Viva la Vida

Hi, everyone! I’ve got myself a little fall cold (must be the brisk daily high temperatures of 98 degrees), so I thought I’d take this Thursday evening to update the blog. Life has been busy busy, as I’m sure it is for you all, too, so thanks for taking your time to keep up with me:).

The last few weeks have been wonky, with lots of Bahraini/Muslim holidays, days off school, and TRAFFIC on our tiny island. I like to check it out from the balcony of my new high-rise flat (see below). I moved a few weeks ago and while I was worried to be a bit farther away from the “action” of the Adliya neighborhood nightlife (0.6 miles to be exact – but hey! it’s a tiny island), I’m loving the gorgeous view and the cozier living quarters. I’ll send more pictures later once my furniture shipment #2 from the states arrives, but until then, this is what I’m looking out over at the moment.

Other than that, I’ve been busy in the logistics of year two in Bahrain – renewing residency cards, car insurance, terminating leases, drafting new ones, etc. This has proved a little difficult with all the holidays and the fact that one step processes often take about five in the land of NQR. At least the weather is cooling (and I’ve fixed the air conditioning in my trusty Ford Focus), so I’m not sweating quite as much through it all – literally and figuratively.

And here are a few snapshots from Italy. I was lucky enough to attend a training in this beautiful place last week, so I got my fill of crisp fall air, color-changing leaves, pizza (!!!!), pottery, handblown glass – and my first glimpse of Venice. Oh-my-holy CROWDED! The fall cruise ships were in full effect, but lucky, the city was so stunning that we were able to overlook all the selfie sticks (including mine – thanks for last year’s Christmas gift, cousins Val, Syd, and Chloe :). I will be back – and I’ve downloaded Duolingo Italian to be sure!

WAIT – Did I mention I met Hello Kitty????? I was at base picking up a pint of sour cream for a glitzy disco-themed party (yeah, never thought I’d type that sentence…), and I followed the pink carpet and beat of Bieber’s Despacito to find this land of photo ops, kiddie crafts, and her royal highness. What a weekend treat! The party was a blast, too, celebrating a dear friend’s 50th! You know you’re in the right place where theme parties are warmly embraced.

As always, I hope you’re doing well in your corners of the world, and I’m going to try to update this a bit more often. Next up will be a report on the finished flat decor and my trip to Georgia (country, not state).

Much love,
E

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New (School) Years Baby

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Long time, no see! I’ve been back in the Kingdom for almost a month now, and my lack of blog posts is either because (a) it’s been so stinking hot that nothing has happened or (b) it’s been so stinking hot that any time anything happens I have to take a 2 hour nap. Or maybe (c) – laziness. I’m afraid it is the latter.

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Most exciting – upon arrival back in the Kingdom, my family expanded and I became mother to a three-legged semi-feral Bahraini kitty named Mia. This happened on the same day that my air conditioner went out and my car windshield cracked from the heat, so the first few days were a little stressful. Add this to the fact that Mia came to me with Giardia, a stomach parasite, so I’m trying to smuggle her out of the building and we’re BOTH passing out from heat in the airless car with the bummed windshield. However, since then, Mia Meow Meow and I have gotten into a comfortable routine of her waking me up to play fetch at 5 a.m.; her, despite missing a limb, bounding around like a jumping bean (she’s trying to stand on the keyboard as I type); my not getting not a minute’s peace when food is around (oinker); us snuggling and watching Game of Thrones at 4:30 a.m.; and the aforementioned multiple trips to the vet. The medicine they gaviux8 — Okay, commercial break. Notice that typo? Mia just jumped on the keyboard and somehow hit the command to access iTunes, so now Amy Winehouse “Rehab” is blaring and she’s gone to hide under the couch. Motherhood.

Ah, and why am I posting on a Monday when I should be working? It’s Eid again – the Muslim holiday that has us off school 4 days while only teaching thus far this year for 3 days. I just returned from a stressful trip to the mall to argue about my newly purchased iPhone with a defective home button. I finally replaced my old one after it was nicked at work at the end of the year (trip #2 to the Bahraini Police Station in 2017), and sometimes the home button decides to work, but mostly not. Here’s how that conversation at the Bahraini Best Buy-esque superstore went:
Me: I just bought this phone yesterday. See? When I hit the home button, it doesn’t return to the menu [demonstrates 5 times].
Store Associate: Here, miss, I will try [hits home button 5 times – nada – scratches head]. It is fine. You need to push hard.
Where’s a Genius Bar when you need one?!!?!?

Next – see those boxes? They could only mean one thing! Moving day! While I am spoiled by having so much space in my current apartment (v. 600 square feet in Chicago), a third mosque was built 100 yards from my building, and the police-protected cemetery next door is not the most soothing of environments. So I’ll be moving about 0.6 miles west to a 33 floor high rise – one of the tallest in Bahrain. I’ll be on the 31st floor, and while smaller, there’s an ocean view where one can see to Saudi Arabia on a clear day and the Manama skyline from the bedroom on a clear night (note: if you check out the first photo of the post, my new building is one of the two tall ones in the picture). Most of all, my blood pressure will drop, as this building allows animals, while my current one does not…so I can stop blasting British talk radio during the day to mask the loud one’s meows. She’s probably developing a taste for Earl Grey and scones after all that Brit influence…

That’s about it, boys and girls. Hope you are all settling into your back-to-school routines, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and getting those crock pot chili recipes ready. Send some my way :).

Xo,
E

P.S.   Here are some photos from my travels this summer – painting my high school bathroom, heading to Atlanta to see a college friend and Boston with the high school gang, lounging at the the cottage with my parents, and sampling the fine delicacies I missed in the US.  I so enjoyed all the times with friends and family (hi, Lily!).

Rounding it Out – Ramadan

 

Hello, Ladies and Gents!

Before I begin, here’s a random assortment of photos for aesthetic purposes.

One week from now, I’ll be rushing around tying up last ends before heading home for the summer – getting that slow leak in my tire fixed, cleaning out the fridge (open jalapeño slices, anyone?!), returning coolers that I borrowed in September, paying up advance rent, finding someone to babysit my needy house palm, etc. On top of that, I’ve been conveniently handed a nasty bacterial infection – and my first trip to the Bahraini doctor. While I didn’t love that my apt. was at 8:30 p.m. due to Ramadan, I do love the fact that they don’t weigh you. I’m a little skeptical of my care, though, because when the doctor asked the nurse if they had a thermometer to take my temperature, she responded, “Sir, I think it is broken.” Let’s hope this treatment works! They also have a coffee bar in reception, so I had a nice decaf latte while I waited.

Back to my previous mention – Ramadam. We’re on day 14, and after a few slip-ups at first, I’m falling in the swing of things. No person in the country – resident, visitor, Muslim, non-Muslim, may eat, drink, or smoke in public from sun up to sun down. This also includes indoor public spaces (including my school – out of respect, my water bottle is out of sight all day, and if I eat and drink, I shut my door and put up a sign), and most businesses and restaurants are closed during daylight hours (though some places still deliver, and grocery stores are open abbreviated hours). Slowly, the country wakes up at sundown around 6:30 p.m. Each mosque plays the “call to prayer” signalling that the fast is over, and iftar begins, which consists of dates and arabic coffee to break the fast, followed by a hearty meal. THEN, once all the business owners have had a chance to eat, they open up shop – the previously mentioned medical appointments begin again, and stores and services re-open around 8 p.m. or 9. They stay open until 2 a.m., reopen at 9 a.m., and close again at 2 p.m. until after Iftar. So, for someone sleeping a “traditional” schedule, things get a little complicated for the month!

We attended one of the lavish iftars thrown by restaurants and hotels in the area – this time at the Gulf Hotel, my temporary “home” for a month when first arriving. Restaurants set up tents, complete with air conditioning, real bathrooms, and luxurious decorations to accommodate the extra service. You start with arabic coffee or tea and dates (apparently not both, as I got a strange look from the server when requested) and then head to the buffet with both traditional faire and also mini-sliders, mini-pizzas, and a crepe bar. My belly is still full…

Another lavish event – our school’s end-of-the-year party! As an enthusiastic member of the social committee and a big fan of theme dress, this was all right up my alley. The theme was “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” with touches of vintage travel, including a flight crew, a departure board, passport control, and an in-flight beverage and food service. I think I may have found my second career calling (until a passenger gets cranky with me and I tell them off…).

Welp, I can’t believe that this year is coming to a close, especially when I think about where I was 12 months ago without an inkling of where I’d be in the near future. Thanks to all my family and friend at home for helping me transition, and my Bahrain family taking me in over here, too.

Here’s a little slideshow of my favourite moments from this year…

Best of Bahrain – 16/17

Until August desert life begins again,
E

#bahrainproblems

Happy May, y’all. Nothing like starting this blog entry with a weather update. We’re in the 100 degree stretch until September, and according to the uber-reliable news source Bahrain Confidential, it was the hottest April since weather was first recorded in 1902. Wahoo! I’ve taken to mooching off friends with pools, and while I was still walking home from work (it’s a health concern now – seriously!), I *might* have changed before leaving to avoid trying to suit up sweaty after arriving at home to my building’s rooftop pool (think the 1990s “wet jean shorts after a water ride” debacle). As I’m floating after my water aerobics (reason 57 why I continue to act 20 years older than my age), I often think about how much my life is like a vacation in Florida – without Mickey.

Since I don’t have much to report other than my 3 B’s lifestyle (bunko, book club, and bingo), there are a few quirky common experiences that many report experiencing in Bahrain. Most of them have to do with driving – are you surprised?

  1. The Bahraini Left – So…they’re not the best of drivers in this neck of the woods (neither am I), and many streets are technically “boulevards” with cement islands in the middle that trail off into left turn lanes. Well, here in Bahrain, you can actually turn left from ANY lane. So, yes, the left turn lane goes left. Middle lane? What the heck? There’s room. Right hand turn lane? Meh, they won’t hit me. See the diagram below.

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    This is SERIOUSLY the only picture on my phone since Thailand.  I hope I don’t make you feel too inadequate with my drawing skills.  Notice the erase marks.
  2. The Talabat Twenty- There’s this thing called Talabat that has destroyed my waistline, as well as many others who have come before me. It’s a food delivery service app that delivers any food, any time. McD’s Egg McMuffin at 7 a.m.? Cupcakes from Lola’s at midnight? Done and done! The saving grace is that the only pay options are “cash” and “benefit,” and I don’t know what benefit means….so no cash = microwave popcorn for dinner! By the way, the scores of food delivery motor bikes further complicate the Bahraini Left issue above.
  3. Service Surprise! – So, language can be an issue when trying to explain service requests. I’ll save my Moroccan bath fiasco for later. Anyhow, I just paid 16 BD ($42) for an oil filter – JUST THE FILTER! NOT THE OIL! OR THE CHANGE! Luckily, it was an interactive process where, since my car has US Specs, I got to hold the various filter sizes for the mechanic while he figured out which fit (and I held the discards – in 100 degree heat). With this, I was also there when they tried to pour an unidentified murky liquid from an unmarked bottle somewhere under the hood (why didn’t I take auto shop in school?!?), assuring me with, “madam, it is fine!”  The receipt is in Arabic, so still not sure what “service” this was. On an exciting note, I got to climb down into the “pit” underneath the car that the mechanic works from. It reminded me of a tiny tiled swimming pool!
  4. TV Troubles – A massive topic plaguing expats abroad is how to stream current American TV shows…and if you’ve followed my blog, I’ve been tinkering with this since October. Well, we’ve gotten to a workable point, folks… Through setting up multiple VPNs, then virtual VPN routers, and obsessively testing internet speed (after an internet search, I’ve found that mine is the strength typical of 2004 technology), I’ve figured out how to catch up on my Real Housewives – thank you, Roku (and my former student who sold it to me at Best Buy)! I’m ready to FaceTime with anyone caught up on Southern Charm, RHONY, or Vanderpump Rules. Thank goodness I’ve figured all this out before the real stuff (Game of Thrones) in the fall. I plan on setting my alarm for 2 a.m. and watching in “real time.”

Finally – thank you, Congress, for working things out (at least until September) so I GET TO GO HOME! I got my papers early this week, and I hope to have tickets soon. Time is winding down here, though not as fast as for y’all in the states. In the words of one of my favourite fellow teachers, we have 5 more [Sunday] “get ups,” but also unlike most of you in the states, we’ll be celebrating Ramadan through the end of the year. While the religious practices might not directly connect to me, there are a number of guidelines all citizens of Bahrain must follow regarding consumption of food, liquids, and dress, regardless of religion. I’ll leave that one for my final post of the year – Ramadan Days.

Keeping my fingers crossed for warmer days for you, Chicago!

Mai Thailand Trip

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Welp, folks, spring is peeling away (like my Thailand sunburned skin) and man, it’s getting toasty! The forecast for this week?  Up to 100 degrees by Friday!  By the way, Happy Easter to all who celebrate.  I’ll be working, so have some Reese Eggs for me!

I’ve got a sausage and vegetable dish cooking (the pan is tilted, by the way, given the Euro dimensions of the oven), so here’s a random side note: one of the things I miss most about home is Italian sausage. Real Italian pork sausage. Or any sausage, really. Bahrain isn’t known for that delicacy. The base does sometimes have frozen Johnsonville, but at times, our commissary looks like the grocery store right before a big snowstorm – bare shelves, a lone jar of some expired pickled onions left in the far corner, etc. Another big ticket item? Hellman’s Mayonnaise. While my dad might be “frugal” in other areas, he taught me that one never, never buys generic mayo (edit:  my mother read this and says SHE taught me that – not dad). Heck, I don’t even like the stuff, but I buy whatever’s there JUST IN CASE. And given my potluck-heavy social scene, many easy Pinterest dips feature it.

Anyway, on to more exciting topics – my latest traveling adventure to Bangkok and Phuket. I found the country a little strange, actually, not necessarily in a bad way, though. There’s such a huge contrast in the tradition and spirituality of the temples and Buddhas (by the way, there are billboards EVERYWHERE saying how disrespectful it is to use their icon as a decoration – so get rid of any Pier One statues around your house) and the untraditional wild side you’ve seen in the movies. Google it if you’re curious – I’m going to keep it PG here for the kids.

An inexpensive trip, a 5 hour flight, and a 4 hour time change make Thailand a very desirable destination from the desert. And did I mention that it’s GREEN! On first glimpse, my travel mate Liz and I felt instantly more alive taking in the trees and grass, and with that – THE HUMIDITY. Man, it was hot. And a desert-liver is saying that! The Bangkok humidity was pretty oppressive, compounded by all the cars and crowds and street food, but not in an unpleasant way.

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We spent 2 days/1 night in the city, doing a fly-by tour of markets, temples, and the Grand Palace. Coming from a place where it’s pretty encouraged to cover up, even we were surprised by the strict dress code when visiting holy places. At the Grand Palace (so…sidenote: this wasn’t the most educational trip I’ve taken. I assume the Grand Palace is something governmental, but heck, I’m not so sure. It was so crowded with tour groups and sun shade umbrellas and leader flags that we didn’t do much learning.), we had to purchase new outfits given our daring dress of pashminas and below-the-knee length dresses. When one visits, one must be covered to the ankles (the number of men wearing newly-purchased elephant sarongs was astounding), and a scarf won’t cut it – the shirt must have solid, elbow-length sleeves. One of you may be received a dashing, re-gifted elephant-embroidered tunic for Christmas, by the way…

Wearing two layers of clothing, we were BAKING after about 10 minutes, so we cooled off on a wild tuk tuk ride – kinda like a vespa with a passenger seat bench on the back. We zipped through the traffic, whipped around corners, and squealed with delight. It was a highlight (apparent from the number of pictures taken).

After our 2 wild days, we lounged on Karon Beach in Phuket (Poo-ket – insert joke here). It reminded me of a cross between Hawaii and Fort Lauderdale. Okay, that’s a tacky allusion….but more, the scenery was beautiful, but parallel to the gorgeous beaches ran the “main drag” selling “fresh” mango smoothies, coconut water straight from the shell, more elephant print clothing than you can imagine, and those fish pedicure tanks where you stick your feet in for 150 baht (a little over $3) and minnows…umm… take care of your calluses. There were also salons every few feet offering 300 baht Thai massages that were surprisingly lovely, despite the fact that most of the treatment consisted of an under 100-lb woman walking across my body.

After a poor decision of a 1.5 hour beach visit under-sunblocked on a cloudy day (hence my opening line), we spent the rest of the time napping, eating, drinking Changs, riding motor bikes (even during a downpour mudslide!!!), visiting Big Buddha on a hilltop, boat tripping to James Bond island, and enjoying paradise.


Yikes! My dinner just dinged. I’m also going to try to catch up Homeland, but internet’s been real, real shoddy lately – that’s BAH for you! No spoilers, please :). Thank goodness I’ll be home in time for the Game of Thrones premiere!

xoxo, E

P.S.  Umm…is anyone in the Midwest interested in attending this?  I’m pretty serious about this question.

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March Madness

… this title is quite appropriate, as I sit in my living room listening to the dust storm outside, complete with thunder and lightening. Rumour has it that the amount of rain we’ve seen this year is also uncharacteristically high. Hopefully, March/April showers bring May flowers. What am I talking about? We’ll probably reach 100 degrees by May, so I think our flowers window is quite narrow.

Another characteristic of spring? Love is in the air! No, not me… our resident cat Pepper and her new ginger boyfriend. I first observed him approaching her under the bright yellow Camaro in my building parking lot. They were then seen courting near the dumpsters, on side-by-side cars, and culminating with a cuddle session on top of various cars in the garage. This would strike you as especially noteworthy if you observed how territorial she normally is! My mother has already warned me that “Penelope’s Cousin” (Pepper’s future kitten) is not welcome in Chicago.

More on the animal front – I finally made my way to the Royal Camel Farm about 5 or 6 miles from my house. First, many of you may not be aware that camels actually are not native animals to the Middle East – they first roamed the Artic, according to the History Channel! Well, now, the only person who owns camels on the island is the King… and he’s got hundreds one can visit for free. The visit was a bit bleak, though, with the males chained and the ladies in pens. And a little stinky, too. This experience was not for the PETA-hearted….

That very same day, I had another first – a trip to the Bahrain/Saudi Arabia border. One needs a personally sponsored visa from the country, a male escort, and to be covered in an abaya to enter – so with only 1 of the 3, I was not allowed past the 2nd checkpoint. The border guards got a chuckle out of our “we took a wrong turn” joke. While visiting no man’s land in between, I took advantage of visiting the restroom and observed these strange contraptions. Not sure what the trough was for…

I also experienced a few cultural events these past weeks – a trip to the French Cafe Lilou for a lovely Parisian breakfast, a Bollywood Night fundraiser for work complete with theme dress and dancing, a belly dance show with audience participation (I loved it!!), a London-based Shakespeare troupe performance of Twelfth Night, and St. Patty’s Day, which ended up being just as annoying as in the US, but with legal cigarette smoke in the local tavern :(.  There was also a Bahrain Food Festival with pizza ice cream cones and an awesome view of the skyline.

Next up – spring break in Thailand in 1.5 weeks! I’ll be sure to update you afterwards – hopefully, with a tan.

xoxo,
E

Viva Dubai!

While we’ve been drowning in the rising seas of rain, I hear that Chicago’s been soaking up a heat wave. Good for you! It’ll probably snow next week. Sorry, that was cheeky.

Busy times in Bahrain. We made our first “happy feet” adventure to Dubai, and golly, it was fun. Just an hour flight, we met a flock of falcons at the airport (really! Did they fly coach or business, I wonder?) and should have known then that the trip would be over-the-top.

“The Dubs,” as I’m sure you’ve heard, is much like Vegas but without Circus Circus and people walking down the street with yard-tall drinks. We were told by many to hit up duty free for “beverages” on the way out of the airport because, in some ways, Dubai is more traditional than Bahrain. Dress? No. In our denim jackets and cardigans, we were the most covered people around at the “Candy Pants” brunch we attended, the event drawing our attention because they advertised “inflatables” (see swans below). Oh, I forgot to mention that Dubai is also more liberal in their “click it or ticket” seat belt laws, as we jammed 5 in a cab, college-style, with me seated on the floor behind the driver’s seat. Actually, this isn’t much different than BAH, where I don’t know if cars are even required to have seat belts. You’d be amazed by how many toddlers I see STANDING ON THE BACK SEAT with their heads out the window on a daily basis!

From brunch, we headed over to the Burj Khalifa, the now-tallest building in the world. You’ll notice I say “now” because the honour once went to the Sears- I mean Willis – Tower in Chicago. Now, here’s the scam: you can only take the elevator up 1/2 way, so the view really isn’t that much more astonishing than others I’ve seen (ahem, ahem)…and for $138!!!!! But hey, it’s always bigger in Dubai! And they gave us free dates and Arabic coffee while waiting.

The Burj is connected to the Dubai Mall, possibly the most notoriously-upscale shopping establishment in the world. Every store you can imagine is inside (including a camel chocolate shop!), the centre atrium is a huge, shark-infested aquarium, and most renown of all – it has a Cheesecake Factory. Now, as background, whenever you ask someone what they did in Dubai, they say they visited the Cheesecake Factory…or PF Chang’s. So what did we do? We visited the Cheesecake Factory!

Saturday was filled with a lay-in (there goes that Brit influence), breakfast at a sidewalk cafe where I have no idea what I ordered but it ended up being a delicious fried chicken-like wrap, and exploration of the Gold Souk (market). The GS is in the older part of town on a canal where ship after ship comes in (from another middle eastern country whose name starts with ‘I’ and ends with ’N’) carrying thousands of LG TV’s and vacuums (fancy Dyson’s, I’d assume :). We were pounced upon by a group of gentleman who offered to let us use their restroom…which happened to be in a secret showroom (nameplate reading “Awaf LLC”) of knock-off purses.

Armed with fake Gucci sunglasses, perfume oil, scarves, and gold trinkets, we made our way back to the airport, already planning our trip for return. They have a “Global Village” through April, and it’s supposed to be a cross between the old World’s Fair and Epcot Center. Sounds delightful! Justin Bieber is also going to be in town in May… in case any Belieber’s out there fancy a visit.

A few other updates of the strange things around town…

  • Hottest story around – the rain! The streets have no drains, so everything’s a river (especially nasty in those dirt parking lots). There were photos of the resulting craziness in the streets all over Facebook, including a woman using a children’s mini-bouncy house as a flotation device complete with paddles. Note: due to late press date of this blog, water has drained so we’re left with mucky potholes as remembrance.

 

  • While doing a TP/paper towel run at the Walmart-esque Geant, I saw someone giving small children pony rides in the mall parking garage. Huge traffic jam – probably from people like me taking photos.
  • Did I mention the escalators here? Instead of the separate cart escalators a la Ikea, we take our carts with us on a slanted conveyor belt. Instantly, our carts are locked into place – no hands!
  • I attended the Autumn Fair – sort of a craft /flea market with a bunch of “As Seen On TV” merchandise booths. I ❤ Shamwows and hair straighteners! We were some of the only westerners there, so the vendors’ selling tactic of choice was shouting promises of marriage to us.
  • Birthday celebrations: Attended a friend’s birthday brunch with lots of dancing involved, and a low key birthday on my end with tacos, truffles, and pizza. I was deeply touched by all the love shown from back home – thank you!

Well, this is far too long, and if I actually still have your attention, you’ll be relieved to hear I’m signing off here. I think of all y’all daily, and I’ll see you sooner than I can believe!

Stranger Things

Greetings from the land of NQR.   I know it might seem like our homeland of the USA is a bit rough and tumble as of late, but I’ll provide some photographic proof that we’ve got some “quirks” on this side of the pond, too.

1. I’m wearing cable knit sweaters to work because the breezy 67 degree weather is giving me the chills. We also had our second day of rain in over 170 days last week. However, we have the most lovely gardens next to the track at school, and I’m lucky to have this be my view every morning.

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2.  In political protest (not to keep us toasty re: #1), we’re encountering an increasing number of tire and dumpster fires on the way home from work. We’re told this will happen more and more until the anniversary of the Arab Spring in February. A google of Bahrain current news will update you on this, if you’re interested.

3.  In order to get my washing machine to work, I need to do an undetermined number of “love taps” (slams) alternating between the washer door and detergent drawer. The temperature controls are hot and hotter, by the way, and the wash cycle takes 2.5 hours. My wardrobe is slowly morphing into a universal dingy gray colour.  No photo.  Just take my word for it.  Or I’m sure my neighbors can fill you in from the bangs they hear coming from my flat.

4.  Zucchini is the equivalent of $3/pound, and I can’t afford celery at almost $4 a sleeve. For those of you outside the Midwest – zucchini grows in such abundance in season that you almost have to PAY people $3 to take one from your garden…so I have to buy this strange Egyptian substitute with a porcupine fur skin (yikes).

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I also purchased this “star” cauliflower at the farmer’s market this weekend, which was absolutely and utterly lovely (the market, not the veggie). Apparently, it’s the cross between the above mentioned vegetable, broccoli, and a mini-Christmas tree. Guess what’s still sitting in my fridge because I don’t know what to do with it?

5.  I’m learning gram/pound conversions by comparing everything to the chicken breasts I buy. They weight 450 grams, and eyeballing it, they looked like a pound. Wa-lah! Instant weight converter.

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6.  Instead of the typical party entertainment, like clowns, they hire falcons here to charm the brunch crowds.  That little leather cap makes sure that he can’t see or hear anything. They’re a country emblem here, and if you own a falcon, you’ve got $$$$.  One of my students ended up with a bright red slash on her neck because “he got mad and slapped me with his wing” Needless to say, I passed.

7.  I won a calling card at Wednesday Night Bingo, a new social event added to the rotation. Now, I just need to track down a pay phone to use it. Wednesday’s are shaping up to be pretty busy, as I might begin attending Sewing Club after school. Phew! Get this girl a glass of water!

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8 …and most excitingly – spring break is booked in Thailand. I’ll be working on my bikini bod by attending a birthday brunch this weekend. Okay, I guess this breaks the “stranger things” theme, but it was a big event in the past 2 weeks.

That’s about it, folks. Keep calm and carry on. E

HNY from BAH

Hey, there, guys and girls. Welcome to 2017! New year, new adventures! Speaking of new…I’m clicking away here on my new Macbook. After 10 years, my old one bit the dust. Anyone remember “the blue bomb” – my old Toshiba? The one that sounded like a space shuttle launch when booting? Same deal with the old Mac but a little quieter and an additional 21st century problem – streaming Netflix and HBO GO was proving near impossible. Now, if I could just figure out how to work the track pad to highlight text on this stinkin’ thing…  I’ll use that as an excuse for any typos here.

Since it’s been a long time, we’ll start with my journey home for the holidays. And gosh, it was delightful. After an 18 hour trip from BH to Saudi Arabia to Frankfurt to Chicago (complete with movie-esque running through the airport so I didn’t miss my plane), I made sure that our first stop on the way home was to see my friend Lou (Malnati – sidenote…don’t you think I should be getting some company sponsorship on this post? Free pizza and HBO for life? My dream!).

Anyhow, many, many thanks to all my family and friends who made their way out to see me. On the whirlwind agenda: tree decorating and pierogi making; an extended family open house; crashing my former place of employment’s work party; eating pizza for 7 meals; touristing in the city at the Bean, Christkindl Market, Terra Cotta Warriors at the Field Museum, and a dinner party with friends; Christmas celebration with my goddaughter and her family (HI, LILY!!!); brunches/dinners/lunches with those dear to me; and finally, revisiting my high school ways of leaving my s#!t all over my parent’s house (“ELIIIZZAAABBBETTTHHH!!! Get down here and pick up your shoes!”).

I arrived back in BH just in time for an Arabian New Years Eve. A few friends and I decided to celebrate middle eastern-style at a hotel and spa in the middle of the desert where we feasted on Arabian delicacies, drank as many sans-booze Tequila Sunrises our heart (and blood sugar) could handle, and participated in a lively dance floor consisting of two 14-year-olds, their dad, a traditional Bahraini woman, and an unattended 3-year-old to tunes of “Wobble” by V.I.C. and the theme song to “Beauty and the Beast” (with accompanying lighting scheme). Welp — I can cross that one off the Bucket List. Photo credits: Bryan E. and Cat M.

Making the most of those last few days off, I also completed my second mosaic project (and last – I mean, how many mosaics can 1 person need?!?). I tiled the top using some tiles I got in Portugal a few years back (another weird thing I brought with me instead of necessities, like more than 1 towel), the studio constructed the bottom, and it was up to me to paint it. Because nothing is simple in this next of the woods, it took 3 stores and 4 trips up and down stairs of those stores to find the necessary materials (“Where can I find the sandpaper [lots of frantic sanding motions]?” “Madam, upstairs.” I run upstairs. “Can you show me the sandpaper?” “No, no, m’am. We do not have that.”). I am pleased with the final product – and with the fact that I was able to finish painting the base in my bathing suit after sunning at the pool all day. Not to rub more salt in your midwestern wounds, but the weather is gorgeous at the moment.

And finally – the world’s worst driver’s car saga continues. Old story? A few weeks ago, I rear-ended a pick-up truck and after lots of pantomiming, found myself at a Bahraini police station. Upon inspection of the scene, the officer said, “Why would you hit him?!?! GUILTY!” Now that’s a justice system for you. New story? My imported 2011 Ford Focus headlights are finally in, which requires driving back OUT to the middle of the desert, dropping off my car, and driving back across the desert to pick up the vehicle below at Budget Rent-a-Car. Since I had been in the car for 3 hours by that point, all I could do is laugh. What else do I expect? It’s Bahrain, after all.

Well, in the interest of cultivating my middle-age woman interests, I’m going to try out my new sewing machine now. The box is in Arabic and the directions are in Japanese, so wish me luck!

Love to each and every one of you, E

November Showers Bring December Flowers

…really! The temperature has finally dropped off to a breezy 75 degrees here, and so the country of Bahrain is abloom with freshly planted flowers – just in time for Christmas! Thank goodness we experienced three straight days of rain to nourish those little suckers. On Thanksgiving, a group of us walked out of a work training just in time to feel tiny drops on our faces, and of course, we delighted in getting to walk to base for their annual T-Day dinner in the rain. Quickly, the novelty was replaced with mud and the flooding of the streets, as there are no curbs with drain grates. Good thing there were plenty of Friendsgivings and Christmas decorating to keep me occupied inside!

More exciting – my shipment arrived! In the rush of getting the job, travel orders, and figuring out what I’d move here vs. what to put in storage, I’m so happy I brought my tree and ornaments with me to make it feel a bit more like the holidays. Not as lucky? Making a number of illogical packing decisions like making sure to bring a cat sweater vest (seriously), but only 1 bath towel. The chorus of, “Wait, didn’t I bring…” rang throughout my apartment as I unpacked my skimpy 1000 pounds (out of 18,000 lbs. alotted). Regardless, I didn’t realize that I was feeling unsettled until my shipment arrived, so now I’m feeling nice and cozy surrounded by my things from home.

A new edition? This lovely mosaic I hung in my kitchen. There are lots of opportunities for arts and crafts in the area (probably due to the high ex-pat/spouses accompanying military population), and there’s a lovely placed called “The Art House” not far from my flat (and conveniently near my favorite Neapolitan pizza place :). So a few Fridays ago, a group of school ladies and I got together for a day of crafting. While this masterpiece took me far longer than I thought (and don’t look too closely – my technique got a bit haphazard towards the end…), I really enjoyed it and will be returning this weekend for a mosaic table workshop – a piece I envision perfectly in my currently-barren entry hallway.

But most exciting of all – I had my first visitor! My dear father made the 24 hour trek here after fulfilling his civic duty at home as an election judge, and we spent 10 days getting me settled (conveniently, he’s great at hanging pictures) and seeing the sights of Bahrain. On the dance card was the Bahrain National Museum (a real home run! And it had this lovely little waterfront cafe where I can picture myself taking a book when the dust around town gets to me)…

…a trip to the souk (traditional market place – home of lots of “1 BD scarves for the madam,” enjoying a traditional Bahraini breakfast (tasted like breakfast burritos…not sure I want to know what we REALLY ate), and visiting the unofficial “worlds largest cemetery” – at least according to the Bahrainis (stretching across miles, builders simply constructed homes on top of burial mounds).One of our last stops was the Tree of Life, noted for its “miracle” of standing alone in the middle of the desert for hundreds of years with no nearby water supply. We ventured there expecting some sort of peaceful transformation; however, unfortunately, the area has been overrun with pop-up campgrounds where Bahrainis escape on the weekends and four-wheelers whizzing around the sand dunes. Ah well, it was an experience regardless.

Well, I’d better go practice my ukulele – yes, that made the trip, too! Roger (my teacher who apparently toured here with his Filipino band in the 1970s and just never left) will be very disappointed in me if I show up next Tuesday without having mastered his version of Bob Dylan/GNR’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” Only in Bahrain. On a daily basis, I think, “Man, life ended up bananas.” But in a good way. Hopefully, I’ll be seeing many of you soon after I roll into town December 16th. I booked the wrong flight home, but that’s a good “in person” story…

Until next time, E

P.S. Update: I’m a bit late in posting this, so this week’s update. Mosaic class went well…see my “pre-grout” work! And we had our school holiday party this past Friday, complete with a Quarters Tournament (reminded me, Marquetters, of Friday nights in the McCormick Triple), raffles, a rousing game of “Game of Phones,” and figgy pudding! Great time had by all – though the 80 degree weather threw me off a bit. Looking forward to continuing the holiday celebrations the next few weeks with you all when I return to the states!