Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Laughter is the Best Weapon

I just heard this quote on Good Morning America as they are discussing how Hilary Clinton laughs to disarm her critics and opponents:

The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter. Mark Twain.

Good old Mark Twain! That cagey old cynic said some great things. I found this wonderful web page: Brainy Quotes: Mark Twain

Here are some that I just love. Take a look and see what YOU like.

Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.

What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself.

We have the best government that money can buy.

To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal.

There is no distinctly American criminal class – except Congress.

There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.

The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.

Man was made at the end of the week’s work when God was tired.

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.

In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.

Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.

Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

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October 1, 2007 Posted by | Cultural, Humor, Language, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Words | 5 Comments

At Iftaar

You are breaking your fast, and we are king of the road! What’s not to love about Ramadan? You get all the spiritual rewards of fasting and praying, you get friends and family. We get the brief miracle of clear roads, available parking spaces and uncrowded malls. What’s not to love about this arrangement?

This is the road in front of us just as you are sitting down for Futoor:

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October 1, 2007 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Humor, Living Conditions, Ramadan | 13 Comments

Kuwait Public Transportation

There were two influences that came together for this post. First, a show on BBC about green taxes supporting green initiatives, like public transportation. Second, last night I saw a Kuwait public bus.

Does it seem to you that the buses in Kuwait are looking cleaner than a couple years ago? The one I saw looked new, was undefaced, looked modern, and the passengers on it looked orderly, cool and happy. There were no women.

So here is my question to you – what would it take to get you to use public transportation rather than driving your own car every day?

I have a shameful confession. I didn’t even learn to drive until I was 25. I didn’t need to. I was in Germany when I hit the driving age, and there was public transportation at reasonable prices nearly everywhere I needed to go. And it was trolleys; trolleys are a lot of fun. When I went off to university, I ended up in Seattle, which also had excellent public transportaton – in Seattle, public transportation is all integrated and includes buses, trolleys and ferries across the Sound.

The buses ran on time. Occasionally, I would hate the walk to the bus stop on a cold rainy day with a driving wind (hard on the hairstyle), but for the most part, the buses ran on time, and I could read or plan my work day on the way to work. I didn’t mind not driving, at least not much. When I did, I learned to drive.

What are the barriers to public transportation in Kuwait? What would it take to make me want to use public transportation?

First, due to the extreme weather, I would want almost door-to-door transportation. This could be done with a train/trolley system where you drive to a Park and Ride spot in your air conditioned car and then jump on an air conditioned trolley or bus. The bus or trolley would need to transit in an air conditioned facility, where we could switch to a mini bus which would drop us within half a block of our destination, i.e. frequent stops.

The system would have to have a schedule, to which it kept rigorously and reliably.

The system would have to have redundancies and back-ups, because mechanical failures and equipment failures happen.

The system would have to have well trained, knowledgable bus drivers who spoke some few words in multiple languages.

The system would have to have protected, non-damagable cameras on every trolley and bus, and would have to commit to prosecuting vandals and people who could not behave themselves on the bus.

It might have to have separate seating for unaccompanied women. *Sigh* It seems to be a fact of life here that women are fair game for harassment. I am thinking there could be advertisements along the upper over-window area, like in London and Germany, and some qur’anic inscriptions about respect for women. And maybe also the environment. Every vehicle would need to have at least one trashcan.

To have a usuable transportation system would require, also, a nationwide campaign for respecting the law, and rules. It would also need a nationwide public-stewardship educational program, “this is your country, keep it clean, no littering, etc.”

And it would need methodical, impartial enforcement of the laws. That would be a whole separate campaign, educating the public to respect the law enforcement officers (in the last two weeks, there have been multiple reports of police officers being beaten by citizens, police officers! Unthinkable!) And there would need to be a parallel educational campaign for law-enforcement, training on what the law is (i.e. a police officer is not “insulted” by being passed by a taxi that is under the speed limit) and their mission – and I think policework is a holy mission – to see that power is not abused, the weak are protected against the bullies, and that the laws are enforced gently and impartially.

Let’s face it, driving in Kuwait can be a real drag. Many times of the day you are caught in gridlock, there are yahoos on the road totally lacking in brains, there are drunks and druggies on the road – and parking is a nightmare. Public transportation could be a godsend.

And just to show we are serious, let’s make it FREE! How is that for an incentive?

bus_cartoon.gif

When I was going to live in Saudi Arabia, my primary concern was not being able to drive. I quickly learned it wasn’t so bad. There was a well stocked small store on our beautiful compound, and you saw all your friends there, and there was a message board, and a video store, a laundry, and most of the basics. There was a shopping bus that ran twice a day, and a group that met once a month to set up the shopping bus schedule, so it went where people wanted to go.

In addition, when you needed a car and driver, the compound had a few available, you could reserve them for a very reasonable fee.

It worked beautifully.

There is potential in Kuwait for a visionary transportation system. What would make it work for YOU?

October 1, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Experiment, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Weather | 7 Comments