Sunday, November 9, 2014

The $647 driver's license, part 1

Over a year ago I wrote about the ongoing saga of a wasta-less expat trying to get a driver's license in Kuwait. Well, folks, I am somewhat happy to say that my nearly three-year-long and extremely expensive struggle will finally come to an end tomorrow: I will FINALLY be legal to drive in Kuwait!

Here's the short version of how it went down.

Step 1: Found some wasta! That's all I will say about that. For those unfamiliar with the term, "wasta" is the Middle Eastern equivalent of having connections. Almost Mafia-like connections. Seriously, it sometimes feels like NOTHING happens here unless you have wasta. In the case of all the recent stories of expats getting their licenses in Kuwait, wasta has been the determining factor.

Step 2: Got the ball rolling. BACK IN SEPTEMBER I handed off my authenticated university degree, my authenticated Tennessee driver's licence, and 30 Kuwaiti Dinars to our Guy. The Guy that takes care of everything and knows how to work the wasta once you've found it. He started hoofing it around town getting everything translated into Arabic and stamped by a ridiculous amount of Ministries of Something Or Other. I'm not even sure what 98% of those stamps were for!

Step 3: The eye test. About a week and a half ago, our Guy came to me during school one day and said that at 4 o'clock we needed to go for me to take my eye test. I knew this was a good sign because everyone that has recently gotten licensed took their eye test as one of the final steps before becoming street legal. I wear a contact lens (yes, just one), and have an annual exam, so I wasn't too worried about passing this test. After taking the test, I feel like even without my lens I would have been just fine!

I walked into an under-construction 2-level office building behind our Guy who handed a small stack of papers to a very put-out looking nurse. She stamped each paper twice without saying anything or looking up and indicated we should leave the room with a nod of her head.

We followed her into the next room where the handed the stamped forms to a very cross-eyed man in a lab coat who told me to sit down in the chair across the room. Across from the chair was a mirror reflecting one of those old-school eye charts.

The angry nurse slapped a spoon-like eye-cover wandy-thingy over my right and left eyes and had me read 3 letters each eye rapid fire. It was hard for my eye to focus in time to recognize the letters!

And that was it! I'm not even sure the cross-eyed doctor even looked up to make sure I was getting the letters right! The whole experience took less than 5 minutes.

Step 4: The driving test. That's a blog post all its own, my friends! Stay tuned.

Vicariously yours,

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