An American Nightmare in Kuwait

This isn’t exactly how I wanted to approach my next post on the site, but things being what they are, this is where I am now.  I am pretty sure that there is a list of horrible things that can happen to a world traveler while visiting another country.  Towards the top are things like Killed, Sold into slavery, imprisoned, etc.  But somewhere, probably pretty low on the list, is Loose Your Passport and Wallet.  While I hope to avoid any of the upper parts of that list, sadly, I can check that one off.

Yup, I lost my passport.

So what happened was that Sarah and I went to the Avenues Mall to get a desk and chair for her to use for her work.  We had just purchased the chair at Office Depot, I used my bank card out of my wallet there, and we headed out towards the Ikea, where we parked.  We loaded the chair into the car and went back in to see about a desk at Ikea.  I reached back and felt that my wallet was gone.  Panic mode sets in and I instantly start re-tracing every step.  I scour the car and go back and forth to Office Depot.  Nothing

Well shit.

I head to lost and found and file a claim and they said they would call me.  At this point my brain is a mix of “Can’t Handle this” and “FIX ALL THE THINGS!” I spoke with my boss and explained what happened and at this point it was a “Wait and see” thing.

The next day we went back to the Avenues to speak with the Police officer in the office there.  One of my co-workers passed on a website for the Kuwait Embassy stating that we need to get a police report from the area it was lost in order to apply for a replacement. After checking in with Lost and found once more, and with Office Depot, we went to the Kuwait Police office in the Avenues Mall.  Where we were instructed that the officer would not be in until 4 pm.

So we waited.

At 4 pm on the nose we spoke with the officer who worked with the CCTV team to see if they could locate it.  He also informed me that I could not get a report done there, but needed to go to another police station.  There is a different police station, near Avenues Mall, that could help us, but I should speak with the Chief there, and he wouldn’t be in until the next morning at 9 am   So we left our phone info with the CCTV folks and headed back to our apartment.  Later that night we did get a call, but they said they couldn’t see anything fall out or look bad.

Que up this morning!

We left around 8:30 am to visit the police station near Avenues.  One of the things I have learned here is that there really are no street addresses or markers.  If you want to know where something is, it’s “Over there” or “Near that other thing”.  The instructions I got for the location of this station were about as good.  I checked 3 buildings in the area and finally found the police station.  I approached the desk and said “I am a US Citizen and I have lost my passport, I need to file a report”.  All 4 of the officers behind the counter looked at each other, and then at me, then one said, in perfect English  “You should speak with the captain” and then they went back to chatting among themselves.  The Captain they pointed to was talking to someone else, so I waited.  When he was ready I explained my situation.  He stated that this wasn’t the right place but that I had to go somewhere else.  I told him that I was instructed to come here and talk to the chief.  So we did!  He led me into the Chief’s office, which was very large and extravagant, and talked with the boss for a bit before both of them said “Not here. Over there” and pointed out the window.

I whipped out my handy Android phone with Google Maps on satellite view and said “Where?”  They poked around on it and eventually narrowed down the area I needed to get to.  So I left police station #2

Arriving at Police station/building/area #3 I found an office where I was told again “Not here, over there” with vigorous pointing. This led me through stations/buildings #4 and #5 where I finally found a nice man that offered to take me over to building #6 which is where I needed to go.  He was a local Civilian, BTW.  He drove me over to an office that, in no way resembled a police station, or anywhere you would file a report as such, but they at least sounded like they knew what they were talking about and were able to look up my passport to see if the number was used recently.  They printed out some sheets, all in Arabic  and said I needed to take them to the Airport to get a stamp and an approval.  This was the closest I have gotten to an actual process so I said “Sure!” and we left for the airport.  To aid in finding which office in the airport (because the directions were as expected) they wrote down in Arabic  the office I needed to go to, so when I got there, I could just show that to someone and they would direct me.

map

Next stop, Airport!  I walked into the main part of the airport and found a police officer.  I showed him my handy placard that stated where I needed to go (which I am pretty sure just said “Hey, show this dumb american where the approval office is”) and he said…..wait for it….. “Not here. Over there!”  He didn’t even point, he just motioned at an area that pretty much covers the whole airport, and then walked away.  Thankfully I found another clerk that was able to point me in the right direction.

At this station, I explained my whole spiel “Blah Blah, Dumb american, lost wallet, etc”  The guy looks at me and asks for my passport.

I just looked at him and stated again, “I don’t have it, it’s lost, that’s what I need you for” and pointed at the photocopy of my passport.  To which he replied (and I really wish I were kidding) “No, no copy, old passport”  I just stared at him again.  “I don’t HAVE my passport, it’s gone, I need YOU to give me a report so I can get a new one!”  After a few strange looks back and forth, he punched some keys on his Apple IIE computer on his desk and printed out another sheet, all in Arabic  then wrote some stuff on the first sheet I gave him and said “Take that back to them” and dismissed me.

Whatever, it seemed like progress.

Sarah and I grabbed a quick bite to eat in the airport and then whisked ourselves back to Office #6 to continue this “process”.

When I got back, I handed them the new papers and they went about typing in their system and then told me that I had two civil ID numbers in their system and they couldn’t do anything for me.  If I wanted to I could fill out a Lost Passport report and then come back with 4 passport photos and they would process me.  Either way, I should go.

What?!?!


It was at this point that I figured I would contact my Sponsor here in Kuwait and have them get involved.  Most contractors have sponsors here that kind of “grease the skids” and handle a lot of the Kuwaiti side of paperwork and such here.  I tried my darnedest to do things the right way and follow all the appointed rules and was met at roadblocks for each one.

Thankfully my sponsor figured out what needed to be done and has set the wheels in motion to get the process done.  Unfortunately, that process is going to take time.  I may not get my beloved police report until Sunday, after a number of hoops have been jumped through.

In case you were wondering, I also contacted the emergency number at the US Embassy and was greeted with a lovely automated system where every option was “E-mail us”.  Who uses e-mail in an emergency?!?!

So that’s where I am.  Stranded but working in a country that claims to love us but wants in no way to help your average person.  I am going through the motions while still trying to get some actual work done over here, so don’t worry too much.  I know I am not the first person this has ever happened to.

I posted to twitter earlier, but I can’t emphasize it enough.  I have never, ever, met a police officer (or force) that was so rude, dismissive, and non-helpful as what I was introduced to today.  Not a single officer genuinely wanted to aid me in getting this process done and gave me the attitude that I was only taking up their time that could be spent doing anything else.

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