Today (Sunday) is the first day of my weekend. We worked one 12 hour shift yesterday, kind of, cuz in reality we will be learning the ropes for quite some time, so there were long stretches of boredom. Having something to do will greatly ease the long shifts. The worst is the morning, cuz after we get there, we jaunt over to get some breakfast around 5 or 5:15, head back, then it's about 7 hours later before we head over for lunch. The afternoon may go by a bit faster as it's only 4-5 hours. It looks like we do not generally eat dinner there, which I think is good, as that means we get home a bit earlier. We were home last night by 5:30pm, which isn't bad considering.
My room mate and I were headed out for dinner when he got a call from his friend here to go have dinner at a place he knew. He has brought his family over so I was eager to meet him and hear more about the process. They are great people, he has been here 6 months, his wife and kids 3 months, so it's pretty fresh in their minds. They have 2 kids, 8 and 6 (six year old boy!), and they live about a mile up the coast from where we are now. The wife said she had pretty much acclimated now, though at first she was not at all sure she wanted to stay, I guess it was pretty tought to get used to. That and they endured the middle of the summer here and temperatures of up to 120 F. Everyone keeps telling us how we are lucky to be arriving right after the really hot season. 100 F every day is cool in comparison.
I asked about their setup, and they have a 3 bedroom place with maid's quarters for about 450KD ($1597.5). It's right by the coast, there are 3 swimming pools nearby they have access to, and lots of other families live there. If we could find 2 bedrom place for 300-350 KD that would be about what we were paying in Portland. I asked about transportation, and he has bought a car for travel to and from work, while his wife says she gets by with taxis if she wants to go places. She says its not too expensive, maybe 1/2 KD, to ride down to the area I'm at right now (Al Manshar and Al Kout malls). I'm sure riding to downtown Kuwait City would be more, but she says they just wait for weekends for that sort of thing.
I asked about the ride in alone in the car, and he said he has usually left earlier to avoid that (ugh) or if you can arrange with someone else to pick them up, then you can do the HOV lane. One thing for sure is that once you opt out of company housing and cars, you cannot take advantage of them, so there is no point in finding a place within walking distance of Al Manshar.
Another cool thing about this family is that they are homeschoolers! She also said that she has made other homeschooling friends here, one lady is homeschooling her six kids! So there should be plenty of support and help for that sort of thing. Its refreshing as the first thing anyone says to me when I say I'm bringing over my kid is "Oh yes, the schools here are first rate, though expensive." I just nod and smile.
There are tons of families all over, in the evening, the kids come out of the woodwork, running down the halls of our apartment. She said they have lots and lots of families where they live too.
Anyway, it was a very encouraging talk, and good to see that there is going to be lots of help and support for Kerri while I'm off at work most of the time.
One piece of advice they had was to not wait for the civil ID process before getting started on the process of getting Kerri and Rowan over here. They did that, and it took much longer for them to get over here I guess. I have also been told to call the US Embassy here for information on what to do next. Apparently, marriage and birth certificates in the states will need to be certified by county, state and federal authorities, and that can take a while for sure. I'll be calling the Embassy as soon as I finish this.
I finally cooked my own food for the first time since being here! Admittedly it was just fried rice and egg, but still... I'm going to try to eat at home for all meals but dinner over the weekend. Then during the week I'll try to eat dinner at home. Eating out (at the right places) is pretty cheap here, but still, better to get into good habits now. Of course, I need to buy more groceries now that I have a working stove (they fixed it yesterday) like meat and vegetables, but hopefully they won't be too spendy.
Oh, I got the Eagle Cash setup on base yesterday. It's pretty cool! Basically, it links up to your bank account in the states, then you use their kiosks to transfer money from or to your bank account and your Eagle Cash card, up to $350 a day. Then you can use that card to buy stuff anywhere on base (and some things are definitely cheaper at the PX), or you can go to the finance office and buy KD with no transaction fees! The only annoyance is the $350 daily limit, but I figure once I get an idea of the regular expenses (i.e. rent, utilities, etc...) I can get on a schedule of moving the money over every other day as needed. Unfortunately, it'll be at least another pay cycle before I find out what a normal paycheck will look like, as this one will have CRC time still on it. The next paycheck after that will allow me to construct a budget.
Today I'm going to hole up in the apartment until the afternoon when things start to get cool again. I've got plenty to do from here, and a movie I need to watch so I can return it to the MWR (Morale, wellfare and recreation) center.
Oh, about internet...we still aren't sure if we can get it set up without civil IDs, but it's pretty expensive no matter how you cut it. My room mate and I will be able to split it, but once I move out, ugh... Funny, you'd think they'd have better internet options here...but oh well. I did find an internet cafe nearby that claims to have high speed and machines with skype, cameras and headphones, so I hope to able to phone home soon.