This blog was supposed to document my move to Kuwait, and to an extent it does. But friends have commented that they can’t picture my day-to-day existence other than I’m likely to get chatted up and will certainly be in a car accident, or witness one, pretty soon. So here’s my working day!
A notoriously bad riser in the mornings in the UK, I hop out of bed at 5.50am and put the kettle on. Quick shower under low pressure, almost salty water and I’m out and making my coffee. At this point the Alisha Keys album goes on. ‘This Girl is On Fire’ was everywhere during my interview process and it really spoke to me. Since moving, ‘Brand New Me’ has become my theme tune. Make up on, outfit selected (arms covered and ballet pumps on if I have a day of meetings) and it’s time for breakfast. I watch a bit of BBC news or France 24 to establish some sort of link to the outside world and eat my toast. My driver has been told to pick me up at 7am. Any time between 6.30 and 6.45am he’ll call and inform me he’s downstairs. If it’s 6.30 I tend not to answer in the vain hope he’ll take the hint this is too early.
I make my way down in the lift from my 6th floor apartment and get in my cab. My driver is always pleased to see me. Seeing as I have heard I’m over-paying him I’m not suprised!
We set off and I await to see which route we’re going today. The traffic is mental and we’ve been taking minor roads and back streets to shave minutes off of my commute. Seeing as he’s always early I’m not that worried but it seems to be his mission to find a quick way. In rush hour traffic in Kuwait there is no quick way ANYWHERE.
We pull up right outside my office door and I pay him.
The security guard greets me and I spend ages waving my badge in front of a sensor to gain entry. One day I’ll get the right angle straight away.
I walk to my office and realise I’m the first one in, because I have an overly keen cabby. I set my laptop up, check emails from suppliers in the UK and US who have contacted me overnight (Blackberry is still on order, it’s only been 4 weeks) and await my coffee colleague. When she arrives we head for our usual morning coffee and sit outside to drink it. Sitting in the sunshine at 7.30am is bliss before a working day.
I have a windowless office with air conditioning that would keep ice cubes solid, so whenever I have to step outside I am greeted with warm sunshine. The novelty of that still hasn’t worn off.
Lunch is only quick but there’s plenty of choices a stone’s throw from the door.
The afternoon is usually spent on conference calls to the UK or in meetings around the office. I get lost frequently so one of my team’s secretaries has taken to escorting me!
On the stroke of 5pm everyone’s laptops are hurriedly packed away and we’re out of the door. No hanging around. Your work is done so you leave. There’s no prizes for sticking around, and if you do it begs the question ‘why didn’t you get the work done between 8am and 5pm. Are you slacking?’
Walking outside reminds me of being picked up from school. We pour out of the front door, eager to escape the day and scan the crowds of taxis for ours. No easy task when they’re all white. My guy however is early, so he parks up under a canopy and stands talking to his fellow early-bird friends. He’ll wave at me as I cross the road whilst my colleagues wait despondently for their drivers.
The drive back always follows the same route. We skirt round Kuwait City and I gaze out of the window at the skyscrapers passing by the window. If I look to the other side I see a row of sandy coloured villas and dirt. The contrast is amazing.
As we get closer to my neighbourhood we pass chicken shops. They have brightly painted, happy looking yellow chicks on the sign. Except these shops aren’t the the Kuwaiti equivalent of KFC, they have actual chickens in them. I was quite happy to think the reason the little white chickens were crammed in to floor-to-ceiling cages, with their heads poked forlornly out of the gaps in the bars, was to provide eggs. Until the day I was stuck in a queue and witnessed one be removed from its cage, killed and prepared to be bagged up for someone’s dinner. The happy looking cartoon chicken on the sign oblivious to the fate of its brethren.
We pull up outside my block and I pay the driver again. He never has change so I’ve learnt to collect one KD notes as my cab stash.
I pass the Harris (maintenance man/caretaker) and smile. He looks relieved that I’m not about to moan about the lack of power, and I press the button for the lift.
After shedding my work clothes I put on joggers and vest top (finally, arms exposed) and open the balcony doors. As my air con blows fuses if I use it I spend evenings letting the cooler air from outside in. This means the tv gets turned up loudly to try and fight with the constant car horns from the street below. Dinner tends to be a salad or some one-pot-wonder that requires little preparation. Mainly because the kitchen is lacking in utensils (my first purchase in this country was a sieve) and I have about eight square inches of available work surface on which to prepare food.
Audio visual entertainment is limited. Back to back films fill the few English language channels, and some of those are straight-to-video 80/90s classics. Although it was a joy to watch Days of Thunder last week.
I’m shattered by 9pm so slope off to bed with a book. The call to prayer is bound to wake me in the early hours so I try to get to sleep early to at least try and get a decent amount of shut-eye!
And then the cycle starts again. That’s Sunday-Wednesday taken care of. Thursday is the end of the working week and is more likely to involve social interaction, and with a good choice of shopping malls, restaurants and private beach clubs the weekends are sorted.
When I move in to my new apartment I will have several friends in the building so life will get more sociable, but for now the routine keeps me comforted. There are enough surprises and experiences in the near future so my routine right now keeps me sane.
Things could all be about to change soon though. My initial visa expires in two days and the government have decided that they are not converting commercial visit visas to work visas any more. I could end up working from Dubai next week… Now THAT could lead to some interesting blogging.