Hunting the Hummingbird - by David C Hoffman

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Keepin' it Real...

So I've shown you many lovely parts of Kuwait.
And I truly enjoy a lot of different things about living here... like the sunshine and the palm trees and the beaches. I've taken pictures that capture much of the beauty here, and have had several wonderful things to say about this Country.

Every word has been true, and every picture unedited.


There are also things I don't love. 

And just like living anywhere, there are many places that aren't so beautiful.

 - You can smoke indoors here. It's just as stinky as you imagine. It's been outlawed in Oregon for so long, I still find myself doing a double take when I see it here. Our kids are not shy about plugging their noses and saying things like "ewwwwww" when we walk by, and while most of our time here I try and make sure they're being culturally respectful, I never correct them in these particular cases. Because GROSS.

- People just open things in stores here. Just open them and dig through. You have to be careful when purchasing something to make sure it hasn't already been opened and rifled through. Often, you'll see signs like this one:
I took that picture in City Centre in the bedding aisle. Even with this sign there (and they're in a lot of places!) sheet packages had still been opened. Food packages are opened. Toy packages. Everything. 

- The drivers here are crazy. Insane. On the larger, main roads, all the lanes start out with distinct boundaries...and then as you go further down the road, they simply disappear. And then the boundaries reappear closer to the stop lights. Drivers weave in and out around each other and pass on the right and are constantly honking at one another. 
And those are the organized places to drive. 
The blocks and streets off the main roads - like where most residential areas are, including our apartment complex - don't even have stop signs. FOR REALS. It's like a game of chicken every time there is a four way intersection. People just honk and go. It's absolutely stunning to me that we have yet to be in or even witness an accident here. I've grown closer to Jesus since we've been on this adventure in Kuwait, and one of the main reasons is I've spent nearly every taxi ride praying. 
Oh! And! AND! There are zero seat belt laws. Zip zero zilch. All the time you see babies on someone's lap in the passenger seat. And everyone and their mother is either talking on their cell phone or texting while driving. Many of the cabs we've taken do not even have seat belt options in the back. The seat belts have literally been removed from the vehicle. Sweet Mercy, that's hard on a Momma's anxiety level. I always sit in the back with my babies and have my arm ready to toss across them should we stop short. Gah
I do have two particular cab drivers I'll call if I/we need to go longer distances. I trust them both because they are safe and reliable, and their cabs have full sets of seatbelts. 

- There are zero Codeine products here in Kuwait. Now on the one hand, good on them, as they very likely do not have the substance abuse problems we have in the States. On the other hand, as someone who has chronic flare-up pain from scar tissue in her neck/shoulder post ablation resulting from a car accident years back who came to Kuwait with a Vicodin RX in hand, this sucks. I had terrible neck pain a few weeks back and headed to the International Clinic with my RX, and was informed it is only administered in Hospitals during In-Patient stays. Not awesome. The doctor gave me Tramadol in it's place, and while it did help *some* with the pain, it mainly just put me to sleep...which would be lovely, if I didn't have two five year olds to care for each day. 

- Our Internet is spotty. The building we are in has internet, but sometimes it just plain is "down", which is super annoying. We finally gave in and bought ourselves are very own "hot spot" for our apartment, and now have working internet 99% of the time. Yay and Hooray.

- It can be hard to parent your children in a new culture. Here, boys are treated like young men at an early age. My children are five and a half, and still sometimes ask to be carried when we're out. Most of the time, I oblige, because 1) we walk A LOT here, 2) five and a half is not that old, 3) they are not going to ask to be held forever, ya know?  
Well, without fail, every single time I am carrying our son, someone makes a comment. Whether it be the checker at the grocery store, or a staff member at the Aquarium, or in a mall, or even a neighbor...they say "oh, how old are you? You are too old to be carried!" or "why you carry him? He is much too old!" or something along those lines. Finally, an Arabic friend explained to me that it was just plain "odd" to see a mother carrying "such an older son around!" It gets under my skin a bit, because who cares??? Boys are treated differently here (no one ever comments when I carry our daughter) and I do try to be respectful of the culture we are in, but we're also bringing Portland to Kuwait, and this Momma carries her kids from time to time - both boy and girl - and has zero plans to stop anytime soon.

- We have to grocery shop much more frequently than I'd prefer, as our kitchen gets hot and muggy, and so things like bread and crackers get moldy/stale very quickly. Bananas go from green to brown in 36 hours.

- Speaking of grocery stores, you'll often find things like this:
A giant selection of knives, on the very bottom row of a cookware aisle. This was at calf-level for know, like the perfect height for a toddler to see and reach.

- And lastly, I think one of the hardest things about living here is the realization that so many places around the globe are doing so very little to take care of our shared planet. Living in Portland, it's easy to feel like most everyone is doing their part. 

Portland has mixed, curbside recycling that picks up weekly. 
Bringing your own canvas shopping bags to the store is common. Hybrid vehicles are all over the roads. 
Here, nothing is recycled. NOTHING. And every store doles out plastic bags like they are going out of or two items in each bag. People just toss their trash wherever...out their car window, off their balcony, down on the street while walking, etc. If you go out early enough in the morning, you see trash EVERYWHERE. The main streets are cleared of trash every day by City Workers.
And it's the land of Cheap Energy. Oil a plenty = SUV's everywhere and cars left running constantly and AC units running OUTDOORS even when no one is near them. 
It's hard to live here and know what we know about Global Warming and the deterioration of the Earth. 

So. Those are some low points. Just wanted to share so as to be honest in documenting and not come across with rose colored glasses =).

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Some pictures and words about our days recently =)

We're finding more and more routine and activity here in Kuwait. November is bringing gorgeous weather! The kids started Tball with The Kuwait Little League, and that's been so much fun. We've joined up with the Homeschool Co-op a few more times, and really enjoyed getting to know new friends. David is still liking his job, and we're looking forward to a Thanksgiving gathering with many of his co-workers later this week.

We've been joining our friends at their Church the last several Friday evenings, and just loving it. I didn't realize how much I'd missed Worshiping with others until our first time there. You can listen to podcasts (thanks for the recommendation, Kyle!) and read your devotionals, and play your praise music...but it's just not the same as gathering with the Body of Believers and learning and praising together. It's been a real gift.

We had some of the neighbor girls over to paint...

Our daughter will drop pretty much anything to come help me cook or bake in the kitchen...I hope she always wants to hang out with her Momma =)

Some sights around downtown Kuwait City...

The boy continues to work on his Jedi moves overseas...

The weather has been lovely here, and last week we walked to the neighborhood park with our neighbors and spent the entire morning just playing and soaking up the sun and nice ocean breezes...

I was so excited to see this scene at the entrance to the grocery store the other day...
 I'd been wondering if we'd see much Christmas stuff around, and it's looking like while it's nowhere near what we'd see in the States, it'll be more than I'd thought!! 
I purchased a 5 foot tree that very day =), and as soon as Thanksgiving is over, we'll be decorating for Christmas around here.

Little A put together a story book, complete with illustrations...

Sweet boy almost always has his tongue out when concentrating...=)

Double Trouble walking to the grocery store...

And last but not least, Dave and I recently got to go on a date!!!! Our first time out sans kids since we've arrived in Kuwait =).
The college had a faculty appreciation dinner at a fancy hotel here, and our sweet friends (the ones who had us over for dinner awhile back, and who we've been attending Church with) let us drop the twins off at their house with their babysitter. We knew L and A would have fun playing with their sweet kids, and with all their toys at their house =). 
And while it was mainly just listing off the names of professors that had been published throughout the year, it was also a free delicious meal, time out with grown ups and dressing up a bit... a beautiful venue no less...

Happy Thanksgiving week! It seems strange that it's even November here, with it still being shorts and tshirt weather. We definitively will miss gathering with our families this week, but I'm grateful to have been invited to a Thanksgiving meal and even more grateful for Social Media and the ability to see everyone we love via the internet =)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bahrain (part 2)

I'm pleased to report days two and three were much less eventful...thank you Jesus.
Tina and I were on our walk back to the Embassy by 9:15am, and stopped to take a few pictures of the beautiful architecture...

We turned in our cell phones and IDs again, and entered the Embassy to be greeted by a VERY full waiting room. While awaiting our turn to go to the (one and only) window, I got to chatting with some of the people there. (I can't help's what I've always done. My parents used to say growing up that I'd never met a stranger...=) )
Turns out several of them had been there two+ weeks waiting for their Visa stamps. Eek. Their stamps kept getting denied for one reason or another, or they'd been simply told to "come back tomorrow" for days on end.
On a scale of one to ten my anxiety level went from about a six to about a 28.
When it was our turn, we approached the window and paid our $67.50BD and were told "thank you, come back at 1:00pm"
Ok then.
"Will that be the end of these proceedings?" Tina inquired as politely as possible... 

Inshallah is an Arabic phrase meaning "if God wills it", and I've heard it both used as an incredibly reverent offer of sacrifice and surrender of ones future to God, and used as a way to deflect from giving an actual answer...;)

With that, we had nothing left to do but go back to the hotel and worry. Luckily, we had lovely surroundings to worry in...

Hookah is very common in Middle Eastern Countries, but I think for men only. 

At 1:00pm we walked into the Embassy - this time the security at the gate did not collect our phones or IDs, I guess they realized we weren't looking to do an Expose for Dateline afterall- and were surprised and thrilled to be handed ALL our paperwork, properly stamped, and our passports back! 
That was it! We were done!

We made fools of ourselves thanking the employee profusely, and it was not lost on the both of us that we'd have been much less grateful had we been jumping through these hoops in the US. Had we been on our own turf, speaking our own language, we would have likely demanded answers and expressed annoyance. 
But when you are at the mercy of another Country, and their culture and language, you have little footing to stand on and demand they give you straight answers and then hold them to it, and having met so many people earlier that day who had traveled from Kuwait for the same reason we had, and had been there for weeks, we knew we were lucky to have completed our tasks within two days.

Off we went, back to the hotel to celebrate with a late buffet lunch and another celebratory drink =).

I headed up to our room, where my little family killed time for the afternoon. 
I was happy to find Ellen on TV...

While the kids watched a movie on the laptop...

...and stayed entertained by weighing themselves on the room's scale...

...and catching up on their correspondence with the hotel stationary...

We enjoyed some buffet at the hotel restaurant for dinner...

And before we knew it, it was time for bed again. The second night proved slightly more challenging for all four of us to sleep in one king sized bed, as we were less exhausted than the night prior.

Our flight didn't leave until 7pm that third day, so we were blessed with a day to just relax and enjoy Bahrain.
We spent a the majority of our day poolside, playing with our new friends, Melissa and her mom Visal, who had been there 12 days awaiting their Tourist Visa stamps so they could return to Kuwait. 

L took a little rest poolside...

The eating area in the hotel...

Two cheesy kiddos killing time back in the hotel room...

Later that evening we made our way to the airport, learned our flight was delayed, and played in the airport shops...

...experienced our first Pit Toilets...

...and bought some small souvenirs to remember our time in Bahrain... 

Finally it was time to board, and our obedient cherubs dutifully read their flight safety pamphlets as instructed by the flight attendant =)  

And there you have it: trip to Bahrain on the books =)
It was a strange mix of stressing and relaxing, and above all I'm so grateful my family was able to come with me, and that the college paid for everything!

I had to do the very same tests here again this week in Kuwait, but that's a post for another time. 
Hopefully (*knocks on wood*) I've completed my final tasks and can finally receive my Civil ID. It was a strange week, to be attempting to obtain this illusive Civil ID here as an expat in a foreign country, while watching our World face such a refugee crisis. I have a million words to say on such an experience, but have to make sense of them in my head and heart before I can put them on page. 

Until next time =),

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bahrain (Part 1)

We stumbled back into our apartment here in Kuwait, after a delayed flight home, late Tuesday night.
It was good - surprisingly, and refreshingly, good - to be home.
Yup, our apartment in Kuwait felt like home.
Thanks be to God.

Our trip started really early on Sunday morning, with the alarm going off at 4:15am. Oy. When we woke the kids up at 4:30, they were an adorable combination of exhausted and excited, which made them just shy of delirious.
L said to his sister "it's not morning yet, it's just time to go to Bater-rain!"

I was pretty proud of how they rallied and ate their cereal while the sun was not even up. 
We'd packed up the night before, so it was just getting dressed and throwing a few last minute things in our carry-on only luggage.

The driver from the college came to pick the four of us up, having already picked up the other couple that were headed to Bahrain as well for the same Dependent Visa issues.
Dave knew the husband from work, but we all made quick 5am introductions around as we climbed up in the van. 
Nothing like a little International Travel with strangers to start off your week=)

These two have become pretty flexible little travelers, and I could not be more grateful! One of my proudest motherhood accomplishments to date (and there are only a few...=) ) is I've managed to not let on to them that I am terrified of flying. 
I hate it with a firey passion.
Which is really unfortunate, because I love to travel.

But these two troopers loved take off and flying and landing with an ease and an excitement they surely did not get from me, but I'll appreciate =).

We landed, found our way outside, and were pleasantly relieved to learn that all taxis in Bahrain are meter only. 
No haggling? Hooray!

David snapped these pictures during the cab ride to our hotel...

These two cuties hammed it up while Dave got us checked in...

Since we'd left Kuwait at such an unGodly hour, so early, we were all checked in by 9:00am. Tina (the other wife) and I decided to get started on all our busy work and head over to the Kuwait Embassy. 
I'll get to that in a moment.

Her husband headed up for a nap, while David and the twins decided to do some Bahrain sight-seeing...

 Bahrain appeared  much "greener" than Kuwait, with grass everywhere, and much, much, MUCH more humid. Within three minutes of stepping outside, your hair is matted to your forehead. 

 Lovely architecture, very clean streets and very organized traffic...slightly different than Kuwait =)

I love this picture he snapped of our two globe trotting cuties with the Bahrain World Tower and a beautiful mosque in the background...
I am so happy they are getting to see so much of the World!

The three of them spent the morning exploring and sight-seeing, and by the time I made my way back to the hotel around 2:30pm, they'd all crashed for a late afternoon nap...

I was relieved they were getting some rest, and happy to find them all in one contended pile. I'd had quite the adventure that morning, and was so happy to be back in the same room with my Loves. 

So I told you I had to go for some Visa issues, right? Well I wish I could explain in greater detail what exactly I needed to accomplish over in Bahrain, but I didn't -and still don't quite- understand it myself. Tina didn't really know either. Our husbands kinda understood, but there were still a lot more questions than answers. All we knew is HR from the college had given us packets of information and told us to take them to the Kuwait Embassy in Bahrain, and that we'd possibly be subjected to some medical testing (the same testing we'd had done in the States before Kuwait would even issue our travel Visas in the first place, mind you. And, AND!! the same testing we'll have to have again this coming week here in Kuwait. I've learned to just quit asking "why?" and surrender to the insanity of it) and that all of this was "pretty standard" for Dependent Travel Visas and the people at the Kuwait Embassy would know what we needed and be able to direct us further.
So armed with that little knowledge and packets of paperwork, we started walking to where we'd been told the Kuwait Embassy was. We found it pretty easily, and I did my best to play it cool as we walked past all the men armed with machine guns, turned in our cell phones and IDs, and entered the actual Embassy...

Where they proceeded to act confused as to why we were there.
And then take our passports (not awesome). 
And tell us we needed to have passport photos taken for the Visas (but they could not direct us where to go for said photos, and acted like we were crazy for asking them, which did not help instill confidence that they knew what we were doing there anymore than we did). 
And then hand us a small card with the address for where we were to have the medical tests done. 
Oh and then tell us goodbye and to return at 9:30am the following day, with all those tasks accomplished, and $67.50 Bahrain Dinar. Cash only.

Well ok then.

Tina and I retrieved our cell phones and IDs on the way out, and then walked several blocks trying to locate a cab and hold in our mutual frustration. 

Because it's not cool to FREAK OUT in front of someone you just met four hours before.

We finally hailed a taxi, and we're incredibly relieved to learn the driver knew a place where we could have passport photos done in a quick fashion. He drove us to what felt like the other side of the Country, and pulled up in front of a tiny door in a strip mall called "Fast Foto", where they did indeed produce passport pictures with only a five minute wait. 

Our driver was incredibly kind to wait for us, and then took us another great distance away to the "medical" facility. 
Yes, medical is in quotes. 
Because WHOA. I mean, Bahrain was nice and clean and clearly a wealthy Country. So I'm not sure why this was the place we were sent for Government medical testing. 
First up was the urine sample. I was given a small cup with my name hand written on it, and directed to go into this bathroom:
Do you like the padlock on the bars on the window? Me too.

After that was the blood test. Where the phlebotomist (I hope?) was not wearing a glove.
  I know. 
I wanted to cry, but I knew it would have been futile. I mean, what were my choices here?? Decline all testing and just live in Bahrain until they kicked me out?? I actually considered it, but quickly realized I had belongings in Kuwait and in a storage unit in Portland, but very few things with me in Bahrain. And my kids and spouse had to go back to Kuwait, and I'd like to go with them. 
So I just took a deep breath, prayed for protection, and trusted that I was not the first nor the last person to live this scenario that day. This kind of testing was why this facility existed, and I just forced myself to shove deep down all I'd been taught about sterile environments in medical settings and to trust that they knew what they were doing.
After the blood draw, we were sent across the street for chest xrays (to rule out TB) where we wore zero radiation protective gear, and then told we were done for the day, and that they would get all our results to the Embassy by 9:30 the following morning. 

After that, Tina and I walked out with what small dignity we had left and tried to find a cab back to our hotel.
This is where we learned cabs are much harder to come by in Bahrain than Kuwait. 
We walked around main roads for over an hour, waiting for one to pass us.
Finally, we saw one, going the opposite direction and on the other side of two lanes and a really haven't lived until you've tossed your purse at a woman you've just met that morning - but bonded with over a mutual fear of just having contracted hepatitis - and then darted through traffic and onto a median while frantically waving your arms and screaming "TAXI" at the top of your lungs.
It was a day of very little pride for me.

But our crazy day thus far was redeemed by this cab driver, who we learned was actually off-duty, and had to move his groceries from the back to the front seat to make room for us. He was so kind and reassuring as he knew exactly where our hotel was, and turned on "American music" for us to listen to (I've never been so happy to hear some Old School Paula Abdul) and AC to cool off. 

When we got to our hotel, I looked at the fare and saw it was only 1 and 1/2 BD, and I when I went to hand him the 20BD I had, and he said he didn't have change for that. Tina and I exchanged awkward glances as I offered up that I'd run into the hotel and see if the front desk could give me change. "Don't worry about it, it's free today!" he said kindly. We attempted to protest, but he wouldn't hear it. He insisted it was No Charge. When we told him how sweet that was and how he'd made our day, he told us he really hoped we liked our time in Bahrain, and then made us take some of his food that was "traditional Bahrainian food", he was so proud of his Country and so kind to us, we were both really touched. 

We hit up the hotel restaurant and bar for a very late lunch and a very needed mojito. 
I was very happy to learn Bahrain had different (ie, non existent) alcohol laws than Kuwait.

That evening we hung out in our hotel room. Our daughter drew pictures on her Kindle, including this one of hearts for each member of our family...including our sweet Dog we had to leave behind in the States...
She asked us to take a picture and send it to her cousin whose house our dog is living at, so she could see it.
Such a sweet heart she has =)

We had a nice view from our hotel room window...

We ordered Room Service for dinner that night...

The kids felt pretty special eating pizza in bed and drinking mango juice =)

The kids burnt off energy, having napped earlier...

...until finally I kicked them off the bed and claimed it for myself. At 8:30pm. I was so tired. 
I think they stayed up a bit longer, but I really have no idea.

We all slept pretty well that night, despite four people in one king sized bed, and awoke the next morning much better rested. 

This post is long enough already, so I'll go ahead and end it here, but just know the next morning started off better, as pork products are also legal in Bahrain =)
Hello, bacon...
...oh how we'd missed you =).