Upon arrival in Kuwait I began the first time zone correction on my watch, but it was far from the last. Many years ago I decided that I would not update my watch unless I was spending an entire week in the new time zone, however, before deploying to Afghanistan I bought a Super Watch.
This Super Watch has the ability to display two different time zones simultaneously. The real advantage is the ease with which you can change one of those two-time zones. The disadvantage is the ease with which you can change one of those two-time zones. Super Watch also has a function which will show me when the high or low tide is (not very useful in Afghanistan), what phase the moon is in, and what the azimuth to the sun is. Of the five alarms available, I have only used one and it was confusing as all get out. Confusing because I have Central Daylight Time set as my main time zone so if I want to wake up in Kabul Time I have to adjust it 9.5 hours. Then, once it was set, I have not been able to figure out how to turn it off.
All this for less than the price of a Rolex, but I don't think I shared that story yet.
So, my $20 watch allows me to change time zones quite easily, which I did before checking out Ali Al Saleem. Flying in to Kuwait, this is where you land. I'm not real sure what else goes on there, but you have your CAC (the Common Access Card that is used for identification purposes and commonly called the redundant CAC Card) reviewed, then you're put onto a plane that flies to a point where they will take you off and review your CAC. Once everyone's CAC has been confirmed, we are put onto a bus where no one else can get on or off and taken to a tent. Where our CACs are reviewed.
After confirming that we are us we are told not to go anywhere. Except the mess hall a half mile away. Eventually we are all herded back into a tent where our names are called out (by our CAC) to get onto another controlled bus which takes us to a place where they review our CAC as they put us into another controlled area. This new area is on Camp Arifjan, about an hour away, and this is where we do get some freedom.
What no one wants here is freedom. We all want to get on with the trip, even though by the time we get there it is about 1500 and we have been traveling since midnight in and out of heat and air conditioning, on and off planes, buses, and controlled areas full of cattle-like people.
I mentioned the temperature, I think I've compared temps before. Herat is a wonderful place climate wise to live. It gets into the 100s, but it also gets down into the 70s all throughout my time there. And the breeze is almost always blowing, at times very stiffly. It isn't the 120 Days they have in Shindand, but it is the start of that breeze. Kandahar on the other hand is a much more warm area. Walking out at 1800 at times feels like walking into a convection oven (but only when the wind's blowing). Camp Arifjan makes Kandahar feel cool. The temperature reached 120 and I suspect that's when the thermometer broke. Don't give me crap about "it's a dry heat" because I've never seen a turkey come out of the oven with a smile on its face and that's dry heat, too. Wow, Kuwait is hot!
So after finally getting a bed, dinner at Hardee's (because Carl's Jr is known as Hardee's east of the Mississippi and the river is still at least 7,000 miles to the west), and a shower I got onto my bed for a sleep. I say onto because I didn't get any sheets. There was a pillowcase-free pillow and I snagged a blanket from the used laundry box outside (because it was about 60 inside the building). The next morning after a trip to the PX to buy souvenirs, stuffed camels and a Kuwait Camel Racing Club (Get Outta My Way) shirt for my daughters the guy I had been travelling with since Kandahar and I went to check to see if we had an itinerary yet.
The building with our itinerary also has free WiFi, so we brought our computers to waste some time. The guy behind the counter told us that we would be leaving for the airport at 1400. When we sat down and fired up the laptops the guy told me that he had misspelled my name and that when he fixed it there was one earlier flight so I needed to be there at 1100 (about an hour) to leave.
Excited, I ran to grab my stuff and hung out right there until the next briefing. At which time I found out he still misspelled my name.
The briefing started and I listened with one ear the conversation at the far side of the room while listening with the other ear to see if the guy fixed my name. In the nick of time he handed me my itinerary and I rushed out behind the last person to leave from the building to get onto a bus.
Where I waited an extra 20 minutes while they reviewed our CACs.
Finally we drove the hour plus to the Kuwait City International Airport. There we got our briefing (but not our CACs reviewed) and were released for the ride home. In six hours.
The new group I was traveling with went to a pizza joint and then we walked around some. Eventually it was time to split up and get our boarding passes. After which we had no idea that we would be reunited because KCIA doesn't run like the American airports we've grown to love.
Our bags were scanned, then we were led back into the same uncontrolled area we had just walked around in killing time so that we could cross to the other side where we hit Customs. At the first screen I was held back because I had a metal, folding shoehorn that showed up in the X-Ray. The security guy, who spoke little English, tried to ask me if I had a moussa (making motions like a razor). Do I look like I own a razor? Eventually it got cleared up and he said I was good. I was sweating like I was back outside in the 120 degree heat, but I was good.
Then as we got to Customs, our bags were scanned as were we, and we headed for the gate. At the gate we were stopped, because here the gates are right at the entrance to the plane. In many ways the inefficiency of Ali Al Saleem/Arifjan emulates the Kuwait model. There is another luggage scanner and metal detector at the gate just before we got onto the plane.
The indoor smoking areas were kind of neat to look at. One was a big fan that just sucked the smoke up, the one near the gate was a glass room with a sliding door and a big fan. Both worked about as inefficiently as you might imagine, though the smoke smells only penetrated about a 5 meter area around the smoking areas.
We took off from Kuwait headed to Bahrain, where we had another 5 hour wait. I think I exhausted every word of English the guy next to me knew, he was Baharaini, but it was interesting trying to talk.
As we deplaned we headed straight to our next gate and along the way ran into the part of our group that didn't get the call for 1100, we saw the 1400 group. They got to the airport about a half hour before our plane took off and got seated in First Class.
From there I flew on to Heathrow. My seat companion was an Englishman and we had a nice chat before takeoff and just before landing. From there I flew to Dallas and finally Mobile where I was met by my father and sister and rushed home to remember that people over here still worry about what day of the week it is and my family was at church.
After a ten minute search I found them all and was able to surprise them. All in all a difficult feat, and one I don't intend to repeat. It was wonderful having Doodlebug run to see me (the ladies in the nursery at church didn't realize I'd been gone nearly 3 months). It was very nice to kiss my wife again, listening to one of the ladies she was talking to when I showed up comment, "That's why he hasn't been answering your texts." Then when both my teenagers showed up they ran down the stairs and jumped on me nearly knocking me over. Worth every single second of the trouble of surprising someone from 7500 miles away.
Not including the trip from Herat to Kandahar, or from Kandahar to Bagram to Kuwait, or my time on the Rock, the travel time from KCIA to Mobile was 29 hours and 40 minutes. Three time zone adjustments on my watch, and 9.5 hours on my biological clock, but I was home. In Fairhope. With my family.