Monday, June 27, 2016

A Perfect Pearl Celebrating 35 Years

Time flies -- of this there is no doubt.

It has been 35 years since Hubby D and I said, “I do.”

 It seems not so long ago but only a short time ago. And yet so much has happened.

Today we will be celebrating this monumental anniversary in Vero Beach, Florida. And, I am SURE it will be a wonderful day. Only 4 days ago we were in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

This photo was taken on a scuba diving trip to Belize celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary.
Two and half years ago when we were planning our move to Bahrain, I researched the Kingdom and discovered they were famous for natural pearls. I set a goal of acquiring a Bahraini pearl. However, what I did not know then was how rare and expensive they were.

Most Bahraini pearls are quite small.

After I arrived in Bahrain, I hesitated to buy one for myself as it was a significant investment. Luckily Hubby D felt it would make the perfect gift for our 35th Wedding Anniversary. I was thrilled.

A little over a week ago, before we departed Bahrain to move back to the United States, we ventured into the Gold Souq in Manama to find the perfect pearl.

Historically, the world's best pearls came from the Persian Gulf, especially around Bahrain. The pearls of the Persian Gulf were naturally created and collected by breath-hold divers.

Pearl divers off a traditional dhow boat.

Bahrain has been known for its vast stores of lustrous pearls since at least 2000 B.C. Cheaper Japanese cultured pearls effectively shut down the pearl industry in Bahrain in the 1930's. Before this Bahrain supplied 80 percent of the world's pearl market.

After oil was discovered, the water pollution resulting from spilled oil and indiscriminate over-fishing of oysters essentially ruined the once pristine pearl producing waters of the Gulf.

Today, pearl diving is practiced only as a hobby. Still, Bahrain remains one of the foremost trading centers for high quality pearls. In fact, cultured pearls are banned from the Bahrain pearl market, in an effort to preserve the location's heritage.

This is a link to a nice tourism article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal about snorkeling for Bahrain pearls.

Hubby D and I took a scuba diving trip in June of 2015 to dive in the pearl beds. It was a shallow dive, but very interesting.  Here is a link to the blog I wrote about the pearl dive.

The allure of the pearl has captivated the many queens -- Queen of Sheba, Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great, all of whom are said to have worn Bahraini pearls.

Recently Queen Elizabeth wore her Bahraini pearl earrings to a festival.

These are the Royal Bahraini pearl earrings.

The fabulous luster of the Bahraini pearl is to do with the combination of the sea's freshwater springs that give the island kingdom its name -- Bahrain means "two seas" in Arabic -- and its warm, shallow, highly saline water. Whatever rare combination creates these lustrous objects, then as now Bahraini pearls are widely believed to be the best in the world.

My pearl is quite beautiful. I will wear it with fondness for not only my Bahrain memories but also for the longevity of my partnership with Hubby D. We have a great marriage and enjoy life together with terrific gusto.

Each Bahraini pearl comes with a certificate of authenticity required by the Bahraini government.

A note that has been on my refrigerator door for many years says, “Life is short. Dance when you can.” We do!

This is one of my favorite sunset photos. It was taken in 2004.

In March of this year when Nancy Reagan passed away, there were many tributes to her marriage to President Ronald Reagan.  I can only hope that sometime in the future (NOT the near future) our family will say the same thing about our partnership.

“They were both strong people in their own right but they were first and foremost each other’s best friend.  They were each other’s strongest advocate and biggest supporter. She had complete adoration for him and lived to protect him.”

“Theirs was a true love story with each adoring the other.”

I adore Hubby D and I feel he adores me.

I hope we have 35 more years of wonderful life together!


At sunset on the Arabian sea this past year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Party Is Over

When my good friend DW left Bahrain she seemed to have lunch and dinner dates every day for weeks.  I was very happy for her. I thought it was sweet. Now I realize what it is really like.

DW back at their ranch in Texas.
I have been so fortunate that all my friends want to say goodbye and take me to lunch, dinner or have a special gathering. It has been so heart warming and just downright touching!

Of course, it makes me very much aware that I am leaving all my good friends and probably won’t see some of them ever again.  That makes me very sad.

My Bahrain friendships brought out the best in me.

The evening after the AWA Iftar, Dr. S hosted a very special High Tea for myself and for CS. CS is also leaving Bahrain and moving back to the UK.

Dr. S was the chair of the AWA 40th Anniversary Book Committee. CS and I worked closely with her on the project.

The party was held in Dr. S’s home and it was just wonderful. The food had an Indian theme and was fabulous. Before the party, I told myself to not overindulge but that pledge went right out the window when I saw the long table laden with delicious foods.

I was so touched that Dr. S hosted the party even though it was right in the middle of Ramadan. Even many of our Muslim friends came and it was an Iftar of sorts. It was just so very, very special.

Another incredibly special evening was at the home of my good friend LW. The evening had a Greek theme as LW’s husband, YW is from Greece. LW is an amazing cook and again, I had to force myself to not overeat. Final toasts with some very special ouzo put the evening over the top.

LW and YW gave us a fantastic quilt from Egypt. It was so very perfect. Everytime we look at it we will have fond memories of our good friends.
Bahrain has not been good to my waistline. There is so much wonderful food and sharing meals with friends is a favorite activity. When I get back to the States, a diet is at the top of my to do list.

Hubby D’s staff threw him a party in Al Khobar (Saudi Arabia) and there were several barbeques in the weeks leading up to our final goodbyes.

D's staff gave him a framed Arabic sword.
We had fun getting ready to host the last dinner party in our flat.
Dates to break Iftar.
Just a few nights before the movers arrived all our friends in Rasafa Towers threw us a big barbeque.

Remember this is during Ramadan so we could not start the grill until almost sunset. And, we had to be careful to keep the beer and drinks inside until it was dark outside.

The BBQ grill the guys installed at the building really made a great steak.

The party ended up on the balcony with cigars thanks to our friend PF.
I had several people encouraging me to attend the AWA Coffee that was held the night of Hubby D’s final day in his office. I wanted to attend but I knew that he would want me to stay home that particular evening. As it turned out, one of his engineers invited us to dinner and Hubby D really wanted to go. The party just kept going. . .

This was the night view from the flat where we had our final dinner party.
The next day the packers arrived right on time, started taping boxes, bubble wrapping dishes and putting clothes into wardrobes. Seven hours later all my memories were boxed and ready to leave.

As they loaded the elevator with the packed boxes, I thought about the joy and love that had come along with all those possessions. I can’t wait to open them up and remember all the wonderful times and precious friends in Bahrain.

I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy.

Let's face it, friends make your life a lot more fun.

Onward to the next adventure.

Closing the door to one adventure and opening it to another adventure.  Cheers!

Important note, we are already planning a “Bahrain wives” reunion. Not sure if it will be Tuscany or Ireland, but we will do something next year to get back together with our friends. YIPEE!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

One Last Iftar and the Adventure Ends

 “Settling into a new country is like getting used to a new pair of shoes. At first they pinch a little, but you like the way they look, so you carry on.

The longer you have them, the more comfortable they become. Until one day without realizing it you reach a glorious plateau. Wearing those shoes is like wearing no shoes at all.

The more scuffed they get, the more you love them and the more you can't imagine life without them.”
― Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

Recently I was feeling really comfortable in Bahrain - really "at home" with some great friends, our flat nicely set up and a fantastic health club for workouts.

Sadly, Hubby D and I are leaving Bahrain.

Now I am having a hard time imagining life without my friends in Bahrain.

However, it is what it is. The boxes are packed, freezer sold, houseplants picked up and taken to their new home.

And, I have gone to my last Iftar.

We have been living large in Bahrain for over two years, almost two and a half years. It is has been fabulous but the party is over and it is time to go back to the United States.

I am soon to be an Ex-Expat.

Hubby D had a two-year assignment in the Middle East that ended in April, and with many projects delaying to next year or the year after due to the price of oil’s impact on the overall economy, we have decided to return back the United States.  Hubby D will integrate back into the Buildings and Infrastructure business in the US to help that business grow.

There are good things and not so good things about living in the Middle East. I have been working on a blog about that since I first arrived in Bahrain and I am determined to publish it before I leave. 

Now is the time to enjoy Bahrain a bit more and prepare mentally for the challenge of acclimating back into normal American life.

Some ladies have a year to prepare for leaving Bahrain, others only get a few days. I am fortunate to have a full month to pack, plan and also say goodbye to all the amazing friends I have made here in the Land of Two Seas.

I just attended my last meeting with AWA and it was so very sad but yet so very lovely. As it happens the date of the meeting fell during Ramadan so it was a rare evening meeting and an Iftar celebration.

Do you remember our second Ramadan last summer and our couple’s Iftar? That evening is still fondly talked about by many people. We couldn’t drink cocktails or wine in public so we all met at our flat for “pre-Iftar cocktails” BEFORE sunset.  We were a rebellious group for sure.

The AWA Craft group has also been holding weekly potluck dinners during this Ramadan because our favorite lunch location, the BAPCO Club is closed for lunch.

My last project with the Crafts group was to sew camels on tea towels. 
The group works hard and raises thousands of BD to support AWA's work in Bahrain. I am very proud to be have been a part of this group.
Here I am hard at work on the sewing machine. 

I brought in our old music CD's and the girls went crazy over them. I was so excited because they had just be sitting on my shelf for two years!
I attended my final Crafts morning and the potluck was one of the best ones I can ever remember.  And, to put icing on the cake they gave me an adorable framed picture of Bahrain.

DL, on the left and DT on the right are the driving force for Crafts. Both ladies have inspired me with their dedication and hard work.  DT was also my AWA mentor when I first arrived on the island.
We really enjoy the pot luck lunches during Ramadan.

Over the past month I have had many friends take me to lunch, take Hubby D and I to dinner, throw BBQ’s in our honor and invite us into their homes to enjoy a few moments together before we part.

On a recent Friday (remember, in the Middle East Friday is Sunday, Thursday is Friday, Saturday is just Saturday and Sunday is Monday), we hosted two couples at our favorite beach spot, the Ritz-Carlton.

It was one of the most fun and relaxing days we have ever had in Bahrain.

The Ritz is a beautiful setting - every time I go there I feel like I am on vacation.
It goes without saying, the most important thing to me while living in Bahrain has been the American Women’s Association, AWA.

I was told about AWA before I arrived. Another wife in Hubby D’s company connected me with AWA members who made sure I attended a coffee held by AWA only a day after I arrived on the Island and then took me on a tour of the island. DT was my mentor and teacher. I am not sure I could have fit in so fast without her help. Telling DT goodbye really hit me hard.

When I first met her, DT told me quite confidently, “The Island is only 7 miles wide, you can’t get lost.  Just look for the buildings around where you live and go in that direction.”  She was right and her advice has saved me several times.

I have passed on her many jewels of advice to many wives who have just moved to Bahrain.

AWA helped me learn the ropes of being an Expat.

AWA gave me a purpose and new goals after I sold my company and came to the “sand box.”

LW (President of AWA when I arrived - now the Vice President) threw me right back into publishing when she convinced me to help with the 40th Anniversary Tribute Book. Hubby D accused me of being back at FAMILY Magazine with the many deadlines and “all-nighters.”
LW is on the left. In the center is DR, the longest standing member of AWA. 
Our committee worked hard and long to make the 40th Anniversary Book a reality.
This is LW with me at the AWA Iftar - my final Iftar.
My blog profile says, “Everything is up in the air for me right now. I have sold my “baby” of 25 years, Washington FAMILY Magazine and moved with my husband to the Middle East. It will undoubtedly present big challenges for our family along with great adventures. And you know me, I love a good adventure.”

AWA helped me to survive.

I have been able to do something for the good of others and at the same time do something for myself.

I have forged friendships with ladies from countries all over the globe.

At the final AWA meeting – the final Iftar – I was embraced by so very many beautiful women. They told me they would miss me and that AWA would miss me. With some, we even cried together.

One card given to me from 3 of my friends read, "Dear Brenda. How lucky we were to have known someone who was so hard to say "goodbye" to. RS, LF, HI

Oh my goodness.  It brings tears to my eyes just writing the words. How ever will I replace these ladies in my life?

The is LB, one of my golfing buddies.  She is a better golfer than I am but we had a great time out on the course together anyway.

These amazing women have no idea how greatly they will all be missed and how much their friendship has meant to me.
There were seven ladies celebrating their last AWA meeting. 
CS finished my painting and brought it to me at the meeting.  I am THRILLED! I can not wait to find the perfect place to hang it. Oh wait! First I have to buy the perfect house so I have some walls.....UGH! 

Do I wish I could stay longer?  Yes and no.


I wish I could have made a bigger impact on the Bahraini community and finished my commitments in AWA. I also wish I could have strengthened my bonds with these amazing, amazing women.

Some things scratch the surface while others put a mark at your very soul. AWA and my Bahraini friendships made a big mark on my soul.

And, no.

Hubby D is ready for his new challenge and I want to be there for him and to enjoy the adventure with him. We are a team and I know he is ready for this new adventure.

So I gave my last report for the Cherry Tree Trot Race committee and passed off the responsibility for the race to KF. She is going to do a fantastic job and I know I have left my committee in good hands.

Life has different stages with valuable lessons learned along the way and friendships to be formed. Every stage of life is the foundation for the next stage of life. Every friend is a pillar for that next stage as well.

Moving on is easy, what you leave behind is hard.

As I walked sadly out into the warm night to my car, CS stopped and waved me down.  She wanted one more hug, and reminded me we have one more party to go to on Thursday night (Friday) that is in our honor.  Yippee - party on!

It's time to prepare to say goodbye to my Bahrain adventure. But I think goodbyes are sad so I'd much rather just say hello.

Hello to a new adventure – what ever and where ever that may be.