Posts tagged ‘fatigue’


You’ll be pleased to know that I received my first haircut in Yemen the other day. It went without incident, although another customer said quite loudly, “He has the hair of a donkey,” which, I’m quite sure, was aimed at me. My mood became sour. I started thinking.

‘Yeah, well you’re stupid…and dumb.’ I couldn’t come up with anything in English and I had bupkis in Arabic. I felt like Costanza in that episode where he flies to Akron to zing a guy who zinged him. I had no material, and couldn’t think of anything in English or Arabic that would be sufficiently jabby, cleaver, or subtle.

 Everyone in the barber shop was chewing qat except for me (I had tried it once and hated it, but I think I might have gotten some low-grade stuff–qat’s shwag equivelent?). So I stewed… ‘Yeah, well the jerk store called, and they’re running out of you.’ But all I could think of was bupkis and seafood.


June 15, 2008 at 6:45 am 1 comment

What I’ve Learned

in the last monthish..


The stock market lost 400 points a few days ago, on high oil prices and news of a rise in unemployment. Huge font at the New York Times.

 I’m nuts about a girl in New York. I want to move there eventually. There are many other reasons too. But I would like to think coincidence is more than just coincidence, something stopped can start again, the third act can become a new play,  and somethings are just meant to be. 


 There is a scene in Hot Shots Part Deux! where the president of the United States, played by the late and great Lloyd Bridges, gets into a light sabers fight with Saddam Hussein, who talks in with a Vader-like voice.

Last night, a Debab, or minibus driver, asked me where I was from. Then he said he loved me and he loved America. Then he said, sarcastically I hope, ‘Saddam, mush tamaam. I kill Iraqis!’ A few of the riders seemed to get a kick out of it. I felt like crying.

Debabs run as late as 11:30 on Friday nights.

I am sorry for so many things that are done in the name of the country I was born in, the country I miss.

Chuck D taught me as much about American history as any teacher I’ve ever had. And I listened to him more than the others.

One of the five books I brought to Aden was ‘Imagined Communities’ by Benedict Anderson. I also brought ‘Orientalism’.

The British had control of Aden for one hundred and fifty years.

The president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has the Madrassa equivalent of a sixth-grade education. His two predecessors were deposed, and at least one of them was executed.

His security detail rivals that of George W. Bush.

Seera Castle, or Qala’a Seera, is a [most likely] Turkish fort that the Portuguese used. It’s on top of a very high ridge. There is an 18th century latrine in the main fort. Instead of a bucket or something else to catch the waste, there is just a hole with a view of the town below.

People take shits at the Seera Castle, in the dark corners. It smells there. Guards also patrol the area because it overlooks Ali Abdullah Saleh’s private ridge. Yesterday they weren’t there.

There is an IKEA in Saudi Arabia.

June 8, 2008 at 3:17 pm 1 comment



Ok, I’ve been here for over a week. About two weeks to not be exact, but it feels like I’ve been here for months. And it feels like I just got here. I often feel dizzy.

I don’t know how much I buy into culture shock theories. They seem sort of arbitrary. Like cultural theories in general.

When I go somewhere, I am immediately uncomfortable. Then I like it. Then there is nowhere I’d rather be. Then I start to dislike it. Then I like it, then I don’t like it, then it’s the worst place in the world, then it’s the best, then it is just a place and shit, as long as I’m here…

And then?

And then was last Wednesday night. I had finished my first week of teaching, and I wanted to go to a bar, have a couple of drinks, and relax.

But there really isn’t a bar here. There are clubs, and some place where you can supposedly buy beer out of a drive-thru window. Oh, and there is The Seamen’s Club (which will be blogged about shortly insha’allah).

No bar. It’s not the end of the world, of course, and the scarcity of alcohol here is hardly a bad thing.

But when you really want something that you can’t have, you want it a lot more. And the more you really want that unattainable thing, the more ludicrous the reasons for its unavailability become.

Of course, I found the booze. That wasn’t the problem. The problem is where I had to go. And the problem with where I had to go is that I felt dirty even stepping foot into the place. This place…whew, this place will be blogged about soon.

And I started to think…and question, and criticize…I started to wonder why, in this place where soooooooo many men chew qat, getting high, why, why is there not a bar? And why are the places that serve alcohol either epically seedy or hidden behind the kindly-bomb-us-we-are-all-decadent white walls of ostentatious foreign hotels? If the widespread use of an amphetamine is ok, and encouraged as a cultural practice, then why, oh why, do I feel like this guy everytime I want to grab a fucking cold one?

Confusion adds to fatigue, which, combined with the heat and humidity, feeds intolerance. People become individual examples of a collective, cultural error. These people, I started to think…

Then I caught myself. I felt bad.

I was annoyed, because I couldn’t casually buy a beer, and because of my distorted sense of entitlement. I was annoyed with the multitude of idle young men, with bulging cheeks and green spit, staring at me as I passed them, and I was annoyed with the base cultural assumptions that ran through my mind as I passed them.

There was no shock, and I told myself it wasn’t cultural. But the heat started to get to me and I desperately wanted another beer.

May 17, 2008 at 1:19 pm 1 comment

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