The challenge of making ends meet in Yemen [Archives:2005/879/Opinion]

September 22 2005

“Why must life be an ongoing stream of challenges for us Yemenis, with no easy paths to a more smoother less care free existence, we can map out and hopefully reach a meaningful destiny?” Muhsin asked his fellow employees as he boarded the bus of the newspaper he was working with as they were leaving from the premises.

The receptionist at the paper so no rationale in Muhsin's comment: “Come on, Muhsin, you have got it made, with a double job as a reporter for our employer and a foreign newspaper that is paying you in hard currency. You should be the last person to complain.”

“The pay is not as much as you would think, Alia, if that is what you are alluding to, but more important, people like me are now put on the public enemy No. 1 list as suspected traitors for sending out information on Yemen that is supposedly distorting Yemen's global image, as the government claims.” Muhsin was not slow with his response to Alia's remark.

“On the contrary, the government should be glad that you are giving the outside world news about Yemen” said one of the news editors, adding: “You are not just giving the negative news developments. I have seen some of your reports in your foreign newspaper and some have been instrumental in arousing positive feedback from readers, who were thirsty for additional information, particularly on the tourism or investment side.”

Muhsin elaborated on his dilemma: “This is where the challenge comes in, in this job. The questions they ask sometimes require honest answers that do not please the relevant government authorities involved, like speaking about the security precautions that tourists may be required to take, or the bureaucratic red tape possible investors need to overcome. What is one to do, mislead people and say all is rosy and wonderful, just bring your dollars and leave all second thoughts at home? How can one maintain credibility as such? Besides, before answering such questions, we do refer to the respective government authorities for their comments and note them in the response, as well as other independent views. But before you know it, a letter will come from some entity that I have revealed information that is harmful to the country.”

The driver had a comment to make: “Your challenge is still minor. We have the terrible challenge of having to make our diminishing salaries provide us with all our needs. Working for a newspaper in Yemen is not exactly the pathway to wealth and glory as it is, but with the value of our salaries falling day by day, we are literally on the edge of poverty.”

Alia came back in the conversation: “My kids have given up asking for such things as 'take us to the amusement park', or even to 'see Grandma in Ibb'.

The driver jokingly said: “They do not need to see Grandma, you will do just fine for her place!”

“Come on now Salim, I am not that old, although admittedly this hard life is really getting to eat up our skins faster than necessary” answered Alia.

“Your voice is also showing age too” said the cashier jokingly.

Now, wait a minute you guys, we are seriously in a very bad situation. By the middle of the month, our salaries have already bid us farewell and we are living on the breadcrumbs and leftovers of the first half of the month. We are the lucky ones. I have seen so many people having to resort to turning over the garbage dumps just to see if there is still anything edible, or if a yogurt can will still have some leftovers that the spoon of its owner just forgot to pick at the corners of the can. Those people really make my heart bleed.”

The driver came back jokingly: “Alia, some of the people you answer the phone to have pointed out that our receptionist is a heartless lady, by the way she answers the phone.”

Yasmine, a proofreader, went to the defense of her fellow gender: “Stop picking up on Alia. She is trying to show how much we all are suffering and the difficulties we are facing in making ends meet, and you guys sarcastically make fun of her”.

The cashier asked an interesting question: “Why bother to try to make ends meet, when you can't even get to the beginnings, my friends. About the only ends I can get to meet are the ends of my ribs, which have softened so much from hunger that they now converge!”

“What you need is a good wife to get you some decent meals prepared, instead of eating all that cheap fast food you pick up from street peddlers” remarked Yasmine.

The cashier was ready for that one: “Now there is the challenge of all challenges that is confronting our society. Do you know, you would think that marriage has been outlawed with so many young adults not being able to meet the expenses of betrothal, let alone the marriage ceremonies. Marriage was crossed out of my life a long time ago. In fact I have made it a point to not attend the wedding ceremonies of some of my lucky friends, whose parents manage to scrounge up the money for a bride for their kids. I am already in my thirties and I can't even see even the remotest possibility of getting married.”

“Don't look at me”, said the driver. I can't get the staff to contribute to your wedding plans whatever they can anymore, because the staff can no longer dish out any assistance for their fellow staff members. Besides if I tried to do so, it will hardly amount to enough money to get you even a Barbie doll for a wife, if some of the staff could come to feel sorry for you and decide to donate a hundred or so riyals.”

The first passenger went down off the bus and as he came down, he was met by a gentleman and a policeman beside him. It was the financial manager's landlord waiting to collect his overdue rent. His family was standing outside the building with whatever belongings they could gather as the Landlord had vacated the apartment with the help of the police a little earlier.

“I can bet you none of us can claim to be without any challenges, not even our bosses”, said the cashier.