We left Texas at the height of wildflower season. Every field we passed was splashed in color, covered in blues and pinks, yellows and reds. The flowers shoved themselves up through cracks in the sidewalks, along roadways, under trees and next to buildings. It was a dazzling array of color I didn’t fully appreciate until I got here, to Kuwait, to the desert.
We left in the middle of the night, because it’s the Army and the Army loves traveling under the cover of darkness, but also because our flight was out of Dallas, hours away from Fort Hood where we’d spent the last few weeks training. We were tired, bleary-eyed and hungry when we got to the airport, to the check-in line where we’d spend the next four hours.
First it was the luggage, the hundreds of pounds of stuff it takes to go far, far away and live there for a handful of months. Then it was the weather and the flight delays, the connections we’d miss and then repeated attempts to get us all on one plane and then several planes.
Hours later, hungry and tired, half of us left the check-in counter with tickets to flights that would get us in too late to Baltimore to catch our flight overseas. We didn’t have a plan, really, didn’t know when the next flight over would happen, we just figured we’d get to Baltimore and figure it out. We’re good at figuring it out, us Army types.
So we spent a bunch of unintended hours at the airport in Atlanta, eating, speculating and finally flying on to Baltimore.
It was past midnight when we got in. We gathered a few additional members of our wayward posse, made a spectacle of ourselves shoving, smashing and maneuvering our luggage into a too-small hotel shuttle and then, finally, bags unloaded at the hotel, all of us checked in, we wandered away to our rooms to find some sleep.
The next day we went back to the airport. We debated our options, made some calls and figured something out. We acquired tickets to Germany, which wasn’t Kuwait, but it was closer to Kuwait than Baltimore. We had a plan. The flight left late, so we went out for the day. We had lunch in the sun. I got a hair cut, bought a shirt.
Back at the airport later that night we were ready to go. Our bags were once again loaded on carts, we’d called our family and friends and said goodbye. It was time to go.
But then we weren’t allowed on the flight to Germany because of a paperwork issue.
Army travel is neat. Really.
Germany being denied to us, we inquired about other destinations that might be open to us and lo, there was a flight to Qatar and it seemed that our paperwork – while barring us from Germany – would indeed allow us to fly to Qatar and that, most definitely, was closer to Kuwait that Baltimore or Germany.
So we left the airport again, playing another fantastic and rousing game of the Duffle Bag Drag, loading and unloading our shit onto hotel shuttles and the vehicles of some family members who had come up to see us off.
The next day – day three – we dropped our bags at the airport, rented a car, promptly got into a minor fender bender before we even left the rental car garage and then set off for Baltimore. We didn’t have a plan this time either, but we figured going to Baltimore was far superior to spending any more time at the airport.
Following our Baltimore adventures, which really were quite fantastic, we headed back, again, to the airport where we successfully checked into our flight to Qatar which was leaving very late and which, by the way, would be stopping for fuel in Germany and also in Kuwait, which we all found endlessly amusing.
We got to Germany early evening the next day, hauled our carry-on bags off the plane so they could refuel without all of us on board and were all corralled into an over-warm Air Force terminal and then, on day four of our travel adventure, it was announced that our plane had to stay in place for 24 hours. In Germany.
We were assured it was nothing mechanical, that the delay was purely because of paperwork.
We waited another hour and then a few hundred of us loaded up on a handful of buses and embarked on an 1.5 hour adventure through the German countryside, which really was quite lovely, until we arrived in Bitburg where we spent the night.
The next morning, we went to Trier for a bonus adventure, toured some mega-old ruins, got back just in time to board the bus back to the airport where we boarded a Kuwait-bound plane that we weren’t allowed to get off, but we did peer out the windows as the sun came up and wonder what it was like out there, in that place we soon hoped to be living.
When we got to Qatar, it was travel day number five or six.
We spent two full days there, in Qatar, mostly wandering around the housing area for transient military members like ourselves, playing a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit and drinking some novelty beers since you’re allowed three a day there and none in Kuwait so it seemed reasonable to take advantage of such an opportunity and then we woke up on a Sunday, a full week after we’d left Texas, turned in our linens, got on maybe the 17th bus of the week-long adventure, waited around in another Air Force terminal for six or so more hours and finally, thankfully, miraculously got on a plane that took us to Kuwait.