Sunday, July 25, 2010

Finding the Dean to my Deluca

Since being back in Kuwait, I’ve picked up sport. Though I’m not the most athletic person to have ever lived, I think I’ve found a sport that uses my body’s abilities to the fullest It doesn’t have a name yet, but my sport involves moving between the bed, the kitchen table and the couch in as many combinations as possible during the course of the day. The slower and more sloth-like your movements are, the more points the competitor accrues. The great thing about this game? You play against yourself and you almost always win. And baby, I’m in it to win it.

Other than perfecting my skills in this demanding game, I have spent my time eating my way through the day. Cake, éclairs, pastries, cookies, chocolate, candy, ice cream: you name it, it’s been gone into my mouth and passed through my gut at some point during the past two weeks. I’ve found that basing my day on consumption gives it a particularly comforting rhythm. And my parents, in their excitement at having their little baby back, have come a hair short of treating me like a goose being prepped for foie gras. All I have to do is set my eyes on something and mention how enticing it looks for it to magically appear on a plate in front of me. This has resulted in the morbid end of cartons of Haagen-Dasz, bags of candy from Dean & Deluca and mounds of pure cream parading as cake from our favorite over-priced French bakery, Fauchon.

To add an intellectual component to my days in this literal and cultural desert, I read. And watch hours of ’30 Rock’ at a time. (No, really, I promise I’ve read some stuff. I just finished “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy, which is absolutely haunting. I’ve been eyeing the book for years – ever since it came out when I was seven and was past around the members of my family like candy. I’m currently reading Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, a classic that slipped through the cracks of my Brit-centered education). These travails of the mind have taught me two things:

a) that reading, contrary to the beliefs I hold while at college, can be done for enjoyment


b) that Tracey Jordan is totes cray-cray and Tina Fey is nothing short of a goddess.

Home is a funny thing. And so is college, I guess. Stepping back into my room after an entire year of absence, I was met with a sudden sinking feeling. I can’t really put a finger on the reason, but I think I can trace to a disconnect I felt that had developed during my two years away at college. How could I reestablish the connection I once had with this room, this house, this country in just two weeks? I immediately regretted all my decisions to go traipsing about Morocco and Spain, deciding for a fleeting moment that I should have had the sense to spend more time at home.

Thankfully, that moment was only fleeting. Yes, I love it here. My parents have always spoiled me but they now take it to new extremes. My mother will comment on how grubby my blazer looks and within 48 hours it appears dry cleaned in my closet. My camera breaks and then magically fixed. But my mind’s vegetal state is a little bit much for me to bear. My day is filled with naps, Liz Lemon and caloric snacks… and though it’s fantastic to laze about like a mindless vessel for a couple of weeks, I think a couple of weeks is all I can handle.

Having been away from this gem of a country, I’ve been afforded a little distance that allows me to marvel at its innumerable quirks. Where else in the world can you get your groceries delivered from the check-out line at the supermarket to the trunk of your car for an eight cent tip? Where else can I shop at American Eagle and the Gap while the call to prayer sounds out inside the mall? Where else is 'dusty' on the weather forecast... all. the. friggin'. time.? Where else can I go get a donut from Dunkin’ or an ice-blended coffee drink from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf followed quickly by kebabs? No, really, the last one is not rhetorical. If anybody has any leads, let me know, because this is a formula that has worked for me that I can’t seem to find ANYWHERE.

The Gulf-style extravagance that I have been witness to and a part of is truly a mind-baffling thing when examined at a distance. The first weekend I got back, my parents treated me to a typical day in Kuwait. We went to The Avenues, Kuwait’s premier mall, once dubbed the largest in Asia (much to local dismay, malls in Singapore and Dubai have since trumped this little big guy). A very regular weekend outing for anyone in this teeny country. We stopped in at Dean & Deluca for some gourmet groceries, had lunch at P.F. Chang’s – our neighborhood Chinese bistro, indulged in dessert at Pinkberry (the craze has taken the country over by storm) and took a leisurely stroll through the Pottery Barn. Move over, Puerto Rico, Kuwait’s taken your place as the 51st state.

The next day, my parents took me to another mall where we had breakfast at our favorite French café (a Parisian import) and then watched Toy Story 3 in 3D (which was released here on the same day as it was released in the States). This weekend, we had lunch at my Boston favorite, Wagamama (the chicken ramen with coconut broth is delicious – go get some if there is a Wagamama near you. Now.). My existence here has always been an imported one. And then I went and exported myself to go get an education. Does that make me an imported import? … Whatever.

The other day, I had Fadey over (I have seen her in three continents in three weeks) and we watched a movie (Date Night, in honor of my continued obsession with Tina Fey) and gorged ourselves on cookies and leftover cheese. I was filled with nostalgia. Every weekend in high school, my friends and I would go to the mall or out to eat and then I’d have them over to watch movies and gossip about the latest slew of relationships and retards at school. Yes, we’d get stared down at the mall because we were a mixed group of kids (guys and girls). Yes, my house was the only house we could congregate in because my parents were one of the few who were cool with their son having girls over. Yes, some key cultural concerns stopped us from being the kids we saw on TV. But I think my childhood made for an Eastern hemisphere dweller who can relate pretty darn well to his peers all the way across the Atlantic. And yeah, we could talk forever about whether or not that’s a good thing, the homogenization of culture, the insignificance of tradition in the modern world and all the rest yadda yadda yadda. But it’s one of the things that gives an Indian passport-touting, Kuwait-and-Quebec born-and-raised, British-educated American college student some comfort. Being home reminds me of all beauties of my adolescence: beauties that translate rather easily in conversations with people all across the globe.

And that’s what home is all about anyway, right? Comfort and a side of nostalgia.

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