Hi fellow wanderers,
I’m writing to you today on this very special occasion: my one-month anniversary as an ex-pat teacher living in Kuwait! It is a surprisingly short amount of time but I have learned a whole heck of a lot here on the other side of the world. I am going to share with you three of the (somewhat humiliating, and definitely pathetic) lessons I’ve learned in the past 30 days here in the desert.
A Lesson in Cooking: “Why didn’t you just toast your bread in the frying pan?”
I’ve made no effort to hide the fact that I’m useless in the domestic department. I have no idea how to cook and I’m not great at cleaning things. Much to my chagrin my wonderful apartment here in Mahboula contains a gas stove. Fortunately, I didn’t blow myself up when I lit the burner for the first time. Inshallah the not-blowing-myself-up streak will continue. It’s fortunate, also, that my stove’s glass top didn’t explode on me a la my lovely American friend TH! (Read about her experience here.) I did, however, attempt to toast my bread directly over the open flame once my eggs were done. I’m not sure why I didn’t think about putting my bread in the frying pan for toasting purposes – but that thought only occurred to me afterwards. It occurred to me precisely after I burnt my hand on the very hot metal fork with which I held my bread as it was being toasted. My blistered thumb was the only souvenir of my idiotic cooking endeavour. The meal itself was an overall failure. My toast tasted as though it had been doused in propane (because: DUH I don’t think of these things) and it spoiled the whole meal. But, I ate every last bite because I made it and damn it, I didn’t waste my time and energy for nothing!
I think I mentioned this incident to one or two people and the next day I had colleagues approach me asking me if I “was the girl who has no idea how to toast bread.” So there was also that.
Lesson: order food online and have it delivered to your door.
A Lesson in Personal Hygiene: The Asshose
“I’m 25 years old and I have no idea how to wipe my own ass,” I said to myself on my first night here in the Arab world.
I don’t know about you, but flying always messes with my digestive system. And normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but once I arrived at my apartment I had no toilet paper and only a Kleenex box and a very powerful hose at my disposal.
Fortunately, before I arrived in Kuwait, the staff liaison for my school provided each new teacher with a “Kuwait Survival Guide” which explained that the plumbing systems here do not have the capacity to handle paper products. So, instead of wiping, you spray yourself with a hose.
Now, I’ve never used one of these things prior to coming here – I’ve never even used a Bidet – so I wasn’t exactly sure what the protocol is. I actually got undressed, stood in my shower and sprayed. What I then realized is, you must spray the water for a few seconds so that it warms up before spraying it on your behind. Not only was it entirely freezing cold, but also it has really strong pressure. It was a bit of a cold and painful surprise. Needless to say, my first bathroom experience in Kuwait was a legitimate fail.
Lesson: you don’t need to get undressed after you go to the washroom.
A Lesson in Budgeting: “What did you even buy with your 100KD advance?”
I grew up without any real ‘money sense’ to speak of. It’s not that I’m horrible with money and that I spend it foolishly, it’s just that I have difficulty with proper budgeting (I’m talking spreadsheets and price comparing) because it was never really something I did in my life back home in Canada. That’s not to say that I never needed these skills: I grew up in relative poverty – always with a roof over my head and delicious, nutritious food in my belly thanks to my Mama Bear – but we really did scrape by and we had a lot of difficult times. Add on the additional complication of a new currency, different product prices and thinking in terms of Canadian dollars and I’m completely lost and entirely useless. When I came to Kuwait with 10KD in my pocket and another 50KD allotted to me by my school I thought I would be okay for the first month.
After buying Internet, a printer, and a lot of groceries, I was fresh out of cash. My school offered us a 100KD advance and I was so relieved to have some more money to re-stock my kitchen cupboards. But between taking cabs to all of the places we wanted to go and buying food and much needed cooking supplies – that money came and went. I purchased a lot of non-perishables in the event that I ran out of money and thank goodness I did.
Last week was brutal. It seemed that my food and my workload were linked in a proportional relationship: more work on my plate meant less food in my cupboard. My energy levels were severely lagging and I was staying up later and later each night to make sure my marking, prepping and paperwork was completed. I ate curry-flavored Ramen noodles for 3 nights in a row, I showed up to a pot-luck dinner with juice and tea (others came with pizza, doughnuts, samosas, home-made pasta salads and other things that were, in fact, real food), and then proceeded to eat as much as I could so that I had sufficient nutrients in my system to continue working after the pot-luck was over.
I kept describing myself as a peasant last week and it was entirely true. As a maker of lists I had one filled with groceries the length of my arm and I fantasized about all of the coffee and sugar and fish and vegetables I was going to buy, all of the meals I was going to make (but not actually), and all of the fullness I was going to feel. And then payday arrived two days early, a Lulu’s trip was had, and it was like Christmas day descended upon my household (and my belly – thanks Food Santa!).
Lesson: fucking budget. Your anemic ass needs to eat.
Three Facts About Kuwait:
- Some cab drivers will only take a maximum of three people in their cabs. Some will squish as many as you want in the cab. There is very little consistency.
- McDonalds = ubiquitous. So too are Starbucks, Johnny Rockets, Chili’s, Popeye’s, and many other Western fast food chains you can think of. Kuwait recently got a Tim Horton’s and The Cheesecake Factory!
- Gas is cheaper than water. They don’t even post gas prices. It’s 1KD for a case of twelve 1.5 litre bottles…you can do the math, I teach English.
New (To Me) Kuwaiti Word:
Escoot – Shut Up