Tag Archives: Jobs

It’s Not Me, It’s You

10 Nov Broken Heart

When I was 18 my dad took me to the bank to apply for my first credit card. Dad was a banker and, in fact, so was I (a drive-thru teller when I was 17). With dad co-signing, I was approved. The card was with Michigan National Bank, the company both dad and I worked for. Dad was very clear, this credit card was because I was driving a ’76 Impala into the heart of a not so great part of Detroit (yes, there are good parts) to attend Wayne State University each day. This card was for emergencies only. Credit was not something to be taken lightly.

Fast forward 26 years and Michigan National Bank no longer existed. Dad passed away nine years previously and my credit card was transferred a few times to various banks, the final one being Chase. I followed dad’s advice through the years and handled my credit responsibly. I saw the benefit of this in great rates for car loans and a mortgage loan.

Over the years, I tried to get dad taken off the card as, well, he was dead. I didn’t really see the need for him to be on there as, if the saying is true, ‘you can’t take it with you’ (and I don’t think heaven has a gift shop that you pass through at the end of your life like on The Pirates of the Caribbean ride). And my version of heaven has nothing in the realm of ‘buy now, pay later.’

Then the recession hit and my industry collapsed (read about all the fun in I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help). I was late on my mortgage. I was never late on a credit card (my friends know I hate tardiness in anyone). Yet, after 26 years of never being late, I received a letter from Chase saying they were ending our relationship. What? They’re breaking up with me?Broken HeartIt’s now three years later and I recently received a letter from my ex, Chase. It seems they want to get back together. So in response, here is my answer to that letter:

Dear Chase,

I received your letter asking me to get back together. I must admit that it came as quite a surprise. You see, while I was having many challenges at the time you ended our relationship, I didn’t think you were one of them. I didn’t know we were having trouble? I mean, I tried not to be needy. I thought we communicated well. You sent me letters telling me you respected our privacy. I read every word you wrote. We traded E-mails. I thought you loved me.

The funny thing is, you still loved my dad. He continued to receive credit card offers from other companies. As you were the only one he was still associated with, I assumed you referred these people to him. He was dead and he had better credit than me.

So now, three years after you broke up with me, you write me and want to get back together. Do you have any idea how much you hurt me? I mean, I expected that behavior from Bank of America, or even American Express. But from someone who I had my longest relationship with? And you don’t even mention our history. There’s no apology, no, “I hope you’re doing well.” Your letter sounds as if you don’t even remember me.

So Chase, after very little consideration, I am tearing up your letter (or maybe I’ll burn it) and forgetting you. I am happy without you. I’ve gotten over our break-up and have moved on. I can’t do this anymore. As Taylor Swift said, “We are never, ever, ever getting back together.” The love is gone.

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Sex and the Single Writer

16 Sep Writing-blogging-clipart

I know what you’re thinking. “Where has Carole gone? I’m going through a bit of snarky withdrawal.” I’m with you on that. Well, I’d love to say I was too busy traveling the world, doing crazy things and talking to strangers (never learned that lesson) to put my fingers on a keyboard. But that’s not the case. In reality, I’ve been lying low. Yes, there was a weekend trip to Las Vegas but, as we all know, what happens there stays there. I’m now preparing for a little business travel in my old line of work. Nowhere exotic (unless you consider Philadelphia and Chicago exotic), but it will keep me off the streets for now (at least in Arizona). And I’m sure I’ll find lots of amusing people and situations to share with you.

In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in why I write. It’s not something I do for fame – I’m not exactly a household name. . .yet. Fortune? Oh yes, rolling in the dough here. Writing this from my 21 room mansion with a bowling alley and airplane hangar (going airplane shopping as soon as I finish this). No, I write because I must. It’s like an unexplainable build-up that I must release. Yes, it sounds like an orgasm and well, perhaps it’s comparable.

First there’s the subject idea. When an idea hits it’s like seeing that guy across room. My heart flutters a bit and I lose track of my thoughts. Then there’s the research – traveling somewhere, talking to people or reading up on a subject. In comparison to sex, or the steps leading up to it, this would be the date. We meet for a drink and dinner to get to know each other. Sometimes, the research is already done, as reading something, having a chance encounter or traveling somewhere is what has inspired me. In the dating world, this would be considered slutty behavior and comparable to jumping in bed with someone.

Now that I’ve researched the subject, or spent a few weeks getting to know the guy, I am ready to do the dirty deed. It begins slowly – foreplay. I have notes, a few sentences or words that I know I want somewhere in the article. I start on an introductory paragraph – think of it as kissing. Before long, I am well involved in the words (ok, completely opposite of sex unless we’re tallkin’ dirty talk). Now I’m totally immersed in the writing and the ringing iPhone barely registers. Things become very organic and instinct takes over.

Finally, I come to the ending paragraph. But this is not the release. Not yet, anyway. I only read over what I have written after it is completed. You don’t stop in the middle of having sex to analyze whether it’s good or not. It’s only after, when the deed is done, that you lay there and take a deep breath and think, ‘that was amazing!’ This is the orgasm!

**Please note, sometimes I read through the article and think, ‘this is crap.’ This I do not publish. After all, bad sex is normally still pretty darn good whereas bad writing is just bad.

 

 

Welcome to My Mid-Life Crisis

2 Jun

Mid-Life Crisis

I’ve decided to paint my bedroom pink.

“I’m sorry, are you a seven year-old, wanna be princess?” you ask.

Point taken. But let me give you some background. In the last three months I have lost a friend to cancer (Goodbye, Farewell and Amen), had a cancer scare of my own and quit my job after two doctors told me the 80-hour weeks and stress was doing my health no good. I think this might be part of a mid-life crisis. And what’s more, I’m kind of enjoying it.

As I said, I’ve spent the last two years working 80 hours a week while managing 23 year-olds. I worked in a very competitive atmosphere (it could be considered cut-throat as there were times I wanted to cut mine) while trying to please Guests (never called a passenger and always with a capital ‘G’), onboard bosses and shore-side bosses. Before that, I spent a couple of years attempting a delicate balance of struggling to keep my house and my sanity while working 5 jobs (relive the fun at My Schizophrenic Life).

Then there was the whole experience of many people massaging by breast, and not in a good way as they stuck needles, titanium and a scalpel in it. That, combined with my friend’s battle with, and ultimate death from cancer has apparently made me re-examine the balance in my life.

So now I’m on the job hunt. Not the desperate job hunts of my past, but a job hunt that fulfills me both financially and personally. It’s a time/money balance, a life-purpose/money balance and a where the hell do I want to live/money balance. While I search for a future that means something to both me and the world at large, I might as well be at peace with my surroundings.

Life BalanceI bought my house nearly eleven years ago. I painted the living room and master bedroom soon after. I’m a do-it-yourselfer. A week after I moved in my garbage disposal broke. Twenty years ago my mom installed a garbage disposal in our kitchen (yeh, mom was impressive). I figured it has to be much easier these days so I decided that, instead of calling a plumber, I would install my own. It cost me $60 to buy an Insinkerator (it made me feel like I had a boy-band in my kitchen). While it was more difficult than I thought it would be and involved a few yoga positions while attempting to lift the thing above my head while lying under the sink, with one hand twisting the appliance into the exact right position to avoid leaks, and with the other hand clutching my pipe-wrench to screw in nuts, bolts and other bits of metal and rubber. Upon finishing I declared myself, ‘Queen of Garbage Disposals.’ When I proudly told my realtor of my accomplishment his response was, “You know your home warranty would most likely cover that?” Talk about bursting my bubble.

I moved on to painting. I first tackled the living room. After multiple, daily trips to my friends at Home Depot, attending their, ‘How to paint your house class’ (I was the only student) and browsing home decorating books I was ready to begin. I began taping and caulking. “Caulking, you ask?” Is there a leak? Aah, this is why you should go to the house painting class. I now have perfectly straight lines. A little how to for all of you do-it-yourselfers out there – take a dab of paintable, clear caulk and spread it lightly across the edge of the tape. When you pull the tape your lines will be as straight as Tom Cruise pretends to be. Bathed in maroon and gold, my living room now has the comfortable feel of a Moroccan hookah lounge.

Painting

On to the bedroom. I found some beautiful satiny-brown curtains and decide my bedroom should feel a bit spa-like. At the time, browns and light greens implying a bamboo forest were very in. I went to Home Depot and told the designer (they used to offer this free service) that I was looking for a ‘happy olive.’ The best thing about this designer was that she not only didn’t burst out with laughter and get on the public address system announcing to all, “Hey, has anybody seen a happy olive? How about a sad one?” but she actually pretended to know what I was talking about. Fairway Mist purchased and I moved on to painting.

As the master bedroom also has an en suite bath (I’ve been watching House Hunters) I painted this too. During the taping process I began wondering how I ever thought eleven foot cathedral ceilings were a good thing. Even with my 10 foot ladder I had to lean it against the wall over the counter-top, stand at the top and do yoga moves in order to reach the top of the wall. After many days, my mission was accomplished. My room was ‘Happy Olive.’ I hated it.

I’ve thought about changing the color many times over the years but the memory of the first painting experience had yet to fade (similar to why it takes you a decade to be able to smell tequila following ‘that night’ that so many of us have had in our younger years). Now that I’m enjoying my mid-life crisis I’ve decided it’s now or never. What’s more, I’ve always wanted a pink bedroom. Not princess pink. No frilly, white curtains. No lacy lampshades. Just a nice feminine pink offset by my still lovely chocolate-brown curtains.

Not my bedroom

Not my bedroom

So, if I’ve always wanted a pink bedroom why didn’t I paint it pink in the first place? Well, I thought about the possibility of a man in my life. Nobody specific. I just wondered if it might be a turn-off for a man as he might not feel comfortable in a pink bedroom. Perhaps a little part of me also felt that I was a grown woman and pink was not a grown-up color. It turns out it’s like craving a pizza or Chinese food. You can eat every hamburger in sight but the craving won’t go away until you get an egg roll and some orange chicken in you. And as for any man well, I have waited long enough for him to come and tell me pink makes him uncomfortable. And, from my experience with men, I’ve learned that they couldn’t care less if the walls are pink. They wouldn’t notice if there were a pink alligator in the room.

With a mid-life crisis in the works to help fade the bad memory of the previous bedroom painting experience, I buy a couple of gallons of Romantic Morn. I’ve spent the last week taping, caulking (don’t forget the caulk) and painting. I listen to music to pass the time. Besides giving in to my inner-princess, I also spend one painting day embracing my inner-nerd. Instead of music, I listen to podcasts of NPR’s ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’ and ‘Stuff You Missed in History Class.’ Geek, party of one.

I finish the first and (I think) only coat as I have bought the Behr paint with paint and primer in one. It turns out that this stuff works as well as shampoo and conditioner in one. Your hair feels not quite clean and definitely not quite soft and untangled. I head back to Home Depot with a bit of an attitude yet with the understanding that it’s not the fault of the lady in the paint department (although she irritates me when she acts surprised that I would think I would only need one coat).

Second coat applied and . . . I love it. I feel ‘in the pink!’ I am a princess!

This next week will be committed to taping and painting the frighteningly, high-ceilinged bathroom, and maybe a little more NPR geekdom. Oh, and a job interview via Skype with England. Yes, this princess still needs a job.

Sabbatical

23 Mar

Sabbatical

Sabbatical –

  •  Webster’s Dictionary: any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.
  •  Urban Dictionary: The time a businessman spends passed out on the hotel lobby floor after consuming too much alcohol at a business event.

Whatever your definition, that’s where I am. I quit. Resigned. Retired. Left the Company. Removed myself from the situation. I’m on sabbatical!

Wait, you left your job without having another? Uh oh, did you feel that? That shaking of the earth was my father rolling over in his grave. Okay, let me explain.

For the past two years I’ve worked between 75 and 82 hours per week. No days (or nights) off for 3-4 months at a time.  Still, I believed I could make a difference. Make magic. So why leave, you say? Well, even codeine has an expiration date. After a while, its magic gets to be more like a parlor trick and it gives you less of a high.

I’ve become very good at compartmentalizing my life. I’ve never really explained here what it was I’ve been doing for the past two years. Yes, I believe I quite generally stated that I worked on a cruise ship. But I never specifically said which one or what I did. So here goes – my name is Carole and I worked for Disney Cruise Line. I was Manager of Youth Activities. Yes folks, I was in charge of the children. That statement will either make you very scared or it will make you laugh uncontrollably while saying, “yup, that makes sense.”

Disney

Me and some Friends

What did I love about my job? Oh lots. I loved seeing new places (well, as much as I could see in the 2-3 hours off I had. And new places? Not so many new ones unless you consider that sparkly slot machine at Atlantis a new place), meeting new people, learning more about leadership, dreaming with Imagineers (I used to have Imaginary friends, now I have Imagineer friends), having Captain Hook wave to me as he walked past my office, knowing princesses (Cinderella’s my favorite and I always wanted to go shoe shopping with her) and generally, making magic for children. Oh, and sparkles! I loved taking a break from reports and E-mails to do arts and crafts where I would invariably end up covered in sparkles.

Why did I leave, you ask? Oh, those reasons are more complicated. You see, this was never meant to be long term. If you recall, in the year preceding these last two, things were, shall we say, a bit tough financially. Oh, who am I kidding, I was so broke I couldn’t even pay attention (any further questions on this please refer to, ‘I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help’ or, ‘Yes Virginia, There is a Mortgage Modification.’).

This wasn’t just about the money (okay, at the time it was mostly about the money). I never had any intention of going back to my previous life working on board cruise ships (add over five years to these past two). I was truly ready to leave the past in the past. It’s a bit like going to live in the college dorm, only I was in my 40’s. But the job presented itself and, as my house was due to go on the auction block in a month, I wouldn’t have anywhere to live anyway.

So now, here I am. The situation is much different now. I was able to pay off some bills, save some money and even have a lovely vacation in England (yes, you can read about the unplanned adventures beginning with “On a Wing and a Prayer”). And another benefit, I have The Walt Disney Company on my resume (or my c/v if you’re from Europe).

The decision to leave certainly wasn’t like buying that Snickers bar at the grocery checkout. It was definitely not an impulse buy. Last year I spoke with my manager about transitioning off ships and into a land based position with the company. One big challenge, I won’t live in Florida. Nothing against Florida       but. . . okay, sorry but I do have something against Florida. Tried it, hated it. In order not to outrage any of my Florida followers I will leave it at that (so unlike me).

So, you want to work for Disney and not live in Florida? Believe it or not, it can be done. California, England, Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, the list goes on. Still, I was told that it may need to be a lateral move (fine by me) or even a downgrade (not so fine). I’m not twenty-two years old anymore (I know from my photo you find that hard to believe). I have made certain advances in my career by gaining knowledge and working really hard. Going backwards is not in the plan. I did a lot of networking (much with the PR and Marketing departments) but I was also open to outside opportunities. After all, I keep getting told how great it is to have Disney on a resume. Well, let’s just see if Uncle Walt has some influence outside his own company.

Sure enough, this summer I was approached by a company who found me on LinkedIn (yes, it is a valuable tool if used correctly). You can read about the exploits of my interview process at, “Kuwait Just a Minute.” And while I was hoping they had continued interest in me for their Russia location, Kuwait seems to be far behind schedule so Russia? As they say in Russian, “Не звоните нам, мы тебе позвоню.” Still, I continue to stalk this company as they have franchises worldwide and I believe they cannot live without me (confident, aren’t I?)

Bre and me in Alaska

Bre and me in Alaska

I should also mention something else that happened this past summer. My friend BreAnn took a break in her chemo. and cruised with me in Alaska. At the end of the trip she commented, “They don’t pay you enough. I don’t know what they pay you but it’s not  enough.” When I arrived home after this latest contract and received the call that Bre wasn’t doing well, I went over to her house. I climbed into bed with her, held her hand and told her I was quitting. At this point she wasn’t responding to much. She opened her eyes and looked at me and said, “Good, you need to.” Well, there you go. Promise your dying friend something and changing your mind is not an option.

In the meantime, I’m on sabbatical. Surgery and other issues done,

Weeds

My Weed Garden

it’s time to enjoy it for a bit. Okay, still setting up my life again. Getting my taxes done, securing health insurance, getting internet for my house and attempting to kill my newly acquired weed garden (it turns out that, as much as they may look like herbs, you cannot cook any sort of edible chicken with them). Also, a little time to enjoy riding my new bike, doing yoga, reestablishing friendships that I have (unwillingly) had to ignore for the past two years, a bit of traveling (beautiful, exotic Chicago) and hot bubble baths with scotch and candles (wait, not bathing in scotch – water in the tub, scotch in a glass).

Windows-WineOh, and another thing I get to do on a regular basis now – write. And while I enjoy being a bit cliché and sitting at the coffee bar drinking a latte or espresso while writing, it turns out I am just as inspired sitting in the park drinking a bottle of wine.

Stand by while I find some new adventures or perhaps, just make fun of the world in general. And, if you’re looking to hire me, well, I’m not cheap but I can be had.

Aaahhhh. . . Sabbatical

Fly by Night. . . and Day

27 Nov

At about 9:00pm I head on over to the airport. As is the norm, the hotel has arranged a complimentary car for me. The airport is very well-organized and I have no trouble finding my way around. I check-in for my flight without anyone even suggesting that I should check my completely allowable carry-on (oh, I’m not bitter). I have quite a bit of time before my flight so I wander through the shops.

I look for a Duty Free store to price some alcohol before realizing, well duh. I might as well be searching for a pork chop. I’ve already picked up some Turkish Delight and Apple Tea while at the mall. These are Turkish Delightthings I used to enjoy when I worked in Turkey. Actually, I only enjoyed the Apple Tea. I never acquired a tasted for Turkish Delight. To me, it tastes similar to the only other candy in this world that I dislike, Candy Corn. Dislike is too mild of a word. I truly hate the stuff (and can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s called corn). Anyway, the Turkish Delight is for friends, as I’m hoping they enjoy it more than me. It turns out they don’t and, when we look at the ingredients, we like it even less (what the hell is soapwood and why, of why, would it be in candy?).

For lack of anything else to do I wander over to my gate. Going through security I note the subtle differences between U.S. airport security and Kuwaiti security (and German as a matter of fact). In the U.S. you take off your shoes and leave your iPad and Kindle in your bag. In Kuwait and Germany your shoes stay on but the iPad and Kindle come out. Strange.

As I continue my people watching I note that there seem to be very few women traveling on their own. I am not judging at all, just noticing. In Kuwait (as well as many European airports) you wait outside in the main hallway until about 45 minutes before your flight when you are allowed to enter the boarding area. I strike up a nice conversation with the flight crew who think my 49 hours in Kuwait is ridiculous. Yeh, that’s right, I’m a professional. Don’t try this at home (uh, I guess that would be impossible).

Before long we board our flight to Frankfurt. I have a window seat with the two seats next to me vacant. Yes, my plan has worked. I reserved this seat online noting that, at least at that moment, those seats were not assigned. Yes, seat strategy is my specialty. I catch a little nap and awake 45 minutes before landing in Frankfurt.

I grab an incredible breakfast of fruit and yogurt (why does breakfast in Europe always Breakfasttaste so good?) and take a look around the duty-free store. I really want to by that bottle of fine Scotch but I’ve come carry-on and the U.S. airports will not appreciate my excess liquid (I consider whether I might be able to drink it before arriving in the U.S. but that would be a terrible waste of perfectly good scotch).

I head on over to my gate and board my flight. As I walk back to my seat I look ahead and see what appears to be a family taking up all of the seats in my assigned row. When I approach to claim my seat the man stands and says that the airline has seated him separate from his family and he would like my seat. Okay, here’s the deal – I try really hard to be a nice person. I really do. I tell him I would be happy to switch seats with him if one of his assigned seats includes a window (I’m a leaner and sleeper and, with 15 more hours of flying ahead of me, I have my Ambien at the ready). He looks at me and, quite rudely says, “Of course I do!” Then he turns his back on me. Hhhmmmmm, not sure what to make of this. With great attitude I sneer at him and respond, “Hey, I’m trying to help you.” Sorry sir, you have been voted out of my seat. I give him my best flared nostril, evil eye look, take my seat and start to nest. His wife and son remain seated in the middle and aisle seats. He remains standing for a while seemingly undecided about what to do next. He eventually takes his seat in a middle seat in the middle section (seriously, this is the seat he wanted to trade me for? I’m nice, just not that nice).

Kids on AirplanesThe rest of the flight is – how shall I put it – HELL! It’s like his 3-year-old son works as a hit man for his father and decided that I will pay for the injustice I delivered upon his father. Each time I get near a peaceful sleep the kid throws pretzels and matchbox cars at me. He then proceeds to kick me or simply puts his hand on my shoulder, enough to imply, “Hey lady, wake up.” At one point he is laying with his head across his mother’s lap and his feet across my lap. Fully stretched out. Please understand that I work with children and understand the difficulty of traveling with them. I am very understanding as long as I see or hear the parent making an effort to teach them good behavior. There was no effort. And oh, mom doesn’t speak English. There was no apparent effort in any language.

At some point I notice a smell that I often smell in the nursery at work. Ah, the unmistakable smell of poop. I wait for the smell to waft on over to mom. She must have an idea this would be coming as we’ve been on the plane for 5 hours and she has not checked him once. I wiggle my nose and sniff, hoping she’ll take the hint. Nothing. Are you kidding me? After a good half hour I speak up and, through sign language, I tell her she might want to check his diaper. She checks and, what do you know, Poop Central! At this point I wait for her to ask me to take him and change him as she has seemingly done nothing to take care of him the entire flight.

Eventually (and it’s a long eventually) we land in Houston. I go to take a sip of my bottled water which, due to the change in air pressure, promptly explodes in my face (again, don’t try this at home. I am a professional traveler). I never thought I’d be happy to be in Houston (sorry Texas, I’m not a Houston fan). Dad thanks me for my understanding during the flight. Uh, sorry? I believe I was trapped on an airplane and had no choice. I deplane and grab some good old American barbecue. One more flight and it’s home to my presumably dead battery and potentially flooded kitchen.

I board the plane and take my aisle seat (couldn’t snag a window for this one but, after 26 hours of travel I’ll survive 2 hours in an aisle seat). I stow my bags and before long the lady sitting at the window seat is approached by the man whose seat it really is (yup, she tried the whole seat stealing thing like the guy on the last flight). She moves over to the middle seat next to me and places one bag under the seat in front of her and puts her other (very large) bag next to that in front of her feet. This is not a purse, but a full size carry-on. I take note hoping she’ll be moving this. That’s when I notice something strange. This woman is drunk, on drugs, crazy or all three. She is talking loudly to everybody about completely random stuff. She takes out a rubber band and begins to play, what looks like a game with it. She is not simply playing with the rubber band, but seems to be putting a lot of thought into it.

Excess Baggage

Sure this will fit under the seat

As the flight attendant announces that we are ready for take-off, crazy lady makes no effort to move her bag. Being someone who travels for a living, this kind of thing bugs me. For God’s sake people, stop acting like rebellious teenagers and turn off your electronics, put your seat-backs in an upright position, store your tray table and your luggage! I politely ask her to put her bag in the overhead compartment. Her response, “Don’t mess with me!” Crap! Crazy lady, party of one! She continues, “What’s it to you?” “Nothing,” I respond, “but it may be to the man sitting in the window seat should there be an emergency and he can’t get out.” Luckily, the flight attendant passes by, overhears the conversation and insists the lady put her bag in the  overhead. Yeh, Fly Girl has my back. After 26 hours traveling I am in no mood and I turn to the lady and say simply, “Don’t mess with me.”

Two hours later I arrive in Phoenix happy to be there. Even better, I get to my car and, lo and behold, I did shut off that stupid light and my car starts up fine. Yay!!!

After sending out thank you E-mails to all who spent time with me this trip I receive word from the Operations Manager that I was apparently too impressive. The company feels that the job in question may be below my current level. He mentions that the VP of Leisure and Entertainment would like to know if I might be interested in their Moscow location which is due to open next year. My response is a resounding, “Da!” So, I will head on back to my ship soon and wait to discuss Russia. They have vodka there!!! Just saying. . .

Interviews, Presentations and Tours – Oh My!

11 Nov

Today I wake up ready for a day of more interviews, a presentation and a city tour. Due to various changes in schedules of the people I’m supposed to meet with, the timing for today has changed and my driver is due to pick me up a half-hour later than originally scheduled (I hope it’s Abu!). I get dressed (more daring today in a red top), grab my iPad and head down to the amazing, international breakfast buffet. Eggs, fish, pastries and a bunch of stuff that, although they have cards identifying them, I still have no idea what they are. Being the adrenaline junkie that I am, I go for the mystery foods. I ignore my iPad and pick-up a copy of the Kuwait Times. After a few minutes I look up from the newspaper at the twenty-three other people in the dining room and take note that I am the only woman in  there. It’s clearly a business hotel and, working on cruise ships, I’m accustomed to being the only woman in a meeting. Still, it’s funny how I still notice this. I wonder if men notice these things.

I’m enjoying a relaxing breakfast when the Dining Room Manager approaches me and tells me my car is waiting downstairs for me. What? Uh, perhaps he didn’t get the memo about the time change. And then

Chauffeur

Not Abu

paranoia sets in and I think, perhaps I got the time wrong. Crap. I ask the Manager to let my driver know that I will be downstairs in ten minutes. Acting very calm with a Madonna like ‘they will have to wait for me’ attitude, I high-tail it to my room to collect my bag and thumb drive with my presentation on it. On the way up to my room I am secretly excited (and a little troubled) that the powers that be seem to know where I am even when I’m not in my hotel room. I grab my stuff, touch-up my lipstick and am off

In the lobby I see a familiar face – it’s Abu! He seems to know he’s early. We make pleasant conversation on the twenty-minute ride to the office. He asks me about my mall experience (seriously, the mall is where it all happens) and we say goodbye as I won’t be seeing him again. As I’ve arrived early and my contact isn’t available yet, I walk over to Starbucks – yes, the one on the grounds of the office complex. Ten minutes later I’m back in the waiting room drinking my latte and watching the eclectic mix of people applying for jobs, waiting for meetings or, perhaps waiting for passengers to drive around (Abu would never cheat on me). Before long Cheryl, my contact, steps out the magic door to call me in.

We head over to Sam’s office and run into him on the way. Cheryl hands me off to him and he and I change directions to join Laurent in another meeting room. Laurent is a good-looking Frenchman (I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever met an ugly Frenchman. What is it with that accent?) who is part of the creative team I would be working with. So here in this meeting room in Kuwait sits an Englishman, a Frenchman and an American woman. Suddenly my life seems nearly as glamorous as everybody thinks it is.

Cell Phone ReceptionThis is the meeting in which I am supposed to give the presentation which I had prepared for my Skype  call with Sam a couple of months earlier. As I was still on the ship at the time, and the very expensive internet had typically, gone down, I ended up holding my iPhone up to my porthole in order to use that to tether enough for an internet connection. In the end we had no video but, as I had e-mailed my Power Point presentation, we talked it through. It felt very similar to the 1970’s when you put one hand on the rabbit-ear antennae while standing on one foot and holding up the other hand with a finger pointed to the sky in order to watch a Saturday morning cartoon.

First Sam and Laurent do a presentation for me, which I find incredibly interesting and gets me very excited about the job as it is the perfect combination of business and creativity. Kind of quirky, not unlike myself. Next, I begin my presentation. Within five minutes, I see Cheryl lurking about outside. It turns out that the person who is supposed to do my city tour wasn’t contacted about today’s change in schedule and is, not so patiently, waiting in the lobby. Sam and Laurent let me know that, as they’ve already seen the presentation I had sent, we can conclude this part of the day and I head off to meet my tour guide.

In the lobby of the office complex I meet Karen. I apologize for my tardiness (truly not my fault) and we head off to discover Kuwait City. Karen is from Scotland and is married to the head of one of the divisions of franchises within the company I am interviewing with. Our first stop is an apartment building. If I’m going to live here it’s nice to know what my home life might be like. The newly built apartment is lovely. Very similar to a higher-end apartment in America yet almost all apartments here include housekeeping. Unlike an apartment in Phoenix, this one will run 525 Dinar per month which comes out to about $1800 per month (yup, I’m definitely going to need more money). Karen and I get back into the car and she offers to take me to the grocery store (women understand). The grocery store is impressive. The fresh fish look amazing, the fruits are colorful (although some are unidentifiable) and they seem to have everything Wine that you could possibly need. Everything, that is, unless you need a drink. Yup, alcohol is illegal here (uh, I need a drink). Oh, and pork. There’s also no pork in this country (I’m guessing cooking a meal of pork with wine sauce or beer and bratwurst could get me thrown in jail). Another different part of grocery shopping is that you don’t carry your own bags out. You pull your car up to the entrance and there is someone to load it into your trunk. A girl could get spoiled here.

Next we head to Salmiya, the area of Kuwait where Karen lives and, if I move here, I would want to also. It’s a nice residential area with shopping areas and the ocean close by. I ask if the beaches are public and Karen tells me that they are but, if I were to use a public beach, I must wear clothing that covers my knees and shoulders (hhhmmm, I guess that might save on the sunscreen). We stop at the Beach Club. As the majority of Kuwaiti residents are expats, these are the places where you can find most of them. Here you’ll find a gym (yay, yoga classes!), a spa, tennis, squash, five outdoor pools, one indoor pool, water sports and a beach. Here you can wear a bathing suit that won’t cause you to be sucked down by the weight of ten pounds of clothing. This is a must have if you’re a westerner living in Kuwait and all for the budget price of 650 Dinar, about US $2300 (really, I’m going to need more money). They offer family rates and, if you’re a family or a married couple, you get free access to the club for one nanny! And you can get you second nanny in for only 125 Dinar (seriously, who has two nannies?).

After a lovely lunch where Karen keeps running into people she knows (this feels a lot like New York) we head back to the hotel. I thank Karen for a great afternoon and head up to my room to pack the few belongings I have with me (yet I still manage to forget my toiletry bag) and lay down for a nap. I enjoy a quiet dinner in the hotel dining room ($50 without any wine. Really?), go down to meet my car for my midnight flight.

Next, join me as I Fly By Night . . . and Day on the long journey home and hear the decision. . .

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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