Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where is my Visa?

To visit Kuwait you need to have a visa. A visa is permission to enter the country for a specific amount of time. Visas typically need to be arranged ahead of time. However, Americans can get a visit visa after landing so it is very easy to do.

An easier way is to have the visas processed ahead of time and have a customs guide. I had a visa prepared weeks in advance, so no more work was needed. The rest of the family needed a visit visa. KCIC prepared a visit visa in advance for everyone and arranged for a customs guide. The customs guide met us at the airport gate and directed us to customs. He then went to the visa desk to pick up our prepared visas.

We hit a snag because Dante's visa was missing. Luckily I had a copy printed out of the visa; the company emailed copies ahead of time. The guide took the copy and then went through customs to the Mariott desk. The desk outside had the visa after all. The guide brought it back through customs and we went on our merry way. It is fascinating that an employee of a private company can have the security clearance to walk back and forth through customs.

Once we had the visa, we gave all of our passports and visas to the customs guide who handed it to the customs official to be stamped. After all 5 passports and visas were stamped, the papers were handed back to me and we proceeded to get our luggage.

I decided to get a porter with a big trolley to get our luggage. We had 10 large checked bags and 5 heavy carry-ons and there was no way we are getting out of there without help. It wasn't too bad as it only cost $6 to get the luggage to the hotel shuttle. The porter also helped put the bags through the x-ray machine as you need to xray all the bags before leaving the customs area.

Afterwards we had no troubles getting the bags to the shuttle, but it was difficult getting all the bags in the car. You see, this was not a large bus, but an SUV that seated 5. I sat in the front passenger seat and the rest of the family squeezed in the back.

Once we sat down, I took another inventory of our visas. I accounted for all the visas save one--Deanna's. I got out of the car and looked on the ground and I found nothing. I looked in the airport and I found nothing. I asked the hotel rep at the airport if he had seen anything, but he had not. He told me not too worry as her passport is already stamped and she is in the country. He was correct that there was nothing to worry about today, but at some point there would be a problem. In Kuwait you cannot leave the country without the visa.

There was nothing I could do at that point so we left for the hotel. We arrived in our room and slept a good deal. The flight arrived at 10pm and after customs and checking in we did not get into the room until nearly midnight so everyone was tired.

Deanna and I slept well until Talyn started making noise in the middle of the night. He did not sleep long before jet lag struck and he was wide awake. Apparently he was up for awhile before he was making noise. He said he spent quite a bit of time looking out the window. He was quite happy because he found a pizza hut. The words were in Arabic, but the logo was unmistakeable. Deanna lied down with him until he fell asleep.

I let them sleep until almost 10 then we had breakfast. We could not tarry too long as we had to check out by noon. After breakfast, we packed up again with all 15 bags and headed down to the front of the hotel where a couple of the people were waiting to whisk us to a short-term apartment.

As for the visa, it finally showed up. Someone came across it and passed it on to the hotel. It was waiting there when KCIC called around looking for it. At the moment, I have all the visas and everything necessary to get us settled here in Kuwait City.

Friday, August 22, 2008


We left Chicago at 7:00 in the morning for at 10:50 flight. We reached Houston at 1:25 and we had a five hour layover until our 6:50 flight to Dubai.

Most of our stuff was being shipped and we were told it could take two months after we arrive before we would be reunited with our stuff. As a result, we had to pack enough stuff to last us those two months. As a practical matter, that should not be difficult, however in the age of identity theft I was leery of shipping sensitive material. Thus I had to carry a bulk of my papers as a carryon. When all was said an done we had 10 checked bags and 5 carryon bags.

We have never traveled with this much baggage. We have gone on several flights and I am a big proponent of traveling light. We took 4 carryons for a three week trip to Spain which is great when you have to go from hotel to hotel. The problem with not traveling light is the weight. As we are running from gate to gate making several connections, I was carrying far too much luggage. My arms and back were killing me everytime the kids wanted to walk around or get to the next gate.

After walking within the airport for what seemed like an eternity, we settled down in the American lounge for the long layover. We found a set of seats that were together and the kids played quietly on the ds while we waited. Dante was excited as I allowed him to open up Guitar Hero. I told him that he could not start playing the game until we were in the air going to Dubai, but I let him start a bit earlier. He grinned and started to play.

Eventually we boarded our flight to Dubai. This was the long flight--15 hours. I had been on international flights before where there is one TV and you are captive to the movie selection of the flight and that 8 hour flight seemed to drag on forever. Those memories haunted me as I thought this flight was going to be unbearable with three kids. That is partially the reason I will buy a new ds game and not open it until we are airborne. The new game seems to occupy them for a good chunk of the flight.

Luckily for us this was a newer plane and so the flying experience was much better. We flew emirates which has a young fleet. On the international flight each seat has a TV screen and each person can select any number of movies, tv shows, or games. This is a huge improvement as the long flight does not seem to take nearly as long as I feared. And soon, we found ourselves on approach to Dubai.

Dubai is building a new terminal so the normal jetways were not active. We had to board a bus to go from the plane to the terminal. We only had an hour and 50 minute layover and we were 20 or so minutes late due to a delayed weather-related takeoff in Houston. The bus added more time delay, so when we reached the terminal I was feeling the time pressure. We quickly went through security and started to walk in the terminal. I wanted to browse a bit in the shops in Dubai as they were quite extensive, but we did not have the time. Our gate was, of course at the very end of the concourse. I was busy herding the children to the other end of the airport all the while carrying about 500 lbs of luggage.

However, once we were there we had no problem getting to Kuwait. It is only a 90 minute flight so it is very easy after the 15 hour flight. The kids were doing quite well and soon we were on approach to Kuwait city.

Chicago-Houston-Dubai-Kuwait was quite a long flight with a lot of doubling back. You see to fly from Houston to Dubai you fly from Houston in the direction of Chicago and then over Iceland and then back down over Turkey and IRAQ (No problems here as we are flying over 30,00 feet) before you fly over Kuwait in order to get to Dubai. Unfortunately on long hauls, one cannot always avoid redundancies in flying.

Our long flight was over and now we are on the ground in Kuwait.

Our land adventure begins...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bob and Becky

We have been very busy moving and I did not have computer access. Now we can start talking about our great adventure.

At the end of July, I left Chicago Equity Partners. At that time there was a long list of things to do. There was packing to be done, there was making provisions to sell our cars, and there was the daunting task of ensuring that we can take care of any problems in illinois from Kuwait. After all, we had not sold our home yet.

On the 31st of July, two days after my last day at work, we left to drive to see my brother Robert in Oaklahoma. The drive from Tinley Park to Ponca City takes 14 hours. For that reason, I like to break up the drive and stay at a hotel. On the way out, we left at 5 in the afternoon, so we only got to St. Louis before I decided to stop.

This drive was worse than before as it was compounded by the fact that we were driving two cars. My plan was to give our minivan to our brother. This meant that Deanna had to drive the minivan out while I followed in the Acura. Driving two cars meant that neither Deanna nor I could rest--we both had to drive.

Anyway, we stopped in St. Louis to rest in a hotel a block from the arch. In the morning, after breakfast, Deanna was ready to go. After all, I always preferred to get an early start when there was driving to be done. However, the kids saw the arch and they really, really wanted to go in. I was not in the mood to go into the arch, but we were so close that if we were going to go, this was the day.

So up we went into the arch. Deanna stayed behind as the cars that go up the arch were too small for her tastes. One never spends too much time at the top of the arch, we got to the top, looked around and headed back down. There is a nice view, but it does not take long to see it. It took only 7 minutes for the kids to have their fill. Of course the journey up and down the arch is where the fun lies. As we were leaving the kids wanted a souvenir, but I was not about to buy some tchotke before a big move. We did get a nice photo which I hope to find someday in the 14 bags we shlepped to Kuwait.

Inside the arch

State House

Cardinal Stadium

At about 10:30 in the morning, we were off again. I did not mind too much as that was a quick pitstop. For the rest of the day we continued to drive until we reached my brothers house the next night.

We had a great time and my brother appreciated the car. I was happy to visit him as the kids always liked to play with the chickens and feed the cow. We were there when my sister-in-law went pig shopping. In a few months, they will be up to their eyeballs in bacon. There was also good timing of sorts as I was there as the washing machine gave out. Losing a washing machine was not a good thing, but if it had to go out it is better when I can help my brother move it into the house.

At the end of our visit we packed up and drove back to Illinois. Another such stage in our summer adventure.

Here is their new pig.

The boys playing games.
Deanna and Emma

Cheyanne and Abby

Out the back door of the farm.

Looking Back towards the house

It's a chicken