I finally got some time to sit down and write about my leave. I have been rather busy. Our days are long, and after I get back from work, I don't have very much time and I'm too tired to sit down and write a journal entry! Well, anyway... here it is. Be warned... it's pretty long!
Ok, so this last month (May), I went on leave. My leave date was the 8th of May. Little did I know that this day would be the beginning of what I would like to call...
The Worst Travelling Experience Ever
We meet our hero at BIAP where he is waiting with his fellow soldiers to get a flight to Kuwait. It is around 8 in the morning, and the day hasn't gotten hot just yet. Everywhere there are Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Seamen and Civilians sitting and waiting. Some are playing cards or talking amongst themselves. Others are listening to music, or watching movies on their laptops, or reading books. Still others are sprawled out on benches or on the dusty concrete floor, sleeping, using their luggage as pillows. At about 9 in the morning, a formation is called. As our hero hurries and falls in, he looks around and notices Captains, Majors, and Sergeant Majors also in formation. It strikes him as a little funny since he usually sees them in front of a formation, and not in one. Leave - the great equalizer. Somebody comes up to the front of the formation and informs everyone that there are two flights leaving Baghdad. The first one leaves at 12 noon, while the second one leaves at 10 pm. However, there are personnel who have been waiting at BIAP since yesterday, and therefore, they will be given preference for the 12 noon flight. Our hero hopes and prays that there is enough room on the flight for him. However, he has been in the Military long enough to know that expecations are rarely met, and Murphy's Law holds sway most of the time. Sure enough, there isn't enough room on the flight and he has to wait for the 10 pm flight. He settles in for a Long and Boring day.
It is past noon. The time is irrelevant. Our Hero is extremely bored. It is much hotter than it had been in the morning, and there is a hot and dry wind whipping through everything, drying everything out. Lips feel like parchment. He drifts in and out of sleep. There is only one thing on his mind. Getting to India on time for his Brother's Wedding. He is understandably anxious and keeps exploring all the different possibilities that this journey could take. In the best scenario, he reaches India on the evening of the 9th, in good time for The Wedding. However, as he will soon find out, this will be far from the case. 5 pm rolls in, bringing a blinding sandstorm in its wake. The sun is blocked from the sky by a huge wall of sand, and the bright sunlight is replaced by a sickly yellow gloom. A lot of people leave the outside waiting area to wait in the tents. Our hero and his buddies decide to stick it out. Sand and grit get everwhere and faces feel like sandpaper.
It is 2200 (10 pm). There is no word on the flight.
It is 0000 (12 am). There is still no word on the flight.
It is 0130 (1:30 am). Finally, everyone is told that the flight has arrived. All of them wait to board the C-5 in a zombie-like daze. His last thought as he drifts to sleep is "Finally made it out of Baghdad... it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to India now. Everything should go just fine..."
"What do you mean I can't fly to India?!"
"You need a clearance from the Indian Embassy. You can't just fly to India."
"But I'm an Indian Citizen! I hold an Indian Passport! They can't keep me out of the country!"
"Regardless. Furthermore, you don't have a Kuwaiti Visa, so you won't get a departure stamp. And they won't let you in India without one. You're a Permanent Resident of the US right? Yeah, so they'll probably ship you back to the US, not even Kuwait!"
"But see... I have an Indian-"
"I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do. Rules are Rules. You have four options. You can either cancel your leave, or apply for a Kuwait Visa - this will take a few weeks so you will have to fly back to Baghdad - you can't wait here, or you can fly to Frankfurt, buy a ticket to India, and get your departure stamp there, or you can fly to the US, buy a ticket to India, and get your departure stamp from there."