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Heard this one in the cafeteria today:
A German, A Frenchman, and a Saudi got into an argument over sex, trying to decide whether it's work or fun.
    "It's work," the German insisted, "fathering strong young children for the Fatherland."
    "No," the Frenchman answered, "anything that gives so much pleasure has to be fun!"
    "Well," The Saudi offered, "I can't say if it's fun or not. But if it were work, we would have hired the Filipinos to do it."

Ernie and Me In Dhahran
That's Ernie, our Filipino driver, with me in the edit bay at the Dhahran bureau. Ernie was one of the hardest-working fellows in town.
The caste system is alive and well in the Kingdom of Fahd. The real work is done by imported labor, from the Philippines, Bangladesh, and to a lesser extent other southeast Asian nations. I have seen some men in ghotra1 and robes doing heavy manual labor--I suspect they are also immigrants from other Arab or Moslem lands. The Saudis would appear to be true capitalists, living off their capital and the sweat of the workers. It would appear that their cultural traditions have imposed a stagnant bureaucracy on top of the system, stifling the usual initiative that is supposed to accompany capitalism. This is why the immigrants from India, Pakistan, Egypt and Ethiopia do so well as entrepreneurs here. They are not locked into the hierarchy and are motivated to succeed by their own hard work. But again, the hardest work is done by the other races. Sounds a lot like America.

It will be interesting to see if the same holds true in Kuwait, without the oppressive Islamic regime to inhibit free enterprise. Of course, a postwar economy is not exactly the status quo; much has been lost, and there is so much more opportunity to be gained. And so I head for Kuwait City like any other Yankee carpetbagger, suitcase full of trinkets and sundries to trade with the natives. If Allah wills it, I will find something there worth bringing back.

Rob Ade and Me In Dhahran
Rob Ade and me, chillin' in Dhahran. I had neglected to bring my own camera, so I had to beg others to send me photos.
Yes, after a solid week of lobbying, I finally got my wish to get out of this town. I certainly did my time, and I did my share of politicking as well. The dire warnings of the arduous drive, the hardships of life without electricity or running water, have only served to whet my desire. The cush hotel life here is fine, but I came here for adventure. So at last, at 5 a.m. tomorrow, the adventure truly begins. Subject to change without notice, of course.

So I say goodbye to some new friends and colleagues, and take off to meet even more. Senior producer Terry Frieden is heading home tonight; he has been a fixture here forever, I understand. In three months, they say, he never left the hotel. I bade him farewell and thanked him--he looked almost human again. Gone was the 3-day stubble, the sunken eyes and the vacant stare of a man gone too long without sleep. He seems almost back to his loveable "Uncle Fester" self again.

I owe special thanks to Carol Cratty, another producer from D.C. She pushed hard to get me on the convoy, because she knew how much I wanted it. She also knew I would be of use in Kuwait and told them so.

Disappointed will be my buddies Rob and Chester. Disappointed may be too mild a word--they'll be pissed. And rightly so, since they too have paid their dues. I must do what I can to get them rotated in. Meanwhile, I may not even get a chance to tell them adios. They were sent on a late shoot across the causeway in Bahrain--the same trip I took on Monday. I'll have to leave them a note in the computer.2 And Sergei, my Yugoslavian friend, I may not see again. He's the kind of guy I would love to share a pitcher of beer with some day. But as for teching for him, enough is enough! I'm headed for Kuwait.

Greg Lamotte and Tyrone Edwards released These two happy CNNers are Greg Lamotte (left) and Tyrone Edwards.
On March 9th they were released after three days
of captivity in Iraq.
Kevin Rockwell met them at the Iraq-Jordan border and snapped this picture.

1Editor's note, 2011: "Ghotra" is the Saudi term for the "keffiyeh" described in an earlier entry. I seem to be picking up a bit of the local lingo.

2Editor's note, 2011: In those days, the "computer" was a terminal linked to a mainframe back in Atlanta. It had an instant messaging system; longer e-mails were written as files that others could read. It was a closed system or "intranet" rather than the internet of today. The World Wide Web would not be launched until later that summer.

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© 2011 Chuck Afflerbach for The Hick Town Times