Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Kuwaiti adventure

I'm starting to learn that one of the things about my job is that sometimes the travel will take you to places that you wouldn't ordinarily hop on and say 'hey, I want to take a trip to Afghanistan' or some ish like that. In that vein, when I learned that we would have to cart our asses down to Kuwait for 2 weeks, I thought to myself 'umm that's different'...and so, 2 weeks
+ some days ago, we packed our load and hopped on a non-stop United airlines flight to Kuwait.

Prior to going, I was on the fence about what to expect. We have a couple of teams that have been there more than once, and so I got mixed reviews. Some people loved it and told me that it wouldn't be that bad, and other people hated it and told me that they couldn't want to return to the States.
My verdict = Great!

To start out with, after we landed and were driving away from the Airport...I remember looking around and thinking that the place really reminded me of Naija. The roads are kinda similar, the buildings and infrastructure are similar to what you'd find in Nigeria...heck some of the houses even had those water tanks that we have in Nigeria. The locals even drive just as crazy as Nigerians. I kept chuckling to myself every time we'd meet someone (Americans) who would say 'OMG, have you seen the way these people drive?' and I always thought to myself 'una never jam'.
The downtown area was very nice though...lots of hotels and nice tall buildings, restaurants and all that nice stuff.
We also got a chance to check out one of the malls, which was really huge with some cool stores, and we got a chance to hang around a beach which was close to a co-worker's apartment.
In general, Kuwait is a very Muslim country, and a good number of the women were completely covered in Burkas or at least halfway there. I doubt you'd wanna pack your booty shorts and tanks tops and be traipsing around the place but jeans and all that stuff was cool.
Another thing is...Alcohol is a total no-no in the country. The bars don't serve it and the grocery stores don't sell it so if you be shayo master, you might wanna re-think ever living there.

For blogging purposes, 80% of my time was spent on a U.S Military base and that's what the rest of this post will be about.

The Military has a huge presence in Kuwait, and there are 6 installations aka bases in the country. We stayed at the biggest base...for 'safety' reasons I was told by one individual, which in retrospect didn't make any sense because Kuwait could very well be the 51st American state...that is how safe it is. But then when I did further digging, I discovered that my office once had some deal with one luxurious Hilton hotel in the country, where they converted some rooms into mini apartments for civilians like us who were coming in to work for a bit, and apparently people started abusing it so the top guns got mad and said 'all of you will stay your asses on the Military base from this point on'...and that was that.

Sooo, we stayed on base and it was quite an interesting experience. To begin with, since we were just spending 2 weeks on base, we got assigned to a building called the 'I-barracks', which is pretty much co-ed temporary/short term housing for soldiers who are just getting deployed, and are on the waiting list for long term accommodations and civilians like me who would be spending less than 30 days working on the installation.
If I was to do a 3-6 month detail at our field office, I would have gotten assigned to some self contained apartments with 100% privacy.
As it was, the I-barracks was your complete boarding school scenario. There were bunk beds, metal lockers for each resident and lights out at 10pm on the dot every night. In rerospect, I don't quite get the point of lights out. Was it like a lesson in discipline for the residents? *shrugs*...lucky for me, I got the heads up to take a flash light with me so I was good to go.
I became pretty skilled in the art of getting dressed in the dark and applying my 'pancake' with my trusty old flash light because lights went out at 10pm, and came on at 5pm the following day...all day, every day.
Oh, might I add that everyone had to create their own sense of privacy, and so people taped or tacked bedsheets against their bunks to create a makeshift curtain of some sorts, so that you could get dressed without the entire room all up in your business.
The bathrooms or Latrines as the Military calls them, was this huge space with about 10 toilet stalls on one end, 10 sinks on the opposite end of the wall, and 10 shower stalls. Once again, no privacy and it was very common to see some butt naked woman toweling down, when you walked into the shower area.
All in all, I didn't find the housing situation that terrible because to me, it was boarding school all over again. My Project Manager kept bitching about it though...LOL.
And luckily for us, for the entire 2 weeks of our stay, we didn't have bunkmates so we pretty much had our spaces to ourselves.

Ok, one thing that the Military can never complain about is the food. Heck, they eat better than I do...they definitely feed them well around those parts. It was always a buffet of something new...Wednesday nights are huge around those parts because it's 'Surf 'n' Turf' night (Steak and Seafood) and so every Wednedays, it was something new. The 2 Weds that we were there, there was some nice juicy ribeye steaks, T-bone steaks, lobster and crab legs. Friday nights are also pretty major because it's Mongolian night where they stirfry all the pickings of your choice with any combination of chicken, beef or shrimp...oooh and let's not forget the sauce. I was definitely a fan of Friday nights. The breakfasts were yummy...Omelettes, bacon, soft biscuits, fruit, sausages...whatever you wanted, they had it buffet style.
They had this Baskin Robbins desert bar at the DFAC (Dining Facility) that we stayed going to, and wahali...those people wan do me strong thing. Sotey the guy who always whipped up those shakes and scooped out the icecreams knew my face. Every time he'd see me walking by, he'd be like 'No milkshake today?'...chei.
If I thought that the food in Kuwait was good, apparently it was no match for the bases in Iraq. Two of my co-workers had to hit up Iraq for five days during the trip, and came back boasting about how the food was way more awesome. Uh uh, like I said dem people eat better than I do.

Things to do
I discovered that due to the fact that Military folk can't leave the base (security reasons), there is a LOT to do on base. We got up to something almost every night. For one, there are 2 movie theatres on base, where folk can watch movies for free (just show your common access card aka ID). We were told that they get pretty recent stuff and I'd have to agree. We saw 'Brooklyn's finest' and 'Date Night' during our stay. They rotate out the movies every week, and so Friday nights are pretty busy because that is when they see the 'new releases'.
Our 2nd night there, someone told us that there was a Twista Concert (also free...just show ID per the usual). I decided to pass...I mean, has he even released anything recently? Turns out that I didn't need to go to his concert to see him, 'cos 4 days later I saw him sitting outside our barracks talking on his cell phone and I mentally cracked up at the thought that Twista was crashing on a bunk bed somewhere within.
We attended an open Mic event, an Army vs. Navy basket ball game (Army won) and participated in a 5k marathon. Like I said, there's lots to do on base...they always had some Salsa night or Hiphop night kind of event going on. Those people certainly know how to chill.

Eye Candy
Ladies, if you are looking for eye candy then I would recommend that you make your way over to your nearest Military base. Oooh la la...the eye candy was ridiculous. So many strong and able bodied Military men. Even the contractors were hot, and I remember staring into the eyes of all my future baby daddies and thinking 'ooooh weeeee'. I definitely felt like a kid in a toy store. :-D

The Base
In general, the base is huge! It's like a condensed version of America in the heart of Kuwait. They had all your favorite fast food restaurants...McDonalds, TacoBell, Burger King, Starbucks, Baskin Robbins, Pizza Hut, KFC etc etc.
They had 2 big PXs (Post Exchange) which is pretty much a grocery store + Walmart kinda place rolled up in one. You could buy anything from candy to a flat screen TV. There were buses on base which ran through the 7 different zones. There were a couple of well equipped gyms, the above mentioned movie theatres, and a couple of recreation halls where people could hang out and shoot pool, play Wii and do whatever. There was also a spa/nail salon and a couple of hair salons with black stylists who could hook your weaves, braids, and perms up.

The Military folk
Ultimately, these folk are just like you and me. I don't know what I expected prior to heading out there but for some reason I was kinda shocked to see women in uniform spending hours curling their hair and applying mascara in the mornings. They spend hours on Facebook just like we do, they bump the hiphop music in their cars after hours, they chill outside to smoke, play cards and line dance...I mean in general, those people get into more post work activities than I do. Shiooooo...
I also like how they say the time...for some reason it silently trips me. :-D...Rather than say 'meet me at 1pm, they say 'meet me at 1300'. That is like so cool...hehe.
They are pretty friendly, and will almost always say hello when they see you, and the guys are flirty too.

The weather and nature
It was hot. I could handle it sha...shey I be Naija babe. We were told that during the summer months it gets up to 120 degrees sometimes. During our stay, the highs went up to about 85-ish, and got pretty nice and cool in the evenings.
Apparently Kuwait is good for its sandstorms. During our stay, we experienced 2 storms. The first one was real bad, Joe Jackson. I mean, the world went dark at 10am in the morning, like night time dark and I remember mentally freaking out like 'crap! The world just ended and I didn't quite make it into heaven'...till one of the contractors next door came over to advise us that it was just a regular ol' sandstorm. In about 30 minutes, it cleared out and the world went from dark to bright daylight all over again. We were given breathing masks to keep on hand because the sand lingers in the air and generally aint the business.

So in summary, it was a very interesting experience which I enjoyed. I would love to do a detailed assignment at our field office...with all things being equal. Like I really enjoyed being in the middle of nowhere, and the peace and quiet. When I think back about things that I missed, I'll say that I really did miss my bathroom. I'm not the greatest fan of public restrooms and what not, so I wasn't digging the bathroom arrangement. That aside, I did not miss my phone, TV, car or bed (my coworkers kept on talking about how they missed their beds). Truth be told, we were pulling like 12+ hour days because we compressed our work into such a short time frame and so by the time I was done working and socializing, I was just beat and asleep as soon as I hit the sheets...I didn't have time to think about the bed that I was sleeping on.
So um yeah, with so many of our projects focusing on those Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan areas I doubt this is the last time I will be heading out to South West Asia, and I'm pretty much up to go anywhere except for Afghanistan *crosses self*

We go see...

How have you all been?