Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Corporate Dancing

Maria, at A Time to Dance writes a lyrical and insightful comparison of Salsa dancing and the subtleties of corporate leadership – and followership. In a very original and poignant article, Maria juxtaposes her subjects with deft elegance.

September 12, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Entertainment, Leadership, Music, Relationships | Leave a comment

Accident Management



The sound is unmistakable. I hear it now and then. I look out and a truck has hit a bus, on a busy corner, near a busier turn-off.

I sigh. I dial 777. Thanks be to God, they answer promptly these days and within 30 seconds, there is someone on who can speak English. She asks good questions, she is efficient, and 1 minute later I am off the phone.

34 minutes later the police show up. I am guessing they are kind of busy, it is rush hour time.

Here is my question. In the US, in the EU and in many countries where I have lived, we are required to carry warning triangles, flares, etc. and if you are in an accident, you are required to put the warnings out, like 20 meters back from the accident, to prevent further problems.

I never see that happen. Honestly, I can’t even watch, it’s too heart stopping, because an accident is just an invitation to another accident until the police come and get the accidentees out of the road.

What are the official requirements in Kuwait if you are involved in an accident, other than waiting for the police to arrive?

Second question: at the same intersection we frequently have those traffic stops where the police block traffic to a narrow flow and check papers. I see people all the time talking to police and there is a body-language thing I don’t understand. Arms held straight, raised up, elbows bent and then brought down, straight, both at the same time. It might be supplication, begging for pity, throwing themselves on the mercy of the police because they don’t have papers, but it is not a gesture I know. I never see anyone cry (a favorite ploy of speeding girls in the US) and I am wondering if crying would work here?

September 12, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Community, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Social Issues | 7 Comments

Al Ahmadi Buffet, Crown Plaza

The Crown (Crowne?) Plaza has a new chef, hired especially to give the buffet offerings that extra something special. You can see it right away; the food displayed has STYLE! Or at least until the fourth or fifth diner has dished in!

My favorite part is the salads, but somehow I thought I was taking a photo of the shrimp and acocado, and I missed it . . .

And I got so busy with the salads that I totally missed photos of the main dishes, and the special pasta and schwerma guys, and the special Kuwaiti dessert stand, and the whole stand devoted to fabulous breads . . .

I love it that they give you tiny little dessert portions, so you don’t feel so guilty about taking a couple – or three. Actually, I see people who fill their plates with desserts. And Adventure Man says we can just start with dessert and work our way back to the salads. I like that idea.

September 12, 2007 Posted by | Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Kuwait | 12 Comments

Cultures Collide

Maybe “culture clash” is too strong, maybe it’s more like huge continents that kind of bump into each other and send a reverberation through both continents, more a slow grinding than a crash? And maybe, like rough stones tumbling in a barrel, as we rub our rough edges against one another over time, maybe we become smooth, polished gems?

I have a dear friend, one of those friends that when you can grab some time together you never run out of topics, and when they leave, you remember “Oh! I forgot the point of that story was . . . and I never got to it!” or “Oh! she was starting to tell me about the . . .. and then we segued off into something else!” This friend delights my heart; when you see her face, you can see her lively soul in her sparkling eyes.

Those eyes were looking at me in utter puzzlement.

“What do you mean you couldn’t find any celery?” she asked. “Didn’t you go to the grocery store?”

“Yes! I spent hours there! Big mistake, shopping just before Ramadan, me and everyone else in the village.”

“So why didn’t you just buy some celery?” she persisted.

“There wasn’t any celery! It was all gone!” i responded.

“How could it be gone?” she asked, incredulity in her voice, “Don’t they always have celery?”

Something is wrong with this conversation. We look at each other.

“Have you ever been grocery shopping just before Ramadan?” I asked her.

“I never go grocery shopping!” she replied.

(Can you hear those continents grinding?)

I sat down. I looked at her. I believed her; I don’t think this woman is capable of lying, she is innocent and straight-forward.

“You’ve never been grocery shopping?” I asked her, knowing that if she said it, it is true, but trying to figure out how this could even be possible.

“Well, a couple times, like when I was making that pie, but only for a few little things, not like food to feed the family.”

She has staff. They’ve always had staff.

So I explained to her that just before Ramadan, like in western countries just before Christmas, some items just disappear.

“One time, in Tunisia, olive oil disappeared! And eggs! And even tomato sauce, and these are all products made in Tunisia!” I explained. “Here,” I went on, “you know how it is, sometimes even when it is not Ramadan, things will disappear, but when Ramadan is coming, if you know you might need something, you have to plan way in advance. Your Mom probably has taken care of all that. ”

“I don’t think so,” she said, two little tiny worry lines creasing her brow.

“Your Mom doesn’t shop, either?” I asked.

“Not for groceries.” And she’s looking at me like I am from another world.

And I am. This friend is so patient with me, with my little ignorances. When you are a stranger in a strange land, you expect some of the big differences. Like Ramadan, that is a big difference, when the whole country becomes more religious and for a whole month the focus is on God, on fasting during daylight and gathering with family and friends and feasting at night, reading the Qur’an, submitting your sins and begging forgiveness. . .

It’s the little things that catch you up. You kind of assume that everyone lives life a lot like you do, and it can be a real shock to discover that in small, everyday things you take for granted, you do things very differently.

Some of my earliest memories are in the kitchen, cutting dates and prunes to help my Mom make fruit cake. I can remember stirring chocolate pudding as it cooked on the stove, making jello, simple things before I graduated to chopping nuts and onions, etc. And I wrongly assumed this is everyone’s experience.

I know I have shocked my friend, too, sometimes. I asked what I thought was a very simple question once, and watched her face become a mask of horror at the very thought. God bless her for her patience with me!

I bless all my friends today, my Tunisian friends, my Kuwaiti friends, my Saudi friends, my German friends, my French friends, my Qatteri friends – all the friends who have endured my chauvinistic mistakes, assuming all the world thinks as I do. I bless my American friends, because even though we are from the same nation, we, too, are from different areas and different family cultures (tribes!) and we don’t see through the same eyes, our views are colored by the culture through which we observe the world. Today I am thankfully amazed that we manage to get along as well as we do!

September 12, 2007 Posted by | Communication, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Ramadan, Relationships, Shopping, Spiritual | 11 Comments