Sunday, October 26, 2003

Ok, latest happenings...

Nothing too exciting to report, save for a few minor "incidents":

As I have adequately chronicled, the drivers in Kuwait are just short of suicidal. They drive with complete indifference to the other drivers that share the same road (and often the same lane, sometimes at the same time), making for some fairly interesting adventures in driving.

So a few days ago I was driving to work in the morning, and after about the fourth time of being cutoff by someone who appears completely baffled by the concept of "lanes", this guy swerves into my lane (at 60kph), then brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of me, causing ME to slam on my brakes. I honked my horn (which they only seem to use here to point out the fact that the light has changed .25 secs ago, and you should have ALREADY been in the intersection when it happened... apparently...), and in response, I got a LEFT hand "shooing" gesture from the driver I honked at...

Let me explain to you why this was an insult (as it has been explained to me... so excuse the colorful language...). The toilets here ALL have, at the very least, a spigot with a shower-head attached to it nearby. This is to wash their hand off when they're done wiping their ass (with their left hand), which they don't (traditionally) use paper to do. For this reason, to offer someone anything with your left hand, and especially to gesture at them, is considered an insult. I'm told that more "modern" Arabic people use toilet paper, but there is still a fair number that are "traditionalists"... I haven't been in a public bathroom yet that hasn't had both TP and the shower-head thingy...

So, this champion driver has his left hand out the window, gesturing at me. I throw BOTH my hands up, in a "COME ON" gesture, and he slows down to a crawl. Now he's REALLY pissed me off, so I start to pass him on the right hand side. He turns on his blinker (I was impressed he knew where it was...), and starts to pull to the right. I go back to the left, and accelerate past him. We both got a good look at each other as we passed, and it was obvious we wouldn't be bridging any culture gaps together. I resisted the urge to flip him off with my RIGHT hand (the one I use to wipe MY ass with), and just drove on. He flashed his lights at me a few times (another favorite driving tactic here: meaning "move over please", or "get the hell out of my way", depending on the mood of the driver...).

I got on the highway, and headed to the port. I noticed he was going the same way, but didn't think about him again until I saw him take the same exit. The offramp comes to a four-way lighted section, which was turning yellow with a truck approaching on the crossroad; slowing down but still rolling, anticipating the light changing. I rolled thru the yellow as it turned red, and as I finished my turn I saw the guy run the red light in front of the big truck, causing the truck driver to slam on his brakes to avoid sending my pursuer on to Allah.

I drove on to the checkpoint, not changing my speed. I was very interested to see how brave this guy was when he pulled up to a military gate, and noticed several M-16's, M-4's, and an M-249 pointed in his general direction. There is a turn-around point right in front of the gate, and he pulled off there as I was showing my ID. I should have told the guard to get the license plate, but I didn't want to have to do the paperwork that probably would have resulted from an "Incident Investigation".

So, I drove on to work, and this guy turned around and (presumably) went back to causing traffic problems, and all is good in the world. Of course, I'm a little more paranoid when I'm driving around now... hehe

In other news, Hugh is on his way back over here. He's either going to fill in for me while I head up to Turkey (for my original project), or he'll go on to Turkey in my place. More on that later, as I'm told.

Today is Shelley's birthday, and all of her presents from me are still sitting here. Yes I know, I suck. I ordered her a cartouche, which is normally an Egyptian thing, but the local stores do them (with the english name on one side, and arabic on the other). Anyway, getting this thing has been a huge fiasco, and I'm wishing I had just sent everything off, and sent her the cartouche later. Anyway, call her and tell her happy birthday, will you?

ok, that's all I have time for right now. I'm not even going to say anything about the pictures, I know you're all sick of hearing the excuses! =)

Love to all!

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