Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Place Your Bets

“I bet Mr. Kennedy is going to win this round…”

My younger brother turned to me with a slightly pretentious look, “No, the Undertaker is going to win, you’ll see...”

We continued to watch his beloved WWE Smackdown show.

“You know, this is all an act…every move is planned for…” I stopped myself mid-sentence and thought, “Was it necessary to disclose this piece of information? Did I ruin my younger brother’s love for phony wrestling?”

Fortunately, my concerns were silenced, “No no Erzulie, it’s all real! One time, the Undertaker had blood all over his face and…” He continued to tell me all about the gory details of the Undertaker’s evil deeds.

“But I still think Mr. Kennedy will win.” For some reason, I sometimes enjoy being a wet blanket of an older sister.

“Etrahneen? You want to bet on it?”

“Yeah why not? If Mr. Kennedy wins, I have dibs on your pack of Nerds…”

He tilted his head and mulled over what I said, “Okay…” he agreed.

“And if the Undertaker wins, I am going to give you half a Kuwaiti Dinar.”

“Bes? That’s it? I want five Kuwaiti Dinars Erzulie.”

“Khams dananeer? Yifta7 Allah…Five Kuwaiti Dinars? No way kiddo.”

This brings me to the main point of my post. Long ago, bets were mostly based on emotions rather than on material gain. I remember that they were solely centered on one’s primal satisfaction by humiliating the other end i.e. “Trahen 3ala kaf/s6ar/bux?” which is another amusing subject to ponder over.

Now, I never thought that a nine year old boy would be dissatisfied with half a KD. That equals a handful of cheap bubblegum and a bag of chips, both of which my mother will frown upon and immediately discard only to replace them with freshly sliced fruit.

When I was my brother’s age, I never thought to ask for something above 1KD. All I had was my treasured ceramic piggy bank that was stuffed with the “abandoned” coins I discovered around the house as well as the random ¼ Dinars that I folded intricately before slipping them down the container’s thin slot.

“Why not Erzulie?” He pushed.

I used my favorite hoity-toity response, “Because I’m your older sister that’s why,” I replied before thinking to myself, “And because it’s the friggin’ end of the month…”


Spin Doctors - Two Princes

Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner

White Town - Your Woman

Youssou N'Dour & Neneh Cherry - Seven Seconds

at 11:46 PM 3 comments

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mishref’s Curiosity

I have heard about the elderly “Ma39ooma” in Al-Shamiya’s Co-Op, how she shuns random people and is extra friendly toward young boys which – from what I have heard – is because she lost her son(s) in a catastrophic parting, or something along those lines. There is a story behind these characters, a dark something that a common person would not be able to relate to but hopefully understand.

Yesterday, I passed by one of Mishref’s curiosities. I do not know if it is kosher to speak of these two women, but I am not going to mention their names (because I do not know them in any case) and I doubt that they blog so I am going to go ahead and label them as one of Mishref’s oddities that surprisingly make me have one of those warm and fuzzy feelings of hominess with a sprinkle of mystery.

It was a little bit after three o’clock in the afternoon. I was driving to the district’s ladies salon in an attempt to get in and out without having to deal with the crowd that will crowd the place in the hours ahead. My car was still hot from the time it spent basking under the merciless sun. I passed by the public walkway and as expected, no one was strutting along the path just yet, “Who the heck walks in this heat anyway?” I wondered to myself.

That is when I saw them, the two women.

Unlike ordinary Homo sapiens, the two were walking on the sidewalk that joins the main street with people’s front yards and entrances. They have not changed since I started to notice their presence about a decade ago if not more. Like always, they were dressed in bright, layered clothing that is not particularly suitable for their long, sweaty walks. Yesterday, one woman was in a Hawaiian-esque blouse, white pants and a flowered scarf while the other was in an orange shirt and light, beige pants (yes, I did slow down and I did get an eyeful…I am curious!). To top it off, both were wearing large straw hats with a little colorful ribbon.

About seven years ago, my father and I were driving to pick up his laundry on a slow Friday evening when I spotted them down the street, “Look! Baba! There they are!” Being the usual joker, my father said that they are spirits who roam the streets of Mishref, “They have no home, they just walk around hand-in-hand like they usually do…” Of course, being the ultra-gullible person that I am, I believed him before my mother set things straight, “No, they are just middle-aged women…who usually walk in funky attire.”

I wonder, have you noticed these two women? If not, do you know of any oddities that exist in your district?

The Big Wu - Precious Hands
Foo Fighters - Everlong (Acoustic)
Porcupine Tree - Radioactive Toy
Bjork - It's Oh So Quiet

at 1:23 AM 24 comments

Friday, May 18, 2007



at 11:36 PM 3 comments

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My Best Friend & I

“You know, I thought about what you said last time…it’s a little bit of a downer…”

She looked up with a knowing smile, “Yeah isn’t it!”

“I mean, here we are, back from the three-something years of studying, living and just being abroad, and we’re in the middle of a tug-o-war between what we were raised up to be and dealing with the experiences we went through…you can’t disregard either…but one is a more realistic priority than the other ephemeral one that seems out of place almost all the time…”

She bounced along beside me as we made our way down the dimly lit walkway, “I know…this sudden lack of expression suddenly got to me, I just had to vent…”

“Yeah, vent vent vent…I just thought that it was over during the first three psychologically chaotic weeks of my return and I actually did feel myself adjusting after that period of emptiness, but now that you mention it again, I know that it’ll always be looming over my head, sort of like that little annoying voice that goes, “No, don’t do, say or share that. It’s unnecessary,” or even “Lower your voice! You’re in Kuwait for God’s sake!” And you always have to think of the repercussions of every little thing that comes out even if it is well-intentioned and rooted in genuine honesty. It’s a good thing that our jobs are keeping us ultra-busy but even with that, limiting yourself in that way is ridiculously tedious and exhausting. It’s inhuman. Who lives like this? No seriously, are we actually living like this? Is this our life now? Living in self-imposed limitations that create daily feelings of unneeded suffocation?”

I frowned as I overheard one of the two hoodlums seated on top of the public walkway’s benches mimic our accents with an Americanized, “I knoooow! Cooooooool maaaaan!”

“But you know what’s also weird?” She continued, “Both you and I are hypocrites…”

I nodded as I sensed where she was going with that line, “Remember the last time when we met up with our high school colleagues for coffee? It was during the day, we were in a public setting and our folks knew where and who we were with. We were all being ourselves and having a good time. But if we extracted ourselves from that exact scenario we were in, we would’ve had some negative feelings regarding that scene. I mean…”

I picked up from where she left off, “It’s that persistent, nagging cultural instinct that’s planted in us. We may raise an eyebrow at the same thing we take part in.”

“Yup…” She sighed.

She mentioned a person she knows and how smoothly he dealt with the whole transition.

“But he has one big advantage,” I replied.

As if she read my mind (isn’t that what best friend’s are for?) she instantly blurted out, “He’s a guy.”

“Exactly!” I replied in exasperation as I stopped in my tracks.

Our conversation shifted to the multiple social groups in Kuwait, basically the major one consisting of Kuwaiti society as a whole and the minor one that is sprinkled with so-called eccentrics who avoid the general bundle and who are, in turn, avoided by the society as a whole with the exception of the usual eavesdroppers and gossipers that carry news to and fro the different social realms.

“And there’s no gray area. You’re either in or you’re out.”

“And you always lose something whichever group you associate yourself too. Being a social chameleon is harder for girls anyway. If you include yourself to the general Kuwaiti society, you’re on the boring yet safe side. But if your lifestyle is similar to those who haul in the same activities they partook in when they were abroad, you’re positioned under society’s disapproving and scrutinizing eye regardless of the actual group of friends and lifestyle itself which may be, in the reality of the situation, quite innocent...Unfortunately, the somewhat true stereotype of the few bad apples and how they ruin it for everyone else stands…”

“Yeah…and also, we both know of people who purposely outcast themselves from society because they’re sick of having to deal with the common and redundant complications of living here and the extreme narrow-mindedness that dulls their days. They form this tight and comfortable niche of trust where members share the same free spirited characteristics and lifestyle so to speak…”

“And if you behave in that manner or even mention your liking to the way they conduct themselves and live their lives, which is labeled by the general society as hedonistic and mildly disrespectful even if the group’s majority hold the same values that the general society religiously embraces, you more or less lose the advantages of, for example, snagging a legitimate and decent future-partner. I mean let’s face it, I’m sure there are some social oddballs who actually are decent, well-intentioned and truly unprejudiced individuals, but isn’t the probability of that low when you survey their culturally alien surroundings? Like their friends and such…”

“But that’s overgeneralizing…isn’t it?”

“Sure is…but I think it’s close to reality anyway...”

“Well, you can usually tell what a person is like depending on the friendships they form…”

“Again, guys are generally exempt from this particular rule unless their buddies consist of a series of nothing but cokeheads. I mean, imagine if I hang out with “Scandalous Bimbo” the whole time, I’m sure I’d be labeled in the same category as her…”

“It’s so strange though…”

“Well, it’s strange and unfair…The whole thing is…”

“It’s self-repression…”

“It is…”

We were both on a roll, “And you know when they say that no matter what, everyone goes back to their roots in the end? I mean, let’s say that someone does classify him or herself…”

“Most of the times it’s himself…”

“All right, well let’s say that a guy lives his life with no distinct and defined limits. He may be ultra-free in his ways but when it comes down to the M-word, he turns a cold shoulder to the females that too shared his lifestyle, girls that he might have told convincingly, “Hey! Chill! I’m cool!” before running to mommy so she can find him a “Good Ol’ Girl” to settle down with to initiate the breeding process…”

“And I know of some girls that have the shitty end of the stick, meaning that they do live, as you just said, “freely,” but that’s the way they’ve been brought up. Although their values and morals are quite grounded, they’re placed in that shady category which might unfortunately include the bad apples. And the double standard lives on. As they say, “El walad yinshal mina il qalam…” Oh well…On top of that, we have to deal with the whole “US graduate” label…”

“Bad apples…why isn’t it bad bananas? Or bad oranges? Why is it an apple?”

My thoughts wandered on the topic of our conversation. How ironically calming it is to discuss such a burdensome topic with someone who shares the same anxieties and conflicting opinions.

I was tired. We were walking later than we usually do. We passed by an obviously gay couple. After they sauntered by us, my friend and I looked behind us to cast a second curious glance. One looked like a normal guy but the other was tall, fat and sashayed in the most feminine manner possible. His hair was gelled neatly to reveal a deep part. His little messenger purse swung by his tight shorts and against his sequined shirt.

“I wonder how these guys are treated at home,” I thought out loud, “And you know, the ones who go the whole nine yards with the long hair, hormones and implants? How do they deal with that? How does their family swallow that change?”

“Well, they either hide it from their family, or their family accepts them as they are, or they’re just kicked out of the house.”

“That’s sad…”

“It is…”

“The whole thing is just sad.”


“I think we’re living in the moral decline of a little country called Kuwait…that was a presumptuous claim. I think it’s somewhat true though…kind of…”

We walked in silence for a while. We were both wrung out from work. Sometimes, even talking is draining. I reached a stage where after work, my sentences sound as complex as a third grader’s.

“It’s getting hot isn’t it?”

“Yeah…summer’s here…I hate the dust…”

“Mhmm…ditto. So, what is this? Early-mid life crisis slash depression?”


“Well, that’s just dandy. Anyhow, I’m becoming more senseless and indifferent every day now.”

“I don’t think that’s healthy.”

“No…it isn’t. I don’t want to turn completely bitter though. Bitter butter, bitter butter, bittery butter, buttery bitter…”


“Life goes on.”

at 2:26 AM 13 comments