Saturday, March 8, 2008

Riding Lesson

messed up...consequently grouchy Jo. It's the third lesson and already riding is the high part of my week. You can say this is also because I haven't fallen off the horse yet. Everything in time.

Another crystal clear, beautiful day at just the right temperature, here in Kuwait. I washed a pair of jeans, wondering how much longer I have before I have to put them away for the summer. It's March 9th, I think I have until the 25th at this rate.

I need to decide what I'm doing for break, and what I'm doing for the even longer break. It's looking like Poland for at least part (I need me some Warsaw, stat) but I need to get off my ass and get to Petra. I know it's going to be busy busy busy there by April, maybe I should try Yemen. Maybe I should do anything as long as I make a decision....


"I went out to a hazel wood..."

Naw. Went out on the Corniche. I actually woke up at 0 dark thirty this morning and went out to walk by the Scientific Center at about 6:30. Well, well worth the impulse. I watched the waterfront come alive with trickles of joggers and fishermen, to be replaced with walkers occasionally producing bags of food to feed the local cats.

It was an incredible morning, with light breezes and cerulean skies and seas. Date palms waving gently and the tick-tick of distant sprinklers. If my work day started only an hour later, I'd be out there every morning and probably a better person for it.

I hi the Sultan Center on the way home (absolutely and delightfully deserted, bless all those late sleeping Kuwati hearts!) and discovered...sage plants in the veggie isle! I've actually been looking for sage in any form since Christmas, and only found dried sage a couple weeks ago at a local Co-Op. Sage, with roots and a potential life span past next week, was more than I had dreamed of. Sage came home with me, along with his friends Thyme, Rosemary (no Parseley, you 70's misfits) and Basil.

I arranged them on my dining table at home, and went in the kitchen to fix some breakfast. As I walked in the Living Room with a plate of bread, it hit me. They smelled good. They looked good. Light from the window filtered through the leaves, and a knot I wasn't aware of having loosened in my shoulders. Green...felt good.

I ate breakfast pondering my new wealth, pondering the color of wealth. Green is wealth, the color of plants, which means water is nearby. Those who have water, have plants, have wealth. Herbs on my table had changed my entire flat. I couldn't stop looking at them.

The "Durrr" voice in the back of my head pointed out that 1. it was still early 2. it was still Saturday and 3. the car had gas. Why not visit the Plant Souq?Pick up a couple of plant pots, maybe a fern?

What followed was probably the most pleasant couple of hours I've ever spent in Kuwait. Definitely, they made me forget for a little while that I was in the desert. I started at one end of, maybe 20 nurseries in a row. I walked in to cool shade and fountain demonstrations, I walked out amid rows of waving Almond saplings waiting to be purchased. I walked in to well equipped, tiled, shady conservatories, I walked out amid rows of strawberry plants and hanging ivy. All the time, my brain was ticking, 'That's Lobelia, and that's Lantana, and there's a Spider Plant, and Orange trees, and Ficas there, and I think that's chamomile...lots of mint and rosemary, but no sage and no basil. I did well. Marigolds, and Morning Glories...roses, lots of roses. This place has Powdery Mildew, not buying here."

While walking into another nursery, I came across about 15 men, two cars, a truck full of sod grass, and a policeman escorting an irate older woman in hijab into the back of a squad car. I have no idea how it started or how the sod truck got involved (as this was all in a parking lot), but the BMW got seriously f---d up. Living here has a sort of David Lynch-esque edge I can't quite get the better of.

The best of all, I was that I managed to get my hands on some white narcissus, a day away from blooming. You, reader, have no idea what this means to me. When a single stalk of Freesia alone can cost more than 5 American dollars have white narcissus on my table means I am still part of a world where there's rain and clouds and green to the horizon. Paperwhites happen to be my favorite flower and my favorite scent.

I'd take a picture, but I lost my camera over Christmas and I haven't replaced it yet.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday Night in Salmiya

This time it involves curlers and multiple episodes of House MD, complete with chocolate cookies. It's been a long week, people.

Long week but stunningly beautiful day. I went out and walked on The Corniche for over an hour- I had an email from a friend back home who isn't doing so hot, and she was reminiscing about how she'd run over to my place for coffee when things got tough. Someone else, some other family has been in that flat for over 6 months, and I still think about it as "My Flat". I still think about the sunshine through the windows, M. laying on the carpet drinking a beer back in Hurricane Katrina days.

Got a couple of calls and a caustic one-liner message from Loverboy of three nights past. I mean, the cliches were bad enough, but he tried leaving with his wallet on my coffee table. Don't try leaving with your wallet on my coffee table. I've been rejecting you for ninety minutes and we both know it. I don't inspire passion enough to make someone forget their Visa card and we both know that too. Take ALL a y'all sh-- and get to steppin. Showin up without a chess board like dat.

My Ipod was located, heimdullilah! Now I am no longer singing solo with Trent Reznor. Yes, I would be the woman in the little white Pajero blaring "Head Like a Hole" and "Supermassive Black Hole." We all have our kinks, I just happen to have 3 people's worth. Come on! I also listen to Dido and Johnny Cash and Yo Yo Ma. I do a stunning counterpoint to "Streets of Laredo" at stoplights all over Salmiya.

Lazy morning, grocery shopping and errands singing "Don't Leave Home" at the top of my lungs. Finally located actual Maple Syrup- the guys at Carrefour thought I was nuts, especially when I found the sugar-free version in the Diabetic Foods and attempted a hands-on explanation that I wanted the stuff found in nature.

Then home again, home again jiggetty jig. Washed off the dust, made some cookies, settled down with some curlers and a movie. It's getting so that this takes a while, now. I tried going to a salon to have to done, but it was...fake looking.

Once in a generation female; once in a generation hair. No mop like this outside of Blue Earth County, MN and I understand a little now why my father wouldn't let me cut it while I was growing up. From what I saw of my cousins, I don't think any of them inherited it and my father had 5 children: I'm the only one with it. Point being, no salon is going to replicate what I can do with a little time and effort and it can be jaw dropping in the sunlight.

J. happens to be in Dubai- met her parents on Thursday night. Genuinely lovely people, and we had a dinner at the Mubarrikah in Dasman. I'm still having trouble with the ordering food- I love the meat grilled in cubes on a stick. However, "Kebab" refers to chopped meat formed into a oblong piece that resembles something like a bowel movement, with or without rice. This time, I was very specific about "Meat On A Stick", but the order that came back was "Stick of Meat", i.e. not what I wanted. Oh, they provide tasty grilled meats on a stick at this location, because I've had them before when someone ordered the food when I wasn't paying attention. I'm thinking of getting a camera and creating my own PECS book specifically for restaurants. I shouldn't complain, I mean, a fish the size of a sideboard appeared on the table midway through the meal that nobody ordered.

So it's quiet in the land of Kuwait tonight. Curlers are in, children are outside playing in the perfect Spring evening, phone is quiet. A twenty hour plane flight away, people are watching little yellow buses pull in, Friday is M.'s day in the classroom that used to be mine. I know it's green there, and probably cloudy, and as alien to this place as my walk through the Date Palms this morning would be to the people I love. Those people breaking their backs to keep home and family together, who dream of being able to do what I'm doing now.

How deeply I love and appreciate what you do for this world.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Gotta Be a Full Moon

There has to be some massive eclipse going on. I'm not sure I can do justice to the strangeness of this week, and it's only Tuesday.

The world's smallest Ipod is gone, and I am pisssssssssssed. I mean, it was the greatest thing in the world for working out, smaller than a matchbox and clipped to your clothes. Bright green. The problem was that it was smaller than a matchbox, and I kept losing it in my work bag or in a pocket. Well, now it is lost for almost sure, and I simply don't do justice to the bass licks in "Icky Thump" solo in my car. I'm going to replace it, but not sure if I want something larger and not as easily lost (and more expensive) that bounces around while I'm running, or go for the same thing again.

Saturday afternoon was gorgeous...took myself to a coffee shop with Orwell's 1984, played phone tag with J. for a couple of hours while she lent a listening ear to three or four different friends around Kuwait and then landed at my table, with 45 minutes to spare. I was five minutes in to a great conversation when I noticed a fellow lurking (ok, he wasn't lurking- he was standing directly behind J. and refusing to go away no matter how pointedly I talked to her). He wasn't completely unknown to me- he was actually a "Freind" of the 3rd leg who'd been victimized by some of her drunk-dials in October, before The Artist Formerly Known as SMOP.

Of course, after about 10 minutes this was sort of awkward, so we invited him to sit down after a couple of greetings and he point blank asked if I remembered his name. I was actually really sore to lose my conversation with J.; J. took it as a "Gee She Might Get Laid" opportunity, sucked down her cappuccino and fled. I offered (strongly, for me) to take her to her language lesson; she assured me of the 6545861032 taxis on Mubarak Street, one might work out.

We had about an hour's conversation before I had to leave, many cigarettes were smoked. He positively assured me that he loved chess. He wanted to play chess. We would meet again on Monday, to play chess.

I went to my riding lesson, which went very well. Then I went to a friends house to watch a movie, getting so lost enroute and returning I ended up in the Cargo area of the airport. I got home at midnight, had to be up by 5.

The following day at work was easy but tiresome, except my Assistant was slammed in the head by a kamikaze basketball during my Prep. She came tottering into the classroom at 1:00 behind the students, green as algae under her hijab and "I am not feeling well!" in an Islamabad accent. Honestly, I haven't seen anyone physically turn green in almost 16 years. I told her to go home, or at least sit down. She refused the nurse, lasted another 20 minutes and poured herself into a taxi, green and all.

French, then dinner with J. and a newcomer to Kuwait I had met very slightly during February. He turned out to be wildly intellectual, invited a second friend working at the Turkish Embassy, a second friend of J.'s showed up and we were out talking and eating until 11:30. Meanwhile, my Assistant's husband called from the Emergency Room to report a minor concussion, that she wouldn't be in. I told him I'd pretty much assumed that.

I drove home with book titles and research papers fluttering through my hair. We had talked about David Lynch (the first time I heard him mentioned in Kuwait), research in Kuwait on Autism, Diabetes and Mental Health, Khazars, books, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It was exactly the delicious type of conversation I'd been craving, looking everywhere for, and despaired of finding. When I checked my email before bed, a different woman, a cytologist, had sent all her published papers as promised. Oh, language I could understand! People who understood it as a matter of course!

Bed by midnight, up at 5.

Even though the next day was...not exactly smooth, student-wise, I kept looking out at The Holiday Inn and just smiling. The Aramex representative finally got back to me, the office was sneezing distance so I could finally complete my paperwork. Plus, I was supposed to play chess that evening.

(OK, for those of you a little more knowledgeable in human motivation than I am, sometimes, shut up now. Just...shut it.)

I wanted a nap after work, but I wanted Lunch more. So I cooked lunch. Which took until 4:30, and I needed to leave by 6. Originally, I put on jeans and a Grey t-shirt with a flannel shirt over it (hey, it's a chess game, right?) but this tinny ringing in my head, eerily reminiscent of my grandmother having a major shitfit, made me pull a couple unused clothing items out of the drawer and put on a darker shade of lipstick. Surveyed the result, "Not too bad, not overdone" I mused. I walked out the door, pressed the elevator button, waited. The elevator opened to disclose my Supervisor, clearly in shock. I stepped in.
The doors slid shut. The elevator moved upwards. I started punching buttons frantically. "This is supposed to be going DOWN!"
"It's not a date" I muttered, still pushing buttons "Something is wrong with the elevator!"
"I'm playing chess look your floor right here okay bye!"
"He's from Jordan and it's not a date okay BYE! The DOORS ARE CLOSING!" I leaned on the button, sank back against the elevator thinking I might just cut to the chase and have sex in the elevator, since it would only be the people in the elevator who knew what I was doing instead of the whole damn building and I could have an entire relationship wrapped up in less than 15 minutes.

I made it to Aramex, went downstairs and ordered a cappuccino. It was 7, no sign of the guy. And curiously enough, my phone wasn't with me. WTF??! This might sound funny but it's perfectly true- I absolutely wouldn't have left my phone on purpose, and I specifically remembered putting it in my purse. Where the hell was it? Where was he? At 7:30 I packed it in and went home.

Yeah, phone was sitting next to the computer all right... had he called? No. But someone else had. Three times. Third Leg had called (!!!!!) and SMOP had texted (!!!!!!!!!!!). Whoa. Two people I'd rather slam my hand in a car door than be forced to talk to, and with some dim level of understanding on their part.

I took a shower, got in pajamas, got in bed with a movie. He called at 9, and apparently it was my responsibility to have called him and reminded him...?

To the very last second, I thought he would show up with a chess board. Damn it. What followed was a very long couple of hours of him insisting I "can make him happy" with my equally insistent, "I don't believe that's in my power." Many cigarettes were smoke. I threw him out at 11:30, left the window open to air the place out.

Bed by midnight, up at 5.

Of course, in the morning there was a dust storm in full swing.