Growing up as an expat in Kuwait

When my friends in the Philippines ask me where I am from or where my home is, it’s hard to answer that question because it usually involves a lengthy explanation. I am a Filipino and Philippines is my home country, but I have never been there before. I was born and raised in Kuwait. I was only 16 years old, when my parents sent me to the Philippines to attend college. Adjusting was hard at first and making friends was not easy.  But since you are far away from home and your family, you have no choice but to become independent.

Life in the Philippines is indeed very different from where I grew up. And when I get lonely at times, I start reminiscing about my life in Kuwait. Growing up in Kuwait, one of my favorite things was sandstorms. This may seem odd but if you are a student you will  understand. Sandstorms mean school will be cancelled. I also remember cherishing the rain in Kuwait because it only rains once a year.

But in the Philippines, school usually gets cancelled if there’s a heavy rain or typhoons. Since it is a tropical area, rain is always expected in the daily lives of the Filipinos. Not to mention, the heavy traffic! I experienced commuting by jeep or motorcycle, and it was really hard to travel. Everyone knows that you should leave home extra early because the Philippines has the busiest street. But in Kuwait, my father would pick me up and drop me off, and the journey wasn’t a hassle. Also when commuting,  the bus fare does not apply to students as it was free. You wouldn’t be deemed as “rich” when you ride in taxis because taxis are used in Kuwait every day unlike in the Philippines.

Living in Kuwait, we all know that weekends are Friday and Saturday. But in the Philippines, weekends are Saturday and Sunday and this takes time to adjust to. Once I didn’t go to school on Friday, thinking it was the weekend. I went to school on Sunday instead, and when I got there, I was the only student in our university!

Speaking of school, my long days at high school in Kuwait would have been impossible without our favorite KDD ice cream vendor, selling outside our school during dismissals. I would always save money so I could buy my favorite treat. Also, Ramadan is my favorite time of the month because you get out of school early, but not to mention, everything is closed and you can’t eat outside until sunset.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Philippines it’s where I belong because I am a Filipino. But there are so many experiences that I haven’t had growing up somewhere else. When my friends in the Philippines ask me where I am from, I don’t get confused anymore. Home is where the heart is, it’s where you spent your childhood or where you lived during an important life event. It’s where you feel safe, it’s where you grew up. When you live abroad, you realize that you are two distinct people and you will always be an expat. Kuwait is also my home.

By Janeen Reyna Lucban

This article was published on 29/06/2018