Ma’a salaama Kuwait

It seems like an eternity ago that I left Kuwait. Since I left, I’ve traveled in 7 cities across 3 countries and spent a busy 2 weeks visiting family and friends in Canada. Hard to believe I lived in Kuwait only 4 weeks ago!

As I sit on the bench of a trail, in the middle of a forest, in uptown Toronto, I remember what I was most excited for when leaving Kuwait. I hear birds and other animals/insects all around me, I see people walking their dogs, I am surrounded by green. This is where I am most happy, yet I couldn’t get this in Kuwait. Which brings me to my lists:

Things I will not miss about Kuwait:

  1. The lack of green space.
  2. My shoes being covered in sand. Mixed with sweat. Eww.
  3. The restrictions on freedom (no pork, no alcohol, conservative dress).
  4. The driving (I’m lucky to have made it out accident-free, though I usually walked and/or took a bus so I suppose I was at a lower risk of getting into an accident). Rules are just a suggestion, and there aren’t even many of those.
  5. The discrimination and general treatment of people, specifically migrant workers. Workers are basically owned by their employer, many abused emotionally, physically, sexually. I do wish I had gotten more involved in helping.
  6. Arab men. Some undress you with their eyes. Some cat call. Some follow you home. Others think they love you after a few dates (or after seeing you on the street – “I love you” is a common call from the car window). I won’t miss being surrounded by Arab men of this sort.
  7. Garbage. Everywhere. I don’t think it’s so cut-and-dry, but there are some things that are beyond my understanding – people just throwing garbage out their car windows onto the streets. The result is a pretty messy country in general. They have lots of people cleaning the streets but they can’t keep up, and until the cleaners get there, many parts of the country are just gross with garbage.
  8. Call to prayer. In the wee hours of the morning. During class while my students and I are trying to talk or while we have music playing in the classroom (you can’t play music during call to prayer). Sometimes it could be frustrating, though the only time it truly angered me was when it woke me up in the middle of the night.

While there are lots of things that were not ideal in Kuwait, I did enjoy my time there. There are lots of things I will miss about Kuwait:

  1. Call to prayer. When it wasn’t getting in the way of my daily activities like teaching and sleeping, it was quite lovely. I enjoyed watching herds of men flock to nearby mosques. Reminded me of a cult (I mean no offense, I just found it funny to watch).
  2. The amazing professional experience. Words cannot describe how much I learned as an educator, about children, about parents, coworkers, and just plain old teaching. I approach the coming years with confidence and excitement knowing I am prepared for whatever may come my way next.
  3. The Avenues. While I hate shopping, I didn’t mind spending some time in the Avenues, particularly in the climate-controlled-street part of the mall. The natural light flowed in through the windows, the buildings were created to look like an outdoor street, I felt calm and relaxed here. Not something I can usually say about a mall.
  4. The bathrooms. Seriously. Most bathrooms (in the nice places) were so luxurious – thick, floor-to-ceiling walls (in the stalls), always toilet paper, a woman who cleans each stall frequently (sometimes after each use).
  5. The weather. Winter was comfortably chilly. I could dress up with boots, scarves, a jacket. Summer was ridiculously hot, but the transition months were absolutely perfect!! I loved knowing that every day was going to be warm and probably sunny. Even when it was hot, the heat was dry so not too bad (the sweat evaporates quickly so dehydration sneaks up on ya). Looking forward to rain and a possible storm was so exciting!! Sand storms added an extra element lots of people just don’t get to experience in their lifetimes, so that was cool, too.
  6. The people. I had lots of negatives above, but on the flip side, I met some of the most amazing people in Kuwait. From the “garbage pickers” and maids who would smile and say “hi” on the way to work in the morning, to the guys at the Bakala, to students and parents, to friends I made outside of school. Very caring, friendly people.
  7. Bakalas. These are like little corner stores. On every corner and sometimes in between. I could stop in a bakala anytime, anywhere. The bakala behind my apartment building was the best I found – I bought most of my groceries there: eggs, milk, juice, vegetables/fruits, toiletries, just to name a few.
  8. The Gulf. I could walk to the water in 10 minutes or less. Some parts of the seaside are very beautiful and a lovely place to relax on a nice sunny afternoon.
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