An Abundance of Boats, Wealth and Cats.

Kuwait has always been all about boats….although, probably not like the ones in the harbors, the marinas and on the beach today. Their history chronicles Kuwait City origins as a fishing village that became a major commercial center for trade between India and Arabia.

   

Soon oil became both a boom for them and then a bust. A trade embargo in the area also hurt their economy but today the nation’s focus is on the financial industry. They were ranked the 4th richest country in the world per capita according to the World Bank in 2016.

               

As I mentioned before, Kuwait doesn’t cultivate tourism. There are few people using the endless promenade, the beaches or the cultural center. Even the market place was relatively empty.

i

Other than the speeding traffic the other striking characteristic of this city were the cats…they were everywhere, scrounging around the rocks for fish, birds or rodents.  I read where there are groups trying desperately to fund neutering and spading of these feral animals but they are not able to get ahead of the problem. I found an interesting link about one woman distributing 100 cans of cat food a day!

https://www.petfinder.com/blog/2012/10/caring-for-feral-cats-in-kuwait-is-big-job/

 

 

Posted in travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Jet-lagged Red Eyes

I hope they’re not permanent!  My last trip was book-ended with two overnight flights and I still have not recovered.  The fact that I was on the ground only 48 hours didn’t help. Couple that with the fact that I rarely obey all the things one is supposed to do to avoid this lagging.  Perhaps that’s why the only one who feels sorry for me is me!!

You know you did a quick turn around when the same flight crew accompanies you both ways!

 

 

 

 

Posted in travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Kuwait can Wait for a Return Visit

I wasn’t excited to begin this journey, more like disappointed that my trip to Iran fell through; since I had the time set aside and the airline refund to spend I opted to go and collect a new country.  I expected it to be similar to Doha, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It was. It is another city built on sand with incredibly tall and interesting buildings displaying extreme wealth and very little history. Muscat was different.

   

It was tough interacting with locals because they all seemed to be in speeding cars or talking on their phones. When I asked about different sites the hotel staff had no idea where they were, as they like all other people holding hospitality jobs, were immigrants from somewhere else.

    

Tourism infrastructure was not in place. My research indicated that US citizens staying less than 90 days would not need a visa. Not true, as I discovered after waiting in line to get a stamp in my passport.  Fortunately I was able to get one upstairs where I waited for another hour. The process was most confusing but others waiting were kind enough to answer my many inquiries. It was definitely one of those Charlie Brown moments: aaarrrggghhhhh

More later about the cats, cats and more cats and boats, yachts and personal watercraft. It’s also the place to go for detoxing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Banning Travel

My heart breaks for all the refugees and other immigrants who are looking for sanctuary or just a chance to create a better life for themselves and their families….I am one of the privileged ones who was born in the right place, at the right time and lucky enough to travel freely, seeing the world first hand.

However, change is coming for the advantaged traveler.  Brexit  may very well increase time spent in customs and immigration control in addition to economic possibilities from increased fares to possible additional roaming charges. And now the EU is considering a need for visas for US citizens traveling to Europe.

lebanon 139   uzbekistan 011

The “travel ban” issued by the USA, currently blocked but still promised, is scary on many levels. Will it  increase terrorism?  Will it break up families? Will it renege on promises to reward those who have helped us in the past? Do we not all have responsibility to help those who are seeking asylum? escape a war?

Becoming non-judgemental is a process,  particularly for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a country that offers us so many freedoms.  Travel has given me an opportunity to learn to accept differences and understand that there are alternatives to doing everything “our way”.  For instance, I have a fellow traveler who didn’t grasp why the mountains above 6000 meters were closed to mountaineering in Bhutan. He suggested that they could make so much more money by opening up those peaks.  My guide smiled and said, no, they were more interested in protecting the mountains for both their culture and for future generations.

bhutan-093    bhutan-020

Many of my friends and family could not understand why I wanted to visit Iran this month. Other than it being one of the first civilized cultures with a rich history of art, literature, food, gardens and architecture their hospitality is well renowned.

uzbekistan 087   uzbekistan-069

However, my trip with stops in Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan has been cancelled. Their government declined to issue me a visa in “retaliation” for our government’s actions. My biggest regret is how a mutual understanding between our cultures will affect all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hemingway’s Havana Haunts

A pub crawl with hundreds of strangers is a thing in Old Havana.  There is the bar (Floridita) where Papa drank his favorite daiquiri. Then there is the Bodeguita del Medio where he imbibed on mojitos.  I opted not to get a drink in Dos Hermanos, his third frequented spot because I was running low on pesos;  it was either a couple of drinks or a taxi ride back to the airport.

dsc_0893    dsc_0925

Unfortunately I did not change enough money upon entering the country and found it impossible on the weekend to buy more CUC’s.   I found a place for lunch that accepted euros (and I highly recommend this little eatery: 304 O’Reilly’s). Note to self: next visit buy many more pesos! The line at the airport to exchange currency was long and slow indicating that perhaps  this was the only spot around!

dsc_0977   dsc_0991

While I did the central city, old city and the waterfront on foot, I took the new hop-on hop off bus to see the greater city neighborhoods.  Saw some of the new hotels that charge Miami beach prices or maybe more!

I stayed in a private home just a few blocks from all the action.  The couple had devoted a bedroom with a private bath  74 steps up from the street connecting to their small but comfortable apartment. The room included an air conditioner and a fridge.  I knew that things like soap and other toiletries are hard to come by for the locals so I brought some extras along to leave behind.

dsc_0897   dsc_0941

I realize there are ethical concerns in touting tourism in Cuba. In addition to the U.S.’s continued reluctance to end all embargoes, one is only supposed to go there under the auspicious of twelve approved categories and “tourism” is not listed.  In fact, the general consensus now, is that if you go, you had better not go to the beach!  Another reason is that the influx of travelers have caused food shortages and price surges for the Cubans.

dsc_1007   dsc_0916

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unplugged in Cuba

Within seconds of the airplane’s wheels touching ground in Atlanta on my return from Havana, a woman behind me screeched “OMG I have 148 voicemails!” Almost everyone in the vicinity, also on their phones for the first time in days, chuckled, knowing exactly what she meant. I had only gone 3 days without phone service, internet, TV or printed news and my stress level was at zero.  Coupled with the graciousness, friendliness and non-stop music from the locals, life was good for tourists.

dsc_0958   dsc_0970

As much as I enjoyed it, one must be aware of the problems facing the population due to many factors such as the embargo, the lost subsidies from the Soviet Union and the old regime’s  rural priorities.  A popular saying about Cuba was that  the 3 best things about this country were education, health care and low crime rate ( now they say” no drugs, no need for guns”) but then the 3 worst were breakfast, lunch and dinner (referring to the lack of food for the locals).  When you earn less than $40 a month and  struggle with ration cards it’s amazing that they survive let alone manage to smile.

dsc_0949 dsc_0956

The Office of the Historian of the City of Havana (OHC) along with UNESCO are changing the landscape of Old Havana. And unlike many urban renewals where the wealthy buy and restore and move the poor out, this neighborhood remains a place where long time residents continue to live and work.

dsc_0915   dsc_0996

I hope Cuba continues to emerge as a market for exchange with the U.S. and that the new relationship will benefit everyone.

 

Posted in travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

TIA (This is Argentina)

Sometimes travelers need a subtle reminder that not all cultures are the same….as an American I often forget that “time is of the essence” is really just a legal term in contract law.  It does not necessarily apply to  when I get the bill I asked for,  if I get my coffee before the bus departs, or whether I can place an order before those other people who were just seated. Time is just not that important in Argentina.

dsc_0814

In fact, my daughter did an informal poll of the time displayed on clocks in the country. There truly was not one anywhere that matched the time on her Apple watch.  Some were hours off, some a few minutes early, some late.  Apparently they are rarely reset when the electricity falters because it’ll happen again soon, so why bother.

Our guides, Dani and Etienne, tried preparing our group by explaining TIA so that we would not become “ugly Americans”.  We were still the loudest ones around but we all attempted civil discourse (not really but we did engage in the smallest of small talk before we jumped to the need of the moment).

p1050183

I thought  I was well-traveled enough to heed the warning until the airline lost my luggage. I tried being patient for about 15 minutes but the fact that all the other suitcases were picked up and the belt had stopped didn’t help…and then I was forced to wait for the next plane before they would “file the case” (no play on words here) and again, no luggage for me.  Thank goodness my daughter who speaks fluent Spanish and was embarrassed by her mother’s antics, asked me to go get a cup of coffee while she handled the situation.  Not my proudest moment, but I  was already freaking out about what might happen if I had to leave the country before they found it and all those borrowed items I had in that bag! (sisters everywhere will understand).

head-shot-molly-gavin

And I was tired, and I was hungry and there was no wine on the plane and…..oops I almost forgot,” TIA”, and that doesn’t mean “Take Immediate Action”.

bike-shorts

PS…why in the world would they make bicycle shorts like these that are so difficult for a  toilet stop? Sometimes TIME really does matter!

 

 

 

 

Posted in travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments