Lebanon

A couple months ago, we went on a weekend getaway to Lebanon. Lebanon had been on my list for pretty much my entire stint in Kuwait and I was super excited. Rob had been to Beirut before on a ladsladslads weekend, but went along with my desire to visit.

We flew in on MEA which is Lebanon’s airline. It’s a pretty nice flight! Nothing to complain about really. Once we landed, we went through customs and straight to the car hire counter that we had booked weeks in advance, along with portable WiFi so we wouldn’t get lost. Turns out the WiFi was a no go and I wasn’t all that keen on doing a rental because I had heard about the traffic in Beirut and didn’t want us to stress on this trip. We decided to leave the hire car and took a taxi. The hotel we booked wasn’t awful but wasn’t really what we had envisioned. Oh well. It was close to Hamra street where all the happenings happen, so it worked out nicely.

Because we had gotten in so late, we decided to have a chill day wandering the city of Beirut. It is such a walkable city. Yea, it’s a bit hilly, but not awful and I love to walk when in a new city – it’s just the best way to get the vibe of a new place and to see more! We found a great sheesha cafe on the cliffs overlooking Pigeon Rock. Oh, it was a stunner! That evening we met up with some friends I worked with and went to Ferdinand’s off Hamra Street. The food was delicious, the drinks were delicious, the atmosphere was delicious. The chef came out and helped us order their top food and was very friendly!

The second day, we met up with our friends and drove to Jeitta Grotto (SO COOL!), Our Lady of Lebanon (VERY HIGH UP!), Byblos, and the Phoenician Wall (wayyyy cooler than it sounds). The Grotto, we got to very early on in the day which worked out in our benefit for sure! By the time we were finished exploring the caves, the queue at the entrance was way long. Our Lady of Lebanon is a statue of a lady on a hill. It’s neat, the cable cars make it way neat, although frighteningly high up in the sky. The views were spectacular! The stairs (because we were told we had to pay extra for the funicular  *not true*) were so super fun to walk up. Byblos was probably my favorite part of the day. I loved the souk! (I always love the souk) and I really enjoyed sitting outside in the middle of the souk, eating and smoking sheesha. The castle ruins were really cool, but the view was the winner winner chicken dinner. The Phoenician Wall was not something all four of us wanted to do, but our history buff was super keen, so we said, “OOkkkaaayyy.” It turned out way better than any of us thought! It’s like a wall that was built in the water to stop the waves from the Mediterranean from crashing onto the village and I can’t really describe what it was like well. It was amazing.

On our final full day in Lebanon, we took the streets of Beirut again. We conquered the National Museum, the sheesha cafe (again), the boulders near Pigeon Rock, and Mar Mikhael to find the colorful stairs (which were a bit tricky to find for a second)!

All in all, we really enjoyed Lebanon. All four of us sang nothing but praise for our time in Lebanon. I would definitely recommend going and would definitely go back!

 

Visas, Visas, Visas!

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Sike! It’s a lot more work than going on Oprah!

We have been busy getting our Vietnam stuff sorted AND getting marriage stuff sorted for me, as we are getting married in the UK and Rob is from the UK (lucky duck). Oh! And canceling our residency in Kuwait! Phew!

For Vietnam visas, we were told that we need our teaching certificates and our university/college degrees notarized (by a notary), authenticated (by the Department of State of a state), and legalized (by the Vietnam Embassy is DC/London). We were also told that we need a copy of our passports notarized. We need copies of every single page of our passports notarized. Because my teaching certificate only  has my first and last name, while all other documents have my first, middle, and last name, I needed to get an affidavit of same person notarized and authenticated. Then we needed a criminal background check done from Kuwait and a medical check done in Kuwait that is stamped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then legalized at the Vietnamese Consulate. It’s a lot. And not just that, it is a lot of money. We do get reimbursed up to a certain amount of money, but my affidavit has put me over that reimbursement cap, which means I won’t be seeing all of the money I spent. Oh well. It was only, like, 50 bucks? Yikes.

Anywhos, the marriage visa has been a pain! My understanding about getting married in the UK is as follows: you and your partner need to be in the country for 7 consecutive days then you go to a registrar’s office and fill out a form that then allows your names and the announcement of your marriage to go out into the Universe for 28 days. If no one objects to this marriage during those 28 days, you have a year to get married. Um, what?! How crazy, how different! So, since Rob and I have not been in England and we would like to be married before going to Vietnam, we had to figure out a different way. There is a place in Scotland that allows you to fill on the special Universe form and submit all documents 29 days before your marriage from where we are. On top of filling out a handful of these special Universe papers, I also had to apply for a marriage visa. It was very nerve-racking. They gave us a checklist of all the documents they needed, and I am pretty sure we gave them all of those and then some because we are both extra careful and not keen on rejection (who is?). Luckily, we got that back within a week! I think I went a bit out of order in terms of the events of this paragraph, but whatever. We are now waiting for our special Universe forms to get to the UK!

Lastly, we are also having to close out all our stuff in Kuwait so that we can have our residency canceled. I’ve chatted with many people from many different schools, and it seems that Rob and I got super lucky in that both our schools let us do most of the work on our own. How sweet! It’s like our schools think it is super easy or something! I mean, it isn’t hard, but it is a bunch of work. We have to cancel our banks, our internets, we have to have our apartments checked, we have to sign a paper saying we’ve been paid everything we were supposed to be paid even if we haven’t been paid it yet (HA! Rob did that… I won’t be), then we have to turn over our passports and IDs to be stamped away and canceled. The Kuwait part is the easiest of all our visa stuff. Thank goodness. Getting the criminal background check has been a headache so far. Hoping that headache is done, though…

Like I said, we have been super busy. Getting visas and canceling visas isn’t all that easy, but it will definitely be worth it in the end!

Desert Sunrises

It has happened a couple times: me, stopping in the middle of something and getting a bit teary-eyed as I reminisce about my time in Kuwait and what things I would miss. It happened as I was putting artwork on the walls at school, it has happened in the early mornings as the call to prayer sounds and, most recently, it happened as I sat atop Mutla Ridge and watched the sunrise.

I’ve lived here for a little over five years, so of course there will be bits I will miss. Some things are obvious, like the friends I have made here and just the random people I have met along the way, because everyone has an effect on everyone. Others may not be as obvious, such as the views or the culture. So, I thought I’d put together a bit of a list of things I will definitely miss about Kuwait. This will probably not make me cry (HA!), so this should be fun!

  • My parents: They have been here with me since my very first day in Kuwait. They have been here with me through tough school days, rough break-ups to meeting Robert and traveling together. I know they will still be here, but it will definitely be a challenge to leave them and start off on a new adventure. I know we have a lot more in store for us, so that keeps me going but, still, they will be the best things I will miss. (YEP! Definitely NOT crying, y’all!)
  • My friends: Duh. They have also been with me since the beginning, and have taught me a lot about myself. They have experienced Kuwait with me, traveled to new places, concert-ed together, cried together, laughed together. These friends have turned into family and family is hard to let go of. I am very fortunate in that the closest of my friends will be in Asia, too.
  • The call to prayer: It sounds out five times a day and has become such a soothing sound, that being without it will take some getting used to.
  • The kids: I have taught 116 children in my time here. I have had cousins, brothers, and sisters; I have built relationships with the families. I have been able to watch them grow! Ugh, yes, I will miss these families. Also – tiny people hugs.
  • The amazing sunsets/sunrises: HOLY MOLY, guys. The desert can actually be a beautiful thing, even the littered desert of Kuwait.
  • Sheesha: This is a weakness.
  • The food: Falafel! Hummus! Fatoush! NOMNOMNOM. Sad face.
  • Souk Mubarakiya: It is always a good time.

Guys, I’ve run out. I guess I got all the important things and that’s the best part. I’m sure there is a whole heap more that I will miss, but my mind has officially shut down (it’s the end of the week, gimme a break).

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Kuwait City at sunrise

Namnamnam

*Rob came up with this brilliant subject for our first post. He’s brilliant.

Hey there! Rob and I decided to start a blog to chronicle our new adventures together! We will each be participating in posting and hopefully it won’t be too far or in-between.

We have accepted positions at an American school in Ho Chi Minh City and are very excited to move from our home for the last 3 to 5 years to a new home 3,997 miles away. Rob will continue his craft of music and I will be jumping in with both feet, both hands, my body, my head and all that jazz into teaching fifth grade (quite the change from kindergarten to grade five! Can you tell I’m nervous as h-e-double hockey sticks?!). We are super excited about all the changes.

Changing countries is no easy feat, mind you. There are so many stamps, notarizations, check-ups, selling and shipping items, and general running about involved, but luckily we have some super awesome people that are willing to help us with everything!

In the midst of moving countries, we are also in the process of planning a wedding! Oy! Glad we didn’t decided to have the partay this summer! Wedding planning is a hassle, man. There is so much involved! I’ve always watched friends (via the book of faces) plan for their weddings and always thought to myself, “Pfffft, I’m just gonna go to city hall and be done with it.” Turns out, in my heart of hearts, that is not what I really wanted. Go figure. So, here we are also planning a wedding from 3,748 miles, soon-to-be 6,234 miles away! Sounds fun, no?

Anywhos, the first post is done. Yay! WELCOME!

xx,

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