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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 22, Saturday - Amman to Kuwait

Moataz and Tina taking me to the airport
Today is a travel day, which means lots of time spent going through security (by the way, you still cannot take a nail file on the plane, good thing they found that in my carry-on before I checked my big bags). Fortunately, I was more prepared this time and everything went fine. Well, that is after we figured out which terminal I was supposed to check in at (we had to load my stuff back in the car so that I could get to the other terminal, which is why we leave so early to get to the airport…)

Olive trees (on the way to to airport)
 Also, once you are through the passport check point you enter the duty-free area, where they have a clever set-up to get you to spend money: they don't let you through the next security point until just a little before your flight, meaning you have to stay in the duty-free area. Seriously, I tried to go through the security check an hour or so before my flight just to sit at the gate and they guy looked at my ticket, smiled and said, “You don’t need to go through yet. Go back, sit down, and relax for a while.” It didn’t actually matter much, but as a Marketing major, I just thought it was a clever sales strategy. ;)

FYI, Watanya Airways (Kuwait’s national carrier) is really nice. Just saying.

On a personal note, at the beginning of my trip I lost the cord which connects my mp3 player to my computer which means I cannot charge it nor add/change the music. In the grand scheme of things this is not important, but my mother tried to help me figure out where I could get a replacement one and it turns out the one I have can only be ordered online. Why? How did I manage to pick the one which requires mailing vs picking it up from a Radio Shack? I have resigned myself to the fact that I will be without it until I return home. Again, this is not really that important considering everything else I could have lost (and I have been very blessed not to lose any luggage thus far), but I had to vent somewhere. Thanks for listening. :)

And now for a few Isabelle Observations about Jordan as I leave:

1.) It tends to be the small things that surprise me about the way of living in other countries. For example, the prevalence of KFC, banana flavored milk, and the trucks which play music like our ice-cream trucks except that here they are selling gasoline. 

Pipe being installed to bring water from Saudi Arabia
2.) Jordan is the third poorest country in the world in terms of water. I learned this fact through my many business meetings and yet I didn’t really think about how it affects day-to-day life until I was talking to Yassar about doing laundry. She mentioned how careful they have to be about how much water they use because they only get one week’s supply at a time which they store in a tank. Coming from an area so rich with water (I know, I know, everyone thinks Seattle = rain, which is apparently how we ended up with vampires…), I have had to reorient my thinking towards something I take for granted but is really precious here. 
3.) Drivers in Jordan tend to follow the rules more than in Beirut, but speed limits, seat-belts, and blinkers remain largely optional. Roads tend to be rather large and have barriers between opposing lanes of traffic for safety, but this also means an increase in the frequency of U-turns which are necessary to get to side-streets. 

4.) Also, in Jordan, you can tell by a colored stripe on cars’ license plates if they are taxis, government, or civilian. Regular taxis have license plate numbers beginning with 50 while hired cars start with 70. Regular taxis, which are generally yellow, also have a colored panel on their doors which tell you what area they serve. 

5.) Finally, receiving phone calls in the Middle East is free, which means we are getting cheated a little in the States. Here, as long as you have a local phone, only the person making the phone call is charged the usage of the minutes. In the States, both the caller and the receiver pay, which is technically charging the call twice. Again, I’m just saying. 

And now for a small lexicon of interesting Middle Eastern vs. American terms/trademarks:

Mr. Proper = Mr. Clean
Donuts Factory = Dunkin Donuts (I think)

Biggly Wiggly = Piggly Wiggly (Supermarket)

Cookie Crisp Panther = Cookie Crisp Dog (Cereal)

Frosties = Frosted Flakes (Cereal)

Tea “with milk” = can mean tea made in hot milk instead of water, very milky, and apparently Egyptian

To be continued…

I am now in Kuwait with my Kuwaiti family. I am staying with Lina Al-Harbi and two of her children, Latifa and Nasser (the other four are in the US for school right now). I will be visiting most of Aunt Lina’s siblings while I am here and I will write about them as I see them. I feel very comfortable here already and the family is so sweet to me. Not to mention the house is beautiful and I have actually unpacked my bags for the first time during my trip.
"My" room (it's Lina's oldest son's room)
The blanket on the bed (I've been told they were going to change it to something more girly but forgot. I like it.)
 Tonight, Aunt Lina’s niece, Maha (Lina’s sister Seena’s daughter), took me to the “The Avenues,” which is a huge mall. We ended up at a chocolate bar, which, as the name suggests, serves everything chocolate and more. Kuwait is a dry country, meaning alcohol is illegal, but this also means they have come up with the most fabulous non-alcoholic "bars," which I absolutely love. I had a delicious melted chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream and Maha opted for the strawberry shortcake. 

I have noticed that I don’t quite blend in as well in Kuwait as I did in Lebanon and Jordan. It is not like people stare at me or anything, but I definitely do not look like a local. I am considered blonde here (when I asked Maha what they call someone we in the West consider blonde she laughed and said “fake blonde,” since no one here has that color hair naturally. Aunt Lina told me it is “light blonde,” so take your pick). I am also very pale (I'm even pale in the US, so here I look nearly colorless). There are some lighter skinned Kuwaitis, but they have a more olive tone, and while I always thought I was a little olive toned, here I am definitely pink. I am not the only Westerner here (Nassar goes to an American school where all the teacher are, in fact, American, plus there are Western business people), but we are not all that common.

At one point when we were at the chocolate bar, a waiter came by to ask us how everything was, and while I didn’t think anything of it, Maha told me she has never seen that happen before. Which made it even more strange when a second person came over a little later and asked us again. It could be because I look different, but since that seems so weird to me, I am not convinced. 

Note: I am also back in the heat. It was 41C when I landed in Kuwait (which is somewhere above 100F).

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