Last night, I gave more thought to the phone call I received yesterday from the embassy and I am really very impressed.
It actually takes less time to call than it would to send a letter. A phone call is also a lot more personal – especially if someone like the woman who called me takes the time to call.
If the Ambassador knows about my blog, it means that someone at the embassy is preparing research reports on what is happening around Kuwait - including what is being said on the blogs. This fascinates me. I know that the Emir's staff has done the same for him for years (not so much on the blogs, but that is changing) - and that he is actually quite educated on current social trends and goings-on (and takes the time to read the comments that have been left on the Amiri Diwan website). To know that our own embassy is doing similar research is outstanding. (I was sorry to see that the US Embassy’s website online option of “send a message to the Ambassador” is no longer there.)
I always tell newcomers to Kuwait that to get to know your new host country, you should keep informed through the blogs (unfortunately kuwaitblogs.com listing hasn’t been kept updated and a lot of the blogs listed are quite old).
My mother doesn’t believe that blogs are a good thing because the writers don’t have researchers and fact-checkers and that they could write anything which others could read and believe as truth. I don’t agree with that. I think that blogging is similar to writing an opinion piece for a magazine or newspaper; it is about your perspective. It is a given that people won’t do in-depth research and fact-checking.
But hey – if you have ever written for any newspaper in Kuwait, you’ll know that there is no fact checking in the media. I wrote a script for KTV2 years ago on the fish kill problem. It wasn’t an exact science; in fact, we didn’t have enough copy to stretch out for the entire program. So, I sat in the studio next to the director and wrote more. I could have said just about anything – and it would have been broadcast. I also did the voice-over, so I probably could have adlibbed a LOT. (By the by –after doing research about what killed the thousands of tons of fish in Kuwait Bay in 2001: my opinion is that it will happen again. You’ll never see me swimming in the Bay – ICK!)
I told my mom about the phone call yesterday. I also told her that I occasionally poke “fun” at the embassy (UASS etc.). She told me that I should behave as a representative of my country… etc. etc. I don’t discriminate. I make fun of everyone. One of my absolute favorite things about Kuwait and Kuwaitis is their innate ability to laugh at themselves. (You won’t find that in many other Arab countries; and in some cases where people have had a laugh at the country, they’ve ended up in jail.) I think more Americans should be like the Kuwaitis in that respect. We’re not allowed to laugh at our own foibles? I think too many Americans have taken patriotism to the nth and decided that we are the best – without any negative aspects to our society or political system. As they say in Kuwait, “Yeh!” Dudes, loosen up.
Look at how successful the “Axis of Evil” comedy tour has been. It bridges common ground. It is OKAY to laugh at your political system or culture (perhaps not yet in China.... although I do work with the Chinese and they are very funny guys when they want to be).
One thing that I liked about Ambassador Jones was that she seems to be armed with the same change-making ammunition that I am: a sense of humor. You can do so much if you make people laugh or make them happy. It disarms them immediately. It is all about finding a common ground with your audience. I didn’t find her haughty or unapproachable – at all. In fact, I felt that I could be myself around her (which as my friends will tell you is not always a good thing). I’m sure it’s not just me. Judging from pictures I have seen of her lately in the media with Kuwaiti decision-makers, she is having the same affect on them.
As a woman, it is even more important in this society because you need to immediately find a common ground – and sometimes it isn’t always easy to do. I see Nouriyah Sabieh working the humor angle: She always looks like she is telling someone the BEST joke; everyone is happy and at ease. People want to be around her. Even people who don’t know her (like me) want to be in her presence. I’ve tried to use the humor angle with the long-bearded dudes at times; they usually come around, even if they don’t want to. You can catch a smile or a look and you know that you’re “in”. All of a sudden, you become human to someone who might have just viewed you as the opposition.
My sister uses a fascinating tactic in her business. She’s been in sales for years and owns a huge healthcare/IT placement company (that was just voted as THE best place to work in Washington DC - YOU GO GIRL!). She has amazingly gorgeous blue eyes; dazzling at times. She has always won business by being sincere – and part of that is direct eye contact. When talking to clients, she tries to position herself so that the sun or light shines directly into her eyes, illuminating them. I’ve seen her do it. When they say, “a twinkle in her eye,” it is literal. It is “captivating” and she knows that she has her client’s full attention. (This tactic doesn’t work with my family. We are onto her… I have blue eyes too.)
Ok, it is Thursday and for some reason, I am waaaaaaaaaaaay too chatty (coffee). It looks like we will have another dusty weekend/week/month. Alas, I must think of fun and interesting indoor activities. By the by – I am trying to figure out a fun employee event. I was going to do a “fun day out”, but now I have had to re-think it as a “fun day in”. Any recommendations from the peanut gallery?