Day Trip in Frankfurt

Did you read our post about the flights from Detroit to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Kuwait? If not and you’re interested, you can do that here 🙂

Since we don’t have internet at our apartment yet and we’ve been extremely busy until today, we headed into school today. We didn’t set an alarm and aren’t doing any real work at school. Just getting caught up with email, blogging, etc. Happy first weekend here to us! We’ll add a few pictures to the blog, but we’ll put all of the pictures we took in Frankfurt up online.

Our layover in Frankfurt was scheduled to be just under 8 hours…so we decided to head into the city to beat jet-lag instead of sitting in the airport staring at each other. Our bags were checked all the way through to Kuwait, so we didn’t have to worry about them. Once we got off the plane, we headed through customs (got our passports stamped!) and then inquired about storing our carry-on bags. It was incredibly easy! There was a small place near the exit that held our bags for up to 24 hours for  7 euros (€) per bag. It was a little steep, but worth it for us! When then headed downstairs to the Regionalbahnhof. We couldn’t get the machines to agree with our credit cards, so we went to the counter and bought all-day tickets to get into the city (it was cheaper than buying 4 one-way tickets).

By a friend’s recommendation, we got off at Hauptwache. Before we left Michigan, I had printed off a small map of the area around Hauptwache. We were also told to check out Paulskirche and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. We wandered around for a while with no real aim (we took lots of pictures, went into a few stores…and even saw a dog chillin’ on the floor of H&M). I loved the dichotomy between the old and new. Then we found our way back to Hauptwache so we could actually see the square!

When we’d come up from the train, it had been at our backs and we’d missed it 🙂 In our wanderings we also found a street with market vendors all along it.

We went in search of Paulskirche (free and really interesting historical info)…

…and the stock exchange. The exchange ended up being right where the market was!

We chose one of the food stands and enjoyed!

We had the Rhoner bratwurst, the Kammsteak and the Apfelwein (not exactly what we expected but still worth the try). While we were eating on the benches/tables to the right of the stand, a German business man next to Jeff (and across from me) dropped something on his shirt and stained it. I offered up my Tide-To-Go stick and taught him how to use it 🙂 We love finding places that the locals go and this market was the perfect place! Of course we had to have some dessert too! Although we weren’t in France, we still opted for a Nutella crepe 🙂

We said good-bye to Frankfurt and headed back to the airport giving ourselves plenty of time to pick up our carry-on bags, go through security and find our gate. It was extremely easy and we’re really glad we did it! We’re looking forward to when we have time to take a 2 week layover in Frankfurt and enjoy a little more of Europe 🙂

More info on our actual lives in Kuwait coming soon!

Humid or dry? Just plain HOT!

Yesterday on our walk to work (more info about our apartment, school and daily life soon) we were quite shocked when we walked outside. Although it had been humid on Tuesday, we were not prepared for yesterday! When I looked online at the weather when we got to school (about 8am) it said it was 88°, felt like 99° with the humidity at 70%!!! Every time we walked outside my glasses steamed up. Whether you were in the shade or the sun, it didn’t matter…you were instantly sweating profusely. Luckily today on my walk to work at 10am (today is our “Saturday” so I came to use the internet) the humidity had dropped considerably. The temperature was 106°, felt like 101° with the humidity at 13%. We’ve heard that anything about 20% is almost unheard of and that it usually gets humid during the ‘season’ changes. So hopefully that means it’ll be getting ‘cooler’ here soon! We’re extremely excited for the days when the lows are in the 50s and the highs are in the 80s 🙂

We’ve also been trying to get used to talking about temperature using Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. The easiest conversion we’ve learned is Celsius times 2 plus 30 (or Fahrenheit minus 30 divided by 2). It usually gives you a rough estimate within 5°. So currently at 11am, it’s 43°, feels like 41° with a humidity of 11%. Today you don’t really want to be in the sun for too long, but it’s not bad at all when you’re in the shade.

For all of you who hate the heat…don’t worry, you can still come visit us when it’s beautiful between October and April 🙂

Update: We walked to get some soup and bread for lunch. Even though the humidity went down to 6%, it was still 47°. During the 30 minutes of walking/waiting, our clothes became quite soaked with sweat. Something we have quickly realized throughout the 7 days that we’ve been here…laundry & showers will be occurring much more often than before we came 🙂

The Plane

Jeff has a post about packing to come soon! He’ll show some pictures of his bags & carry-on and my bags. Plus he’ll tell you about why we packed what we did and how much luggage we brought to Kuwait.

Right now I’d like to tell you about the plane ride(s). My parents and my sister took us to the airport in Detroit. We had some traffic on the way and arrived about 4:30pm for a 7:10pm departure. We had some tearful goodbyes and then headed to check our bags. We ended up not having to pay a single cent to check our bags! Even though we would have been reimbursed sometime in September, we were still incredibly grateful! Jeff can tell you all about his theory of using people’s names to get better customer service 😉

We were a little hungry so we had nachos at one of the airport restaurants. I also splurged and bought a $10 glass of wine. Gotta do what ya gotta do when you’re moving to a dry country (more on that to come in subsequent posts too)! We sat for a few minutes at our gate and were called up to start boarding. We flew Lufthansa (arranged by our school – AIS) and were very happy from start to finish with their customer service, timeliness…well everything! I did realize that I forgot my Nalgene in my parents car and the compression sleeves for my calves in my checked baggage 😦

Jeff and I’s goal was to sleep as much as possible on the first flight to Frankfurt. We stayed awake for dinner and (of course) drinks. The wine was free and the flight attendants were walking down the aisles with open bottles offering more! They did always insist that you drink water though 😉 After a glass of wine, we settled in for dinner…

We were very surprised at the quality of the meal! Real silverware!! The pasta was only okay, but everything else more than made up for it. Before and during dinner we also watched movies (we had personal TVs with a variety of ‘on-demand’ movies, shows, music, etc. and free headphones were provided)…Jeff and I both enjoyed Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. I also watched Mirror, Mirror (quite good!) while Jeff watched The Avengers. After dinner we asked for hot water and used the teabags we brought with us (Chamomile). Before attempting to sleep, we each took 3mg of Melatonin and situated our eye masks and ear plugs.

With the help of blankets and pillows provided by Lufthansa, we each got 4-5 hours of sleep and were surprised when we took our masks off and the lights were on! We had another delicious meal for breakfast along with some peppermint tea that we brought along.

We landed in Frankfurt early (just before 9am) and explored for the day (blog post with pictures coming soon to a blog near you!). Our second flight was slightly longer than one might think…we left Frankfurt just before 5pm and arrived in Kuwait just after 11pm. Germany is 6 hours ahead of the US, Kuwait is currently 7 (we don’t observe daylight savings). See the timezone map here!

We were quite hungry on the flight to Kuwait and we weren’t exactly sure what the meal plan was. So we pulled out our healthy soup in a cup (that my mom made a last minute trip to Meijer to get for us) and asked for hot water. It was better than expected 🙂

Dinner was, in fact, served on our plane but by the time they got to the back only the lamb option was left. We decided to be adventurous and tried it…amazing!

Although we watched several movies, we also brought lots of magazines, books and playing cards to keep us busy while we waited in airports and sat on planes. The Frankfurt airport had several international newspapers and Jeff attempted the crossword…but quickly found it harder than the Wall Street Journal! During the second flight, I watched Cider House Rules and several TV shows while Jeff re-watched The Hunger Games. It was so nice to be able to decide what we wanted to watch and when we wanted to watch it! The views flying into Kuwait at night were beautiful!

We were on the plane from Frankfurt with the majority of the new staff. The activities director (a returning teacher) came around to each of us and answered questions and gave us instructions for what to do when we landed. Shortly before arriving in Kuwait, the flight attendants came around with after-dinner drinks. Who would give up a chance for free alcohol!? Our last drink for who knows how long was Baileys 🙂

Everyone from AIS gathered outside the plane upon landing and headed through passport control together. It felt great to finally be here after ~24 hours of traveling! After getting our bags (took forever) we had to put them through a scanner in case we were trying to bring in any alcohol (have we mentioned Kuwait is a dry country…?). The rest is history! No but really we hope to have more posts soon about what life has been like since we stepped out of the airport!

Although we won’t always respond in a timely manner, please don’t hesitate to contact us through email, facebook, etc. Hopefully we can even skype/facetime soon and see some of your lovely faces! Love to all!

Some Entertainment

Hello all! We’ve had a GREAT few days of orientation (we have no idea what day it is or how long we’ve been here…our internal clocks are all messed up!)! We meet all of the new teachers and are pretty excited to get to know them even better (definitely some potential friends). Today was our first day of ‘real’ school with the entire staff. It was a little overwhelming but good to see how happy returning staff was to see each other. I (Lissa) agreed yesterday to temporarily teach 3 classes of French while they are looking for a new teacher (could be before school starts on September 4, could be through the first semester). Today we found out a lot of information about the iPad deployment and had quality time to meet with our colleague to start creating a job description and united front. We have lots of ideas for blog posts, but very limited access to the internet. We’ve also been kept busy, busy, busy the entire time we’ve been here (only minutes a day when we’re not occupied). Today starts a more ‘normal’ life & schedule and we’ll be ready to get our civil IDs and internet in the next couple of months.

While you are anxiously awaiting to hear more about our lives here…we were shown 2 videos during our orientation that we thought you’d enjoy. The first one is a brief history of Kuwait through a children’s performance – it is in Arabic and the chorus is (basically) “I love Kuwait” (love the chubby-face kid!). The second is a flash mob that occurred at one of the malls here (we’ve been there twice…nicer than any mall I’ve been to in the US!).

We made it!

Hi all! We made it to Kuwait! We are safe (maybe not so sound of mind). By the time we go to bed tonight we will have slept about 8 hours in 56 hours. We got to take a day trip to in Frankfurt and today we’re doing orientation stuff at our school. We’re still not really sure exactly what our jobs entail, but we’re excited and going with the flow. We’ll be trying to get online once a day (Insha Allāh) but only Jeff currently has access to his email…so don’t worry about us if we don’t get back to you right away 🙂

How did you get the job?

We’ve been asked this a hundred times if we’ve been asked this once. After the initial shock wears off and people realize we aren’t joking when we say we’re moving to Kuwait, they always want to know how we got the job. Well, here’s a (rather lengthy) excerpt from an e-mail I sent to a former co-worker that’s also interested in doing what we’re doing.

Lissa and I used a 3rd party service called  Search Associates that specializes in matching International school openings with credible candidates. We had a fantastic experience and would recommend them to anybody interested in going abroad. You sign up individually and that gives you access to their database and also grants you entry to one job fair. You set up a profile that is pretty specific and every day Search Associates will alert you to any new jobs that have been posted in your field. Additionally, schools that have signed up through Search Associates will be able to see your profile and resume so they could potentially contact you without a job being open. I can’t remember if you pay by the year or not (as opposed to a 1-time fee), but the longer ahead of time you sign up the more you’ll get for your money.
Lissa and I signed up in late November-ish. In retrospect, that was pretty late. Based on our late entry into the game, we were limited in which job fair we could go to. We quickly decided on San Francisco (which took place in February) because the only other option was Toronto. If given the choice between SF and Toronto in February, it’s a no brainer 🙂 Once we had decided that, we spent our time combing through the jobs that came to us via the daily emails. With 2 weeks before the job fair, the American International School of Morocco contacted me and eventually offered me a job before the fair even started. Had we not bought tickets already, we’d be headed to Africa this August instead of the Middle East. This goes to show that you don’t NEED to go to a job fair to get a job, though I would say that our situation was not normal.
We went to San Francisco with little idea what to expect and were pretty surprised. Having never done it, I would compare it to speed dating. The job fair takes place over 3 days (fri-sun). You show up Friday morning and sign in. You go through some “training” in how the fair will run, etiquette, rules and some other housekeeping type stuff. In one of the conference rooms there are jobs posted all over the walls with butcher paper. It will have the country name, school name and the opening. You can go in that room whenever you want and check to see what’s open, what’s been filled, etc. The rest of the day Friday is spent going to 30 minute presentations on schools you’re interested in. It’s nice to have two of you because you can split up and cover more info. Friday night you go to a giant ballroom and sign up for interviews on Saturday/Sunday with the individual schools. It’s pretty intense, but hopefully by that time you have an idea on who you want to talk to so you can go straight to them. While all of this is going on, you have a “mailbox,” as does each school. Schools can contact you via your mailbox and ask to interview with them. You can reply to them via mailbox and also send them thank you’s after you interview. It’s oldschool but I can’t begin to explain the excitement when you open up your mailbox and see a letter waiting for you 🙂
Saturday you start your interviews. If you don’t have any you can spend your time researching schools, writing thank you’s, checking your mailbox, networking, etc. If you get a job offer, you have 24-48hrs to respond. It’s a very pressured situation and will require you to have your stuff figured out beforehand. If you’re lucky enough to get multiple job offers, it’s even harder. Saturday night you have a social. There is food, drinks and lots of networking opportuinities. People get job offers at the social. Don’t miss it.
A few insights and tips:
– Any IB experience will help you immensely. LOTS of PYP and MYP coordinator positions were open when we went.
– Kids can be hit or miss. Some really enjoy the family atmosphere. Others see it as an unneccessary expense.
– Work on your resumes. We re-designed ours so they would stand out and had multiple people identify us as “that couple with the resumes.” I’m positive it gave us a leg up on getting noticed.
– Do your research, do your research, do your research. It will prove to be invaluable.

In a nutshell, that’s what we went through while we were there. It was a maddening but worthwhile time, one I will gladly go through again should the need arise. I’ve probably left a good bit out that I can’t remember off-hand, so if you’ve got questions, please let us know 🙂

Want to send us cool stuff? ;)

9 days!! whoa!

Just in case you want to be super awesome and send us anything while we’re in Kuwait, we have some addresses for you. The mailing address is for normal mail (letters) and the courier address is for packages (<3).

Click here. Hover over ‘Contact us’ at the bottom of the menu. Click ‘contact address.’ Voila!

Our Journey

We leave in 10 days!! Even though we knew it would…it’s gone by SO fast! I just wanted to write a little about the process it took for us to get to the point where we’re ready to get on a plane and move to another country 🙂

Our desire to live abroad together was sparked by several things: I studied abroad in 2006 and went back to France to work during the 2007-08 school year, then Jeff came to travel with me and proposed in Florence. Since then, we dreamed of going abroad together, but in the fall of last year we actually started to DO something about it. We had been in Columbia longer than expected and I would (surprisingly) have my full teaching certificate in the summer of 2012. We started asking friends & family for tips on how to get teaching jobs abroad. After talking to several people, we signed up with Search Associates.

We decided to attend a job fair in San Francisco during our week-long winter break in February. Going into the fair, we had already been offered jobs in Morocco but we wanted to go for the experience anyway. We were completely open to going anywhere that gave us a good opportunity. In the end, we chose AIS in Kuwait over Qatar and Morocco. It was one of the most emotional (and FAST) decisions of my life! I was kind of a mess 😉 But Kuwait offered us the best opportunity professionally. Plus, a friend of a friend who works for the government said that Morocco was actually the least safe of the 3 countries!

In order to get our work visas started, we had to send copies of our resumes, college diplomas, teaching certificates, and passports. We have to take the originals of all of these with us when we leave. The next step to receiving our visas was to get full medical exams. We have to prove to the government that we’re healthy enough to work & live there…no shots required! We had to obtain copies of the results plus a letter from our doctor stating we were healthy. Next we had to go to the local police department to get a police clearance of no criminal record. This then had to be authenticated by the Michigan government and then the US State Department.

We were finally able to send our paperwork to the Embassy of the State of Kuwait – our REAL passports, a passport picture, our entry work permit (from our school), a visa application form, the doctor’s letter & lab reports, a money order and a self-addressed envelope so they could mail our passports back to us. Although it seemed like preparing all of the paperwork took forever, we received our passports back with our visas within two weeks!

Our school takes care of getting us to and from Kuwait in the summer. After telling them our ‘home’ airport, we received e-tickets in June 🙂 If we want to come home (which we hope to!) for Christmas, we are responsible for funding our flights. When we get to Kuwait on the 24th, someone will be there to pick us up. The first week is full of orientations and trips to the store to get the finishing touches for our furnished 2-bedroom apartment that the school provides. We will be living in complexes (NOT compounds) with other school employees and families.

We’ve been asking questions on a blog to current teachers/staff at the school which has been quite helpful. But the best document we’ve received is our New Faculty Handbook. We’re really excited to start our adventure and immerse ourselves in another culture! In 10 days, we’ll start on our 21 hour journey to Kuwait…and then it all begins!