Yesterday was filled with new experiences, starting with a Lebanese breakfast of hummus, arabic bread, labneh, falafel ‘donuts’ and foul (a delicious bean dish) and coffee. Our sponsors and new friends, Emi and Meg, are a young couple who teach at the same school as Josh – Meg is from Virginia and Emi from Argentina, and they have been here a year. They picked us up and took us on a tour of the island. To my surprise, it felt a lot bigger than I imagined it would. We passed by many mosques, but there are a number of churches in Bahrain as well.
Our first stop was the Camel Farm! When I was younger, we drove to the desert and asked some bedouins if we could ride their camel, but I don’t remember ever seeing this many camels at once, this close up! They are amazing creatures. Upon arriving, Anya asked, “But where are both humps?” A little research tells me that there are two types of camels in the world: the Bactrian and the Arabian. The Bacterian camel has two humps on its back, while the Arabian has one. The humps contain fat that provide the camel with nutrients when food is not available. How is that for a little camel trivia?
From the Camel Farm, we continued to tour the island and ended up at the City Centre, a mall complete with “the Magic Planet indoor family entertainment center which offers the latest game simulators, arcade and theme rides, a bowling Alley and the Wahooo! Waterpark.” That’s right, a full-fledged waterpark! The kids loved riding the bug-themed merry-go round and bumper cars, and playing a few arcades.
The food court alone was something worth talking about – every kind of food imaginable, from Iranian to Italian, Lebanese to American (including McDonalds, Wetzel’s Pretzels and Subway), Thai to Japanese. As we sat down to eat our shawarma sandwiches, it was thrilling to look out over the large sea of people and see so many nations represented in that one food court! On our left, an Indian family, on our right, a Saudi couple. Behind us, Germans and in front of us, people speaking a language I could not decipher. Talk about great people watching! Their Specialty Foods include Cold Stone Creamery, Krispy Kreme donuts and Pinkberry. I don’t know as I would have ever in my life classified Krispy Kreme as “specialty”, but hey, I never would have imagined being back in the Middle East, either. Anything is possible! Even coffee at a Caribou Coffee in Bahrain (a coffee place Josh and I went to together in college in Chicago- they have the best Turtle Mochas).
One of the highlights of the day was seeing my dad and mom (who is visiting my dad in Saudi right now), Cayden and Anya’s Jiddou and Gamma. What rejoicing! My mom from Connecticut, my dad from Saudi and our family from California, reuniting in Bahrain! After twenty years, my dad has family living close once again. He took us to a beautiful restaurant on the Ritz Carlton Hotel Resort grounds, right on the water.
The kids were champs in this ritzy place past their bedtime, gaining favor with the waiters and my dad’s friends alike. Everyone is incredibly friendly with the kids here – many of them crouch down or even get on their knees to talk with them, and the kids have warmed up to this kindness quickly. I had forgotten that children in many respects are treated as little adults, and so we had a social etiquette lesson today about shaking hands and polite replies. (I remember cringing at these reoccurring reminders from my dad growing up, “When you shake someone’s hand, do so firmly and look them in the eyes.”) Here I am, repeating those very same words. Funny how that happens more than we expect once we become parents!
Today was more house hunting and to treat the kids for their long-suffering, a swim at the pool until dark (it gets dark here at 5:45pm!). While we are enjoying these new adventures, there is no doubt we miss the familiar, the routine we knew, and most of all, friends and family who mean so much to us. Please come and visit when we are settled!