Friday, October 7, 2011

The Five Senses of Kuwait

I have already mentioned what it is like walking around the streets of Kuwait, and trying to cross those streets with the insane traffic.

There is a lot more the the streets than just the traffic, although the traffic is certainly a major crazy aspect. I decided to break this blog down to describe as best I can each of the five senses. It will be slightly difficult to do, especially without a camera for a visual but I will do my best! (I lost my Ipod touch which was my camera when I first got here).

Seeing: It's the desert, so obviously there is sand everywhere. Where we would have grass back home, it's sand. That spills onto the patio steps that the side of the streets are made of. I say side of the streets because it is hardly a sidewalk when a lot of the space is taken up by parked cars. Areas made for walking usually have a lip covering them and they are right outside of stores in shopping areas.

Some of the buildings look amazing. It is clear that a lot of money has been put into the architecture of these buildings. Right beside these buildings however, are ruins, eye sores. Broken down buildings that looked like they were recently bombed. Perhaps they are remains from the Gulf War in the early 90s. I have no idea.

The streets are littered with garbage. There is no recycling system in place and people seem to just toss the garbage anywhere. A lot of this garbage is piled up in the formerly mentioned ruins. There are also wild animals living in them. By wild animals, I mean stray cats. They are uglier than cats normally are, super skinny and I just have the urge to kick them all. But I am afraid of how dirty they are, so I avoid them at all costs.

Smelling: I think you can imagine that the smell near the dumpsters is not pleasant in the slightest. I have to hold my breath. Away from the dumpsters there are sudden bursts of unpleasant smells that I can barely describe. Perhaps it is sulfur or rotten eggs, or something in between. The sand around the dumpsters and in random lots acts as a giant litter box for the multitude of cats wandering the area. Sudden whiffs of kitty waste can pollute the air as well.

I have found there are a lot of perfumes in this country, so a lot of the time there are various fragrances in the air when walking in crowded areas. Some are rather strong, too strong for my liking. Also along the streets you can catch the sudden whiff of sheesha being smoked at the many hooka bars. There is also the aroma that fills the street of the many food options within the country, including the many Lebanese and Indian restaurants.

Hearing: The days can be pretty quiet as there aren't nearly as many people out and about doing things, but you will still hear traffic and horn honking. That all increases as the sunlight begins to cease. Cars honk at anything and everything here. People seem to think when they honk other cars will magically move out of the way.

Perhaps the most interesting sound to hear in Kuwait is the call to prayer. It is music from the Qur'an that is played five times a day out of outside speakers on each mosque. It is making people aware that it is time to pray. Perhaps like the church bells I used to hear as a child to let people know Sunday mass was beginning. Except it happens everyday and 5 times a day. On Fridays, the holy day here, there is preaching over the speakers for an extended period time. I don't know exactly how long.

Early in the morning when I first got here I could hear people doing construction across the street. Not a unique sound, but it is pretty odd to hear it when most people are sleeping. Speaking of people, obviously a lot of language will be heard. Most people seem to speak English and Arabic. As a result it's easy to get by not knowing Arabic. One Arabic phrase I hear constantly--especially since I started talking to the parents of children I am teaching--is insha'Allah. This means God willing, and is said all the time. I said to my student "See you Sunday" and his mother responded "Insha'Allah."

Tasting: My favourite taste of Kuwait is chicken. I seem to eat it daily, as the other meat options are not always available. There are plenty of food options though. As mentioned, Lebanese and Indian restaurants are very common. The country is riddled with foreigners as Kuwaiti's don't work hard labour or do customer service. Hummus is very common before many meals and curry seems to be a  common dish. I love ordering chicken Kebabs.

Walking around, the heat makes my throat dry so a common taste of Kuwait the cold water I am constantly using to hydrate myself, but maybe that is a stretch. They sell some pretty awesome 'cocktails' here. Not what you think, they are basically fruit juice. I like to get the lemonade, although it isn't really lemonade. It is limeade. It is still pretty good though.

Touching: The hard patio steps on the uneven sand seems to be pretty hard on some peoples bodies. I haven't experienced any problems other than the occasional stumble. I am always wearing sandals or flip flops, so I can always feel sand in my feet. Walking in the sun is a sweaty affair. That makes my shirt sweaty and damp.

I don't live too far from the Gulf, about a 10 minute walk. So part of the touching includes the salty warm water of the Arabian Gulf. I've been there a few times, while playing frisbee and tossing a baseball on the beach and then once during the day to relax.

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