Monday, April 15, 2013

Who needs GPS?

How to find a new place in Kuwait:

First, I looked at a contradictory map on a clinic brochure and attempted to compare it to Google Earth online maps. The search function just laughed at me, so I matched up several significant points of reference and convinced myself that I was in the right part of the city. I drew up my own new map. I had NO idea which of several roads were the exact road that I was looking for, because they weren’t labeled on the brochure or Google maps, but I knew it was somewhere in a defined area with mostly known borders.

Got in the car.

Went north on highway 30, which is also Istiqlal street, which is also Fahaheel road... or Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman al-Saud Expressway... depending on where you are and which way you're going and which map you are looking at.

I went past 4th ring road, which is also Salem al-Mubarek road, depending on where you are, and probably what sign you are near, or what map you may be looking at.

The next right takes you to an off ramp, go left for Cairo Street. Right is Baghdad street, except it's not marked as such on the roads, or on my brochure, or called that. At least not that I saw. But it does have two names, online…

Looking for the first major intersection... which has NO street name signs. There’s a park on one side, and some big signs for some ministry on the other. Long sentences. In Arabic. Good luck with that at normal traffic speeds while negotiating the 3 lane circle. I drove straight through…

I turned at the next major intersection, because what the hey! Why not?!? Seeing actual street signs with accurate names to verify my location is apparently NOT the way to do things here. GPS use is for wusses. If it looks good, then turn! Engage psychic GPS. It may or may not have been the 'Amman' Street on the clinic's brochure, and I think it was Harun al-Rahid st… even though I saw no signs with that name… BUT…  so what? It looked like a very promising street. Those other names on the street signs that were clearly NOT Amman or Harun??  I think that they were just trying to confuse me.

One of the next landmarks on the map was some petrol station. Nope. No petrol station. I saw all sorts of little shops and things, but no petrol. Toward the end of the road, was a tall orange building with a pharmacy attached. It looked friendly enough. I made a bet that there might be other nice medical buildings around and took a random turn at that happy orange building… I drove a little ways down the lane and saw another named building that was given as landmark. So, I stopped on the side of the road to look around. I looked up at the building that I was parked next to… and it was my building. Ta-daa!

Later, looking back on Google maps, I see where the petrol station mentioned may be, and how there might be a faster way than going around the block, but I can’t recall having seen it as I drove past…. I’ll try again some other trip.

This is pretty much how I get around here.

When we arrived, our truck was delivered with a dead battery. It was old and needed replacement. The garages nearby did not have what our truck needed. Everybody told us to go to Mishref. Ok, we were very new, but we did know that Mishref is not a shopping center. It’s an area of the city! It’s not huge, and I’m not sure what the boundaries are, but it has got to be an area several square kilometers with shops, schools, neighborhoods, etc. Nobody could tell us road names, but this one guy gave us the helpful directions of waving his hand ‘that way’. So, we got in the car and drove ‘that way’ toward Mishref… and wandered right over to a garage in Mishref that had the type of battery we needed. Ta-daaa!

We found plants the same way. We’d gone shopping with some friends at one point and they said that garden supplies were basically ‘over there’. We got further directions from other folk, who told us ‘Shuwaikh’, which, like Mishref, is an area of the city, not a specific place. Yet, one afternoon after school, Brian needed a pot for science, so we got in the car and drove to Shuwaikh and went ‘over there’. And that’s where the plants were. And a pot.

I’m finding my way around pretty well these days. Just do NOT ask me for directions and expect a straight answer….