We should emulate the Yemeni Way

January 6, 2003

SANA’A, YEMEN ✦ The Yanks. We love ’em. We hate ’em.

Indeed, Jean and I are still recovering from the news of the brutal slaying of threeU.S.aid workers, including a doctor friend, at Jibla missionary hospital.

The killer, apparently an Islamic extremist, reportedly said he killed “to get closer to God.” Right.

And who better to kill than American Christians? It’s killing two birds, innocent as they may be, with one stone.

Indeed,U.S.foreign policy really has folks in a huff these days. In fact, many of us would bend over backward to disassociate ourselves from the Yanks. No?

I would. Why? Not because of theU.S.’s insistence to take down Saddam. No sir. Rather, consider this. Those Yanks simply work too hard.

Certainly if our friends in Jibla weren’t doing such a noticeably fine job, they wouldn’t have been mowed down.

Also consider a recent global survey that shows the average working American gives his/her job more hours a year than workers in any other industrialized nation.

According to the International Labour Organization, Americans give 12 days more than average working Canadians, Mexicans and Japanese, and a full three months more than holiday-happy Brits and Germans.

They’re just showing us all up.

Now come to Yemen. It’s a fantasyland of time off. That is why my New Year’s resolution is to quit work altogether. Yeah, if there’s one thing I need to avoid here, it’s being mistaken for an American.

I actually enjoy work. Journalists get to wear pyjamas regularly. At the Yemeni newspaper that employs me I’m the lone Pale-Skin, and the only native English speaker. Considering The Times is an English paper (Yemen’s best at that), my colleagues like me.

Still, I have good reasons to quit. First, there’s family. Jean and I will be new parents of a little bambino, our first, in 2003. Cigars later.

No work also means more friendships, hobbies and sports.

More so, I can better promote theYemeni Way, a lifestyle that really puts the Americans in their place. Crazy as it sounds, try this at home.

Throw out your watch and every clock in sight. Really.

The Gregorian calendar also has to go. The Islamic calendar, started in AD 622 when Mohammed emigrated from Meccato Medina, is a superior option.

For conservative Muslims, it’s now actually the year 1481. That means Columbushasn’t discovered Americayet and the Yanks don’t exist!

The Islamic year is also shorter. Time spent doing nothing goes faster and holidays come quicker. Great. Islamic holidays are long. I just experienced my first Ramadan, a full month when Muslim folks, here anyway, sleep all day. That’s when they fast. The nights? Party on!

Also, get a new business week.Yemen’s weekend is Thursday and Friday. Brilliant.

To avoid more excessive business, divide the workday. In Sanaa, businesses close for three hours every afternoon. What an escape. Most guys chew qat-leaf, an amphetamine that really can jettison you back to the 15th century.

The system has a few hiccups. Like efficiency. Stock candles. The lights do go out.

Jean can tell of oxygen suddenly running out halfway through surgeries.

Then there are Yemen’s “emergency” workers. I see in 2002 they had problems rescuing a pedestrian who fell into a Sanaa road pit. So they left a shovel on site for the public to dig him out. Three days later, still trapped, the guy died.

What’s really funny is this dirt-poor country relies so much on major foreign aid, much of it from theUnited States. Without it, piles of beggars would die in the streets.

Yeah, life without a good sense of time is rather cheap. Most Yemeni aged 30 and up don’t even know their own birthdays.

But are these not small quibbles if we’re to escape the driven ways of the Yanks?

Yes sir, join theYemeni Way. Don’t be a slave to time. Like Snoopy says, “Never put off to tomorrow what you can avoid altogether.”

And really, unlike those dead U.S.missionaries, what better deadline can one put off than thinking half-straight about eternity?

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January 6, 2003 • Posted in ,
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