Our travel plans took us from DC to Amsterdam, where we were to meet up with our European partner, Inge Bakker. As we entered the jet and found our assigned seats, I warned Andrea of my plans to sleep as soon as my ass hit the seat. I detest flying for many reasons that I won’t burden the reader with so I take Dramamine, the original knock you on your ass formula, which puts me right out. My eyes were heavy and I succumbed to sleep almost immediately. Due to the weather, our flight was delayed on the tarmac for over an hour, though to me it seemed mere minutes. However, Andrea was stuck in overdrive, alert and awake fighting a silent battle with the man on her right over the armrest space.
The flight to Amsterdam was a blur as one can imagine, however, I was woken up a few times when my knee ventured too far outside the predetermined limits of my coach seat and the drink cart slammed into it, seemingly to readjust my understanding of the rules of coach, arms, legs and feet inside your space at all times, please. I had it easy, though; Andrea continued her fight with the armrest bandit while her knees hollered with rage against the seat in front of her. By the time we landed in Holland I could tell she was ready for a break and I was excited to see Amsterdam.
Our hopes were dashed as we exited customs to find out we had landed almost 2 hours behind schedule. In addition, Inge was nowhere to be found and since I had not had the foresight to set up a meeting place, we spent the next hour paging, emailing and searching for one another. Once we met up, we didn’t have the time to sightsee, so we decided to exchange ideas, gifts and some laughs over lunch. Inge was kind enough to treat and I indulged in a Heineken, when in Rome, right?
With a couple bumps and some jerking this way and that, we grabbed the tarmac and headed towards the terminal. The cloudiness of drug induced sleep had worn off an hour before, so I was relatively clear and anxious to meet up with our contacts in Kuwait. First things first, we needed our visas for entry into the Kingdom of Kuwait. How to describe the chaos that is Kuwaiti customs and immigration….the best way would be your average DMV with a hint of the Walmart deli counter and no sign of order. My next thought was a dual purpose, coffee and nicotine. Thankfully, Andrea grabbed our numbers while I indulged in some much needed carcinogens. While we waited we began our quest to win friends and influence others. Incredibly, we met a contractor with a degree from my soon-to-be alma mater, West Virginia University. We exchanged pleasantries, cards and wished each other good luck as my number materialized on the “now serving” sign.
We were immediately approached by two, seemingly well intentioned local nationals who explained that they could take us to our destination for a low, low price of $40 per person, plus tips. Flashbacks of Cancun and the railroading my wife and I received upon arriving streaked through my mind. Andrea and I politely thanked them for their interest, but declined and set off to discuss options and formulate a plan B.
According to CIPC and our contact, who will remain anonymous for OPSEC reasons, we were supposed to meet up with our contacts at the Cinnibon and they would transport us to Ali Al Salem to await our bird heading north to Basra in 4 days. We decided to wait for the next military transport, which we were told by the $80 crew would not be until after 0200 (2 am for the laymen), 5 hours from present time. Due to our limited budget and our need to get situated and familiar, we agreed this would be the best plan of action.
My caffeine level was dangerously low and being on the verge of hypocoffeenia, we set up camp nearby the coffee shop and while Andrea, hereby known as “The Fixer”, began making calls and trying to ensure our success in transit, I started updating our loyal fans, family and friends. We made it, the hard part was over, I thought. Surely they must have just missed us and by 0200 our contacts will scoop us up and send us on our way to the LSA and beyond. Little did I know this was just the beginning and the headaches that would follow.
As the bus slowed to a stop, we exited to grab our gear and line up for instructions. The air filled with dust, the sun just minutes away. Inside the terminal we waited, Andrea and I looked like we had been hitchhiking the Sahara. My mind kept wondering what's next, where is our contacts, could this be where we meet them? The Specialist behind the wooden counter quickly pointed us out of his area, telling us we needed to find someone else to push our issues on.
We were out as fast as we were in, dragging the bags and hoping for direction from some place higher. Thankfully, our quest placed us with a civilian that pitied our plight and said the words I never thought would sound so sweet, transient barracks. I quickly informed my tired partner we found some relief and would have to deal with the issues at hand once we had some sleep.
We parted ways as the sexes are separated out here and as I dropped the last of her gear by her tent, the sun was just beginning to enlighten the desert sky. My tent was close by and the walk almost nice, the night had cooled the air just enough to give some relief. I moved into the tent as quietly as I could as it was half full of others in transit to areas beyond. I lied down for the first time in days, thinking of what was ahead of us in mere hours. My mind slowed and I couldn't hold a thought, eyes too heavy to open, sleep was just seconds away.
Jaeson "Doc" Parsons