Saturday, March 20, 2010

about what? kuwait, that's what

I tell Justin I'm going to post to my blog and he says, "About what?"

"I don't know. Just a post. Let people know I'm alive and kicking."

"Oh. I thought you were going to do something Kuwait-ish."

"What?"

"You know. Something about Kuwait."

Yes, indeed. I am working on a couple of different mini-essays (destined to be posted at some point) about life here in Kuwait. At some point, I'll tell you about the traffic here. We bought a car and take possession in June, so I've been keenly aware of frightening driving habits. One friend told me that you can't really look when you enter a roundabout here: you just have to drive in and hope for the best. And I've been noticing things like: paint scuff marks on the concrete medians, wrecked cars along the highway shoulders, a single red car door lying in the middle of an exit ramp median.

I'll also tell you about the concerns of some of my students: that Kuwait is losing hold of its traditional religious and cultural values, trading the old in for the Westernized. I have heard my students express opinions about other Gulf countries who have Westernized even more rapidly (Dubai, Bahrain), allowing alcohol purchase. There's a price to Westernization - one that perhaps even a few Westerners are beginning to realize - but there is also a greater challenge facing those who wish to return to tradition. Swimming against the current.

I'll also tell you about the contrast that stands up and waves its arms: great mansions lining littered streets; an astoundingly high diabetes rate among our host nationals when they have wealth to protect and care best for their bodies. I'll tell you about charities here extending help and hope to third country nationals who cannot afford groceries or proper clothing.

I think that it takes a long time to sort through a new culture. I have made some judgements already. I wait for some of my assumptions to be challenged. At some point, I want to try to put into words how living abroad has made me eat up stereotypes so that I'm always having to spit them out, blink to clear my vision. I keep asking God to help me to see people as people. Not lumped into this or that group. I think that teaching this semester has actually allowed me unique insight: teaching literature opens up discussion channels that other subjects don't always have time for; I've been learning a lot from my students - Kuwaiti or not - about life here.

And I also have to tell you about what I'm enjoying here: walks to the beach, looking out the window to see the Gulf. I have always wanted to live near a great body of water, and here I am. The food - my latest find is the shwarma, a wrap with chicken or falafel with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a sauce whose name I can't remember. I'll have to tell you about the malls, which I don't adore, but which give us places to walk in the heat and are beautifully designed. A friend who lived in the Kuwait awhile ago told me about the beautiful malls and I rolled my eyes: I'm not a mall person. But some of the malls here really are beautiful. And of course, I'll tell you about people watching, which happens to be my favorite thing to do at any one of those beautiful malls.

So this post promises more about Kuwait. Give me time to figure out how to say it.

5 comments:

The Chapples said...

I love hearing about your experiences!


Dumb question: what's your medical care like over there? Any differences with the way your pregnancy is handled?

jsmarslender said...

Good question. We have great health coverage through our school. Insurance covers just about everything. There is a clinic nearby I went to for my cough, but I go to a different hospital for OB care. I'll post a link to their site and tell you more after my next appointment.

Joanna Goodman said...

I will probably spend a fair amount of time at the mall this summer to have a cool place to walk with the kid. Beautiful, it isn't :) But air conditioned is what matters most. I don't know how you take the heat there, Sarah. It gets hot and slightly humid here, stays above 100 for 3 months straight, and by the end I feel completely spent and crabby about the whole thing. It doesn't help that we don't have central air, but we'll be happy this summer adjusting to life with a baby... and just brace ourselves again for a Texas summer...

jessica said...

"drive in and hope for the best"

!!!

I think I'm going to have nightmares tonight about maneuvering through traffic like that!

Kuwait sounds like the type of place you have to live in to really soak up. Very interesting.

Angela and David Kidd said...

Awesome. Can't wait to read more stories. I am blown away by the lives you guys have carved out for youselves. Such amazing experiences. And good luck driving. Yikes.