Category Archives: Family Stuff

My big week off

I have been such a slow blogger of late, I fear my readers may just run away. To be honest with you, the reason I am so quiet is because I have been sick, and it is half term, finally, and who wants to spend their much deserved half term sick? I have a terrible cold/sinus/flu/ thingy and it just won’t go. So I am feeling very sorry for myself, and I have no energy whatsoever, and therefore not a great deal to share. I thought this would be a half term of exploring Bahrain, picture taking, discovering, but no. It has instead been a time of shepherding children from one friend to another, criss crossing Bahrain, errands and catching up on all those little things that work stops you doing,and lots of sleep. I can safely say that I will not hit that mall again for 1 whole week.

But on the upside I am getting a new phone, eventually? Tomorrow? So I will finally be reconnected now that my phone took one last breath and died. In order to keep the same number I had before there needs to be come technological mating ritual between two companies, the one I am leaving because I hate them, and the one I can moving to. Since it has been Eid everything is closed and the mating can only resume tomorrow.

On the upside I have found a place to re heel my shoes. It has only been 3 months so that is one big shiny tick, right there.

On the upside we were invited to a BBQ, and I got out of bed to go; I was not to miss our big social event of the past 3 months, now was I? So the social calendar is perking up. It was great fun and the end of the night saw teenagers squirting dish soap all over the pool side stone floor and sliding, full body prostrate, from one side of the terrace into the pool.

On the upside we had one very exciting and rare experience of rain. Yes, the desert rains came. And they were definitely making up for 7 months of no show. Big dramatic clapping thunder, sharp flashing lightning and thick juicy raindrops that fell all night long. The next day the temperature had dropped and it is now a chilly 21 degrees Celsius.  We drove out to a sodden desert the next morning and roads that had mini floods. We have no idea when we will see rain again.

On the upside Handsome had a birthday. Sadly it was the day after the rains so he did not get the hot sunny beach day he requested but he did get a breakfast fit for Kings, a walk on the beach, a movie, plenty of divine chocolate cake and a date with his lovely wife to a seriously trendy Japanese restaurant. I tried to remove the pliers that were wrapped around my head for the day, pull myself out of the cold funk and pretend I was not sick.

There are still four more days of my big week off. I am off to find some fun.

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Halloween I miss you

Halloween was the very best sort of fun back in the day. Handsome would come home from work, roll up his sleeves and dig out all the soft, pulpy pumpkin flesh. We would lay out newspapers on the kitchen floor and scoop out the insides of two or three very large pumpkins. Then a small Trooper and an even smaller Princess would carefully draw the face with black Sharpie and Handsome would pull out the sharpest knife and start to carve. By the time we were finished it was dark and the perfect time to drop little candles into the belly of the gourds. Costumes would be donned, and then coats to cover them up since it was Montreal and already far too cold. Then hats and makeup, boots pulled up, enormous trick or treating pillow cases slung over shoulders and off we’d go. Handsome and I both wanted to trick or treat. There is nowhere better than our old Montreal neighborhood for house hopping, even people from the burbs would drive over, spill out of minivans and use our roads to collect good loot. So we’d take turns. One of us would stay behind and hand out candy, one of us would take Princess’ hand and guide her up the stairs to each house, prompt her to say ‘trick or treat’ and ‘thank you’ in the smallest voice and then onto the next house. Then home to switch and the other would do another road. We always shared Halloween with the same friends, ate the same blood red spaghetti sauce, drank the same red wine.

A Trini Halloween was fun, as everything in Trinidad was. It was all rum and candy and loud music and it quickly turned into a street party, a lime. Not coats needed there, the teenagers loved to wear the skimpy costumes, to laugh the loudest, come the last. All my students would turn up and show off their imaginative outfits, and share candy with us.

In Uganda we carved a Watermelon, having no pumpkins on hand and Princess had a party. There was no Trick or Treating but we couldn’t drop the tradition. There was still dress up and candy and costume. Then last night, our first Bahrain Halloween and…nothing. We live in the wrong neighborhood for Halloween. I heard there were some parties, some costumes and even some trick or treating over there where the majority of expats live. But it all feels a bit half hearted. So I miss it. And I miss home and our traditions.

So I feel a bit sad today. Halloween I miss you, cobwebs, chilly night, tiny children in oversized witch hats, over eager parents, pumpkin carving, too much candy, non-stop door bell ringing, scary noises, ghoulish over priced decorations, ridiculous merchandise, hand made costumes, competitive parents, many little spider men, princess tiaras; the lot.

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A funny sort of week

It’s been a funny week on the whole. Trooper suddenly came down with something rather nasty and had a day off school. Then once she was up and running Princess fell with a fever that kept her home for two days. It is to be expected. We have hit the 6 week mark and that means major assessments at school, added pressure and lots of weariness. We have one week left and then a whole week off. I am calling it half term, here it is called Eid.

With Princess home. I had to stay home too, at least for the first day and that had me spinning webs of order around my house. I had not had time, the most precious commodity of all, to organize drawers, clean shoes, do some sorting and catch up with the minutia of home life.  Playing house made me feel domesticated, a feeling rather rare and strange as I normally feel anything but.

Hitting the 6 week mark at school also led to the Day of Angst that must hit teachers everywhere. The questions fly like curve balls: ” Am I actually teaching them anything? Do they understand? Am I going to make it on time? Will they be ready? Have I done it properly?” We close the door and teach in a self enclosed bubble and sometimes we have our moments of self doubt. Often it is all cleared up with a simple prescription: assign an essay and see if they can do it. If the majority wins, you win. But there is always a taste of doubt left sitting on the tongue.

But now it is the weekend and I can put Camus down, brush off the bikini, suck in the stomach ( ask whether I really should be wearing a bikini) and head to the beach. Trooper is swimming in an open sea competition. She is determined to come last and swim lazy strokes beside her new good friend. Best of all my mother has flown in for a sweeping 4 day visit. So there will be restaurants and visits to places and a chance to see Bahrain with visitor’s eyes. She is our very first visitor so we have plumped pillows, laid out fresh towels, arranged roses and planned a fun weekend.

So I must push away the lurking feeling that I, too,may be getting sick, banish those worries and self doubt, stop thinking and go out and Have Fun. It is just what the doctor ordered.

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Lost and busy in the sandy isle, but walking on sunshine.

I am not sure I have ever been so busy. I barely have time to breath and there is another onslaught of things to mark, to do, to cook, to fold, to find. I don’t remember this happening before.

I am squeezing in a few solid procrastination minutes here away from marking to write this down, dear readers. Since I am so sure that you are interested and wondering how life is going on my sandy isle now that the glow of Berlin is worn and I have just finished week 6 of term 1.

The ground is moving faster than I. It is a giant conveyor belt that is simply zipping along too fast and I fear I might trip. I wake, I run, I return, I sleep.

Princess is being terribly clever and sparkly and brave. She has made it the finals of her school’s IDOL. It is not American Idol, nor is it the X Factor, but in our house it is even bigger and more important than either of those silly competitions. She will be spinning, dancing and singing up a storm  on a stage before 100 people. And she will be Walking on Sunshine.

Meanwhile Trooper has her nose pointed downwards towards her phone where her real life lies. She will soon have carpel tunnel of the thumb. We are monitoring the situation and sitting somewhere on a fence between “ she is 14 and it’s her right to be anti social” and “ she needs to be a human if she wants to live in my house.”Parenting Teens 101.

And finally in other news I am tired of not knowing where I am going. I fear I may need to purchase a GPS as navigating a car around my sandy isle is proving difficult. The thought of veering off the well worn highways worries me. I may get lost, or never get back, or….  It is somewhat akin to the fear of falling off a map. So I am slowing exploring; when I need my shoes re heeled and I haven’t a clue where to go I ask a fellow teacher to draw me a map and off I try.

There is one other tiny but rather exciting tidbit. We are now the proud owners of a dishwasher.
The last time a non human device washed our dishes, it was June 2009. Getting the dishwasher, finding one that fit, having it delivered, installed and ready to go was no easy task.  Finding a garden shop off a certain highway on a certain sandy isle was only slightly less difficult.

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October, really?

How can it possibly be October?

Really.

July 1st I arrived in London, after a difficult and boring week in Bahrain with no car, no furniture and no idea. I was starting my summer, my long awaited trip back to the Great Shiny West and I was filled with positive and sunny thoughts about reunions, sushi, shopping and Canadian Lakes. The thought of moving to Bahrain had been firmly pushed to a dusty corner of my mind and I was set to live my summer as a happy sunshine girl.

August 1st and I was in California, sipping creamy white wines and looking across and over mountains, sniffing the Pacific and staring at sea horses in a world famous aquarium. I was wrapped up in family and there was a glow about the day, despite the fact that the summer was slowly dying.

September 1st and I was in Bahrain. Furniture was here and unpacked, I had a car and had learned some roads and ropes. Eid was in full swing and Handsome was off work. We headed to the beach, excited, but knowing that school and new starts were looming. Within a few days I would be starting a new job, meeting new colleagues and the dust of life would begin to settle. September 1st was the last of the in limbo days.

October 1st. Here we are. Working, schooling, driving… a routine has been fixed and the fears of new starts have assuaged. Trooper has found her feet and has three different social occasions set up for the weekend. There could have been a fourth but I drew the line. ( Love that line, arbitrary and random as it may seem.)  Princess has had her second sleep-over, having found the perfect girl friends. They have turned into peas and slipped into their pod. I have been warned that by the end of this weekend I will want to hire a driver.  Handsome has returned from one business trip and is soon leaving for a second, followed swiftly by a third. He is happy. I am starting to figure out the mechanisms of a new class room, a new flock of kids; the navigation of a different and sometimes strange culture. It has been a tumultuous month of change and adjustment and learning. But the uniforms are less scratchy, the 5,30 am risings are less painful and the days slightly cooler. I am yet to find a circle of friends, I think you need yummy mummy coffee time to do that in such a short month. But there is little space left after work and I am more than content to fill that space with books, family and wonder.

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Routine, balm for the tired soul.

And here we have it, routine has arrived. I get up at 5,30 am, yes I do, and yes it hurts, I drive 15-20 minutes in the blazing sunshine to work, where I do my teacher thing.

Princess and Trooper go to their school and work and toil as kids are wont to do, and secretly love, despite all quarrels to the contrary.

Handsome drives all the way across the country to the airport where he does his thing.

And at some point we all meet home again, back to our house of cool marble and books, where we congregate in the kitchen, open the fridge and wonder what is for dinner.

It is the same everywhere, for everyone. Whether you live in Uganda, Canada, Trinidad, England or Bahrain, we all wake up, work and end up looking in the fridge at the end of the day.

But it is the little differences that make it interesting. And I suppose that is how I survive in this hopscotch sort of life.

Here then are the little things that make a difference.

Like the time Handsome went out for dinner and has a Peach Ice Tea instead of his usual beer. If you know him, even a little bit, you realize how odd this really is. Like any warm blooded Canadian man, he likes his ice cold beer after a day at work. And here there are very few ways of getting it. The “ice cold” shop does not sell beer, but does sell Coke and Milk. One way is to eat at an expensive restaurant that has a license, or one of the few bars ( a bit grotty) or at a hotel. Another is to drive through the ‘drive-through’ beer shop at the Gulf Hotel. And I just found out about an online service where you can choose your liquor and they deliver. All very clandestine, but legal.

Sometimes it is easy to think we live in India. After all there are as many Indians here as native Bahrainis, and they tend to do the jobs that no one else wants to do. And also all the tailoring. One evening during Ramadan when we could not enter a restaurant until 6.30 pm we decided to take a very warm walk around the neighbourhood. Walking is not something that is done very often here, it being a suburban sort of driving place. But we did have a little walk around the block, sweat pouring down our backs, and we found all the tailor shops. Run by Indians I could stop and actually believe for a second or two that I was in India. Until I saw that the shops were full of the long white robes ( Kandura)  that the Bahraini men favour. Since there are so many Indians here there is also a plethora of Indian movies, music, clothes and restaurants.

You can actually speed right past a police man here. They don’t care one smidgen about fast cars. People drive so fast here, it is scary. And there are 20,000 minor road accidents a year on this small island. No surprise there. As sn extreme contrast very occasionally you might meet this on the road. Not going so fast, obviously.

Wednesday and Thursday night the malls are packed to bursting with Saudis who have driven across the bridge to come over for some Bahrain fun. This little Island swells in size on Thursdays and Fridays and then shrinks back to normal on a Saturday. Suddenly there are Saudi cars all over the place. And watch out for the ladies. They don’t get any driving practice back home.

School is full of polite, high spirited and respectful students and the stark difference between them and the students I have taught in the past is that the boys and girls are hardly ever seen together. Not in class, not in the hallways and not in the cafeteria. There is a silent division between the sexes that goes as far as standing in different lines to buy their lunch. This is not a rule, but is something cultural and hardly conscious. I may yet be proven wrong here and find out about some secret romances.

I was very fortunate to have a lot of house hold help in Uganda. It was the done thing, not something I spoke about very often but I was very spoilt with my two live in helpers. Here we have opted to not have live in help despite the fact that most do and in fact our house comes outfitted with a maid’s room. So we have gone from a lot of help to much less and I have to admit, it suits me just fine. I am back in the kitchen, cooking, doing laundry, being normal once again. However, strangely most houses here do not come with dishwashers ( cue the maid’s room) and so we are doing a lot of washing up which quite frankly I could live without. I am having scary flashbacks to student life. I find it ironic that life here is so comfortable, our house is so lovely, we even have a garden complete with automatic water sprinklers. And yet I am washing up.

One of the surprising differences that colours my days.

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A little story about a Mosque

Handsome Husband decided we ought to do something cultural, learn something, about our new home. The Grand Mosque here was offering tours during Eid, an open door of sorts to show expats what Islam, the mosque and Eid are all about. I shrugged, not feeling particularly enthralled about the educational tour, and feeling guilty that I would prefer to stay at home and play house. So I went, for the kids, it would be good for them. But there was a condition. I would not sit and be lectured to and I would not be forced to wear an Abaya. Yes I would cover my head, take my shoes off and show all due respect but I had no wish to be draped in black and made to feel invisible.

I’m the open minded world traveller here, but still ,what’s a nice Jewish girl to do in a Mosque?

We parked and looked up , the minaret glinted in the deep heat, pale sand colour against the bluest sky, a sky too blue in the burning heat.

And then inside to the cool exterior where smiling men dressed top to toe in white pushed us in the right direction.

Within 5 minutes I was taken aside, along with a rather worried Trooper, dressed in a black zip up abaya, head entirely covered, top to toe invisible and plopped down in front of a man holding a lecture stick. I was handed a succulent date soaked in honey and a thimble full of rose tea.

Handsome stifled a laugh, Princess was jealous and Trooper blushed. We were swept into the main hall of the mosque and lectured to for the next 45 minutes. And once I got over my great discomfort I have to admit we learnt something. The whole experience pulled me out of my tidy little world and plopped me into another one. And if felt most odd.

But I realize that sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable.

The majority of Bahraini women walk around all day the way I did for 45 minutes and we have no idea what it feels like. I felt anonymous, disguised and frankly uncomfortable that I was made to feel invisible. However I know that for many women it is a quiet relief to not be defined by their outward appearance and they might take pride in the fact that only they know exactly who they are and how they look. Over in the West much stock is put on what people think of us and we find ourselves dressing up for others, hoping and wanting their approval. It is quite disconcerting to suddenly not matter, but rather to blend in with a crowd of other women tidied up in black.

And so I did it, the very thing I dreaded and expressly did not want to do. I have visited other mosques in the past, I have gladly covered my head but I have never been told to cover up entirely. It was rather extreme in my opinion and as much as I am sort of glad for the experience, I do not wish to do it again. I was pretending, playing a part, wearing someone else’s skin and it didn’t feel right.

When we walked out of that mosque, the one where all Muslims stand side by side, equally, before God, where the lights come from Austria, the marble from Italy, the doors from India and the carpet from Scotland; when the girls had henna beautifully applied to their hands in the ladies only room and we had felt the cool marble on our bare feet, when I slipped off my black abaya, removed the head scarf and put on my shoes, I became once again just simply me. But a little changed by the whole experience. Eyes open and all that.

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