Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Brittany’s Big News

When Doug approached me with the chance that he might have an opportunity to work in the Middle East, my biggest concern was to make sure I was not out of the country when Brittany and Randy start their family. 

I knew that after the wedding on March first, they would focus on starting a family.  They have been seriously dating for over four years. The wedding date was set over 18 months before March.  It would be time to start working on babies.

However, before I told Doug that moving out of the country was a good idea, I asked Brittany the "baby" question.  "Hey, Brit, when do you think you and Randy might start looking to have kids?" I was very casual. I didn’t want to share Doug’s opportunity and distract from the wedding planning and fun.

Brittany told me that probably they would start working on their family in a year or two.

Great, I thought.  That will fit perfectly with Doug’s time in the Middle East.


The first month Brittany and Randy tried to conceive, they were successful. Bingo!  Homerun!

Obviously, we are thrilled and excited.  However, do I wish it were a year from now.  It is going to be really hard participating in this wonderful event all the way around on the other side of the world.

Ok, I won’t complain any more. As Brittany told me, "Mom, I don’t manage my family planning based on your schedule."

I will just have to deal with it.

That said . . . WOW – YIPEE – SUPER – IS THIS FUN OR WHAT?

Brittany (my baby) is going to have a baby.  Her due date is January 21.  Doug and I are going to Florida for Christmas and I will be staying in Florida until after the baby arrives.  I hope we can have a baby shower and do lots of shopping before the big arrival.
Baby Bowlin's FIRST photo. 

Last week Brittany went to her first doctor’s appointment and had an ultrasound of little Baby Bowlin. OOOH. That sounds so cute. I am sure the little sweetie is going to be so very cute.

Be sure to keep watching for updates on the big event. It is going to be a lot of fun and I am positive Brittany is going to make a fantastic mom. 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lost Safety Moment

There was excitement today.  Early this morning a note was slipped under the door to our flat while I was in the shower.  A package had arrived and was waiting to be picked up.

However the note did not tell me where to pick it up, just a note from the EMS Center.

What is an EMS center?
Where is an EMS center?

I have a couple of resources in Bahrain and I asked them about the note and where the correct EMS might be.  The only thing they could tell me was to go to the Muharraq Post Office.  Neither one of them could tell me an address. Addresses are not used a great deal in Bahrain.

After some searching on the internet, I found a description for the what appeared to be the Muharraq Post Office and I felt pretty confident I could drive there.  Muharraq is just over a short causeway from Manama close to the airport.
Our flat is located in the far left area where it says "Ritz."  Muharraq is in the centre of the map.

Over a week ago, my first driving experience (beyond 2 blocks to the grocery store which is a piece of cake) was to drive home from the airport after dropping Doug off for a business trip. It was a straight shot down the highway and around a couple of traffic circles.  On the way home I had no problems at all.

I will have to admit the first traffic circle looked different coming from the other side as I drove home. Luckily I choose the correct road to take off the circle and then straight problem.

There are traffic circles all over the place.

Confident I could find the post office and manned with my GPS on my phone, a map of Muharraq and my note indicating there was a package for me, I headed off to Muharraq.
Nothing has an address here.  All you have are street numbers and block information.  BUT, there are no signs on the streets or buildings with this information so you can't actually find something based on the street number or block information.  ARGGGHHH!

I arrived where my GPS indicated the location to be and it definitely was not an EMS center. I was in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.  I cleared the map from my search and created a new search for just "Muharraq Post Office."


So I headed to the other side of Muharraq.  As I neared my destination (according to the voice on the phone) my phone beeped and said my battery was low.

Did I bring my charger cord for the car? Of course not.  It had crossed my mind, but in my excitement I had forgotten it.

I rounded the corner and my GPS said, "Your destination is on the right."  And, my phone went dead.

Here is my safety moment to share with you.  Never leave home without your car charger no matter how charged up your cell phone is.  NEVER!

Great, here I was in the middle of a busy street, nothing that looked like a post office and no directions.  So, I parked my car.  Making sure I had my note and my passport, I got out of the car and looked around.  There seemed to be a very busy area with buses and a large number of workers.  The traffic was very heavy and the building beyond looked rather "institutional" so I headed that way.

Many business on this street.

Here is where I parked.
     I was very lucky.  The building turned out to be the post office!  Whewww.

Nice sign but it was on the side of the building facing away from the street.  I could not see it until I was right up on the building.

After a 30 minute wait, my package was handed to me by a customs agent with the instructions, "Open."  I looked at the box and my mind went in circles.  It was from my oldest daughter.  She had told me what she was sending.  Could I get in trouble?  

I remembered that Amy just started an herb garden and she thought it would be nice to send me some fresh herbs.  Of course, she never dreamed it would take 8 weeks.  She also had included cigars, a Father's Day gift for Doug.  I did not think about the fact it would go through customs when she told me she had sent it and I could not remember if these things were contraband. 

I opened the box with my mind still spinning with thoughts.  Four custom agents gathered around my package. Inside the box were numerous small baggies filled with dry plant like material.  

YEP, you guessed it.  This was a problem.

The customs agents examined each bag extremely carefully opening each and every one then closely examining the plant contents.  The cigars did not get a second look.

I must have appeared truthful when I told them my daughter sent me some herbs from her garden.  After a very long and nervous 30 minutes they boxed it all back up and sent me on my way.

Back in my car, I was a bit rattled and I realized I was not completely sure how to get home.  However, a new friend recently told me just to look for the tall buildings that are located in my neighbourhood and head that way.  I looked for downtown Manama and headed that way. It worked, in just a few minutes I was on a  familiar street headed toward Al-Seef District and the safety of home.

Thanks to Amy I definitely had a thrill today.  Life is just one adventure after another one!  (Thanks, Amy!)

Not sure what I will do with the dried herbs, but it sure makes for a great story. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

Dust or Fog?

This morning when Doug and I went to the health club to work out, the sun was shining and it appeared there were clouds on the horizon.

I was terribly mistaken.

After Doug left for work, I returned to unpacking boxes in the bedroom (that is another blog COMPLETELY).  About 8:30 I returned to the living room and looked out the windows.  It appeared a bank of fog had moved in. However . . . 

It was sand. A shamal to be exact.

Here is our normal skyline.

Skyline in the sandstorm.

A new friend, Patricia sent me an email wishing me a nice day and to enjoy the "shamal."  I had to look it up to understand what she was talking about.  

According to Wikipedia -- 

shamal [شمال, north] is a northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait), often strong during the day, but decreasing at night. This weather effect occurs anywhere from once to several times a year, mostly in summer but sometimes in winter. The resulting wind typically creates large sandstorms that impact Iraq, most sand having been picked up from Jordan and Syria.

Shamals result from strong northwest winds that are funnelled into the Persian Gulf by the mountains of Turkey and Iraq to the northeast and the high plains of Saudi Arabia to the southwest. The winds most commonly are strongest in the Spring to Summer and hence the Shamal events are as well, although they can occur at any time of year. During that time of year the polar jet stream to the north moves southward to become close to the subtropical jet to the south. The proximity of the two jet streams promotes the formation of strong but often dry cold fronts which create the Shamal. The strong winds of the Shamal form in front of and behind the front. Iraq typically experiences strong wind-driven dust 20 to 50 days per year.

According to folklore, the first major shamal occurring around May 25 is known as the Al-Haffar, or driller, since it drills huge depressions in desert sand dunes. The second, arriving in early June, coincides with the dawn star, Thorayya (Pleiades), and is therefore named Barih Thorayya. During this event, which is more violent than the others, fishermen usually remain in port because ancient folklore tells them that this wind devours ships. Near the end of June, the last shamal arrives, known as the Al-Dabaran, or the follower. It is violent and continues for several days. Local residents keep doors and windows firmly shut as this shamal includes an all-penetrating fine dust which gets into everything.

On my way to the grocery store.
I ventured out to the grocery store and it was rather oppressive to breath.  Guess I will stay inside for a day or so.... but that is okay.  I have plenty of unpacking to do.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Shipment Has Arrived

There was really good news this morning. Our personal belongings (clothes, kitchen gadgets, my face moisturizer and other essentials) have arrived and passed through customs.  Whewwwww!

I am so happy!  Seems like I have been living out of a suitcase forever.

Oops, where is it all going to go?

When we packed up in Virginia (I should say “when I packed” because Mr. Hyde was no where to be found) it seemed like so many of our belongings were essential and needed to come to Bahrain.  However, after being here 5 weeks and getting along with only what I could bring in a suitcase, I am not sure why I packed up so much stuff to come over here.

I guess I downsized and now I will have to upsize.

This is a picture of all the boxes that were shipped to Bahrain before they left our house in Virginia.  All the rest of our furniture and belongings went into storage.

On my last night in Virginia, I slept on the floor because it was almost 3AM before the movers finished up and left.

However I found time to drink the last bottle from our wine collection.  It was a bottle of champagne we purchased in France at the Chateau deFere. We were on a trip with very good friends touring vineyards.  We had saved it for a special occasion however it appeared the best thing to do was to drink a final toast to Virginia. I couldn't bring it with me.

Doug had been collecting wine for 14 years and we could not take it with us nor would the storage company store it for us. After putting 15 cases in the basement of good friends, there were still 140 bottles that we needed a home. Donna, from FAMILY Magazine took a whole bunch but I still had wine. I finally boxed it up and went door to door in our neighborhood dropping off a little something to remind our friends of Doug and Brenda.

Every once in a while Donna sends me a picture when she is enjoying the wine with family and friends.  It is so exciting to see our collection go on giving joy to the people who mean so much to us.  This was fun!

No, the wine is not from River Road. That was a box I picked up at Total Beverage to help lug the 140 bottles around.

The bottle of champagne was the "last" bottle on the "last" night in Virginia.

I took this selfie and sent it to Doug. He was already in the Middle East in Saudi Arabia. The champagne glass came from our condo in Florida we had just sold so it was a double special toast. We both toasted "to our next adventure" via Skype.

Things are back to normal here with temperature at 102 degrees with 36% humidity.  It is the perfect weather to stay inside and unpack boxes.

Those boxes will be arriving tomorrow!  Yippee – maybe.  This could be a challenge.



Monday, July 7, 2014

No Dry Heat

One of the first questions most people ask when they hear I am moving to the Middle East is, "How will you stand the heat?"

I always answer, “But it is a dry heat.”

In Virginia, where we lived for twenty-four years, humidity will sometimes make the heat index go off the charts when the temperature is only in the 90’s. It is very humid there. High humidity makes the heat almost unbearable.

Honestly, until yesterday the heat was not bad in Bahrain.  There have been only two times I have felt uncomfortably hot.  This is even more significant because I have been wearing long sleeves and long pants.

During the season of Ramadan it is respectful to be covered up when you are in public and I am trying very hard to respect the culture of my host country.

I was starting to think, “This is a piece of cake.  I can do this.”

Without warning things changed.  Yesterday I noticed the temperature seemed warmer so I checked our weather station we brought with us from the US.

At 5:12 AM it was 87 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) and 84 percent humidity.  That was a shocker.   Humid?  Wow!

This morning when we went to work out it was even more humid.  86 degrees (30C) and 90% humidity. The windows of our flat were sweating on the outside and I could not get my sunglasses to defog as we walked to the health club.

When we returned from our workout it was even more humid at 88 degrees (31C) and 93% humidity.

There is not a cloud in the sky. Where is the moisture coming from?  This is very confusing to me.  Unfortunately, I have not found any local news stations so I can’t follow the weather like we did in Virginia. I guess I will have to pull the Weather Channel up on my Ipad every day so I can see the weather.

The locals don’t seem to mind.  They all tell me, “Don’t worry. The winds are coming.”

Winds?  Now what am I in for?

No worries, it is already getting back to normal. It is 107 F (42 C) and 49% humidity right now.  That is more like it.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

The First Party

Put yourself in our shoes. We are in a strange land (that is an understatement).

We are new and have few friends.

It is a National Holiday celebrating America’s freedom.

Freedom is being threatened in the region where we are living.

We need to celebrate America’s Independence Day!

So we sent out invitations to the few people we know – both American and other nationalities.

In America the 4th of July is usually thought of as THE party of the summer. With the theme already chosen — America, duh — and endless red, white, and blue dessert options to choose from, making July 4th often mostly about planning how you’re going to party . . . even during Ramadan.

Once our plan was in place, it was easy and it was a nice party. Everyone had a great time.  There were friends from Canada, Norway, England, Venezuela, Italy, Louisiana and Oklahoma to name a few.  Yes, Oklahoma!  Never guess but one of the ladies who works with Doug is from a town not far from where I grew up.

Small world indeed!


There was a global feast as well with shrimp, guacamole, jambalaya, hamburgers, hotdogs, apple pie and whole lot more.  And, plenty of spirits to get every into a celebration mood.

The biggest challenge was keeping it indoors and not going out on our balcony.  During Ramadan it is against the law to eat, drink or chew in public during daylight hours.  We kept the “eating, drinking and chewing” inside until after sunset.

The second biggest challenge was cooking hamburgers and hotdogs (chicken – no pork in Bahrain) on a Foreman Grill.  We did it and they even received high marks for flavor but I don’t think they were even close to being as good as the ones Doug’s cooks on our grill in Virginia.

The third challenge was making baked beans without a recipe.  Our household goods have still not arrived so I do not have any of my recipes.  That is a story for another blog.

We had great food along with some good conversation. Some of the group thought that the countries in the Middle East might not be ready for democracy.  Not sure I agree with that.  I found this quote and it made me think.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
― Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin

Happy 4th of July to everyone.

Freedom is something Americans sometimes take for granted. Doug and I have already learned that the freedoms you experience in America are huge compared to those you find in the Middle East.