Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Qat

I think I was in Aden last. Anyway, I made it to Sana'a for a night and then caught another early morning bus west to a small town called Zabid. Had to change transport in the port city of Hodeida (it has other names as well). The road over from Sana'a was amazing as it passed though some great mountain scenery. The ride was more interesting than the destination by a long shot. Lots of Ethiopian refugees have settled at this end of the country and it gets some rain so has a little bit of green. Ridiculously hot though. Zabid is the kind of place where you are covered with sweat by 7:30am and you can't get your clothes off because they are plastered to your body. I went to Zabid in part because it was an excuse to take the bus along that road as well as because it is a UNESCO listed town. Unlike the old city of Sana'a and the village of Shibam, it is in complete disarray and they are only now thinking about how to protect and preserve it. It wasn't terribly exciting actually but I was lucky enough to have met a Polish guy that is working there doing the preliminary work for the future preservation. I had no idea how the process actually goes and for the most part it looks like hell trying to deal with unmotivated locals all the time. It is also interesting to note that the agencies responsible for this type of work are there to make changes and recommendations but don't necessarily have the people's best interest in mind. For example. People are rebuilding the old homes in a more modern style. By more modern I mean fixing the walls with concrete blocks instead of mud brick. The main reason for that is because concrete is half the price. Well, they just find a way to make the local government introduce a tax or something to raise the price of concrete and force the locals to use mud brick. They also can have laws introduced to arrest people (just for a day or two to scare them) that don't comply with other regulations that they introduce, or just bulldoze down whatever buildings they think are within the preservation zone that are too modern. To hell with whoever is in it. Ok, so they give the guys warning and aren't always bad. There are loans and economic assessments done too but still, I was a little surprised. This Polish guy had just come from Afghanistan after working there for 18 months so we had lots to talk about. Otherwise, as I was walking around town I was just getting mauled by kids. There are so many of them and I must be incredibly interesting to them. I got to see inside a primary school. Wow, tiny room for 60+ kids. Definately third world. It is funny because they have Canada Dry drinks here in Yemen which is probably the only reason anyone knows that Canada exists.
If I wasn't such a nice and politically correct guy I'd also be tempted to write that the Yemenis are freakin stupid (said as Malcolm does, because he's cool and I miss him). You might think I'm in a bad mood or something but no, I'm not. I am just totally convinced that these people are near the bottom of the world IQ curve. It has nothing to do with my lack of communication with them, their being third world or recently recovering from civil war. I've been doing this too long to not notice. There is something missing here. I think common sense was on the wrong side of the civil war and got destroyed because there is none. I'd say I don't know what kind of crack they're on but then I do know. It's the qat. This is a country of junkies and they are all lazy as hell. It's unbelievable. I swear most of the men work an hour or two a day and then sit around chewing qat for the rest of the day. It actually looks like every guy has been pruning a non-existant tree with all the leaves they throw on the ground around themselves. I don't know what effects it has on the brain but if there was ever a poster country for "this is your country on drugs" Yemen is it. It is actually a huge and very serious social and economic problem here. Lots of these men are spending 30% or so of their income on qat. The president's office spends over $100,000US each day on it. It has also replaced a large portion of the exportable (and edible) produce being farmed here. It can't be all that bad since they do it all day long and haven't died. I guess they aren't totally messed up because they still drive (although, when you see the driving.....) but then again. Imagine spending 30% of your income on coffee or something and still trying to raise a family. It's no wonder they are all a little dense and there are so many women and children begging in the streets. There is no oil in Yemen but it is not totally devoid of resources. The problem is that they really don't care even the slightest bit about improving themselves. Yemen has often been in the top 10 of the world's poorest countries (I think all are in Africa at the moment but it is probably a contender for worst out of Africa) yet they are content to live in their own filth and do nothing so long as they have their qat. You can see it on their faces. They hire cleaners for the hotels and nothing gets cleaned because they sit and chew all day (even the expensive ones or so I've heard). The hotels look inside like the 60 year old Soviet ones that are barely still functional with the walls falling apart and the bathrooms covered with an inch of rust and water that maybe runs. The best part is that here in Yemen some of these hotels are only 3 years old! The others in the place I'm at are either too stupid or too lazy to even figure out how to flush the toilet! I mean seriously, what kind of messed up people are these? How can you feel any sympathy for them?
Anyway, I didn't write any of that. I actually do like Yemen though I have to shake my head all the time as all of my educated guesses based on logic are more often than not totally wrong. The people are nice and try to be helpful. Everyday it is the same food for me. Rice and roast chicken for lunch (the main meal) and beans and flat bread for dinner. At least it is cheap here. I am back in Sana'a which oddly enough has the cheapest accomodation (contrary to the way of most of the world where capitals are more expensive). I'll be here until I leave for Jordan. It's a nice enough city though I haven't seen much yet.
Ammon

1 Comments:

At 12:46 PM , Blogger asdfghjkl098765 said...

Hey Amon, that's me - this polish guy from Zabid ;) I found your blog finally. Will be coming back to Zabid pretty soon, so - if you're around - you're welcome ;) All the best on your way!!

 

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