Cars & Coffee with the US Ambassador

Post by Mark

A few weeks ago I got contacted by the US Embassy telling me that US ambassador Lawrence Silverman wanted to meet up for coffee. Originally they wanted to know if he could come by my office, but I thought that might be a bit weird since I currently work in a government office and it would be kinda awkward if the US ambassador came to our offices with his entourage just to meet with me. So I asked them if we could meet somewhere else and they were like sure, where?. Now in my head I was thinking, can the US ambassador actually have coffee anywhere? I didn’t know if there were any rules or security protocols that prevented him from doing so, but I wanted to meet somewhere casual, so I figured I’d ask anyway. So I proposed Arabica at Arraya and they agreed. First thing I then did was get in touch with Arabica and see if I could book a table. I didn’t want to get there with the ambassador and then not have anywhere to sit so Arabica ended up hooking us up.

I actually just got back from having coffee there with the ambassador since our meeting was this morning. His arrival was pretty dramatic as expected, first I got a message from the Cultural Attache saying “We’re approaching” and then I saw all the flashing lights of his convoy pull up a few moments later. He then walked over to Arabica with his security detail who ended up hanging out around the area until we were done with our meeting. It was my first time meeting with ambassador Silverman. I had met the previous ambassador when we flew together to the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, but ambassador Silverman has only been in Kuwait for a year and so we hadn’t had the chance to meet yet.

The meeting turned out to be pretty enjoyable surprisingly, I was worried we wouldn’t have anything to talk about and end up with awkward moments, but there wasn’t a dull moment throughout the hour we were together. We kinda clicked from the start since we were talking about Oman and I mentioned how me and some friends of mine were planning to send our sport cars there for a road trip, and he mentioned that Audi recently launched their RS3 in Oman. I was like wtf? (in my head) How did he know that? Me and my friends were actually watching an RS3 review video that was shot in Oman when we decided on this trip. Turns out the ambassador had watched the same video and himself is a car guy so the conversation pretty much flowed after that with us talking about cars mostly.

Close to the end of the meeting we brought up the idea of him possibly guest posting on this blog, similar to how the previous British ambassador had his “Mondays with Matthew” posts. He was interested so expect those posts to come soon. I have to say, its occasions like this that make me enjoy what I do so much. It’s unreal.


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Friendship Ended with Salmiya, Now Netflix is My Best Friend

Post by Mark

A few days ago I posted about how Salem Al Mubarak Street is finally turning into a pedestrian only street. One of the negatives I highlighted was the fact they had chopped down some of the old trees that have been there for nearly 50 years. I was upset about it, but when I asked the engineer behind the project if they were removing the old trees, he responded saying “only some”. So I assumed they had chopped down the trees that they didn’t need and all the ones left were the ones they were keeping. Well last night I noticed they had removed nearly all the remaining trees. Using Google Maps I counted 28 trees that were originally planted on that street and there are now only 3 left. That means 25 trees in total were removed! One of the remaining trees currently has a chainsaw parked under it so it might not even be there anymore by the time this post gets published. I’ve marked all the removed trees with x’s in the above picture and the ones remaining with circles.

How is 3 trees out of 28 considered “only some”? Why are they removing the trees anyway? If they were building an airport runway I could understand but they’re not so why? Some of the trees were fairly large and it would have been pretty cute to have small cafes underneath with seating areas around them. The trees were large enough to provide shade, they didn’t need any watering because they were well rooted and the trees were also homes to a lot of birds.

But you know what? I don’t care anymore.

Last night I got so upset about the whole situation I emotionally booked two trips for the next two weekends. Why am I getting so worked up about all of this? It’s not my country, I don’t own the street nor were the trees mine. Why am I even surprised about all of this? Based on the renderings the engineer shared I should have known no good was going to come out of this. When you demolish historical buildings in your renderings and replace them with fancy shiny malls, it says a lot about the thinking process. Chopping historical trees isn’t only a Kuwait thing either, it happens everywhere. In Lebanon for example a politician cut down part of an ancient cedar forrest so he could setup an outdoor venue for his son’s wedding. I mean like wtf? If shit is gonna happen its gonna happen and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

So starting today I’m hopefully emotionally disconnecting myself from Salmiya. I no longer want to be mayor. If anyone wants to take over the responsibility of giving a fuck, they’ve only started construction work on half of old Salmiya. They haven’t started on the other half yet (pictured above) and based on Google Maps there are approximately 38 trees there. Good luck trying to save them.


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When are you moving to L.A.?

Post by Mark

Since I’ve gotten back from my vacation I’ve been asked that question over a dozen times. The truth of the matter is, although it is something I consider every year when I visit L.A., I don’t think I’m leaving anytime soon. Other than the fact I still have things I want to accomplish while here, when I talk to family and friends living in L.A., I realize the grass is not that greener over there. I mean I’ve always known that, ever since I was a kid and played the PC game Theme Park. If you wanted to start a park in a highly populated country, you had to pay much more for the land. If you didn’t want to pay for land, then you’d have to build in a country with a smaller population which meant less income for your park. There were things you needed to compromise on depending on what country you wanted to build your theme park in, and its the same in real life. We compromise on one thing, but in return we have something else going for us here.

When people living in L.A. ask me about life in Kuwait. I tell them about how things are here and their eyes get all dreamy, wishing they were living in Kuwait and had our lifestyle. We generally have it pretty easy over here and in my case, super easy.

So yeah things aren’t perfect here and I’m usually the first to point the issues out, but if you don’t appreciate what we having going for us right now (we really do have a lot going for us), then you’re probably not making the best use of your time here.


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Oh L.A.

Post by Mark

I’m at LAX right now, leaving L.A. in a bit and heading back to Kuwait. My irresponsible self wants to stay here for another week or two, and maybe even just move out here for good. But thats not gonna happen, I’ve just become too responsible to do something like that (sadly).

Do I miss Kuwait? I miss my Lotus, but other than that no, not really? Usually I’m looking forward to getting back home, but this time, something is different…


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I don’t feel like posting

Post by Mark

For the past week I haven’t been in the mood to post at all. I’m on vacation and like everyone else who goes on vacation, I want to leave my work behind. But with the blog, its not that simple.

With your normal job you tend to handover your work to another employee and then take off, with the blog I don’t have anyone to hand over the posting to. I also can’t just stop posting, I mean I can if its a short trip but I’m out now for nearly three weeks so I can’t just not post for that long.

Putting that aside I also struggle to find stuff to write about when I’m not in Kuwait. When I first started blogging I used to post about my trip, places I’m checking out, things I recommend other people do and if you’re lucky, you’d catch one of my drunken rants before deleting it. But overtime I just kept getting more and more private. I don’t post about my trips anymore and I barely instagram anything as well. I’ve been to the States 4 times over the past 3 years but nobody except my closest friends knew about them. I did Kentucky, Tennessee, Washington, and Philadelphia on one trip and barely posted two abstract pictures on instagram from my whole stay. I like it that way, I like my privacy.

But I think I’m going to go back to how things were before. I think I’m going to start posting about my trips again since it will give me stuff to write about which in return will reduce my stress when I’m on vacation. I do have a bunch of cool things coming up on my trip so we’ll see how things turn out.


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My Parents Have Left The Building

Post by Mark

My mum moved to Kuwait back in 1968 to work as a personal trainer at a local gym (yup, she was an OG PT) before joining Kuwait Airways as a flight attendant. My dad on the other hand moved to Kuwait in 1972 and worked as a self employed interior designer. They eventually met, got married, had kids and continued to live here until last week, when my parents moved out of their apartment and left Kuwait for good.

People always ask me if I have any plans on leaving. The thing is, eventually, all expats have to leave Kuwait.

Even though my parents were living in Kuwait for nearly 50 years, they had as much rights and benefits as someone who just moved to Kuwait last week. They still needed a sponsor, they still needed to renew their papers every year and they couldn’t own any property.

I was thinking how depressing that must be, living and working in a country for nearly 50 years and still have to put up with so much bureaucracy. Not only that, but they moved to Kuwait when it was expat friendly, and then watched it over the years turn into a country that dislikes its expat population (not all of you), thats difficult to take in as well. If you can’t get permanent residency or own property after living all your life in a country that doesn’t want you here in the first place, how can you retire in it?

I’ve already been in Kuwait for 38 years and I call it my home, but the reality is, no matter how long I’ll be here for, Kuwait can sadly never be my home and eventually, I’ll have to leave as well.


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Goodbye Alarm Clock

Post by Mark

Back in 2001 when I first moved back to Kuwait from university and started my first job, the first thing I did with my very first salary ever was buy an alarm clock. It wasn’t just any alarm clock, it was the Nakamichi SoundSpace 3. The alarm clock had a CD player and was composed of three square shaped pieces, two were clocks, one for each side of the bed, while the third piece was the subwoofer. It cost me KD220 back then which was basically half my salary, but I used to love the Nakamichi brand and this was love at first sight. The picture above is the oldest picture I have of the alarm clock and its from 2003.

The alarm clock stayed with me for 16 years, and in that time I went through 4 jobs, 4 different blogs, a marriage, a divorce, 5 cars, 3 apartments and 2 dogs. Last night after watching an episode of the show “Hoarders“, I decided I would finally throw the alarm clock out. Now I regret it of course.

It’s pretty sad and reminded me of the old IKEA lamp commercial. I sometimes ask myself if I was to start all over again, would I be able to leave all my things behind? After throwing out my beloved alarm clock, I think I can. This post is dedicated to you alarm clock, goodbye.


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My Q8 Grand Limo Experience

Post by Mark

A few days ago I posted about the app Q8 Grand Limo which I promoted as an alternative for Uber and Careem. That same night they sent out an SMS with a 248AM coupon code which would offer people 20% off on their trips. It kinda pissed me off since they sent it without contacting me first, nor did they even ask me if it was OK to use my brand. Nobody from Q8 Grand Limo had spoken to me at all so when I got the SMS myself, I was surprised and pissed. So I decided I wasn’t going to write about them ever again.

Then this morning I decided to try them out and had such a great experience I decided that even though I’m pissed off at them, they were so good that it would be a shame not to write about my experience.

I had to pass by the Lotus garage and pick up my car today so I pre-booked a ride for 9:30AM. I ended up waking up earlier than expected so canceled my pre-booking and reordered a cab to come right away. The time estimate given was 15 minutes and I could track the cab on his way over to my house via the app. Once the cab arrived, like with Uber, I got a notification letting me know he was here and I headed down to find a sparkling clean black Chrysler with dark tinted windows and a tan leather interior. The driver even came out to open the door for me and he was dressed in black pants, a white shirt, a black vest and a tie. First impression, it felt very fancy.

The driver had my location already plugged into Google Maps and we headed towards Rai using Google’s recommended fastest route. Once we got to my destination, he asked me how I wanted to pay and I said Knet, so he pulled out the Knet machine and I paid. The trip should have cost KD3 which is a steal for the experience, but I ended up using the coupon code “248AM” which they had spammed people with and I ended up paying just KD2.4. Thats from Salmiya to Al Rai. Very cool. It’s actually kinda of a relief that we finally have a decent cab offering. Next week I have to drop my car off again to ProTech to get window tinting and I’ll definitely be using them again.

So all is forgiven and I’m not that pissed off at them anymore. If you want to take advantage of the promo code, you need to enter 248AM in the promo code space while booking the cab. The expiry date for the code is end of the year but they’ve limited the number of times the code can be used to 1,000. So until the code is used a thousand times (by everyone not just you), then we will be able to get 20% off our rides. Thats a really good deal.

Update: OK, Q8 Grand Limo called me up now to explain the confusion. The promo code is just meant for me, it will only work with my phone number so you guys won’t be able to use it. I told them they should have called me an explained what it was before sending me the SMS without and that I already posted about it on the blog. So the person I spoke to said they’ll work on an updated promo code for my readers and send it to me when it’s ready to share.


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Hello Lotus!

Post by Mark

Those of you who follow me on instagram and twitter probably already figured out that I sold my beloved Datsun last week because I bought a Lotus Exige instead. It wasn’t a planned purchase, it just happened, I guess something like an impulse buy but on a grander scale. Last Saturday I went with a friend to check out a 1972 Chevy C10 pickup truck which I was planning to buy. On our way back I had to drop my friend off at a garage when I came across a used car lot that had a yellow Lotus Exige displayed for sale, the same one I had reviewed nearly a year ago. So I sent the Lotus brand manager a message about it and he told me if I had an itch to drive the Exige again, they had the roof off on their current vehicle and I could come in the next morning and take the car out for a couple of days. Who would say no to that?

The next morning I headed straight to the Lotus dealership and picked up the Exige. A few minutes after driving off in the car, I had a huge smile on my face I remembered why I loved it so much when I took it out last year to review. So when the brand manager messaged me back the next day to confirm I would be dropping the car off in the evening, I told him I had fallen in love with it and this time I wasn’t bringing it back. After a couple of days of negotiating on the price over whatsapp, I went back to the dealership and paid for the car. I’m still unsure if I got a good deal or not since I don’t consider myself a great negotiator (Tip: Do NOT tell the dealer you love the car), but I’ve got the car now with no regrets so thats all that matters.

When I originally wrote my review of the Exige last year, I described it as a car not meant for 99.9% of the people and I still stand by that. I actually spent most of that review complaining about the car. It’s extremely quirky to put it nicely with a lot of odd and unorthodox things about it. But, with all the issues I had with the car when I reviewed it, something about it really attracted me to it. I’ve reviewed a lot of amazing cars for the blog but nothing connected with me the way the Exige did. I love sitting inside the small cozy cockpit, I love the way it looks on the outside, I even love how awkward it is to get in and out of and I definitely love recording videos of my friends trying to get out of the car. If the Exige was a person, it would be an awkward introvert and I think thats why I love it.

There are only 3 Exige’s in Kuwait at the moment, my midnight blue one, a white one and a yellow one so it’s a pretty rare car and I feel special. But, I’m now curious to see what that means to the cost and availability of parts, supposedly service costs is similar to Lexus which is great, but I didn’t ask about the parts since I didn’t want to freak out and change my mind about buying the car. Speaking of parts, there is a pretty active online community of aftermarket parts and I’ve already got my eye on some carbon fiber body panels and other upgrades, but the first thing I want to modify on the car is the license plates. For some reason Alghanim (the dealer) installed square ones on the car but I think the wider rectangular ones would look so much nicer on it. So if anyone knows what the process is for swapping the square plates for the rectangular ones is, please let me know!


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14 Years Ago Today

Post by Mark

Just a random tidbit, 14 years ago today I posted my first post ever on a blog called Qhate. Before 248AM I had a blog called Miskan, before that I had another one called Moblogging from Kuwait (it was like instagram, but before instagram) and before that I had another blog called Qhate. Qhate was a war blog where me and a few friends were posting about life in Kuwait during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


My first post on February 6th, 2003.

Unlike my old posts here on 248AM, I don’t cringe when I read my old posts on Qhate. It kinda feels like I started off writing pretty well and then took a big dip in quality by the time I started 248AM, only to recover again years later. In around 10 days time its also going to be 248AM’s 12 year anniversary. Crazy.

All my posts from all my previous blogs are still online except for “Moblogging from Kuwait” since it was hosted on textamerica.com which shut down a decade ago. You can still find some stuff from it using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine but not much. I used to take all the photos and post to my blog using the Sony CLIÉ UX40. That was back when smart phones didn’t exist and Sony PDA’s were so ahead of their time.


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