Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This blog is no longer operating

Just a reminder, if you want to keep following along with our posts look here:

We will not be updating the Kuwait FTW blog anymore.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Last day at work

Since this is my last day at work and we'll be canceling our Internet service tonight, I figured I'd better make that "longer" post I spoke of earlier.

So...leaving Kuwait...the final chapter.

It's been 3 years, almost to they day, since I arrived here. It's been quite the adventure! I recommend the experience to anyone. Kuwait is a great place to live in the middle east, and it's centrally located for lots of additional travel opportunities.

Once I began my interview in earnest with my new employer (Northrup Grumman), I notified my superiors that I might be leaving soon. I began to arrange everything to ensure that departure could occur speedily once I had the final details in place. First, we needed to cancel Kerri and Rowan's dependent visas as ITT/KRH couldn't cancel mine until that was done. As posted earlier, this was pretty easy.

Next, we began to check into closing down local accounts. Our bank account would be simple, just have them transfer the money to our US account (bring blank check to help out) and then they close it right down. We changed our post-paid cell phone plan to pre-paid (cost less then canceling the post-paid account and we can leave anytime). Our internet needs to be cancelled at the last minute.

We also sorted through our stuff and decided what we were taking and what we weren't. We decided we wouldn't take advantage of the relocation service from my new company and opted to ship base-to-base (MPS) which is free for us. We bought 6 or so "tough" boxes from the PX at $25 a pop and packed them up to 65lbs. I brought one in each day for the last week and mailed them on base. Keep in mind all mail must be inspected at the mail room before it is shipped, so you can't fully pack it up. Batteries are not allowed, along with unfinished wood and miscellaneous weapons/ammo. They have a list of the stuff you can't ship. The rest of our items have been slowly sold off to friends and last night we pulled the plug on our main computer system (last to go!).

Meanwhile at work, once I officially resigned and gave notice I was given a de-mob packet which has all of the stuff I'm supposed to do before I leave. It's a checklist and pretty easy to follow. Of course my passport and civil ID were taken and I got the passport back in about 1 1/2 weeks.

I'll be heading to Ali Al Salem (yuck) one last time (yay!) on Thursday where my passport will be stamped out for the last time. We hopefully fly out sometime Saturday and will be back at Ft Benning for CRC again. This time it should only take about 1 1/2 days to turn in my gear and sign out.

Then I will hopefully make my way to Atlanta GA and fly out to Frankfurt. We'll be put up at a hotel with a rental car while we search for a place to stay (up to our total relocation package). Kerri and Rowan will be joining me a day or so after I arrive, flying direct from Kuwait.

Well, that's pretty much it...I've mailed the last package, officially turned in my base access badge so when I leave I can't come back.

This marks the end of this blog, as our time in Kuwait is over. We will miss it, but are glad to be moving on.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We are moving to Mannheim, Germany! 3 weeks!

We accepted a position at the Europe TNOSC doing the same thing we are doing here!

The gig will be for 2 or 3 years, depending on how long til they shut down the base (eek!).

Still, we are really looking forward to it and hoping it will be an enjoyable time in Europe.

For friends and family reading (all 2 of you), we are hoping to be back in the US for the first two weeks of December (Kerri will be coming back sooner and returning with me).

I'll write up a more detailed post about the process of leaving Kuwait as a contractor later.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to cancel Kuwaiti Family Visa/Residency

I discovered recently that before I can be out processed from Kuwait, I must first cancel Kerri and Rowan's dependent (family) visas. As we are not certain of when this might occur, we figured we had better get it done. This was the process:

Went down to the local immigration department (in our case Ahmadi) and to the copy/application area. Paid a few KD to get copies made and the applications filled out in Arabic. Then to the reception area and we were told to go into the office in the back where a gentleman asked us how long until they left. I asked for 60 days and he gave it to us. A few circles and stamps and then proceeded into the labyrinth of the Immigration office and located the civil ID cancellation office. Here the civil IDs were taken and not given back. Then it was upstairs to the visa area where we waited for quite some time before our number was called. 2 x 2 KD stamps needed to be purchased from a machine (bring lots of 1 KD notes!) one for each passport. These were given to the lady behind the counter along with passports, then I signed two forms and dated them.

Voila, residencies cancelled. It took a couple of hours.

Finding a new apartment

We decided a while back that if we are to stay in Kuwait for a while longer we needed to change things up a bit. This meant basically finding a new apartment. We've been living in Mangaf at the lovely Warba Beach Resort (not really a resort), but it's gotten a bit old, the area that is. Anything of interest is further down town, so we thought we might find a place in Salwa to be nearer all the stuff. It would mean about 15 minutes longer of a drive for me, but hey, no big deal.

Anyway we spent several weekends driving around Salwa looking for "for rent" signs, but came up with nothing. There was one apartment complex but it reminded us too much of the same situation we had in Warba and we didn't want to repeat it. Also, we couldn't find anything for cheaper rent than we are already paying (500 KD) and we felt we really wanted to save some money especially as we are now renting a car. Since we couldn't find what we wanted in Salwa, we decided it would be good enough to find a place in Mahboula which has tons of apartments and is a little closer to town.

We found some good candidates online at and called the agents. We made arrangements for a couple of viewings the next day and were very pleased to locate a two bedroom unfurnished apartment for only 260 KD. In addition it did not require a deposit and there was no penalty for breaking the lease. This is quite unusual in general in Kuwait. We put our money down and were told the contract would be drawn up the next day. BTW, the usual fee for an agent is half one month's rent.

Unfortunately due to some other news we decided we had made a mistake the next day. We are still attempting to get our money back, but I'm told Kuwaiti law is on the side of the landlord in this type of matter. If we get our money back it will be a surprise.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sayounara, Satoshi Kon

One of my favorite anime directors recently died.

His last blogpost has been translated here. It's a good read and I'm impressed with the way in which he met death.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Antidote to Despair

Wrote this the other day for some reason. It's my personal exploration on this issue of hope and despair, not really meant to convince anyone, just express what I think on the subject. Maybe it will be useful, maybe not, figured I'd better put it out there just in case it is.


I was thinking today about why I have so much hope.

I've never been one to despair. Even during the most trying
circumstances of my life (thus far) it has been nearly impossible for
me to release myself to the flood of blackness that seems to lurk
outside the hatch of every human heart, just waiting for the dweller
to open the hatch and let the icy darkness swallow them whole. I'm
not necessarily talking about suicide (one possible conclusion), but
the belief in the overwhelming emptiness of a life apart from God's
goodness, and the acceptance of that belief as reality. Of course,
I'm only speaking from my experience, but it is that kind of despair
that I fear more than any other, and I believe it is the root of all
of its forms.

Obviously, the opposite of despair is hope, and if there is a root of
despair, then there must be a root of hope. People hope in all kinds
of things, and it seems to work for a while, but then the hope fails
and all you are left with is contemplating the embrace of despair.
This leads to another futile hope, and another, and another. In other
words, addiction. It is no wonder that addicts begin their recovery
by facing their own despair head on and accepting it. Once you accept
the despair as real (i.e. I *am* an alcoholic), then you can begin to
hope that there is another way to deal with it, and you can begin to
recover. But this is man made, and useful only in so much as the
human continues to find other "hopes" to keep them going. But deep
down is the truth, the root of all their despair, that has not been
truly faced. They may be able to lead what passes for "normal" lives,
but it will just be a more socially acceptable form of addiction.
Religion, relationships, sex, success, money, fame, honor, family,
entertainment, power, violence. All of these can become socially
acceptable forms of hope that people use to keep themselves from
facing the gaping truth they suspect...that life is meaningless and
God (if He exists) is fickle at best or evil at worst, and powerless
to help. The fools who believe they can face this truth down
eventually find that the human heart cannot survive in this vacuum.
They use the same "hopes" to tell themselves they have something to
live for, but when these hopes vanish, the have nothing left but their
own will to live, and it is ultimately powerless to protect them.

So what is the root of all hope? The Hope that when properly
understood under girds all other "hopes" and gives them meaning? I
believe it is this: God is good, faithful and in control. A good God
loves me. A faithful God does not abandon me. And a sovereign God is
omnipotent. Of course, resolving this belief with our own experience
is the difficulty. Some would call it wishful or magical thinking.
If I believe hard enough...I can make my problems vanish in a puff of
logic! Well, that is the problem isn't it? How can we possibly
believe hard can we apply ourselves to this problem and
*make it go away*? We lose track so quickly of who really matters in
this it us, or is it God?

What I am talking about here is faith in the biblical God and His Son
Jesus. This God gives us the faith to believe what he tells us is
true. You cannot force it. I believe AA is right in one sense. You
do have to face the truth. You need to confront the fear of emptiness
of a universe without a loving, omnipotent and faithful God. Allow
the despair to begin to fill up your heart and then cry out to the God
you don't even know if you can believe in to give you the faith you
need. This is a visceral experience that cannot be forced. And you
may not be ready for it yet. But I believe that this deep sense of
helplessness before your situation is necessary to enter into a
genuine life of dependence on God instead of substituting "hopes" for

But you may not believe. Not yet. That's ok...there is time before
you die. My advice is...try not to act out in your despair too
destructively. Common grace is given to the world that somehow
prevents it from imploding or exploding daily from its own critical
mass of despair. And pray. Even if you don't believe...if you wish
you *could* believe...then that is (I believe) enough faith to pray
on. Tell God you don't believe, but you really want
*need* to. You aren't sure how long you can hold on to the splinters
of wood left in the sea before you slip under. Send a lifeline now!
If you have enough faith to pray that prayer, then I know God will
answer it. If you don't...then keep an eye out for may be
there sooner than you know. Ask any friends you have to pray on your
behalf, even if you can't bring yourself to do so.

When you do believe that God is good, faithful and sovereign, it
changes everything. It becomes impossible...unthinkable to despair.
Despair is recognized as the great act of disbelief that it is. A
sin. is. I didn't start with that because it wouldn't mean
anything to someone in despair to hear it called a sin.
Great...another reason to despair!

But I would be remiss if I didn't mention sin and repentance. For
those who come to faith later in life, you've had plenty of time to
become aware of your own sinfulness. It is built into our souls, and
often part of what leads us to despair in the first place. It makes
belief in a good, faithful and sovereign God a bit difficult in the
first place, and we often find ourselves believing despite our innate
knowledge of our own repugnance to such a being. That He could love
us, die for us, remove the stain of sin and give us his own goodness
in return...can be a bit of a shock. Some refuse to believe it...and
end up back in despair. Some don't think about it much, get used to
the shock, even complacent, and need to be shaken up now and
then...reminded of how much they were forgiven of. But ultimately
what is needed is repentance. Acknowledgment of our sinfulness, and
dependence on God for ongoing strength to be good. Ultimate
dependence is hard, and it takes a lifetime of practice. Good thing
He doesn't wait for us to get it right first!

There are also those of us who were never shocked by God's grace for
us in the first place. This was my problem. Growing up as a
Christian, I was always aware that God had forgiven me...and you would
think that would be a good thing! Turns out for me it wasn't. Grace
is meaningless unless you have something that needs forgiving. And if
you don't have a sense of your own sinfulness, why do you need grace?
I think this is becoming more of a problem for Western Culture
generally as more people are raised without reference to values or
morality. If there is no such thing as "wrong" then you hardly feel
the need for forgiveness. But usually even those of us with this
problem live long enough to screw up badly enough to start to get the
picture. We are all evil...deep down inside...and we need help. That
help is only found in Christ.

Back to how this faith makes despair impossible...think about it...if
you genuinely believed that God is good...really, deeply, a bit
scarily...Good...what would that imply? That all things, no matter
how painful, nonsensical, or evil...*can* be used for good. How? I
don't know. That's where the faith bit comes in. Sometimes it is
given to us to see the how of a real life situation unfold and we can
say things like "That experience prepared me for this and I praise God
for it!". But often, it remains only for us to say "I don't
understand how God can use that for his glory, but I believe that He
will." Of course, God's goodness without Faithfulness would be
pointless. A fickle God who is sometimes good, but often distracted
wouldn't be much help. And a powerless God might have the best of
intentions, but be unable to deal with all these crazy free agents he
created. No...all 3 qualities become absolutely necessary to
re-orienting our minds such that despair is impossible: Goodness,
Faithfulness, Sovereignty.

But what about our free will? Won't this lead to fatalism? What
happens happens, and that's all there is to it. It would if that's
what God told us to be like. But that's not the impression I get from
the Bible. God simultaneously claims his absolute power and authority
but then tells us to go out and evangelize, or to believe, or to feed
the poor. This is the simple truth. We are the agents of His change
in a fallen world, but it is His power that changes, not ours. Even
in the hearts of those who believe or do not, if we are honest...
When I am tempted to think I am responsible for my faith...I think
back to the the hopelessness...and my anguished cry to
God to give me the faith I needed to believe in Him. And He answered.

But what about those who do not believe? However God chooses to deal
with those who do not believe, He will be good, faithful and
sovereign. The Bible says those who do not believe will be condemned
for their unbelief. Some people cannot reconcile this with a good,
faithful and sovereign God, but that's where faith comes in. For
me...primarily in the "good" part, even if I can't understand it
sometimes, I still have to believe it. Regardless, I think this is
usually a distraction from the real issue. What matters here is not
other people. What matters is you. Are you going to act on what
faith you have or not?

So that's it I guess. That's the gist of what I was thinking about.
None of it original of course, but I was just re-thinking it
again...almost as if for the first time. And it just makes so much
*sense* to me from this side of despair. I don't know if it will help
anyone, but I felt like I had to write it all down right now for some
reason. So here it is.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Failaka Island

Apologies about the lack of pictures, but our battery ran out rather quickly.

At last! We visited Failaka Island about a month ago. Finding info on the ferry schedule proved quite difficult. The public ferry is run by KPTC and costs 3KD per person for a round trip. If you want to bring your vehicle it is 17KD. However, it's a small ferry so you might not be able to get on (it was full coming back for us). There is a private ferry that leaves from Marina Crescent, but it's much more expensive (includes a meal and access to the "resort"), faster, and you can't bring your car.

The public ferry schedule is variable because it depends on the tide, so your best bet is to go to the ferry office (it's at the very tip of the Salmiya pointy bit aka Ras al Salmiya) and ask for a schedule. As usual, it's hit or miss if they are open, but if you go during normal hours (9-11am probably) there will probably be someone there. Once you know the schedule, plan to be there 30 - 60 minutes early to be sure of getting on. During good seasons, maybe 1 - 2 hours early.

We were lucky as we arrived about 1 hour prior to it leaving and so we bought our tickets and got on. The ferry isn't super nice, but decent. There are a few indoor sitting areas, but they are tiny and cramped. Most everyone stayed outside for the trip as it was a nice cloudy day. Coming back it was much more oppressive, but got better once we got under way.

The island itself is...well...small, dusty, dirty, composed mostly of bombed out, bullet riddled buildings. There are a few small nice-ish areas, one major hotel/resort with some rather sad facilities. I'm not trying to poo-poo the place, just being honest. We had an ok biryani meal at a restaurant and then tried to walk the open grounds of the resort, but were turned away because we came on the public ferry. Then we met someone we knew who talked to someone in charge and presto...we could walk around. We tried to go to the horse stables to have Rowan ride a horse (he's ridden a camel and an elephant, but never a horse) but they were closed. (at 11am...didn't open til 4pm, but the ferry left @ 3pm????) So we went to the "zoo" which consisted of several enclosures with sad looking, half crazy animals. Then we tried to have some shisha and tea...the shisha was terrible. Rowan played at the post-apocalyptic run-down playground and then we decided to head for the port.

Alexandrian Ruins: So...there are supposed to be some greek ruins from Alexander's time on the island. It's advertised as one of the main things to see on this island, and we were excited to see them. However, turns out the ruins are fenced off and you need a letter from the Museum of Kuwait to be able to access them. Needless to say, we saw nothing.

Got back on the crowded return boat and made it home in time for dinner.

All in all, it was worth going one time, but unless you've got some sort of special event planned (i.e. Paintballing or a covert luau {don't ask}, or enjoy the limited recreational activities offered by the resort) I'd say it's only worth one visit.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Car rentals in Kuwait

We are considering selling our car and renting for the remainder of our time in Kuwait (about 8 months). To get ready for this, today we drove to the Airport where the greatest concentration of car rental companies exists, and obtained the following information:

Budget: KD168/month, several small car options
Araba: KD165/month, lancer
National: KD 162/month, corolla
Hertz: KD160/month, Hyundai getz/accent
Eurocar: KD180/month, chevy optra
Behbani: KD170, corolla
Dollar/Thrifty: KD165, lancer
Rekab: KD150 (partial insurance), lancer/sunny

All prices above are inclusive of basic and 3rd party insurance (accidents in parking lots etc...), except the last one. The partial coverage usually means the insurance covers between 25%-50% of the 3rd party accident.

We also checked at the no-name place across the street from us and they were around KD150/month, but we were not impressed with their fleet.

Most leases are for 1 year minimum to 2 years, so that's not an option for us right now.

We have one guy interested in our car so far, which I bought for KD1750 and am selling now for KD1500. It's a bit high, but we don't really need to sell it right now. so we can afford to wait and maybe get more out of it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New post

Just a reminder that we are posting our trip info on our new blog

There is a new post up on our trip to Beirut.