Kuwait via Lodi, OH

Not too long ago my wife and I were shopping at a mall not too far from our home. While there, we spotted a young man wearing full Brazilian soccer apparel. We both thought he was from Brazil but it turned out he was from Kuwait. He just loved Brazilian soccer that much!

Well, we connected well with him and I invited him to come to our house and share a meal with us. Instead, he surprised me and invited me to come to his house in Cleveland. After getting lost, I found the apartment where my new friend, Ahmed, lived. I was ushered into the multi-apartment complex where he lived (400 apartments!) and was brought inside a unit that looked like it was empty.

Soon, his friends began to arrive. They were family members, acquaintances, even a rental car agent who came to do business as we were talking. Turned out the entire apartment complex was filled primarily with people from the Middle East, whose relatives were being treated for various conditions at the Cleveland Clinic. In Ahmed’s case, he had a younger brother who was treated for a brain tumor, and he also had an uncle, whom I got to meet that evening, who was back in the U.S. for a follow up visit one year after his heart surgery there.

I found out that the Kuwait government-funded the entire trip for Ahmed and several of his siblings, including two of his sisters and his mom to accompany his brother. And all their expenses were paid, including the apartment they were living in and the one where I found myself, which was used only “to receive friends”!

We sat on the floor, all the men were smoking and speaking in Arabic, and I was being introduced to everyone who came in. I tried to sit cross-legged, and finally gave up, asking politely if I could spread my legs away from everyone’s view, which they allowed me to do, not without laughing at my feeble attempts to feel comfortable in that position.

The only time I saw the women was when they came into the room to bring the food – freshly made lamb, salads, breads, tea, rice, etc. – a veritable feast. I sat there with my new friends, taking in the sight, enjoying the food, which I ate with my hands like everybody else, and then stayed a long time afterwards until my wife called me to see if everything was okay.

I came home, not expecting to see Ahmed again, but soon before he returned to Kuwait, he invited me to another feast. Months later, as I was checking my messages on Skype, I got a live connection via video with Ahmed, all the way from Kuwait. I still think and pray for my friend Ahmed and his family on a regular basis. Maybe one of these days I will go see him in Kuwait. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

Ivanildo C. Trindade