Kuwait earns FFF- on accessibility

August 26

Kuwait 11:30 p.m.

Portland 1:28 p.m.

After shopping on Saturday, I made plans to meet Karen for dinner. She told me she was staying at the Holiday Inn which wasn’t far from the offices. I needed a nap so I told her I would push over there around 5:00 p.m. When I got back to my apartment it was incredibly hot and it had been incredibly hot since I arrived. Rafid showed me how to adjust the thermostat and I kept adjusting it down. Finally I asked him if I was adjusting it in the wrong direction, he said no. So, after 4 days of sweating in my apartment I realized the air conditioning wasn’t working properly. I told the manager and now I have air conditioning, thank goodness.

I woke up in my hot apartment and headed downstairs to find the Holiday Inn. I asked Hasif who is Bangladeshi and works here how to get to the Holiday Inn. He pointed vaguely in some direction and then looked at me like I had two heads when I told him I didn’t want a Taxi. A Taxi is at least 1.5 KD which translates into about $10.00.

I started pushing and worried that I was going in the opposite direction I asked an older man about the Holiday Inn. He pointed in the opposite direction that Hasif had, so I started pushing that way, you all know how good I am at directions. Worried about my conflicting directions I stopped to ask another man who was painting a small auto part store front, “I don’t speak English was his reply.” At least he was willing to admit the truth I hate it when people pretend that they understand what your asking when really all they have understood is blah, blah, blah and the fact you’re American. I continued in my current direction when I noticed two white women dressed western style picking their way across a debris strewn parking lot.

“Do speak English?” I called to them.

“Yes,” they replied.

“My saviors!” I said. And asked them where the Holiday Inn was. They affirmed what Hasif had told me, so the older man in the van either didn’t know or didn’t understand what I was asking. It turns out the two women are from Canada and one is a teacher and the other is an administrator working at a local bi-ligual school. Megan is a teacher on a one-year contract and Susanna is an administrator on a three-year contract. We talked a little bit about Kuwait. Megan inquired as too whether everyone thought I was crazy for coming here, she said her friends were really shocked that she would go to such a dangerous place. “Dangerous,” she scoffed, “I see women running along the promenade after dark, you couldn’t do that in Canada.” She does have a point. Before renewing my quest I gave Megan my number she seems like she might be up for some adventures.

Megan had told me that the easiest way to get to the Holiday Inn was to go to the promenade, they have a beautiful paved walkway that runs along the beach, and follow it until I saw the hotel. I turned up the next street to get to the promenade, but it didn’t go through, so I backtracked and then took the next possible right and climb over a curb in a parking lot, cut through the front entrance of a restaurant which included carrying my chair down two stairs, only to find that the sidewalk, one of only two sidewalks in all of Kuwait City, was under construction. So I backtracked again. I passed up two side streets choosing what looked like a main road and tried to cut right again to get to the sidewalk. I could move along the sidewalk for awhile, but it was still under construction, with piles of pavers blocking the way. At one point I went up a ramp to an apartment complex to avoid the pavers, but there was no way back down after clearing the obstruction so I headed back down the ramp which was covered with sand. Sandstone covered with sand is a very slippery surface so as I started back down the ramp I slipped sideways and slid the rest of the way down the ramp. It was like the scene in Forest Gump where Lt. Dan is on the icy ramp.

Backtracking again I took what looked like the next main road and finally was able to pick my way through the piles of pavers and holes to a roundabout and the Holiday Inn. I could see the Holiday Inn, but between me and it was a pile of cars and a large road with no pedestrian crossing, and huge 12 inch curbs. I later learned that Kuwait City is not pedestrian friendly, there are barely any sidewalks, in fact the only one may be the beach promenade and no pedestrian crossings. They do not provide lights or crosswalks. When I inquired as to why that was the case I was told that Kuwaiti’s don’t walk anywhere, they drive. And the only people who would use crosswalks or sidewalks are foreigners. If is doesn’t benefit Kuwaitis, they don’t do it. Interesting, they could definately use more excercise and their lack of sidewalks could come back to haunt them in the form of high cholesterol and heart attacks.

“What about the Kuwaiti’s with disabilities?” I asked Chris.

“They have cars and drivers,” he said.

“All of them?” He informed me that Kuwait was one of, if not the only nation that divided it’s oil wealth amongst its citizens and all Kuwaitis are rich.

I surveyed my situation for a moment, then when all the cars were held up by a red light, they do at least have traffic lights, I popped the curb, rolled in front of a man whose expression of shock can only be described as comical, then reaching the median I hopped out of the chair, pulled it up sat back down and popped the second curb and pushed like hell to get out of the road.

Seeing that my goal was in sight I started looking for the entrance. The entire front was under construction, so I had to push around to the side. I made my way into an entrance that looked liked it provided access to the shops, but not the hotel, as I was getting ready to back track yet again, I heard “Handicappee” in an Arabic accented voice. Two young boys came running toward me. I asked them how to get into the Holiday Inn and they pointed me in the correct direction. I had left my apartment around 5:00 p.m. it was now about 6:30 p.m. my hair is completely drenched with sweat and I have perspiration spots all over my shirt and a huge one running down my back. My face is red with exertion and I look like I’ve been working out, hard.

I make my way to the entrance which has a, you won’t believe it, a ramp! Finally some accessibility. When I reached the top of the ramp there were three benches blocking access to the doorway. Rolling my eyes I pushed one out of the way and then tried to open one of the side doors, there was no way in hell I was attempting the revolving door. It was locked. One of the hotel employees came and let me through the other side door and I called Karen to tell her that after an hour an half I had finally made it.

In the bathroom in an attempt to make myself partially presentable, it was lost cause, I noticed that I had sweated through my pants and the entire back was see through, my underwear and skin peered out at me through the wet fabric. Great, I’m supposed to dress modestly and I’m wearing see through pants. I decided I wouldn’t and shouldn’t stand up anymore for the rest of the evening. So looking back on it I wonder if I mooned that sheik in the fancy car? Oh well, if they aren’t going to have crosswalks what can they expect?

Due to my ordeal in getting to my destination, Karen and I decided to eat in the hotel at the Lebanese restaurant. To get into the restaurant there was a small bridge that had one step up to it. I looked at Karen rolled my eyes, popped a wheelie and pulled myself onto the bridge, upon reaching the other end, five waiters rushed to help me, but by this time I’d had it, I waved them off and jumped the last stair. Finally I was there!

The heat has been surpressing my appetite and I wasn’t very hungry so I just ordered some sausages. Karen also ordered sausages, fried cheese and a hummus type dip. To drink they offered fancy non-alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic beer. I ordered a Bahamas Sea Breeze. The first thing they brought to out table was the salad:

Rabbit's Delight

I call it Rabbit’s Delight or Foray into Uncle Derward’s garden. I was too tired to make my own salad so I just munched on some of the lettuce. I took a taxi home and will be walking to destinations from here on out.

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2 Responses to Kuwait earns FFF- on accessibility

  1. Hana says:

    Well, I think the salad looks lovely. Your trip sounds harrowing; I’m impressed you made it. I’m enjoying your adventures– hope you are too.

  2. Keith says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. You are a great writer. When I was reading we could have just as easily been having coffee in Seattle’s Best back in Portland. Keep the stories coming – you have many who are interested and care!

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