Kuwait Just a Minute

18 Oct

At this point I should probably take the time to mention the various reactions I received from friends when I told people I was coming to Kuwait. You see, I am a Jewish girl, more by tradition than by religious following. Still, my last name is quite ethnic. I went to high school in an amazing place in Michigan called Oak Park. It’s a suburb of Detroit (while Eminem grew up at 8 Mile, I grew up at 9 Mile. Yup, 1 mile away – we’re very creative with our street names). The student population at Oak Park High was composed of 50% black and 50% white students. The whites were fairly evenly divided between Jews and Chaldeans (Christians from Iraq who were escaping the Iran/Iraq war). Many of my friends on Facebook are people I grew up with. When I mentioned my plans on Facebook one old classmate asked, “Why would you go to Kuwait?” A valid question. My response, “Speaking as a Traveler, because I’ve never been before.” Her response, “Okay, but could you maybe stop in Israel on your way home?” Hhmmmm, do I need to cleanse myself and get the Jew back in me? Another response I received from somebody still living back home was, “Ok, just be careful there.” Nice thought, and I appreciate the well-wishes. My response may have been a bit snarky (uh, it’s me remember) whenIi said, “Thanks, and you be careful there in Detroit.” I think most people believe ‘better the devil you know than the one you don’t.’

That said, on with the day. I wake up this morning not so refreshed. It’s 6:00am you see and I went to sleep at around 2:00am. This is not only unnecessary but incredibly irritating as the car doesn’t pick me up at 11:30. I lay there with my eyes closed refusing to accept that I am awake. After a couple of hours I finally drift back to sleep for a bit longer. When I wake up and go to get dressed, I ponder the outfits I’ve brought. How does one dress for a job interview in Kuwait? I choose the safe bet, a black suit.

I head to the breakfast buffet (my absolute favorite part of staying in an international hotel in a foreign country). I try small bites of some things I recognize and many things i don’t. The humus alone is a reason to move to Kuwait. Yummm. I stop back up to my room to grab a portfolio and drop my iPad and get a call that my driver is waiting downstairs.

I get in the car and introduce myself. My driver’s name is Abu and I can’t help but think of the monkey from Aladdin. Abu is originally from Egypt and, between his bad English and my nonexistent Arabic, we are still able to learn a bit about each other. Abu moved to Kuwait 14 years ago and has a wife and 3 kids. In his spare time he likes to fish and go to the mall (the national pastime). Abu asks if I’m married. I respond no and wait for the next question (it always comes). “Oh,” he says knowingly. “Do you like men?” he asks. What he is really saying, “Don’t you like men.” I assure him that yes, in fact, I do like men very much. I’ve just never found the right one. Or perhaps he hasn’t found me.

I arrive at the office which takes up an entire street. This company is one of the largest in Kuwait and, in fact, all of the Middle East. After checking in with the receptionist I am met by Cheryl, the Human Resources Administrator who brings me back to look around. We talk for a while and watch a presentation on her computer which tells me more about the company. We then go to meet the Operations Manager who I have spoken with by phone and on Skype. On the way, Cheryl asks if I have jet lag. I put on a brave face and say no, that I’ve slept quite well. Her response, “Oh, you look tired.” Two thoughts come to mind. First, of course I am. I haven’t slept in 4 months! Second, thanks, that’s just what I need to build my confidence as I head into a full day of interviews.

We head into a meeting room where I meet with Sam. Sam is a British man who was hired on as Operations Manager for this new venture. Oh, I suppose I should mention that the job I am interviewing for is Artistic Manager for a kid’s theme park. This park already exists in quite a few locations around the world but, as it’s a franchise, this large company in Kuwait will be franchising it there. Sam and I speak about the project for an hour or so but, as we have already spoken a couple of times, this is more third date. If I’m hired, we will be working closely together. After about an hour, I am handed over to Dina, the Human Resources Manager.

Dina explains that she will be asking me questions about how I have handled challenges and situations in the past. She tells me that I should give specific examples. Not a problem as I am confident in my experience and, in my current role, I handle unusual challenges on a daily (sometime hourly) basis. After about 20 minutes Fernando comes in. Fernando is Sam’s boss and I am due to meet with him next. As his schedule has just changed, he asks if he can meet with me now and Dina and I can continue our conversation later.

I head on over to Fernando’s office where he tells me about his history. He is from Portugal but grew up in England (thus the crazy accent). He was also brought over for this project and has been in Kuwait for nearly a year. He then asks about my life and says he is impressed by my CV (good to hear as I’ve worked hard to gain all that experience). We have a nice conversation and I am getting to know more about the project with each person I talk to.

Next, back with Dina (truly the toughest interviewer of them all) to finish up the final three questions (thank goodness there is no lightning round) and I am once again handed over to Cheryl who takes me to Starbucks for coffee and a bite. There seem to be more Starbucks in Kuwait City than in Seattle. This one is on the grounds of the company’s headquarters (this alone could be a reason to work for this company). After a bit, Cheryl calls my driver (different one and definitely not as fun as Abu) and I head back to the hotel.

Tonight, a trip to the mall. Read about it in I Shop, Therefore I Am

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4 Responses to “Kuwait Just a Minute”

  1. Eliza Mirich November 15, 2012 at 4:00 PM #

    Hey there from across the ocean! This is just what I was looking for, and you wrote it nicely. Thanks

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