Hunting the Hummingbird - by David C Hoffman

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Why we are here.

Often we're asked why we are here in Kuwait. Why did we make the choice to move here? To leave our life in Portland and move to a foreign country?

Listen, it wasn't an easy choice.

We loved our life in Portland. David loved his job and the college he was teaching at. He loved his students, the classes, his colleagues, and even the campus. I loved my job, working for the best Children's Hospital in Oregon...I worked for pediatricians I admired and deeply respected, and with a care team that made me laugh every day, not to mention a boss who was willing to work around pretty much whatever schedule I needed in order to suit our family best. 
We had fantastic neighbors, including some of our very best friends living literally four doors down from us.
We had a Church family that we loved and that loved us.
We had several family members living in the same city as us, including my amazing sister who adored our kids and often served as a babysitter for our date nights =).
We had all our parents within an hours drive of our home.
The twins had friends everywhere and we had play dates multiple times a week.
In Portland, through my Twin Momma Group, I met some of the very best friends I've ever had. We were always getting together with our kids, or meeting for a Momma's Night Out after we'd tucked our babies in for the night. 
We had a fantastic zoo, a fun children's museum, and countless parks with playgrounds all within a 15 mile drive from our house.

It was no small decision to say good-bye to all these things for two years.


Moving Internationally is something David and I have discussed since he went to get his Masters in ESL. We knew the career doors such a degree would open up, and were both very drawn to them. 

I personally think the World would be a much better place if everyone had experienced what it felt like to be a minority. To be a foreigner. 

So for us, the question wasn't if we'd move abroad, but more of when

We found out I was pregnant with the twins two weeks before David finished Grad School, thus making the decision for us that we'd stay put for a bit =). We bought a house, and began to put real roots down in Portland. 

The next two years are a bit of a blur. Lots of diapers. Lots of nursing. Little sleep. Plenty of crying...sometimes even from the babies. 

The discussion of international travel started up again before the twins turned three. We knew we weren't ready then, but that it was time to start talking about it. 
My rules were that the kids had to be old enough to carry their own backpacks and walk long distances by themselves...(I did not want long days of travel carrying toddlers and their gear!) and I preferred them to be done with naps. 

Last Fall, when A and L were four and a half, we really started getting serious about it. The timing just started to seem ideal to start applying for jobs, and plan to leave in about a years time. The kids were getting older and more independent. We were beginning to feel like we were outgrowing our little 990 sq foot home. And, we were getting itchy feet =). I married a gypsy (David moved 14 times between graduating high school and when we first got married) and after spending a few months traveling around Mexico in our early days together, I was bit by the travel bug as well.

It was important to both of us that we make a huge move like this before our kids had too strong of ties to their life where we were. We didn't want to pull 12 year olds away from their friends, classmates, teams, bands, etc. Five and a half seemed like a great age to do, David started applying to different positions abroad.

I'll be honest, I asked him multiple times if there was a need for English teachers in the Caribbean? Or Fiji maybe? Some place tropical?? 
Turns out there is not.

I began to pull for Dubai =).

Alas, there was not an opportunity for us there at the time. 

David was contacted for an interview for a job here in Kuwait. He was flown to DC, interviewed, and then we waited. He was offered the job, and after praying about it, we jumped at the chance.

The more I read about Kuwait, and the more we talked about it, the more we felt like it could be a good fit for our goals in moving abroad...

1. Cash money, baby.
Lest you think all our reasons for moving here are noble, I'll tell you the main thing that brought us here was the opportunity to make and save a good chunk of money. The college David is working for pays him a good salary, and they pay ALL our living expenses. Rent (in a furnished apartment), utilities, full insurance (medical, dental, and vision) for all four of us, and they will pay for an excellent education at an American school here for the twins (starting next year, in First Grade). The only things we pay for here are food, entertainment, and transportation. Our plan (at this point...) is to not purchase a car while we're here, as taking a cab anywhere within our district only costs us 1KD (approx $3.00), and we are within walking distance of many grocery stores, places to eat, and David's work. 

2. Experience a different culture, for both us and our children.
As I said above, I think it's such a rich experience to immerse yourself in another culture and see how people different from you live. You can be completely unaware of some prejudices you have built in your mind, and living amongst a new people can tear down walls you never even knew existed. I do not want my children to see color when they see a person. I do not want them to judge a person based on how they dress themselves, or how they speak. Of course, this can be accomplished with thoughtful, intentional parenting anywhere, but given the opportunity, what better way then to move them to the opposite side of the World for a few years?

3. Opportunities for more travel.
We are so close to so many amazing travel destinations. While we are here first and foremost to make and save money, we also do not want to miss out on being a short plane ride away from a little vacation in Dubai, or, if I can talk my husband into it...visiting Greece ;).

4. Family bonding.
Few things bond people more than starting over in a completely new place, together. I so want to teach our children that our family is a family no matter where we are, as long as we're together. It's not about our house, or our zip code, or our's about being together. Whenever either of our kids expressed anxiety about moving to Kuwait, we would remind them we had never been here either! This is an adventure for all four of us, and we are blessed to be able to do it as a family. David and I spend a good chunk of the evening "checking in" with each other, and I know more about his days here (and he, mine) than we ever did back home. I'm sure this will naturally fade as our days here become more routine, but it's been good for us to pull together so tightly, as we navigate a new life and corporately keep an eye on the pulse of our children.

So, we sold our house (it was time anyways, as I mentioned we'd begin to outgrow it), we sold our cars, we sold or gave away a lot of our excess stuff (liberating!) and put our furniture, keepsakes, and most our possessions in a storage unit. We packed six suitcases and four carry-ons to come on the plane with us, and six boxes to be shipped over to us here. David signed a two year contract with the college, and we're trying to strike a balance between making this place our home, and recognizing we'll likely only be here 22 months, and already own plenty of things waiting for us in our storage unit back in Portland. 

Are we safe here? Well, as David said, safety is relative. There was a shooting at the McDonalds -in the middle of the afternoon, on a Tuesday- only a few blocks from our house in Portland just a month before we moved.There are no guns here in Kuwait, nor is there ANY alcohol. And, as believers in God, we choose to trust that we are never outside of His reach, and that He has us in the palm of His hand. Yes, we are Christians in a Muslim country, but we have the absolute freedom and right to practice our religion here, we just are not allowed to proselytize here. We haven't yet found a Church, but fully intend to. Our Lebanese neighbors upstairs are Christians, and Rachel is a Christian as well. We've also met a Mormon family since moving here. Not to mention the Muslims we know have been nothing but loving, supportive, and respectful of the difference in our religions. We live in a very safe district, in a safe building with a doorman who lives onsite and locks the entire building up at night. Plus, Kuwait has a high American Military presence, and I've got Military friends (shout out Nicky J! ;) ) who've already told me they are close with people posted near us, should we ever need anything. 

Several people have suggested to us that we'll end up loving it so much here, we'll end up staying longer than our current two year commitment. For us, even though we're just shy of a month in, we don't see that happening. I have no doubt our life here will grow on us, and we will be sad to leave it when the contract is up, but we feel in our hearts that we're Oregonians =). We love green, and we love our families and friends waiting for us. It's a great place to raise our children, and I look forward to buying a home with some land and being able to open the back door and sending the kids out to climb trees and run in the grass =). So although I've learned to never say never, I firmly believe we will be returning home in the summer of 2017.

And that, is the very long version of why we are currently here in Kuwait. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


David was off work yesterday, and is for the next several days as Kuwait celebrates Eid al-Adha. We've loved having him around so much!

Yesterday morning the kids and I walked the few blocks to Krispy Kreme for some doughnuts =).
A view of the main street three blocks from our house...

Sbarro, Carl's Jr, Baskin Robbins, Krispy Kreme, and to the right is the Sultan Center where we do some grocery shopping.

Donuts in Kuwait were a hit!

The kids complained about the heat some, but for the most part were troopers. The deal for getting donuts was we'd walk and not take a taxi. It as about 9:30am, but already 99 degrees. The donuts we brought home were more than slightly melted. Lesson learned. 

The twins spent a good part of yesterday afternoon playing in the hallway with the sweet neighbor kids, who are off of school for the holiday.
(and Dave taking out the trash, with a smile on his face...he's a keeper ;) )
I am just so grateful for such wonderful neighbors. L and A love playing with them, and for the most part they all get along really well. Reem has invited me over for coffee several times and I've really enjoyed getting to know her more. It turns our birthdays are exactly one day apart! The more we talk, I continue to be amazed at how two women born within hours of each other can have such drastically different lives, simply because of where we happened to be born. It's been fascinating chatting with her, even if 30% of our conversations include charade like communication =). 

Blessedly, the stomach bug was short lived, and our sweet girl was back to her cheerful self fairly quickly...even up for helping Momma bake brownies...

And this adorable guy has been doing awesome here...
Our sweet boy seemed to have a lot of anxiety leading up to our move here, which was semi-expected considering that home was the only home he'd even known. He is one who likes to know what's happening next. He's brave and adventurous and always up for a good time, but also cautious and feels most comfortable when he knows what to expect. In the month or so leading up to our departure, he was always wanting to know where I was -even within our little house- and didn't like me to leave at all. I'm pleased to report he has adjusted incredibly well. He's been back to his old, happy self pretty much since we arrived, and is up for whatever new adventure we want to go on.
Including hailing cabs...

 The kids and I tried out (another) new grocery store the other day, and were finally able to find things -like greek yogurt and ricotta cheese- that we'd been previously unable to find.

Ricotta cheese meant I was finally able to make lasagna, a family favorite...

 So...there you have it. Some random updates of our days around here lately. It's pretty nice right now with Dave off =). The kids and I have gotten our feet wet with Kindergarten Homeschooling (a post for another time) and are finding a decent rhythm to our days...including chores for everyone...

...and lots of playing...

 I'm giving Thanks for my family, and trying to take in the lovely views like this one...

 ...and this one...

Monday, September 21, 2015

On Motherhood

Sometimes Motherhood is cuddling and snuggling. Sometimes it's kissing precious cherub cheeks as you check on them one last time before you go to bed. Sometimes it's feeling like your heart might explode right inside your chest when you hear a belly laugh come from the lips of your baby. Sometimes Motherhood is overwhelming pride as you watch your child overcome a challenge they've been struggling with. Sometimes it's making sure their favorite Lovey is washed and dried before bedtime. Sometimes it's kisses sweeter than sugar.

And sometimes it's catching your child's vomit in a ziplock bag during a cab ride home from the grocery store. And offering up Thanks that you happened to have a baggie in your purse, while still giving the driver directions to your house and moving your other child to the other side of the cab so as to not be sitting next to the vomit bag.

The Stomach Flu has found it's way to us in Kuwait.

No bueno, man. 

Motherhood. Sometimes messy. Always worth it.

(and PSA: always carry a zip lock baggie in your purse)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My walk to work

(a glimpse inside David's head...)

I was surprised to find that there is a direct relationship between the temperature of my shower in the morning and how much I sweat on my walk to work. It’s only about a 20 minute walk – not even a mile probably – but it’s almost 90°F as I leave around 6:15am, so if I warm my body up much in the shower, I’m prone to sweat within the first block. So a nice lukewarm shower is often how I start my day, followed by a cup of coffee made from dried crystals and the used electric kettle furnished by my employer. (Even at nice work functions – with nice catering - I’ve been given coffee made from crystals…) Dressed in work-out clothes and lacing up my running shoes, I carefully fold my ironed work clothes into a bag to carry to work, slip into the kids’ room, kiss their sleeping foreheads (sometimes Abbey’s awake “Are you going to work? I love you” she whispers), do the same for Kendra – who’s sleeping soundly – and leave the apartment.

There are only two apartments per floor in our building, and the space between the two elevators outside them is not air-conditioned. The sweating begins. I look out to the south of our building as the car comes up from the ground floor. I hear it say “Seventh floor” from behind the closed doors and walk over to board. The mirrored walls give me a chance to check my teeth, bemoan my puffy eyes, and look over my walking attire before getting out in the lobby. Mustafa’s never in the lobby (as he normally is) as I leave, but there’s evidence he’s been up: the door is unlocked, his shoes are outside his door, and the pile of newspapers on the table bear the day’s date. I pull open the door and step outside.

For the first few blocks, I try to ignore the inner argument I have every morning: “It’s not that hot. It’s fine. Just a short walk. Don’t walk too fast.” The other voice responds: “Damn, it’s hot. It’s just past 6 in the morning and it’s already hotter than most days in Portland. That guy’s not sweating like you are.” The man walks by me, and I nod. At this hour, no one is particularly friendly. “It’s not that bad. Don’t think of it. You knew it would be hot in Kuwait. They say it’ll cool down within the month. Hell, yesterday was only 109. The day before was 115. It’s way hotter when you walk home. Don’t think about it.” The roaming taxis that are ubiquitous even at this hour always seem to spot me. They honk, circle, slow down, as if I’m really quite absurd to be walking. They don’t seem to do it for the darker skinned folks I walk by… “But, damn, it really is hot. You’re already starting to sweat. You’re not even two blocks from your building!” I navigate the broken path that is my sidewalk, zigzagging between dumpsters and dumped food from last night’s dinner, sewer grates, and oddly-parked cars. The rail-thin street cats scatter even though I give them wide berth and say nice words. They gallop a short distance, then lay down to observe me pass, ears switching to other sounds as their eyes remain fixed on me. “It’s not that bad,” I finally decide, “and so what if I sweat? I’m a sweater. This is what Americans do. We walk if we can. We make our own way. We don’t pay for taxis for a five minute ride. Who cares if they stare at me?”

About halfway there and a very friendly fly always seems to want to accompany my face the rest of the way, penetrating my ear, nose, eyes even. “No means no,” I told him once. He didn’t get the joke. I don’t know where he’s been, so I swat at him evenly, trying not to be too bothered.

It’s really quite pretty at this time of the morning. The streets aren’t so busy. It’s not really that hot. If I were just sitting on the low wall that rims the park to my right, it would be a very pleasant way to watch the sun rise and Kuwait wake up. As it is, I walk. And sweat. And try not to think of the sweat. And the flies. And that smell that I get from the open sewer lines every once in a while. And the poor street cats that Abbey would love to give a home. And the diseases they probably have. I’ve only seen one that didn’t look scary thin, near death. He looked like he was just coming out of his home in the morning to gloat over the street cats who don’t have someone to look after them. Didn’t seem to notice me walking by him, accustomed to humans, I supposed.

Near the end of the park block, I cross the street by the international clinic, which is currently ringed with scaffolding of a sort that reminds me of pyramid building, old wood knotted together with what looks like old shirts. It’s the same a block or two later where a palatial white house (or government building of some sort) is being finished. The tools and workers look like they’ve come from ancient Egypt, but the work they complete is pristine. “OSHA would not approve,” I think and laugh, reminding myself that this is how the pyramids were built. And then I think, “And how many people died building the pyramids?” I try not to think of their safety. Safety is relative, I suppose, and they’re professionals, I also suppose. Besides, I’m just a foreigner with foreign ideas.

The next block is my favorite. At the head of the street, an elderly Muslim man in cap and gown (not so blindingly white as the young men at the university wear), sits behind his older Lexus and reads his morning newspaper on a low wooden bench under a metal awning in front of his house. He never looks up at me. He’s the kind of man I want to meet. He’s the kind of man I want to ask about Kuwait, about Islam, about Arabic, about the Iraqi invasion, and about foreign workers and investment. I wonder what he thinks about oil and the wealth it’s brought. Maybe someday I’ll introduce myself. But maybe he’ll wonder what a man in work-out clothes who’s walking and sweating at this time of the morning would want with him.

A few houses down is the little boy and his sister and nanny. Glasses too big and pants pulled up too far, he’s dressed for school like his sister is. But unlike his sister, who’s too busy dancing or fussing to ever notice me, and unlike his nanny, who always seems to be looking away when I glance to say good morning, the boy stares at me as soon as I come in sight. His look belies a sense of wonderment at seeing me, as if this is his daily visit from his delightful imaginary friend. I’m always sure to wave, which only doubles his grin. He once adjusted his glasses, but he’s yet to wave. I wonder if he’s still trying to decide if I’m real.

I’m getting close now. I can see the large mosque by the school. There’s no denying it now: I’m in full sweat. Depending on the shirt, it can be more or less obvious. I really don’t know why I’m so obsessed with measuring how much sweat can be seen on me. Maybe it’s because it’s a mark of my “foreign-ness” – like I’m just not used to the weather here, like I just don’t belong here. Maybe it’s because I’m the only one I know who walks to work, and it seems a bit odd to other folks. Maybe it’s because walking is considered too low for people of modest wealth, and I’m breaking some kind of mold. More likely is that I’m just self-conscious – not about most things – but damn, I am a sweater. The internal argument resumes: “It doesn’t matter. So what if you sweat? You’re walking to work. That’s commendable. Saves you money, helps with the fitness. Who cares if you sweat? You’re bringing you to Kuwait. Don’t let the norms of Kuwait change you.” This street is always a bit busier as some sort of delivery truck always seems to have some business at the mosque, parked in back. “But it is hot,” my inner voice argues, “and maybe they don’t walk here because they know something you don’t. Isn’t that the first rule of cross-cultural communication: watch what other people do, and do the same?” I come to my first busy street along this walk, and look across it to the entrance gate I always pass through at the university. Most mornings, I have to wait a bit to time my passage across the street. Not exactly Frogger at this time in the morning, but there’s still some strategy to it. As I reach the other side, the other voice argues back, “But I’m bringing David to Kuwait, man. I don’t care what they do or think of me.”

Being a teacher here is a bit different than back home. The man at the gate says, “Good morning, sir.” The dozen maids and janitorial staff who are busy cleaning the university grounds that I pass by all stop to say the same. They make a point to call me “sir,” or “good sir.” The look on most of their faces is not feigned respect – there really is something to it. They look up to me in some way. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they’re instructed (demanded) to treat each instructor with respect – to say good morning – upon pain of losing of their job or something. From some stories I’ve heard, that may not be too far from the truth. But with the few that I’ve met and had some kind of interaction with, I get the feeling that they’re really surprised I’m talking with them – as if I shouldn’t, as if other teachers normally don’t – and that doing so really brightens their day. It pains me a bit to say that...

I don’t want to recognize that just because I’m white, and a man, and a teacher, and an American working at an American university, walking in with my work bag, walking up to my office, that that should confer on me any distinct advantage over these people who are mostly from India, Pakistan, Nepal, or the Philippines – here to earn some money for their families just like I am. I don’t really want to know how much more I make for how much less I work. So I have a different skillset. Should I really have such an advantage? What can I do in return but try to look them in the eyes and talk to them like the unique individuals they are? It would be wrong, I think, to do anything else.

Riding the elevator to the fifth floor always bothers me. I always, ALWAYS, get dizzy for a minute or two after getting off elevators. But I’m not about to climb five flights of stairs in this kind of sweat. Luckily, the AC has already halted my sweating, and soon I’ll be dry and cold in my office, ready to head to the john with my work clothes to change in a bathroom stall. I’m normally the first to reach the office in the morning, and I’ve got a brightly-lit little room off the copy room all to myself – the first time I’ve ever had my own office, with my own key, my own cabinets and bookshelf. It’s all empty, and I can’t think of how on earth I’ll ever fill up this office. Not in my two years. Everyone keeps saying, “That’s what they all say,” when we say we’re here for two years, citing person after person who ends up staying closer to a decade. “But it’s too damn hot,” the inner voice says. And the other one agrees, “Yes, and we love the rain in Oregon.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


We officially have internet!! Hallelujah!!!! The kids watched six episodes of Wild Kratts in a row on Netflix yesterday (judge not lest ye be judged...we'd been without shows for nearly two weeks!) and I can finally upload pics =)

My people on the plane ride from Seattle to Dubai...

The view from our Living Room...

It's fun to sit and watch boats and jet skis go by throughout the day! Even though there usually is a dusty haze around, it still is nice to wake up to sunshine every single day. 

We're adjusted sleep-wise around here finally (*knocks on wood*) and no longer falling asleep in the middle of the day...

...or during taxi rides to the mall...

We're still missing our friends, family and the familiar every day, but we're also working to make this place our Home. 

Some randomness about our first two weeks:

- They don't recycle here, like AT ALL, and I watch a little piece of my husband die every time he has to throw out a plastic water bottle or a cereal box. 

- EVERYTHING here delivers. Even McDonalds. Every time the kids and I walk over to the little market that is literally right next to our building, they say "Why you not call? We can bring this to you!" and I always laugh and tell them it's good for us to get out a bit =).

- David is liking his job. Teachers are really respected here, and he's finding his groove with his students already. After having the second half of summer off to move, he's so happy to be back teaching again.

-The other day we were swimming and both noted it seemed a tad bit cooler that day...we later learned it was "only" 109 degrees that day =)

- There is a little park just a short walk away from our building, and apparently in the next few months the weather will be more like 70 degrees, so we're looking forward to checking that out. Missing having a yard!

- I went to the International Clinic to establish care and fill prescriptions this week, and apparently HIPPA is not a thing here?? The doctor got a call in the middle of our visit and he gave a patient - by name and everything - her CT Angio results right there in front of me.

- Children are revered here. I keep telling David it's going to be such a shock to our kids when we go back to the States and people aren't stopping them on the street to tell them they're beautiful =).

Or, maybe people still will? I mean, look at these beauties...


Monday, September 14, 2015

That time I took a ride from a stanger...

On Friday I finally ventured out by myself for a bit. I hadn't yet for several reasons...still adjusting to sleep, illness, etc, but mainly because we didn't have working cell phones yet and I wasn't *quite* sure where we lived. Here we just have Block #, and Building # and then apartment #. But not so much "street addresses". Cab drivers seem to have a hard time finding our building when we call and request one, and a few times we've had trouble directing them back to our place. "It's the tan building...there's sand near it..." is not so helpful when that describes the majority of the buildings here.

But by Friday David had our cell phones, and I was off to the City Centre by myself for some exploring. The weekends here are Friday and Saturday, and Friday is considered a Holy Day, so many things are closed. City Centre is huge and I don't think ever closes =). I hailed a cab and stopped by a pharmacy to try and fill some prescriptions (FAIL, trying the International Clinic tomorrow) and then to City Centre. I had a decent list of things we needed for the house, as well as groceries.

I'd heard City Centre was huge, and it did not disappoint. Everything we'd been previously unable to cross off our list could be found there. I grabbed a cart and walked slowly through each department, until I came to some flat escalators in the middle of the store. I didn't know if I could take my cart on there or not, so I pretended to be very interested in an end of aisle display until I saw someone else do it (and not get yelled at =) ).

Fake It until you Make It, that's pretty much my motto around here.

I explored the entire downstairs, and by the end had found everything we needed. (Outside of a Brita pitcher - which doesn't seem to exist here, and of course bacon and beer) I went to check out and my total was exactly 30KD, which only left me with 1/2KD to get home.

I had a credit card, but that wouldn't do me much good with a taxi driver.

I know it should only cost 1/2KD to get to our place from City Centre, but we've been told by many that any driver who sees an American is gonna ask for 1KD. They just assume we're wealthy, (and to many of them, we are) and really that makes for about $3.00, so it's not completely unreasonable. 

My plan was to hail a cab, ask if they'd take 1/2KD, and if they said no, only a full, then I'd take the taxi home and have Dave come down with the rest of the money. I sent Dave a text informing him of my Master Plan.

I pushed my cart outside a very different entrance than I'd come in, and found myself directly in front of a butcher's shop, and I'll spare you the graphics by just saying there was a dead hanging cow in my view. I was also a long trek from the main road.

I found where the parking lot exited to the road, and checked my phone to see if David had replied. He had not. Ok, well...I'll take a taxi home, and if he hasn't replied by the time I get there then I'll have the doorman run up and get him for me. If the doorman isn't there, I'll run up myself. Worse case scenario the taxi driver takes off with $100 worth of home goods and groceries in his trunk, but I can live with that.

With my New Master Plan in place, I started to load up my nine plastic grocery bags on my wrist. Just as I was regretting purchasing a 9x13 Pyrex baking dish and a large mop, a woman parked her Land Cruiser next to where I was and got out. I smiled at her, and continued about my business. 

"Are you alright?" (insert British accent)
She looks at me sideways.
"Are you sure?"
"Um, yeah..." I say, clearly unsure.
"What's your plan here?"
"Um, I'm going to load up my arms here, walk across the parking lot to the street, and hail a cab home...."
"Are you new to Kuwait?"
"'s my eighth day" I lie. It was day eleven. I'm not sure if it was an honest mistake or my ego that made me say eighth. Was it more acceptable to be in such a predicament if one had only been here just over a week? I don't know.
"Where do you live?" 
I hand her the card David wrote for me with our "address" on it.
"That's not far. Hop in..." she directs as she opens up her trunk and starts putting my bags in there.
In a beat we've loaded up her trunk with my bags and I'm in her passenger seat.
"I'm Kendra...we just moved here..."
"Hi, I'm Rachel. I've lived here thirteen years!"

Turns out Rachel and her family are from the UK, and both she and her husband are English teachers at elementary schools here. They have two sons in upper grade school. In the short drive home, Rachel fills me in on a handful of tips about life in Kuwait, and also why they've chosen to stay here and raise their family. 

When we find our building, she hops out to help me unload everything into the cart waiting in the lobby. 
"Let me know if you need anything you have a phone?" she asks.
"Yes. But I just got it and don't know my number..." I am feeling super put together today.
I give her my email address, and she promises to email me later with her contact info in case I need anything further.

"Rachel...I don't know if you're a person of Faith..." I start...
"I was in Church just this morning!" She smiles.
"...Well, you've been a real blessing to me, and I promise I'll pay it forward and help someone else when given the opportunity..."

And with that, I came upstairs to our apartment, and cried as I told David about my new friend who had rescued me. It just felt like yet another example of how God is showing us He is here with us as well. 

Would I have taken a ride from a stranger back home? Who knows. Depends on the circumstances, I suppose. But that's one of the beautiful things about learning life in a new Country, you do things you perhaps wouldn't otherwise. I loved that quote by David Sedaris at the top of this blog the minute I read it, because it encompasses so much of what we want to occur while we're here. My adventure was an empowering one, in a very humbling kind of way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

One week in...aka 'learning to use a bidet'

We tagged along with David to work today so we could use unlimited, fast internet on a computer with a REAL keyboard. 

Yesterday marked one week here in Kuwait. It's getting better each day =).  We really like our's very large, and it has a view of the ocean, which is so lovely.  We have a pool in the building here, and we've swam just about every evening, much to L&A's delight ;). The college David is working for furnished the apartment for us, and now we're just filling in the they bought us one towel. One. But I don't mean to complain because they did such a great job in so many ways! The couches still had tags on them, the bedding all still in packages, brand new box of pots and pans, etc. 

If I had to sum up our first few day & nights here, it would be Hard. We were (are) jet lagged, and still have colds. (ya know how there are always those annoying people on planes coughing horribly into the recycled air? That was our family...sorry to our fellow passengers! It could not be helped.) We were all very off on our sleep and our first afternoon here I came down with a nasty fever and spent hours on the couch in a fevery dream stupor. Not awesome. The most upsetting part was I dreamt I got a bunch of unpacking done, only to finally wake and learn I had not. Boo.

The second evening here I kinda hit a wall emotionally (and by "kinda" I mean I ran smack dab into it with full force) It reminded me of when I had my postpartum visit after the twins, saying to my doctor through tears "I think I have postpartum depression!" and she was like "you are tired. Exhausted. And so you have zero coping skills." That was me that night. I had zero coping skills. I sat on our couch and read a letter one of my best friends wrote for me to open when we arrived in it, she called me brave, and with that the dam burst and I just sat on the couch and cried. Brave was the LAST thing I felt. Tired, weak, scared, isolated, doubtful....those things for sure, but brave? Not in the slightest.

And I would have kicked a puppy to be able to time travel back home and be able to hug her and talk with her in person. 

(I'm a animal lover...just being honest)

But each day - with more sleep and slowly (FOR THE LOVE, SO slowly) recovering from our colds - we are getting our bearings more and more. 

When the twins were infants, and sleep deprivation was at it's height (nursing every three hours, which took 90 minutes each time, so sleeping in 90 minute chunks only) I had to remind myself that feelings are fickle and can't always be trusted. Normally, I am a person led by my heart and therefor by my feelings...which I think is mostly a good thing ;)...but in times of exhaustion, or illness, or time-zone change, or all three, I have to rely on only my head to remind me of what is true. I had memorized Psalms 91 when I was pregnant with the twins and would practice reciting it from memory anytime I felt myself overcome with fear that I was going to lose them or that they were going to come too early. 
(I don't mean that in a "Name It and Claim It" kind of way, because I don't believe that to be the Gospel, but I wanted a way to take my anxious thoughts captive and reset them on what I believed to be the truth)
I've been working on memorizing it again =).

We are here, we are (mostly) healthy, we are together and we are blessed.  
All truth.

Each day we've made our apartment a little bit more home (thank you Ikea!) and each day we're getting our sleep a little more sorted out. Yesterday was the first day I didn't have to ask myself "if everyone is up at three am, what time do I serve lunch?" So. That's a good step.

We've met a few other people from our building, and everyone we've met has been SO INCREDIBLY KIND. We met a family from Lebanon at the pool one evening, and they've lived here a few years and had tons of helpful information for us...where is the best place to grocery shop, best restaurants in our district, etc. The mom even asked if our daughter would like to start ballet classes with her six year old daughter later this month! 

The other tenants on our floor (only two apartments per floor) are from Jordan, and are a family with four kids. They have 10 year old boy/girl twins (!!!) a six year old, and what the mom keeps telling me is a one year old, but something must be lost in translation because she seems about three to us =). They have a really cool pedal scooter and a little bike, and they love to play in the entry way between our apartments. The mom, Reem, has told me we are welcome to play with anything out there. She is the sweetest, and the first day I met her I asked if I could hug her =). I love that about Motherhood. It's the great equalizer, and it can unify two women from different corners of the World who only understand about 70% of what they are saying to each other. She told me to knock on her door at any time, any hour, to ask for anything. 

We have two small markets directly next to our building, so we can pop in there for any little things we need, and a larger (but still small, if that makes sense) market a short walk away. We've taken cabs to the Sultan Center (like a Target with full groceries) as well. Our daughter even hailed a cab herself =). Our district is really safe (we've sensed that, and it's been confirmed to us by several people in and outside our district) and we're learning new things about our area each day. We took a cab over to the Avenues Mall yesterday and we're instantly overwhelmed! There are several malls closer to us, but we needed Ikea and wanted to see The Avenues for ourselves =). Everything is in English and Arabic, and so it's been fairly easy to find what we need. Nearly everyone speaks English as well, even if only a little, it's usually enough to communicate our needs. 

The kids are adjusting really, really well to their new surroundings. They played out in the entryway with the neighbor kids for hours yesterday afternoon and had so much fun. They've seen a lot of new things, and have really taken it in stride. I have a twin-momma friend who is currently in Malaysia with kids only slightly older than ours, and she has been a wealth of information. She and her husband agreed to not say "weird" or "wrong" and instead say "different" or "interesting" when their kids point out some crazy things they may see =). I love that, and we've adopted that as well.

We're hopeful we'll have the internet up and working in our apartment soon, as it's really thrown us for a loop not having it working upon arrival as expected. When that happens I'll be able to upload and post pictures! I want to show our families and friends our apartment and our new city, and of course our cute kids =).

Ok- gotta let my husband have the computer for actual work purposes now =). Hope to be in touch again soon. Please forgive my lack of correspondence on gmail and other things, our older, knock off tablet that is (kind of) working has a cursor that is possessed and moves on it's own, and has been our only source of internet thus far.

Oh- and also, we have bidets here. The twins think this is the COOLEST THING EVER.

So much love to everyone from Kuwait!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

We've landed!

Writing this from the Kuwait City airport with my tired crew. We've officially arrived and are currently waiting for visa paperwork for the kids and I to be processed. Luckily, there was a very kind gentleman waiting right outside our gate holding a sign with our family name on it, ready to assist us...God bless him.

Should be an hour or so here, and then off to our new home! It's late evening here, but feels like it should be mid-morning to us...well, kind of...we've been traveling for what feels like eleventy hundred hours, so we're all kinds of "off". The kids did SO GOOD, especially considering they had never flown before yesterday =).  We all slept some (I'm playing fast and loose with the word "slept" there) on the 14 hour flight from Seattle to Dubai, and then the kids both crashed hard on the short flight from Dubai to here. We're also still recovering from colds, so we're more than ready to get to our place and begin settling in and sleeping.

We're very grateful for all the smooth travel we experienced! Thank you for all your prayers. So happy to be HERE and not getting on a plane again for a long while.

So...more to come...but for now:

We've landed safe and without incident. Thank you Jesus! Thank you Emirates Airline for the sleep masks!  Thank you creators of Xanax! (Momma hates to fly).

And of course, thank you friends and family for all your prayers and well wishes, and thank you A TON to my sisters Natalie and Emily for all you did to help us get out the door yesterday.

Much love.