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Adventures in Kuwait

by Aleia 6. December 2012

When you first heard that you were being offered a trip to Kuwait, what was your first thought?  Were you anxious?

I received the text from Blake and first thought it was a joke. There was brewing unrest in Bahrain and I figured travel was going to shut down soon. Once I figured out he was serious I became very excited. I mean, who'd have thought I'd ever step foot into the Persian Gulf. I was anxious initially, but that went away soon. I know the CME team would never knowingly send someone into danger.

Had you ever traveled in the Middle East prior to that trip? 

It was my first time traveling further East than Frankfurt. 

Did you have any expectations before you went?  If so, was Kuwait as you expected?  How so?  If not, in which ways?

My biggest concern was communicating with the hospital and the locals. The language is nothing like the English alphabet, so I couldn't ever begin to try translating.  The amount of "Americanization" was astounding. There was a fast food restaurant, Starbucks, or Chili's on almost every block. I was dealing with a patient who had lived in Kuwait off and on since 2003 and knew the area well. Being that the US military has a strong presence in Kuwait, I didn't fear too much. That being said, I didn't venture down any alleyways or off the beaten path. 

What was your favorite part? 

My favorite part was experiencing the culture in a country where it's the norm. The food was good, when they say “spicy”  they mean it.  And when it rained (for 5 minutes) it rained mud. The silt in the air is so fine that the moisture coming down pulls it from the sky. 

Any tips for people traveling to Kuwait?

Do a little research (if you can) about the part of town you will be in.  Be sure to plan more time than usual for check-in. The doors are almost 3/4 mile from the check in counters. When traveling with a patient it will be necessary to get on one of the golf carts. 

The currency exchange rate is crazy. It was 4 dollars to 1 Kuwait dinar. Be prepared and make your money exchange in the US whenever possible. 

Also, plan extra time for any car rides. The traffic engineering has some opportunities for improvement and the locals don't pay much attention to signage. 

How did you feel security was there?  Was it tighter than in the US or Europe, or did you feel that it was less intensive?

Security going into the country was more stringent than leaving. As I departed through Kuwait, security was nothing more than sending everything through a couple of x-ray machines. Shoes, laptops, medications, etc. all stay in their cases. It was explained to me that the guards are only looking for large amounts of liquids.  It's definitely the least stringent process I've been through yet. 

On a side note - the locals are obsessed with body building. If you travel near a gym be on the lookout for used needles on the ground. Steroids are used openly and freely. In fact, many parking lots around the gyms have signs asking to pick up used syringes and medical paraphernalia. 



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