Getting Lost Again... and Again... and Again...

 

There’s a lot to like about Kuwait: cheap taxis, funky bazaars, great ethnic food. And every single restaurant promises to deliver to my doorstep (well, except McDonalds. But I didn’t travel 6,000 miles to eat McByproducts anyway).

There’s one thing here that I’ve grown to hate though, and I hate it with a passion impossible to express in a 600 word blog post. It’s a phrase. A death knell, really. Four small words spoken by nearly everyone of whom I’ve asked directions—and with the maze of unlabeled streets in this country, I ask directions a lot.

It’s the phrase: you can’t miss it.

As in, “take a left out of your apartment building and continue straight down the Mecca Road. You’ll run right into the bazaar. You can’t miss it.”

Believe me, I can miss it.

Or, on base, “leave the office, take the first right past the dining facility, then turn right again. The PX is on your left. You can’t miss it.”

I missed that one and took a 20 minute drive that landed me in a motor pool in the middle of the desert.

“The finance office is through the double doors on the long side of the building.”

I said a lot of bad words before I found that one.

My latest you-can’t-miss-it adventure happened recently when I set out on foot from my apartment building to find a famous American breakfast place called “The Early Bird Cafe.” People on two continents have told me about this fabulous little diner that serves nothing but American-style breakfast from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. When people heard I was headed there, their eyes glazed over and they began stuffing dinars into my hand with orders to bring them back various menu items.

I heard tales of the legendary banana bread French toast, breakfast Monte Cristo sandwiches, omelets that would make a European chef weep.

Everyone promised I couldn’t miss it.

I set out with clear directions in my head and a Google map in my hand. It was 105 degrees outside. I forgot to bring water. But I went where they told me to go.

There was no restaurant.

I backtracked. Cut through tenement parking lots populated by slit-eyed Pakistanis and skeletal cats. Stepped over puddles of sewage and around overflowing Dumpsters. Ignored catcalls from taxi drivers. Tried another street. And another. Asked directions. Asked directions again. No one had heard of it.

And then it hit me. Of course. It must be a magical restaurant, like the wardrobe that led from England to Narnia. Sometimes there, sometimes not. Obviously, today it wasn’t there.

I gave up and came home and ate leftover Indian food instead. Sometimes you just have to know when to quit.

It's not that I'm a twit or an airhead. In fact, I work with maps and locations for a living. I’m usually good at knowing where I am and where I’m going. But in Kuwait, where every building is brown and covered in Arabic writing, where every tenth structure seems to be a pharmacy, or a mosque, or a Naif Chicken, everything looks the same. At least to me; at least now, when I'm still a newbie in this country. I’m sure I’ll sort it all out eventually, but meanwhile I just keep getting lost.

This evening I’m heading to Starbucks to take advantage of their free wi-fi. I have directions. I have a map. Everyone has assured me that I can’t miss it.

That’s what they think.

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