by the European Union as Safety shoes with CE mark. The oldest wooden clogs were found in The Netherlands  in Nieuwendijk . It was believed to be dated since 1230 and is made of Alder wood . In the old days , it takes a skilled worker to carve &  make an identical pair of clogs . Nowadays , clogs which become a popular tourist souvenir and are machine made.

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While in Holland , we were lucky to visit a community workshop in Enter in Twente in Eastern Netherlands , about making wooden clogs . It has a charming Museum , named Klompenmuseum Sköpke  and a shop gallery of the Artisan Workers who made these beautifully hand-made Clogs. Most of the clogs were made out of Willow and Poplar trees.

It is quite an experience to see a local Artisan demonstrates how to make clogs out of willow clumps. In so many shops in Amsterdam you can see hundreds of displayed Clogs but seeing the  manual way of carving it makes you appreciate it even more. One pair of clogs is worth  hours of hardwork & genuine skill. We ordered for a size of my daughter who was 1 year old that time . Its amazing how they carefully carved it with perfection to suit her tiny feet.

 

They can make personalized designs as you wanted just like the way they did to my daughter’s clogs. She loves to walk with it , play with it , even eat it.

Travel Tip !

If you visit The Netherlands ,make it as part of your trip to visit Traditional clog making villages and Tours  such as the one in Zaanse Schans .You can bring home a souvenir clogs with design of your choice or even buy a custom-made for yourself. Knowledge about your travels are the best souvenir.

Thank you for reading!

 

 

 

 

The Kuwait Grand Mosque’s grandeur

For my first post on f Architecture and Beyond, I would like to share with you my personal Glimpse on Muslim Rich Islamic Culture through the wonderful experience of having my first ever Mosque visit.

Since I was living in a Islamic country where Masjid (or Mosque ) are a common sight, I thought of exploring this in a very conventional way. Everyday I hear the prayer calls,and eventually I  got used to it. I was curious at the same time in awe of the culture behind this structure.

It was one fine Saturday morning when I decided to join the Tour and Lecture hosted by Aware Center for the Grand Mosque in Kuwait, the locals refers to it as the Masjid Al Kabeer. As a Non-Muslim Expat ,I am always curious and fascinated of the vivid Islamic culture. I have high respect on its teachings and my interest in Architecture and beautiful structures always lead me to amazing discoveries such as this.

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Embracing Islamic Culture

A Kuwaiti Symbol of Islamic Heritage

Kuwait Grand Mosque is strategically located overlooking the Arabian Gulf and opposite the magnificent Seif Palace or the Government Head Quarters. This striking structure is world -renowned Islamic landmark in Kuwait. Almost every year, Kuwait is visited by dignitaries,tourists & students from all over the world . But discovering inside is quite an experience that leaves me breathless. As we all know that Mosques are religious establishment and although it is open for public praying purposes, exploring it in detail requires an appointment & a guide. During the month of Ramadan, The Grand Mosque is attended with approx. 180,000 worshippers.With its courtyards alone, it can accomodate 60,000 worshippers. It is the main host for congregational & annual Eid Prayers as well as various religious ceremonies. The 5 daily prayers are usually held in the Annex Hall that hold 500 worshippers. It has a special Prayer hall for Women with a separate ground floor entrance on the southern side that can hold 1000 worshippers.

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The Architecture  & Beyond

The design of the Grand Mosque is according to the traditional Islamic Architecture with hints of Kuwaiti & GCC influences. It has the Islamic touch that is in harmony with Kuwait’s pride of architectural distinct features.The combination of modern construction techniques, fully patterned Islamic ornamentation  and Arabic calligraphy is imminent on both exterior & interiors of the whole structure.The main structure ,foundations,intricate columns,majestic ceiling & Minaret were built using fortified concrete.As you gaze through the outer courtyards,you will see that the outer walls were coated by natural rocks,while inner ones coated with mixture of marble ,Morrocan gypsum,and other magnificent colorful ceramics.It was so beautiful .The main courtyard on the eastern side of the grand Mosque includes water closets & ablution areas. It has Three Prayer halls and the Grand Mosque has 21 Doors made of Indian hand-carved Teak wood.

 

The Dome and its ethereal Beauty

This is the nucleus of the Grand Mosque’s design. I was staring at this beauty for long time that leaves me open-mouthed because it was so beautiful. It was so intricate, almost ethereal. Aesthetically, the huge dome was decorated with attributes of Allah in a hand-carved Mosaic. It includes 144 windows to provide natural light.

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The Dome inside the Grand Mosque

Facilities

The Grand  Mosque has a special building for Administration,and a 350 sq/mts Library that includes hundreds of Islamic books and references to be used for special researches while doing their research and writings. It has an underground parking that can hold up to 500 vehicles. There is a special entrance and Hall to receive His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah  and other dignitaries.I was thrilled to see this hall. I gazed,touched and  was mesmerized by the beautiful ceramics,intricate Moroccan gypsum geometric wall carvings .There is an enormous chandelier that adorns the Hall.The highlight in this Hall is the replica of the first original Quran traced back to the 7th century A.D.The Amiri Hall was awesome.

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Beautiful Blue & Gold carpeted floor inside the Grand Mosque

Travel Tip :

If you want to have a rewarding experience like this, I highly recommend to check out Aware Center. They can take you into a wonderful experience as they did to me. They hold their personal guided tours for the Grand Mosque which includes Lectures on Islamic Culture, Islam & Historical significance. You can sign up and enjoy a wonderful morning.Children & Non-Muslims expats  are welcome. Please be reminded that women should be dressed modestly on this visit. You will be asked to wear an Abaya & cover your head before entering the Mosque.They have a very cozy Diwaniya Hall to receive the guests and welcomed with refreshments, brochures and souvenirs.

If you are in Kuwait, you can check out the Aware Center’s official website to view their schedule of events, normally they hold Grand Mosque Tour every 2nd Saturday of the month. Their representative, Ms. Iman Martin is very knowledgeable and such a great guide.

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Have you ever been inside a Mosque as a Non-Muslim? How was your experience?

If you like this post, then you might want to check out my other post on Exploring the Kuwaiti heritage sites in the Kuwait category. Feel free to browse and learn more about fascinating things you can only find in Kuwait.

Once again, Salam & Thank you for reading!

Oh God, My Husband is Dutch !

This is not a romantic love story post, Nope, On serious note , I found myself to be lucky to find &  marry a wonderful Dutch guy, & here I share with you my impressions and things I found to be special and so typically Dutch .

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Beautiful canals in Amsterdam.

When you are in an interracial marriage, habits and your partner’s interests are the top things you notice. Either it’s totally  crazy, out of this world , weird, or annoying but then it shows a lot of their personality.

Tell you frankly, I haven’t got any clue about anything Dutch. We were completely from different cultures. I wouldn’t ever know that Hagelslag ( or Sprinkles)  could taste so good on toast after I met my ex-boyfriend , now my husband who is Dutch. Hagelslag is chocolate sprinkles that Dutch spread on their toast.It’s quite a moment to watch how they do it. It’s like a magic routine every time we seat together during breakfast .They spread it on a plain bread with  butter or margarine.  Their love for Hagelslag can never be taken away from them wherever they are right now. We were living in Kuwait but we have Hagelslag during breakfast, And Yes, I gave my In-Laws a big Thank you for bringing it over here during their visits. It’s totally a Dutch thing. This is a staple on every  household and kids form some sort of attachment to it because they love it until they become adults. So Yes, I became a convert on this one and I’m sure my daughter will love it too.

When we had our daughter , we had  Beschuit met Muisjes It’s a tradition  in  the Netherlands once a baby is born. It’s a crispy biscuit with sugar-coated Anise seeds  shared with guests. They come in pink & white for girls  & blue & white for boys .I love the uniqueness & everything about it. We never have something like this in Philippines or even in Kuwait.

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Typically Dutch threat when a baby is born -Beschuit-met-Muisjes

Who loves potatoes the most?

Dutch people are top-notch on this one. They adore  potatoes. It’s like rice for Filipinos. They mashed it, fry it, steam, boiled ,baked it but their favorite is the Patat Friet. Patat Friet is  a well-known snack , they are usually served in a paper cone, topped with mayonnaise. Different types of toppings are usually available including knoflook (garlic) sauce, tomato ketchup , frietsaus (a less fattier version of mayo) or the peanut sauce. My husband enjoys this on all occasions.

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So typical Dutch , Hagelslag on toast !
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 Windmills, a typical scenery in Dutch countryside.

Dutch people have a serious love affair with their bikes (Fietsen)  before they were even engaged or got married. Sounds crazy right?  but really, I was dumbfounded when i saw how many bicycles in The Netherlands , let alone Amsterdam itself. It’s HUMONGOUS!

The bicycle culture  makes Dutch people stand out. I mean,they don’t just bike to kill time, their lives revolves through it. They have one of the best Public transport system and yet people opt to cycle as their #1 preference of transport.You see mothers with their 3 kids on it with their famous  Bakfiets  (or cargo bikes) plus bags of groceries, cycling to work, exploring the countryside riding their bikes , and many tourists discover Amsterdam and all through out Holland by bikes. The Netherlands is the most-Bicycle friendly country with about 17 million in population and 20 million bikes! Picture that !

An average Dutch rides his bike 2.5km per day. I have cycled with my husband for 25km in one day and it was great. Another thing that I find so interesting is that they have a very active lifestyle with it. I have seen even older people riding their bikes. A typical household owns 3 bikes and children learn to cycle at an early age. I find it really inspiring when I see my in-Laws (already in their 70’s)  riding their bikes together for errands or so.

In Netherlands, multi-level parking areas for bicycles is normal sight. It is Huuuggeee. You can see tons of bikes parked in the train station and its amazing how people find their bikes with ease.

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Multi-level parking area for Bicycles in Amsterdam.

My husband loves to makes Lists , schedules and has the most organized Calendar. He really does it especially during grocery shopping. Dutch people are really living by the Diary. Birthdays and other important occasions are carefully noted in their calendars. They even have a Birthday calendar.

YES! you read that right, a calendar for Birthdays. They normally hung it in their guest bathroom. It’s totally Dutch thing. Imagine that you are a guest and while you do your business in the loo, you can be amused by  the thoughts and sometimes it even comes with photos in  it. Sure thing, they have no excuse to forget birthdays !

One important  character of Dutch people  is punctuality. This is as per my observation from them. They are also very straightforward and direct. They don’t beat around the bush.Some may even misinterpret this as rudeness,but actually, they are just so direct in speaking their opinions.

Have you heard about Papadag? Dutch men are very involved on parenting. I love the fact that my husband has high standards for family time. Dutch people have high priority on family and quality time spent with it is important more than any leisure activities. In Netherlands, fathers have a certain half-day off during the week to take care of the kids. Isn’t is amazing? In an interracial marriage, it’s very important to have compatible values, especially on family. I’m so happy that my daughter has the privilege of being raised with Dutch values to ensure overall well-being as a child. The Netherlands holds the spot of only country ranked among the top five countries in all dimensions of child well-being . You can see the full report Here. It is very heartwarming that Dutch kids stands as  the happiest kids on the world. They have wonderful childhoods.

Prior to the negative implication of the term “Going Dutch “,which is economical,thrifty Dutch way of thinking, I don’t see my husband as cheap, being prudent is not bad, He spends money wisely. Dutch people are very helpful & charitable and this is regarded  as great national value. The Netherlands ranked #14 in Top 23 Richest countries around the world based on GDP per capita and its amazing how Dutch people  are so involved in helping others, either national and international, who lag behind economically. There is a general kind of sense that “everyone should have the same”; equality in the economic sense is almost a value. During the typhoon Haiyan tragedy in The Philippines, Netherlands donated EUR 36 million as aid to the victims.My parents-in laws are living example, they have been helping a poor Polish family .

Lastly , with Dutch , there is always a feeling of Gezelligheid . Don’t ask me to define this in literal meaning because I can’t. Just picture this : Lovely ,beautiful gardens on each houses, with curtain-less wide windows adorned with most simple ornaments that looks directly to sidewalks , people having picnics & strolls in the park, Saturday morning frenzy at the city centre ‘s wet market,gobbling on delicious  Dutch treats such as Stroopwafels , those tiny houseboats along the canals in Amsterdam , people walking and talking about the weather ,  sitting in benches reading the news , and so on. There is total way of cozy conviviality around.

A fun, comfortable way of everything. For foreigners,it could be perceived as slacking off, but really, they just enjoy and take life in a normal way.

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I was grabbed at first sight on the experience of all of these. There is this unfamiliar taste that surrounds everywhere. No wonder tourists come back after visits to the Netherlands. They are really more than the windmills,tulips & clogs. There is so much more to learn and to explore with their culture. I have come to embrace Dutch culture, not only because I married one, but because of  Dutch’s unique approach in everything . But I excuse myself on liking the Drop & Haring!

At the end of my day, I still groaned and remind myself, “Oh God,my Husband is Dutch !”

Have you’ve had any encounter with Dutch people? or the Netherlands ?Do you have any fascinating impressions about them?

Please feel free to share your views . I would love to hear it.

Thank you for  stopping by & reading this…and Doei!

 

10 Surprising Things About Parenthood in Kuwait

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The Icon for Architecture in Kuwait-the Kuwait Towers. the first special place I have visited when I arrived there last 2008, and the last place I have visited when the time we left Kuwait last May 2016.

I have never imagined in my whole life that I will get married, get pregnant and gave birth to my daughter in Kuwait— a small oil rich country  yet place for  mirage diversity. Looking back  at our Expat days spent there brought both smiles and fond memories.  Kuwait will always be a special place close to our hearts.

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Kuwait skyline as seen from Arabian Gulf taken from the Scientific Center along the Arabian Gulf. One of my favorite place to take my daughter for a morning stroll and walk. At 1 month, she visited the Scientific Center’s Aquarium. I am sure I would show her her photos by then.

Here I wanna share with you 10 Surprising Things About Parenthood in Kuwait that I personally experienced. The content of this post is based from my personal encounters as an Expat living in Kuwait  for almost 8 years. Being in Kuwait for work is totally different when you have a family and a young child.

Disclaimer : This post does not promote anything for the purpose of advertisement or whatsoever. My views pointed out here are personal & may not be the same as the other Expats living here or Kuwaitis itself.

Kuwait has a high Total fertility rate compared to other GCC countries , with 2.48 Births per woman and on rank # 80 ( as of 2015 est  based on World Factbook CIA )

Pregnancy and Childcare in Kuwait is totally different from the culture that I was raised with. The reality bites of  giving birth to my daughter there  while working as an OFW with no relatives around to get support really opened my eyes on how is it to become an Expat Mama. You need to be tough.

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Mornings with a Baby in the azure blue Arabian Gulf,for sometime, this has been our paradise.

1.On Pregnancy & Giving Birth Alone …Literally Alone.

The choice for  private or public hospital in Kuwait for Prenatal care during Pregnancy & giving birth depends on your personal choices, quality of medical services & of course, the cost. There are plenty of private hospitals around  and in every area in Kuwait has Public Hospital. You can go there with a very minimal fee (1KD /stamp ) depending where you are registered as a resident. I am 37 yrs old when I got pregnant with Natalie and has a high risk condition from which I found out on the later part of my pregnancy. I opt for a private one during my Prenatal care, I find it really expensive and yet It was also very comprehensive & helpful for a First-time Mother like me.

There’s no Midwife/ Home Birthing here, Doulas are not a common norm .You can only give birth in hospitals since Kuwait is a Muslim country and has strict laws about getting pregnant outside marriage. You cannot be admitted in hospital if you cannot present a Marriage certificate .If you are not married & got pregnant by chance , then at the hospital you will  report you to authorities right on the spot. You will end up in jail and face punishment. Unlike in the Philippines or in Holland, formalities in admission to hospital such as this is not much of an issue . Take note also that there is a strict rule that your spouse cannot see you once you were admitted. Yes, ALONE. Only you and your baby in your utero all throughout the labor to birth phase.

Your Husband can call the hospital to check on your status. It was quite an experience being alone and not having your spouse there on your side. I felt so afraid, at the same time excited. While in the private ones , your spouse has the chance to be with you all the way .

2. On Unbelievable cost of Childbirth.

For Mamas out there, how much does it cost you on the birth of your child? Mine’s only 13 KD!

You can call this cheap but this is impeccably practical. You can invest your money on diapers & childcare later !

I gave birth to my daughter in Kuwait through C-section which only costs us of around 13 KD ( or around 43 USD). YES! Unbelievable right?  Only this amount. Considering all the medications I had during the induction of labor this amount is really insane!  If i did it in a private hospital , my doctor told me it could come around as 850-1500 KD, maybe more. Giving birth thru  C-section in Philippines  is so costly that is why Natural birth is still encouraged. Such big difference. In Holland, you need to push and push harder in giving birth at home  since natural birth is much preferred unless you need medical intervention.

I had complications giving birth and my daughter is in Transverse position. I was induced  for labor for almost 3 days but unfortunately did not progress . But then on the last-minute that both me & my baby was stressed ,her heartbeat dropped & I was rushed to O.R for emergency C-section. I was really amazed how fully equipped and good  the government Maternity Hospital here. I have rumors before that it could be a daunting experience ,but as far as my experience , I couldn’t complain for anything . Yeah maybe the pain.

Everything about the induction process is bloody painful. My whole body cried out for so much Pitocin and all those other stuff. It’s just too overwhelmingly painful.

The whole experience has taught me how to be tough ,to listen to my body . The Doctors and staff are knowledgeable, helpful and professional enough in taking  care of me. I was lucky enough that the staff assigned to me were really kind, & helpful . I’m glad there were Filipina nurses who attended to me immediately. My daughter was admitted to the Special care unit after she was born and I am very glad how they took care of her. She had a medical care from the Neonatal unit up until 1-year-old to track her progress. By the way, It’s totally free!

My postnatal medical care were also covered in this hospital. You only pay a very minimal fee for the prescriptions and medications provided. I was really impressed and happy.

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Napping along the quiet promenade beside the beach

3.On Baby-Friendly facilities and the LACK of it in Kuwait

Breastfeeding is highly commended by all Hospitals from birth of a child. But Breastfeeding  in public is considered offensive. There are only limited areas which has a facility for Breastfeeding mothers and changing rooms. In some large Malls and restaurants, there are abundant changing rooms as well as accessibility to it. Some shops doesn’t even have ramps, totally not Stroller-friendly. Since I had a child, I become aware of this and always opt for a Baby-Friendly facilities such as High chairs, changing tables and play areas . I wear my daughter from 4 months until she was 12 months or so. When she got so heavy then I gave up the sling , besides she likes to walk now ! I couldn’t imagine how I go on without it, It was really amazing.Wearing her on a sling causes lots of stares from many people here , i received many comments about it but I ignore it. It’s not a norm here, but you as the parent should make the right choices for the best of your child & yourself. It’s very rare for Kuwaiti women to wear their child,mainly because most of them has nanny to take care of their little ones.

4. On Harsh Weather Worries , Kuwait is a Sandstorm country.

As an Expat , I am constantly worrying about the weather. If you  have read my post – Only In Kuwait , where I noted that  the sky turns to different colors within 3 hours .This is a place where sandstorms, dust, & heat & harsh winds is prevalent. During Summer, I was on my wits end on how to deal with the heat and humidity. You can’t take out your child for a stroll if it is 50 deg outside and completely dusty . We often take her out early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Sandstorms in Kuwait is another shock that I need to get used to. The sky suddenly turns dark gray and totally hazy because of dust. I had the experience that it totally turns into orange into black . It was a sight! You need to take care when this happens because its unhealthy for you & your child plus it could last for days.

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Beachbumming : Typical way for your child to let go of her steam.

5.On Childcare and Hired Help for Families

A typical Kuwaiti family with 3 children or more has 2 Housemaids ,1 driver  and maybe 1 Nanny to focus mainly with the baby.  It’s very common to have a hired help to take care of your child. Most children grew up with a Nanny. For Expat parents  who are both working full-time , they can put their child on Nursery & Daycare center depending on their choice. Oftentimes, you see a full entourage of babies with their uniformed Nannies in the mall while their Mothers are busy shopping and bumming their asses in the mall drinking coffee or in the salon maybe. Most of the time, if you go on a playgroups, It’s depressing to see only maids with the little ones.

I find it so  important to have a network of friends and mothers who have children same age as your child to survive ,especially on hot summers. I am grateful for friends to  visit and arrange play dates with my daughter. It is a lifesaver!

6.On lack of Discipline & Public Child Tantrums

I don’t know why but here I often see many child  throwing tantrums in Public. In malls, parks , supermarkets, and restaurants.I find it sad to see some children throwing garbage out from their cars, or on the ground as they please. I don’t see much politeness either. Little children seldom say Please or Thank you to waiters or strangers.This is on my personal encounters. But I am always glad whenever I see kids showing good character in public. I remembered that all Filipino children were taught to say “Po” and the Mano po tradition with the ones older than them. This is far by non-existent here.

7.On Easy Access to Beachfront , the beach can be your playground.

Having an access to the beach within 5 minutes from your home is really a treat . I feel lucky that as I open our bedroom window, we have a direct view of the Arabian gulf. This really gives us an opportunity to take our daughter for a spin in her stroller, on having lazy morning walks during weekends and playing in the sand. Kuwait doesn’t have much of beautiful nature to boast, so living near the beach is good if you have kids. I mean it’s healthy . Green lawns are scarce and looking for a convenient playground with lots of greens is like searching for pearls.There are various playgrounds & indoor play areas, you just need to have patience to find them. In every local area,there is a playground so it’s quite easy. But don’t expect much of it.

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Exploring in the park

8.On family Outings during Fridays

Friday is the rest day for all of  Kuwait. This is the Ruhetag version of Germany’s Sunday ‘s quiet  day. It’s so  heartwarming to see the whole family prepping early for a beach trip, picnic in the park or camp in the desert. Kids flocked to playgrounds, during hot summers they mostly stay indoors or  spend a day in the Mall. Here, both parents are so involved. I oftentimes saw fathers playing with their kids and totally hands-on. Kuwait boasts of their big Malls. The Avenues is an example of a great family destination especially when its hot outside. It is designed to  become a one stop destination for the whole family. It has  an astounding beautiful Play areas for kids while you get busy shopping or meeting friends. It has the amazing Kidzania, the Magic planet with its minimalist design, Baroue, & Color Me Mine are among others to keep your child entertained and parents as well. It’s a great place to just  relax and bond with your family.

9.On Disturbed bedtime

How crazy it is to see a baby out in the park until midnight? You see children playing in the beachfront at night. Only in here that I see kids riding their bikes in the dark, toddlers playing in the sand until 2 am in the morning enjoying a family midnight picnic. During Ramadan , people  spend so much time outside at night. I grew up having our bed times set at 8 pm , except on weekends that we are allowed to watch TV and stay up late. In Kuwait, going out with your kids at 9 pm is normal. I stick to my routine with my daughter to put her to bed on time and especially not to disturb her nap times.

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Raising your child as Third Culture Kid (TCK)

10. On Safety Issues for Children

In Kuwait , I find it relatively safe & crime rate is at par, but as parents we can’t compromise their safety . While in Europe that you can let loose your child in the streets and go home from school by themselves, here its a totally different story. It is not safe to leave your child to play in the streets alone , especially if you live near a highway. There are no sidewalks or safe path walks  and  cars are speeding up even on residential areas. Besides , There is the garbage problem that you don’t want your child to expose . There is a school just 5 minutes away from our building, it doesn’t even have a pedestrian zone.

As an Expat Mama,  I have learned that no matter where you are, Parenthood is a distinct journey to self-discovery. You get to know more of yourself as you go through with it. Becoming a parent is a privilege, and not a right. It is a wonderful blessing. Indeed consider yourself blessed if you have a child on your lap and if you have been on the journey of raising them. If there’s one thing that I learned as I go on this journey of Motherhood, it’s this :

‘You get two big windows of opportunity in your life to do stuff like build castles, play in the dirt, lick pebbles, & just play ; The first is when you are a Child, the second is when you have ONE. ‘

Don’t get too wrapped up to missed it.

Are you an Expat Mama?  How is Parenting done in your country or in the place you live  at the moment? How are you coping so far ?

Do you find any surprising things about Parenthood? I would love to hear your own story.