Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Nineties in Kuwait

A few days ago I went over to a friend’s place in the evening to cook dinner and hang out. As we ate we were listening to his iTunes playlist of old school early- to mid-nineties alternative rock and it brought back so many memories, for both of us. So after dinner he brought out a big box of pictures he had from his high school and college days, and we sat for a couple of hours going through them. What struck me is how similar his high school experiences in Dublin were to my own in Kuwait. And I realized that in many ways, high school kids everywhere to a certain extent go through the same phases, no matter where they are in the world – well at least it’s true if you went to an international school in Kuwait. But I feel like high school kids now are so different from what we were like in the mid-nineties. I’ve been back to the A.S.K. campus recently and the high school girls are all wearing tight blue pants and trendy white tops, and are wearing more make-up than me and most of my friends wear in our mid-twenties! It’s such a shame.

Maybe it’s a generational thing, or maybe it was the nineties – but in my day high schoolers were grunge kids. I remember constantly getting in trouble for violating school uniform not by wearing a short skirt but by wearing a flannel shirt over my mandatory white shirt. I wore my Doc Martens tied loosely with black and white checkered laces, and sat on the floor by the lockers listening to Nirvana, Jellyfish, and the Breeders on my ever-playing walkman. Those were the days when KFSAC and EMAC meant something – when the whole school would bunk off last period on Wednesday to catch the first game, and then stay all evening and all weekend, cheering our team to victory and enjoying the barbeques, before everyone would jump into the pool in their clothes after A.S.K. inevitably won. Those were the days when there was nothing to do in Kuwait at night on the weekend but go to Zahra Complex, Pizza Hut, White House or GoForIt tape shops, Chi-Chi’s, California Penguin (a pure A.S.K. hangout in 1993, in the spot where Great Steak and Potato Company is now), Wendy’s, and Carlucci’s for sheesha. Oh, and of course, the old Safir for bowling and billiards. And Fuddruckers in the later years. In those days when there was a party, the whole school would be there – 8th graders to seniors – everyone was friends, and everyone had a good time. The nineties (and especially the early nineties) in Kuwait rocked. We called into K107 – Kuwait’s first post-invasion radio station broadcast live from…wait for it…Camp Doha. We survived Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. We experienced the release of Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ “Blood Sugar Sex Magic”, and the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream”. I remember sitting in the hallway with my fellow freshmen mourning the day that River Phoenix died, and the day that Kurt Cobain killed himself. We wore fake tattoos, ear cuffs, and funky coloured Docs (or at least some of us did – and Raine wore maroon Bronx). And then when the mid-nineties descended upon us, we danced our asses off to “Mr. Vain” and did so with pride and with absolutely no shame.

What a time. I think my generation was the last to experience what Kuwait, and A.S.K., was like before everything suddenly changed by the late nineties. To experience what Kuwait was like when only the kids from the four main private schools used to go out on the weekends so everywhere you’d go you’d see everyone you knew and no-one else. We had fun in those days. Remember SAS on the weekends? And Khairan? And shopping in “Old Salmiya”? And the tent in the bara7a in Surra (this is specifically for anyone who went to A.S.K. back in the Surra campus days)?

In 1994 we created a “school sponsored” time capsule to commemorate the 30 year anniversary of A.S.K. It unfortunately got “lost” in the move to the Hawalli campus the next year (how exactly that happened, I will never understand) – the campus in which I was unfortunately forced to spend my final A.S.K. years (*sniff*). I would love to find that box because two of my friends and I put a tape in it of all the music we were listening to at the time. From what I can remember, we had stuff on there from Jellyfish’s “Spilt Milk”, Pulp’s “His’n’Hers”, and Toad the Wet Sprocket’s “Fear” (among others that I can’t remember).

So what’s inside your own “Nineties In Kuwait” time capsule?

It is by pure coincidence that Raine and I both posted about this at the same time. She posted hers before mine, but I had written this a couple of days ago but wasn't able to post it because my internet at home has been out.


  • kleio: wow. i commented so much on raine's blog, i kinda ran out of things to say. besides, all the things you mentioned have already been mentioned in the comment section; the places, the music, the clothes, etc. yours was so well written, you managed to cover all bases. way to go. i'm glad the italian room thing didnt last;P

    By Anonymous edo rex, at 6/10/2006 9:48 pm  

  • ASK depresses me. Seriously. I know that every class says "My days were the best" and you know what? I agree ya Kleio, that your generation had it best although our class was kick ass as well min na7yat that un-Kuwaiti feel to it.

    I think it has a LOT to do with the new kid who's governing the school 3ala kaif kaifa. His dad really loved the school and now he's just hoarding money and letting all the crap students in.

    I go back there, and like you, I am astounded at the little teenage girls wearing atrociously tight crap and makeup. Damn. I remember my English teacher sent one girl to the restroom to wash her blush off her cheeks!

    Seriously...this makes me really sad. Then again, I still think that it has the strongest standing in Kuwait.

    Min na7yat academics, I remember the teachers were "kbareya" before; they had so much prestige and now they bring cheaper forms of labor from the UK and mostly Australia. It's an American school for God's sakes! No offense against Aussies but I remember asking my PE teacher once (cute young Australian) about why she came to ASK and she said, "Oh well, we're [referring to the other Aussies in ASK] here to travel around and have fun. Our jobs are just a side thing."

    Ana li7agt 3ala il teachers (why am I talking in Arabic? Must be late at night...anyway) those prestigious ones who actually wanted to teach and were passionate about their job...*sigh* no more...

    By Blogger Erzulie, at 6/11/2006 6:14 am  

  • Man that was a long comment...

    By Blogger Erzulie, at 6/11/2006 6:14 am  

  • Amazing that we both chose this kind of topic at the same time -- Could it be that we're sisters?!!

    ASK pre-war was definitely the best. And then it managed to keep a little bit of that magic and create a new kind of magic in the first couple of years post-war... But then it died.

    I am not saying that from an American educational standpoint it is not still the best in Kuwait - It is. But it is majority Kuwaiti now - and not Kuwaiti with Western influences like before - Kuwaiti Kuwaiti... Any all and kinds of Kuwaitis.

    The girls not only dress in tight outfits and full makeup, they also wear DESIGNER clothes and sunglasses and carry DESIGNER bags! We never even HEARD of Gucci when we were kids! Jansport was our Louis Vuitton!

    It's just very different. It does not have that International School feel to it in the same way that it did.

    As for the good old days, I would like to clarify something:
    I WORE BOOTS (Bronx and Docs) BEFORE EITHER OF YOU SISTERS! And the fake tatoos. And ear cuffs were MINE!

    And the music - it was great! And some not so great stuff was great too! Dr. Alban. Snow. I mean - classic! Hahaha!

    On a more serious note, I think that what is happening to the private schools in sysmptomatic of what is happening to Kuwait at large. Our country is not the country we remember it to be. We are not the majority anymore. Our ideals are not shared by the masses. Nothing makes me more sad. (See red's comment on my post.)

    By Blogger Raine, at 6/11/2006 10:31 am  

  • Caaaaaalling Mr. Vain........

    By Blogger Raine, at 6/11/2006 3:02 pm  

  • Edo: I know it's funny how we both wrote about this. And as for the Italian room - man, that was hilarious! We almost threw each other off the third floor balcony!! Hahaha!

    Erzulie: You're so right about the "new kid". It's a shame. The father passed away during my junior year I think, and it's amazing how quickly we felt the difference. It was Dr. Decker (that green-jacketed rat bastard) who really ruined the school. All the really good teachers left after that - the Wills', Jameson, etc. All the veterans. The Torres' came back for a while but they couldn't stand it - especially since they knew what ASK used to be like before. So so sad.

    But like you said, despite these shortcomings, it is still academically the best school in Kuwait by far. You can immediately tell when someone is an ASK graduate - even though they're different from what our generations used to be, the fact is that the entire "youth culture" is changing in Kuwait, so when you look at it from that perspective, despite the changes, they're still the brightest of the bunch.

    Raine: "Jansport was our Louis Vuitton!" Love that line! And Jansports with writing all over them. As for the boots - NO! You had Bronx first and I had black Doc Martens! Red also had black Docs but they weren't actually Doc Martens brand. Your first pair of Docs were your high marroon ones - which came after my black ones. And I was also the first at school to wear bright coloured ones (purple), and you had red ones.

    "I know what I want and I want it now, I want you, cos I'm MR. VAIN!" :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/12/2006 6:10 pm  

  • Klieo and Raine, don't forget that you guys also liked NKOB!!!!! Fogged glasses anyone?
    Helllll-llllloooo!!!! It wasn't just about cool docs and bronx boots!!

    I don't have a blog, but if I did, I would have posted a nostalgia piece at the exact same time you guys did. I've been rolling in it lately. Unreal. There is no doubt we share the same genes!

    Something to consider: most of the Kuwaitis who went to ASK pre-90s ended up with a close to flawless American accent. Today, even if they've been at ASK since kindergarten, they speak English with an Arabic accent, usually quite heavy. Accents are often inevitable, especially for bilingual kids, but I think it is a sign that something has changed. I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that the student body is some much less cosmopolitan. I LOVED the mix at ASK. That is absolutely gone now. A real shame.

    Raine, you are so right. Kuwait is not the same. Are we beginning to sound like the older generation always lamenting how it was better in the past? Oh well, so be it. It WAS better then. People in Kuwait were nicer, kinder, friendlier, more generous . People are just ruder, more superficial, more materialistic, more corrupt, and stupider than they ever were before. Again, a damn shame.

    By Anonymous red, at 6/15/2006 7:58 pm  

  • red - all so true... except it's nkoTb you lunatic!!! And that was just one year. And we don't have to air dirty laundry for all to see ;) And kleio was wondering, did you like Kirk Cameron??? Loooooooool!

    By Blogger Raine, at 6/17/2006 8:33 pm  

  • Tee hee hee!! She denied it to me on the phone but I really remember her liking Kirk Cameron in the 80s when we were younger. As P would say, "Nyahahahaha!"

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/18/2006 2:23 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home