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Dodging Bullets In Kuwait

Unlike most U.S. educators working at the American schools in Kuwait, Maxine Al-Refai was not away on summer vacation when Iraqi troops invaded this past August. The Indiana native, an elementary school principal at the American School of Kuwait, lived there yearround with her Kuwaiti husband. After the Iraqis occupied the country, AlRefai, her husband, and their 22-year-old daughter spent eight days lying low. They watched as stores were looted, residents hoarded food, and government services virtually shut down. "We were trying to make up our minds whether to stay,'' she recalls. " By the eighth day, it looked pretty hopeless.'' The family loaded their Chevrolet with food, water, a few belongings, and tools they could use to dig their car out of sand and then joined a caravan headed for Saudi Arabia. Besides navigating the open desert, the Al-Refais had to storm through an Iraqi checkpoint, dodging gunfire, to avoid being sent back. After nearly six hours of travel, they reached a makeshift Saudi checkpoint-- and freedom. A few days later, they flew to Miami. Since the family's savings are deposited in Kuwaiti banks and unavailable, their only real option is to wait. Says Al-Refai, "It's going to take a little while and lots of patience.''

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