Update on Kuwait, and no, non je ne regrette rien

Hello all from sunny Kuwait

I’ve been here since Monday, and had thought about writing a post about stuff that’d been on my mind as it’s been a while, plus I figured it might be interesting for you to hear what it’s like here. Obviously events yesterday have changed my feeling about the place a bit, but we’ll get to that.

First of all, yes, it’s hot. Really hot. So hot in fact that I farted the other day and a jet of flame shot out and burned through my trousers. Oops. But it’s not so hot that it’s unbearable. Unlike Italy, it’s a dry heat and an unfailingly flat country, so I’m spared the humidity drenched climbs up and down the hill to my house everyday, which is nice. On top of that, everything is air-conditioned to the max, and people don’t really spend time outside. There’s a noticeable lack of pavement in the residential area I live in, and almost all of my colleagues are a ghostly white colour.

kuwait at iftar

The locals I’ve met (i.e. students and folk in shops) have all been very nice and although I’ve had to be careful what we talk about in class given that it’s Ramadan, my two days of work so far have gone swimmingly. I was a wee bit concerned what they would be like, seeing that it’s my first time in the region and didn’t really know what to expect, but so far so good on that score.

Football is really popular here and there’s a stadium near my work, but unfortunately it’s the close season in Kuwait too. Incredibly, no one has heard of Hibs, so most students have asked if I support Celtic. I’m in the process of educating them.

Speaking of shops, Fridays and Saturdays here are the weekends. So, yesterday (Friday) I and my two colleagues who are also here just for the summer, decided to go to one of the shopping malls centres (everything’s really americanised). We hopped into a taxi and were a few minutes into the ride when the taxi driver asked if we’d heard about the bomb. Uhhhhhhhmmmmmmm, no, what bomb? As you may know by now, 27 people were killed yesterday by a suicide bomb in a mosque downtown. Italians will recognise the gesture I’m  currently making with my upturned hand where I press the tips of my fingers together. Although I never asked Adrian and Francis (the aforementioned colleagues), I assume they both got as sudden a bout of squeaky-bumitis as I did. After a brief confab, it was agreed that we should eschew the Westernised shopping centre and just go home to our apartments. 

We were told by work to stay at home and lay low, so that’s what we did. It was a wee bit tense, as you can imagine, and I started to wonder if coming here was really that great an idea after all. This was the first terrorist attack in Kuwait since 1985 though, and the country is generally considered pretty calm. I’ll be keeping my head down as much as possible for the rest of Ramadan, mind. There already wasn’t much to do here anyway, so I guess I’m going to be watching films and reading books for the foreseeable future.

We sat around in my flat for about five hours, chatting and smoking, and it was nice to have the company. After they’d left I sat and watched a DVD, but half way through it the electricity in the building went off for a few minutes, at which point I switched off my computer, tiptoed up to my bed and eventually fell asleep with a knife on the dresser. Thoroughly spooked.

As it’s Ramadan, eating, drinking, smoking and heavy petting are all off the menu during the day. I’m quite impressed how the Kuwaitis can keep that going, as it must be really difficult to stay awake in my lessons without any fuel in their bodies. The other day I was in a taxi about the time of Iftar (6.50ish - the end of the day’s fasting) and we stopped at traffic lights. A couple of youths approached the car at which point my eyes started to search for the button to lock my door, but as they approached, the driver wound his window down and the urchins gave him bottles of water and figs. They then turned round and went to the next car at the lights and did the same thing. Apparently it’s quite normal for kids to do that during Ramadan, which is both really nice as they don’t ask for money, and a little shaming for me, as I saw them and my mind immediately jumped to a negative conclusion. 

Speaking of negative conceptions, when I was coming over on the plane I read a magazine that had this article, which I found quite interesting. I’d not really considered it before, just as I’d never really considered this part of the world until the last few weeks. An interesting read, even though it would be fairly logical if we had a more diverse view of the region and religion in our news diet.

Anyways, another thing that was on my mind coming over was regret. I’ve had a few. Whether they’ve been what I had to do, I don’t know. I guess at the time they were what I felt was the right move. I don’t think second guessing ourselves does us any good, and so while we might not think that the decisions we made are now the right choices, at the time for one reason or other, they were. For example, I made a choice last year, and by the time that I’d really settled on it as being a bad decision some time later, I found out that I was no longer first choice to the other person. That burns more than the sun here at midday.

It’d be lovely to warble ‘non, je ne regrette rien', but going by the previous sentence, I obviously and unfortunately do. In particular I regret a large chunk of 2014, as evidenced above. I regret decisions made, realisations delayed, and words went unsaid. Unfortunately, I can regret and regret with all my heart and it won’t change anything. The idea of non, je ne regrette rien doesn’t suit me. I like sad books, sad music and sad films, and feel drawn to fictional tragedies. These are not filled with people with unblemished pasts, gaily skipping through meadows to hoots of laughter. I want to be happy more than I want to be almost anything, but I find comfort in sadness and melancholy. Edith Piaf would pretty much be the perfect singer in that regard, come to think of it. 

Rather than non, je ne regrette rien, what seems a little healthier is ‘amor fati’, which translates as ‘love of one’s fate’. Rather than insisting that it’s all good and you actually wanted to get arrested/dumped/sacked/whatever, we should accept what happens. It’s not necessarily being happy about it, but instead acknowledging that it did happen. We’re here because of the steps we’ve taken in life, so if we deny those steps then we wouldn’t be where we are. And hopefully that’s a good place. I’m not quite there yet mentally, but I hope it’s just round the corner, inshallah. I find that maybe I think and regret too much, or at least get stuck in a loop of self-flagellation, but it seems that that’s how I’m wired. If I tried to kid myself then I wouldn’t be honest with myself. After all, as Frank Sinatra sang:


 “what is a man, what has he got? 

  If not himself, then he has naught.”