Ink & Paper

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Things I will miss about Kuwait....

1. The total lack of safety/health consciousness that people have here. It is kinda refreshing when compared to the over-emphasis that we put on issues like bike helmets/smoking/no seatbelts back in Canada. I know that those things are bad for you but it is nice to occasionally sit back and watch people just not give a damn about that kinda stuff. Kind of a "buyer beware, survival of the fittest" thing. I dunno, maybe I'm crazy.

2. The teaching staff. By and large the teaching staff at my skool is great. I have made some really good friends here and the sense of community that exists makes the wackiness tolerable.

3. The plumbing. Ha ha, just kidding.

4. Being called 'sir.' I know the kids don't mean it, but it is still nice to hear.

5. The fact that I am pretty much left to my own devices in the classroom. I would never be so unsupervised back in Canada and while that has led to some massive mistakes on my part, it has allowed me to learn from them as well. Plus the workload is a joke compared to Canada.

6. The Hilton. I haven't used the Hilton as much as I first thought I would, but it is a nice escape when I do use it. Too expensive to do again, but it has been ok.

7. The markets. I love the markets, it is one of the few places where I feel like I am totally in a way different environment. Nothing like this exists back in Canada, to my knowledge, and it is a blast to stick out in the middle of a crowd for a night. Fun to haggle too.

8. The cheap food. I can get a tonne of Indian food here for about $5 Cdn and it is often enough for lunch the next day. I haven't done it a whole lot but when I have, mmmm boy.

9. The airport (departure zone). I like this part of Kuwait. You can figure out why.

I think that is about it. These were in no particular order and although this country can and does drive me to drink and throw stuff some days, once in a while it ain't so bad. However, this is in no way to be taken as me wanting to remain here past 141am on Thursday night. Just saying is all.

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I don't feel like I have too much to say today, but maybe that won't matter seeing as how no one reads this blog on the weekends anyway. I have another 4 days at the school, then a day of floating before the plane leaves on Thursday night. I have a ride to the airport lined up and Thursday should hopefully be a smooth day. But I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch. Just hoping. Frankly Thursday night can't come quick enough.

The kids wrote their last exam today and they left the skool without destroying the place, which I was surprised at. I managed to get all my exams marked and the final grades put into the computer. I also managed to get all my students textbooks (that were returned anyway) put away and signed off. So it was a productive day, only a few more things to do.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I am going with a fellow teacher to help him get his Kitty Passports. This should be roughly the same procedure as when I went in April to get Monday's papers all in order. Hope so. I am so glad that I got Monday home in April, the way these last two weeks have been, it is a stress I am happy to do without. Anyway, tomorrow's trip will be 2-3 hours in the morning, but that's ok.

By the way, the saga that I have mentioned on and off is still running strong at 8 pages in length and counting. I will most likely try to post it when I am safely back in Canada, perhaps the weekend of June 18-ish. It is basically going to be a daily account of the happenings of the skool since June 1st.

I think I am going to start packing up tonight. Might as well, no sense in leaving it any longer. Might be therapeutic too, and I could use that. I said to one teacher that these last few weeks have been on the same level for stress as the first two weeks were when I came here in September. It has not been a smooth ending for this year, but you'll read all about that in the saga story. My stomach is killing me and its not from all that boozahol I drank. I really gotta try to relax, but it is just so hard to do here sometimes. Maybe when I get back. It sure is nice to be able to tell Megan that I will see her next weekend. You have no idea.

Anyway, I'm off to surf the net. My internet connection is due to run out sometime in the next few days, so the blog may be sporadic. You'll forgive me, you always do.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Hangover Update: I actually have video footage, or incrimminating evidence if you prefer, of me throwing the empty mickey to the street below. Master crimminal I'm not.

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Kulov Vodka is mean.

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Jan and Gerald

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If Mrs. Cross had a garden in Kuwait, I would have ruined it last night.


I was a newbie last night. It was like I had never tasted alcohol before and then when I did, I had no idea of drink mix ratios.

Go over to Kneal and Llorys place about 645pm last night. Kneal gives me a whole mickey of vodka just cause he says I'm a nice guy. Now you have to understand that giving a whole mickey of vodka here is liking giving someone a Texas mickey back home. So I'm pretty touched by this and promise that I'll share the wealth later that night.

So up we go to the top floor of the apartment builiding and once word got out that I was there, a whole bunch more people showed up. Soon people are eating, drinking, and generally being merry. I'm wandering around with my 7up "Vodka Bomb" (as I termed it) in one hand and my camera in the other, generally making a nuisance of myself. Some examples....

- Telling Gerald, who is ex-US military, twice my size, and who is from Ohio that his state is useless because they basically elected bush for the entire free world

- Gerald telling me that in the US they have this perception that in Canada "anything goes." I then told him that it was legal for guys to marry animals in Canada.

- I later amended the above statement to read that guys could only marry animals in Ottawa (Kneals hometown). Kneal then added that it only happened once and that the moose was pretty good-looking. Gerald runs away.

- Me telling some other teacher that her Australian accent was too heavy and that she should change it.

- Me emotionally scarring some child. The kid (maybe 3 years old) had wrapped himself around my leg, which apparently looks a lot like his Dad's leg. The the kid sees Dad a few feet away, puts two and two together and looks up at me. Then the kid lets out this bloodcurdling scream and sprints over to Dad. Child cries on Dad's shoulder, looking over at me periodically. I then state that "This kinda stuff usually only happens with women."

- Me telling a New Zealander what his country was like. Cause I've totally been there.

I was in fine form. Then I looked down and saw that my vodka mickey was empty. You know what happens next. Over the edge of the roof it goes. It was plastic and it is only a ten story drop, so back off. No cops showed up to investigate empty vodka mickeys falling from the sky. Now where is that punch?

The nice thing about the US military, besides ensuring that freedom is reigning, is that they have beer at their bases. So I snagged myself a beer, then hit the punch. People are still dancing, good times all around.

Now this was kind of a stag/stagette party for Llory and Kneal, as they are getting hitched this summer. So next thing I know, there is some belly dancer shaking it like crazy while Llory and Kneal are sitting front and center. Then Kneal and Llory are both up dancing with the belly dancer, Kneal's shirt long gone.

After the belly dancer some other strip-show starts to happen. I have pictures of this but no memory whatsoever of it occurring. At about 11pm, the time the strip show was starting up, I looked up and saw the unmistakable Drunken Hammer of Hangover's Future descending towards me.

I was doing just fine, then whammo, I hit the wall so very hard. I think I left the party at 1130 or so. I staggered home and had a shower in some vain attempt to wash the booze away. Then I slept (read: passed out sideways) on my bed, but not before experiencing some extremely fast bed spins.

Anyway, I got up periodically to drink water and drop Advil and this morning the hangover isn't as bad as it should be. I'm exhausted though and a little cheezed that I crashed so early. But what can I do, such is life. I think I'm going to go have some water now.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

This is what I'm buying Megan's nephew for Xmas this year...

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I was thinking to myself, as I bumped around the cave singing because I was alone, that it takes a lot of balls to sing in front of people.

"Get the FCUK outta Kuwait" party tonight. Top of Building 1, if ya wanna come over. BYOB. If I get tipsy, look out below because I'll start chucking stuff from the roof. I almost always do.

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Well today I feel like garbage. Not sick, but a bone-deep sense of exhaustion and a foreboding that this upcoming last week will have me staggering into the airport, punch-drunk with the idea of going home and all the stresses that come with leaving this desert.

I went into the skool today, my off day, just to mark my G10 final exams. I was waiting outside for Richard, a fellow teacher, to pick me up at about 845am. I was maybe outside for about 10 minutes but I think that was even too long. Murderous sun and a hair-dryer wind. Ugh.

Anyway, got to skool and marked the exams, holding off a headache brought on by poor grammar, the temperature, stress, and the fact that I can't sleep longer than seven hours without waking up with a headache, on account of my refusal to get my neck fixed. Don't nag me.

But they are done and I only have half the G9 exams left to mark, maybe another hour or so, which I will probably do on Saturday morning. So, with any luck I'll have all my grades in by noon Saturday, which is well ahead of schedule. I still have some loose ends to wrap up, but I can handle them.

I was thinking that I should write some big essay about leaving Kuwait, post it before I leave. I could write about so many things. But instead I think I'll just focus on one or two things here and there over the next week or so, as it seems that baby steps are a little more manageable right now.

I started applying for jobs in the Red Deer area this past week, via email and my hot secretary Megan. The chances of me having a full time teaching gig are pretty slim, so I have been looking at a lot of different options, from the trades to business to social work-ish jobs. I'm not going to pretend not to care what people think about what I do with my life, but at the same time I am at the point that I could be a happy man digging ditches so long as I got to come home to Megan (and Monday too).

So whatever, I am going to do what I want and while people may or may not like it, I am going to do my best to just make myself happy. If I have learned one thing from this past year is that no matter what amount of planning one does, you can't plan it all. Who woulda thought I would be in Kuwait for my first year of teaching? Yea, exactly.

So jobs will be simply that for the time being. I'll find something that I like to do even if it is simple. Remember those stories I wrote a few weeks ago? The Shopkeeper, The Fisherman? Yeah well, they weren't all fiction. Perhaps a simple job that I can choose not to bring home with me every night. Whether some people approve or not, well, I am going to do my best not to give a rat's ass about that. What people think about me is rather out of my hands. So I'll try to put it out of my mind.

It has been a little tough here for the last little while, as I've seen fellow teachers, one by one, accept new positions in such places as Bangladesh, Switzerland, Amsterdam, China, and Thailand. Now this isn't sour grapes, trust me I am still very happy to be coming back to Canada and to Megan. And I do NOT begrudge my fellow teachers at all. But there is still a small part of me that has some sense of wanderlust, even after all the plumbing issues here. It's a little tough for me to handle not having a plan in place too, I usually am such a 'think-ahead' kinda guy.

I hope to be working by July 1, as any longer will drive me nuts with boredom. And I will perhaps follow a different path, we'll see. I don't even know and I'm kind of fed up with planning as I don't feel (at this point) that it has helped me out a whole lot. Again, don't nag me.

Anyway, that is my thinking about jobs and such. My thoughts will change, no doubt, over time and I reserve the right to change my mind. I kind of sound like an asshole here, I realize that, and I attribute it to being tired and my increasing habit of calling things how I see them, whether or not people like my opinion. I guess I'm getting a little crabby in my old age.

I am looking forward to seeing some friendly faces, drinking water from the tap, and being able to truly call some place "home." I'm not sure I ever would have looked forward to the mundane that is daily prairie life, but today I feel quite content with that thought. And I like that rare feeling of contentment when I get it, so perhaps that will be my compass for now.

Music playing now: Woody Guthrie, Dust Bowl Ballads

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Some pictures of my Da losing his locks for cancer money. This project earned over $16, 000 for cancer research, and the goal was $10, 000. Apparently there were over 500 people in the gym, and they ante'd up another $850.00 to see beards go too.

Bri was sponsored "heavily by many, and (is) VERY appreciative of the support for this terriffic idea." Good on ya Jordan.

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"There sure is a big 'part' in your hair back here, Mr. A."

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Sunscreen anyone?

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Iranian shopkeepers cooperatively posing alongside Vanna White-like Author.

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Jan putting her foot down. "I said it looks like shit, ok? Leave me alone!!"

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No, you just don't have the style I'm looking for.

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Last night was time for the Illustrious Author to go pick up his dishdasha. So off Jan and I went to the Fahaheel market, where I had ordered it to be made (la dee da) a few days ago. I jokingly said that the guy who made it for me was probably glad that he had overcharged me from the get-go, as a gronk of a guy like me uses up a lot of fabric.

Anyway, we decided to go into the market. I had brought my camera with me and I was using the video option a fair bit, so next time you see me and my computer we can watch some really shaky, really crappy movies together. It'll be fun!

Video seems to give a better sense of the market than just a few pictures. In one of the video snips you can hear birds (that are for sale) chirping in the background while Jan haggles over the price of a dress. Atmosphere.

So I bought a few more gifts for Megan and then got lost as I always do when I'm at the market. I think the blueprint for the market consisted of some kid scribbling on a piece of paper as he sat in the back of a moving school bus during an earthquake. But that's part of the allure.

Anyway, after wandering around the market getting yelled at by hundreds of vendors who like the sight of a white guy with a digital camera, I headed out to pick up my dishdasha. The guy remembered who I was (big surprise) and after looking in his order book he found my outfit. Jan later wondered what he had written (in Arabic) in the order book so as to remind him which one was mine. Some possibilities...

- Red-faced white man, sweaty.
- Tall, overfed North American imperialist.
- Sucker.

Jan then dropped my white dishdasha on the ground, but I don't care. It'll get dirty at the next Halloween party when I spill booze all over it, so whatever. Actually it wasn't dirty at all but I wanted to make Jan feel guilty.

Then we went to get groceries, almost running over someone on the way. Standard procedure, really. Got some food, some cigars for the boys and was home by 1030pm. Tried on the dishdasha, realized that while it fits, it is a little see-through, so I'll have to wear something other than my blue basketball shorts underneath. Oh well.

It looks ok; the nice thing about wearing all white is that my skin looks tanned. And I kind of feel like Homer Simpson in that episode where he went of weight-disability leave and was wearing a mu-mu. Anyway, now I have a sweet lazy man outfit that I will break out every time I have too much to drink and feel like making a scene. It's not nearly as good as some god-awful 80s ski suit, but it'll get its share of looks.

Music playing now: Trey Anastasio

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Going to pick up my dishdasha. I got measured up the other day. Bought the head-dealie too, which was funny because I'm 6'2" and the guy who was helping me was 5 feet on a good day. He was laughing away as he tried to help me. Probably didn't help that my noggin weighs as much as he does.

Anyway, pictures to follow, maybe on Thursday or Friday, depending on how long it takes me to figure out how to put the ensemble on. Also going to take some pictures of the market, which if you are a glowing white man like me, is a really good place to visit if your ego needs boosting. Everyone is you friend! And they yell at you to tell you so.

It was 44 degrees today and the air quality was shit. Apparently if this air was happening in Toronto, the whole city would have been on alert. Here people just light up another cigarette and keep on giving me vague answers.

Music playing now: Nikola Sarcevic Lock-Sport-Krock

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The Hiker

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He walked to the bus depot and bought a ticket for Atlanta. It was a long ride from Nevada to Atlanta, but he slept most of the way, waking periodically to read Tolstoy's War and Peace. He arrived in Atlanta and promptly caught a shuttle bus to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. He began to walk.

Over the following years he had hiked many thousands of miles. He had hiked the Appalachian Trail many times, as well as the Pacific Crest Trail and the Great Divide Trail. He had suffered in the cold, in the scorching heat, from hunger and sickness. He had broken an arm in a particularly bad fall during a Southern Californian hike, but was on another trail a mere week later, arm in a sling.

He had hiked in the Alps, the Himalayas, and across the outback of Australia. He had even walked from Patagonia to Inuvik, a journey of two years. He had seen wonderful things, been scared out of his mind. He had fought, been robbed, and loved a woman here and there. In Columbia he had faced down the business end of a gun. But that was another story.

He wanted for very little. He only was concerned about the state of his current set of hiking boots, his next plane ticket's cost, perhaps where he would next buy food or find clean water. Books were good too. Nothing much else mattered to the hiker.

Work never lasted longer than six months at any given time. His hikes lasted anywhere from one month to the years long hike through the Americas. But he always limited himself to no more than six months of consecutive work, any more he felt would weaken him, in mind, body, and most importantly, in spirit. Work and money was nothing more than a means to an end.

He had always been smart, in the book sense. But beyond that he had become wise. In a world that measured strictly by numbers, few too many people realized that there is a difference. To be smart is one thing, but to be wise is something entirely different. He attributed this to his years of walking, his readings of famous authors, and his frequent moments of quiet introspection while watching a sunset or sunrise. He saw things differently, as if he was removed from much of the chaos that people bring into their lives.

He knew he would walk this world, alone but content, for the remainder of his life. He knew that there was still much to see, much to learn. He wanted to see Mongolia, the Russian Far East. Perhaps China. He wished also to see more of Alaska. The world was so huge, he thought to himself, and despite having been on the road since he was 18 he had seen so very little.

He often thought of the future travels he wanted to undertake, but only for brief periods. To live in the present, to be concerned only with simple little goals, well that was magnificent in his opinion.

A few weeks ago he had hiked into his hometown in Nevada. It had been almost twenty-five years since he had last set foot here. It was changed, but not in a drastic way. He had walked by his old high school, noting that it had fallen into disrepair, weathered by age and funding reductions. He wondered what had become of the few people he remembered.

He had walked to his old house. His parents had died years ago in a car accident. He had been lost in Nepal and hadn't received the news until he called his sister 2 months afterwards. This was a regret, one of the few he had. He had wept for them in the shadows of Everest and had raised some Tibetan prayer flags in their memory.

The old house did not ease his regret but he had known that it would not. He simply looked at it for a minute or two, lost in his thoughts. He had come home, but he had changed so much in the past years that home was nothing anymore except a memory. He could not help but feel saddened by this realization, even though he had expected it. He had walked away, a mere three or four blocks to his sister's house.

He had stayed for a week, getting to know his niece and nephews. It was a happy life for his sister and her husband, a computer industry salesman. They had a nice home, wonderful kids, and seemed content. This was their life and he appreciated that they were happy with it. It was not what he ever wished for himself, but that was okay and his sister had never begrudged his path through life.

He loved her for this. So often one's relatives and friends are comfortable with you so long as you fall into their defined lines. He had spoken with the few and far between fellow hikers like himself, people who had not spoken to their families in decades after a falling out over the differing opinions of how one should lead their life. It was never a happy story to hear and each time he had heard a story such like this he had called his sister and told her than she was loved.

He had said good-bye to his sister and her family, telling the kids he would send many postcards. They knew he would and he intended to honor this promise. To break a promise to a child was, in his opinion, unforgivable. He hugged them and had walked to the bus depot, declining a ride and preferring the early morning silence of the city.

He had no idea where he planned on going as he walked to the bus depot. He liked this. He walked up to the counter and looked at some of the prices. He decided upon Seattle, a quick plan to hike up the west coast of Canada. It was early April and he figured he would have enough time to make his way up to Alaska and see a good portion of the state before winter came.

It was a decision that would take some people years to make but it took him mere seconds. It was a simple decision because his mind was at peace. And perhaps, he mused as the bus rolled north, a peaceful mind was worth all the money in the world.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Just wondering to myself if my blog has jumped the shark. Be honest you bastards.

And yes, I am happy that the double-digit days are no more. I only have single digits left in Kuwait. Can you guess what digit I'm holding up most as I see things in Kuwait for the last time?

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My friends are pretty good guys. I mean, they help me into the taxi when I'm drunk, and try to stop me from telling entire rugby teams that they all love playing the "hooker" position. Hell, sometimes my friends even let me throw soccer balls off their 20th floor balcony. And when the ball lands on the roof of a car, setting off the car alarm, well my friends still like me. And I like them.

But I gotta say it: Cadrin is a tough bastard and he is the only one that could have handled this Kuwait experience, besides me.

Now don't get all mad, let me explain. First of all, I think I have documented the insanity that is Kuwait fairly well, from the apartment to the drivers to the heat to the bugs. And if you still think I haven't proved that Kuwait is a wacky-ass place to live, well just hang on for another week or so, cause I got a HELL of a saga coming up.

So we agree that Kuwait is wack. Most of my friends (myself included), despite being brought up in white suburbia, are hard ass bastards who pick fights with 'roided-up club bouncers for shits and giggles. Actually that's not entirely true. But still, despite being brought up in the burbs, my friends and I can tie our own shoelaces and bravely talk about how we faced down that jammed photocopier a few months ago. We form a tough ass posse.

But this year has been trying, to say the least. When I say that Cadrin and I are the only people from the crew that could have handled this year, what I really mean is that Cadrin and I are the only members of the posse dumb enough to get wrapped up in a scenario like this. I think our motto should be something like "It seemed like a good idea at the time...." followed by the sound of a nuclear explosion.

It has taken a bit of intestinal fortitude to get through this year. Cadrin has proved with Africa that he can suffer just as well as I can. Hell, he made cerebral malaria his bitch. The guy is tough. Let's not even get into his youth, which probably should have seen him in juvie.

Now X (who's new name will now be XXX after Vin Diesel) is a tough bastard, prone to using his unusually long arms to haymaker enemies three counties over. He wears a protective fur coat as well to insulate him from the odd punch that hits him. One time he beat up Tie Domi, who cried out, and I quote: "No no XXX, please stop beating me in front of a school bus full of disabled kids." But XXX didn't stop, because he is too tough to let the emotional scarring of disabled children stop him from beating down Tie Domi. True story. But XXX, sorry to say, your fear of palm trees would negate a Kuwaiti adventure.

Brother Jeff, well, he's a lightweight, but known for his fast (read: drunk) talking ways that usually end up in brawls and/or massive ticketing for public urination. Thankfully his quick wit is only outmatched by his quick feet. Don't let his claims of being "Tha Bod" deceive you, for that is a bit of an exaggeration. Oh he's built all right, built like a 2x4. Plus he is scared of sand, so that disqualifies him from Kuwaiti contention.

Sweet Lou, on the other hand, is built like a Mack Truck. The guy landscapes his yard for fun! That's tough. He even throws toga parties to show off his pipes and make us feel like little weak kittens in comparison. But his fear of anything electrical engineering related (stemming from a bad experience in Electrical Engineering 106 when he was shocked, thus giving him "black man" afro-hair for the rest of his life) would ensure a no-go to Kuwait, the land of the 220 volt outlet.

Al is a giant crybaby. That's why he couldn't hack it here.

Mykhaylo, a friend of mine from CaPS, is one tough hombre. He may or may not be connected to the Ukrainian mafia, but no one is sure, as he ends many of his sentences with "...but I've said too much," followed by a cutting motion across his throat. Trust me, you want this guy watching your back in a bar fight. But unlike me, he is terrified of cockroaches. Sorry Mykhaylo.

The Glorious Mr. T is known throughout the world for his ability to perfectly execute the Karate Kid kick and often uses his Dave Matthews-like appearance to decieve his enemies. He just a built his own house, with his own two hands and no hammer. He hammered nails into wood just by giving them a stern look. True story. In addition to all of that, he has a chocolate bar named after him, and trust me, it's one tough chocolate bar. But the Glorious Mr. T has one weakness, and that is his addiction to reliable internet service. Kuwait would cause his head to explode in frustration and dismay. Sorry T.

Ryan, hencefroth known as Rye, is a friend of mine who was so tough that he decided to marry Lindsay. If anyone has ever been around Linds when she's drunk and talking like a sailor, well, you'll understand why Rye is possibly the toughest man in the universe. But Rye never drives over 40km/hr, so he would be quickly turned into Kuwaiti road paste.

Thus concludes the example of why Cadrin and I are the only idiots that could hack it here in Kuwait. Trust me, I'm tough, but even I'm burnt out after only one year. If you want tough, look at Kneal (not his real name) and Llory (not her real name either) who have been here for 2 and 3 years respectively. Hell, they holiday in Iran for fun. No one is that tough, you say? Wrong punk, so very wrong.

Besides Llory, the only other gurl that can hack it here is Janny Jan. But she is currently heavily involved in high-level negotiations with the powers that be, and could not be reached for comment. The simple fact that she marches right into the head honchos office and demands logical answers is proof enough of her Kuwait survival skills.

Aside from Lindsay, who is currently in Alaska on a fishing boat, running classes entitled How to Really Swear like a Sailor (you nancy girls) , Llory, and Janny Jan, girls don't appear on this blog. This is not because Llory and Janny Jan are the only two girls that are around to beat me up at this current time, but because girls, well, I'll let Jeff explain it in the comments.....

I have many more friends than these, but Blogger has a violence-filter that prevents me from describing their individual acts of toughness. This post is not ending because I don't have any more friends to talk about, that is totally not the case.

Anyway, now that I have totally wasted an hour of my life, I'll go read a book for the rest of the night. A tough book too. Grrrr.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

I'm feeling juvenile today. I think it is some kind of defense mechanism to the ulcer that I have developed in the last week....

I'm sure most of you have laughed at Tom Cruise acting like a coked-up has been on Oprah, but the really funny stuff is the impression Dane Cook does of Cruise while on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Hilarious.

PS- The only thing weirder than Cruise was the hysteria that all the women in the crowd were going through when he was announced. Idiots. Actually I often get that kinda response when I walk into a room full of girls. Then Megan comes in and dishes out some chaos. She's mean.

And if you think that's funny, you should check out this video of some guy who just screams at people, scaring them half to death. Stupid but awesome.

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