Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Saturday in Kuwait

I started this post a couple weeks ago...just had a chance to finish it!

I usually spend Saturdays just chillin. Sleep in, get up around noon, grab some lunch, catch up on my downloaded episodes of my fav shows, chat with my family on skype, etc etc. But after way too many weeks/months of putting off various things, I decided that this Saturday would be my designated "get stuff done" day. My car has been in desperate need of a tune-up, so I decided to get up early, bring in my car to the service center, visit the leasing center (they just informed me that they are taking back my car on June 3rd and won't let me renew my lease! so I planned to go in and try to fight my way into keeping the car), do some grocery shopping, etc. So Saturday morning, my alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 7am. I rolled out of bed, took a shower, and put myself together. It was bright and sunny outside, so I grabbed my sunglasses. As I got ready to walk out the door, I suddenly realized that it wasn't bright and sunny anymore. I walked over to the window, and looked outside to see...nothing! It had gone from bright and sunny, to looking like it was midnight outside. In the span of a few minutes, a massive dust storm had rolled in. It was surreal, unlike any dust storm I've seen since being in Kuwait. The dust blotted out the sun. The wind kicked up. And then the rains began...which was just about the time I realized that my windows weren't quite as well sealed as I thought. So as the water began to drip over the sill, I prepared a veritable mound of towels to stave off any flooding. Luckily, the flooding stayed minimal (especially compared to many of my neighbors who I found out later had several inches of water in their apartments!). The apocalyptic dust/wind/rain lasted for about two hours, and then the feeble sun poked through the dust and the end-of-times faded away.

I didn't want to waste an early morning Saturday wake-up, so I decided to brave the elements as soon as the storm stopped and bring in my car as planned. I ventured outside, to be met by silence and trash. The streets were empty...of people...but filled with plastic bags and boxes and piles of trash that had blown out of various containers. I navigated the trash-filled streets and finally made it to the auto service center. I figured that I had just enough time despite my dust storm delay to get the car serviced and make it to the leasing center (at a different location). I walked into the service center to find the usual...about 20 men in dishdashas turning around to stare at the eccentric white american gal who really doesn't belong in an auto center. In these situations, the only bonus is that I get to jump to the front of the line! So I quickly found myself sitting across from a man, trying to explain that my car needed fluid changes, new brake pads, and a belt replacement. The man looked at me like I had two heads (apparently, women aren't supposed to know these things). He completed some paperwork, and then informed me that my registration was expired. I shrugged, and asked him what to do. He demanded to know why I hadn't brought in my car sooner to get the registration fixed. I informed him that 1) this was a rental, not my own car, so it was their responsibility to track such things, 2) the registration form was entirely in Arabic, so there was no way for me to know it was expired, and 3) I didn't pay attention to such things since no one ever told me that there was a vehicle registration in the first place. Apparently my answer wasn't exactly what he wanted. He informed me that they would take my car in the next day for the new registration, but that I would have to pay a fine ($17). I agreed to pay the fine, but told them that I thought the entire situation was completely ludicrous since it wasn't even my car. However, I decided that $17 was totally worth saving myself the hassle of trying to deal with the government/ministry offices by myself. In the end, they gave me a rental and confiscated my car until further notice.

When I left the car service center, I figured I had just enough time to make it to the leasing center to dispute the fact that they were going to repossess my car on June 3rd. I drove to the other side of Kuwait (again, navigating the trash filled streets), only to find the leasing office dark and locked. I had specifically called the day before to ask about their hours. A security guard finally answered the door after about 5 minutes of pounding on the glass. He informed me that yes, of course they were open, but not at this location. On Saturdays they worked out of a different office that was back on the other side of Kuwait...only a block from the service center! By this point, I was thoroughly frustrated and annoyed, so I gave up. I drove my nice little rental back home, checked again for any flood waters, got in my pjamas, and went right back to bed.

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