Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#GoneGlobal: 12 Weeks Later

I apologize in advance for my tardiness. I'm still pinching myself, halfway believing that residing in a different country is my new reality. It's been weeks since I've updated my blog and there are a lot of details that I'll attempt to include to sum up my adventures in 1,000 words or less. From my mini vacation to the UAE to daily encounters I've had with local Kuwaitis, my culture shock has been enhanced to the tenth power. Although realizing that things do not operate the same in a foreign land as they do in the United States is beyond frustrating (i.e. the work week is Sunday - Thursday, public smoking IS NOT prohibited, I had to get used to the D/M/Y date format and also remember that degrees are measured in Celsius when cooking so that I don't burn home-cooked meals due to the stove heating up quicker), I think I've adjusted pretty well in such a short time.

Two weeks from today, I'll be heading home, but not for long. I'm not quite ready for my international experience to end and I've made some great strides as far as my career goals are concerned (successful book signing at Q8 Bookstore with copies of my books also displayed at Better Books and Cafe, feature interview on Kuwait TV2, motivational speaking engagement at Kuwait English School, Contributing Writer duties for Bazaar and Khaleejesque magazines, and other important accomplishments that may seem pointless to some). On that note, I've accepted a life-changing opportunity that requires me to extend my stay. Details will come later... For now, here's a #GoneGlobal update. 

Learning the Language

Communicating in Kuwait is a major challenge, especially when trying to relay the message of where I need to go and exactly how to get there. My desire to learn the language has grown much stronger as of late, so I inquired about the grammar rules, and thankfully, a fellow Writer I befriended was patient enough to elaborate:

The Arabic dialect has three short vowel and three long vowel pronunciations and is written/read from right to left. The letters are aligned to look like a backwards reflection. When translating to English, the focus should be on the entire word and not each separate letter, paying special attention to feminine and masculine acknowledgements. Also, the written version does not always translate in order when speaking it. For example, today, I learned how to write and say LIVE YOUR DREAM (EESH AHLAMAK)

When reading the above image of handwriting normally, from left to right, it actually translates to YOUR DREAM LIVE because YOUR DREAM is considered as one word.

I learned a few other Arabic phrases during semi-formal lessons that I received from a Turkish Barber who speaks fluent English, Slang and Arabic (yes, in that order) as I observed him cutting my love's hair:

As-Salaam-Alaikum - "Peace" or "Peace be unto you" 
Shukran - "Thank you"
Inshallah - "God willing"
Shlonich (Feminine) - "Hello", "How are you?"
Schlonak (Masculine) - "Hello", "How are you?"

This talented barber was born in Turkey but educated in Kuwait. That should offer a little insight into just how diverse it is in the Middle East. Interesting fact: Being born in Kuwait doesn't automatically grant rights to a citizenship. If any stateless Kuwaiti resident desires to become a legal citizen, they have to pay for official documents and are restricted when it comes to applying for a passport or traveling around the world. This is partly why the U.S. is overloaded with foreigners. Many pregnant women who have already gained citizenship will leave their homeland in order to give birth in the U.S., where citizenship is easy to obtain. It's all still confusing to me, too, so my apologies if the explanation isn't accurate.

P.S. I'm slowly but surely becoming fluent in Arabic, striving to be completely bilingual with a goal to publish my books in the native language.

Driving Miss Daisy Crazy
I've had three directional mishaps with taxi drivers that don't know their way around the area, even when I enthusiastically show them the exact location on Google Maps, because most of them are from India. I'm forgetful and horrible at remembering directions, which justifies each panic attack I experienced when wandering around lost and confused, unable to ask any locals for help. Of course, they don't understand what I'm saying, in English. The passenger seatbelts are hidden and they frequently overcharge for short kilometer trips, without even starting the meter. It drives me crazy. I miss my car... 

Have I mentioned that the cost of living in Kuwait is unbelievable? As one of the top-paying locations for contract workers, I guess the prices are justified, but LAWD. Spending oftentimes feels like a burden, considering the fact that I have to consult with the currency app on my phone to double check the conversion of KD (Kuwait Dinar) to USD. 1 KD = $3.4172. Someone here told me to just round up and multiply the price by 4 (10 KD = $40), which isn't very helpful. I'm a writer and everyone knows I hate math!

Oh, and WiFi connections are THE REAL MVP since my Sprint service is nonexistent abroad. Thank God for the internet!

UAE: Dubai & Abu Dhabi

I promised to share some exclusive footage from my birthday/Thanksgiving trip to the UAE. There's not much entertainment in Kuwait, but most of the nearby attractions are only an hour away by flight. I spent three unforgettable days in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi, respectively. I will definitely be returning in the future.

Souk Al Bahar
One of the most famous hotels in Dubai. Can you name it?
Center of Dubai Mall 
Kinokuniya Bookstore Sign
Waterfall Mural Inside Dubai Mall
Burj Khalifa Access Passes
At The Top - Touch The Sky
On the Outside Terrace of Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world)
Beautiful View of Dubai "At The Top"
Burj Khalifa Refreshments
Burj Khalifa Sky Lounge
Sharks swimming below the boat at the Dubai Aquarium
Dubai Aquarium Boat Ride Selfie
Dubai Aquarium Shenanigans 
Posing with the Cameraman after touring the Dubai Aquarium
*There are more pictures, but these will have to suffice for the time being.

Poetry in Abu Dhabi 

The highlight of my trip to the UAE was hands down an opportunity to perform my signature poem, "Spell Check", at Rooftop Rhythms, the first open mic poetry show established in Abu Dhabi, which takes place every month, on the rooftop of a 5 Star hotel. The event is hosted by Dorian "Paul D" Rogers, who also graduated from my alma mater, THE Florida State University. We connected on Facebook (gotta love the power of networking via social media). The crowd loved my very first overseas performance. I cried when I arrived back in Kuwait, and was immediately inspired to introduce locals here to that same level of energy by seeking to find a venue that will allow unrestricted expression. COMING SOON!

Performing at Rooftop Rhythms in Abu Dhabi on 11/28/14
Poet Liltera R. Williams (that's me)
Kuwait is a country that labels its neighborhoods with block and street numbers. Some of the women keep their faces covered, even while eating. Men stare, creepily. Stray cats roam all over the place, indoors and outdoors. The water isn't "pure". Traffic deaths are rising. And having to abide by so many discriminatory laws, from the style of dress to the disdain for unmarried couples, makes it truly hard to live freely while on a quest to pursue one's purpose in life. But, I'm from the US of A, where it's supposedly comfortable and normal and safe... a country where there are no limits on what humans can do. It's easy to take that privilege for granted, until you've seen the total opposite end of the spectrum, up close and personal. I don't because I have. After 12 weeks of unexpected self-reflection, this trip has changed me, forever. Most importantly, I'm making my family proud...