A sub-page of Teaching ESL At Kuwait University

Will it be a hassle to get my passport, exit visas, etc., when I wish to travel outside Kuwait?

Depends. If you travel at the regular times of year (Feb and summer), no problem. They are usually set up to handle the flow. Any other time, you have to keep on them to get what you want. The means of dealing with the office people here is to make a friend in the office where you do business. Then whenever you need something they are there to help you.

Care to comment on anything I should know about the administration? For example, whose toes I should avoid stepping on? Or who should I make a point to get to know?

In terms of the administration, there is one man you should cozy up to because he can make life easier for you. His name is M, and you will have the chance to meet him almost immediately upon arrival. He is the person you will consult about getting all your paperwork done. As you may know, once you get here, the first thing you'll have to do is spend several days over the first month or two visiting various ministries and university offices to have all your paperwork processed: separate visits to several clinics to have x-rays, blood test, and a physical; a visit to the police to be fingerprinted; a visit to the university's administration offices to present your credentials and have your university ID made; a visit to immigration to get your passport stamped with a work visa; a visit to ministry x to have your Civil ID made. It's horrendously boring and time consuming, but once it's finished you don't have to do anything like it again until you leave. Now, M, if he likes you, will take care of some of the drudgery for you by sending out his Indian minions to collect signatures and papers at ministries that do not require you there in order to process your paperwork. As I understand it, he is not obliged to do this. But he is a very sweet fellow, though he has what at first appears to be a gruff exterior. I just finished all my paperwork to leave here this week and because M likes me, he took care of ninety percent of the work for me, which involved running around to various ministries and university offices collecting signatures that verified I did not owe them anything or still have in my possession any of their belongings, such as library books or computers. In appreciation for his help, I'm going to slip him 15kd (about $50) in an envelope. It is, I believe, money well spent. Otherwise I would have had to have done all the legwork myself, spent a good deal more than 15kd on taxis, and been frustrated at nearly every turn. When I checked in, as you will be doing soon, I gave him and his office mate a couple of cartons of cigarettes. I think that sealed my relationship with them.

So in general people don't get pissed off at "tips" in Kuwait? Important question, actually.

I guess not, though I haven't tipped that many people since coming here. Hardly anyone is averse to accepting money, though.

Once I get there, where will I encounter bureaucracy?

Everywhere. To give you an idea of how the bureaucracy works (or doesn't work) around here, this morning I tried calling the finance office to inquire about my check. You see, the university withheld my last month's salary until I finished all my paperwork, which I handed in this past Tuesday to the Finance Department. On the same day in the same building one floor below, I also turned over my passport in order to have my work visa canceled and to receive a one month temporary visa. Also on Tuesday, at a different office on the same campus, I applied for a ticket voucher, which I can hand over to Kuwait Airlines in exchange for a ticket out of here. So anyway, this morning I spent 30 minutes on the telephone trying to find someone in the finance department who can help me. Everyone I talk to there says, "Oh, call extension xxxx." Always it's a different number. After half an hour I was ready to throw the phone through my terminal! In desperation, I hit upon the idea of asking the people in our faculty's finance department if they have any connections at the main campus finance office. Good idea. The fellow here gives me a number and a name of a friend of his in the budget section and I give him a call. He said he would get back to me - he used to work in the salary section - but I haven't heard back from him yet. While having a coffee break, I was thinking that the only method I hadn't yet tried was the equivalent of throwing darts in the dark, so a few minutes later I began randomly dialing extension numbers at the main campus. The first call got me through to a woman to whom I explained the nature of my inquiry. She put me on hold, and a moment later another woman came on, who actually had my papers in front of her! That was incredible luck, but it brought with it bad news. She needed a copy of my temporary visa in order to complete the paperwork and issue me my check. I explained that the people in the passport section downstairs had the visa and my passport. She said it was not her job to fetch copies of passports from the visa section and that I would have to bring it to her! I couldn't believe it! I asked her if she was serious, that I had to make a trip out there to make a copy in a first floor office and then take it to her on the second floor. She was serious. What could I do? Someone said I could have asked the people in the visa section to make a copy and deliver it to finance. I knew that I could sooner find someone to do that than I could find a thousand dollars on the street. I also knew that even if I found someone who SAID they would do me the favor of making a copy and walking it up to the second floor, that they might not actually get around to doing it for a few days, thereby delaying receipt of my check by that many days. Better to do it myself for my own peace of mind, I thought, so I spent $12 on cab fare to go over to the office, get my passport, make a copy of the temporary visa and run it up to the second floor. THAT is how things work around here.