Life is a series of choices. Every step is a choice, an option, a decision. We try our best to make these choices based on what we know. What we pick may not be based on what is right and what is wrong, but what we believe in our minds and hearts. Whatever we do decide, we have to compromise. It is always one or the other.

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Typical, So Typical

Why is it that when a guy or a girl does something that we generally perceive as negative we say, “Oh, such a typical Kuwait!” We are so used to this phrase that we don’t even think to consider what is actually a typical Kuwaiti. Some may think, “Oh but we know what a typical Kuwaiti is.. it is a guy or girl who is superficial.. cocky.. got bad English.. blah blah” Really? It is generally that bad?

It recently dawned on me that most of the Kuwaiti population do not fit the profile so well. Could it be that those who hold on to nationalism and brag about it, and somehow believe that it gives them some holy right just because of their nationality are actually those who associate these negative attributes to the population? Possibly.

So who or what are typical Kuwaitis? Most (based on my knowledge) are good people, sincere, generous, and friendly people, they do complain a lot but that is what adds to their understanding of others. Are there qualities that you believe are real and typical of Kuwaitis?

Erasing the Social Class Lines

RL000657Many of the expatriates in Kuwait, are in the lower income segment of Kuwaiti society. What this means is they can not afford many of the luxuries we (Kuwaiti citizens) entertain ourselves with. We see them everyday, everywhere, and it is not easy not noticing the difference between a relaxed well-dressed Arab, and a tired foreign low income worker.

There is one place where these social classes disappear, and that is currently at the mosque. We all stand in lines, before God and pray, together. We are equals in front of God. I was sitting pondering this today and thought, “Who are we to not see others as equals, when to God we are all equal?”

To my left, was a man, from an African country. He was dressed in rags, and seemed a little dirty, probably from working out in the sun during the day. On my right, was another man, who was also from an African country. He too, was dressed in what seemed to be an old, somewhat torn, colored (signifying home casual attire) Dishdasha. I, on the other hand was wearing a clean white Dishdasha, had also applied some musk and incense oils before leaving to the Masjid.

Socially, the difference is obvious, but I didn’t think of it that way, at least I don’t anymore. It took some time to get used to. It was always an us-them sort of thinking. It was easy to think of the foreign workers as less, especially in our society. Growing up and seeing how servants are treated, how supermarket workers are sometimes scolded, you grow to think that that is the norm.

I learned to change that within myself. It took time, but it is changing still. I had always thought and considered that these men around me, were probably better people than I am. For all I know, they could be working really hard, and yet, be doing such great things, maybe not on a grand scale but still, great things nonetheless. They could be supporting a huge family, taking care of a stray pet, donating money, putting smiles on other’s faces.

Usually it is only what we see that we think about. There is a whole world out there, one which we do not really see but exists in people’s lives that means much more to the current world we live in that we take for granted. 

…and they’re off

Sprint Race You hear the water dripping, the zippers zipping, and the kettles on the stoves whistling. You hear the keys clinging, doors slamming and car engines igniting.

The clocks are ticking. Every second counts. The engines roar, sucking up gasoline as the person behind the wheel waits… waits.. just a bit more for the car to heat up. Their feet press the breaks as their hands quickly swivel around the gear, and shift into D for Drive. Their feet compress the gas pedal, and the engine roars and the tires spin out of control onto the road…

…to work.

In other news, The Olympics 2008 have started in Beijing if you have not heard already.

??? ?????

I got pulled over at the bida’a round about because I was talking on the phone. I wasn’t pissed, it was more of, “oh you got me” kind of mood heh. He asked me to turn and park behind him. I went ahead and did that, and waited while he gave me a ticket.

The conversation went something like this:

Policeman: Nasser, wain saken? (Nasser, where do you live?)
Me: [Insert City here]
Policeman: Sheno a9lek? (What is your origin? [Could also mean where are you from, or what tribe do you belong to]).
Me: Kuwaiti.
Policeman: *Puzzled* Eh sheno a9lek? (Ok, what is your origin?)
Me: Eh Kuwaiti……….  (Kuwaiti…)
Policeman: ee sheno? 3nezi? 3azmi?.. (What?… Azemi? Anezi?)
Me: Oh–

Then another cop interrupted to ask about what they would have for dinner. Our conversation died out I didn’t get to tell him which tribe I was originally from. Funny thing was, while he was asking it didn’t even slightly cross my mind that he was talking about tribes…

And if you were wondering, he gave me the ticket anyway.

Racism: Erasing the social identities

Standing out Every time I look at someone, I pass judgement – quickly and swiftly, and most likely unconsciously as well. I can’t help but analyze what the person is wearing, doing, and even who he/she is with. I examine their surroundings and establish a basic stereotypical judgement. However because I have been taught better, I do not act alone based on these preconceptions. Instead, I slowly eliminate these identifiers that allowed me to think that way. Slowly, but surly I see in front of me, a man, or a woman just like any other person.

Still, whatever I decide to do with my preconceptions, does not change the truth and reality about a person, or situation. A person may be proud of themselves for being a certain color, or of a certain race – with or without arrogance. Would I truly be doing him/her justice by making them equal to everyone else? To better understand this, it would make sense to define equality.

Ms. Dorman, a 9th Grade American History teacher defines equality on her web site as:

The condition of possessing substantially the same rights, privileges and immunities, and being substantially responsible for the same duties as other members of society.

I can’t help but come to the conclusion, that we cannot all be equal, except with regards to the law, even then some laws might apply to some, and not to others.

We are still all very different. We take pride in who we are and where we come from. I don’t see racism as calling someone black, or white, or red, or yellow. I see racism as oppression of these attributes. If I belittle someone, regardless of color, gender, social status, then that is racism.

Now, I do not see people as the same anymore, or equal in every way. I see them as being different and unique, and recognize the pride they have in who they are, where they are from, and what they’re all about. Solving the issues of racism shouldn’t erase our social identities, but rather enforce our pride, without arrogance in who and what we are.

Friday, The day I went to the mall with my Backpack

This past weekend I went to see Iron Man with a couple of friends. I was out at a coffee shop before our meeting and had my laptop with me. I arrived at the mall before my friends did so I chilled at another cafe with my laptop, and I started working.

My Trusy Backpack The night started to get exciting when I went to pray. There I was, walking in the mall, with my somewhat strange looking backpack. I felt uneasy, people were there to have a good time and do whatever it is they do, and there I was with my backpack, walking, in the mall.

I didn’t pay much attention to it, until I started getting stares. They were stares of fear. Why? – I wondered why would people fear a guy with a backpack, walking, in a mall, full of people, on Friday night. Wait a minute. Do they think I have a bomb in my bag? Oops.

People cleared my way as  I walked, their casual walk was turned into quick pacing. They walked passed me in slow  motion, whispering to each other I can only see their lips move, mouthing the word “bomb..” and “oh my God”. I tried not to pay too much attention and tried to look normal, as I normally would. I couldn’t, with all the pressure of staring eyes.

I tried to distract myself.

I took out my mobile to check the time, phone calls, etc. As I took it out, I heard gasps! What happened now! – I thought. Oh no, don’t we always hear about the bombs being triggered by cell phones? Crap, I just made it worse. The environment around me got very uncomfortable, I put on a crooked smile, and continued walking to the prayer room.

It only got worse as I left the prayer room. Here I thought people would assume I had prayed my final prayer, and was ready to disintegrate myself and everyone around me. There were moments where I felt people were going to jump me, and tie me down to stop me from such an action.

P.S. Events and actions my have been exaggerated. Just a bit. A little bit. Tiny bit.

What it means to be an Introvert in Kuwait

An introvert is a person who is energized by being alone, and drained by being with other people. Sometimes Introverts are thought of as being shy, although that may be true, that is not necessarily always the case. Being an introvert only means that you appreciate your alone time and chose to be alone to regain your energy and stabilize yourself before going to a group of people. Extroverts are the opposite: they are energized when they are with groups of people and their energy is drained when alone.

Poll Question: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Please participate and vote on the right. Thank you!

Our culture in Kuwait is an extremely social culture due to the small size of the country and population. There is always someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows probably everyone. Families are also large, and some families are also very well connected because of family and marriage ties.

When we consider these facts, we realize that mostly no week goes by without some family occasion. These occasions are sometimes weekly, or appear suddenly; a cousin getting married, a baby being born, a nephew graduating, someone passes away, someone is sick, someone leaves the country, someone comes back from a trip, a celebration, an anniversary, and the list goes on.

I have noticed that introverts are mostly misunderstood. They prefer to be alone so the extroverts (and misinformed introverts) see them as anti-social. They criticize their behavior as wrong and that people should always interact with others when given the choice and should never turn down an invitation. To an extrovert, this may sound like heaven, but to an introvert, especially one who values his or her rejuvenation time would see this itself as energy-draining. Just the thought of meeting and talking to all those people for hours on end.. has got me out of energy to complete this post! *tehee*.

A person is usually born an introvert or an extrovert, it is not a choice. This has to be considered by parents who find their children behaving in that way. When a child chooses to not want to participate with other groups it does not mean the kid is being stubborn, generally at least. It is perfectly normal and being social is not about being around people, it is mostly about being connected to those people in some way or other.

Foreign labor is destroying our country; Part 2

In part 1 of this series I only opened up with a question for all to answer. The question was: Has foreign labor affected our country negatively? I do admit, I got some very positive feedback from everyone. I thank you all very much!

Many of you mentioned that the topic of foreign labor is very large. We cannot talk about every aspect of this topic in detail and hope to reach some positive outcome in the end. I picked the issue of responsibility for today, as I believe it is one of the most important effects of foreign labor in our community.

I thought about why most people do not like to work here. Why do they prefer to take the easy way and have someone else do it for them, or do a very poor job and be OK with that. I came to the conclusion that these people do not understand the importance of their work, and the repercussions it has on society as a whole.

Where does this lack of responsibility and accountability come from? There are a couple of ways a person can end up that way, and I have developed a theory. I could be wrong, I could be right; this is only my personal opinion.

When we start to import foreign labor and depend on foreign workers to do our jobs, we become at ease. We start to enjoy living a casual life, and become dependent on these foreign laborers. How do you think a small child would act and think when he sees that his parents depend so much on a maid or a driver to do their work?

You might say, “…but there are rich people who have servants do everything for them!” These rich people are known to be strict to force their children to learn about responsibility, and accountability while still enjoying a regular life full of servants and drivers who do a lot of their work for them.

This is evident when you go to a government bureau. Who knows what everything is, and how things need to be done? It is usually the tea guy, the farrash (janitor), or the courier. These employees are paid low wages, and they know how everything is done because they are the ones who are doing most of the work*.

The problem revolves around the dependency on foreign labor. We can see this when we compare ourselves to the west. — pause. I said we can compare ourselves to the west, but that would probably turn off a lot of people who think, “Why do you want to be like USA… All the Kuwaitis want to be modern and westernized.” Fine then, let us compare ourselves to how we used to be in the older days.

People lived simple lived, in simple homes. Everyone in the house had a job to do and men were men, women were women. Regardless of the question of equality, everyone had their own responsibilities and they developed that since they were young. They only depended on themselves, and the idea of being responsible and accountable for their actions grew in them.

These people grew up to be responsible people. They grew to be people who had done some hard work earning a living. For those who were at home, they cleaned and cooked on their own. They knew when something had to be done; it had to be done right.

You may wonder if this is going to be it. Am I just going to stop here and finish complaining? That is not all, I have thought of a solution. Again, this is my personal opinion.

How can we learn to be more responsible, and how can we raise a more responsible generation? Is the answer to exile all the foreign workers? No. There are two main influential parts of society that have to take a role in this solution. The families and the government.

The families need to teach their children about responsibility. They themselves might find it hard, but they must learn and must teach their children. You can teach by giving chores, by recognizing hard work and encouraging working together, for a better good (in this case, the betterment of the situation at home for example.)

The families need to limit the roles and responsibilities of the laborers. You can’t have the worker do every single thing for you. You have to be the role model; you have to get up and go get your own things. You’d have to do your own work, especially if you want it done right and done your way.

The government has to enforce accountability and responsibility from the top down through its own hierarchy. They have to teach their employees that every single paper in a file is important. Losing that document is not an option.

They have to preserve the rights of people. When there is a sense of responsibility and accountability there is a natural inclination to deciding what is best for the country as a whole, and not make decisions based on personal affiliations, or personal grudges against others in the community.

Again, I wish to clarify that this is a personal opinion. This is not based on any research, or scientific data, but the science of my mind and what I see and hear. I would hope, and pray that the situation does get better in this country. I am doing what I can, by speaking my mind and putting this out there in hopes that those of you can learn something or see something from a different perspective. Thank you for taking the time to read this very long post! God bless you all!

* I understand this is not true to all agencies, but this is an opinion of a lot of public offices and ministries.

My Girlfriend’s Boy Friend

Two women dancing with a man This isn’t about my imaginary girlfriend’s boy friend, rather about the idea of a spouse or a partner who has friends of the opposite gender. I was talking with a friend about this topic and she said she would want her partner to accept her male friends.

What about you? Would you accept your girlfriend’s boy friends? Would you accept your boyfriend’s girl friends?

If you are or when you do get married. Will things change as well? Will you accept your wife’s male friends? Would you accept your husband’s female friends?

If your answer is to accept but with limitations, then what are these limitations?

If you would refuse, why would you refuse and how would you let your friends know you can’t be friends with them, or what would you do?

Burning Car in Rumethiya

Question: Are you traveling this Eid or New Year, or both? I know there is a long way between both vacations but I’m sure expats who have left for Christmas or are planning to leave soon will be gone until after the New Year (please take me with you). What are your plans?

Burning Car in Rumethiya As I was driving to work this morning, I passed by what was obviously a burning car. I can only assume that the people in the car have fled the scene and were getting some help.

I was very tempted to stop and get the fire extinguisher out of my car and use it, however there was no way to get to the burning car without obscuring the current path I was in.

What shook me was that there wasn’t ANYONE who was standing there using some type of fire extinguisher to put out the fire! Wasn’t it required by law that every car have one? How long has this car been burning already? I’m sure it has been at least burning for five minutes, I could see the flames from the opposite light!

I’m slowly beginning to believe that in a time of crises, people would flee rather than help, which is a very very sad thought.

Reserved, going to add something here later.