I am here, in Kuwait. I am safe and sound. Here is how it all played out:
We landed in Kuwait on time. There were about 10-15 other teachers from schools around Kuwait on the flight with us, and a few of them wee returning. Although I’d already been told that there was a large ex-pat population in Kuwait, this really had me excited!
We landed, and from there…it was chaos! There was momentary confusion about if we went to get luggage first, or whether we let it spin around endlessly on a carousel as we got visas. We soon found out. Spinning on a carousel it is, then! Off we went to get visas. Visas are interesting in Kuwait. Nothing orderly happens, like your school getting you a visa before you arrive. No, no, no. Why do that when it’s more fun and exciting and chaotic to apply for a 3-month visa you have to renew several times a year? Why not, really? So you line up at this desk. You give the guy your stamped criminal record check. HE looks at your passport. He gives you a card with information to fill out. He points you to go get a number for the line. Then you get the number, then pay for your visa, which is pretty cheap, and so you print out this plastic card money, and then go back to the line once you’ve gotten the fake money and filled out the card. This is the BEST case scenario, which is already made insane by the lack of clarity around lines, the grumpy people, and the stupidity of the paperwork. For me, I found out after I got a number that I had to get paper money (I only had a master card) to get the plastic money, so I had to go back to the exchange desk TWICE to get cash, in which time my number had been called and passed. It took forever.
After that craziness, it was time to go to get luggage and wait for the driver who was picking us up. Megan had already got my luggage from the carousel while I was busy “plasticating” my Kuwaiti money. We went through security, and somehow it was thought that my little acrylic paint tubes were alcohol, which, to those of you new to Kuwaiti culture, is illegal! So there I am digging away in my stupid backpack trying to explain to the security men that I don’t even DRINK alcohol. But you know the reputation we Westerners get. Yep, we’re all winos.
Thankfully, that part passed uneventfully, and once every single pair of underwear I own had been scanned, we were off to find our driver.
Um….hello? Driver? Where art thou? Where art thou in a literal SEA of sign-waving drivers advertising every other possible school in Kuwait: ACA, ICA, ASU, AKC, etc. Where was our guy? Nowhere.
“This is totally normal,” I said. “This is Arab culture. They’re always late.” Still……despite the truth of my statement, I was unconvinced. What was going on? As the population of our flight members dwindled, we were forced to call the emergency numbers we’d been given. A sleepy voice expressed surprise we’d arrived today, and that someone would come get us. That someone did, and somehow we survived the 120km an hour speed limit to his house to finally (FINALLY) get some sleep after an extremely long flight. This came after a failed attempt to bring us to our apartment AND to a hotel (full because of Eid).
We settled in, and drifted off to sleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
The next day (just yesterday, actually), we got to go shopping! YAY! This was exciting, because I love food shopping in other countries. Kuwait is no different. Coming from Canada, where things are expensive to import, and thus expensive to buy (in addition to being very limited for choice), I was excited to see what Kuwait had for us. It has…everything! The best part was the selection of American cereals. As a cereal conoisseur of sorts, I was excited to see a selection of cereals that USED to exist in Canada, but somehow don’t anymore. Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Cookie bites, etc. It was a veritable feast. They also have the thing going on where there are brands you recognize, but not necessarily the product. Kraft processed cheese in a tin, or Heinz soups, for example. I could have stayed there all day. In the end, I left with the necessities. Cereal, arabian cream cheese, and chocolate.
Our apartments finally ready for us, we ventured into Salmiya, which was ablaze with expats and locals of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Our apartments are small, well-worn, but are comfortable enough and have been jazzed up a bit with touches from home. Sleeping in our own beds was a great luxury. The only odd thing is that we seem to have half of everything. It’s like one person left Kuwait but left a furniture set and other household items, and Megs and I each got half of the things. I got a couch, she got three chairs. She got a garbage can, I got a shower curtain. Curiouser and curiouser!
Enough for now…..I’ll post again soon. Kuwait is great so far….friendly people, hot but lusciously so, and full of little treasures I can’t wait to explore!
Until nest time…….