The Hubby and I exchange fake gifts under a Christmas tree in a Kuwaiti mall, 2006

The Hubby and I faking a gift exchange in a Kuwaiti mall.

Brilliant, multi-coloured lights flash from storefront windows; giant wreaths, shining silver faux icicles and cartoonish depictions of Santa hang low from mall ceilings; giant 15-foot Christmas trees piled high with elaborate, wrapped boxes line entrance corridors; ready-made, delectable Christmas cookies and chocolates intoxicate passers-by with their sweet, comforting smell, and the latest secular Christmas pop tunes pour out from Starbucks and other trendy hot-spots. People crowd the malls looking for the perfect gift or are drawn by the holiday deals. Babies are enthralled by the lights and kids run around with Santa hats. The Christmas spirit is running high, and is only briefly interrupted by the call to prayer. It’s Christmas in Kuwait.

I have to admit, my first trip to Kuwait to meet the in-laws was a cultural shock on many levels. Forget about meeting an extended family so large that after years of marriage, close relatives I have never heard of are still coming out of the woodwork. Never mind the joys of eating halaal McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway and finding a mosque on every street corner. Let’s ignore my blundering attempts to connect to my family by speaking a Yemeni dialect (poorly) and wowing them with my bhangra dance moves (much better). What shocked me the most was finding a Muslim country that celebrated Christmas — at least, the secular, consumer culture aspect of the holiday season.

Especially since I believed Muslims don’t, cannot, and will not celebrate Christmas.

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A lovely conversation between myself and the family’s Indonesian maid, Sri:

K, why no halib for Eryn?
No milk Sri?
Halib, formula, bottles? Why no I see you giving halib?
OH! Eryn takes halib from mama (I touch my chest)

Ooooohh! K! Just like back home! Best milk! Best halib from mama!
Yeah, heh.. it is!
Yah, K not like people here. You give halib from beginning?
Yes, from the very start.
Ooooh, K, so good. Very good K.
Sri, did you give halib?
Yes, first time 2 years. Second baby 1.5 years and then khalas (finished).
Thanks excellent! Good for you.
Yes, but you K! So good that you give halib. Eryn is good. Good and big. You give good halib. Must eat all good things.

Lots of smiles and warm fuzzy feelings all around. Leave it to something as natural as breastfeeding to break language barriers.

Today we hung out at the park behind our condo.  There’s a splashpad, baby swings, barbecues, and lots and lots of trees.

Almost every day I run Eryn in between her trees and let her pat the trunks and pull on leaves, in the hopes that she’ll be some kind of nature lover when she grows up.  She loves being thrown up in the air, or just chills and munches on the grass.  We’re quite lucky that we have a massive forest cutting right through the downtown core of Mississauga. Eryn has gotten used to our outings, and just today, recognized the seagulls and ducks as being other lifeforms that she can interact with!

It’ll be one of the last times that she’ll be in an outdoor park with maple trees and grass for a long time (in baby world).  Over the next month she’ll either be playing in air conditioned mall arcades, hanging out in the stroller or sling while cruising the downtown strip at night, or stuck indoors behind 6 inch thick, tinted windows — guaranteed to keep out the sun and sand.

There might be a chance to commune with some palm trees… but it’s usually 55C between 8am-6pm. So. No. No running around the park.  I actually don’t think there’s a children’s park in Kuwait.  There’s a mini splashworks and carnival-land, and the Cornish next to the sea is almost like any other ocean-side boardwalk… but no grass covered parks with a river, papillons, ducks, and massive maples.

The only large grass areas in Kuwait are usually found on the golf courses.  There’s an underground water and cooling system to make sure The Green stays that way.  Although, there are some plants and shrubs lining some of the highways, and a few running parks for the expatriates.  She’ll probably be able to cultivate a love for rock gardens.

Kuwait is a lot of fun.  It’s just a different culture — walking around high-end shopping malls instead of hikes through the forest.  So it’ll be interesting to see how quickly she can turn a mall into a playground.

T-minus 4 days until we leave!

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