In Kuwait, anything out of the norm can turn into an adventure. Today, my big outing was to the Indian visa consulate to submit my paperwork in anticipation of my upcoming trip to Delhi and the Taj Mahal! This particular adventure could only be started after a week of research and phone calls to find out the exact process so I could be prepared. After finding out that the embassy (conveniently located near my work) does NOT process visas, I found out that the visa consulate (absolutely not conveniently located anywhere near my work) was the place to go. So I spent some time on google maps- definitely not up-to-date for Kuwait- to find the exact-sort-of-not-really location of the building. For those not familiar with Kuwait, street names are not exactly in fashion here. Some streets have names, with dubious arrows pointing in wizard-of-oz-scarecrow directions. Occasionally, there is a helpful arabic sign with a possible street name, but unless I can sit in front of it for 3 minutes trying to sound out the arabic script, it's a lost cause. In any case, I had high hopes and equal measures of determination as I left work and headed into Kuwait City (a mess of one way streets, traffic, and potholes).
My adventure started off well, aside from one minor traffic inconvenience caused by a police checkpoint (but they don't usually stop pale white girls). I finally made it to Kuwait City (downtown Kuwait), but made my first mistake when I took a left before the Grand Mosque, instead of after it. I quickly realized the error of my ways, and corrected it by turning the wrong way up a one-way street. My bad. I tried to do a u-turn, but decided that turning into on-coming traffic was not my best plan ever. I finally found a place to take a left, and realized to my horror that I had turned into a large souq area (outdoor marketplace). I navigated through the mess of traffic and people, and frantically looked for an easy place to get back to the main road. While I was looking for a turn, I failed to notice the abnormally large concrete "road fix" (aka, someone poured way too much concrete over a pothole, basically turning it into a reverse protruded mess). I think I screamed a little when my car shuddered over the concrete, metal grinding. I thought about stopping to make sure that the passenger side of my car was still there, but decided to just shrug it off and continue boldly forth.
I made a turn, ended up back on the main road, and turned at what I thought was the correct light. Alas, I was mistaken, and I ended up right back in the old souk. This time I avoided the pothole, and finally made it back to the main street. Within a few minutes, I found the correct turn, and miraculously saw a sign saying "Ahmed Al Jaber st", victory! Unfortunately, the only information I had on the consulate was the building name, and someone forgot to actually put a name sign on the building. So I drove, stopped and asked directions, turned around, stopped and asked directions, turned around, stopped and asked directions, and finally maneuvered my car into a dingy side alley. Fortunately, it's a predominantly Indian area, so several helpful store clerks pointed me in the right direction, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the big "Indian passport and visa services" sign. Once I found the right room, everything went smoothly. The people were incredibly professional and quick (a far cry from the total chaos of Kuwaiti ministry offices). Within 20 minutes, I had submitted my paperwork and received the good news that my visa would be ready in ten days. They told me they would call when it was done, and perhaps for the first time in 2 years of navigating paperwork in Kuwait, I believe them!
When I returned to my car, I was delighted to see that it was all in one piece. I worked my way back through traffic, through another police checkpoint, and decided to reward myself with a trip to the salon. All in a day's [after] work.