Thursday, May 28, 2015

#GoneGlobal: 6 Months Later

Roughly 6 months ago, I decided to further pursue my purpose and live my dream on the other side of the world. I've grown tremendously, as a woman and as a writer. Through faltered goals, multiple setbacks and a constant battle with fear, I've spent about 30 weeks surviving in a country that many people would automatically overlook, for miscellaneous reasons. 

Kuwait isn't the typical location for someone to escape to when seeking a new environment; it's probably named last or not even mentioned on a traveler's bucket list. On the other hand, it's the perfect place for career-driven individuals who are swayed by the idea of a tax-free salary increase. I guess that explains why 70% of people working and residing here are expatriates (including other Arabs from surrounding gulf countries), according to a heavily debated article posted on 248am.com.  I, too, am an expatriate and every day, I am reminded of that fact. 

When I first arrived, welcomed by burning stares, I immediately realized that attempting to fit in was not a sensible objective. I didn't understand the Arab way of living and for about 4 weeks straight, I was severely homesick... discouraged... overwhelmed... an emotional wreck... afraid like never before. My cheeks were frequently drenched with late-night tears. I missed out on the joy of celebrating every major U.S. holiday, unable to participate in the ongoing tradition of gathering together with family members. Existing in a different time zone, on an opposing schedule; creating a new path. 

Although I avidly partake in the act of seclusion, I wasn't ready to engulf myself in it to such a dire degree. But I prayed. I adapted. I bravely suited up for the task at hand. Transitioning was everything except easy. My excitement dwindled as I was faced with numerous challenges, quickly noticing just how domineering Kuwaitis are. We (expats) stake claim over their land, reap their benefits, learn their language, grow accustomed to their lifestyle and inject it with elements of where we derive(d) from. I soon began to comprehend the impolite offenses: being skipped in line at restaurants and grocery stores and while waiting to use public restrooms, shoulder bumps accompanied by no apology while walking through the malls, horns blowing combined with obscene outbursts (in Arabic) while sitting in traffic, and having my change slammed on the counter instead of placed in my outstretched hand while purchasing items from the Gulf Mart. The frustration is clear, and also justifiable. Still, I was raised to respect my elders and treat people the way I want to be treated. That type of behavior isn't constantly practiced in this territory; it's not quite a cultural demand. 

While working at one of the local, prestigious schools, I've interacted with various types of students - some of them understand the importance of obtaining an education and others rely on the family funds they are guaranteed to inherit. Nevertheless, they are an interesting bunch of individuals who have not failed to keep me entertained or inspired, Sunday through Thursday, from 7:30am to 2:30pm. I will miss them the most... Perhaps I won't have to miss them at all since the school wants me to resume my position in September. Based on the previously stated points, primarily highlighting the comfort of home, I am undecided. And this is where I, often, address the private struggle of my personal and professional desires clashing with each other and stretching me in multiple directions. The hardest thing to accept once you decide to LIVE YOUR DREAM and completely commit to it is the responsibility that comes along with sacrifice. Freedom of choice is not always a positive privilege, especially during those moments when we are literally torn between what's best and what's preferred. With just 3 weeks remaining on this journey, I'm in the process of trying to figure out exactly where God wants me. 

After reviewing the latest news, I am mostly concerned with my hometown's current turmoil. "Born to write in Jacksonville, Florida" is proudly stated in the opening line of my bio and I've never been ashamed of it. Even though a plethora of neighborhood gangs is now being cited as the root cause of back-to-back gun violence and the #BlackLivesMatter movement has become a realistic presence within my beloved community. I was also deeply saddened upon finding out that JSO officers unlawfully gunned down a familiar name, D'Angelo Stallworth, whom I didn't know personally, but via mutual friends. A #Justice4Dee campaign is gradually gaining momentum and hopefully those officers involved will soon come forth with a better version of the truth. 

These devastating times have caused me to reassess the appropriate use of my power. Here I am in Kuwait, living safely, dispersing my good energy to new acquaintances who appreciate it but don't necessarily require it, when the ones I care about and love are either mourning, feeling lost, depressed or unworthy.  

Many people aspire to reach a prime level of success, but the majority can't handle the conflict(s) that it brings. Last night, I accomplished another career milestone by being booked for my very first feature poetry performance, thanks to Word of Mouth Kuwait. There's nothing that compares to the satisfaction of wowing crowds with my words; words like so, from my poem, "How Did I Get Here?":


Networking with Arabs
Focused on growing my brand
Then the guilt built as I started
to neglect my American fans


Molded ambitions, contaminated plans
Sculpting my future with sanitized hands


Spontaneous decisions, rules and bans
Walking by faith with no demands


Literary mission, burning sands
Crossing over into foreign land


Naturally, I feel guilty for leaving my foundation behind and I hope this blog entry doesn't come off as a complaint because I'm absolutely grateful for this experience. I've learned a lot from Kuwaitis. Their overall daily moods are difficult to predict, but they definitely have a right to be angry or offended by the expanding population of diverse people who fail to respect their sense of entitlement. We are indeed entitled to things; however, we must not forget that the things we earn matter more. 

In closing, I honestly don't know if my overseas mission is temporary or permanent. Despite the uncertainty, I've accepted traveling as a newfound passion. I have numerous plans to execute and much to think about once I return to damaged-but-not-dead Duval County this Summer. An update will come soon, including an original poem. Until then, I'm going to enjoy these final days on the other side of the world, and try not to worry about circumstances that I cannot control.

#International #WriterGrind

-LRW