Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Six and a Half Weeks

Six and a half weeks have passed since I arrived in Kuwait. It seems like I’ve been here for much, much longer. Far more seems to have happened than one might suppose should have in such a short period of time. That said, I realize this perception is an illusion created by the great changes I’ve undergone by settling here. After all, if I atomistically break down all the events that have occurred, they don’t actually add up to that much. Certainly not more than one might expect could occur over a 47 day period. The point is that the experience and atmosphere of novelty that has characterized and surrounded these events has made me feel that they’ve happened over a much longer time, when really they haven’t. This will become more apparent six and a half weeks from now if I look back at December 4th from that perspective and find that time has speeded up, back to a more accustomed pace, a pace more in tune with the typical accelerated speed time has when it follows a familiar and settled course.

That said, I may very well be going somewhere exciting for a few days prior to Christmas, very possibly to Ethiopia. That will definitely be novel. As such, for this period, time would slow down again. Yet apart from this break, I can fairly confidently predict that so long as I remain in Kuwait and carry on working as I have for the next seven weeks (something which is extremely likely) the sorts of things which will generally happen to me will follow a pattern replicating what has happened so far. Since I’m still new here and in no sense bored, I’m fine about this as it happens. But what is sure is that the initial buzz that comes with a new country and environment, which slows time down, will probably have faded greatly by then. It’s just as well to know this in advance.

Almost certainly I will continue to do roughly the same kinds of things with my free time (or we shall see). I will go to the gym at the Holiday Inn once or twice an week, spending an hour doing cardiovascular exercise while watching CNN or a film on the screens erected on the machines; and afterwards lingering a while in the Jacuzzi. At this gym, for which I now have a year’s subscription, western women are pleasantly attired and shaped for the eye, and are an added bonus of this ‘western style’ gym. In the local gyms, Kuwaiti or Indian, the sexes are segregated and each sex can only attend on particular days. Being as I am a shy man when it comes to the ‘hunt’ however, I doubt I’ll be finding myself any ‘action’ with these ladies, but I suppose it can’t be ruled out. As I increasingly come to feel irritated about anyway, I do not see why women, if they want such action with a male, can’t be the one to initiate the proceedings. In myself in any case they would be likely to find a positive reception, so fear of rejection should be laid to one side. At the very least it would be nice to be flattered by being approached, or ‘asked out’, as it were and I’d always strive to be gracious in my rejecting if I really couldn’t envisage it. Of course I realize I am thinking wildly out of tune with ‘reality’ and that most people, if not all, will be thinking that ‘it will never happen, men have to do all the leg work’. I know this, I am not naieve. I am just not very comfortable approaching women unless I know they want me to, that’s all. I am referring here by the way specifically to non-Islamic women, of course. I would not dream of approaching an Islamic woman, since I value my life. So let them, the non-Islamic women, approach me if they find me desirable. Otherwise, they should not take my passivity either as an insult, a rejection or a failure to find them both attractive and beautiful…..well, in many cases at least.

I will also go to Church on Sundays, though not always. Not being a Roman Catholic I do not, I trust, have to feel ‘guilty’ or ‘sinful’ if I miss a communion without a good reason. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Anglican rejection of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Because we Anglicans don’t actually believe bread and wine can literally become a first century Jew, albeit a very wonderful one, at the hands of a Priest performing a ritual, maybe we’re less convinced of the absolute necessity of their regular consumption. The bread and wine, for sure, are less important to us, and so no doubt is the frequency of their use. Or maybe, it’s ok to miss a Communion in Anglicanism simply because we’re less bossy and authoritarian than the Romans. Yeah, I reckon there's a lot of that reason too.

I’ll also no doubt go to the cinema – that perfection of ‘secular religion’. Alone and comfortable in the dark, by cinema through sight and sound, one commues with the infinity of the possible. Identity disengaged, one merges with one’s common humanity; in an event imposing no rigid metaphysic, nevertheless exploring and exploiting the boundaries of the real. God is not found, but stylish escape from the humdrum and the banal is achieved. For awhile. With or without popcorn, depending on your choice.

Maybe I won’t still be going to the diving club meetings, however. I can’t do a training course until February, after all. Nevertheless their socials are good, and one can maybe get to quaff home made nectar, which is nice.

And also of course I’ll still be going to work…..

Changes at work have seen three teachers added, three more Americans. We’ve also a new Director of Studies who’s done much to clarify what was previously some rather chaotic, mysterious arrangements. I’ve got a better desk, with a better internet connection, by which I mean it’s more reliable, though no faster. I’ve also managed to get a seat in the company car!:) so no more bus rides, at least for now. This has also given me an extra ten minutes each morning to have my obligatory shower (I lack a bath) and to iron my shirts and to watch Al-Jazeera through my satellite system which has now sprung to life. The various porn channels I get on it are a real surprise. I’d thought there’d be none of that here. Still, they’re just ultra-soft dial-a-voice ads, so pretty innocuous. Including the porn I’ve got 800 channels in all. Most are in Arabic, usually religious or musical, the Arabs loving to sing in their pop-folksy way. In effect I only watch Al-Jazeera, BBC World and Dubai One. Other than that I watch DVDs on my large silver screen TV, though it annoyingly won’t play many of my DVDs because they’re for the wrong region. For example it won’t play the second series of the Office, alas, which I bought in the UK. Nor a US release of Casino Royale.

My washing machine is a ridiculous top loader which I have to manually operate. I fill it up via a tube with water from the tap. Then I drain it into a hole in the floor, then refill it again to rinse, before moving the soggy clothes into an adjoining spin compartment that rumbles and shakes the machine violently. I wouldn’t mind if it actually did a decent job, but it doesn’t. That the other teachers who arrived before me get proper machines doesn’t really help. Rumours float of us getting better machines but I’m not holding my breath. An internet connection is also supposed to arrive but I’m expecting that it won’t. As it happens I don’t really care about this that much, mainly because I get hours of opportunity to surf the web at work - I still only teach two and a half hours a day after all. It's also pleasant to go to Marina Mall or to caribou coffee to hook up, where the shockingly underpaid yet relentlessly smiling Filipina waitresses are more usually both pretty and charming than not.

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