Anonymous 12:13, this one is for you. Another article I wrote that was published locally several years ago. Dudes, I don't want to get comments that say, "Oh, so you think you're so great because you are American, right..." No, I do not. It is just my perspective - it is what it is - and I happen to be American (Irish, Finish, French and Iroquois Indian if you must know. My people came from different places like a whole lotta other 'mericans).
What is it about being American that makes people around here think that you have answers? Lately, the questions have been geared towards business: "I have a miraculous new product. You can sell it to the US Army, right?" "Can you go down to Arifjan and talk to the people in the contracting office and get me a contract?" "You can get me alcohol from the US embassy or the base, right? You get an allocation, right?"
When I first came to Kuwait in 1996, I was faced with even stranger questions: "My son is 5 and lost his arm in a car accident. Can you get him a new one? He's in Pakistan." Asked by a coffee boy where I used to work. Another colleague later asked, "My friends cousin is in UCLA hospital. He was born in Kuwait and the doctor thought that something was wrong with his lung, so they removed it at the hospital. He is dying and he needs $300,000. Can you talk to your friends at the Ministry of Health? They said his file was eaten by mice in the 80's."
"Hello Madame. I have a problem. Maybe you can help me?" The visa questions are never-ending and relentless. I frequent a local hotel because I am a sushi addict and love their food. Every time I pull up to the valet parking, a certain Egyptian parker runs out and delves into the same tirade I have been hearing for the past two years (all said in a matter of the 2 minutes it takes me to run from the car to the front door of the hotel and stated with the same look of pathetic puppy). He wants to go visit family and has been rejected at the embassy and wants my help. It is assumed that since I am American, I therefore have been bequeathed with wastah at the US Embassy.
"Oh, so you are single?" God help me if I ever reveal that I am single to visa-seeking men. I haven't reached the point of desperation which would warrant marriage to someone trying to get into the States. For this very reason, I (and many of my single female friends here) wear wedding bands. Let me just say that the response would be better if the pick-up lines these guys use were better.
Questions in the form of assumptions are quite another thing. Just because I'm American doesn't mean I am rich. I'm not willing to pay more for something that my Egyptian friends get for five times less. When in shops, the question of, "Are you American?" should always be responded to with, "No, I'm from Bosnia and my farm was destroyed in the war. I have eight children and today is my birthday."
Here are the answers that I do have (just because I'm American): No, I can't sell your product to the Army without paying my reasonable consulting fee and dedicating quite a bit of time to it. No, I can't just go down to Arifjan and miraculously get a contract (and if I could, I would keep it for myself). No, the US embassy nor the bases give Americans allocations of alcohol (Kuwait is a dry country and so are the bases). Yes, I can probably assist in finding an arm for a 5 year old child through some of the charitable children's organizations (and with proper back-up documentation from the hospital in Pakistan), but hey – so can you through correspondence and research. My friend at the Ministry of Health said that file was indeed eaten by mice, so there really isn't any more I could do there because I'm not a rich American and I don't have an extra $300,000. No, I can't help with visa problems at the embassy because the US doesn't do wastah. And last but not least – I am really not interested in getting married to help "get someone in". What's in it for me?