Monday, February 23, 2015

Fly Bys

Liberation, digital sketch, Jamie Hurst

In a few days Kuwaitis will be celebrating National Day and Liberation Day (two separate days; National Day celebrates Kuwait and Liberation Day commemorates the end of Iraqi occupation from the first Gulf War (side note: President George Bush Sr. is still looked at very fondly here as are some aspects of American culture such as McDonald's). In preparation for the biggest celebration of the year, the military started practicing for an air show this morning. There are no laws here regulating how close to or fast aircraft can fly over buildings so you can imagine how loud it is when fighter jets break the sound barrier as they zoom directly over our building.

The first time it happened (that I was aware of) was a few months ago when they were preparing for a different air show. According to the news, things were deteriorating with the ISIS situation in neighboring Iraq and although everything here was status quo, I felt on edge. One day I was nursing Noah down for a nap when I heard the jets pass over. I tired not to completely freak my freak as it is said baby can sense such things especially when nursing. As soon as I could, I put him down to look out the window. There were four jets and three helicopters circling and circling. Just as I tried to calm down, a coast guard boat flew by at top speed in the direction of the helicopters. That isn't unusual but I was getting myself worked up. I called Gman to see if he knew what was going on, as the person who leaves the house every day I assume he knows all of the happenings in Kuwait. He had no idea.

Now I'm used to hearing fighter jets fly by several times without notice. Luckily Noah sleeps right through them. I can't. It's not just the noise, I want to watch them fly. Every time I watch them I think that must be the coolest job ever. How amazing would it be to fly in a plane like that? The adrenaline rush you must get every time…

Remember Top Gun and how bad ass all those guys were in the 80s? "baby, baby, I get down on my knees for youuuu…" Let's never forget the beach volleyball scene. Amen.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Burghead, Scotland, UK

When we went to Scotland last July we spent 10 days exploring the Scottish Highlands with our home base being in Dufftown at the Highland Spirit Bed & Breakfast (more on that later!). On our second day there, the weather was absolutely gorgeous - no clouds and in the 70s, a real summer day in Scotland where this type of thing is few and far between. Being a clear day, our hosts at the bed and breakfast suggested we take advantage and go see the coast. So we packed a picnic (a service offered at the bed and breakfast) and headed north for the day. We drove north on A941 through Elgin, then Lossiemouth where we headed west on B9040 to Burghead. Along the way we passed the Moray Golf Club which looked enticing with its fabulous links overlooking the North Sea. 

Burghead is a tiny little village situated on a peninsula that juts out into the sea. The entire town is only 10 streets wide and 7 streets deep. The site is believed to have been an important Pictish fort and now there is a lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula on top of the site. On a clear day from the lighthouse you can see far down the coast and into the sea. The keeper there knew our friends at the bed and breakfast. This happened at many of the places we went, making all of Scotland feel very homey. She enthusiastically described to us all you could see from the lighthouse from seagulls to dolphins and even whales! We enjoyed talking to her and learning about this little village tucked away by the sea. 

We planned on eating our picnic in a grassy area surrounding the lighthouse but it was too windy so we ate in the car. Although it sounds awful, it worked to my advantage because I could comfortably nurse the baby while I ate. 

After lunch we walked around the town on foot enjoying the perfect weather. Gman and my dad took Noah down to the water as the tide was very low and the flats exposed. I loved the crackling paint on this old boat named MacDuff that was on display by the docks and so was distracted taking photos while they explored. 

We took our time and were back to Dufftown before 4pm. It was one of those days you can only really enjoy while on vacation. We didn't do anything exciting or adventurous but just took our time checking out something new and had no real goal or agenda. I don't think many of us give ourselves permission to do that in our daily lives and it was very relaxing!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Daily Grind

Jamie Hurst, Daily Grind, digital sketch

Every time I open a new Word document and sit down to write a story or a blog post I get completely petrified. I can't think of what to say. Trying to fill the page with words is overwhelming and my mind becomes blank. Meanwhile, throughout the day my thoughts are filled with a continued dialogue of what I want to share and I feel like I'm screaming inside! I didn't realize what a part of my everyday life and thoughts this blog had become. It's been four years since I started it, and over the past year I've felt like it needed something different. Something more personal. A shared experience.

With all that being said, it turns out I have about an hour to myself a day (raises hands). With that time I'd like to write short thoughtful daily blog posts. These will be just a few sentences or maybe a few paragraphs or maybe sketches or photographs. I will still write longer posts about my travels and give as many recommendations for those travels as I can. But this way diving back in isn't so scary. How does that sound?

So on to today's thought/story…

At our local grocery store, The Sultan Center, and much like grocery stores everywhere, you can buy coffee. You can buy pre-packaged coffee or buy fresh grounds from the coffee guy. The coffee guy has a stand, more like a corner, in the store with an olive bar on one side and fresh nut bar on the other, I also frequent both of these. Around the corner is fresh produce and cheese. It's really all I need in life.

His corner has deep and wide wooden drawers filled with coffee. None of the drawers are labeled but he doesn't need them. He knows where everything is. There is a scale, two metal bowls (a small one and large one), two grinders, and a plastic wrapping machine on the counter (everything gets wrapped in plastic here. I mean why not? Oil is pouring out of the ground for nearly free just down the road! Plastic for everyone!) Above the counter is a menu that lists the following in English on one side and Arabic on the other: Royal Arabic, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, French, American. They are all the same price, about 2 KD for typical size bag which is roughly equivalent to about six USD.

The coffee guy really doesn't speak English but this is what I gathered each choice is: Royal Arabic is very lightly roasted whole coffee beans mixed with whole cardamom seeds then ground finely, almost to a powder. Arabic is the same but with no cardamom. Turkish coffee is similar to Royal Arabic but with a medium roast bean. French is dark roast or a mix of dark and medium roast ground less finely. American is a finely ground dark roast with milk. Greek is a finely ground dark roast with milk and coconut. (What?! More on this in a minute.)

The packaging of the beans is a production that Noah and I love watching. The coffee guy has the fluid of motion of someone who has perfected his craft. He does this and only this all day. Watching his hands move is mesmerizing. If you choose whole beans, he scoops them out of the draw with the small metal bowl and into the large one. He measure the amount on the scale and adds more beans as needed with a quick flick of the small bowl. After being weighed he moves the bowl to the counter. Ting, ting, ting, ting, as he turns the bowl and mixes the beans. In one motion he transfers the beans to a paper bag, not a single bean falling out, and folds the top down, staples it, flicks a plastic shopping bag open (or if you ask he will put it in a clear plastic bag and seal it) and puts it inside while grabbing the sticker with the price from the scale. This happens in less than a minute and with the expertise of a artist. All the while the intoxicating smell of freshly ground beans fills the air. I love it.

This time, I was insanely curious and had to buy the Greek coffee. First of all I'm from a Greek town in Florida (shout out to Tarpon Springs!) and I'd never heard of anyone adding coconut to their coffee there. I'd always had a cappuccino with my extra large serving of baklava. Secondly how was I to make this magical brew? The coffee guy had no idea what I was asking or how to explain.

I brewed it in my French press like I usually brew all coffee though I believe you could just put it in a cup and add hot water. Like a traditional Turkish coffee, the grounds settled on the bottom on their own. I got super excited because this was just as easy as making instant coffee, the milk was already in there, and it had a ton more flavor. The coconut was subtle but added a nice complexity that had me coming back for more. It's really the little things in life that make each day.

What is your coffee shopping experience like?
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