Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shout-out from K-Dub!

I have several thoughtful and perhaps thought-provoking posts I am working on, but it seems every time I try to think of two thoughtful sentences in a row my brain crashes. Instead of leaving you weeping in your beds, missing my pointless rambling and desperately wondering when my next post will be (all five of you who read this) I decided to give a quick update on life here in the K-Dub. Happily, this includes photos.

Views of the Persian/ Arabian Gulf are beautiful, if monotonous. I like to gaze upon it and think, "I could go in that direction and completely lose personal rights; maybe skirt across the Gulf that way and find myself in an un-winnable war; or just go northeast and personally witness a growing revolution. Madness!"

Some days I just know I won't be running or going outside. Seth calls this "dusty."

Or a sandstorm blows in and if you happen to go outside sand will instantly coat your nostrils and mouth. They can last several days.

But rest assured that if your need for some new ink is insatiable, tattoo artists make housecalls.

When I buy my chickens I normally request that they be chopped into quarters or smaller, easy-to-eat sections so that I don't have to bother with it once I get home. A couple a days ago my guy also included the feet. I have seen Tony Bourdain eat chicken feet while visiting South Korea, but as Seth had no inclination to experiment I decided against the trouble of figuring out how to de-bone those suckers. On a different, yet similar, note: in that same episode I also saw Bourdain eat chicken anuses, but I think I would just feel inappropriate, like I owed the chicken dinner or something.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I've Been Missin' You

Since people often want to know what I miss when I am away from home (I assume they mean the States) I figured a handy blog would best explain my nostalgia. Considering I had a dream last night in which I thought of writing a blog like this before I realized I was no longer in Kuwait but actually back in the US I'd say the timing is spot on.
To be clear: I don't consider "fr
iends and family" as a valid answer for "what do you miss?" because those, to me, are a given. If I could take my closest friends, and perhaps a few family members, and bring them all together here (by here meaning "not Kuwait") I totally would. However, my nostalgia operates somehow along the guidelines of reality, so here it goes:

1. Wine - Not even beer or liquor, but just the ability to go down to the store, pick up a bottle and enjoy a glass or two at night - or 10am; whatever, I don't work - and perhaps find myself surprised at the little gem I discovered for only $5, rather than going to the store for sparkling grape juice, yeast and sugar and a week later expressing surprise at the malodorous vinegar I just c

2. American Washers - And dryers, just to be even. I don't know what miniature race washers here were invented for, but I would like something with the capacity to handle cloth
ing of an average-sized human adult. Think I am exaggerating? The first picture is an example of a typical outfit for the Sergeant: jeans, t-shirt, underwear, undershirt, socks. Please note the items crammed into the washer with space remaining for perhaps another t-shirt.

Plus the fact tha
t the setting for "cotton" takes 2 hours to complete. Seriously:

I either wash everything on "delicate' (53 minutes) or handwash. I saw these same miniscule machines in England; what the hell, people?

Lettuce - You may know I love salads, not because I am forever watching my weight (though I do) but because I love the myriad flavor combinations possible with them. I am under no delusions that lettuce topped with fried chicken breast, corn, beans, cheese, tortilla strips and ranch dressing is healthy - shit just tastes real good. However, iceberg lettuce costs about $6/ head, so I don't venture down that path ofextravagance. White cabbage is also expensive (!) topping out at around $8/ kilo. Pita bread, on the other hand, costs about 20 cents for a package of 6.

Recycling - I would say I have been "environmentally aware" since I was 8 or so - around the time I received my first issue of Ranger Rick. While I am currently nowhere near as involved as I once was, I like to at least recycle because to me it is an extremely visual way to reduce impact. Yet there is no recycling here. I drink 3 liters of bottled water a day (because it's better to drink than the desalinated water from the tap.) What am I supposed to do with all those? How do I reuse that many bottles each week!?

On the plus side, I do enjoy being able to simply switch my electrical outlets "on" or "off". If this was widely available in the States we wouldn't have to worry about all that unplugging nonsense: just turn off the outlet.


PS - I apologize for the wonky font settings. Apparently continues to befuddle me!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Currently I find myself in a bit of a quandary. Yesterday I was offered a part-time job teaching English at a language institute. The pay is 6KD/ hour (roughly $21) for a minimum of 3 hours/ day, 3 days/ week, but possibly more. I would interact with Kuwaitis on a more personal level and become acquainted with the country apart from the depressed grumblings of many of the American contractors here, plus would have something a bit substantial to put on my resume. The downside? Roundtrip taxi fare to the institute is 6KD, so there goes one hour of pay already, making my monthly pull only about $1000 - not amazing, though much more than the $0 I currently bring in. Also the hours during summer would be during the day but after summer would switch to evenings - heavily cutting into the little time Seth and I have together.

Another problem? Seth informed 3 days ago that there is potentially a job for me (finally) at his company. Having heard this for the past 5 months I did not get too excited, but was reminded that if I take a job there I would make much more money; have free access to gyms and libraries; cheaper access to Arabic classes; and our schedules would better match. Of course, it would also include having to deal with those same grumbling contractors on a daily basis, but whatever.

The actual quandary? If I take a job with the langua
ge institute they will take care of my work visa and provide me the necessary training. What if I actually get some job at Seth's company in the following weeks? Is it difficult to switch from one work visa to another? Will only my guilt keep me down? Maybe I could work during the summer but then quit when fall comes. I wonder what they would dock from my pay - shit, I need to find out what their employment contract looks like.

Honestly, I would like to start working again but I think the fact I haven't had a paying job since last July has left me frightened of revisiting the responsibility. And, of course, the fact I don't enjoy tea
ching English.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hello, I'd like to apply for the position of "idiot" - thank you.

I'm just going to come out and say it: my interviewing skills are awesome. If I have a chance at an interview, I will get the job. This is not conceit on my part, just confidence in my abilities, which include talking about myself.

I may have to adjust that opinion, though.

Yesterday I received a call from one of the schools I had given my CV - the India International School of Kuwait - requesting an interview. Of course, I said; awesome, I thought. I head down there today, dressed in my special occasion Ugandan dress and with game face. At reception I am given a simple form to fill out and am instructed to write an essay, 150 words or less, on the role of a teacher in a child's life.


Luckily, I had recently watched a Star Trek episode with relevant quotes from Spock, so I wrote about giving knowledge with discipline, along with the typical mentoring ideas and encouraging a child's mind to grow.

I was grasping.

I was also one of four others being interviewed (that day) and, while not trying to make assumptions based upon racial profiling, but I am pretty sure I was the only non-Indian there. No matter.

After waiting for an hour in the un-air-conditioned school building (I didn't cross my legs because of the sweat that would build up between them; attractive) where I was the sole target of the flies buzzing around, I was brought into a room before a panel of 5 administrators or teachers or something. No worries: I have interviewed with panels before and they only allow me to talk about myself even more. Except today I sat down and my brain went on a smoke break. And all 5 began speaking at once.

"Tell us about yourself."
"Why are you here?"
"You only have a visitor's visa; it's very difficult to get a job with that."

Me - "Oh no! I just have to leave the country and come back to get a work visa.
Or that's what I've been told."

"Where are your strengths?"
"What subjects would you like to teach?"
"You studied what, American history?"

I began my elevator speech, warming up a little to segue into reasons for being here, but they were having none of that. "No, German and African. I would like to teach either English or math. I arrived three weeks ag-"

"You can teach maths?"
"Pick any subject, then go to that blackboard and explain it to us."

Quick thinking, quick thinking. I actually hate teaching English - a positive attribute for someone who might be getting a job doing just that - and had no idea what to do for history, so math it was. "Uhh, ok. I, um, I'll choose basic algebra, because I find it easy to explain."

So I did a simple substitution problem: x +5 = 13. It is easy, so explaining it wouldn't take long anyway, but as I was finished in less than 40 seconds, I figure I was probably talking faster than a category 5 hurricane.

And then more questions:
"What is the purpose of algebra?"
"What are the different types of math?"
"How does algebra help with geometry?"

Me - "What is the purpose of algebra? Ahhh, that takes me back. Well . . . as you go to higher maths, such as geometry and calculus, all the formulas in those are based on algebra equations." (The intelligent response would be: Algebra is the foundation of all higher maths; algebraic equations.)

"Have you ever been to India? What do you know about India?"

For some reason all I could of were the tensions between India and Pakistan, so I repeated to myself, Don't mention Pakistan, don't mention Pakistan. "Uh, no. I, um, know you just had elections . . . India is a very popula . . ."

"What area would you visit?"

"Mmm . . . Mumbai? I have a friend who went and she spoke very highly of it."

"All right, if you are selected for the next round of interviews we will call."

As I stumbled into the hallway my brain decided to return and gave me this bashing:

Why did you spend so much time talking about history and then go explain math? Why not focus more on your math skills? You know more about India than that: what about India's role in East Africa? Punjab massacre, colonization, and on and on. Nice job on the role of algebra. "Hello, I want to teach this subject but I'm not really sure of its purpose." Dummy.

I think that job is a "no". Oh well, I still know how to balance my checkbook.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Back to the Daily Grind - and Chickens

Which entails a good deal of cleaning and dinner preparation, maybe a few hours on the internet reading the news or trying to figure out how expats get jobs. I think I have one teaching English, at least part-time, so that's a start - except the hours are in the evening, after the (adult) students leave work. The problem? The only time Seth and I have together are 30 minutes in the morning; a few hours at night; and his one day off each week. Taking a job where the full-time hours are 3:30-9pm would severely limit our time together and as one of the motivating factors for moving here was actually being able to touch one another, that could be a problem. Again, though, I'm at just starting part-time (though I don't know exactly when I start) so we'll see how it goes.

My first few days here I didn't venture into the meat market simply because I didn't know the fair price for a chicken (and because Seth doesn't like mutton, the other protein widely available), but once I found out I was all over it. I normally go to the same stall because the birds there are a decent size and the vendors are nice enough. You can also buy fresh eggs. How awesome is that? Many expats - especially Americans - don't buy food from the meat or fish market because they assume its unsanitary (what with everything in the open and all), but the markets are all halal and inspectors come around regularly to make sure the area is clean and up to par; plus, the building is air conditioned, so its not as though butchered meat is just hanging around in 115F heat. I think Westerners are put off by actually seeing a live animal, then having a chicken carcass handed to them a few minutes later. Buying disembodied chicken breasts adds a significant amount of space between you and the animal you are eating while also removing much of the work involved in cleaning the damn thing, but obviously detracts from the freshness of the meat.

Come on, though: a 2kg chicken and 30 eggs for a little over 2KD - that's less than $8! Why would anyone pass that up?

Plus this time the butcher included all the innards, including that deceptively delicious little nugget known as the gizzard which, thanks to Robert, aka The Goat Guy, aka The Chicken Guy, I know how to clean properly.
So as long as I remember that those eggs probably aren't pasteurized then it's all good, right? Yum.