Friday, April 9, 2010

It’s not always as it seems

During my tenure in the US Air Force, I had the privilege to spend a summer in Kuwait. I use the word privilege for a reason, which it two-fold: 1) I am proud to have served my country, and it was a privilege to represent my nation and what it stands for while on foreign soil, and 2) it was a privilege to have met such wonderful people in Kuwait.

You see, I’m not speaking solely of the men and women with whom I served in Kuwait, but also of the locals and third-country nationals (people from a country other than Kuwait, there solely for work, away from family and friends in their home country). This group of people, from countries and cultures I haven’t had much exposure up to that point in time, are among the nicest people I have met in my life, and I mean that literally.

While in Kuwait, I was fortunate to have worked in a position where I was in close interaction with the third-country nationals on a daily basis. I met people from not only Kuwait, but from Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Bangladesh, Egypt, and India. Each day they would offer me food from their own lunches, juices, candy, and ice cream that they received from the on-base American cafeteria. One of the bosses even offered his house for me to stay in should I ever visit Bangladesh, and gave me his email address to contact him. His name is Bichu. Funny enough, Bichu also gave me his own burned CD with local music straight from his car CD player, and insisted that I keep it.

I remember one day, while I was supervising the third-country nationals in the landfill area on base as they removed construction debris, one of the truck drivers pulled in and went on with his business as I noticed that his hand was bleeding pretty bad, wrapped in a cloth. I had remembered that there was a first aid kit in one of the piles of debris so I ran over and grabbed it, gave it to him, and he thanked me profusely. He was the most thankful person I have ever seen when given a Band-Aid. One day while riding in the cab of this same man’s truck on the Kuwaiti side of the base, he stopped at the Kuwaiti store for a drink and a candy bar and asked if I would like anything. I said no thank you, as always. Upon his return to the truck, he pulled out a candy bar from his bag and insisted that I eat it. I tried saying no, but there was little chance of me not taking the candy bar he just purchased… for me.

Mind you, these are individuals from Middle Eastern countries. Countries in which we find to be hostile. Countries in which we tend to look upon negatively. Countries in which we seem to harbor a degree of fear.

Individuals are who I met while in Kuwait; I did not meet entire nations. It was those individuals who opened my eyes to the outside world, a world much bigger than America… a world where the lot of people are of good nature and mean no harm. These individuals also opened my eyes to our American ways, and after my trip I had a greater appreciation for America than I had before. I try my best to carry this appreciation with me still to this day.

I always like telling this story because the majority of Americans have no clue who is outside our borders (hell, we don’t even know who our neighbors are most of the time). I also like this story, not only because it’s mine, but also because it’s the same story for a great number of Americans who have served on foreign soil. It’s unfortunate that what people hear is usually only the negative; it’s even more unfortunate that people don’t realize it’s not always as it seems.



  1. Thanks for pointing me here! I spend alot of time in Rio, a place feared for its violence, I have never met a Brazilian who hasn't been friendly, generous, and interested in why I am there. I play in a music group w/ 3 young men from the favelas-- the violent slum areas-- and they are lovely human beings. And I know I am improving the image of Americans with every person I meet, and everything I do. You're right, it's only when we become a faceless mass that we are the enemy.

  2. I am here from mairmusic. I'm so pleased that you posted this. It is well considered and well-written and something folks need to know about. You are so, so right in what you say. Thank you!

    Would you mind if I reblog this? Let me know ... What I would do is a brief intro and then the first two paragraphs in quotes with MORE at the end linking back to your site. The piece just deserves as wide a venue as possible. Thanks!