Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Going South for the Third Time

In recent days, I've worked less and less and after August 3rd, I won't have work as I prepare to head south again. I accomplished one of my main goals this summer I bought my daughter Julia the Mac laptop which she will use for editing her students films when she begins the North Carolina School of the Arts in the fall.

The move to our new and improved apartment has been paid for. We now have two bedrooms, a solarium, two bathrooms and a panoramic view of Kuwait and the Arabian Gulf. I'll keep some of my meager possessions here in Kuwait along with a seldom used Compact computer, some books, CD's, some suits, two of my cats. Oh, and my Espouse du moment

No more freelancing.

I've basically been freelancing in Kuwait since March 2004.

I'd actually had no intention of staying here except for a week or two to check out the job scene for the upcoming fall, 2004.

I was just passing through, escaping a military teaching job in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is just across the Red Sea from Sharm Al Shaikh.

Long before those recent bombings in the Egyptian resort town--16 months or so ago to be inexact--I got out of the kingdom just as the cult of the Kalashnikov and Quran started zapping white boys with 7.62 ammunition.

I was on my way to Thailand with one suitcase, one guitar, two cats and the intention of becoming a Thai ESL cowboy for a few months.

The morning of the day of my flight to Bangkok, the hotel front desk patched a call through to my room while I was packing my suitcases. The call was from a friend who was at the time the director of an English department at one of two the McUniversities Incorporated offering me a mid-term because a shizophrenic American teacher I'll anonymously call "Sarah" schizzed out on him and fled Kuwait.

I never did make it to Thailand.

Over the course of these months, I've had one fulltime job, which didn't work out--contract flaw--and is in litigation.

I married an Aryan from Persia. We've set up house in a two bedroom flat on a ninth floor of a new apartment building with an ocean view, and adopted two more cats. She has two of her own so now we have 7. Plus there's that freaking yappy dog which I am convinced is actually a large rat who made a smart decision to grow long hair in order to pass itself off as a pet.

Now, in a month or so, I'll be back in the Eastern Province, which is the setting for a novel I'm toying around with.

A recent post at Dave's ESL Cafe Discussion thread, one posted by a future colleague, asked: "So who wins the prize for the strangest TEFLer Expat ın KSA ? İ reckon İ have met some of them - may even be a candidate (sic)myslf !"

I replied to the posting and in doing so managed to write a rough character sketch for a feller I want to work into my quasi-novel. Here's a slightly revised version of my posting.

I will use a real first name and nationality.

I posted: I would expect at least a nomination and perhaps a gift certificate for being a low-level runner-up. My worst symptom in kingdom is acquiring a hermetic lifestyle combined with a chronic case of encephalitis lethargica--12 hours sleep a night was not uncommon.

However, I nominate one other worse off than me, a Scotsman named Frank.

Frank went bush the first week and started wearing a thobe (the white Wee-Willy Winkle gown known as traditional Gulf Arab dress) to class, after class, out-on-the-town and throughout the weekend. I'm sure he slept in it. I emphasize "a thobe", a single thobe.

Frank lasted in kingdom six weeks.

The entire time his thobe went unwashed.

Frank had once put me in an awkward position by wearing that grimey thobe to a covert pub one afternoon.

Pubs exist in the kingdom, but they are rare, exclusive, expensive and hush-hush to the extent that they might be likened to prohibition-era, cloak-and-dagger clandestineness. The locals are most definitely personae non gratae.

The owner of the pub, who looked as though he was stuck in an evolutionary stage somewhere between later neanderthal and cro-magnon, saw on one of his several security monitors the two of us loitering outside the chain link and barbed wire gates which concealed the tavern. His brain, which had mysteriously reached a stage in the evolutionary process where it had the acquired a capacity for producing language, brachiated to a conclusion:

"That Yank has gonegone nuts and invited a Saudi to my house of spirits."

So, the infuriated publican, a burly former royal marine with a snow white buzz cut, a beer belly as large as a Scottish brae and a neck as thick as his head, charged out from the pub, both fists clenched and dragging the pavement. I prepared to take flight or be beaten to death.

But before I sent the command to my feet, "Don't fail me now", Frank slowed the man down when he opened his mouth and stopped him inhis tracks with a thick Scots brogue of homey Edinburghisms: "Yir talking minceÂ’Ken whit I mean? Dinae day that! Dave's a top gadgie! a real numpty! Who'd ya lick an Edinbrra Kiss?"

The brute was from Glasgow. They circled each other squaring off, barking in Scottish for a few minutes. One would assume a fighting posture and say something like, "Come oan, get aff! Ye aff yer heid!"

The other beat on his chest and howled,"Ye went tae fling sooked jooblies wichme?" Of course it never come to blows. I expected the beer was going to have to wait till another day.

"Oon yer dressed lack an fooken arab y'waster." So on and so forth.

In the end, the bartender took my membership card from me, ripped it into many tiny pieces but praise the lord,he'd decided not break any of my bones.

Anyway, about week five into his contract, Frank began having very public and very audible conversations with the Supreme Being.

His Transcendental Guardian had worked Frank into a frenzy over the issue of mothers having their unborn babies aborted. He meandered aimlessly about the compound day and night engaged in lengthy often heated dissertations with his ethereal Pal.

But things went from bad to worse when when he began showing up in class wearing his besoiled thobe, now thick with crud and stench.

He'd begun to sermonize to his students about whether or not the Almighty would offer any of us redemption for this great sin, despite sacrificing his only Son to wash away our sins. and "Oh!what about the unbaptised souls of the innocents?". . .things like that. His students chose not to participate in Frank's dialogue with the One.

A mandoob, that is a driver, quicky drove Frank straight from the school to a local psyche ward. Frank was so caught up in his conversations with Gawd, he wasn't aware of what was going on around him. In the ward he waited for a speedy clearance and it came and he was on the next flight home.