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Monthly Archives: February 2008

Ladies and gentlemen,….

what better way to commemorate this auspicious occasion than to provide you with a whingeing foreigner’s perspective on the state of this little nation. while it certainly isnt my place to tell you how to run your country, perhaps this little monologue will open your eyes to some things that you didnt know before, or perhaps it will drive you to grab your balls and go do something about it all.

hopefully it wont discourage you to the point that you all just give up.

it shouldnt,… because over in the left corner, just outside of your peripheral vision is a faint light that if given half a chance, will envelope the darkness that threatens to descend, not only over this nation, but over this region as a whole.

in the year that has passed since the last time the boys spraying shaving foam on the girls were in turn sprayed with hair removal foam by some very innovative girls,…..

we have seen that the vast majority of this nation will not move their ass unless it is to demand that the government is not being nice enough. while in the company of foreigners, the locals will enthusiastically disown those seeking stupiddecisionmaking relief ( aka loan write off ), only to turn around and say ” yeah why are we giving so much to africa when there are people here suffering cos they cant pay for their mercedes? its just not fair!” in the company of their own kind.

too many are too willing to mortgage their nations future just to show the neighbours how rich they would like to appear. too many are too willing to mortgage the financial future of their grandchildren just to be able to say they have heated seats in their car…… yes they do still market heated seats here in the desert.

we have seen the issue of segregation rise up once again.

in a time when your government is being proactive in making this desert more hospitable to foreigners by reducing taxes on foreign corporations, and by eliminating taxes completely on profits generated on the stock market by foreigners,…. with the hope of attracting more foreign businesses and the staff they will bring, the MP’s that you have elected are sending the opposite message, blaming all of society’s problems on “alien influences” and MTV.

while most of your parents might have been too afraid to speak up for fear of being ostracised by the beardies, they come from another time and theyre dealing with enough as it is. they have done their best to give you the nation that you see before you. most didnt have the benefit of mass media and the web with which to broaden their horizons.

what you decide to hand to your kids will be determined by what you do now.

or by what you dont do, as the case may be.

let the beardies have their way and pregnant women with male and female foetus’s will be segregated in seperate wards for fear of corrupting each other. male and female pigeons cavorting in the squares downtown during springtime will be monitored by the beardies, who will then proceed to ban them for fear of corrupting the little children who go an feed them.

personally, full on kingdom type segregation would be great for me,…. since i’m out of here in about 3 months, it wont really matter, except for the fact that the construction industry will boom if completely new buildings are required for segregated schools, ministries and malls.

the shares that i own will be making sooo much stupid money it will be ridiculous.

bring on road segregation too! new lanes with massive concrete barriers since we all know just how much flirting goes on on the highways here!

what more of a stock tip could you ask for if the beardies get their way?

on the last negative front, there is the issue of the expats here.

as disappointed as i may be in the behaviour of the locals, the recent behaviour of the expats is even more depressing.

if you let a local pass in front of you, very few of us expect a wave of thank you.

some did.

there was a time when expats always said thank you.

that time has saddly gone.

why?

because there is a growning number of 3rd and 4th generation of expats. many of them grew up here, and have come to call it home. but with that they absorb the customs and traditions they see around them. and humans much like monkeys will tend to emulate the “bad fun stuff” first.

take a walk in the residentail areas of farwaniya, hawally and salmiya and you will find mercs and bmw’s in abundance.

why?

cos the banks have been given the go ahead to lend to foreigners. and the expats are taking the bait, hook, line and sinker. just like the locals, they have mortgaged the next 5 years of their lives. there is no longer a dream to work forward to since youre actually working for whoever you bought your car from and for your bank.

and no it doesnt matter that you have a Dr in front of your name, or if you came from a fancy college somewhere else,… none of that matters anymore,… cos after years of building your net worth, your new bmw has now put you into the category of debtor.

and as a brand new debtor, you are not entitled to dreams,…. atleast not until you’ve cleared your debt.

many expats have simply given up and have resigned themselves to spending the rest of their lives as worse than second class citizens. but if theyre happy about it then who am i to say anything?

BUT FEAR NOT!

for as i said, there is a slight glimmer of hope, way, way over there in the distance.

there are a few voices who have called society’s bluff. the anti-segregation rally last week for example. kudos to them for calling bullshit on what normally comes out of the mouths of politicians and politically minded beardies,… ie bullshit.

if you, the youngers, dont want a mutaween patrol, then seek the anti-segregationists out and lend them your support. your numbers will grow for your cause is just!

remember, just cos dude has a beard doesnt mean he knows what he’s talking about.

on the issue of the write off too, more and more voices are coming forth.

but people rarely listen to you when you tell them theyre being stupid.

perhaps over time more voices will join the few who have every right to be pissed off at their fellow countrymen. perhaps those without loans will rally against those so eager to declare their personal bankruptcy.

perhaps every car should have big LED’s on the side telling everyone how much the person owes instead of plates telling everyone where they live.

perhaps the next time you see a guy in a superduper car, you wont go

“wow!”

but rather

” damn your ass broke! and you have a small weiner complex!”

unless you know the dude is loaded, in which case he just has a small weiner complex.

there are those returning from overseas who will lead this nation, hopefully in the right direction. the injection of fresh blood is evident from the large numbers of new types of businesses opening up. no longer are the younger 20 somethings satisfied with just another ministry job.

to them i raise my glass and say carry on!

there are those who stayed here, who have had enough, and who dont want their kids to be raised in the same stifleing environment that they endured.

to them too i raise my glass and say cary on being pissed off, you have every right!

to the puss oozing cancerous tumors on the ass of society i too say carry on!

for if it were not for you, then the few good amongst you would not have gotten angry enough, or pissed off enough to come out and stand for something.

its been an interesting year, and here’s to another weird and bizarre 12 months till the next time.

infoconnect 2008,…. much like 07’s, was rather disappointing,…..

until i saw this:

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wtf?

lucky for me they came back around again:

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but they didnt stay long,…..

and just as quickly as their little segways could take them, they rode off into the fluorescent light bulbed sunset once again.

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butch cassidy and the sundance kid couldnt hold a candle to these two πŸ˜›

Hawala.

so what is it?

its like the old school western union or old school watani online.

ok let me explain it better: its a method of transfering money from one place to another, like a wire transfer,…. but without a wire and nothing actually moves. its largely based on trust and honour much like your regular international bank.

so one day one of my associates outside the country says ” i’ll transfer the funds to you first thing in the morning”

i go “cool, i’ll let you know when i get it in a few days”,…. thinking it’ll be a bank transfer ,… and bank transfers normally take atleast 3-5 days to clear.
but the next evening i get a call.

“hello? mr skunk? yes we have your money.”

“who is this?”

“this is mr hawala. you can come and get it at our office in the city.”

^ roughly translated from my broken arabic and his egyptian arabic of course.

the next day i head down to the address in the city, which turns out to be the local currency exchange place near the baladiya gardens.

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as you can see from the little blue car,….. even tho its a parking lot, you can still park just about anywhere you want. even right outside the booth where you pay to exit.

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its a whole street of exchange companies. and officially atleast thats what they do.

unofficially they also do hawala where you can send as much as you want to just about anywhere, provided they have contacts in that country.

so i go in give them my name and my mobile number.

they take a photocopy of my ID, or passport if you dont have an ID.

then they ask you to sign a reciept.

the guy at the desk yells out how much cash you should recieve.

the guy in the back yells it back to confirm.

then the guy in the back throws, and i mean over arm throws the bundle of cash at the guy in front.

but it was early, so the guy in front wasnt fully awake,….

so he missed the flying wad of cash coming at him.

and i looked on in amazement as the roll of US$100 bills hits the glass in front of my nose and ricochets back under the desk.

a minute later i’m saying my thank yous and goodbyesΒ  and walking back to my car with the the warm feeling of a bundle of cash in my coat pocket πŸ˜€

one mywway to the car i could help but take a picture up close. nothing makes a hardened capitalist’s heart soften as much as a scene like:

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apparently, the 12 hours between my associate transfering and me getting the call isΒ  not even classed as express delivery. a friend actually sent a couple of grand to his mum in india in the time it took him to finish his tea at the hawala shop.

the story goes like this:

he needed to get cash to his mum quick. his teaboy mentions the hawala service to him. he doesnt believe it’ll be that quick, or safe but the dude is desperate and decides to try it out.

he shows up at the office, the guy in the shop assures him that everything will be cool, especially since his mum lives in a busy metropolitan area in india.

but guaging my friend’s reluctance, he says ” ok you keep your money, i will make a call, then my man will make the delivery and you can speak with your mother to confirm you recieved it,…. now how do you take your tea?”

not 30 minutes and some small talk later, the shop recieves a call which gets patched thru to the guy behind the desk. he then hands it over to my friend who is surprised to hear his mother’s voice on the other end saying that she recieved the money in cash.

satisfied, my friend pays for the transaction and leaves.

which just goes to show,….

even progress and technology and flashy lights cant beat something that just works, no mater how old it may be.

πŸ˜›

i love the market,….

infact i love just about any kind of market, so one dusty friday morning at the fish market in kuwait city:

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the dude in the corner,…. i thought he was gonna move out the way, but he kept standing where he was so i just snapped away πŸ˜›

business idea: you know those booties that you have to wear to go into an operating room in the hospital? those little blue things?

someone needs to put a dispensing machine at the entrance. charge 20 fils and i reckon youd make a killing πŸ˜›

oh and isnt there a ban on shrimps at the market and a general ban on shrimping in kuwaiti waters?

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they must have scared the shrimps into international waters and then caught them πŸ˜›

KD2 a kilo!

but if you haggle a bit you can bag them for KD1.750 πŸ˜›

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i cant wait to get them inthe pot!

the shrimp are medium sized ones,… but fat and fresh medium sized ones, all their heads were solidly on and their bodies firm to the touch. get em while you can!

the crabs are upside down so you can check for freshness underneath,….. and you can pick te ones with eggs if thats your thing.

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and heres a slightly odd mural:

the fishies’s version of water torture, or in their case no-water torture?

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the shrimp appear to be the thugs of the smaller fish on the left.

i heard that the fat fish that theyre tortureing hasnt paid his weekly protection money to the smaller fish. see a slight hint of a smile on his face? and the big fish obviously doesnt look lik hes having fun.

and who apparently the butcher of bagdad ( ol saddam) got his training at this market πŸ˜› :

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come on the likeness is uncanny πŸ˜›