Friday, March 10, 2006

Mumbo Jumbo

Incredibly, my time in Kuwait ends in three weeks and three days. It's zoomed by, for the most part, although I now barely recognize the numb person who arrived in Newark from Africa in late November, then went back to Newark to board a plane to Kuwait a month later. Remember that person, yes—bad things from your past don't go away, they just become a part of you and you learn to live with them. But recognize, no. I have my sense of humor back, in part due to the passage of time and in part due to the loyalty of some funny, intelligent, and charming e-mail correspondents. (Figure out which one you are.)

Three months is plenty of time to spend in some cultures, but not enough for me to claim to be any kind of expert on Kuwait. It's not a transparent culture to begin with, but even if it was, I didn't have the time to get to know it. When I'm not in the office, I'm frantically working on my book or squeezing in comic book coloring when I can. I would have taken time off of the coloring, but every freelancer will understand why I did not do that. If you back out of a job, you are guaranteed to never get another one from that company as your employer will inevitably learn to trust whoever they "temporarily" replace you with. Or they'll just forget about you.

Sven's joke is that I don't sleep. I do, of course, but I wish I were one of those people who can get by on 5-6 hours a night indefinitely. That would help me get a lot more done.

Will I miss Kuwait? Of course not. It was intended only as a way station for me, a place to hang my hat while book-writing, as well as making some money at something I'm good at. It's a treading-water situation, dipping back into my comic book past temporarily, in spite of having tried to walk away from it for four years now. And sometimes I get frustrated with some cultural differences in the workplace here. And the broken Internet and the crazy driving and the fact that people think I am insane for taking the bus.

But there are two things about Kuwait that I value quite a bit and will be sorry to leave.

One is the multi-culturalism. I work with more than 10 people and interact with workers in shops and my apartment building every day. And yet I have met only one Kuwaiti the entire time I've been here. Everyone else is from Lebanon, India, Philippines, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Jordan, Sri Lanka, America, even Hong Kong.

The second is the sincerity in the workplace. Sure, we squabble and gossip here, like anywhere. But in Kuwait, you never have to sit through a discussion about synergy. You'll never hear someone over-inflate their important by dimensionalizing when they could just measure. People don't utilize in Kuwait, they simply use. You don't have to conceptualize here when you can just think. It's okay to be creative instead of thinking outside the box in Kuwait. I've never heard the words leverage, paradigm, or symbiotic in a meeting here. I think this is related to part one, in which we are people from all over the world working together, and there's no room for pompous self-indulgence when communication is frequently difficult due to language. And, actually, one of my pet peeves is when people try to inflate their importance by puffing up, aggressively pushing others around, and by using meaningless boardroom speak. Really, who the hell cares that Nonsense-Speaker has memorized more corporate jargon than the Tea Boy? He still makes better tea, is kinder to others, and is not afraid to take the bus.

So yeah, there's some things about Kuwait that I'm going to miss when I leave, even though I have not even cracked the country's surface.

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