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Published: February 18th 2010
This entry never got published. I'm publishing again. (Entry date of February 18, 2010)
I’m back in Minnesota, and now my journey has ended. However, there were a few things left to experience since my last blog entry.
The Assessment Center concluded successfully despite the Internet going down twice during the last round of testing. I was seconds away from going to “Plan B” which is manual testing (and laborious scoring) when the Internet returned and saved the day.
The last evening I invited to dinner three of the client’s people who I worked closely with. I asked them to pick some place where locals would go and we went to a restaurant in Khafji called “The Anchorage.” It was a great meal. In attendance was Edward from India, Mirza from Pakistan, Manny from the Philippines and me. It was called a Turkish restaurant, but the food seemed very Saudi. The way it works is that you go to the counter and select what you want by pointing (or talking Arabic). We ordered a sampler of hummus and dips, lamb chops, a whole fish, french fries, several types of kabobs (chicken, lamb, and mutton), salad, and pita bread.
At the Assessment Center
This is a photo from the room in which the consultants worked. We spent many hours in this room
Please see my photos. The total cost of this feast for four was about $30 US. Quite the deal for such fantastic food!
The trip out of Saudi into Kuwait was more complex than I would have expected. When we got to the border, much conversation ensued after the border guard collected our passports. Fortunately, Michel was in the car and he speaks pretty good Arabic. The guards called a supervisor and more conversation took place. They wanted to know why we didn’t have our original Kuwait visas from when we entered, but since the visas are single-entry (good for one passage); they were taken from us when we left Kuwait. After about 10 minutes we were allowed to pass through to the building where we would pick up our visas.
Theoretically, these visas were arranged for, but they acted as if we had smuggled ourselves into the country. In fact, they acted as if crossing the border into Kuwait was something they never dealt with before despite the fact that they are border guards who do nothing else but admit people from Saudi. Again, much conversation ensured between Michel and border people. They told us to sit
This guy was one of the most helpful people on staff. He's from Inda and works from 5:30 am to 5:30 pm, seven days a week, 365 days a year. He makes about 50 cents an hour.
down and we waited. And waited. And waited. Some people in our group didn’t have Kuwait entry stamps in their passports, and that caused issues too. Eventually, they found the right paperwork and then proceeded to photocopy everything about 20 times. Mind you, all we were doing was passing from the border to the airport, so we would be in Kuwait for a total of about 60 minutes (not including the additional hour at the border). The building had all the ambiance of a mental hospital. But come to think of it, perhaps that was appropriate.
Onward to Kuwait City. That’s when we found out the driver really didn’t know where the airport was. Michel again came to the rescue by pulling using the GPS function on his mobile cell phone and was able to direct the driver.
After navigating through the most confusing airport I’ve ever seen, we were off to Amsterdam via Bahrain. Unfortunately, the plane needed to circle the island nation of Bahrain because of clouds and was minutes away from flying back to Kuwait City. However, we were finally able to land and after an hour layover we were off to Amsterdam.
security in Amsterdam was way more stringent than it was when I was there last October. I went through an x-ray machine, a question and answer session with security (I flunked the show your boarding pass from the Kuwait to Amsterdam question), a trip through the body scanner, a body pat down, a baggage search, and a passport scan. Somehow I was allowed on the plane, even though I began to suspect that I might be a terrorist (I flunked the body scanner because I had a comb in my back pocket.)
So ends another journey and amazing experience. I will be back to Khafji at the end of March for another two to three weeks and I hope to have a few more stories to report.
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