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!

Dusty Days

Hi, all –

Happy November to you!  One would think the seasonal allergies would lightening up given that there are no trees here, but no.  I have a new substance that irritates – the dust.  I’ve been hoofin’ it the 1.25 miles to and from work lately, so my lungs and nose get a nice coating daily.  I’m enjoying (and needing) the exercise, though.  And take a look at this ensamble of gold-trimmed leopard print sun glasses and my monogrammed lunch bag strapped to by chest.  I get lots of honks on the way (seriously, though…).

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Speaking of dust, I was lucky to be able to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime event last weekend – the Bahrain Marathon Relay.  A team of people from our school each ran 1 of 16 legs around the less populated desert areas of the island through the oil fields, ending at the Formula 1 Racetrack (race held annually in April).  Look at the drills, pipelines, and open flames.  The aroma of oil was especially intoxicating in the 100 degree heat…and while races start at 7 or so at home, the Bahrainis like their beauty sleep, so this one didn’t start until 10 a.m.  I’m definitely rusty, so my 21 minute time for a 2 mile run was less than impressive.  I’ll blame it on the fact that there was no designated or partitioned-off course path, so we wove through regular traffic, bikes, and Econoline vans shuttling people between stations (some people hopped out the sliding door without the van even stopping!).    Water stations?  PAH!  Does the guy in the orange vest holding a warm, 1/2 empty liter of water count?  There were free Haribo Gummy Bears at the end, though.  I never knew this one would be on the bucket list.

And how about your once-in-a-lifetime event, Chicago?!?!  Congrats, Cubs!  I woke up just in time to listen to the score being tied 6-6and my mother calling me to say that Dad jinxed it by flipping the station back to the game from a rerun of Friends (and yes, she was further irritated when I told her I also turned on the game just in time for the Indians to score).  Here’s a photo of me listening to the end of the game in the parking lot of work.  One of 2 English radio stations here – the “The EAGGGLLLLEEEEE Armed Forces Network” – broadcast the World Series live at 3 a.m.  It just occurred to me that because of this, Bahrain probably had one of the highest per person listener ratios of the game, just because there are no other English stations (other than a Saudi station solely broadcast for the ex-pat oil population in Armco).  The people at Nielson were probably like, “Where’s Bahrain, and why do they like baseball so much?!?!”

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So while the Cubs games were the hottest ticket in town back home, we had a bit of celebrity visiting here – in the form of a thousands-of-men holding aircraft carrier, complete with tens of jets gleaming on deck.  We were warned ahead of time to stock up on food from the base, as once they roll the port-a-potties in (seriously), you wanted to stay far away.  We took a drive to see the outside of the ship since you had to be in-the-know to score a visit aboard.  Next time!  Luckily, I nabbed a spot as a chaperone for the middle school field trip to visit a smaller vessel (housing about 20 men), and we spent the morning practicing putting on fire gear, touring sleeping and eating quarters, and manning the  onboard fire hose. The Servicemen could not have been more attentive, engaged, and dedicated to our students.  With Veterans Day nearing, I think about how much my appreciation for those who serve has increased exponentially, and I wish those at home could experience their presence on a day to day basis as I do.

Welp, folks, signing off on this end.  I’m still recovering from a wild bunco night a few days ago and resting up for mosaic class, book club, and a maybe zumba in the coming weeks.  And most excitingly – PAPA JOHN IS VISITING, and I don’t mean pizza!  Yes, Mr. Schmitz will begin his great Bahraini adventure at the end of the week, and I’ll be sure to catch you up on his visits and reactions to island hot spots later.

Much love, E

 

 

It’s Fall, Y’all!

I must say, you are all making me miss home a bit with your apple-picking, sweater-wearing, leaves-changing pictures.  Though I guess I’m making due here, with this incredibly impressive table-scape and a turkey in the oven as we speak (really!).  The pumpkin sold for 3 BD (almost 9 dollars) a pound, so this was all I could afford.  See that little tag?  Look very closely.  Above the bar code, it says, “wee little pumpkin” – how could I pass that up?!

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And see that FrankenWINE bottle and lovely painting?  Done by yours truly during our 2 day holiday for Ashura.  A delightful lady hosted her spin on the painting/wine night…  However, instead of painting canvas, we painted bottles, and we used the wines we sampled to basically paint-by-number some sketches she made while our bottles dried.  GENIUS!

I had planned to make a dip, but as I’m finding, our pure American garbage staples of mayonnaise and bacon bits can be hard to come by.  Making this even harder is the fact that my cooking drawer consists of 1 spatchula (already melted, not heat resistant, apparently), 1 knife, and a wooden spoon that I got free with the 1 frying pan I bought.  My shipment isn’t “in harbor” until the end of the month, so hopefully I don’t break and go on a bananas shopping spree before then.   So in the meantime, I MacGyver up home remedies like using clothes pins as chip clips.  And the sheets here… my apartment came with one flat, sandpaper-esque sheet.  So I finally broke down and bought 2 sheet sets…just the most preciously designed little things, you know.  Raced home.  Washed them.  Skipped to my room with dreams of sleeping in luxury…  Well, apparently, I have terrible bed estimating skills, as the ordered sheets are nowhere near the size they need to be.  Arg.  Back to the drawing board.

When not obsessing over the unfairness of the sheet gods, I’ve been inviting myself to everyone else’s social events – just ride on by and open that car door!  Irish/Australian/Bahraini folk band jam session?  Half-Lollapalooza/half-Wisconsin State Fair cover band music fest featuring “Just” Bieber and lots of rugby players?    Japanese dollar store featuring a great selection of imitation Hello Kitty and wigs?  I’m jumping in!

Last week found us caravanning to the desert for “wine and nibbles” (side note:  when my father and I were in Australia in 2008, we got SUCH a kick out of them using that phrase.  Hi, Dad! 🙂 ).    And the sunset was just lovely.  And no, sand didn’t stick to the cheese.  Not quite as lovely?  No bathrooms.  I’ll let you ponder that.  While we were out there, one of my co-workers shared the idea that the dust in the air (and there’s a lot of it) has changed drastically in the past 15-30 years since the area we live in is basically all reclaimed land.  This means that they dig up dirt, and the deeper, denser levels of soil are mixed around, meaning that now we’re breathing heavier air than we would be if the land existed naturally.  Interesting, huh?  And a bit concerning.

And more goofiness…also during Ashura break, I decided I had enough of a terrible, terrible red yarn rug that came with my apartment.  Now, rugs are serious business here.  Your first big rug purchase is an event, and machine-made rugs are sacrilege.  So my friend Liz and I visited a few handwoven places near my/our house (she lives on the floor below me – back to dorm life, right?).  We walk over there, and hey, I find a rug!  I buy the rug!  And then I realize…  I have to carry the rug home?  So then, this happened.  I’d say people were looking at me like I was a waco-a-doodle, but with the high rate of donkeys seen walking down the road, no one batted an eye.  Except for Liz.  She took pictures.

Well, my turkey is almost done, so I’d better get a move on.  On the dance card this week is Spooktacular at school – they’re HUGE into Halloween here – and running a leg of the Bahrain Marathon Relay.  Desert.  100 degree weather.  Training ain’t going so well.  But who else has that claim to fame?  Very few, and for that reason, I must jump on it.

Signed, sealed, delivered  –  E

P.S.  And how can I forget…  Was delighted to hear the Cub-a-riffic good news when I woke up this a.m.  Though I only went to games for the nachos, I’m waving the flag for you over here, Chicago.

P.S.S.  Some of you have brought to my attention typos in this blog.  I acknowledge these typos and call my bending of grammar rules creative license.  This aforementioned person and I have also had many artistic difference regarding the design of our family Christmas newsletter.  Goodness knows what they’ll be writing about me this year!

New Digs.

Hey, there!  It’s been a long time.  I wish I had earth shattering news, but life has just been plugging long…

First, Oktoberfest!  I so enjoyed the blue and white, the pork (hard to come by in this country), and the amber beverages aflowing.  Since so many expats are in this area, it was quite a celebration.  In my true nature, I requested a song…but the only thing I could think of was a ditty from “Sound of Music..”  It didn’t go over well.

The next day, I moved into my new pad. It’s far larger than I need, and it’s got a lot of marble, which meets I’m on the up and up for carpets.  Apparently, it gets down to 60 degrees in the winter, and we don’t have heat.  For you northerners, this seems like nothing…however, my blood has already thinned, and if its under 90 degrees outside, I’m getting chilled.  Insanity!

So here’s my new neighborhood.  I looked at the area closest to the base called Juffair (a little too sandy over there for me), Seef/Reef (resort-y), and Adilya, the social and most pedestrian-friendly center.  Guess where I ended up?  You can take a girl out of Chicago…  I got up at 8 a.m. Friday to take a few photos before the crazy drivers emerged.  The natives wake up pretty late, so before noon, the world is my oyster (see below…).

So, some goofy things I’ve stumbled upon.  They’re really into round-abouts here, and outside one near my school, here’s the advertisement.  Does it hook you?  The juxtaposition of Brad Pitt on a barber shop sign and the classic cars always gets me.  And 2 more blocks away from school?  A donkey crossing the road.  Why?  To get to the other side – ha!

And here’s my new friend, Pepper.  You see, I’ve been itching for a little kitty for quite a while.  However, my lack of time at home and the issue of getting the animal across the ocean a few times a year (it cost a bundle to ship animals…you basically need to hire a babysitter to pick them up at the airports and then help them switch planes – really!) has convinced me that my want is a bit selfish.  Luckily, there are cats EVERYWHERE; they are tolerated because they help control the rodent population.  Below, you’ll see a few I stumbled across on my way home from the neighborhood photo shoot, only to come home and find Pepper in his usual place – snoozing in the bushes outside my apartment.  Of course, I woke him up so we could spend some QT together.  After a few pets, he followed me down the sidewalk until I went inside.

As for future plans…we have another religious holiday this week – Ashura.  It’s a Muslim time of mourning, especially for the Shia community, and they hold processions around the city.  Google it, if you’ve got some time.  Anyhow, we’re off for 2 days, and I’m heading to Al Dar, a man-made beach island not far from Manama (the city where I live, technically…) for one of the days.  I’m also going to continue my search for rugs and carpets, which is providing unfruitful thus far.  I’m going to check out a place Manazels, described as a cross between Bed, Bath and Beyond and Home Depot.  I’m hoping for some more, er, subtle pieces.  They’re really into shine and glitter home decor here.

Oh, and here’s a photo of this year’s “newbies” at my work, celebrating a last dinner at our hotel before moving out.  They’re from across the US – Washington to Vermont to Arizona to Minnesota.

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Happy Fall, y’all!  Hope you’re enjoying your sweaters, crockpot recipes, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes!  Have one for me.

E

The Downfall(s) of Me

So, I’ve developed a few bad habits while being away.  One is ordering stuff off Amazon Prime when I can’t sleep to see how fast it can get to me.  The answer?  About a week average.  What do I buy?  Aromatherapy humidifiers, essential oils FOR the humidifier, bathing suits from China, beauty products I can’t find here, and books (snoooozzzeee).   My other weak spot?  FOOD.  I will probably end up coming home looking like Violet Bickerstaff from Willy Wonka, except not blue, and not the result of chewing gum.  Gum’s the least of my concerns.  And you can bet I won’t be fitting into those bathing suits I bought from China.  I think they run small, anyhow.

First, this:  EVERYTHING can be delivered here via the push of 1 button on an app called Talabat.  Chili’s (which I don’t really touch at home but find strangely satisfying now)?  Here in an hour.  SandwichWay (guess what they’re ripping off)?  They’re real speedy , arriving in about 20 minutes.  Today, I’m going “lite” due to an over-indulgent day at school, and I’ll have chicken kabobs and naan here in 30 minutes flat.  Life’s going to be REALLY rough when I can’t use the excuse of “it’s too hard cooking in a hotel.”  Sidetone:  that may be coming soon…keep your fingers crossed.  More on that later.

Second, my work is FULL of poor health choices (ironic given the state of school vending back at home).  Being on block schedule, students get a “nutrition break” around 9:30 a.m.  Guess what they sell in the cafeteria, 2-for-1?  Those stinking beef and cheese taquitos that I love, most typically found on a rotating rotisserie at fine gas stations in the US.  On top of that, they offer mini bottles of lemonade with mint, AND there’s the most wonderfully refrigerated Coca-Cola machine from which I’ve been treating myself to Coke Zero’s when I “need” a pick-me-up (i.e. 11:27 a.m. every day).  In my defense, the cafeteria’s kinda far away, so it’s pretty good exercise to run down there for my deep fried “nutrition.”  I’m not alone in these trials, however.  New hires are often plagued by the Bahraini 15 due to the above factors.

Well, if you’re still with me, I appreciate you risking weight gain simply by reading this post.  I really hope I have something more exciting to report in the next week, but unfortunately, my future plans consist of brunch, getting a bratwurst at the local Oktoberfest, and trying “the best pizza on the island.”  Hey, when in Bahrain…

XO, E

Eid and the Souq and the Mosque, oh my!

I’ve managed to take time during my 6 day vacation from school to update you on my latest wanderings.  Yes, you read that right.  I’m currently on the last day of Eid-al-Adha break, an Islamic holiday celebrating hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.  Again, it is based on the lunar calendar (basically, the stages of the moon), so its official days were not declared until 2 days before the holiday officially started.  Can you imagine teaching school kids waiting on pins and needles to figure out when, let’s say, winter break starts?  Fun times.  We made it, though, and I managed to see a number of area hot spots so I’m better able to show you all around when you visit :).

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Saturday was a pool day and kicked off the vacation spirit.  Can you believe this place is in my hotel…AND has a swim up bar? Heaven.  I’m now sporting a huge Great Gatsby floppy hat to play the part of luxury (and to stop the leather-face look).

Next stop…  The Manama Souq on Monday – a HUGE market that basically takes over an entire neighborhood , and each street specializes in a different good.  There’s the antique street, the fresh produce street, the nut street, fabric street, toy street, gold street…you get the picture.  A number of the vendors were closed, so we didn’t get the full effect….BUT, maybe that was good, because have you ever been with me to a Target on a Saturday morning (shoutout to my old roommate – poor thing had to experience that)?  Yeah, I don’t do well with over-stimulation.  So now I have a plan to go back.

Tuesday?  The official Eid Open House at Al Fateh Mosque, the largest in Bahrain.  It was REALLY interesting.  The first step was registration, where the ladies (including me) were ushered into the “dressing corner” to get outfitted in an abaya (traditional Bahraini dress robe) and a hijab (head scarf).  All women, regardless of belief, must wear them in the mosque.

We then had a personal tour guide who showed us around.  The main prayer room (below) is men’s only (reason being that men are obligated to work for their families, therefore, they’re the ones obligated to pray) and holds 5000 men lined up shoulder to shoulder on the main floor.  They stand attention at the “call to prayer” 6 times a day in the direction of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, (again, times change based on the moon).

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One knows it is call to prayer time because a song can be heard outside and sometimes even inside, as it’s projected by speaker from all mosques.  A non-muslim co-worker says she uses it as a time to be thankful whenever she hears the call to prayer, and I think that’s a pretty good reminder.  After the tour, we were sent to the “Scientific Miracles” table, where we were presented with a number of interesting facts and statistics on why the Quran is scientifically correct.  For example, it has 23 instances of the word man, and 23 instances of the word woman…exactly the number of chromosomes in humans.  Hmmm….  My main highlight was hitting up the henna and snack table :).  Check out my new ink!  Also, there was a caligraphy station where you could get your name written in Arabic, and these precious little kids running around everywhere.

 

Finally, today’s adventure (Wednesday) – the Moroccan bath and massage.  Not for the the modest, you’re tossed on a marble slab and scraped from head to toe with a sandpaper mitt, scrubbing salts, etc., then hosed down.  My skin peeled off in roles like roly-polys!  Pretty disgusting, but secretly satisfying!  The massage was also aggressive; however, my back feels better than it has in months.  I’ll take it…and for both of those, a mani, and pedi at 25 BD ($65), I’ll be back.

Well, soon I’m celebrating this cultural week with a trip to Señor Pacos, a mexican joint in the Adliya neighborhood.  Let’s see if it gives my old neighborhood mexican place Fernandos a run for its money!

xoxoxo!

When Bahrainis Brunch

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It’s taken a few weeks of teaching and house hunting to figure out that this place is pretty contrary. It’s got a Viva Las Vegas Vibe, and, on the other hand, a bleak desert vibe. What I mean by this is there’s a gritty area of the city – Juffair – where my school is located amidst rival Shia neighborhoods who burn tires in sand parking lots, and in other areas, the neon lights and lavish flashes of luxury in the forms of spas, cars, and brunch, prevail. Currently, I’m trying to figure out where to live, and I’m torn between the dusty city lifestyle and the more lavish suburban setting. I’ll let you know what I decide later in my next episode of House Hunters International (“You know, I’d really like an open- concept kitchen for entertaining, but there really isn’t enough storage in this place…”). By the way, TV is total crap here, and the prime time channels only show the US movies that don’t make it to the theatre at home and Saudi soap operas that look like stereotypical Aladdin on Ice.

This past week, I had my first experience with dust storms. Before I’d been outside, my co-worker said my headache was probably a result of the dust. Sure enough, I went outside to see my car somewhat covered and the usually visible skyline hazy.

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Instantly, my eyes itched and my feet felt dirty – thank god for this nifty foot cleaner I have in my hotel!

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The good thing is, it’s getting a bit cooler – only 92 degrees when I leave for work at 7 a.m. And the nights are pleasant enough that at an even 90 degrees, I’m able to enjoy a nice camel burger in a parking lot, as seen below. Kinda tasted like a sloppy joe! Is it a wonder that I felt more at home here than at the lavish City Center Mall with Michael Kors, Tory Burch, and Burberry invitation-only stores?

So, after most people spend the weeks battling the sand, they spend the weekends living the life of luxury. The first slot on everyone list is Friday brunch. I’ve had two since being here. Week 1 was at Ric’s, a down home establishment with hush puppies and live karaoke lead by a Philippine husband-wife duo and red, white and blue shots. And lots of “Sweet Caroline” sung through slitted eyes and arms strewn across your unknown-now-known neighbor.

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We stepped it up a notch this weekend at the Movenpick, compete with meat carving stations (mmmm pork! ain’t easy to come by here), seafood bar, cheese station, caviar, pasta area, and a Mojito bar. What did I load up on? Jalapeño poppers, potato wedges, mini-pizzas, and Italian sausage and peppers. There was also a nice spectacle of upright citizens wearing ballon animal hats. You can take a girl out of Chicago…

I hope to have more educational updates, not involving fried food and dirty feet, this week, as we’re off for the Eid holiday (maybe I’ll know what these holy days entail…) until Thursday, and we’re visiting the traditional market souq Monday and the Grand Mosque Tuesday.

I think of you all so, so often. Much love to all your necks of the woods. EAS