Expat Adjustments, Again

(Written October 2011)  

As an ex-pat, adjusting to life overseas in a new place goes in waves.  There’s the initial shock and excitement (possibly fear, depending on the locale).  Everything’s new, you have to learn where the light switches are, how to use the oven, and get used to new sounds (I was all flummoxed one night recently when I heard a thwup, thwup sound and could not place it – turns out it was just my husband walking up our marble stairs in his slippers; another time I heard a repetitive knock, knock, knock and finally figured out it was Louie the kitten racing along the marble floors with his gimpy knees hitting with each inchworm-tug).

Then there’s the neighborhood and getting around, finding shops and stores, maybe do a bit of wandering to see what’s in walking distance.  In our case in a suburb of Kuwait City, we have a handful of American fast food restaurants, including KFC and “Bizza Hut” – there is no “p” in Arabic – and an odd shop that sells fruit, vegetables and eggs (that’s it).  Next I'll start to wander out beyond our neighborhood and see what the city has to offer and figure out just how we’re going to shape our life for the next few years.

When we were in Cairo, it came down to how much can you cram in?  In three years we did a lot, a lot more than most people, and still we left with some un-finished things on our “Fun things to do” list. (Because of the revolution and subsequent evacuation, I never did make it to St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai, nor to the beach resorts of Dahab or Sharm el Sheikh. Lesson learned? Don’t leave things until the end, you can watch all your DVDs your last few months when you’ve seen and done everything else.)

In Kuwait, things will be a little different.  We were forewarned to bring “hobbies” with us, because there was not a lot to do.   So, being semi-professional dilettantes, we came fully armed.  My husband always has his language interests, and can forever add to his growing collection of sentences in German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and the ever-popular Latin.  Which is ever so helpful when we need to say, “No, I don’t need a blood transfusion,” in a variety of situations and countries.  He also just added electric guitar to his musical interests (which will look very nice leaning against the wall with the acoustic guitar and the three ouds we already own).

For my hobbies, first and foremost is writing.  Well, that’s not true.  First and foremost, when it happens, will be adopting a child and figuring how to be a mom.  I figure that’ll take up most of my time.  But in the interim, between writing, reading “how to be a mom” books, some photography (though Kuwait has barely a smidge of the amount of interesting things to capture compared to Cairo), and checking out what Kuwait has to offer, I’m sure I’ll be able to keep myself busy.

Kuwait may not have the tangible 4,000-year-old history that Egypt offered, but it has about 4,000 different clubs/classes/courses in which we can partake.  I just got the monthly expat e-magazine for October and of the 49 pages, there are piles upon piles of things to get you out of the house.  There are salsa, tango and reiki lessons, classes in Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian, as well as a request for a Chinese-speaker to help someone learn English.  We can join scrapbook clubs, or writing groups, take scuba lessons, or join a multitude of mommy-and-me activities.  We can attend a Ceilidh, which is a Gaelic gathering and dance (attire is “Scottish/smart casual” – do they make pinstripe kilts?), see a showing of “The Winter’s Tale” at Kuwait’s Shakespeare Theater, or even RSVP for Thanksgiving sponsored by the Canadian Embassy (eh?).  We can rent a Harley for a day, join in an expat yacht-share, or even join the Filipino Badminton Association (though I’m not sure if there’s a nationality requirement there).

If nothing there strikes our fancy (imaging you’d have to be a chronic agoraphobic to not find anything), we can always just join the throngs and head to the mall.  Even then, we’ll have to decide which mall to go to as there are dozens.  I’ll save the mall assessments for another time, since I’ve only been to three in my first two weeks, and I don’t feel I have a fair impression of them yet.  But needless to say, mall-walking could be a daily activity here with few repeats.

The two biggest issues for us here in Kuwait will be 1) deciding what we want to do/be/try, and 2) getting off our butts and doing it.  Inertia has a heavy pull, so therein lies the first battle.  Now, where was that yacht-sharing ad?