Baladni: Being a Tourist For Now

Hi there from Kuwait!

That’s right, I’m out of the country now, being a tourist in the place I grew up. (Actually, I’ve been out of the country for a few weeks now–whoops!) My husband is visiting Kuwait for the first time, and we’ve been going out almost every day.

The month of February is a very special time in Kuwait known as “Hala Febriar.” February 25th is National Day, and the 26th is Liberation Day. The country has, traditionally, celebrated the whole month much like the U.S. does with Christmas. The entire country is covered in decorative lights, there are events held for families, and people tend to come together more. Americans are granted visas on entry, so if you’ve ever wanted a Middle East vacation and are considering going to Kuwait, February is the best time to go!

There are of course the must-sees. We went to the beach and collected seashells all day long. At night the Kuwait Towers were lit up with a light show. We spent a day admiring Green Island, and a place I called “Turtle Island” as a kid which is basically a play area for children.

The beach! And if you look in the opposite direction...

The beach! And if you look in the opposite direction…

You can see my family's old apartment where I grew up!

You can see my family’s old apartment where I grew up! Yup I had a view of the beach through my childhood. #ThingsIMissAboutKuwait










Kuwait Towers lit up at night with a light show.

Kuwait Towers lit up with a light show.

Turtle Island

Turtle Island










Our first day out we went to Avenues Mall, which is one of the largest malls in the world with seven districts (and counting). The Old Souk area is modeled after Arabian souks, the Prestige and Grand Avenues area hosts the high-end stores such as Louis Vutton, and the Avenues mall has many mid-level stores such as H&M. Along the mall are many restaurants. We ate at “Gaucho Grill,” and Argentine-style steakhouse with some of the best steak either of us have ever had! And, of course, we went shopping. Like Oregon, there is no sales tax. (There’s also no income tax, but that’s a different story.)

At the Gaucho Grill in Avenues Mall!!

At the Gaucho Grill in Avenues Mall!!

Of course, despite all the flashy sequins of the big malls, Kuwait has maintained it’s old souk deep in the heart of the city. So deep it’s partially underground. Al-Mubarakiya was lit up for the month, music and small booths filled the street to promote young Kuwaiti entrepreneurs. There were also the usual stores that have been there for years, including the local fruit market, textiles, and incense stores. Just remember, bargaining is a must!


I just want to mention one more mall we visited, which is called 360. 360 is a small (in comparison) mall, and we ate at a restaurant called “Sabah wa Masah” (Day and Night), which we loved. The reason I want to note it is because it is near a residential area named Al-Zahra. The residential area is particularly important to me because my father designed and planned it. So, we drove around and admired it’s beauty.

At Sabah wa Masah in 360 Mall!

At Sabah wa Masah in 360 Mall!

The 25th and 26th, however, are reserved for a particularly wonderful tradition: a country-wide water fight!

Yes, you heard me right. People either get in their cars, or camp out on the sidewalks along the Gulf Road armed with water balloons and super soakers and the game is on! When I was growing up it was a war with cans of silly string, but since there are tons of chemicals in silly string the game has switched to water as the weapon of choice.

Yesterday, to end the month-long celebration, we went to Festival City, which is a garden of lights filled with food vendors, and small shopping booths.

Kuwait Towers made of Lights at Festival City

Kuwait Towers made of Lights at Festival City

All-in-all, I’ve had a wonderful time going around the places of my childhood and having the chance to share them with my husband. And because of this joy, I’ve been neglecting my duties here! (Sorry.)

But don’t worry, look for a poetry prompt this Monday!

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I saw #AmericanSniper so you don’t have to: A Play-by-Play of the Movie

This week I was faced with a conundrum. I have a policy of not criticizing/praising anything unless I know what I’m talking about. I also have a policy of not supporting shitty things like the movie American Sniper. I did find a way to watch it without having to give the film monetary support. You may interpret that as you like.

Anyway, out of my moral dilemma, I now have a gift for you. Read below for the full run-through of the movie, so you don’t have to watch it yourself. Each bullet point is a different scene, all in sequential order. All time stamps are approximate.

Here it is, American Sniper:

  • (Time Stamp: 0:00:00) The movie opens with the sound of the Islamic call to prayer. Soldiers are moving through Iraq on foot and in automobiles. Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) on a rooftop in Iraq, through the scope of his sniper he watches a young boy (maybe 11 years old) and burqa-clad woman walk out onto the street. The boy and woman stop midway, and Kyle watches the woman hand the boy a cylindrical object, which he identifies as a grenade. Kyle asks for confirmation of what he’s seen, but no one else can confirm. So the call is left up to him. Kyle targets the boy, a shot is heard, and the film cuts to a new scene.
  • Kyle is a young boy out hunting with his father.  He has just shot his first deer, and in his joy to get at it, he drops his gun on the ground. His father calls him back and tells him never to leave his rifle on the ground. He is told he has a good eye for shooting and will be a great hunter some day.
  • Young Kyle is then at church with his family, and he steals (yes he steals in Church!) a small pocket sized Bible with a blue cover.
  • Later, Young Kyle and his family are at the dinner table. The father notices Kyle’s younger brother has a black eye, and gives them some advice. He tells his sons there are three types of people in the world: those who don’t believe evil exists and can’t protect themselves (Sheep), those who use violence to harm others (wolves), and those who are “blessed with the gift of aggression” to protect (Sheepdogs). He then asks about the fight, and if Kyle “finished” the fight. To which Kyle says he did. (Here Eastwood is saying, “therefore, children, Kyle is a sheepdog.”)
  • Older Kyle is then at a rodeo show, competing. He wins some prize (not sure how he ranked, but I don’t think it was the big prize… he won a belt buckle?). On his way home with his brother he brags that the belt buckle will totally get his girlfriend Sara in the mood. His brother basically calls Sara a slut. Kyle arrives home (and invites his brother in to see him turn on this Sara person), and finds that Sara is cheating on him. He drags the guy out, punches him, then kicks him out. Sara meanwhile yells at him for leaving her alone for so long, saying she does this for attention. She calls him a wannabe cowboy. Kyle kicks her out.
  • Next Kyle and his brother are drinking, talking about the rodeo, and how they are living the dream, while watching TV. The 1998 Dar-el-Salaam US embassy bombing comes on TV, and Kyle stands up and says, “Look what they did to us.” This leads Kyle to joining the Navy.
  • There is a training montage with a lot of water spraying and leg kicks. We meet a Black recruit, a white recruit, and a Latino head-guy (not sure what his rank or name is). The guy leading the training is also Black. But he never comes back in the movie so who cares what his name is, right?
  • A woman (Sienna Miller) is sitting alone at a bar. Some dude comes up to her and hits on her. She tells him off (and that she saw him take off his wedding ring earlier). Kyle comes up to her after guy #1 leaves. At first the woman wants him to go away because her sister was engaged to a Navy seal, and she knows that they are self-centered, egoistic assholes. Kyle says he joined the Navy because he believes that America is “the greatest country on Earth” and he wants to protect it. This wins the woman over, her name is Taya. They drink a lot, and so she runs out of the bar to vomit in the street. He comes after her and holds her hair up. She then says she will not go home with him.
  • Kyle is at shooting practice, he excells.
  • Kyle calls Taya, she finally picks up the phone (he had left many messages it seems). They talk for a bit about stuff.
  • Kyle is at shooting practice.
  • Kyle and Taya are at a carnival, or something. He wins her a teddy bear. They talk about stuff like country music and kids. She asks if he thinks about what happens when there is a real person on the other end of the gun, he says he hopes he can just do his job.
  • Kyle is at shooting practice, missing badly.
  • Taya and Kyle get naked and walk to the bedroom to have sex.
  • Kyle is at shooting practice, he shoots a snake that no one else can see.
  • Kyle and Taya are living together, semi-naked, and watch the Twin Towers fall on TV (CNN’s footage).
  • Kyle is at shooting practice.
  • Kyle and Taya are naked in bed, and Kyle decides they will get married.
  • The wedding happens, and at the wedding the boys (Black recruit, Latino guy, and two other white recruits) get the call that they are going to war. Taya notices Kyle’s heart is beating hard. He says it is because he is worried for his brother who is also being deployed in the Navy (though not a Seal).
  • The boys are deployed to Fallujah. Kyle puts his Bible and wedding ring in his pocket. They are told that the city has been evacuated and that any military-aged man still in Fallujah is here to kill them. They must keep the ground units safe. Kyle hears from one of the White guys about this master sniper named “Mustafa.” Apparently he was in the Olympics.
  • (Time Stamp: 0:27:00) The movie goes back to the opening scene. Kyle watches the burqa-clad woman and boy walk out. (At this point I noticed that the boy is wearing what looks like Shilwar Kameez. Wrong culture, Eastwood. But eh, who cares, all brown people are the same terrorist filth, right?) Kyle sees the woman hand what he thinks is a grenade to the boy. No one can confirm, so it is his call. Remember that he has super eyes, like when he shot that snake in the grass, so he goes with his gut (after some brief hesitation) and shoots the boy through the chest. The woman runs after the boy, picks up what is clearly a grenade and tries to throw it at troops. Kyle shoots her too, as she throws the grenade. His partner calls her a “fucking evil bitch.” Kyle is not happy, saying “get the fuck off me.”
  • Kyle goes to his quarters and sees a white friend reading a comic (it looks like a New-52 comic… which should not be possible, since the New-52 series didn’t debut till 2011, but I digress). He tells his friend that he killed a woman and kid and had never seen such evil like that before. Friend says that he saved like 10 marines. He was just doing his job. Kyle says he just didn’t want his first time going down like that. (In real life Kyle had no regrets about the shooting, he said the woman was evil.)
  • Soldiers are going through houses on every street. They turn the corner and an Arab man drops dead in front of them. He was shot by Kyle. We assume the man must have been evil because super eyes. A car veers in out of nowhere, the troops scatter. They shoot the man in the car, but he managed to detonate his car bomb. Luckily no soldier was hurt.
  • Kyle, from his post in a room, shoots a man planting what looks like a weapon. He then shoots a man with a gun. The call to prayer sounds. It is night time. A man with a gun is let into a building. Ground troops are going through the streets at night. The Arab sniper kills a soldier. Daytime, Kyle reports he killed six men (more than all the other snipes combined).
  • In an office, Kyle is confronted by superiors. They say the wife of the man he shot said he was only carrying a Qur’an. Kyle basically calls her a liar, and of course she is because he’s the hero of our film. (In real life, Kyle had said, “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”)
  • Side Note: It is 30 minutes into the film and at this point there is no explanation of why they are there and who they are fighting.
  • At lunch at base, a friend makes fun of him and calls him a legend.
  • Kyle is on a rooftop, on the phone with his now pregnant wife. They miss each other. She is about to talk dirty to him. But she remembers something! She informs him that his brother deployed to Iraq.
  • At a briefing, the soldiers learn they are after Zarqawi, who is Osama Bin Laden’s protege. They must find and kill/capture Zarqawi and his lieutenants, that apparently is their mission. They can “only” do this by going door-to-door, house-to-house, with air support.
  • Kyle wants to be part of the ground units. He is told by his mustachio-ed friend, he is too special to risk. The boys feel safer/invincible knowing he is up there protecting them.
  • Meanwhile on a rooftop, Kyle keeps hearing more about his evil Arab twin, the sniper Mustafa. He asks how Mustafa could be an Olympian if Iraq has not been in the olympics for years. Easy, he’s Syrian. The unit they are watching over (who are again going door-to-door) are ambushed. Kyle wants to go down there and help. The guy with him says he won’t, since it’s not his job to do that and he wants to go home alive. Kyle then tells him, if he doesn’t go down, he better make sure Kyle never sees him again.
  • Kyle is part of the ground unit. He leads a raid on a home. Inside, a little boy is crying as guns are pointed at him. His father pleads with the soldiers saying they are his guests. The soldiers assault him, then harass, and interrogate him in front of his family. The man tells them if he talks to them, the Butcher will kill him and his family. The Butcher is apparently Zarqawi’s right-hand man. If they get to the Butcher, they will get to Zarqawi. The man demands thousands of dollars and protection for his information. So clearly they were justified in harassing this guy and his family, because obviously every Arab knows every other Arab.
  • Kyle goes back to headquarters and reports his info. They are then told to go back and get the man, who is now called “Sheikh”.
  • On their way to get Sheikh, Kyle gets a call from his wife that are having a baby boy. The sniper Mustafa attacks them. The fight continues, as Taya is listening on the phone. The scene cuts from the fight, to her on the phone crying. The soldiers see the Butcher himself has beat them to the Sheikh’s home. The Butcher grabs Sheikh’s son and drags him down to the ground as two of his goons hold Sheikh back. He pleads for his son, but the Butcher uses a battery-powered drill to drill into the boy’s leg. He then aims for the boy’s head. Kyle runs up to the roof to get a shot, but Mustafa’s got him covered. Kyle keeps dodging bullets, trying to get the upper hand but can’t. Meanwhile, Sheikh breaks free and tries to run to his son’s aide. Sheikh is shot by the Butcher’s goons. The boy is presumably killed too. The Butcher, who’s yelling had not been translated up to this point, is finally translated as saying, “You talk to them [Americans], you die.”
  • Kyle is back in the US. His pregnant wife Taya and him are about to have sex. She remarks how he is different. But then they do it anyway.
  • At the doctor’s, Taya is getting an ultrasound. The doctor checks Kyle’s blood pressure, it is abnormally high. Taya is concerned. On their way home, Taya goes into labor.
  • Kyle is at home watching a sniper video shot by Mustafa. Kyle and Taya fight. He says they (Arabs) are “fucking savages.” Taya says, “it’s not about them, it’s about us. You have to make it back to us.”
  • Kyle is at an airbase. He sees his brother. They hug and talk about how Kyle is a legend. Brother is going home. Kyle is still proud of him any way. The brother says “fuck this place.” Kyle is told, in a chopper, by some guy we don’t know, that he is the most wanted man in Iraq. He also reveals he has a “crusader cross” tattoo. Kyle is given the ok to make a direct action squad to hunt the Butcher.
  • Kyle is with his mustachio-ed friend. The friend asks if that Bible is Kyle’s. Kyle says it is, and that it’s “God, country, family.” Friend is from Oregon, he says “I just want to believe in what we’re doing here.” Kyles says, “Well there’s evil here, you’ve seen it.” Friend says, “there’s evil everywhere.” Kyle says they are protecting more than just “this dirt.” What if terrorists went to America?!
  • (Time Stamp: 1:01:00) It is night time, they raid a building. In the building they harass another Arab family and quarter in their home, setting up shop. Kyle goes to sleep. He wakes up at and checks in with the troops. They note that a lot of people have been going into the restaurant across the street. The man whose house they invaded, invites them to dinner because it is Eid, and on Eid everyone has a seat at his table. They are having a good time, eating. Kyle notices a wound on the man’s elbow. He gets up and inspects the house and finds guns hidden. He confronts the man and says he can either go to an Iraqi detention center, or help them get into the restaurant across the street. The man goes to the restaurant while the soldiers watch him from a distance. They shoot the man who answers the door. The first man picks up the gun and tries to shoot the soldiers, but is shot instead. The soldiers go into the restaurant and find dead/dismembered soldiers. A battle ensues. Kyle goes after the Butcher and kills him. A woman watching from the window, calls the sniper Mustafa. An angry mob of Arabs carrying a dead body yell at the soldiers, also chanting “Allahu Akbar” “God is Great” and “get out America” (of course you wouldn’t know what they were yelling if you didn’t know Arabic, since it wasn’t translated).
  • Kyle is with his son in the US at a car garage. A man approaches him saying that they met in Fallujah and that Kyle saved his life. Man invites him to come to the VA center, says the vets just “can’t get right.” Kyle is really awkward. The man then tells Kyle’s son that Kyle is a hero, and “thank you for lending him to us.”
  • Kyle goes to the hospital, and sees his new daughter in the newborn wing. She is screaming up a storm. Kyle tries to get the nurses to pay attention to her. They ignore him. He starts yelling, they ignore him.
  • Taya is breastfeeding and talking to Kyle. She is upset that she’s on her own. He is “not there” even when he is around them. (This is also the infamous plastic baby scene.) She says that the team pulls him back even though he is her husband. He says, “they can’t wait, but we can.” She says the war has changed him. She cries.
  • It is Kyle’s third tour. He is in a car with a white friend. The friend says he got a ring in Iraq for his girl. Kyle is appalled that he bought the ring from “savages” and asks how he knows it’s not blood diamonds. The friend responds that Kyle shouldn’t care since he’s spilled so much blood. Kyle says it’s hypocritical. Friend jokes he’s gonna tell his girl he got the ring from Zales. In another car the Black and Hispanic guys are back, and the Hispanic one makes a homophobic joke. Black guy tries to brush it off. Some Arabs call Mustafa. Mustafa goes out to the roof and travels using his parkour skills. Meanwhile, hypocrite friend asks Kyle to be his best man. A man in a car tries to shoot them and misses. They all get out of the car and kill the shooter, then head to the roof of a nearby building. (At this point I noticed their uniforms now have death skulls on them, it’s also on their guns.) The hypocrite friend and Kyle talk more about the diamond. Hypocrite friend gets shot through the face by the sniper. Friend is taken out of there.
  • Kyle is at base with friends, and old guy that gave him the ok to make his own unit. Kyle tells them only one sniper could have made that shot. It was Mustafa! Mustachio-ed friend from Oregon says they should get “an eye for an eye.” They decide to go back out and get a terrorist stronghold they were just informed of by the old guy. They drive through in armed vehicles, then go up into a building. OMG mustachio-ed guy’s name is Mark! They notice that someone left in a hurry. Mark (formerly mustachio-ed friend) gets shot in an ambush. He dies on site.
  • Back in the US, they are at the funeral. The mother of Mark reads a letter from Mark written 2 weeks ago criticizing the war in Iraq. On the car drive home, Kyle says that they were emotional and walked into an ambush but what killed Mark was the letter Mark wrote because “he let go, and he paid the price for it.”
  • Kyle goes to visit hypocrite Zales diamond friend in a US hospitals. Turns out he proposed with a diamond he bought with help of his now-fiancee’s father. Kyle says he’ll get revenge for his friend.
  • At home in bed, Kyle says if he dies Taya should go on with out him. Taya tells him he should stay home. Kyle says he’s protecting her and the family. She needs him to be human again and be there for her. She says if he leaves again, she doesn’t think they’ll be here when he gets back. They hug it out.
  • On his fourth tour, Kyle is told by the Black friend that the Zales friend died on the operating table. Kyle calls his wife, and leaves a message that he loves them.
  • Kyle is on a rooftop again, he sees a boy on the street sitting (aged maybe 5). A man runs out of the alleyway with an RPG. Kyle shoots him. The little boy runs up to the dead body, and tries to pick up the RPG. Kyle has him on target, but wants him to drop it. Luckily, the boy does drop it, and therefore gets to live. Kyle is relieved, almost choking.
  • At a briefing, they are told that they have to kill a sniper who is causing a problem. Kyle knows it is Mustafa.
  • After a bunch of aerial shots (film, I mean), they arrive at their destination. They go up to the roof of a building, and set up. A sandstorm is sweeping in. Mustafa pokes his gun out, and shoots a marine on a ladder. Kyle realizes they set up in the wrong direction and turns East. Using his super eyes, Kyle can see Mustafa “21 hundred yards out.” He is told the shot is impossible and that he’ll give away they’re position. He is ordered to hold fire. But Kyle knows that it is Mustafa. The Black friend says to take the shot if he can. Kyle says he’s doing it for “Biggles” (Zales guy?). After a slow-motion shot, he kills Mustafa. Now they are targeted by the enemy on the ground from both sides. A shootout ensues. Kyle calls his wife in the middle of the battle saying he is ready to come home. Air reinforcements come in, they shoot a missile at an enemy building. The full force of the sandstorm rises everywhere, making it difficult to see. They keep fighting in zero visibility. They run towards the truck. Kyle is the last one, he runs after the truck. He reaches out his hand, and is pulled into the truck. As they drive away, the dust clears for a moment to show Mustafa’s dead body.
  • (Time stamp 1:50:00) Kyle is in the bar where he and Taya met, watching a basketball game and having a beer. He gets a call from Taya, she asks where he is (thinking he’s in Europe). He says he’s in the US. He says he needed a minute. She says the kids are dying to see him, it’s been nine months. He cries and says he’s coming home. She says they miss him.
  • Kyle is sitting in front of a TV, hearing sounds of war in his head.
  • Kyle and the family are at a gathering. He’s freaking out. A dog playfully tackles a boy, and Kyle runs up to it, about to attack the dog. Taya stops him.
  • At a VA center, a doctor confronts Kyle about the incident with the dog. Kyle says he’s not worried. He is told he was credited with 160 kills, doc asks if he has any regrets. Kyle says he’s ready to meet his creator and take responsibility for his kills. However he wishes he could have saved more guys. Doc says there are plenty of guys here to save. So Kyle starts talking to other vets.
  • Kyle and two disabled vets go out shooting. One asks him why Kyle spends so much time with them. He says they should take care of each other.
  • Kyle and family move into a ranch. He moves boxes with his son, waves to a horse with his daughter, and pulls his wife into the shower.
  • Kyle and son go out shooting, he says “it’s a hell of a thing to kill a beating heart.” He’s got to be “calm, confident, and you never hesitate.”
  • February 2nd, 2013, Kyle gets a job as a sheriff. Taya is very proud of him. He jokes around with his kids. Kyle is taking out a marine that day to go shooting. Taya looks eerily at the marine.
  • On a black screen, words appear saying, “Chris Kyle was killed that day by a veteran he was trying to help.”
  • (Time Stamp: 2:07:00) Scenes from the funeral of Chris Kyle are played, credits roll.

The End.

And now you know what happened in the film and don’t need to sit through it.

You’re welcome.

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Prompt: Jericho Brown

Every Monday, I’ll be posting a writing prompt for poets. The big rule is you only have 20 minutes to write!

Each prompt will have a list of specific things to include, inspired by poetry I’m reading.

The prompt this week comes from the poem “I Corinthians 13:11″ from the book The New Testament by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press, 2014).

The poem should include:

  • A reference to another work (in this case it was the Bible)
  • Use a modified quote from the source material
  • At least 20 lines
  • Attention to a sound (ex. The “th” sound)
  • A negation
  • The phrase “So what…”
  • And the words: tongue, water, cord, fence, chew, and climb.

Bonus points if you can get everything in!

Leave a comment and let me know how the prompt worked for you.

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Prompt: June Jordan #MLKDAY

Happy MLK Day! This prompt comes from one of the best eulogies for MLK I’ve read. I hope you are inspired by it as I am.

Every Monday, I’ll be posting a writing prompt for poets. The big rule is you only have 20 minutes to write! I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but trust me it’ll be great.

Each prompt will have a list of specific things to include, inspired by poetry I’m reading.

The prompt this week comes from the poem “In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.” from the book Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan by June Jordan (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). I’ve linked the poem and highly encourage everyone to read it.

The poem should include:

  • the topic of race, racism, or poverty
  • two sections, 30-40 lines total
  • alliteration/repeated sound in every line (ex. “deform the normal rainy”)
  • No full sentences
  • No punctuation
  • And the words: rip, pulse, fruit, burn, darkness, spring, riot, sunshine

Bonus points if you can get everything in!

In addition to some poetry, check out #reclaimMLK on twitter. Check here for some free online literature on race, gender, sexuality, and class.

Leave a comment and let me know how the prompt worked for you. Also, let me know how you celebrate/remember Martin Luther King Jr. on this day and every day.

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Poetry Prompt: Reetika Vazirani

Being at the Pacific University MFA residency has been wonderful, and Seaside, Oregon is beautiful even in winter.

The residency has been full of craft lectures, readings, and workshops. Being surrounded by the wonderful community always refreshes my spirit and artistic brain–what Joe Millar calls the “tree of knowledge.”

Anyway, same rules in this prompt, you have 20 minutes to write a poem.

This prompt is based on the book “White Elephants” by Reetika Vazirani (Beacon Press, 1996).

You must try to include these things:

• The point of view of a character (can be real or made up)
• 3 stanzas
• Have another character the “speaker” talks about
• A conversational tone
• the words: world, remember, bow, three, sheet, devotion, horse

Have fun! Let me know if it worked in the comments!

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