Mahboula 2009: The ‘Mermaid Project’

For the first time in my life, I am in a diwaniya. And not only visiting, but participating. Thank you, Amer, for opening up your blog for guest contributors, and inviting me to join. I am honored to be here.

Who am I? I’m Global Gal, an American expat living in China. A long time ago I lived in Kuwait in an apartment with ill-fitting windows, pock-marked facade, (presumably from bullets), and, in the right light, Iraqi graffiti under the thinly-coated paint of the interior walls. It was 1992 and I was sixteen. Fresh off the airplane from Texas, the Mahboula (Mad Woman’ in Arabic) area might as well have been the moon. Eventually, it was home and all these years later I still miss it. I even miss that hastily thrown together apartment. I can honestly look back on my two years in Kuwait as some of the happiest and most influential of my life. I have never forgotten my Kuwaiti friends and the Kuwaiti experiences that made me who I am today – a traveler, an expat and an admirer of the little country that could.

When I hear about the current state of Kuwait – multitudes of restaurants, Marina Mall, aquariums, etc. and the current state of Mahboula and Fahaheel, where I lived and spent most of my time, I tend to think like that grumpy old man character from ‘Saturday Night Live’.

(Cue Grumpy Old Man voice): “Back in my day we didn’t have McDonald’s and Burger King right across the road. There was no such thing as McDonald’s. If we wanted fast food, we walked to the shawarma stand or found an adult to drive us all the way to Fahaheel. And in Fahaheel you could have Wendy’s or KFC and that was it. There was no Hungry Bunny. And we liked it.

And we didn’t go down to the beach to play in the sand and water. We weren’t allowed anywhere near the beach. Everyone was afraid of bombs and mines and booby-trapped Pepsi cans. We spent all our time buying pirated cassette tapes in Salmiya or eating at Chi Chi’s. And we liked it.

And we didn’t have Entertainment City or fancy malls or ‘fun’ places. If we wanted ‘fun’ we spotted burned out car wrecks on the side of the expressway or found another adult to drive us down to Kheiran where we could wander around the abandoned tank and play in the video arcade. And we liked it.” (End Grumpy Old Man voice)

And I really did like it! I would love to see how Kuwait has changed! Consider this my introductory post. I will be contributing travel stories and anecdotes of my Kuwait expat experience to the diwaniya in the coming weeks. I hope you don’t mind a little light-hearted fare! It looks like I need to brush up on Kuwaiti politics as well!

Global Gal writes about her life in China, travel experiences and interesting things she sees and reads at On the Fringe.

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