Wow, I should have known…

I had a dream the other night that “starred” Alan Alda and Martha Stewart. Martha was playing herself (narfing down an arugala, goat cheese, and date salad) while Alan was playing a combination of Alton Brown (of “Good Eats” fame) and Dr. House from the show with the same name. Alan was challenging Martha to a cook off with the curious stipulation that she must take diet pills during it. She just smiled and kept eating, I think she knew she could take him….

Wow, what a strange dream, I wonder what brought that on? I’ll tell you what brought that on, the mother of all fevers. The dream was just a precursor to possibly the worst fever I’ve ever had. I was weak enough that I was really worried that I’d fall over and hurt myself on my (frequent) trips to the bathroom. I broiled and drank, broiled and drank until it finally broke and I sweated it all out. That was the sickest I have been here, and it wasn’t fun, but at least it was short lived. I spent all of yesterday in bed, mostly because of how weak I was, truly a lost day.

Today I was starving, which I took as a good sign. I had to go to the lab and pick up my HIV test (which is required for a long term visa). Halfway there I realized that I had forgotten to bring the two photographs that I had forgotten the other day. So I had the cabbie turn around, take me back to my place, and them to the lab. I was thinking that this was going to be an expensive day because I WAS going to decent restaurant to eat and I had already paid the cabbie twice what I had expected. Lunch was good, my eyes were definitely larger than my stomach since it had shrunk during the illness. I got a surprise at the end, the head waiter told me that the meal was on him. I have no idea why, he wouldn’t tell me, and he wouldn’t accept my money. It is a mystery to me, but a happy one:-)

Isaac

Runaround day..

I have finally gotten the stuff done that I needed to get my long term visa. I needed an HIV test, a letter from the embassy saying it was OK for me to be here, I had to set up a bank account, and get a fistfull of pictures. Turns out the biggest hassle was at the bank.

The place was nuts, people milling and shouting all over the place. Turns out that Yemenis stand in line as well as they drive… Today was the first day that I have been short with a local, I didn’t know the Arabic words for “HEY! There’s a line!” but he got my point. The amount of cash floating around was impressive, I felt like I was behind the scenes at a casino. Part of the reason for all of the cash was the deflated value of the currency, just about anything will run you a 1000 riyals, and that’s for something cheap. Big ticket items require (literally) bags of cash. That is still what amazes me, this is a strictly cash economy, if you want to buy something, you pay cash. I was a little worried when I first got here about someone taking my credit cards. Now I realize that they can’t do a damn thing with them here. You can’t even buy a plane ticket with a credit card, it’s cash all the way.

One unexpected question on the application was what religion I am. I wonder if they have both interest bearing and non interest bearing accounts. Usury is forbidden in Islam, one of the many reasons I suspect this part of the world is so underdeveloped…

I was pretty excited to get a local account, I figured I would have much lower ATM fees. Well it turns out that I can’t transfer money directly from my savings account in the US and this bank here. SIGH, I guess I’ll keep getting eaten alive with fees…

Isaac

Got my hair cut

Turns out barbers are barbers all over the world. After we managed to convince each other we understood each other, things went pretty smoothly. He did a decent job, the expected problems with my cowlick notwithstanding.

While I was there they had a soccer game on TV, Oman vs. Kuwait I think. The first thing I noticed was that there wasn’t anyone in the stands. There might have been a couple of hundred people there, in a stadium that seated thousands. After watching for a while, I knew why both teams really suck. Granted, the last match I saw was between two of the best teams in the world (Manchester U vs. Arsenal) but really, this was pathetic. I like watching sports, but I hate watching sports played badly.

Isaac

Thank God!

My housemates have found a new place to live. I’ve never gotten along with them, they really remind me of frat boys back in my college days. Every single conversation eventually gets back to sex, woman’s genitals, some other sexual act, and/or drinking. I like to think that I grew out of that about 18 years ago… Anyway, they’re leaving next week, I can’t wait…

Isaac

Damn Americans…

Last night I had to stop what I was doing to help out an American guy that had blown a gasket. He had tried to download his pictures from a digital camera at a nearby internet cafe. Turns out that they couldn’t do it, but they made him wait an hour and a half. He came in here (the cafe I usually use) mad as hell, he was yelling and telling me that the guy had tried to charge him 90 riyals, 90 MFing RIAYLS! It sounded like a miscommunication to me, and 90 riyals is about 45 cents, so I immediately classified this guy as a hothead. “it isn’t the amount, it’s the principle…” is what he told me. Anyway, I burned his cds on my computer. He asked me if I was worried about homeland security questioning me when I got back, “After all, that’s what Lind did, he went to Yemen to study..” I said no, I’m pretty obvious, and if they do any research on me at all they’ll see I’m about as American as I can be. Later on he tells me how he’s going up to Afghanistan. Her barely knows any Arabic, he’s a hot head, most likely an asshole, and if there’s one thing that will get you flagged on reentry to the US it is going from Yemen to Afghanistan… He’s gone now, thank God…

Isaac

Some random thouhgts from Yemen

Went to dinner yesterday out on Hadda street. Took a dabob and sat next to the open door. I always feel like I’m in Nam laying down suppressing fire from my huey as the pavement rolls by. You have to pay attention when you’re in that seat though. Whenever someone wants to get out, you have to hop out to allow them to exit. Usually, I would then take their seat, but we had a few women in there this time. One got off, but none of us guys would think about sitting next to the other two women, it just isn’t done. Muslims here are not allowed any physical contact with women that they are not related to or married to. I’m just following along…

Got to the restaurant, told the waiter I wanted hummus, a salad, kabobs and rice. His response was that 4 items was too much food, how about three things. Lucky for him I don’t know how to say what came to my mind in Arabic… “Which one of us is the customer? Give me what I order, hold the attitude!” Instead, i did what I always do, I play the part of the smiling American… I smiled and told him I am a big guy, that seemed to work, although I never did get my rice…

Today I went to the internet place and it hadn’t opened yet, forgot that it was friday. So I wandered around a little. Had a fresh strawberry juice made for me and ate some fresh potato chips. The British were here long enough that fries are call chips. But these were actual potato chips, and boy were they good.

The highlight for today is getting my hair cut. That ought to be interesting…

Isaac

China and “greedy” consumers

I recently had an exchange with a guy on a photography forum. He was complaining that China has a terrible record when it comes to civil liberties and is a totalitarian nation. I agree with that, the Chinese government is a piece of work. He then went on to accuse “greedy” consumers and companies of fueling this. He was hoping that “someone with some clout” would do something to help the Chinese people.

My question to him was this, would you rather live in China now, or 20 years ago before those “greedy” companies came in. The answer is pretty obvious, now is much better than 20 years ago. It is the companies that give the Chinese jobs, and the consumers that give those companies money, they have raised the standard of living there tremendously. Yes, the government is corrupt, and I might even call it evil, but trading with them is the best thing we can do. Compare China with Cuba. We’ve had a trade embargo with Cuba for what, 56 years or something and a fairly open trade agreement with China. Cuba has been dirt poor for quite a while, and they’re not getting any better. China had been dirt poor for a long time, until they opened up their country to trading. Both China and the US have growing economies (China’s is a mach larger growth percentage, but they were starting from a much lower place), while Cuba’s is, at best, standing still. If it wasn’t for the handouts it gets from Chavez, they would be in even worse shape. As always, handouts don’t lead to growth, they are bandaids.

I’m going to put up a piece on my website about this topic. I am amazed whenever I hear about people wanting to stop trade to HELP the Chinese, Indians, Cubans, etc. Trade only helps. I am also amazed that Chavez and Castro continue to get away with publicly proclaiming that they want to be the nexus of the “new” Soviet Union. Marx lives with them, everyone knows what happened to the original Sovirt Union, right? Why would you ever want to emulate that?

Isaac

I’m at level three!

Not really sure what that means, but I have gone up another level. Along with the secret handshake, I was also introduced to the inner workings of Arabic words. It *seems* that all words are derived from the root verbs. The root verbs are always given in the third person, masculine singular. By using defined rules, you can derive not only all the verb forms (participles, tenses, etc.) but also the noun forms of who does it, what object is involved, and where it is performed. So the verb “(he) wrote” gives rise to the nouns book and desk. Neat system eh? Of course there are 10 forms the verbs could come in (they call them measures) and there are 9 rules for each measure… Gah. This is good and bad. The bad part is obvious, that’s a lot of rules… The cool thing is that once I get it under control, I’ll have a much better understanding of the language. Tomorrow’s another day…

Isaac