According to the recently released Happy Planet Index, Kuwait is ranked 128th on a global happiness scale...just 15 spots above Zimbabwe, which is the unhappiest country in the world. That means that Kuwait is the 15th unhappiest place in the world, coming in dead last for both the gulf region and the middle east as a whole. I didn't really need to see a happy planet index to tell you this. It's apparent on the roads, in the stores, at the malls, even at my work place (which I think probably is one of the happier places in Kuwait). It's apparent in the news, where daily "crime section" articles detail an appalling list of stabbings, vehicular manslaughter, abuses, kidnappings, and other unpleasant things (despite the small size of this country, the crime section seems to deliver an endless list of grief, brokenness, and evil) . It's apparent each time a student asks me if I like Kuwait...always accompanied by a grimace as if to say, "I know what's coming." Incidentally, I try to be positive whenever I'm asked that question. I don't believe in beating a dead horse. Yes, there are difficult things here, but I try to balance that out whenever I am telling a Kuwaiti about my experience here. The unhappiness is apparent even in the general health of the country. According to recent statistics, 82% of the population is obese or overweight. Kuwait has the highest per-capita rate of Diabetes in the world. It's apparent in the driving, the road rage, the harassment of women...it's just sort of obvious.
In light of all that, I've been thinking how blessed I am by the fact that I'm generally happy. YES, it's been a killer 10 months. There have been some very low lows...many moments when I wanted to just drive to the airport and hop a flight home. Too many days questioning God's purpose in bringing me to this small corner of the world. Loneliness. Sadness. But God has been faithful and present throughout. And 10 months into this crazy insane adventure, I find myself happy. I recently started seeing clients (students) at the university for counseling. I'm doing it in addition to my regular career counseling job, but I love it...I really really love it. For the first time since getting here, I feel like I'm actually making a difference. I know that most of these students would never have the opportunity to get counseling if I wasn't here. And in that realization, it feels like this winding twisty road that God has been revealing step by tiny step actually has purpose! I'll write more about counseling in a later post...but suffice it to say that it's been incredible (and heavy and heartbreaking). I just started teaching an introductory learning course at the university, and that's been awesome (I'm Professor Amy now!). I'm heading out in 8 days for a week in Afghanistan, working with a local nonprofit there. It just feels like things are coming together. That doesn't mean that there aren't still days of profound loneliness...that the weight of living here doesn't sometimes feel oppressive and unending. But I have a hope that I believe can only come from God...and even though Kuwait is the 15th unhappiest place in the world, I'm still surviving and some days, even thriving...and I can still smile, which I think is a good sign!