Waiting to Die: Kuwait

I wrote this piece back in 2009 when I found it hard to explain in the spoken language what it was like living in Kuwait. I decided to put it in writing.

Growing up in an upper-middle class family in America has given me an unimaginable amount of  opportunities in my life. I have two loving parents who worked hard to earn money and give me a model education in fine academies. I never once had to worry about a meal, clothes, or my own safety. Life as a child and adolescent was in many ways perfect. As I have gotten older I had the opportunity to leave the comfort of my home and America to venture out to see the world, not just travel but live in different countries with vastly different cultures: India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Jordan to name a few. But I would like you to know that I am aware that my country is NOT perfect. How could it be with a population of over 300 million? We all have issues in our governments, societies, pop-cultures, and even our households. But what I have experienced in the past several years has opened my eyes to how lucky as Americans we are whether rich or poor. We have freedom, we have opportunity and we can come and go as we please. Most of our happiness is not based on money, or if it is it is because we worked damn hard to earn it. My happiness is based on my upbringing, my education, my striving to remain as less ignorant as possible, and the truth that my parents instilled morals in me to be as good of a human being as I can. I grew up thinking that inherently people were good and that the world was a beautiful place. What I was about to learn was the complete opposite. People are animals, destructive, and selfish, because there are places on Earth where people do not have the right that so many of us call freely-being a human being. Life is a tragedy, but it is just when and where we were born that dictates how tragic it is.

Many people all over the world leave their countries to travel and work to better their lives. I mean thats the whole beginning of America. People don’t leave their lives to be subjected to worse conditions. There are several countries in the world where people go to to work to change their lives for the better and one of these countries is Kuwait. What usually happens though is that it is not for the better, it is for the worse. Human trafficking, forced labor, assault, rape, prostitution, and suicide are some of the repercussions to working in this country. And soon, I was to have an ordeal all to scary in itself.

What you are about to read could land me into deep trouble, or even a long sentence in jail. I came to this county in August 2009 under an immense heat. I signed onto a contract that would keep me here for a year or two working as a teacher. I was surrounded by ..citizens everyday, all day long. I have ventured out by myself, walked to stores, talked with cab drivers, students, people in the private sector, trade sector, and even expats from my home, America. What I didn’t realize in the beginning is how much about humanity, government, and religion I would learn.  Here are my stories and the stories of others:

Disclaimer: observations, interviews, and researched facts do not apply to each and every individual that is a citizen or resident of Kuwait.

Now, before I begin I would like to bring up the question about culture: Are people and culture a direct product of their environment, climate, and ecosystem?

Across Khaki sheets of sand the bedouin traverse long expanses tending to their sheep and camel. Large refineries pierce the earth and siphon crude from deep below. Pulses of lights reflect into the stratosphere off of minute granules of sand carried by a ferocious storm. Nostrils clogged, eyes bleed, throats strep, nature coughs; uogh uogh uogh; for the wind burns skins of all color. Sheep cry from flocks tended by blinded men with their heads wrapped in scarves. The Earth groans from salivating camel mandibles as the streets sweat over broken sidewalks of sand. From the ground to roofs and gutters, riddled with trash-plastic bottles, ripped garbage bags, and oily discharges- cats scream in unison. A chorus of growls, hissing screams lead a verse of fighting, fucking and birthing as they rummage through open trash barrels and dumpsters for recently discarded remnants of someones dinner. The sounds of birthing reverberates off the sad dilapidated housing projects soaked in the rising heat from the burnt ground. Babies suck from the grotesque teats of there malnourished mothers rolling in the refuse. They guard their territory marked by their own urine secretions and fight into the late night. Air conditioners and generators bang,click,and shimmy. They sound like tanks moving through the streets as their treads crush broken glass and rip up the asphalt into crumbs of dirt. Screams of conversations are exchanged amongst the sounds of purging mufflers. Men slowly shuffle down streets. They drag their broken calloused feet across the sand like zombies lurching with each tired breathe. Pistons rattle, accelerators rev. In the distance fireworks ricochet like gunfire off the sides of disintegrating buildings that were bombed during the early 90s. Trash and refuse thrown from apartments and car windows catches the winds of sand like confetti on new years day. Bulbs crack and buzz as they slowly become masked by soot as light turns from bright whites to deep oranges and browns. Loud speakers blast muffled static laced prayers from holy houses made of brown cement. I thought it to be propaganda-WAR…or, I thought it to be purgatory, I thought it to be Hell, but I know it to be a place where people are trapped- joyless, by religious law, violent hubris, and harsh deserts in the preverbal eternal summer storm- waiting to die.

On the outskirts of this purgatory are large passages of asphalt that lead into the desert. Massive homes twinkle in the night surrounded by tall beautiful fig trees swaying gently under calm breezes from the turquoise waters of the Gulf. Some, like gods roam through their chalets and homes commanding their slaves, drivers, and maids. They, amongst friends the similar sit in large rooms smoking sheesha and laughing as mesbah dangle from their hands. Lamborghini, Ferraris, and Bentleys sit in the driveway being washed by hands from Bangladesh or India. Food cooks in large woks over high flames by a young thai woman. A young boy sits in his room watching a large television as his nanny tries to vacuum the floor while the older brother beats her with his shoe. Downstairs there is a small room where another Ethiopian maid use to sleep. She now hangs from her own belt in the closet. After years of rape and abuse she now commits suicide. A prisoner in a foreign country held against her will never able to return home. None of these workers, slaves, or prisoners have a name in life and they will not have a name in death either. The newspapers shirk, and dance around the facts, and names of the victims and criminals because punishment is few and often rare for the Sponsors. Kings and Queens to a kingdom they did not earn and they did not work for. A house, estate, and country built on slave labor. The men with their large pockets saunter with a massive sense of entitlement, “you owe me”, they say. Their court shimmers under the crescent moon light, hubris masked by kind eyes and large smiles- their slaves serve you tea and coffee. Like the faces of some women-Behind the veil, lies a long history of slave trade, murder, and rape. Many think this to be hell, but many-without passports, hope and pray each day- -waiting to die.