It’s good to be back

It might sound silly….but after 3.5 months of being a minority in the “eastern world,” it’s nice to be back in the west. During the last 36 hours countless people have mistaken us for Germans (including a guy who pulled off the road and asked us a question in German while I was wearing a Notre Dame hoodie). It feels good to blend in for a change!

The weather today progressively improved and now we’re back in the apartment enjoying a beautiful evening!

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We wandered to the castle today and stopped for a beer and pretzel on the way (duh!).

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The views from the castle were pretty spectacular! There were a lot of French tourists…it was fun to hear my favorite language again 🙂

Afterwards we headed to the brewery that our AirBnB host recommended (Kulterbrauerei). We started with sausage, a pretzel with amazing mustard and their house beer.

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We followed it up with the most amazing pork with mushroom sauce I’ve ever had.

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We’re pretty sure someone died while we were at Kulterbrauerei. Seriously. First our server and another woman were standing looking out the alley to the street. Then the observers grew to 5 people. We were quite curious after 10 minutes of this so Jeff went to get up and peek. Our server VERY sternly told him to sit down. But he saw a body being wheeled out on a stretcher. Too bad we don’t read German so we can’t look for the news in the paper tomorrow.

We meandered back to the tram with a pit stop at GelaTo Go. I’ve never had chocolate chili ice cream before…it was spicy enough to make me sweat a little while the ice cream made me cold. Weirdly satisfying!

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After stopping at the grocery store for dinner and breakfast provisions (hello French red wine!), we’re in for the night and are planning to get caught up on Community and Game of Thrones. Luckily it’s already 8:30pm so we’ve managed to stay awake to eat some dinner and see the sunset!

We made it!

We made it…
* through our 4th and 5th years teaching.
* through our 1st year in international educations and in kuwait (with lots of ups and downs).
* to the airport (…I started packing approximately 1.5 hours before we left).
* to Frankfurt (even though the plane a a few too many crying babies).
* to Heidelberg and our apartment (after 2 hours in the rain figuring out how to do so…we’re two for two with AirBnB, no phones and rain!).

Yesterday we relaxed a little at the apartment before heading down to Altstadt for some walking, food (read beer) and tourist info.

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Can you find the Kuwaiti dinar?!

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The weather was nothing like what the weather channel said it would be…

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But we made it work 😉

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We returned to the apartment, fell asleep on the couch at 5pm and woke up in bed at 7am this morning! Guess we needed to relax and rejuvenate a little!

After a short run this morning (outside, green, wet and gorgeous!) and some yummy breakfast, were headed to check out the castle!

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2 things I’m thankful for are…

1. Learning Arabic. Tonight Jeff and I went to our a restaurant around the corner to pick up a chicken machine. We go there 2-3 times a week to pick one up and use it in a variety of recipes. We are quite familiar with the guys who work there. Tonight we were able to order in Arabic! We recently learned numbers and they taught us how to say chicken machine. So tonight we ordered one (واحد) chicken machine (شواية)! Exciting 🙂

2. Skype/FaceTime. Today we were able to FaceTime with both Jeff parents and Skype with my family at a family get together! While my family was coming and going during the hour we talked to them, I had one of those moments where I was like “Wow, technology is freakin’ awesome.” We were basically with our families today! Amazing 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

Orientation Week

I know this post is a little delayed…but it’s been sitting waiting to be finished for quite a while now. Today marks our 3 week anniversary of arriving in Kuwait 🙂 We have lots of ideas for fun posts to come so be on the lookout in the next couple weeks 🙂

By the time we made it to our apartment and got our luggage, it was about 3am on Saturday morning (August 25). Orientation started bright and early on Sunday morning at 8am! We quickly realized the school’s goal was to keep us busy all the time for the first several days we were in the country. Most likely they wanted us to get over jet-lag as quickly as possible and keep us out of our empty apartments. As I try and think back to those first 4 days in the country now, they are definitely a little blurry!

Here’s a quick snapshot of our first 4 days in the country before returning staff came back…

Saturday, August 25 ~ We headed to Jeans Grill on the Gulf for breakfast with all the new staff, their children and the admin team. It was a huge buffet and a great time to sit and talk with the other new teachers plus get a heads up for what was happening in the days ahead. After breakfast, we headed back to the school for tours and administrative stuff (we got our settling allowance, handed in our passports & got our pictures taken to get the work visa process going). After some lunch & computer time, we headed to the Sultan Center for our first shopping trip. It was quick and we were completely overwhelmed! So much stuff we weren’t used to seeing and we didn’t really have a good idea what we needed & didn’t need right away. Plus all the prices looked so funny! That evening, we returned to our apartment building to have dinner with at our building host (Deb has been great!). It was relaxing and we had a great time asking questions and getting to know the other new teachers in our building.

Sunday, August 26 ~ We walked to school for the first time with our building host (Deb). We had time for coffee & tea with the other new teachers and then headed to a cultural presentation by the middle school assistant principal. She’s been in Kuwait for 19+ years after meeting her Kuwaiti husband at college in Florida. Her husband is part of the royal family in Kuwait (Al Sabah) but he is not part of the ruling line. It was a great presentation! I’ve asked her if she would be willing to share it…so hopefully you’ll see it soon too! We also got to try dates (not as dried as I’ve had them before) and Arabic coffee (which doesn’t taste like coffee, so I liked it!). The rest of the day was spent in a Q&A session, getting to know our divisions (elementary, middle school, high school), and time to organize our apartment. That evening we went to the Avenues for the first time…I thought the Sultan Center was overwhelming! The Sultan Center has nothing on this mall (we went again today and I’m still overwhelmed!). On the way to the mall our bus had a fun little adventure…our bus blew a tire! We had to sit on the bus on a busy highway and then transfer to the new bus…all with crazy drivers whizzing by! But once we finally got shopping, it was great to finally get some things to make our apartment less empty!

Monday, August 27 ~At school in the morning we attended our divisional meeting before heading out to get fingerprints. We were told it could last 20 minutes or 4 hours. Let’s just say that our trip was anything but short & pleasant. Our appointment was at 1pm but when we got there they said it was supposed to be at 2pm. We didn’t actually get STARTED until 3:30pm. They wanted us (50 teachers) to be quiet…no one seemed to be able to. A young, short man was constantly yelling at us (we later found out he was a police officer). Once we finally started getting printed, one of the men was taking smoke breaks every couple of minutes. While I (lissa) was in the room with a few other girls waiting to be printed, a very official looking officer came in and started yelling at the ‘break’ man. Turns out he was a police office too and wasn’t in uniform. Some operation they had running there! I left about 5:30pm and none of the guys had even gone yet. Jeff got home just before 6:30. We rested for a few minutes and then met up with the group again to go to LuLu Hypermarket (think Walmart) way out of the city near the desert. We were again overwhelmed, but getting better at the whole shopping thing. I noticed that the grocery stores here are an interesting mix of ones I’ve seen in the US and France.

Tuesday, August 28 (last day before returning staff joined us) ~ Our last big hoop to jump through was our medical visits. Even though we had been medically cleared in the US (and paid LOTS of money for it unlike our Canadian colleagues), Kuwait still needed to make sure we were healthy in order to give us our work visas. Our first stop was to get our blood drawn. There were lots of immigrants at the public medical center (we were happy to hear our health insurance is for private care). One of the teachers who was here last year recognized the logos on the immigrant workers uniforms and told us that they worked for a large oil company. We also heard that it’s common for the company to keep the workers’ passports so that can’t leave. People come here to work because they can make ‘good money and send it back to their families. Then they realize how horribly they are treated…and can’t leave. Glad to know we’ll be getting our passports back as soon as our visas come through! After all the women in our group were done, we had to go to another medical facility to get our chest x-rays (all the men were able to complete the check-up at the first stop). We got to wear awesome orange dresses…which reminds me I need to get a picture from my friend so you can see how great I looked 😉 That afternoon we went back to the Avenues and also went to True Value Hardware (except it had everything, not just hardware). That evening we went to a traditional Arabic dinner…AMAZING! We got to try so many different types of food and drinks and it all just kept coming. YUM!

Lemon Mint - the drink we were told we had to drink at dinner!

Lemon Mint – the drink we were told we had to drink at dinner! Like a virgin sweet Mojito!

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!