A day in the life…..

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!

The kid's pool at the Gulf Hotel

Feeding the camels
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House Hunting

Yesterday, Thursday,  was Bahrain’s Friday.  The weekend here is Friday and Saturday, Friday being their holy day. When we told Cayden he would start school on Sunday, I could see the wheels turning in that little head trying to make sense of going to school on church day. Church is on Friday, the first day of the weekend.

Today’s house hunting quest was somewhat sobering – even though I grew up in a desert, I guess after 20 years you kind of forget what true desert living looks like – and feels like.  The realtor, an Indian woman who called me Ma’am, picked the kids and me up in her jeep and we went off in search of a home for us to rent.

We drove to Amwaj Islands, passing by the military base, naval ships and crossed over a large bridge donning two big Bahraini flags; coming over the crest of the bridge we saw that great expanse of sand bordering the light blue waters of the Arabian Gulf. I almost pinched myself, as it still feels surreal that we are actually here, and for me, back in the world of my childhood. We looked at houses on the Floating City whose backyards are canals and boat docks, and their walls white and floors shiny white marble.

Floating City

The kids, of course, reveled in racing around the empty houses and climbing the two, sometimes three flights of stairs to satisfy their mounting curiosities. Each house has live-in maid quarters the size of a matchbox – in human dimensions. One even had driver’s quarters.  A maid? A driver?

I had flashbacks to the driver we had when I was young and remembered how enthralled everyone was when we moved to the US that we had our own ‘personal chauffer’ – my realistic take on it? Having to wait around until the driver showed up because my mother couldn’t drive us to school, or to a friend’s house, or even to the nearby aquarium to buy a little turtle, the standard birthday present we bought for friends. It’s one thing to have a driver if you don’t feel like driving; it’s another when you are forbidden by law to drive. Fortunately, I can drive here, and we won’t be getting a driver!

The house the kids wanted? Well, take a look at the picture and you will see why……I don’t think we will take that one. Will keep you posted on the house that will become our home in the months to come.

House or zoo?

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Welcome to this beautiful journey

Besides feeling claustrophobic walking from the car to the military base this afternoon because of the 107+ degree heat, life so far in Bahrain is exciting – in a somewhat peaceful, relaxing sort of way. Only because after three weeks of non-stop paperwork, phone calls and faxes, spring cleaning, selling and discarding, painting, patching, and caulking, a 16 hour plane ride punctuated by a layover in Amsterdam was not so unappealing.

And now, in our short-term apartment, which is part of the Gulf Hotel, I am temporarily quite content to have no cleaning or cooking to do on a regular basis. We walked into our room late this afternoon after taking a tour of the military base to which we will have military passes, and our room was being cleaned and beds made; we nonchalantly slipped back out, although I must confess I did have a fleeting urge to offer to help the Indian concierge fluff the pillows. Very fleeting. Speaking of Indian, we have enjoyed the surprise each time we open the door to a different nationality – Pakistani, Arab, Indian, Philipino, all of them as friendly as can be.

The heat today plus humidity brought back vivid memories of my childhood in Saudi Arabia, when I would cup my hands over my mouth and nose to get a deeper breath as the heat was so stifling; today, I was that child again, teaching this trick to my own children, who could not refrain from incessant reminders that it was so hot outside. Perhaps they did not notice the sweat dripping from my temples and the flush of my sticky cheeks.

The school where Josh will be teaching and Cayden will be attending Kindergarten is truly amazing. Their mission “is to provide an Exemplary Education that Inspires and Prepares All DoDEA Students for Success in a Dynamic, Global Environment.” I loved looking in the classrooms and seeing such a diverse student body, and walking through the halls adorned with the writings and art inspired by the 46 different countries represented at the school. I stood mesmerized as I peered into the cafeteria/assembly hall and saw an array of flags suspended from the walls and a big paper earth surrounded by hand-crafted boys and girls in a splendor of costume and cultural dress. The world, opening up for Cayden and Anya, even in a cafeteria.

We welcome the unexpected that we encounter each day, the unknown, the change, the diversity, the vast differences in such a culture and the adventure of it all. We accept the challenges because we know adventure is not truly adventure without them. We have left family, friends, comfort and ease for this beautiful journey – thank you for being a part of it with us.

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