HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!!
Today is my last full day in Kuwait – T & I bug out tomorrow morning early on the BA flight to London, then off to Boston and home. In the past week, we have visited with friends, hosted dinners and lunches, enjoyed the Embassy party hosted by John Berry, ate Christmas dinner at the AUK Diner (food was superb) and walked a lot. Yes, things get real slow here when the Eid and Christmas holidays occur simultaneously and everyone bugs out. I did take T to see the Red Fort in Jahra and the pink mosque out innowhere. Like many of you, she reads about these adventures but hasn’t been able to share… at least she has seen some of the interesting things Kuwait has to offer.
Last night, Ray & Dina hosted a small New Year’s party – small group, but food enough for an army. The mix of people I have come to appreciate so much – we were Yanks, a Brit, a Palestinian/Lebanese, a Chinese and a Kazakh – not sure how much of that I’ll be dealing with back home. I just dropped Marjorie Kelly off at home (3pm here), as we had her over for lunch. MK and I have seen just about all there is to see here in Kuwait – she’s been a fun traveling partner.
So, now I’ll finish this up, tidy up the office one last time, and head back home to finish cleaning the place up for Simon, Rena and Adam.
Okay, time for some thinking about this whole experience.
As usual, you learn more about yourself than anything else when you live abroad. Some of it ain’t pretty, but, hey, you are who you are and you learn to deal with that. I know for me, as I get older, my tolerance level for anything less than maximum effort is close to zero! Performance is one thing – effort another. I see so many with so much talent who are on cruise control, yet they want something – grades, respect, rewards, whatever. These people move straight to my B list (it used to be called something else, but censors and all that). Give me a colleague or student who tries, gives their best – that makes such a difference.
Similar to Nigeria and Oman (previous overseas experiences), I know that I am resourceful enough to live just about anywhere. My facility with language is mediocre, but a smile and an effort to say a few words in Arabic (or Efik) works wonders. I have grown very fond of the Middle East, and hope some day that things settle down so that every day people get to live every day, normal lives (if I prayed a lot, this is what I’d pray for). I’m not nuts about Kuwait – too many people spoiled and expecting too much for too little effort – but I love exploring this region. We Americans have so little history, and I for one feel that a long history does affect how people view their world. New countries want too much, too fast.
As all you FOHers know, I have grown very fond of the Iraqis we have worked with. They live in hell! How they do it is beyond my comprehension, yet they maintain their dignity and sense of humor in the midst of everyday chaos. Some day, I’ll get there – I want to see for myself this amazing country, visit its wonders, and do what little I can to be of assistance. I love their perspective – they can differentiate between ‘governments’ and peoples – and thank god for that. In this region, we (the US gov’t.) have used up 100+ years of good will (even my dearest friends say this, including those very pro-American and educated in the US) – but, the people still like Americans – wow!!
Leadership! It scares me to see so little in education. Any d— fool can manage, but so few can lead and inspire!! What seems to be true (remember, this is my personal perspective) is that leaders get in trouble because they lead – they get ahead of things, push issues and institutions, people. My own library mentor, the late Dick Palmer, was fond of saying “you can’t make progress and be comfortable!” The longer I live, the more I see this, and the more I fear that managers get rewarded and leaders get sacrificed – no wonder education is so PC, politically correct. It is okay to feel uncomfortable, to not have your prejudices confirmed, to be learning and not preaching…
I’ve been very lucky in my career, and each new place brings its pluses and minuses. One constant for me has been my good fortune to meet compatible and friendly people at each stop – can’t ask for more than that. I’ve also been lucky in that ‘locals’ have been willing to feed my curiosity and educate me about their area. Unlike many of my AUK colleagues, I think I’ve seen most of what Kuwait has to offer, from border to border, and I have some sense of its history and people. Lucky, indeed.
This diary – this is my 60th message – has been a personal indulgence, and you FOHers have been very tolerant. I hope it has been entertaining and informative for you. I know it has helped me gain some perspective on my time here, and it has kept me in touch with many of the people I’ve just mentioned above that I’ve known from each place we’ve lived. I know this is not the last time you’ll hear from me (eeeekkk, you say!) – but this type of entry only seems to make sense from this kind of distance. Perhaps an epilogue…
Ma salaama – goodbye for now!