Hello Ramadan.

Yep, once again, it has been a while since I’ve written.  I wish I could tell you I won the lottery and took off on a long vacation.  Nope, I think that I started getting used to Bahrain with  all of its quirkiness and lost inspiration. Then, Ramadan started, and I realized once again, that I’m not in America anymore.

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I marked the start of the holiday by digging all the warm, half-filled water bottles out of my car so I wouldn’t be tempted to take a desperate swig out of one while idling at the latest highway back up.  I confess I still have a bag of peanuts crushed at the bottom of my purse, but I probably would suffer through random hunger pains during my 20 minute drive around town before pulling them out in public.

You’re probably thinking I’ve taken to embracing the local culture just a tad too much.  Have no fear.  While is has been an embarrassingly long time since I stepped foot in a church, I have not converted to Islam.  I’m just trying to not get arrested or otherwise embarrass #1 by breaking the Ramadan public fasting laws that are part of life here for the next month.  Yep that’s right.  While Muslims have to fast from dawn til dusk- no food, water, tobacco, or sex, no matter where they are,- the rest of us can’t do it in public.  So, no more sipping, snacking, smoking or sex whilst driving down the road, strolling in the mall or sitting on the park bench. As a nod to the even more conservative tone set this time of year, I’m  working hard to keep my shoulders and knees covered, which should insure I don’t have any public sex, or get arrested for looking like a loose woman.   We’re on day two.  So far, so good.

I’m trying to convince myself that Ramadan is fun, as one of the common sayings we’re encouraged to share with our Muslim friends is “Ramadan Kareem!”  Basically- “Happy Ramadan!”  Right now I’m feeling sorry for everyone fasting for the 12+ daylight hours between daybreak and sunset.  I’ve been told it can be a very spiritual time, a time of reflection, tithing, kindness and doing good deeds for the less fortunate.  Evidently they’ve never heard the term “Hangry” around here, ’cause that’s about all anyone would get from me if I went a day without food or water.  They deal with it for a month.

I have heard of the tremendous Ramadan buffets and other food orgies that are enjoyed after sunset and hope to go to one. The decorating is supposed to be amazing, the food divine, the prices-eh.(it IS all you can eat, and they’re feeding a hungry crowd)  Here’s a picture of what it looks like at a local hotel when they celebrate the end of Ramadan.  Layali Al Zallaq

And, one of the early dinner buffets during Ramadan:Ramadan-Movenpick

Called Iftar, it’s designed to gently help you break your fast by starting you off with dates and tea, as well as some traditional foods.  It runs until about 6:30-9:00 pm.  Then comes Ghabga,  which starts after the last prayer of the day, and can run into the wee hours.  The buffets can be grand, there is shisha smoking available and I’ve heard it can be quite the party.  Here’s a photo:

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I’m not holding out much hope of getting to one of these late night shin-digs. A little research shows that they don’t really start until “9:00 pm, onwards”.  Translated into #1 language- “I’ll already be in bed so forget it.”  In Lori language: ” No way I can eat that much food so late at night.”   It’s obvious we aren’t meant to be Muslims…

Until next time- Ramadan Kareem!

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Corn in a cup, anyone?

IMG_0923 (1)I went shopping today at a new-to-me discount store called Al Anwar.  Imagine Party City and Dollar General hooking up and having a baby in the Middle East.  Toss in some DNA from Sam’s Club and the result would be Al Anwar.  It’s two floors jam packed with housewares, sporting goods, party supplies, clothes, perfume, garden planters, cheap furniture and plastic toys. Here’s a sampling:

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I’m sorry it’s a little blurry around the edges, I was sneak shooting, too embarrassed about being THAT American who posts photos on FB to show how crazy it is living here.  (but yes, I AM “that” American)  Those are real stalks of lucky bamboo, there are pots of it everywhere.  Yep, I bought some, it’s cheap greenery for the house. Too bad there’s no Powerball for me to test my luck on.

IMG_0914There is  a brightly colored assortment of house dresses and sparkly scarves.  Maybe that’s what the women are wearing under their black abayas.  More likely that’s what their maids are wearing.IMG_0913There’s plastic ware to fill any need one may have. This aisle takes up nearly the entire depth of the store.

IMG_0912 (1)Throw a party for your baby, or great grand-ma.  There is something for everyone.  Elsa is still super popular here, despite the fact that the idea of living in a freezing cold house means a temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

I wandered around dazed and ended up buying some plastic planters, the above mentioned lucky bamboo, and 100 small plastic storage cups and separate lids for things like soups and snacks.  Shhh, don’t tell #1, he hates my many small storage cups almost as much as he hates particle board.  It was such a sensory overload experience I had to get a snack on the way out.  Luckily there is a “Corn Corner” by the exit door.

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After thinking the day couldn’t get any better, I get yet another new experience to check off the list!!  Corn on a stick, in a cup, or freshly popped in a bag, the choice was mine.  I could have supplemented the gastronomic adventure with an garishly red or blue frozen drink but I stuck to sampling a cup of corn and a bag of popcorn.  IMG_0919.600 BD, or, 600 fils, is about $1.50. It was totally worth it, and super tasty. A Cup Corn is niblets of corn doused with butter, lemon, salt, pepper and some kind of spice.  The man asked me “want spicy?” My reply,  “Tiny spicy, little spicy.”  He smiled, no doubt thinking, “Wimpy American.” That’s okay, keep smiling Mr. Corn Corner, I know better than to wage a spicy-ness throw down around here.

At 150 fils a bag (.35 cents)the popcorn was salty, slightly oily and popped before my eyes.  It was a warm savory treat that left just a touch of grease on my fingertips after every handful.

As I walked to the parking lot I was tempted by a fresh fruit vendor. Who wants healthy food when one has warm buttered corn products in hand?! I passed him by.

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Sadly, the parking lot Donut truck, with its smiling donut logo, was closed.  Looking more closely, I think it has been abandoned.  There is an official looking sign on the other side that basically says “We’re going to tow your truck, one of these days.  Really, we  mean it.”  It is dated several months prior.

IMG_0916Here’s what Al Anwar looked like as I walked away.

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See the man in the striped shirt?  He walks around the parking lot collecting the trolleys. (A.k.a shopping carts.  Doesn’t “trolley” make  shopping sound like it’s more fun though?) I was going to give him the extra  bag of popcorn I had bought for #1 to soften the blow of buying 100 small plastic food holders with 100 separate lids, but he scurried away before I could dig it out of my bag.  Luckily another Westerner tipped him a dinar ($2.65) to return hers. That is an exorbitant amount in the trolley tipping world!  She must be a newbie, but I’m thankful she did it because it assuaged the guilt of my tipping failure.

One last thing. I pulled this photo off the internet, I wanted you to see the amazing neon sign that sits up high and shines brilliantly orange at night.  Its flashy gaudiness beckons highway drivers to come explore the treasures to be found inside, and out.  Oh yes, Al Anwar, I’ll be back.

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The things we get excited about.

Seasons greetings, Merry Christmas, and hello from the land of sand!

Today it’s a wet sloppy sand we’re standing on as we’ve had some rain today.  Rain is pretty exciting stuff. It either comes down in torrents on a driving wind, flooding streets, and finding the leaky spots in houses during a 30 minute frenzy of precipitation.  Or it gently sprinkles us, hanging over our day, keeping us company like a clingy friend.  You like them, but really, don’t they have someplace else to go already?!! There may, or may not be a video posted below that someone took of the rain.  Technology and a slow, spastic internet have been giving me a good butt kicking lately….

There are other things that get us excited,  and if we lived anywhere else I’d think we were pretty weird for what becomes post worthy on the local Facebook pages.  Take Kale, for example.  Yes, Kale, with a capital K.  While all of you back in the U.S. are downing kale smoothies like a frat boy with a keg on the last day of school,  the rest of us have been pretty much kale-less, and definitely keg-less, since arriving.  Bahrain has not caught the kale craze, but maybe they will after this photo was posted. The post garnered about 10 responses!  People want Kale!   (BTW, I hope the man in the photo wasn’t the vendor, picking his nose…)

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This beautiful bounty of goodness was 500 fils- about $1.33 per bunch. Some resourceful American should snap it up and resell it at twice the price closer to the base.

While we’re on the subject of food, let me wish you the best as you frantically shop for and then cook your Christmas-y treats.  We feel your pain  when it comes to shopping for the just-right ingredients.  Kale-lust aside, we get excited when things like canned pumpkin, fresh cranberries, spiral sliced ham, and frozen pie crust are all in stock, at the same time, in the same place.  Maybe you feel the same way as you browse the aisles of Kroger, Publix or Super Wal Mart.  But really, you know you’ll find it.  Here, one either spends hours scouring the island, posts frantic requests on Facebook for said item, (a woman wanted a kilo of Masa for tamales. Really?) or, goes to a Hail Mary plan B that usually results in an outrageous outlay of money. One may also find that culinary substitutions that would be a cringe worthy sign of weakness stateside,  are brilliant here.  (Confession time- Today I spent $7.25 on a liter of vanilla ice cream.  That’s about 2 pints of ice cream. And, we’re using sage instead of rosemary on  our lamb.  I DID NOT spring the $5 for mint jelly, a line has to be drawn somewhere.) It’s also very exciting when our ovens work, maintain a constant temperature, and don’t shut themselves off.

Despite booby trapped ovens and the challenge of being an American in a metric world, there are some really good cooks and bakers on the island.We’re so happy they call us their friends!  Mince pies and brandy butter anyone? These are from our favorite Brits, and came with a lovely note wishing us a Merry Christmas.  Thanks guys!

IMG_0784Aren’t they beautiful?  Go ahead, be jealous.  #1 ate two of them in the car on the way home.

We’re also drooling over the home made fudge another friend made us.  She was worried it wouldn’t come out right since she didn’t have a candy thermometer.Who knew fudge required the use of a candy thermometer?  Not this non-baker.  It came out just fine.

 

IMG_0786This is the SECOND layer. Helena and I ate the first one during the 20 minute car ride home from her house. Afterwards our stomachs hurt, and we were buzzed on sugar, but it was so worth it.

People have been asking if Christmas is celebrated here.  Well, sort of.  We’ve found the Bahrainis love to celebrate anything, and the King is very obliging about granting days off for Muslim holidays.  Christmas falls after National Day, December 16th. The national colors are red and white, so the palm trees, buildings and  even the cars are decked out in red and white lights  and bunting.  Hotels, grocery stores and other  businesses are decorated for Christmas. Who doesn’t want one more way of selling stuff?!  There are even Yule log cakes in the bakery cases- thank heaven for a strong ex-pat community! Even better,  Christmas Eve coincides with the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday this year.  Small world.  Looks like we’ll  both be watching for our Prophets, and celebrating their births.  The family is going to a Christmas Eve service featuring a living Nativity.  I’m pulling for three camels and wise men to make an appearance.  (Follow-up report- no camels.  Not one.)

Santa is cruising around, too:  12249858_10153395974086347_3991995491057657841_n

Arab Barbie is available on the store shelves:

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We have a tree.  It’s fake, a first, but we’ve got some spruce scented oil sticks in a jar to cover for us.

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We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Busy days in Bahrain

Turns out it’s not always hot and miserable in Bahrain.  The weather broke around the first of November and now #1 and I joke that we’re living in San Diego. Temps are in the 70’s. It’s breezy, and everyone is smiling. More people are  walking,  we eat dinner outside by the pool and are starting to think we could live here a while.  Our peaceful happy moment is shattered every Thursday night when our back yard neighbors blast Arabic dance music at a level that harkens back to  early 1980’s nights spent in NYC discos. Well, my nights,  anyway.  #1 never went to a disco in NYC.  (Lord,  could you imagine such a thing?!). Part of me thinks “Yay, young people, having fun, you do it!” The other part of  me thinks “Really, do you have to play your music THAT LOUDLY? WHAT WOULD YOUR PARENTS SAY?! IT’S 9:30 FOR PETE’S SAKE!!”  But, we’re still  loving living in Bahrain, loud music and all.  Luckily for us, their 8:00 pregame shenanigans end just about at our 10:00 bedtime.  As they head out to enjoy the Bahrain nightlife, we’re snuggling up, old people style, in our comfy King  bed.

It’s not just our backyard neighbors who enjoy the cooler temperatures. The construction industry is abuzz with building here in my community by the sea.  The helper dogs and I have been walking around our neighborhood snapping photos, waving to workers and trying to avoid getting hit by bulldozers.  Even the sea lanes are busy with ships traveling  in the Gulf.  Here’s a fuzzy photo,  thank you Iphone4.  (yes, 4.  I’m cheap that way.)IMG_0655

Okay, so it’s not the best picture.  But, there were about 5 ships in the shot; it’s amazing to me to see the big cargo ships, naval vessels, and small fishing boats working their way through the Arabian  Gulf every morning.

I live in a community built on reclaimed land.  In the U.S you’d think, wow, they’ve improved some kind of SuperFund site and turned it into affordable housing. Get ready to have cancer.  Not so!  Here, they’ve dumped tons and tons of gravel, dirt, and Allah knows what else into the sea and turned it into land you can build on.  Then they  make big expensive houses and apartment complexes.  #1 and I joke that it’s all going to crumble back into the sea in about 30 years.  In the meantime, they are going gangbusters in their building.  Here are some pictures:

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See that big funky crane thing in the middle picture? That pours cement into the rebar and foundation of the villas.  Everything is made out of cement.  It’s not a drive in Bahrain if you don’t get stuck behind a cement truck when you’re in a hurry!

The hard work of building houses  seems to be left to the Third Country Nationals.  TCNs.  One sees them bicycling to work every morning on rickety old road bikes, or tumbling out of full passenger vans at the job sites.  Kind of like this:

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There’s not a big market for hard hats or steel toed boots here.  Not a lot of harnesses or safety equipment.  But there are a lot of willing laborers, so the work gets done.  Here are a few photos of them:IMG_0641

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The workers take a break around 8:00 a.m., and I’ll see them sipping small paper cups of tea and eating some kind of morning snack.  Often times there’s a white van (there are a LOT of white vans around here) selling said items out of the sliding door.  The dogs and I haven’t had the nerve to go up and ask them what they’re doing. Mainly because a lot of them are terrified of dogs. Also, we’re already a bit of a freak show-  two big dogs, a grey-haired, pale woman in shorts,  t-shirt and ball cap, all walking briskly every morning as they build Bahrain.  Here’s a picture of the dogs, standing in front of a few worksites.  They’re great supervisors.IMG_0685

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I know, it looks like a lot of sand.  Welcome to my world.  The thing is, this is orderly, compacted, smooth sand.  It used to be a messy lot that was excavated, pooled with water, (’cause hey, we are at sea level) ,was drained for days, then filled with rocks, pebbles, and again, sand.

(There’s some kind of feel good fable in that sentence,above,  about there always being more room in a bucket full of rocks…)

Anyway….

It was all pounded flat in the middle of the night while all the neighbors were sleeping. Really! One day it was rocks, the next, flat.  Someday it will be a house.  Some. Day. Case in point below:

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This wanna-be gated guard shack has looked like this for about 4 months.  The other day we saw  some guys in a sedan pull up, remove an arm full of  plastic piping from inside, stick it awkwardly in the back of their small car, and drive away. The helper dogs and I don’t expect much out of this project, we’ll keep you posted. In the meantime,  here are more pictures of my little part of Bahrain.  Enjoy!IMG_0654

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I’m still here!

why you start blog

Oh the shame, I started a blog and petered out early.  If I were a trend I’d be a Chia Pet. Or a blogger.  Either way, I’m now on the dusty shelf of has-beens.

Here are my excuses:

My household goods arrived, and there was nothing that spectacular to write about. Sure, the packers in Memphis forgot to crate my antique desk in its special crate, and didn’t tell me until the end of the day. They had worn me down and I was too tired out to tell them they had to unpack the shipping crate, pull out the desk, put it in its personal moving crate and then repack the  moving crated desk into the shipping crate. (Yes,I used the word “crate” a lot in that passage.  They, and movers, were the intense focal point of my life for about 5 days this summer) Of course, it came out on the other end in pieces.  Here are some pictures:

This first one is the shipping crate upon arrival.  Notice how my delicate desk is supporting the weight of another crate.

IMG_0472            This photo is the top scroll work, broken into pieces.

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IMG_0475 Its poor leg was broken off, too.  😦

A happier distraction:   My minivan arrived,-no more driving #1 to and from work!- safe and sound, shiny and bright.  I think it looked cleaner than it did when I dropped it off in VA for its two month journey across the seas. Around here one can pay people to do just about anything, so I paid a car guy to deal with my car when it came into port.  Someone had to pick it up, shepherd it through customs,inspection (think DMV without a restroom)  and vehicle registration (more time at the DMV, Jersey style, and again, no bathroom.) and get it insurance.  I’m not really sure how that works, let’s just say they’ve never heard of USAA in Bahrain.  The car guy took care of it, of course.  An easy going friend of ours did the car thing himself, it took about 6 hours, and there were no potty breaks. You know about my not-so-secret bathroom obsession.  I’d never make it.  Thanks to Hassan, my car is legit, and even better, he  has offered to buy it when we leave the island.   #1 and I joke that it’s  probably the best maintained car here, ’cause we do things like “scheduled maintenance” and “regular oil changes” that seem to be  mystery events to the local population.  #1 gets the honor of driving the “manvan”,  as we now call it.

Speaking of driving, traffic is crazy here, and the drivers even more insane.  I am renting a sports car-LOVE IT!- with a big engine just to keep up with the rest of the wanna-be NASCAR racers. The other good thing about having a small car here- once you get off the highway the roads are narrow, parking is scarce and it’s nice to be able to have a car with a tight turning radius and a small footprint.  #1 drives the manvan to and from work, where he has his own designated parking spot and is just a few turns off the highway.  His ego seems to be surviving it okay.  Luckily he has a lot of people calling him “Sir”.
Here’s a photo of her chillin’ on the dirt lot in front of our house:
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 One last distraction- #1 and I went back to the U.S. for a grown up class on how to deal with important stuff when  you’re one of the oldest ( and supposedly, wisest) person in the room. I could go on and on about the class, suffice to say that I drank a delicious dose of the Kool Aid, got all my pep talks in, elevator speeches figured out, and left feeling pretty dang good about my spouse’s career choice.  We were there for 6 days, just enough time to get over our jet lag before flying back to Bahrain.  We saw trees, and hills, and rain.They were all beautiful. We took a few days of vacation afterwards.  #1 and our son walked in the woods a couple of times and called it “hunting”.  It was good for them both to spend time together while I supported the local retail economy.

So, I’m back.  I have another post already swirling around in my fuzzy brain, it has lots of pictures, too.  I’ll let you all chew on this one a bit while I consider unpacking the boxes we all hate to deal with because they’re full of the tchotchkes and memorabilia we hate to part with, but don’t really need.

There’s something new every day.

Remember how I said  life was a bit quirky around here?  Well, here we are, two weeks later, and it still is.  I’ve been rolling with it, telling myself to seek out something new each day.  You know, a new experience of some sort, and hopefully a  positive one.   Well, Bahrain doesn’t disappoint!   A few days ago it was as simple as a walk down American Alley- a street near the Navy base that is a shocking combination of a beachside resort strip on steroids, with all the chain restaurants one could want, along with some local Bahrain culture in the form of shawarma shops, men selling “Rolex” watches on the street, and the appropriate din of car horns and  small delivery motor bikes buzzing in and out of traffic.

#1, Helena and I took my cousin there for shawarma the other night as it was the simplest way of appeasing my desire to introduce my visiting relative to an all encompassing Bahraini experience.  There was a little bit of everything-  noise, trash in the gutter, trash on the sidewalk, the smell of cars, garbage, humid, warm air, and the odors of about 50  restaurants competing for business. (you know, I’m once again reminded of my visit to Beale Street this past May…) Walking down the street was a multi-sensory stimulation exercise. I’m so bummed I missed getting a photo!  But, #1 had his power walk on- shoulders squared, back straight, scowling at the sidewalk vendors as he strode by, with us tagging along in his wake. No way he was stopping to gawk like a tourist and take pictures. Here’s what Google came up with:American Alley at night

It occurs to me that not everyone knows what a shawarma is.  That  makes me sad, because shawarma is another of those fun words to say. Go ahead, try it.  Shawarma, shawarma, shawarma.

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(It starts to sound a bit like “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” doesn’t it?  Do you like the way I worked a Brady Bunch reference into the post?)Marcia

It’s also a delicious, cheap, Bahraini burrito.  Shawarma even has its own Facebook page, a conglomeration of posts that mention it by name, and over 83,000 people “Like” it. (ONLY 83K?!, Doubtful.)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shawarma/108304492530276

(Scarily, it goes to show how un-private FB can be.Just scroll down the page a little, you’ll see what I mean.)

Here’s what one looks like when it’s all pretty for a camera.

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Trust me, it is a warm juicy mess of meat and sauce when you meet it in person.  It will set you back a $2.00 or less if you stay true to the street food-ness of shawarma.  Buy it in fancy restaurant and you’ve paid too much, and missed the point of getting shawarma in the first place.  It WAS a bit heretical to go to American Alley to eat them, but, we were multi-tasking our tourist experience.  Afterwards we ambled away with full bellies, ready to dodge the cars, bikes and street vendors.  It was crowded, crazy, but not as bad as we expected.  We may go back, even #1 said it wasn’t “too awful”.   For a man who hates crowds, confusion, and strange men treating him like he’s their new BFF, it’s a resounding endorsement for a second visit! I think someone was just a little “hangry” when we started out…

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Things are a little “quirky” around here.

“Quirky” is a fun word to say. Try it. Quirky, quirky, quirky.   It’s a popular word these days, and rightfully so.  It’s such a generous adjective; complimentary, derogatory, all encompassing in both praise and scorn.  It’s a great way to describe Bahrain.  I typed “quirky meaning” into the good old Google, and here’s what came up first:
quirky
ˈkwəːki/
adjective
  1. having or characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits or aspects.
    “her sense of humour was decidedly quirky”

    It should have had one more sentence: See also “Bahrain”. Because, not only is Bahrain “quirky”- with “peculiar or unexpected traits or aspects”,  it is also “unusual” “bizarre” “odd” and yes, a bit “zany”.  I think it’s a little too conservative to be “Bohemian”, sadly.

    Where to begin with Bahrain’s quirkiness?   I’ll start with one of my favorite subjects- bathrooms.  Around here they have spray hoses in them, and in some lucky households, like ours, they have bidets, too.  Here are some photos:IMG_0420IMG_0419

    It’s nice to have options, isn’t it?  Here’s an up close picture:

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    You might be thinking “Wow, lucky them, they can wash the sand off their feet after a day at the beach!”. I’ll have to indelicately suggest that these powerful nozzles of skin-cleansing water are meant for a far more nether region of the body.  Just think about that for a minute.  Understand?  Now, imagine these at every public restroom one uses here in the land of sand.  Did you just say “Eww” out loud?  I cringe every time I hear someone using one.  And believe me, you can hear them.  Then I think about all the layers of clothing  Muslims wear that have to be hiked up and held on to while using a spray hose.  It could get so messy.  Quirky, right?

    Continuing on with my bathroom fetish, this is one I visited last week:

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    Those pictures on the wall are of their specialty dishes, and catering options. I guess they’re hoping you’ll have room for more food once you leave the bathroom?  Oh Captive audience, get ready for the next round!

    Water is a hot topic around here. Yep it’s quirky, too.   When it come’s to tapwater,  do you want it hot, or hotter? There’s no cold water to be had out of one’s tap. For real.  The water comes from outside, above ground tanks that magically self-refill.  Here are some photos of ours:

IMG_0425These three above are up on our roof, catching the rays all day. (It was 99 degrees at 10:00 am when I took that picture.) The one below is on our patio, standing by to fill the pool, and water the patch of dead grass the dogs use for THEIR toilet.   Truthfully, we don’t bother watering it.  Thankfully, it’s on the side of the house and we won’t have to look at it should we ever spend more than 5 minutes outside.  ‘Cause remember, it’s still a balmy 100+ degrees here, daily.IMG_0427IMG_0426See those two tanks suspended from the wall? Those are our hot water tanks.  Lovely,aren’t they? Their rusty condition doesn’t give me much hope of them  working, should it ever get cool enough to turn them on.

Most people don’t drink water out of the tap.  It’s desalinated, yet still a bit salty. Local forums suggest it’s not quite safe for our sensitive ex-pat systems, siting the unreliability of the delivery system (just what’s in those pipes, anyway?)  and the interior conditions of our water tanks.  Which leads me to the solution: Bottled Water.  It’s everywhere, as are the small bottles one carries around in their daily travels.  Like a Seattle carry-out coffee junkie, we haul our water “fix” with us wherever we go.  Sadly, many end up on the ground.  Here’s what I saw on my dog walk this morning:

IMG_0424It’s a quirky thing, in an odd and outlandish way, that outside all the expensive villas  the ground is littered with trash.  It’s like this EVERYWHERE.  #1 and I just shake our heads.Given all the cheap labor to be found, we don’t understand why the ground isn’t sparkling.   Empty lots, sidewalks, they all look like Beale Street at the end of Mardi Gras.  Only without the beer cups. And vomit. BTW, I did not pick up the garbage.  I had one poopy bag left.  While trash is okay, dog poop isn’t tolerated.  So I scoop the poop, and throw it in the garbage bins that are left outside almost every house. Go figure.

One last quirky thing to mention.  Closet space.  There is none.  Thousands of square feet of house, and not a single inch dedicated to a luxurious walk in closet.  Or to a coat closet, broom closet, or pantry.  Instead, we have wardrobes.  I got brave and took a picture of mine and #1’s.

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Yep, that’s all we have, and it’s holding about half of what we own. The rest is still “in transit”.  It’s going to be interesting to see if #1 caves in and permits the purchase of (relatively) inexpensive particle board wardrobes.  (The ones we have are solid wood, and very expensive.  But #1 hates all things particle board.)  I may just have to wait until he goes out of town to buy a few more…

Speaking of #1, he is still sleeping on his firm, extra-high air mattress.  I’m not.  But he now helps me up out of bed each morning, gives me a hug, and makes me coffee.  So I guess I’ll stick around.

More quirkiness in another post, plus, signs you’d never see back home.

Excuse me while I go take a nap.

I have this thing going on that I call “Bahrain Brain”.  It makes me come off as either ditzy, forgetful and weird, or, aloof, forgetful and weird.  It’s also making me extremely patient and tolerant, which is not normal.  Just ask my family.  I should really try to enjoy it, the Zen of being tired, clueless, and carefree.  There’s only so much I can do to change the world, and nothing I can do to change the crazy that is Bahrain.

Helena is tired, too.

“You know you’re tired when you see a photo of someone making Red Velvet brownies but you think it’s red meat and you’re like, ‘Why is the meat swirly, and why is there a spatula in it?'” ~Helena.

Take a quick glance at the photo and tell us that doesn’t look like a bowl of smooth, creamy, raw hamburger meat. (By the way, while looking for said photo, I came across a FB post celebrating “Healthy Red Velvet Brownies- Made with Beet Root!!” No.  Brownies should NEVER be healthy.  That’s the whole point of their existence.)

Red-Velvet-Brownie-Batter

It took a few minutes to find the photo, THEN I spent another 20 minutes finding more.  Here’s a beauty, they look just like steaks, don’t they?

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Yes, yes they do. (if your answer to either of the above questions was “no”, then you’re not tired enough.) Aside from exhaustion,  I think I’ve been going vegetarian a little too often, and obviously haven’t been comforting myself with sugary treats as regularly as I “should”.

Back to my lack of sleep.  What started out as a fun, camp-out style romp of living in an  unfurnished villa for month has turned into an achy, joint creaking workout requiring that I squat down onto my 6″ inflated, twin sized air mattress each night and climb up out of it each morning.  In between I toss and turn like a frog in a frying pan, and, once I fall asleep, I end up waking myself up with the noise my plastic bed makes each time I move.  Actually, #1 wakes me up with the noise HIS bed makes.  Yes, it’s the 1950s and we’re sleeping in separate twin beds, just like Lucy and Ricky.  Only theirs are a lot nicer.  Here’s what our set up looks like:

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And theirs:

twin beds

See Lucy?  No, she’s hiding under the covers, begging for just a few more minutes in bed.  There’s Ricky, just like a man, all freshly dressed and ready to start the day because he slept on the GOOD mattress.  Like my #1, he probably sings while he’s making coffee.

Our throwback to living like college kids is not making me feel any younger.  #1 has offered to trade beds, his is some kind of Coleman Deluxe model.  It’s completely wasted on him as he can fall asleep anywhere.  But I think his was one of those offers one spouse makes to the other, in hopes that that answer will be something like what I said-  “No no, that’s okay, I’ll be fine, you need a good night’s sleep more than I do”, while secretly hoping that the other spouse, he, will gallantly reply with something like ” No, really, I insist.”

#1 just said, “Okay, whatever you want.”

Sigh.  His gifts obviously don’t lie in the subtlety of spousal communication….or, maybe I just need to take a nap.

So. Many. Bathrooms.

Bathroom meme

Yep, that’s right, there are NINE bathrooms in the villa.   If you need one, we’ve got plenty to choose from.  As a matter of fact, my #1 husband uses several of them, and I’m about to stop sharing “ours” with him and claim one for myself.

It’s kind of weird, the obsession with bathrooms around here.  For the most part, they are beautiful.  Here are a few photos of the ladies’ room at Cafe Amsterdam, a lovely restaurant  where I had a ladylike and very delicious breakfast with some friends.  Eating out is  a big thing to do around here, hence the numerous  bathrooms like this:

IMG_0322  IMG_0320IMG_0321 It really was nice.  It smelled good. It had a chandelier! There were fresh cotton towels, rolled up and ready for me to use after washing my hands with some kind of organic, gluten free, vegan, essential-oil-based soap. There’s a padded bench to sit on, or maybe nap on if your meal takes a little too much out of you. The floor was shiny and so clean you could have eaten off of it, but that would be gross ’cause it IS still a bathroom.

If a restaurant bathroom is this nice, imagine what one at the Bahrain  Royal Palace must be like! I tried to find photos of the bathrooms at the Royal Palace,(really it’s called “Al-Gudiabiya”).  Here’s what it looks like:

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Surprisingly, there were no photos of HRH’s commode. Obviously the bathroom obsession doesn’t extend (publicly) to the Royal Family.  But I bet they have a LOT of them.  I’ll let you know should I ever find myself invited…I just figure, if we have nine of them, imagine how many The King has.  ( I should probably be calling him “His Royal Highness”, but I’m not sure about protocol, so I’m going to use lots of capitalization instead.)

Onto our 9 bathrooms, #1 calls them quirky.  Maybe it’s because the light switches are on the outside of the room. Like this:

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That’s the light switch arrangement for this bathroom, which is attached to a big room we aren’t sure how to use:

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Said room is called a majilis room, and this is what one COULD look like, as found on Pinterest.  (really? Pinterest?? Yep, the diy version of crack has majilis room makeovers.  Next thing you know I’ll find one on HOUZZ.).  Here’s a side by side comparison, guess which one is mine:

Pinterest majilis room IMG_0350

My room has its own entrance, so I guess I could always rent it out to boarders. (Kidding, #1).  In my book, “majilis” means “big room that I have no furniture for.”  I did a 5 second Google search of the term and picked the first on the list, which of course is Wikipedia.  (do they own part of Google or something?)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majlis

(complete non sequitur- 12,272 pounds of household goods have not yet arrived. They are “on ship, in transit”)

Anyway, back to my NINE bathrooms.  They have no electrical outlets.  None. NOT. A. ONE.  There will be no use of electricity via a wall outlet in our bathrooms.  NO hair drying, no electric razoring, no flat ironing,   It’s a sorority girl’s worse nightmare.  Fortunately for #1 and me- no biggie.   Helena’s hair dryer/flat iron is in the 12,272 pounds of household goods, and she hasn’t complained.  Also not used in our bathrooms- vanities.  Yep, there will be no storage of towels, toilet paper, hazardous cleaning materials or expired sunscreen as there is in the deep, dark vanities that populate bathrooms in the U.S.  Here’s a photo of our masterbath, in all its messy glory.

IMG_0345 IMG_0346 (2)There is ONE pedestal sink (a hateful idea in the world of bathroom design, I don’t care how “elegant” they look.  Where are you supposed to put all your stuff?!)- ONE store bought crash cart of crap that would normally be out of sight in the never-appreciated-but-now-highly-valued-vanity, and one store bought curtain and curtain rod.  That’s another thing. No shower rods, or curtains.  We tried living without them, but got tired of  wet toilet paper and swamp like conditions on the floor.

We have one bathroom that holds a large, hardly used, Jacuzzi tub and a sink.  But no toilet.  We have full bathrooms in our maid’s room, and in our driver’s room, but alas, no maid, no driver.  The maid’s room is on the roof, separate  from the rest of the house, so I doubt I’ll ever find myself in enough of a pinch to use it.  The driver’s room is also outside the house, on the ground floor.  We’ll be using it for storage, so I guess a nearby toilet will make box diving more convenient once the 12,272 pounds of house hold goods arrive.

Well, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to “go”.

“Why would he call you a cucumber?!!”

We made it to Bahrain!  2 dogs, one teenager, one tired mom, and 24 hours after take off, we landed at 6 a.m. and in 100 degree heat.  I’d post a photo of us and all of our stuff at the Navy side of the Bahrain airport, but they are very particular about photography there.   No need to cause an incident my first ten minutes in Bahrain! We’ve made it through our first week in country, which coincided with the first week of school.  I CAN show you this photo of Helena on her first day of school:

11953562_10153083481491728_9133129576410602185_o She looks thrilled, right?  School started the third day of after our arrival.

What I CAN’T show you is the classic photo of her getting on the school bus, because photography of her school bus is prohibited. As is following the school bus like the crazed woman I would be if she missed it.

Helena goes to a K-12 school, which means she rides the bus with K-12 kids.  So far she’s the lone representative of the high school crowd.  We hear there are some older kids in the neighborhood not yet riding the bus, (Mom’s driving them?! What’s that all about?! You could poke me with a stick in the eye before you could get me to drive to school in the morning.)  There is a small glimmer of hope for some upper level conversation, should the over 14 crowd ditch the ride from mom and then decide to speak to each other during the trip to and from school.

Anyway, the afternoon conversation usually consists of Harry Potter spells, and name calling.  Which, when the speakers are 8 years old, can be pretty entertaining.  And, when the speakers don’t have English as their first language, the spells can be a bit messy.  Remember this? :

LeviosA

In her head, she was correcting them, Hermione style.

Then, there’s the cucumber insult.  I guess when you’re 8 years old, it’s  cool to be a cucumber.  (see what I did there?).  Evidently it all started last year with a boy calling a girl a cucumber, then, she brings it up the first day back this year.  (typical female, picking old wounds…yep, we do it, and we start young.) This time, the whole gaggle of them got in on the cucumber insult band wagon. The conversation took up about 10 minutes of the ride, and then awkwardly puttered out, with one kid being told he wasn’t skinny enough to be a cucumber, and another one claiming to have a “six pack”, and none of them really understanding what that meant….

Then, there’s French class, and its extensive vocab lists:

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There’s also a very interesting text book, with much social commentary.  Thoughts on the “different” text book:

“Oh my God, I feel like the person who wrote this book was having trouble with their teen so they wrote this as a passive aggressive way of dealing with  them.” ~Helena

It’s an advanced class, with a few native speakers going for the easy “A”.  The first chapter deals with Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. (Well, not Rock and Roll, sadly, because she could completely own that topic, with help from #1 and me. ) In  the meantime,she’s learning lots of useful vocabulary words like “adultery”, “sexual intercourse”, and “drugs”.  Did you notice that the word for “condom” is “le preservatif?”

So different from the U.S.,  where “Sex doesn’t exist in America unless you’re abstaining from it.” ~Helena.

From the first chapter:

“Il est vrai qu’ils en oublient que votre petit coeur reclame autre chose que l’affection parentale et que vos hormones s’agitent.”

Translation: “It’s true they (parents)  forget that your little heart demands something other than parental affection and your hormones agitate you.”

Ah, so true…hormones and parents, a wicked combination.

Au revoir for now, I’m off to harass Helena with affection. It won’t be long… 🙂