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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Expats not allowed to die in Kuwait

Graveyards for Kuwaitis only

 

 

In an unprecedented move in Islam and religion in general, an assistant GM within the Municipality has raised an issue that there are plenty of expats dying in Kuwait that are taking up space in the graveyards that belongs to its nationals.

“Only in extreme circumstances” should expats be buried in Kuwait.

This would be rather comical, if it wasn’t so tragic.

So if you are an expat in dire medical condition, please leave and go back to your own country and use up the space there for your burial.

The other option would be to die at sea.

Here is the article on al-qabas, however it is in Arabic (link)

Regardless of whether or not this “idea” moves forward, the very fact that it has sprung up and been brought to light paints a rather morbid picture of the life of expats in Kuwait.

Story of my Life @Kuwait_DGCA

If you are an expat in Kuwait, chances are the place you visit most frequently is the airport!

Kindly allow me to share with you a typical return flight for me:

At immigration:

immigration officer: put finger on device.

I hate that they don’t tell you when to take it off, and I feel stupid just standing there with my finger on a machine whilst they talk to their friends, and then run my passport through their scanning machine.

But the real gold happens as I exit the airport after the final X-ray. I gather my luggage and try to walk away looking as non-threatening as possible, however, the following always happens:

customs officer: you, good morning, come here.

me: hello.

customs officer: your passport please. where are you flying in from?

me: India, via sharjah.

customs officer: what were you doing in India?

me: Work.

Customs officer: What work?

me: my job. I audit.

customs officer: do you smoke? cigarettes, sheesha?

me: no, I run a lot.

customs officer: you run? did you run here from India?

me: maybe next time.

customs officer: have a good day.

me: same to you.

jail-bars-prison-cartoon-picture-thumb

Damn my Spanish good-looks that make me appear as a drug dealer! I mean seriously, is the fact that someone smokes automatically a red flag that they indulge in other illicit activities? Has smoking become a gateway activity to drugs?!

I cannot count the number of times I have been searched, thoroughly mind you, by customs officers here in Kuwait, to the point where every single item in my luggage was taken out and inspected, all my jeans pockets turned inside out.

Can’t a guy get like a card after years and years of flying with no incident that would have customs just flag them through as no-risk?!

My most memorable offence was during my first trip from uni back home (in 2002), apparently some fool had attempted to smuggle drugs sewed into the collar of his shirt, so all bachelors travelling alone were suspect. We (my brother and I)  were taken into a back room where we were asked to sign a form stating we had nothing on us. The officer then took everything out of our luggage and systematically inspected every nook and cranny, flipped through every magazine, over turned every pocket etc.

Then came time for the physical exam. He chose to start with my brother. It started off normally, take everything out of your pockets, take off your shoes etc. I was getting bored so I thought to adjust my watch for the time difference, apparently this was construed by the officer as me trying to conceal drugs of some sort, and I was asked to stand with my hands against the wall.

It would have been less embarrassing had his friend not chosen to walk in and ask “shfee hatha?” (whats up with him, meaning me)

images

The Write up: Transcending the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal Trip - Lord Aymz (1)Getting to Delhi is one thing, getting to Agra where the Taj Mahal is located is a completely different ball game all together!

Upon arriving in Delhi I was anxious to get started on planning my trip to Agra, little did I realize it would take more than I had anticipated, not even knowing what I anticipated!

I touched ground at the hotel by 7:15, the railway station was said to close at 8PM sharp. I ran to the station as it was a mere few meters from the hotel, stood in the wrong line (wasting precious time) and by the time I made it to the foreigners booking area, time was not on my side. The only other option available was a private cab.

Taj Mahal Trip - Lord Aymz (2)

Fortunately, the hotel agreed to send a driver out with me for Rs. 5,500 (I’ll keep the numbers bold so anyone wishing to do the same will know the average cost). We were to start our journey at 6AM. However, as a result of delayed breakfast in the form of Pasta (I was going to Agra to run!) we started our journey at 6:30AM.

Our first stop was for fuel, the sun was just beginning to rise, I spotted what I thought to be a cat in the distance, climbing a walk, then hanging on with its arms… wait… arms? OMG it was monkeys! Wild monkeys in the streets as clear as we have cats in Kuwait!

Taj Mahal Trip - Lord Aymz (3)

The second unusual sight was an elephant walking down the road, laden with goods. Till now the most I’d seen roads was oxen, horses and donkeys.

After a perilous journey whereby I was unable to tell whether the fellow was asleep or awake, we finally arrived at our destination at roughly 9:30AM.

First thing that happened was that my taxi driver introduced me to a tour guide hired by the hotel for me; which was amazing as after looking back on what happened, I doubt I would have succeeded on my own, plus all the extra tidbits of general knowledge on the Taj Mahal!

Taj Mahal Trip - Lord Aymz (4)

A ticket for a foreigner to go into the Taj Mahal is Rs. 750, it is expedited, meaning you do not have to wait in a long line to get to the Taj Mahal, unless of course there are several foreigners visiting at that time, in which case you are sh*t out of luck. The local ticket costs Rs. 20.

Upon passing the gate, where the security checkup involves a pat down and nothing else, you will be jumped by several “professional” photographers, advertising their work to you and requesting a simple payment of Rs. 100 per large photo and Rs. 80 per medium. Be cautious as they will insist on a minimum number of photographs. They know all the hotspots for photography, however quite honestly they are not worth the hassle. I ended up paying Rs. 500 for 9 medium sized photographs.

As soon as we entered I informed my guide of my plan to run there, he cautioned against it saying I would draw attention to myself, which I ended up doing, so instead of running 10K I only ran 1.5K, however it was directly around the Taj Mahal (which I never intended on doing) as well as in the courtyard below it.

The Taj Mahal is a magnificent structure of symmetry and asymmetry, the pillars surrounding the Taj Mahal although appearing to be straight are actually at an angle. The intricate handiwork on the outside of the Taj Mahal shows carvings into solid marble embedded with semi-precious stones from all over the world. The Arabic writing (scripts from the Quran as I was told) is also a wonder to behold as according to the guide, the font is not the same all around, it only appears as such due to an illusion of making the higher up font larger for unity.

After the tour was over and we had paid the cameraman, we headed back towards the taxi and off towards the next logical destination: souvenirs.

The first shop made textiles, I was informed a single piece costs Rs. 500 however I was able to get two for Rs. 750 (neither too firm or too lax). At this point my money reserves were running thin as I had not brought that much cash on me. To add to my woes, the tour guide whom I was informed was complimentary by the hotel, wanted payment as well. As though squeezing water from a rock, I managed to offer him a small amount that although was totally not worth his time or value of information, ensured that he did not leave empty handed.

Taj Mahal Trip - Lord Aymz (6)

The taxi driver, who seemed to have misunderstood that I had no cash left on me, took me to yet another shop which I was actually thankful for; a marble workshop. You learn to appreciate the fine details on the Taj Mahal after seeing how it is done in real life. The workers fingers were cut and blistered from numerous hours spent hard at work on very minute, fine details. The result however is breathtaking. Suffice to say, marble is expensive, and as I flipped the items over I had a mini-heart attack over the price. I could not simply walk out without buying anything, that would be rude, plus how many more times will I ever be in this moment at this place? As he regaled me with his many devices to take cash and credit, and even FOREX, I quickly pointed out that I had Kuwaiti Dinars on me. For a sum of 5KD (which I had calculated as being Rs. 1,000 although it was actually 1,031 as per the Kuwait Exchange Rate) I walked out with a miniature replica of the Taj Mahal with space beneath to fit a light bulb that would illuminate the piece of art.

Taj Mahal Trip - Lord Aymz (7)

The drive back to Delhi seemed to take longer, given the fact that the driver maintained playing the same 3 songs over and over again until my ears bled; something about the last love, akher something or other, not only that but as it was his favorite song he blasted it at the highest volume.

We were back safely in the hotel by 6:20PM, a journey of 12 hours.

The costs? Minimal. The gains? A lifetimes worth of memories.

Taj Mahal Trip - Lord Aymz (5)

What does the death of a Celebrity mean to us?

For the duration of this week the internet has been abuzz with the news of the death of Paul Walker.

To those that do not know the name, he was the star of the “Fast & Furious” Franchise that started in 2001.

People have been pouring heart felt condolences for the tragic loss of the star; with fan pages popping up like wild fires all over Facebook, which begot the question from many people, so what? An actor in a far off world of Make-believe land died, why the sudden flow of emotion?

How does the death of a celebrity affect us?

Technically, it does not affect us. What happens is a perceived notion of loss creeps into our minds. For much like the loss of Michael Jackson, this came completely out of the blue, and in such a manner that had it been an orchestrated plot, it would not have been this good. In a “live by the gun, die by the gun” methodology, Paul Walker met his end ironically via vehicular accident.

These people exist in their own world, and we in our own, and ever so often we invite them into our homes through Youtube, the Internet, Movies etc. They exist only when we turn on the media, and disappear as soon as we turn it off. However, knowing that they are there provides us with a sense of comfort, a deluded ideology of control in that whenever we choose we can invite them back into our lives and find out the latest news they have to offer.

No doubt several people were privy to the knowledge that the Fast & Furious franchise was being extended by another 3 titles, with locations such as Dubai and Egypt being mentioned as possibilities for the future.

It is not the death of one man, nor the death of a celebrity, that has people expressing emotion. It is the fact that we slowly realize how not in control we are of life. We live each day like it is a string of days, no one gives a second thought to the possibility, no matter how infinitesimal it may seem, that we might not wake up tomorrow, or that we wake up to find that someone else has passed away, god forbid a loved one.

Here is a character that will never again appear in an interview, or in a movie.

The people are not mourning Paul Walker, they mourn what his death represents, and that is the grim fact that the only thing promised in life…

paul walker

Is death.

Not success, not longevity, not family, not money. The ultimate truth is that you are born to die. What you do in the middle is what causes people to recall you with a smile or a sneer.

August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

September 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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