I’ve been here almost a week. I didn’t really have any expectations before I arrived. I tried not to think about Kuwait or that I was planning to live here for a year. I try not to expect things. I try not to project myself into the future. I try not to build castles or dungeons in which to live out my rosy or gloomy ideas about the future. It’s a waste of energy. So often I get surprised and proved wrong.
Of course, it helped to keep my mind off the future that my life had been so interesting for the four months before I arrived No work to speak of, travelling across eleven countries from Greece to Egypt, seven of them new to me. Seeing a host of different places and cultures, meeting a range of agreeable, if not fascinating people; above all, imbibing an air of freedom and dignity, an air generated by a permanent sense of achievement and purpose; one uncorrupted, moreover, by any need to worry about my performance or reckon, however temporarily, with the need to make money or otherwise conform to the systems of our normally banal and over-processed lives.
Looking forward to a settled life in Kuwait, therefore, where I’d be teaching English once again was not something I particularly relished. Why choose the future when I could luxuriate in the present? If anything, my future felt like a rude imposter threatening my day. This had particularly been the case in July when I was still sheepishly, quarter-heartedly, resigned to going to Saudi Arabia, even though I knew I didn’t want to. But I preferred to ignore that than accept it. I must thank Craig, in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, for finally convincing me that I’d hate it. So I let the job offer dissolve into the sands.
Then, in early August, there was a three or four week period as I travelled across Turkey when I really had no idea about my future at all. Chugging over in my background were provisional enquiries about jobs in TEFL. But it was as if I launched these enquiries only because I felt I ought to. Genuine enthusiasm to find work was absent. On the other hand, I’d dribbled away savings before and had decided not to do so again. I knew I should work at some point in the next six months, preferably somewhere where the pay was good (relative to the world of TEFL, of course). But to all intents and purposes I was freely floating, liberated from the prospect of Saudi, nothing ahead of me but open skies. Actually, that felt really nice.
I finally accepted this Job in Kuwait on August 23rd after reading a sample contract and finding no significant problems, though holidays were not as generous as in Saudi, nor the pay for that matter. I told my employer I wanted to delay coming out until late September and he agreed. I still had some serious holidaying to do. I left things drift, not arranging a specific date to fly back to the UK since the company had said it would get back to me with the flight arrangements but hadn’t. So I left things slide through September as I concentrated on Syria and Lebanon. I’m not sure if I was actually supposing the job wouldn’t materialize, that I’d just carry on wandering, but maybe. By late September, still not having heard anything, I presumed (gladly) that this meant I wouldn’t any longer be expected to come out by the end of the month. I wrote to my employer about my flight and he replied: yes, things were still set for Oct 1st, though he hadn’t booked a flight yet since he didn’t know where I wanted to fly from. I explained that I couldn’t possibly get out on that date, and asked how long I could postpone for. By now I was thinking of possibly travelling until Christmas or for even longer. We compromised on October 18th, a date I realized I’d be happy with. As for where to fly from, I considered going direct from Amman or Cairo, without going home at all, to maximize my roamings. But according to my contract I’d not have any holiday for six months. I had stuff in Slovakia too, which I needed to send back to the UK. I’d toyed with getting it transported by courier service but that had seemed too expensive. So to see friends and family in both Slovakia and the UK, as well as for practical humdrum reasons (including collecting my laptop) I decided to fly to Kuwait from London, and so organised my flight there from Cairo via Slovakia.
My travels which had begun on the evening of June 28th, when I flew into Athens from Bratislava, finally ended on October 11th, 105 days later, when I flew back to Vienna.