Thursday, April 15, 2004

My Surreal Life ... revisited

When I first got over here, I spent a few posts commenting on the surreal quality of my life in Kuwait. The day-to-day things that happen in your life, compared to what happens in mine; are so diametrically opposed as to seem like they are different worlds.

Though there are also similiarities... those aren't as amusing, so I'll focus on the differences.

I'm going to attempt to tell you about something unique to my day with every post from now on. I may not ALWAYS manage it, and I may have to resort to the "easy ones" occasionally, like this:
Can you figure this one out?

But I'll also leave you with this event in my daily life: simply driving to work. My drive to work is between 15-30 minutes from leaving my front door to walking into my little workspace. I leave the apartment and take the elevator down to the basement, where my vehicle is "usually" parked. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way, sometimes all our vehicles are in use, but for the most part, the truck is mine.

After I pull out of the underground garage, I have a decision to make. Basically we live in the slums. Our building is kept up relatively well, but the amount of dust, dirt, sand, and trash that is blowing around in the streets must be seen to be believed. Anyway, my decision hinges on whether or not I need to get something to eat on the way out to the port. The streets are designed to keep a flow of traffic around the heavily populated areas, by using one-way streets, turn-arounds, and roundabouts. I know a lot of you living in GJ have seen a recent popularity in roundabouts, but I can assure, it's a global thing. Every country I've visited uses roundabouts, some to points of craziness. However, New Jersey still holds the records with the "Triple Circle of Death", as I liked to call it... some of you can attest to it... it really exists. Do NOT go there if you can avoid it...

Ok, I'm getting off track here. So no matter whether I need to eat or not, both choices will eventually lead to the first of several major north-south roads. Many of the entrances to these freeways have signs warning (in Arabic, of course...) NO LEARNER DRIVERS. They aren't kidding. If you have the least bit of hesitation while navigating in heavy traffic, you will quickly find yourself in trouble... These roads are not for the faint of heart. Of course, they all have these signs too.
They're not kidding...

So, I navigate the freeways to my site. For security reasons, I'll be vague, but the port we are stationed at is owned and operated by a local Kuwaiti family. As a result, the brass must frequently visit them for social events. This isn't a bad thing, however. I've been to several of the gatherings, and they are very intelligent and friendly people. They welcome all the soldiers into their diwayniah, and have frequently insisted I come back "any time, no need to come with the Col". I have yet to be able to take them up on this, but a lot of them are computer nuts and gamers to boot... so I will have to work that in one of these days.

So since the port is owned by the local commercial companies, but a lot of the traffic is military (both Kuwaiti and US), they must share the defense of the gates. The procedure changes often, for better security, and is sometimes a big inconvenience. However, we have learned that the occasional McDonalds delivery to the gate guards will get you a place WAY in the front of a long convoy... trust me on this.

So access to the site is limited, of course. On any given day, this simple trip to work will result in passing Bradleys, M1A1 Abrahms, M249 towers, HETTs (heavy equipment transport trailers), Humvee's, Chinooks, Blackhawks, countless soldiers with M-16s, LMSR (naval ships), and endless numbers of locals. Not to mention the slew of vehicles that I have no idea what purpose they serve...

More to follow soon! This simple little post took me three days...

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