Living, driving and surviving in Kuwait - andymc {P}
This is another edition of my brother's blog - he is currently working as an English teacher English in Kuwait, where the daytime temperature has often reached 55 degrees Celsius and the roads are in a similar state of anarchy to those that Growler has described in the Phillippines. Anyway, as there isn't much (legal) for bro to do apart from work and sleep, he writes the blog to keep himself sane. The fact that he is still there by choice would seem to indicate a failure of this strategy to date, but there you go. He has touched on motoring-related themes a couple of times before, and I think this one is particularly good.

"For A Minute There, I Lost Myself"
We are heading up the motorway, we three anti-Musketeers, all for none and every man for himself. I have secured the shotgun seat, less I suspect because of my status of alpha male than because Jordan has calculated that back-seat passengers have a better chance of survival. Ah well. We swerve across 3 lanes. The speedometer needle is hovering at the 130 km mark, as though it is considering putting down a deposit and settling in the area. I convert to Imperial in my head. About 80-85 mph (It occurs to me that I have actually traveled in slower airplanes). Amir is playing his ?in hot pursuit? tape. It?s a compilation of ballads crooned by Westlife. This is probably just as well, as it doesn?t bear thinking about how Amir would drive if he listened to the Prodigy. We somehow manage to avoid a truck laden with heaped cavity-blocks held together with string. The cavity-blocks, that is, not the truck, though at this stage nothing on these roads would surprise me. The cavity-blocks are jigging up and down excitedly as we pass, some inches from my wing-mirror. It?s actually quite exhilarating, like mountain-biking down a muddy trail with a thousand foot gradient and no helmet. That Pixies song, ?River Euphrates?, dances through my head:
?Stuck here out of gas
Out here on the Gaza Strip
I?m driving too fast, two three four
Ride a tire down River Euphrates
Let?s ride a tire down River Euphrates.?
I suddenly wonder if Amir actually knows what it is teachers DO. Perhaps he is under the impression that Jordan?s briefcase contains organs for transplant ops, or that I am in the habit of carrying around plutonium samples on my person. Maybe I should reassure him that we will probably escape jail sentences even if we do arrive some minutes late for class. For his part, Jordan appears to have developed a type of speech impediment. He is continually starting sentences which begin with some emphatic statement, then unaccountably tail off.
?JEEZ AMIR, yer know, it?s better to arrive late than to go on like this??
?AMIR FOR CHRISSAKES WHAT ARE YOU oh god what the hell am I doing, this country, lunatics?.?
I feel he would benefit from some conversation, so I begin to talk about the first thing which comes to mind, which is - as it happens - one?s favorite vehicle, to be chosen on the basis of accident-survivability. Why? Oh, no reason.

We discuss, or rather Jordan talks and I listen, the various attractions and otherwise of the GMC (too fat), the Land-Rover (too slight), the Jeep (too thirsty), the Range-Rover (what Jordan disliked about the Range-Rover escapes my memory), the Japanese SUVs (just right).
?Best are them Mitsubishi and Toyota pick-ups. Inbloodyvulnerable. Yer can drive ?em years, maintenance free, lower fuel consumption than yon stupid Yank-tanks. Taliban drive ?em, they get machine-guns stuck on back of ?em in Somalia.?
?I think the Taliban are actually based in Afghanistan, Jord,? I suggest, wistfully reflecting on my alternative career as Professor of Politically Unstable Geography in some college in the American South-West, a beacon of knowledge shining forth in the Fox -haunted gloom.
?There too. Tough enough to stick Ack-Ack guns on ?em. Yer could drop a container on ?em and they?d survive. Humvees are the right stuff for that too. Just roll over any opposition, Heheheh.? I suspect he is imagining his Humvee stealthily gaining on Amir?s taxi, bent on sweet revenge.
?Humvee? There is very big crash Humvee on Sixth Ringroad, very bad crashing.? Amir has decided to join the conversation, Westlife?s charms having evidently palled on him. ?Yer mean, it hit another car like?? For an English teacher who lives abroad, Jordan seems to be rather short on decoding verbal communication sometimes. I bet he spends too much time on the internet, but then who am I to talk?
?Nonono, Humvee very bad crashed, doing too fast, looks now like a football. Allgone.?

The conversation stalls as we pass a series of once-fancy 4x4s, now evidently silver-medallists of some collision or other ? with each other? Who knows? Most are burned-out. A trail of toys is strewn along the motorway behind one. I suddenly remember the local fondness for driving with small children perched on one?s lap behind the wheel, Britney fashion, except Britney hadn?t been driving like Mad Max. Or had she? You know, the potential in this country for a reality TV show must be enormous. Darwinian Drivers ? the show where you don?t even have to vote someone off! Losers are punished by being removed from the gene pool altogether. We pass a burned-out bus. I remember Amir telling me the previous night, how the crash had happened. Covered in the English language paper, too:

?32 Asian cleaning workers were injured in a traffic accident on the Expressway. Three of the victims, including the driver of the bus which overturned after crashing into a truck, have been admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital.?

It had received less space than the award of medals to some generals for unspecified heroics (in my experience, the generals here tend to get medals in the same way that children get presents at Christmas); but then, there had been no deaths. Viewing it, I can?t imagine how not, or rather why not. Nobody dead? Shurely shome mistake? The bus resembles a giant centipede stood on by the foot of God. One sees buses like it so many times a day, the Asians squashed into it like so many refugees, which of course, they are, in a sense. Refugees from the War on Peasant Villages, now in its third century, pursued down through the years with equal enthusiasm by British pioneers of capitalism, German Junkers, Soviet commissars, the International Monetary Fund and Monsanto. Many of the buses are old veterans of far-off school runs in Middle America, still sporting their yellow paint. But their passengers aren?t going to any show-and-tell or baseball outings. Others travel in little Hiace vans, with a dozen or fifteen adults squeezed into a space which once would have been considered sufficient to accommodate a quartet of hippies and their stash. Hey, we had to travel in one in the last contract. Cans O? Spam. Open up easy to leave the meat exposed.
Probably the worst though are the old pick-ups and people-carriers you see, the pick-ups (always Kuwaiti-owned, regular readers will recall) with 2 rows of solemn South Asian faces packed into the cargo space beneath an aluminium box reminiscent of a kennel, the people-carriers with every seat taken and a pair of immigrants spread-eagled behind the third row of seats for good measure, arms pressed against the rear-window, in the space where a family might choose to place a package of nappies or an ice-box. What is it God has against Bengalis anyway?

Jordan thinks I should be buying cheap second-hand luxury and sports cars here and selling them in Spain. Even after I pay the import duty, he says, I should be able to realize pleasant 5-figure sums per sale, become a rich man and thus definitely get a girlfriend.
?It beats teaching,? he concludes gloomily by way of summing-up.
?Oh, teaching?s not so bad?, I venture, noting the taxi, almost identical to Amir?s but for the crushed roof and its being upside-down, at the side of the flyover.
Jordan ain?t having any of it. ?You know what they say, teaching?s what you do when your life goes wrong.?
I consider pointing out that both my parents, one sister-in-law, and numerous friends/uncles/aunts/cousins are teachers, but am diverted by wondering what happened in Jordan?s life that went wrong. There is no Mrs. Jordan, nor any female fulfilling that role. I know he had been in the Air Force, then run a fish-and-chip shop in South Africa, before ending up in Thailand and now the Gulf. He is planning to retire aged 55 from the money he will have made in the next 5 years. Looking at the J.G. Ballardian sculptures about, and given the lot of the average person in this part of the world, I cannot but suspect that he is over-egging the pudding of his Jonah-like existence somewhat.

Amir bends down to turn on the English-language radio-station, causing the taxi to veer sharply and dangerously to the right. For a second I know what it?s like to be an American.
?Amir, you know, I can do that for you, if you wouldn?t mind keeping your eyes on the road.? I try to keep my tone relaxed, not particularly wanting to see how an agitated Amir beset by enraged yelling would drive. Jordan appears to have skipped through that phase of communication requiring large fonts, and is holding a file of some kind in front of his eyes whilst he makes almost inaudible sounds, not unlike those of a middle-aged Englishman bereft of the powers of speech who has seen a comfortable retirement in the fleshpots of Thailand almost snatched away ??gg?gg??
Then a mournful piano riff grips my attention ? it can?t be ? surely it?s illegal to play it in this country ? it is! The DJ, may Allah shower him with rose-petals, has put on Radiohead?s Karma Police!! We have music!!! Amir moves his hand dial-wards, and then I finally DO lose it and growl throatily at him, turning the volume up as I do so. We complete our daily commute with Thom Yorke?s lugubrious but melodic voice haunting our vehicle and a seraphic smile on my countenance. Jordan must have had something of riveting interest in that A4 folder, because he kept it pressed firmly to his face for the remainder of the journey. Just as well really, his mood would probably not have been improved by the sight of the Mitsubishi pick-up - the Terminator of trucks, the wheels of his dreams, that indestructible vehicle - lying in the grass verges, its double-cab compressed by some great force that had left it perfectly parallel to, but less than six inches above the level of, what Americans call the hood.

?This is what you get
This is what you get
This is what you get
When you mess with the
Karma Police.?

PS: Jordan has just given his notice. Readers are invited to contribute suggestions as to why in the space below. The lucky winner will receive a copy of the seminal anthropological classic, Professor Desmond Morris? ?Duh! Sarcasm, Irony and how to recognize them in social situations, for like, totally intelligent people.?

Vroom, vroom - mmm, doughnuts ...
Living, driving and surviving in Kuwait - SjB {P}
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, it seems; we've had one helluva war in the mean time, the Amir has died and political wrangling and ill health decided who replaced him, and women on paper at least now have some semblance of rights, but driving is just the same as when I was living in Kuwait from 1982 to 1984!

To think I passed my UK driving test and then moved to Kuwait a week later; a real baptism by fire.

I have some RTA photos that make your blood run cold and which would never pass scrutiny on this website so I'll keep them to myself. Think though of the results of:

1) Street racing a powerful Merc at night, without lights and with no street lighting, and then hitting a bulldozer shovel head on. The bulldozer had been parked in the street for the night
2) A cow falling out of the back of a Toyota pickup truck and then being hit by oncoming traffic. The rotting carcass was still at the roadside yonks later.
Living, driving and surviving in Kuwait - colinh
The early '80s were when they introduced the artificial hill into the compound where driving tests were conducted (the examiners weren't brave enough to get into cars with the candidates and go onto the normal roads). The hill was introduced after the hump-backed flyovers were built on the 6th ring road, and nobody had had to do a hill-start prior to this.
Living, driving and surviving in Kuwait - SjB {P}
My Kuwaiti driving test (July or August 1982) involved getting round the requirement to show my Grandmother's birth certificate and identifying which direction four capital letter Es were pointing in!
Living, driving and surviving in Kuwait - IanJohnson
These are the people who believe that wearing a seat belt is heresy (?) - if god wants me to die who am I to try to prevent it!
Living, driving and surviving in Kuwait - SjB {P}
"Inshallah" (God willing) was one of the most common expressions encountered in my daily life.
Living, driving and surviving in Kuwait - SjB {P}

Cool - I just saw how the Google toolbar update automatically helped correct my spelling before I even ran the search; giving the suggestions in a drop down box.

Motoring connection; having spotted this I tested it with pegot and got Peugeot at the top of the list of suggested corrections, even down to correct use of an initial capital letter. Nice.


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