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=)
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 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 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 median...you 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 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 =)
...oh how we'd missed you =).