What is travel? Asking this question is like asking, “What is life?” or, “Who are you?” (or, as I’ve frequently been asked, “Who are you?”). The answers to such questions are as numerous as the people asking. The Idiot of Funkyville: Becoming an Everywhere Citizen takes a chronological snapshot of actual personal experiences as a young and less-than-young man living and playing abroad; exploring each of the above questions in the context of a displaced American piecing himself together on foreign turf.
Contained therein: perhaps an excess of sex, more than a healthy dose of drugs, and all the rock ‘n’ roll one can ask for. Balance is achieved as the vignettes build one on top of the next.
Pondering the course of my life from the confines of a Qatari jail cell, reminiscence begins with teenage confusion at a Mexican bar and concludes with grown confusion as an expat in the Middle East. In progression, the narrowing spiral of personal growth leaves finer grained finger prints as the tales evolve through destinations and age. In theory, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But that’s for the experts to decide.
Having dismounted a train, plane, boat, or rickshaw in nearly forty countries (including Canada), The Idiot of Funkyville documents a life of travel as a point-blank portrayal of my life through travel. And who doesn’t love life and travel both? Whether you’ve already gone or have no intention of ever, ever going near the place, wonder is universal. We all have questions. A good majority of my questions just happened to be pondered abroad.
May 2011: Wakra, Qatar
The phone, resting innocently on the kitchen counter,
came to life in a spree of vibrational spasms. I was startled, more likely due
to this being an expected call rather than it being unusual for my phone to
vibrate at all. I receive few phone calls, particularly on a pre-work Saturday
evening. When my phone does shimmy, the calls are almost exclusively
work-related and rarely answered with a smile. I was waiting for this one, but
didn't have to wait long.
Moments earlier, I received a warning vibration from the
Indian man at the car rental agency. I drove a rented car. "The police
station is calling me. They are saying your vehicle is parked in the most
illegal of circumstances." Grey storm clouds swirled in ever narrowing
spirals toward the epicenter of my quiet apartment.
"I don't understand. The car is parked in the
basement of my building. I parked it there myself."
"Will you kindly go and looking just to make for
certain it is there? They are telling me the vehicle is in Wakra blocking all
the other cars from coming and going. I am giving them your number."
"I know the car is here. My apartment has a private
parking garage. I parked it here just an hour ago. It's not on a public
"But they are saying... Will you just check?"
At the mention of Wakra the ominous grey storm rattled
the doors and windows. It eliminated the possibility of this being some sort of
misunderstanding. I drove through Wakra that afternoon, a continuous strip mall
built upon ancient fishing village dust particles that blow through air
conditioners of fast food chicken restaurants like imported labor. I even
stopped in Wakra, parking on the beach for five minutes on my way back from the
sand dunes in the south. It couldn't be that. Illegal parking is like a sport
here, with bonus points for creativity. Parking on the beach isn't illegal
anyhow. The odds of the police spending an afternoon sniffing out the owner of
an illegally parked car were laughable. Bona fide crime does not exist in
Qatar. Obviously the police were lying to my Indian friend. They just needed my
phone number. But why? I looked at the phone, rumbling like thunder on the
counter. It was time to find out.
"Hello?" I said.
"Hello," he said. I'm still not aware of the
etiquette when receiving a call. I only know not to expect the callers to
"Hello." Me again.
"Hello." Him again. Moment of silence. "I
am, ah, Officer Mohammed with Wakra police."
"Ah, do you have rental car...Honda Civic?"
"Is car, ah, number eight six double-five three
"Did you drive in Wakra today? 4pm?"
"Oh-kay. We need you come to Wakra police
"Is something wrong?"
"Please come Wakra station. We, ah, ah, talk
"I don't understand. Is there a problem?"
"Just come Wakra station."
"Right now? It's 9pm."
"Yes, ah, my captain says for you come now."
"Will you tell me what's wrong?"
"You know Wakra station? You must come now."
"No, I don't know where it is." I failed to
mark that one on my map. "I don't understand why you can't tell me what's
"Just come Wakra station. Five minutes and you
"Please, can you tell me if I'm in trouble?"
"Big problem. Ah, my English no good. You know Wakra
In Qatar there are no addresses. No building numbers.
Giving directions is like taking the GED, you either can or you can't. One must
know the city, all the insignificant landmarks scattered haphazardly along
outdated roads. My apartment was off Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Thani Street near
Jaidah Tower. That was my address. A taxi driver at the airport shared that bit
of info three months after I moved there, when he didn't understand my
instructions. Mail? I refrain from commenting. And without an address Google is
little help. "Do you happen to know the coordinates?"
Driving was a task I did my best to avoid. My apartment
was within walking distance of my office and Souk Waqif, the two places I
frequented most. Traffic was minimal compared to most capital cities, if only
because Doha was such an undesirable locale. Sitting through three red light
cycles was standard during busy hours, but the city was small enough to
navigate relatively easily. Most of the frustration, for me at least, came from
the demeanor of the roads. It was a passive aggressive war zone drawn along
class divisions, both domestic and imported. Locals in luxury automobiles
commonly sped down the streets, flashing headlights at any car in the way.
Never mind that all lanes were full. In contrast, nearly 80% of the population
was a foreign, predominantly male labor force. Foreigners with cars habitually
and excessively obeyed certain laws of the road for fear of extreme
repercussions. Roadside cameras monitored speed. Red light cameras issued
10,000 riyal tickets (approximately $2740). Other common regulations were
ignored by all. People frequently turned from outside lanes, cutting off one or
two lanes of traffic in the process. Double parking was commonplace. So was
parking on the curbs. If there was a code of conduct it remained a mystery to
Officer Mohammed caught me just as I was sitting down for
a late dinner. Tomorrow, Sunday, was the beginning of another work week. I
wanted to handle this quickly, soon enough to get much needed rest. I left my
dinner on the counter, right there next to that vibrating harbinger of doom,
and took a quick shower. I dressed like an accountant, combed my hair like an
accountant, and removed the rings from my ears. Whatever the trouble, I knew
enough to recognize their decisions would be based less on due process and more
on an emotional response to me as a person. My appearance was critical. With
several degrees of reluctance, I turned the key in the ignition and made the
trek to Wakra.
On average, the summer temperatures were in the range of
43 to 50 °C (110 to 122°F). For young and old alike, the city came to life at
night. Shops, restaurants, parks, and playgrounds were at their busiest after
9pm. As were the roads. My frustration with traffic and circumstances in general
increased as I crept closer to the destination; a destination I still needed to
find. In Wakra I made a few pointless loops through a neighborhood with an
official air about it, banking on blind luck to guide me there. I then asked
directions from a Filipino waitress at a fast food joint. The station was three
buildings down on the opposite side of the main road, a busy six lane affair
dissecting Wakra in two. Driving a couple kilometers down the road, I reversed
directions in one of the countless roundabouts (the most frequent perpetuators
of traffic skirmishes), drove the two kilometers back, and pulled up in front
of the station. Two parking places were available, the two spots nearest the
front door. One was a designated handicapped spot. The other was marked by a
sign in Arabic, blatantly (even to non-Arabic speakers) reserving the space for
the head honcho. Now 10pm, I parked in the reserved spot, guessing no senior
level Qatari worked past 4pm. Especially not a senior level government
employee. I would just be in and out anyhow. Sometimes it's easier to believe
Inside, I was directed to a room where a team of five or
six junior staff filed papers and typed at computer relics. I arrived in the
midst of a heated discussion between several officers, three Arabic men, and a
Nepalese laborer with a bruised face. The one mid-level officer, a Sudanese man
in his mid-40's, directed me to the waiting area in front of the counter. I
sat, analyzing each cop with an eye for the most sympathetic to my cause,
whatever that cause may be. Without doubt it was Omar, the Sudanese man. The
younger police were basically clerks, all in their mid-twenties. Not only were
they unable to make judgments of value, their lack of authority among the ranks
contributed to an exaggerated sense of authority towards those outside the
ranks. When my time came, 30 minutes later, a younger Sudanese clerk sat in
front of me at the counter, slouching in preparation for the next story to be
told by the next pest. By this time I would talk with anyone who would have me.
"I was called to come here."
"For traffic accident?"
"No. I don't know why. They just called and said I
needed to come in."
"Give me your ID card."
"I don't have one."
"Only my passport. I'm on a tourist visa."
"Mohammed Abu al Rahman?"
"I don't know." He turned me over to Omar, who
asked the same questions. I gave the same answers. "Wait one minute, I
will find out who called." He left the room. Ten minutes later he returned.
"I can't find anyone who called you." Hope peeked in on my thoughts,
as it often does, the instant before it's washed away by the changing tides. A
pencil thin officer sitting at a desk in the back of the room overheard the
discussion. He burst from his chair and pointed at me while speaking
frantically to Omar in Arabic. Not good. His superior turned to me, "Did
you drive through Wakra today?" I confirmed that I had. He typed my
license plate number into the system. "Ah. Oh-kay. Were you in Wakra at
"Ahhh, yeah. I think it was around four." I
knew damn well it was four.
"Did you...show, ah, the middle finger to another
driver?" Everything fell into place like a row of dominoes tumbling
upwards in rewind.
"Ohhhh...yeah. I did," stated with as much
false shame as I could muster.
"Why would you go and do such a thing as show the
Still with utmost shame, "Because I'm stupid. I got
"What did the driver do to cause such anger?"
"I was driving in the left lane and a car raced up
behind me." Using both hands like a hula dancer, I portrayed how close he
came to my rear bumper. "There were too many cars to switch lanes and I
was already going 120."
"What happened next?"
"When I was able to get over, he raced by. That's when
I...." How do you say flipped the stupid fucker off while sounding
"That's when you showed the, ah middle finger?"
He halfway performed the bird, being careful to keep his ring and index fingers
close to the offensive one.
"Yes. Am I in trouble?"
"Please, come around the counter and take a seat. I
will talk with the captain." He led me to a chair before the desk of the
skinny lad who had ratted me out. At my arrival the kid sat upright,
"Give me your ID card," said the youngster.
"I don't have an ID card."
"Here's my passport." He thumbed through the
stamps like an archeologist sifting through history. "You went to
"Yes. I loved it too. Oman's a beautiful
"Where did you go?"
"Did you see the forts?"
"Yeah, the ones on the hilltops." Turned out he
was Omani. Then we were buddies. He let down his swagger and recounted the
glory of his home country. With that settled he pointed to a phone near the
front counter and asked if I wanted to call someone. A revelation, perhaps a
bit slow in coming, struck my brain like a bucket of water. I was now in their
custody. From the moment I walked past the counter I was no longer a free man.
Nobody else knew I was there. I was the only person in the country from my
company. The people I worked with on a daily basis were not fellow co-workers.
I would not call at 11pm to let them know I was in jail. This was a situation I
would resolve on my own.
"Can I go and move my car? It's not in a good parking
spot. I'll leave my passport with you." My question served the practical
dilemma of needing to find a legal parking space while testing my limits of
"Wait. I will go with you in a few minutes."
Not very free.
I continued to sit, watching the young officers flopping
around in unzipped black boots. Any degree of polish inferred by the cut of
their uniforms -- dark blue trousers and light blue collared shirts with black
braids at the shoulders -- was lost to the floppy boots. Particularly in the
context of a junior policeman's mentality. Regardless of how hard I tried to
take these guys seriously, and I'll be honest, I didn't try that hard, the
floppy boots negated each attempt. It was like watching The Stooges carry the
one nearly functioning stapler from desk to desk.
A few minutes passed. All but the young Sudanese officer
were called to another room. By the way they straightened their shirts and
fixed their little beret-like caps, I assumed they were meeting with superiors.
In the absence of police I glanced around the room at the other criminals -- a
Qatari who looked to be about twenty, the battered Nepalese guy with dirty,
tattered clothes, a bulky man in a pin-striped suit, and another Arab man,
roughly the same age as me, looking angry and aggressive. We all avoided eye
contact. A Western accountant in his thirties was clearly an anomaly, to all
parties including me. This was just bizarre.
The officers returned. Omar followed behind. He gave some
orders in Arabic and pointed to me before turning to explain. "You will
stay here tonight. In the morning you will get to see the public prosecutor at
"What? I have to stay here?!" I freaked out.
"Yes," said in an of-course-you-are-staying
tone of voice.
"Please, is there no other way to settle this? I am
from a crude country. It's different here and I'm trying to learn, but it's
hard." All sense of dignity went out the window.
"Hold on, I will see what I can do." He left
the room again.
After my performance, the man in the pin-striped suit
nodded and asked, "What did you do?"
"I showed my middle finger." He nodded again,
Time ticked onward. Every fifteen or twenty minutes Omar
returned to the room to give orders to the underlings. An hour passed before he
had the verdict. He instructed the officers to check me in. By this time I
accepted my fate. The Omani followed me outside to re-park my car. Inside, he
took my belt, phone, and car keys, but let me keep my passport and money. He
wrote my name and passport number on a special form and ran a metal detector
wand over my body. He then led me around the metal detector framing the hallway
to the jail, and unlocked a metal door with a square portal and bars set just
below eye level.
The jail was roughly ten meter by ten meter square with
rows of fluorescent light ensuring every grain of dirt was visible day and
night. Four cells lined the wall to my left; all were unlocked and served as
semi-private rooms. Towels, clothes, blankets, and strips of cardboard were
jammed in the bars of each cell to obstruct the ever present artificial light.
A quick scan was enough to see that all cells were occupied. Three Nepalese
shared one. Two older Arabs, the presiding alphas, each had a cell to
themselves. Two other Arab men shared the last cell. A woven mat filled the
center of the room. The bathroom was a small rectangular closet built into the
far wall, opposite the rear cell. A basin, like a tile cattle trough with four
metal taps, lined the wall between the bathroom and the back cell. A pile of
sleeping pads and blankets were stacked in the corner to the right of the door
at the base of the only vacant wall. A radio blasted 1990s American R&B. I
couldn't decide if it was someone's idea of a mix tape or someone's idea of a
I stood just inside the door and stared blankly at the
surroundings, no longer freaked, just stunned. I was in jail for extending my
middle finger. The others did their best not to stare back. Now midnight, sleep
seemed like the best thing going. The pads and blankets resembled a pile of
debris gathered from one of Qatar's many condemned buildings after the
residents abandoned ship. I removed my accountant's shoes, lay down on a
discolored sleeping pad, and covered my eyes with a blanket that smelled of cigarettes
and 500 previous occupants.
Sleep might have been an option, even with a brain
spinning tales of what was yet to come. A simple fine? Deportation? More time
in jail? Would I lose my job if they kicked me out of the country or held me
for too long? Did I care if they kicked me out of the country and I lost my
job? None of the officers gave a hint of the possible repercussions. Sleep
might have been an option. I was exhausted and R Kelly could have been singing
an excessively loud lullaby -- but the two alphas were playing cards, slapping
them down on the mat while hee-ing and haw-ing Arabic style. I looked up from
my blanket and glared. The one with the potbelly and crooked smile looked back.
"Hey, why you here? For drinking?" He motioned an imaginary bottle to
"No. I did this," and showed him my middle
"Why are you here?"
"For fucking the lady. I fuck the ladies, the
"How long do they make you stay for that?"
"I stay for one month." Pointing to his friend,
a darker skinned Arab with a shaved head, "He stays for six months."
"Why would you go and show your finger?" asked
the man with the longer sentence.
"I don't know." Asking about his crime did not
seem like the thing to do. I just pondered the fact that the man with a
six-month sentence was questioning my ethics.
Pot-belly retrieved a Coke from his styrofoam cooler.
"You want soda?" he asked.
Club Nouveau replaced R Kelly on the radio, singing Lean On Me over a synthesized beat. Then
it was Annie Lennox.
Through the night, when not kept awake by card playing or
music, it was the shower, or tooth-brushing, or nose-blowing, or someone pacing
back and forth in the room and talking to himself. The fan in the bathroom sounded
jet-propelled. Every time the door opened, mechanical screams reverberated off
the masonry walls. At 4am, just as things began to wind down, the call to
prayer wept in from the one little window above the basin, far beyond head
height. One by one the Muslims climbed up from their cells and performed ritual
ablutions in the basin, washing their faces, hands and feet, and clearing their
noses once again. One by one they took turns doing prayers on a rug unfurled
over the mat. Standing, bowing, kneeling, and touching their foreheads to the
An hour later I was called from the cell. I stood,
wondering if I had slept during any portion of the night. If so, it was thin
and vaporous, barely recognizable as true sleep. Omar extended an open palm
toward the seat in front of his desk. I sat. He typed the important details
from my passport into the system, pecking away at the keyboard with one finger.
"Oh-kay, so tell me what happened yesterday."
"I was driving in the left lane at 120--"
"On Wakra Road?"
"Yes, I was going from Wakra to Doha."
"Oh-kay. You were driving north in the fast lane.
Wakra Road is three lanes and you were here." He drew the three lanes on a
sheet of paper and pointed to the far left lane.
"Yes, the fast lane. A speeding car came up behind
me and pulled to within a meter of my bumper."
"Was it a big car?"
"No, maybe a medium-sized sedan. Not big and not
"And you were frightened because he was so
close?" I saw where he was going and I liked it. A lot.
"Yes, very frightened." Quivering.
"And he was flashing his lights?"
"No. No flashing." He pecked the details into
the computer as we spoke. "There were too many cars for me to switch lanes
so I turned on my headlights so he could see the taillights come on."
"You turned on the lights?"
"Yes, so he could see my taillights."
He read the report from the plaintiff. "Did you
touch the brakes?"
"No, I only turned on my lights so the taillights
would come on." I wasn't going to admit to tapping the brakes just to fuck
with the guy.
"Ah, so it was a warning?"
"Yes, he was too close for me to use the
"So when I was able to switch lanes he raced by, and
I showed my middle finger." I held up my left hand, without extending that
special finger, to depict how it was done.
"You showed the, ah, middle finger when he overtook
"And it was with the, left hand?" His look
suggested it was odd, maybe even a little sinister, to use the left.
He pecked the tale into his report, stopping to count out
the Arabic name of each finger. He couldn't recall the proper name for that
special digit. This was not a common case. "What is the name of the middle
finger?" he asked one of his subordinates in Arabic. Turning back to me.
"Now why would you show the middle finger?"
"I just lost my temper."
"Is that a nice thing to do? In America, is showing
the middle finger a nice thing?"
"No, it's not." This is really what it all
boiled down to. I couldn't argue that, whether it was nice or not, showing the
middle finger in America is like using sign language. Vulgar sign language,
yes, but legal nonetheless. We have the right to speak freely. In strict
regions of the Arabic world, middle fingers are obscene and obscenity is
illegal; much worse than driving like a madman. I was guilty, plain and simple.
"Even people drive that way around me. Sometimes
when I am with my family even. They honk and wave and flash the lights, but
never show the middle finger. You are a grown man." Chastised elementary
style, Omar led me back to the cell with the other dunces. "Have some
breakfast," he said. "This will all be handled today and you will be
free to go, inshallah." I could have done without the inshallah part of
Now that it was morning and I was close to leaving, the
jail was silent. With the lights on 24 hours and the majority of jail activity
occurring at night, I was the only person operating on outsider's time. For the
tried and true, sleep came during the quiet hours of the day, when the sun was
up for the rest of the country. My cellmates ate breakfast in silence on the
mat. The dark-skinned man paced back and forth, talking to himself while
thumbing prayer beads between his fingers. I sat, waiting.
At 8am, the officers hauled in three Filipino and two
Nepalese construction workers. A third Nepalese motorcycle delivery driver was
with them. The twenty year-old Qatari kid, guilty of driving without a license,
was brought from the office he was allowed to sleep in. Two by two we were
handcuffed to a partner (The Finger remained free) and led to a van outside by
three underling Stooges. One drove, one sat in the passenger's seat and smoked
cigarettes with all the windows closed, barred, and covered in black, and the
third took a seat in the back with us, reserving a bench seat to himself in
order to lay down for a snooze. The driver raced off, hanging g's through the
roundabouts and throwing us side to side. Halfway to Doha, dashing my
assumption that the prosecutor’s office was near Wakra station and this would
be a quick mission, Sleepy Stooge bolted upright. He had left something at the
station. The driver raced back.
In Doha's West Bay district we entered one of the brand
new office towers built in a clusterfuck of individually goofy-looking high-rises.
We took the slow, busy elevator, stopping at each floor on our way to the 8th.
The Three Stooges, flopping in their boots down the faux wood-floored hallway,
motioned us to a small waiting room with just enough seats for eight handcuff
buddies to sit side-by-side. They closed the door. We waited.
Occasionally Sleepy Stooge checked in on us, smirking
with exaggerated authority. He leered around the room at the Filipino and
Nepalese prisoners, just looking for a reason. "Put your feet down! Sit
up!" His gaze never landed on the Qatari or me. Satisfied with himself, he
left. We waited.
A senior Qatari officer with a clean shave, crisp
uniform, and tight boots opened the door. He was Officer Wahib. The Three
Stooges stood behind. "So, you guys are the fighters? You, you, you, you,
and you? Is he with you? No? Oh-kay. You guys...we will let you work it out on
your own. It's between you so handle it yourselves. If you can't work it out
then we will have to get involved. But, if you do it again...” A silent pause
for emphasis. “It will be big trouble. Why are you fighting anyways? You are
here to work and make money for your families. You are not here to fight."
"Oh-kay. Who's the guy with the motorcycle? You?
Oh-kay, you will see the prosecutor." He then spoke buddy-buddy in Arabic
to the young Qatari. "You," pointing at me. "Why did you show
the middle finger? You are an adult. Even my youngest boy knows not to show the
middle finger. Is it oh-kay to do that in America? No, I know it's not oh-kay.
We have training programs with the police in the US and UK. In those countries
it is much worse. I know. You will
see the prosecutor and it will be 500 riyal ($137) for the bail. I suggest you
go back to Wakra station and you get the phone number of the man who made the
complaint. Call him tomorrow and apologize. Say that you have a family or
something and see if he will drop the charges. That way you can avoid going to
court and spending more time with this."
"Okay, thank you," I replied. He closed the
door. Relief swept over me. He was the first to give any indication of what I
faced. We continued to wait.
The fighters worked out their dispute. Filipinos versus
"Why you punch him?”
“He say fuck you to me.”
“His brother say fuck you, not him.”
“I try stop it and he hit me.”
“You hit him first.” The volume and intensity of their
“He say fuck you to me!”
“Who say fuck you?"
"Maybe we fight again to end it?" one
suggested. They laughed and agreed to squash it.
The Stooges returned to un-handcuff and escort the
motorcycle driver, the Qatari, and me to another room. We waited for the
elevator as it stopped on every floor before arriving at ours. We loaded and
descended to the 4th. Again, the elevator laboriously stopped at each floor en
route. On the 4th we stood in a row outside an office. And waited. Wahib
occasionally motioned to one of the Stooges, pointing at his watch. He was
getting impatient with their performance. Fifteen minutes ticked by before the
unlicensed Qatari driver went in. Thirty seconds later he was done; a minimal
fine and he was free. Another five minutes and the Nepalese motorbike driver
entered to explain his accident. On his second stab at driving a motorbike, he
swerved across a lane and ran into a car. He was released with no fine. My
turn. Wahib joined me. He pointed to a worn spot on the carpet as though it was
an ‘X’ taped to a stage floor. Appropriately positioned before an elder Qatari
man sitting at a large wooden desk three meters away, Wahib asked me, "Did
you show the middle finger?"
"Yes, yes I did," bowing my head in shame. The
prosecutor shuffled papers. Wahib said, "Oh-kay," and motioned for me
to leave. It was done.
The Stooges and the officer went with us back to the 5th,
6th, 7th, and 8th floors. Sleepy Stooge put us in handcuffs. Wahib then told
him to release the Qatari and me. Sleepy Stooge followed orders, albeit
reluctantly. "Next time, don't go showing the middle finger. Just call and
make a complaint. We make no special cases.” He continued, ignoring the fact
that he had just given us special treatment, “Qatari, Indian, Filipino,
American... All get the same punishment.”
With the events drawing to a close, I thought of the one
persistent question I was asked. Why did I do it? Who knows really? Simple
frustration or an accumulation of many frustrations? Maybe it was like the idea
of peeking under an abaya or bringing a special lady friend back to my room.
Inappropriate use of the finger had the added joy of being forbidden. In a place
where the native stalk frequently behave like sacred beings from a dusty,
stiflingly hot Eden, common human pleasures were a wicked intrusion; original
sins to be purged lest the fantasy crumble. Though few live up to the fantasy
and most are rarely, if ever enforced, drinking, inappropriately socializing
with the opposite sex, wearing revealing clothes, cursing, and, yes, making
certain gestures towards the wrong person, all are punishable offenses.
Odd things happen when extreme wealth and extreme piety
collide. Especially in petro-economies where wealth is a gigantic straw jammed
in the earth. The straw also withdraws talent and depth of culture; a
boots-on-the-ground awareness of our shared humanity. With no need to work,
struggle, or create, a sense of entitlement readily fills the void. In Qatar
the roads made this idea most apparent, and for me, most annoying.
We piled into the Stoogemobile – three Official Stooges
and a slipshod band of Unofficials. Relief swept through the unofficial ranks.
Driver Stooge cranked up the engine. Passenger Stooge was already smoking.
Sleepy Stooge was fully reclined. As the van wheels rolled forward,
Sleepy Stooge jumped up nervously. He left his cell phone on the 8th floor and
needed to go back to retrieve it. We sat in the hot van and waited.
Sitting there, already sweating as the sun baked the
idling van, I contemplated all the places I had seen up to that point. All the
different countries and cultures; all the ways in which I was now different;
how the places changed me or how I changed between places. Had I known from
that first solitary step on foreign turf that the path would ultimately lead to
where it led, would I have continued down that path? I like to think so. But I
will never know. The decisions were made and there's no going back. Ever.
ABOUT ASH HODEN
Ash Hoden is a writer, foreign correspondent for a California-based design studio, and architect currently living, working, and writing about living and working in Qatar. His pursuits have always involved creation. He firmly believes social contribution is a fundamental requirement for a happy existence. He attended Colorado State University where he received the American Society of Landscape Architect’s Honor Award for exceptional academic design work. In addition to ongoing contributions in the business world, he previously founded an independent design firm and organized CambodiaFund, a method of providing basic school supplies to Cambodian children in need.
The Idiot of Funkyville is his first published book. You can visit Ash Hoden’s website atwww.ashhoden.com.