Friday, January 20, 2006

Out of My Element

My cell phone rang at 8:43 on Thursday morning. It was Sven.

I laughed as I told Sven how I'd woken up early to get ready for work and then remembered it was the weekend, the Saturday of the Muslim world. I'd been quite pleased when I'd realized we did not have to go to work.

"But we do work today. I'm waiting for you downstairs in the lobby."

"Uh… er… be right down," I said, wondering if I could pass off my flannel pajamas as the latest fashion from New York.

It was an honest mistake. My awareness of what is going on around me in Kuwait is limited at the best of times, and certainly no one had told me that a weekend was only one-and-a-half days long. That makes my freelance life a little more challenging. I don't think it's the same at all jobs here, but I suspect it might have something to do with us working closely with people in other countries, who take Saturday and Sunday off while we are working.

At the office, I asked my co-workers where I could find the post office. No one knew.

"Ask one of the mandoubs to do it. You should not waste your time in line at the post office."

Mandoubs are drivers, messengers, paperwork expediters, and errand-runners. They are the feet of most Kuwaiti organizations and are usually expat Arabs. A mandoub drives me to work every morning. I keep talking about how I am going to take the bus instead. Most people are horrified, a few are amused, and one of our mandoubs told me it was quite safe.

Then I was told that people don't really send postcards here, that I should put my postcard into an envelope and seal it up. I made a half-assed attempt at explaining that the recipient would want the postmark and the stamp, that the thrill of a mailed postcard was in the whole package, not in the photo and certainly not in the words on the back of it.

Other things I'm slowly learning here: Each decent office has a "tea-boy." We actually have a kitchen staff, and Sunita of Sri Lanka brings me coffee and a rusk in the mornings. If I say I don't want coffee at any point throughout the day, she'll press mango juice or water on me. And with computers, Macs and iPods are everywhere. We're all thinking different the same. The local supermarket sells incredible spices that I have no idea what to do with. Water is desalinated at great expense, and there's some kind of correlation in there between oil and water that I haven't worked out yet.

There's still so much left for me to learn in a city-state where there seems to be no post office but there are 32 branches of Starbucks.

8 comments:

Ed Ward said...

Get the names of those spices; I can probably give you some ideas.

dalageem said...

hi , welcome to Kuwait .. or u may read it in many blogs as Q8 .. :) i hope u enjoy your experience here .. and if u need anything plz don’t hesitate to ask ..  .. as for the post office .. unfortunately .. officially they exist .. almost in every area .. but the service is not reliable .. that’s why we don’t use them .. we’ve been asking for a solution for a long time but .. still .. ah !!

and regarding to the weekend .. government offices , schools , colleges = full Thurs & Fri .
banks , some other financial companies = Fri. & Sat . .. and the private sector .. some of them Fri & Sat. others half Thursday & Fri ..

ppl here r very friendly .. everything is very easy and straight forward .. again welcome to our beloved country Q8 .. it’s small .. but trust me .. Good things come in small packages ;)

Marie said...

Dalageem, I have to say that I have never been as welcomed anywhere as I have been in Kuwait. It's like everyone is pleased to meet me, although I have no idea why. I am still going to try to use the post office so hopefully good thing do come in small packages and don't get waylaid en route to their destination.

Ed Ward, I sure am going to look at the spices and report back the names. There's dozens... I'm clueless. How 'bout your best pork recipe? Kidding.

dalageem said...

"It's like everyone is pleased to meet me"

ha ha ha .. told u .. we r very friendly ppl .. we like to meet ppl from all over the world and be friends with them .. we like to learn about the culture in their country .. this is not new .. this is in our genes ;) .. since our ancestors used to sail to India , Iran and Africa .. for business ( before discovering the OIL wells ) .. and they make a lot of friends there .. now we r very used to know new ppl all the time ..

My English isn’t that good .. sorry for that :P

Don Hudson said...

Ok, So the only people using the post office are errand boys and Expats? This place is starting to sound like Rome around 420AD. Please tell me "Q8" is planning for a future without oil!

Marie said...

Our staff writer told me about a post office. "It's near where the prostitutes hang out."

Wha--? This I have to see.

Jewaira said...

If you go to the post office where the prostitutes hang out, please share the experience and the location. It would make interesting writing material.


Every residential area has a post office in the Co-Op. There is also a central post office in the City and in Hawally that I knwo of.

People DO send postcards. I can't vouch for the mail service now as I don't use it that often with Internet; however, I used to be an avid letter writer and had no problem with the mail service.

Marie said...

I really do need to find this post office with the prostitutes. Of course Kuwait would be no different than anywhere else but it just seems like such an unlikely thing.

My co-op does not appear to have a post office. Maybe I need to go in the morning... maybe I just went when it was closed.

I'm relieved to hear that my postcard will do fine in the mail.

I'm starting to realize that there are lots of people here who don't know how to do lots of simple things--because it is someone else's job to do it and they are all from other places. I'll just ask the youngest person at the office from now on, the one who gets the lowest salary. Because he has to do everything himself. And he's the only person I've met who has actually taken the bus. Or I'll just post here and hope Jewaira reads it. I suspect she is from here.