Saturday, January 28, 2006

Yippee! Sabah Al-Ahmad!

I am so glad that Sabah Al-Ahmad is the Emir. You go, boy! I guess a lot of Kuwait was suffering from the pucker factor considering the alternative. I know I was. And now… the birds are singing, the sky is blue… I can't wait to see what is in store. I hope the bedoon issue is resolved and soon. Let's get on with it.

Did you see Sara Al-Haji's story in Bazaar about what new years resolutions she would like to see Kuwait make (and keep)? A synopsis (paraphrased by me):

I promise to clear the garbage off Kuwait's streets
I will plant more foliage on major roads and roundabouts
I promise never again to spend money on pathetic electric palm trees (let's all thank Dr. Jassem Al-Mudhaf for that one)
I promise to sort out traffic problems and the disgraceful state of our roads
I promise not to allow construction companies to screw me over by doing a lousy job (paraphrased that one big time)
I will encourage authorities to foster a team environment in government and business with lessons learned.
I will recognize outstanding Kuwaitis
I promise to educate people on the dangers of living close to high voltage towers
I promise to enforce traffic laws with stricter fines and penalties.
I promise a public awareness campaign on child safety seats.

I like Sara. Haven't met her, but she's a good writer and right on point.

I would add a few:
To weed out corruption in both the government and private sector and adding laws to enforce and penalize organizations that are continual violators.
Labor law reform and enforcement. In conjunction with this, a centralized and friendly labor education office for information and assistance (in several languages)
Updating family law and creating safe shelters for women and their children.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

God, The Country, The Emir

In the words of Asrar Al-Qabandi: "Allah, Al-Watan, Al-Emir!" ("God, the Country, the Emir.") This was her motto during her days of the resistance. If you don’t know who Asrar is - I implore you to go forth and find out. She was a national hero and her life was worth what will amount to a brief internet quest. She echoes the sentiment felt by many Kuwaitis about Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

My personal history with this country stretches back most of my life, so it is only logical that I should form an opinion of its rulers. I have always held an affection for the ruler who passed away this week. Sheikh Jaber’s accolades since the beginning of his rule in 1977 are well known. The affection his people (and others like myself) felt for him may not be as apparent – at least in English language periodicals. There just isn’t enough being said in English to reveal the heart of this country – often referred to in the Western media as a "tiny oil-rich country".

Long before I ever came to Kuwait, I had known members of the Sabah family and through them, I have felt their love and admiration for Sheikh Jaber. They spoke of his kindness and genuine concern for his people and his country. Diplomats of various nationalities discussed his humble attitude; some bowing their heads when speaking of him.

The closest I have felt to Sheikh Jaber was during the Gulf War when he stood before the United Nations, in tears, asking for the worlds help in liberating his country. At that time, there was concern that he appeared weak by showing emotions in a global forum. I thought not. I admired him for his genuine heartfelt sadness and grief. Although he was a figure head, he felt (and was not ashamed to display) the same raw, sandblasted emotions that all of us who suffered losses during that time did. He showed a human side that I believe is lacking in many of leaders of today. I remember how people showed their affection for the Emir during that time while I was in Washington, DC. Sheikh Jaber’s picture was everywhere; T-shirts and photos of him whenever there was a demonstration or gathering. Then, I started to think back about how long I "knew" the Emir (while growing up in the States). Although we went through terms and terms of US presidents, the Emir had been in power since 1977. So, if he had such an impact on me personally – on the other side of the world – how had he impacted Kuwaitis? I grew up seeing clips of the Emir surrounded by colorfully-dressed, smiling and singing little kids who obviously adored him.

Within a week of the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the Kuwaiti government was working from Taif in Saudi Arabia. The Emir worked with the US (George Bush Sr.) and other global leaders to come to the aid of his country. Effectively, he saved his own country through negotiations and cleaver lobbying. The Emir was loved. The resistance fighters wrote slogans (like Asrar’s) as graffiti to psychologically terrorize the Iraqis during the occupation. For his name and his photo alone, they risked their lives. Love doesn’t get much deeper than that.

I never met Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah personally, although I blew him flying kisses on the Gulf Road whenever I saw his motorcade drive by – usually on my way to work in the mornings with my Kuwaiti friend, Nahid, who thought that I was out of my mind. I didn’t care. Maybe one day he would see me and smile and my task would have been complete.

As the official condolences take place and as people here jostle to determine who will be put into the ruling seats, much of the display appears superficial; Perhaps people want to back the winning horse in the race. There are other terms for it, but that is what happens when the old pass the reins to the new. Newcomers to Kuwait may not understand the implication of these historic days.

I called Kuwaiti friends to offer my personal condolence. I received many similar words of comfort from Kuwaiti friends right after 9/11 – even though I was here in Kuwait and relatively removed from the situation at the time. It is about connections. It is about humanity. All of my friends are saddened by a national loss.

What does Kuwait’s future hold without Sheikh Jaber? I’m sure that the politics and progress will continue in capable hands. Time marches on. This is a decade of amazing change in Kuwait; a time that I am very happy to be in the midst of. However, I find it hard to imagine a Kuwait without Sheikh Jaber’s picture on billboards and signage (and in almost every shop) waving hello. It is as if an old and trusted friend has gone.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Goodbye, Dear Friend

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

I have been depressed - as many of my Kuwaiti friends are today. He has been around for most of my life - both here and when I was in the States. He was brought into my circle of people I care about by Kuwaiti friends who spoke fondly and compassionately of him throughout the years. "If I love you, I love those you love." We carried his picture during the Gulf War. We watched him on TV. We passed along tidbits of information about him and his life from diwaniya through the phone and back again.

Like an aging member of the family, everybody expected him to pass away, but now that it has happened, it is still a shock.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hello Peeps

I know I haven't posted in a while. I am now in the mood for some incessant ramblings about nothing in particular. I'm so pathetic and superstitious that I felt like every time I wrote something good, that someone out there was giving me hot eyes (you know who you are and so do I). I blame superstition for absolutely everything that goes wrong in my life – so why not? Hot eyes are to blame for most of my car problems. For real. Hot eyes make me get in arguments when things are going perfectly well with perfectly good relationships. The damn hot eyes are everywhere. Western countries don’t have the evil eye problems we do here. Why? Because people in other parts of the world are actually busy doing other things besides having the time to be envious of whatever whoever has. That's why. That is my hot eye philosophy in a nutshell.

Oh, and if a black cat crosses in the street in front of me – I don't care how far I have to reverse down the street to go around it. If I don't, all Hell will surely break loose.

Do you know what pisses me off? Mechanics and gynecologists. Neither one can ever seem to fix a problem, they always charge you too much, and they never really explain what is going on. It is worse in Kuwait because as far as I am concerned, there are "professionals" who are not necessarily skilled here. The same can be said about both: Get OUT of my engine if you don't know what you are doing!

And while we are on the subject of engines….. I am still baking. Well, now it is more like shaking and baking. Tee hee. Some people actually DO know what to do inside of an engine, so…. (ok, enough said). Domestic bliss is suiting me very well. My friends like my guy. He looks very serious and all of a sudden, he'll say something that leaves you laughing uncontrollably. Good sex and good humor are the keys to life, my friends.

Have you ever heard of FP? It is a syndrome whereby you are in a relationship with someone and all of a sudden, members of the opposite sex are all over you like white on rice. FP actually refers to "flying p*&sy" (I refuse to write that word) where you have to dodge it because it comes at you so fast. (I guess I could change it to "flying penis" for the masculine angle.) Eddy Murphy did a skit about this in "Delirious". My friend, Bobarino, suffers from FP. As a single American guy, he finds that it comes at him faster (green card, green card) and more frequently; Mostly from waitresses and service industry girls. I guess I don't have that problem because I'm so mean to everybody service (or lack thereof) oriented (don't kid yourself, DG – it is because of your fat ass). FP comes to me in other forms. All of a sudden, because I am actually with someone, everybody in the whole world seems to be giving me The Eye. Very odd.

My friend, the Romanian, has been looking into getting collagen injected into her non-existent, flat ass. This is the butt (ha ha) of endless jokes for us. Will she make swishing sounds when she walks? What happens if it migrates in a ball down the back of her leg? What happens if it is pushed too hard (and how)? All this – at the price of 250 kd. Charmin costs about a dinar. That's all she needs to do is to stuff her jeans with toilet paper. What's the problem? Either that or she can have some of my butt fat for free. Sheeeeeeeeeet – everybody wants to be J Lo.

And speaking of wildlife… I love it that the Kuwaiti version of the environmental protection agency (PAAAFR) has asked people not to hunt migratory birds because of the bird flu. Ha ha. I love it that the birdies are fighting back. People here will shoot anything that moves. A certain sheikh friend once invited me to go (by helicopter) to a wildlife refuge in northern Kuwait to shoot birds (environmentally PROTECTED birds). He's probably eating lamb right about now. 'Gee, is that cough bird flu?'

Anyhoooooooooo (Purgy), it has been nice ranting to cyberworld. :D