Monthly Archives: December 2011

Christmas in Bahrain

Well I thought it would be nonexistent, it being a Muslim country and all. But no, no no. There are Christmas trees galore, and tinsel and mince pies, little Santas and singing elfs, shelves stocked with glace cherries and marzipan and enough wrapping paper , garlands and pretty bows to fill a kingdom.

Everyone loves Christmas, even those who do not celebrate it. The season is infectious and each expat school has a Christmas fete, hotels have tree lightings and carol sing-a-longs and every mall is decorated to the nines. Of course this little island is filled with expat families who do celebrate, but they are not the majority.

We took a family vote and it was decided that Christmas day would be better spent at home than away. We have organized a holiday to Oman but will return for Christmas day. My vote was to stay away, in case you wanted to know. I find Christmas a quiet and lonely day without family and friends around but I have been assured that joy will be abounding.

We have had a few Christmases in the expat world. A Ugandan Christmas is quite odd. Obviously in a country as poor as Uganda, tinsel and trees are not high up on the ladder of importance. In fact the buying of presents is far below the buying of shoes. But there still exists the religious and more serious aspect of Christmas that is somber yet pure for its lack of materialism. Occasionally you might see a lonesome scrap of tree or tinsel strung above a shop, but for the most part, outside of expat stores, the shiny and glittery part of Christmas is lacking. The spiritual part is what remains. I was touched when Steve, who worked for us, brought his wife and daughter to visit and they presented us with a box containing cartons of juice. It was a gesture that resonated with all of us and remains today.

A Trini Christmas is like no other. They have their own food, music and customs and they take both the religious and glitzy side very seriously. No one in the world parties like a Trini and what better excuse to “lime” than Christmas? The decorations in the malls were literally stupendous, creative and festooned with colour. Initially I was surprised. What did a tropical island know about Santa and elves? But I was quickly pointed in the right directions and shown what a proper Christmas is all about.

And now Bahrain, where it rings false. There is no spiritual element. No, food drive or toy drive like in Canada. No sense that everybody is doing it. It is a fine excuse for a very rich country to wrap itself up in embellishments. But in our little world it is as it always will be. Chocolate peppermint bark, a few old traditions, a few new, a walk on the beach, Wham’s Last Christmas, hot chocolate in snow man mugs.

But first…. a new discovery. We are going to visit Oman and I will return with stories and photos. In the meantime 3limes will take a short hiatus to recharge, relax and refresh.

Happy holidays to all my readers!

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Filed under Bahrain, Family Stuff, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda

Red and white all over

I have seen patriotism, I have seen national pride and I have seen flag waving. The Royal Wedding in England, July Fourth, Canada Day or Bastille Day, St Jean in Quebec; I have experienced them all. But there is something just a little bit different about National Day here in Bahrain and I am not sure I can pin point what it is. Perhaps it is the meshing of love for a country with unflagging love for a King, or maybe it is the unfailing and unquestioning pride in this small land at a time when it is feeling bruised and vulnerable. Perhaps it might be the linking of national pride with religion so that the three tong image of King-Quran-flag makes for some very impressive symbolism.

Yesterday at school I heard the national anthem sung twice. I saw videos of the King in full military regalia, I saw old film clips of tanks and salutes, pearl divers and oil pipe lines. I heard poetry in Arabic and the King’s name said over and over again with a love normally reserved for close family. I tasted food that tasted of Cardamon and rose. I saw a blur of red and white as flags were waved with unceasing passion.

And I saw all forms of national dress from 3 year old boys, proud in their mini Thobe, fidgeting with long head dress, to tiny girls wearing sparkling Jalabiya. The Jalabiya is gorgeous traditional dress worn by women and comes in many forms; long, short, brocade or sequinned, flowing with swaths of silk and chiffon. Normally they come in the colours of jewels or flowers; emerald, ruby, fuchsia, lime or shimmering pearl.  I was loaned one by a student and flowed around in it all day, by the end of which I had discovered by new found personal style. I felt part princess and part Endora and decided that I would need to pop off to the Souq to purchase one of my very own.

 

 

 

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Stuck in the Middle

I’ve been wrapped in a warm blanket on my sofa watching season 2 of Downton Abby. Not only am I crushed that it is over (what will I do without the drama?) I am sort of alarmed by how cold it is. I was warned it would get chilly but I just scoffed and said a little too arrogantly “I’m Canadian. Don’t talk to me about cold.” But they were right. I think it comes down to a few factors. First, the temperature dropped like 10 degrees in 2 days. Every morning when we get into the car we look at the digital reading of the temperature and I recall when I arrived back in August it was 42 degrees Celsius most mornings. Now it is 12. Last week it was 27. So there is the shock.

Then there is the fact that our house is all stone and has no insulation. So the desert winds just come straight through the walls and through my clothes.

Then there are the clothes. In Canada I would have a warm scarf, a gentle jacket, maybe even boots. And certainly if my house was 18 degrees I would have on some heating, or at the very least slippers and a sweater. I have neither. I am spoilt from 4 years of living in the heat.

But on the up side there is the sensation of seasons. And I wore black opaque tights for the first time in 4 years the other day.

But with a change in seasons comes a change in heart. And I am a thinker.

So I have been musing on time and being stuck in the middle.

I am coiled tight and tense against time. For some reason I am yet to explain, I am overly concerned with time these days. I cannot relax into a minute and feel anxious about wasting precious time. I have never had this sensation before and I cannot fathom why I am holding onto to time as if were priceless and threatened.

I am sitting on a sharp point between the past and the future, balancing on a tipping point like a wobbling weeble, uneasy with the sensation I might fall. To my right I see a long stretch of desert and two girls walking away with a cloud of hope and anticipation rising around them

To my left I see photographs, black and white faces of pale chubby cheeks, eyes of those no longer with us, a family of four smiling beside a mountain of snow. I see books I have disappeared into, pages worn with eager eyes and a tower of films I have loved and never wanted to end. I see a laughing circle of friends fresh out of high school, our lives on a plate ready for the taking. I see a young couple by the Nile, holding hands.

Is this what middle age feels like? Feeling like I am in the middle?

I teach seniors of the brink of possibility and hope. They feel the uncertainly of next year, where will they go? Will they miss home too much? What will they be? Who will they become? I write university recommendation letters and I feel the excitement and nerves of trying to get in. And I often write to former students, staying in touch with their lives; sometimes I even skype with students I haven’t seen for four years. I read the status updates on facebook as they negotiate the freedom of university with the tender pull of home. I feel their anticipation as they tip towards a different point.

Is this what is feels like to be in the middle and surrounded by those just starting?

So I have taken to baking. It has worked in the past and seems to be working now. I find nothing quite fills a void like melted butter, warm chocolate, spiraling egg yolks and lines of sugar.

 

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Here is an Emu

For your personal enjoyment I am showing you an Emu. Don’t say I don’t set out to both please and entertain. 3limes is the place for all creatures, great and small. Regulars will have read of everything from Giant African Snails, to toads, dead rats, rare and exotic birds, tree climbing lions, warthogs, giraffes, elephants, the beloved pooch and even the dreaded roach. And now I present you with an Emu.

I went to pick up Princess from a sleepover at her new friend’s house and lo and behold, as I stepped out of the car I was greeted with quite the menagerie. Their garden is a veritable farm beside the sea, complete with three Emus running in dizzy circles, two peacocks and an alarming Turkey who seemed thankful to have survived Thanksgiving.

I think Princess had a wild and wonderful time.

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