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Sunday, October 04, 2015

How Lulu Went To Kuwait for 10 Days And Ended Up At The Florida State/Wake Forest Football Game in North Carolina In The Worst Rain Storm In 1000 Years

President of Kuwait University, Hussein Al Ansar,
presents Lulu
with a gold ship, a symbol of Kuwait.
A side trip to the Arabian Desert
This Starbucks is about 10 times
 the size of one in the U.S.
Lulu just got home from a 10 day trip to Kuwait - yeah the Arab country that was overrun by Saddam Hussein. It all started last spring by a little email that she almost erased as junk. You know what I mean - the emails from Asian countries that offer you all sorts of money - if you just reply. Lulu is one of the world’s foremost experts on school library media - so this is not the first time a great trip started like this. She has taken me  to Portugal - Brazil - Australia - England under similar circumstances. So she replied saying she would like to help. 

The Kuwait University wanted her to evaluate their library science program. They would pay her a nice stipend - fly her first class - and pick up all of her expenses. She accepted. She was certainly surprised when they sent her this first class plane ticket - 

ELECTRONIC TICKET NUMBER    229 2102065224-25
ISSUED BY                   17SEP2015KUWASOS   AGT 09991612 US
      0619  TALLAHASEE                 AA 2631       CONFIRMED
            TERMINAL B                 BAGGAGE 3 PIECE
      1150  DALLAS/FT WOR DFW          AA 1345       CONFIRMED
      1631  NEW YORK      JFK          ECONOMY CLASS SEAT
            TERMINAL 4
      2100  NEW YORK      JFK          KU  118       CONFIRMED
26SEP  1630  KUWAIT                     BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 006D
      0940  KUWAIT                     KU  117       CONFIRMED
      1610  NEW YORK      JFK          BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 007D
           03OCT  0330  CHECK-IN OPENS
      0630  NEW YORK      JFK          AA 1110       CONFIRMED
                                       BAGGAGE 3 PIECE
      1230  DALLAS/FT WOR DFW          AA 2650       CONFIRMED
      1542  TALLAHASEE                 ECONOMY CLASS SEAT
  FARE                 USD16331.00
                    USD8.00ZP   USD5.00XA   USD11.20AY
                    USD1.30GZ   USD7.50KW   USD0.80YX
                    USD10.00YQ   USD300.00YR   USD18.00XF
TOTAL                USD16783.98

She knew this was serious business when she read that last line - US Dollars $16,783.98 - for a plane ticket? 

All summer long she wondered if this would materialize. But she had the ticket - Kuwait already paid for it. She was ready to go. 

Lulu made me promise that I could not write a thing about the adventure - until she was safely back on the ground in Florida. It was a very hard secret to keep from my blog. But I did - until now. 

It started Friday Sept 26th - she got up at 4 AM - and I drove her to the Tallahassee Airport. It is a pretty good guess that she was the only one from our town going to Kuwait. Getting to New York via Dallas was tedious - but all the flights were fine. Usually - Lulu does not fly without me - but I could not justify spending that kind of money just to go to the Middle East for a week. I was already spending her paycheck in my head many ways - so I bon voyaged her knowing she is a flying expert. Little did I know how expert she was.

At JFK she boarded a Boeing 777 owned by Kuwait Airlines. It was 9:30PM - Lulu was pretty tired. They left on time - Lulu had a nice supper - then she slept most of the way to Kuwait. She flew over Newfoundland - Iceland - Ireland - Wales - England - Belgium - France - Germany - Switzerland - Turkey - Syria - Saudi Arabia - Iraq and Iran. Finally at about 4 PM - they glided over the Persian Gulf and landed in Kuwait City. Her private car and driver for the whole week met her -and  took her to her Symphony Style Hotel on the beach. 
Lulu's room was on the 7th floor
She had all day Saturday and Sunday to unwind. One of the other professors took her on a few tours of the country of 4 million people. This country has 80 billion barrels of oil underneath it. It is very modern and they love Americans. You may recall when Saddam Hussein invaded this country - the USA saved them during Operation Desert Shield. To honor us - they seem to have every American store and restaurant imaginable. Lulu brought home a Kuwait Starbucks cup to prove it to me. Lulu said that most of the cars are big Chevys - Fords - Cadillacs - and Jeeps. 
Kuwait is a very modern Arab country. Some people dress in traditional Arab garb - but many wear American clothes. Women wear pants and knee length skirts. She only saw two other blondes the whole week - many of the locals wear the hijab headscarf and abayas - to protect them from the high temps and the sun. Lulu had to try the local garb on and she liked how you sorta vanished into the wood work. 

On Monday to Thursday - Lulu evaluated their library science program. She will write the report from home. She met a young professor from San Diego who was interviewing there and they had dinner one night.  She said they pay about triple what is paid in the USA. The packages include a house (use of a house - expats cannot own houses there) - cars - drivers - maids - utilities - medical - and trips home to the USA. The best part is that the pay is tax-free - both in Kuwait and the USA. One can go there a few years and come home wealthy. 

Lulu particularly enjoyed spending time with the president of the Kuwait University. He is a graduate of Florida State University - his PhD is in library science. Many of the citizens go to the USA to get advanced degrees. They receive scholarship from the country to study abroad - with guaranteed work when they return. Everyone Kuwaiti has a job for life.

Lulu loved her visit there immensely - the people - the customs - the food - the lodging - but mostly the shopping. They took her shopping everywhere. They took her to the Grand Mosque - she had the chance to wear an abaya. They asked her to return as a consultant. She told them she would love to show it all to her husband - me.

During the whole time - Lulu had high speed Internet. We chatted at night on FaceTime. She watch her home TV using our sling box. She listened to her favorite shows on Sirius XM radio over the net - and enjoyed all her Netflix shows. She kept up with the local news in Tallahassee and her Seminoles. Everything was in real time - thanks to the Internet. She did not notice any censorship. 

The Arabs do not eat pork - there is also no drinking alcohol in the country - not a problem for us. 

Before she knew it - Friday was here - and it was time to go home. She loved the new friends she made -  particularly the Director, Taghreed.  Library professors stick together like glue. One thing was very touching. The president showed up at the airport at 7 AM to send Lulu off. He also had a gift for me - a formal Arab ceremony robe - their equivalent of a tuxedo. I am very honored to receive it - and you can see a picture of me wearing it. I can’t wait to wear it to my next FSU game :-)

Lulu had a great flight home thinking about the good time she had in Kuwait - and possibly working for them again in the future. They already requested she return in March - we will be in Berlin then and the trip will be so much shorter. She also had 11 hours to work on her report on the plane home. Little did she know the trip was going to get very interesting. 

On Friday at 4 PM - she landed in NYC - but her body was saying it was 11 PM. A car met her and took her to the Hyatt Regency Hotel. She got a good night’s sleep - thinking she just had 2 short plane flights home on Saturday. She got up early - not wanting to miss her first flight to Dallas. When she got to the JFK Terminal - they said her flight was overbooked. She offered to give up her ticket for a voucher - they offered $500 - and she accepted - especially when they said they could route her home through Charlotte and get her home even earlier. This was getting interesting - now they started speaking my language - $500!

The flight to Charlotte was easy enough - but when she got there - the system was overtaxed by the approaching hurricane. North Carolina and South Carolina were experiencing the worst rain storm in 1000 years! I am not kidding 1000 years. There was no room on the plane for Lulu to Tallahassee. This time she did not have a choice - she was barred from the plane - and they offer her $325. But the ticket agent told her - something is brewing. What could it be?

Remember earlier that Lulu’s ticket cost $16,000. The reason it cost so much was because Kuwait bought her a fully refundable ticket.  US Airway/American Airlines - had to give her a full refund in CASH - $1350! She had to wait to fly home on Sunday morning - but they handed her a cashier's check for $1350. 

Just then Lulu realized that Charlotte is just 80 miles from Winston-Salem - where the FSU Seminoles would be playing a game at 3:30 PM. Lulu always makes lemonade out of lemons. She quickly got a rental car - drove to Walmart and bought a heavy coat and a pair of jeans. She had nothing heavy - to go to the game. She drove her rental SUV right to the stadium - and talked the ticket agent into giving her a free ticket because the game was part over. She watched the rest of the game with the Seminole fans on the 30 yard line. 
Lulu at the FSU/Wake Game.
Sadly - if it were not raining - son and grandson - Drew and Jack - were planning to attend the game. What a surprise it would have been to sneak in behind them to surprise them. So one day she is in Kuwait - the next day she is in the stands watching her beloved Seminoles beat Wake Forest in the middle of the worst rain storm ever. Luckily the rain let up for most of the game - but it was windy - and cold. After just being in the 110 degree desert - Lulu’s Walmart coat and jeans were no match for the Northern fall. 

Sunday morning - I drove to the airport - some of her luggage was already there - it had arrived from Dallas the day before. At 11:30 - her half empty flight pull into the gate - she was safely home. 

When I met her - she gushed at the good time she had in Kuwait. When we got home - the  first thing she did was show me the robe that the president sent me. The second thing she showed me were the $500 voucher and the $1350 check from the airlines. 10 days at home alone was too much for me without her. Next time - we will go to Kuwait together. 

Made the Kuwait Times 
Looking out the hotel room window
Kuwait City
Hotel pool
Fresh strawberry juice at breakfast
Kuwaitis have great breads
She opened a shop while there
Fellow library science professors on tour
Personal driver for her stay
Camel farm in the Sahara
Camels didn't move much to conserve energy
Sunday afternoon in the desert
Local market with lots of interesting fruits
Lulu watched the eclipse from bed from start to finish
President's inauguration ceremony
Non-alcoholic beer
Kuwait University library
Undergraduate classes are segregated
Kuwaiti librarian
Shopping at the huge mall
The Avenues had a lot of unique areas
Final day receiving gifts from the Deans
Touring the Grand Mosque
Personal tour guide
In the mosque at the speaker's pulpit
Welcome home in Walmart jacket and jeans 
My gift from President Hussein - Kuwaiti formal wear
Bump number two
Bump number one

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