Driving in Bahrain, part 1

Driving in any foreign country is often a cultural experience on to itself.  Bahrain is no exception.  Upon arriving in Bahrain I was still shaken up from my car accident in the States and the thought of driving in Bahrain was a nightmare.  I literally still shook when I had to drive and sitting as a passenger in Bahrain was just as terrifying.  Now, looking back I realize Bahrain was just  the cure to my driving fears, mostly because I either had to sink or swim.  Not really having a choice, unless we wanted to hire a driver (which is totally a normal thing here), I have learned to find driving in Bahrain quite efficient.  Not really sane or safe in anyway, just efficient.  I get from point A to point B, which is the whole point of driving, right?

Driving in Bahrain is frustrating for my western, logical, mind.  When we first moved here, just getting to my destination seemed like a momentous occasion to be celebrated.  I’m still amazed at how I’ve learned to navigate around Bahrain since Google maps “does” work here but seems to be about 1 block delayed and street signs may or may not exist.  Even the signs that do exist can be so faded you can’t read them, blocked by an overgrown tree or bush, or just straight up wrong.  Before one can really celebrate arriving at your destination, finding parking (which might be a whole blog on to itself) becomes the real obstacle and test of patience.  Thank goodness the rules, I mean guidelines, for parking are even less defined.

Driving in Bahrain takes patients, a lot of patients.  It also takes the sense of letting go of expectations. Which seems weird because if you think about it ALL of driving is based on expectations…certain expectations that everyone will generally follow said country’s driving rules.  And this is where the patients come into play.  Driving “rules” and “laws” do exist here but no one really follows them.  They are more like guidelines or suggestions open to serious interpretation based on the driver’s country of origin, how expensive your car/SUV is, and how big your vehicle is.  Now having been here 15 months, from what I have witnessed, these are the only agreed upon driving guidelines that most driver’s follow:

  • Drive on the right side of the road, inshallah.
  • Turn on your lights when driving at night, inshallah.
  • Stop at a red light if there is a traffic camera.  Otherwise, inshallah.
  • Honk often.
  • You are the most important driver on the road, so everyone needs to get out of your way and read your mind since you don’t use any signals.
  • Do not use any signals.
  • Park anywhere your car sort of fits.

Those are the guidelines.  Speed limit signs and other traffic signs are posted everywhere but these are more like side-of-the-road decorations or, again, suggestions.  Right of way exists to the largest vehicle in the vicinity, or the car that honks the most aggressively.  Pedestrians definitely do NOT have the right of way and never assume since you are walking half way across a street with your kids in hand a car some distance away will see you or slow down.  This makes walking with the kids a nightmare.  This is probably why you rarely see kids walking around on the streets.

While no one seems to know how to use a turn signal here (a pet peeve of mine even in the States), honking is everyone’s form of communication.  It’s not as bad as Delhi, India, Lima, Peru or other major cities I’ve traveled, but it’s still a lot.  At first, the honking got to me and it made me all flabbergasted and stressed out. Over time, I’ve learned to distinguish between the honks and realized honking (not signals) is a form of communication between drivers.  Here is my analysis and honking guide for Bahrain:

  • One long honk = equivalent to the middle finger -or- I’m not happy -or- get out of my way -or- watch out.
  • One short honk = move -or- start driving.
  • Short repetitive honks = (typically following the one short honk) i’m losing my patients and you need to move now before this turns into one long honk.
  • Two short honks = thank you (I have only seen three people in my entire time here actually wave as a ‘thank you’).

I’ve started using the honks. What I’ve learned is: 1. they work, and 2. God forbid you accidentally give someone two honks (“thank you” honk) when you meant to give one short one. The car in front of you becomes so confused they freeze and it takes longer for them to move. Rookie error.

There is so much more to go into this topic like parking, Saudi Swoops, car seats, and motorcycles but for now I’ll leave you with this. In a country that seems to be me-me-me first on the road, Emergency vehicles (i.e. EMT vehicles) have to stop for red lights even when their lights are flashing and sirens on. YES!!! I know.  I’ve seen this happen many times.  Every time I have witnessed this all I can do is pray. Pray that the person or people inside make it. Pray that the added 1-5 minutes (depending on the red light) isn’t the difference between life and death. And pray that the driver says “Fuck this shit” and blows through the light knowing how ridiculous it is to wait while no other vehicle on the road does.

Then again, maybe this is a deeper reflection of my time in Bahrain. Maybe this country, while I love it, has made me a little less optimistic. Or maybe it’s more optimistic, depending on how you see it. Either way, if you choose to visit us (and the doors are still open as long as we are here) please come with your favorite anti-anxiety remedy/medication or a new bottle of whiskey.  Tad particularly likes Jura which is hard to find here (wink wink).

Until next time. Aloha & Namaste.

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New Years in Sri Lanka

I’m about 9 months post date on my blogs.  I seem to start blogs and then never get around to finishing them.  But I still want to make sure I write down what I remember so our kids have memories.  Let’s be honest, so I have memories.  This mommy memory loss is no joke.

Here goes…NEW YEARS IN SRI LANKA, 1-7 January 2017

Luckily, with a little help of the Universe making it nearly impossible to get to India for the New Year as I had hoped, we found ourselves looking forward to a week in Sri Lanka. Not knowing anything about Sri Lanka I decided to book through a tour company. The thought being, if this is our only chance to see Sri Lanka then I want it to be the most informative, spectacular, memorable, AND fun trip for everyone. With the help of the tour company Red Dot, we had just that.  To this date, Tad thinks our trip to Sri Lanka was our best yet.

Here is what made Sri Lanka an amazing family vacation.

Day 1: After a direct flight from Bahrain, and an Izzy who did not sleep very well (ugh), we arrived at the newly renovated Colombo airport.  Our driver, Aruna, met us there and made us feel very welcome and comfortable instantly.  His van was immaculate, his English very good, and there was even water waiting for us in the van.

The first Sri Lanka experience was surprisingly not the airport (as I had mentally prepared for) but the just the driving.  Within seconds of leaving the airport it was clear I should not look out the front window because it always looked like we were about to hit someone or someone was about to hit us.  Tad immediately pointed out that he was glad he wasn’t driving and happy to turn the wheel over to a professional.  At first it seemed chaotic but we learned after a few days that there is definite order within the chaos of driving in Sri Lanka.  Like many places, the law of gross ton, applies.  The bigger you are, you have the right of way.  You can pass as many cars as you want, even with cars heading straight at you, but be prepared to feel like you’re going to have a head-on-collision every time.  Still, it was worth every single penny to have someone drive us around for the week.

We jumped right into our vacation by heading straight to the to the Millenium Elephant Orphanage Foundation.  As I read from other family blogs, this stop is a good way to get the kids excited about being in Sri Lanka.  It worked.  It was perfect.  Even for Tad and I, the Elephant orphanage made us realize we had stepped into a totally different time and place.  Within a short walk from the front entrance, we were greeted with a huge field of elephants.  There is no glass or walls or anything between you and the elephants, just a few guys with sticks to guide and corral the elephants. Aruna had timed our arrival perfectly so we got to watch the tourist coveted “feeding.” Honestly, it hurt to watch because it looked so uncomfortable for the elephants. But apparently elephants like milk and I trust they are not hurting the elephants at an orphanage.  Right?

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As soon as the feeding was over, Aruna told us to follow him.  At first I was really annoyed he was taking us out of the park and not letting us look around.  But he was insistent we follow him and quickly.   He led across the main highway (a two way road), down a tourist-trap street filled with Sri Lankan knik-knaks, to a hotel that sat on a beautiful river.  He then said, “Sit here. Order tea. Eat lunch.” Little did we know the best elephant show of our lives was about to take place. We had the best seats in the house to watch the elephants bathing in the river.  Within 15 minutes a huge herd of elephants were parading right next to our table and heading to the river we were overlooking.  It was both magical and humbling.  All of a sudden it was clear these were not cozy little kittens but huge, powerful, smart creatures.

While some of the elephants were chained in the water, most were let free to just bathe. There were huge water guns spraying at the elephants (which they seemed to like) as well as fireman grade hoses spraying them off.  It was so funny to watch.  You could begin to see personality in the elephants and how they preferred to bathe.  My favorite had to be the ones who just plopped down and started rolling around.  I’m not quite sure who loved it more, the kids or Tad and I.

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After lunch we got back in the van for a few hour drive towards the Central Province of Sri Lanka.  Since we arrived in good time to our hotel area, Aruna suggested we visit the Dumbulla Caves, aka the Buddha caves.  I hadn’t included it on our itinerary because I wasn’t sure how the kids would do but I am so glad Aruna essentially forced us to go.  As you approach there are prayer flags strung above the road letting you know you’re approaching a very holy Buddhist site.  And holy, divine, and great it was.  From the parking lot, you turn a corner and BAM you’re greeted with one of the country’s tallest golden buddha statues.  My mouth dropped.  My heart fluttered.   It is by far the the tallest Buddha statue I’ve ever seen. It’s not the largest in the world, by far, but it’s still breath taking and emits an aura that is respectable.

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To see the caves, dating back 2700 years, you climb up a steep hill lined with monkeys and people selling floral offerings.  This was also the first glimpse into the Izzy show. Almost every person we passed swooned over Izzy, smiling, cooing, pinching her cheeks, kissing her head.  At this point, after being in Bahrain for so long these types of gestures don’t bother me and we follow Izzy’s cues.  Partly tired, partly uncomfortable she wanted Tad to carry her.  So while the rest of us walked, Tad carried his little movie star up the steep hill.  Trace was totally thrilled that he wasn’t sitting anymore and happily walked up the hill.

The Dumbulla Caves Monastary are still functioning and are the oldest preserved edifices in Sri Lanka.  The kids were scared of the caves but enjoyed running around looking at the lotus flowers in the ponds.  It was just the beginning of a full week of lotus flower excitement.  Tad and I each took our turn in the caves and were both happy to have visited the holy place.  The cave paintings are very well preserved and the statues are breathtaking.  I would have liked to sit and meditate in the caves but long gone are the days of traveling on my own time.  The kids were getting rowdy and it was time to head to the hotel.  My photos will not do this sacred place justice but these Google images will.  The Dumbulla Caves have a fascinating history and worth a read on Wikipedia.

We stayed two nights at the Elephas Resort in Sigiriya. It’s a small boutique style hotel with an eco-friendly attitude. Most memorably, it had the best shrimp dish I’ve ever had.

Day 2 in Sri Lanka we ventured to the famous Sigiriya, Lion’s Rock Fortress. The history of this fortress is impressive and captivating–a real life tale of rulers, harems, Buddhist monks, honor, and wars.  Walking around the pool gardens trying to imagine what it would have looked like in 5th century was exciting and unbelievable.  Aruna hired a guide who took us to the top which means the guide also carried Trace up all the steep and treacherous spots (there were many).  For most of the trip you’re climbing steep steps strapped to the side of a mountain with scaffolding…and not US standard scaffolding, Sri Lankan standards.  In retrospect, Tad said we totally got lucky that our guide didn’t get mad or upset at us or Trace and accidentally let Trace fall over the cliffs to a horrible death.  That never even crossed my mind.  We’re an adventurous family with good intuition and I thought it was good for us (said the mom not carrying a child up the steep steps). I was most proud of Tad knowing he isn’t the biggest fan of heights but he didn’t say anything and kept trucking along with Izzy in his arms.  Izzy, showed her love for all things adventurous and daring and had no troubles with the heights.  The top of Lion Mountain where the main palace was built had a spectacular view (as you might imagine) and was WORTH every sweaty step (again, said the mom not carrying a child and who loves heights).

That afternoon we arranged to go on an elephant safari at Kaudulla National Park.  We had our own private jeep and guide who knew which area of the park the elephants were gathered.   Apparently the elephants migrate between three main areas during the different seasons. Not only did we see the most spectacular wild elephant show ever imaginable (blew Day 1 out of the water), we got to see a wild elephant on the way to the park just cruising along the highway.   Elephants are spectacular, breath taking creatures even at the zoo but to see them in real life, in their habitat, playing together, fighting, eating, cruising, bathing…it makes me love them even more. It was this park that we also got to see our first peacock with its feathers raised. It was far away but still spectacular.

Day 3 we loaded up the van and headed to Kandy. And yes, it took all day. Sri Lanka, while having modern roads doesn’t mean the traffic or driving is fast. The twists, turns, and traffic made what would be a quick hour drive from point A to point B a six hour drive.  Knowing it would be a long drive, Aruna was really good at spacing out stops for us.  The first one was at an Ayurveda spice garden.  Having self-studied Ayurveda since I was a teenager and then becoming certified as an Ayurveda Wellness Counselor in the States, I was excited to see the medicinal plants in the wild.  To be honest it wasn’t anything spectacular but it was a good mini-ecological stop and opportunity to see Ayurveda medicinals in action.  Right at the end of our tour, Izzy tripped and fell slicing open her knee.  She couldn’t have done it at a better place.  Immediately 10 guys swooped around to help and calm her (obviously freaking her out more) and clean up her wound with traditional Ayurveda herbs.  I was thrilled to see Ayurveda from its motherland in action.  They applied crushed herbal powder onto her knee and told me to let it stay on as long as possible.  No joke, her knee healed surprisingly fast.

The next stop on our way to Kandy was at a friend’s of Arunas.  This family showed us how to use every part of the coconut tree from the nut itself (water, milk, oil) to making rope with the coconut shell husk, and woven mats from the fronds.  Being a lover of all things coconut, it was informative and impressive to see how the whole tree was used and processed to aid humans’ lives.  The kids each took a turn making coconut fiber ropes which they then carried with them throughout the trip like a trophy.  I liked that stop even more than the Ayurveda botanical gardens.

We arrived in Kandy at rush hour…although I have a feeling it’s always congested. After checking into our beautiful and modern hotel OZO Kandy, we took a guided tour at Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.  The Temple is one of the major pilgrimage places for Buddhists.  Honestly, I’m not sure what was more impressive our 98 y.o. tour guide or the temple.  Joking, not joking.  Our tour guide had Tad and I holding back laughter the entire time.  He was so sweet mannered and definitely knew every single piece of history about the Temple but was unable to field any of our questions without repeating his entire monologue again.  Neither Tad or I are Buddhist but we have both read lots of Eastern philosophy texts and Buddhist books.  The Temple took all of our breath away at different points.  The most notable moment was in the meditation hall near the actual tooth relic. Trace and Izzy, despite being squirmy since getting out of the car, sat still and silent while our Monk friend forced us to sit and “meditate.”  Clearly I was all about it but to see the whole family feel something unique and quieting was unexpected and heart warming.  As we exited the museum to conclude our tour the only rain of our trip poured down on us.  It was a welcomed blessing and “cleanse.”

We finished our only night in Kandy with a Sri Lankan cultural dance show.  Although Tad and I were very excited to see it, the kids took one look at the masks and nearly lost it. Okay, Izzy totally lost it. Trace lasted about 10 minutes then was too scared to go on. Oh well. That’s one of the things about traveling with toddlers–not everything is going to be a big win.  Tad and I have to make quick decisions and decide if it’s worth moving on, potentially having already paid for a ticket or fee, or to make the kids tolerate it because we really want experience/see it. We decided to leave the show and walk the long way home around Bogambara Lake which was a nice way to feel and see more of the city before heading to bed.

Despite spending most of Day 3 in the van, day 4 was our longest day on our total week long vacation.  Again, God bless our kids were growing therefore napping all the time, we drove about 250km from Kandy to Laya Safari Resort, due west of the Yala National Park entrance. Technically Google Maps says it takes about 5.5 hours but it took us 8.5 with scenic stops along the tea plantations and lunch in Nuwara Eliya.  For many, driving that long and far doesn’t sound like a way to spend vacation. For Tad and I, we totally love it! We got to see SO much of the gorgeous countryside we wouldn’t otherwise see. We also weren’t driving so we could nap when we wanted.  Since Tad and I love tea, stopping and taking a tour at the tea plantation was awesome. We learned so much and gained an even deeper appreciation and love for all things tea.  And like everywhere else in Sri Lanka, Izzy was asked to be in many family photos.  To me, it’s bizarre to even imagine why you’d ask a stranger to be in a family vacation photo but apparently it’s a thing.

Nuwara Eliya was a nice lunch stop with the best shrimp masala Tad and I have ever had.  This is where a lot of Indians and Middle Easterners come to vacation.  It definitely has a resort town feeling to it.  I’m sure there is a lot to do but we continued on.  The last stop before we left the mountains was in Ella.  Ella is Sri Lanka’s backpacker’s mecca.  It wreaked (literally and figuratively) of backpackers with all the quintessential backpackers places like the german bakery, internet cafes, smoothie and juice stands, lounges, yoga decks, and shopping.  While we stopped for a quick tea, and let Izzy indulge in her first experience with chocolate cake, it was nice for me to remember my backpacking days and think about how much I would have LOVED this town.  Now, as a married globe trotting mother of two, I realized I no longer desired this type of vacation spot and was truly happy to be where I was in life.  As we drove away with sounds of Bob Marley and ambient music playing from hippy-chic incense burning cafes, I felt like I was driving away from that part of my past for good.  It felt sweet and freeing.

When we did finally arrive to our next hotel, Laya Safari Resort, we realized just how far our money goes in a country like Sri Lanka. While the places we had stayed in were nice up to this point, this was another step up into luxury vacationing.  Lotus ponds greeted us at the front entrance, the property sat right on the Bay of Bengal, elephant markings were all over the property, and monkeys were playing and watching us humans from the rooftops as if we were the safari park.  This is also where Trace and Izzy learned the phrase: NO MUD, NO LOTUS.  The service and food were incredible and we were at the gateway to Sri Lanka’s coveted Yala National Park, one of the best safari parks in the country.  While we were assured it was a family friendly spot, I was a relieved when we were lead away from the beach front properties to our own private two bedroom Thicket Villa.  We were completely isolated by nature and the sky. The kids finally got to experience the night sky in all its glory and we even got our own monkey visitors the next day. 

Day 5 we began the day lounging around the pool and taking a walk-about on the beach… with the lifeguard.  At first I was really annoyed that he wouldn’t leave us alone but then I felt bad when Tad told me the lifeguard had lost all his family and many of his closest friends and teachers in the 2004 tsunami.  My heart sank when I learned this.  It was our first reminder of the devastating tsunami that changed the lives of thousands in this tiny country.  Hearing his past and reflecting on my annoyance made me remember to be more compassionate with all.  My perspective immediately shifted and I was grateful he cared about us so much.

That afternoon was our Safari Day at Yala National Park.  Right before our safari we had our own close-encounters with wild monkeys at our cabin.  What started off as, “oh look at the cute monkeys right there,” quickly escalated to Tad locking all the doors and witnessing a monkey throw itself against our patio door. We still don’t know if it was trying to get Izzy, open the door, or just show dominance. Either way, I no longer saw the cute hotel monkeys as “cute.” Instead, I wanted nothing to do with them.

As we began our private safari tour, I sat back with very low expectations.  Since we had already seen the most magnificent elephant safari I could imagine in Kaudulla, I wasn’t too worried if we saw anything else in Yala National Park.  The safari was filled with beautiful landscape and tons of animals but I also got really upset when we found ourselves in a jocking match with 20 other jeeps for the best view of a small family of elephants.  I know our driver just wanted us to get good photos but I just wanted us to stop, respect from afar, and watch them rather than worrying about being “the closest.”  I finally asked Aruna to tell our driver to stop and to just sit and watch.  When we did so, four or five elephants came really close to our jeep.  I got to stare into the eyes of a huge elephant and then as it stood there, I noticed the belly was moving.  It was a pregnant elephant.  I got chills watching her slowly pass us and watch the unborn elephant move from the outside.  I admit, I was teary.  It was a magical in-the-wild moment for me.  Four hours later filled with elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles, peacocks, an eagle eating a rabbit in a tree, and more peacocks, we were all beat and full of wild life sightings.  It really was spectacular and fun.  By the end, I had decided my new totem animal was the Water Buffalo and Izzy had a keen eye for peacocks.  Every time she saw one she yelled in her cute little toddler voice, “eecock, eecock.”  Izzy now has a peacock poster on her wall.

Day 6 we drove along the south coast and finally experienced the Sri Lankan coastal vibes.  Between the cities that were bustling with tuk tuk’s, horn honking, ladies in beautifully colored saris, and the aromas of delicious Sri Lankan food were vast stretches of coconut lined turquois white sandy beaches.  We even got to see the Sri Lankan famous stilt fisherman (either for tourist purposes or because they were really fishing, probably a little of both).  We arrived mid-day at another amazing hotel, Mosvold Villas in Ahangama Bay.  The minute they opened their private gates I felt like we were transported to an entirely new Sri Lanka. And we were. It was the beach life version of Sri Lanka. While we had experienced a large touristy hotel for lunch, we were thrilled to be staying at small private boutique hotel with only 8 rooms. I HIGHLY recommend this small hotel chain. It was amazing! In fact, to this day it is still one of my favorite hotels of all time. Then again, maybe it’s my association because I FINALLY got to go surfing!!!! IN SRI LANKA!!!!!!! I hadn’t been surfing since June 2014 when we moved away from Oceanside, California. Over two years later, thanks to Tad watching the little ones on the beach, I got to go surfing in Sri Lanka!!!! Insert biggest Haunani smile you can imagine.

Ahangama is just west of the popular Weligama Bay and surf breaks.   There were plenty of surf lessons in Ahangama but not a lot of wave catching.  That wasn’t going to deter me.  After I found the board I wanted from a beach hut, the owner told me there was a reef break at the far east side of the bay.  At the time there was only one other guy surfing and one lady patiently waiting on the beach for the waves to pick up.  I didn’t waist any time.  I said my little prayer to the ocean Goddesses and jumped right in.  Now before I make myself sound better than I am, I do NOT call myself a “surfer.” I like to surf.  I love the water.  I can paddle out, catch a wave, and repeat.  I can surf but I leave the term “surfer” for the ladies and gentlemen who live on the water.  At this point in my life, and the long sabbatical since 2014, I am more like a visitor or surf vacationer.  I wish it were different, and maybe some day we’ll get stationed near a surfing town again, but for now I was beyond giddy, excited, and pumped to be catching little 1-2ft waves. Seriously, smile from ear to ear.  And since there was only two of us out, it was a wave factory–wave, after wave for just the two of us.  Eventually 4-5 more people paddled out and that’s when I decided I’d go in.  My last wave even brought me all the way to the beach.  It was the perfect exclamation mark to an amazing family vacation.  That night ended with a mediocre last meal in a beach restaurant that lost power.  Little did we know the lack-luster last meal on vacation would become a Drake family vacation trend.

Day 7, our final day in Sri Lanka, we woke very early to go whale watching. While the warf and marina experience was very exciting and the kids loved it (when they weren’t sleeping), Tad and I wish we had stayed at the hotel for the morning.  We did see a few whales but it didn’t come without me getting super worked up. The whale watching mirrored the Yala safari experience. When a whale was discovered all the whale watching boats (maybe 10 in our area) would go into high speed to chase the whale. Again, I’m sure it’s because they want the passengers to get good photos but it made my heart sink. I want to respect the whale in its environment, not scare the poor thing.   Logistically there are so many people crammed onto the boats anyway, good luck capturing a decent photo unless you’re willing to hand your camera and a few rupees to one of the deckhands.

By the time the whale watching tour was over, we were already exhausted but had to pull ourselves together for a quick turnaround to the airport. By that point, Bahrain felt so foreign again, so distant, and we were all pretty excited to get back. Sri Lanka was so good to us but we also were ready to settle into 2017 in Bahrain. Surprisingly, it was a little emotional for me to say good-bye to Aruna, our driver. I didn’t anticipate it but a week on the road in a foreign country makes you very fond of your driver. Like an Uncle you didn’t know you had until you realize he’s willing to do anything to protect you, make you have a good time, and be straight up honest with you about religion, politics, people, and philosophy. He was fantastic. If anyone wants his number, I still have it and am happy to share it with you. To this day, several months later, Izzy still asks about Aruna and every time she sees a grey van asks, “Aruna?”

Sri Lanka was more amazing and more enriching to our senses than we had anticipated. The people were beyond friendly…something to be said about traveling in a Buddhist country…and the food delicious.  My favorite way to describe Sri Lanka is: Sri Lanka is all the best parts of India without the grime, crime, and anxiety.  For those of you who are afraid or uncertain about traveling to India (I don’t blame you having been there several times) but want to travel to a country that is very far away from the western world, I recommend Sri Lanka.  People who have been to south India say Sri Lanka is like South India.  I doubt it.  Nothing will be just like Sri Lanka. Only Sri Lanka can be Sri Lanka. There is a magic there that will enter your spirit and you will come home with a little more of Buddha’s smile shining from within.

Aloha & Namaste

Final note:  Due to weird computer issues, I’m having troubles getting my Sri Lanka photos uploaded.  If you would like to see photos from our Sri Lanka trip, click HERE.  It will take you to Facebook where we have an entire album dedicated to our Sri Lanka vacation.

Even bees get “Bahrained”

#bahrained is a common hashtag used in conversations among my American friends living in Bahrain.  It’s hard to describe #bahrained unless you live here.  It’s kind of like an inside joke but the joke is on you.  Bahrained is typically an unfavorable outcome or describes a situation that only seems plausible and acceptable in a place like Bahrain.  In addition to #bahrained there are also the regularly used #bahrainproblems and #inshallahtiming.  Let me use my week to shed light on insiders’ terms and give you a glimpse of what life can be like living in Bahrain.  Note to reader: I did not make up any of this.

I pick up my car, the Island Beater, from the mechanic on Sunday night.  I don’t drive it at all on Monday. On Tuesday, as I’m driving to teach my first class at a new yoga studio, my Island Beater overheats because the water tank decides to fall apart.  I’m stuck turning the AC off and turning the heat on in 118F/48C degrees hoping it will help cool the engine off.  Simultaneously I pray to God, and every remover of obstacle deity I know, that I can make it over the one stretch of highway that is a bridge with  no shoulder and no exits.  #bahrained

I make it across the bridge and even further than I had anticipated.  Eventually, my car finally dies in the middle lane and everyone honks at me and gives me the Bahraini hand swat in mid-air as if I’ve purposely let my car die in the middle of the road trying to ruin their day. #bahrained

#Luck: My car turns back on.  I go back into prayer mode, “please car, please car just get me to the studio.  please.”  I’m giggling with how ridiculous my morning is.  It’s only 7:48am.  At snail’s pace,  pleaful chanting, and reassuring car talk like my car is trying to have a baby, I putter my way to the yoga studio.  The car dies as I turn into the parking lot. BUT I MADE IT!!!  I think, “it’s not a bad day after all.”

I’m dripping sweat because I’ve been driving with the heat on in 118F/48C degrees.  I run into the yoga studio for a sweet surrender and cold escape only to discover the studio’s AC and electricity are not working.  Not joking.  Seriously #bahrained!

I pull my phone out of my bag only to be reminded my phone died the night before (not joking) and I’m using a back-up phone with no contact information for any of my “guys”–not the car/mechanic guy, not the tow truck guy, not even my Bahrain friends. The only number I have is Tad’s because it’s his old phone but then I realize he isn’t allowed to have his phone with him at work so I’m texting all my updates to a turned off phone sitting in a locker. #bahrained

#smartphonesforthewin:  I go to open Facebook to start my search for phone numbers, tow trucks, mechanics, etc. and discover the FB app is not loaded on the phone and there isn’t enough memory to download it.  Thank god for plain old internet on a phone.  I think, “I love you Steve Jobs.” 

I have to choose where to rectify my situation: inside the studio with no AC but a roof to cover me from the blazing sun OR outside with a slight breeze.  It’s now a feel temperature of 122F/50C degrees and the iPhone6 is beginning to get hotter and hotter with every search and phone call I make and the battery is draining like crazy. #bahrainproblems

#LifeisGood:  It’s now Wednesday…I go 24 hours without anything “exciting” happening.  My car actually got towed to the right mechanic.  My kids are sort-of listening and not draining my soul with whining.  It’s a good day. I’m also headed to a sunset SUP yoga paddle session with a Bahrain bestie.

I’m being a good global citizen by picking up the trash in the water as I paddle around only to pick up a bag of ground beef and half of it is still filled with flesh (semi-cooked because the water is so warm) and it flies across my legs, arm, and board.  Beef?!  Who finds ground beef in the ocean?!  #bahrained.

It’s still Wednesday, the sunset was beautiful and I’m relaxed knowing I got all my #bahrainproblems out of the way for the week.  I was wrong.  Just as I’m finishing up I receive a text from our nanny that there is no running water at the house.  Surprise, I just got #bahrained…again.

On the way home (my friend is driving) the mechanic calls to say he thinks he’s fixed the car but he can’t be 100% sure. Furthermore, I can come pick up the car tonight and hopefully it doesn’t overheat again or I can leave it with him until tomorrow and he’ll double check the engine in the morning. I decide to go another day without a car and now start to realize I may have to cancel work because I don’t have a car and possibly running water.  #bahrainproblems #bahrained

It’s evening prayer time and close to dinner so my landlord and his brothers are not checking their phones and receiving my calls.  I need the plumber guy ASAP but I don’t have his number because, remember, I still don’t have any phone numbers because my phone is dead.  #bahrained

My landlord comes over and realizes he can’t fix the water, he’ll send someone over in the morning…Inshallah.  I don’t hold my breath because that literally translates to, “someone will come check out the water situation in the next week.”  Let me introduce you to #inshallahtiming.

I smell like dying flesh because I haven’t showered all day but have sweat like crazy teaching yoga both on land and in water and had to walk to and from the yoga studio in 110F/43C degrees (because my car is still at the mechanics), and I still have remnants of semi-cooked beef juice on my arms and legs.  HOWEVER, Tad tells me there is water in the upstairs bathroom.  YES!!!  So I squat under the trickling stream of water, lather up and scrub the beef juice areas extra hard, turn the water on to finally wash off and THERE IS NO MORE WATER.  NONE.  NOT EVEN A DROP. I’m forced to wipe off the soap with drinking water, a wash cloth, and baby wipes.  #bahrained.

#Luck:  It’s now Thursday morning, less than 48 hours after my car died and about 60 hours since my phone died, and the plumber guy actually shows up.  It’s the first time in a full year someone has shown up when they said they would.  Inshallah THAT!  It’s going to be a good day.

Thank goodness I took the day off because not only can the plumber not figure out why our water isn’t working (and I’m now wondering if I need to move us into a hotel), I now also have the Civil Defense Department at my front door.  What? Where did they come from?  Why are a bunch of very official looking men standing at my front door.  Oh wait, the landlord this morning saw a bee hive in our yard and is having it taken care of. #bahrained  This is a good time to insert a joke: “How many men does it take to remove a bee hive?”  Apparently in Bahrain, about 10.  No surprise though for anyone who lives here and constantly sees one man working and 3-8 on-lookers…I mean helpers.  We’ve finally arrived to the title…

Even bees get #bahrained.  The Civil Defense’s solution for a bee hive is to blast it with water.  No joke.  The very official men all arrived on a florescent yellow fire truck.  They drug a fire hose into our entry way and blasted the poor hive to pieces.  I didn’t want them to do it but the order was called in by my landlord out of wanting our family (mostly the kids) to be safe.  When I saw they were honey bees I lost it.  Honey bees are like GOLD!!! I thought I was doing so well this week given the onslaught of #bahrained moments but it was the bees that broke me.  I started crying for the thousands of bees dying and drowning in my entry way while the Civil Defense crew picked dates off my tree.  Even bees get #bahrained.

#Life:  So there you have it.  It’s now 2pm on Thursday [deep breath of relief].  I’m still using a back-up phone because the phone plan we use (Google’s Project Fi) only has a few specific phones that work with its plan and NONE of those phones are sold in Bahrain.  Surprise.  And YES, if you just silently said to yourself “Bahrained,” you get it. You got it.  By noon I got to bring my Island Beater back home and our water was turned on while I was getting the car (it’s a miracle).  Life is good.

Honestly, I’m not really surprised by this week.  About one week ago I heard that voice within warn me, “Are you ready?”  I knew what it was talking about.  I hear this voice and have glimpses of what-might-come-to-be in the most random times, doing dishes, opening a car door, brushing my teeth.  Life’s been really smooth lately—no major bumps, a few house issues (but what’s new), and overall we’re all in a really good Bahrain groove.  The voice was letting me know the pot was about to be stirred.

The old me, the version of me I still have memories of in college and even in my 20’s, would have cried, lost it, complained, and even thought the world was out to get me. Now, I know these weeks are here to test me.  I see weeks like this as a check-in to see if I’m really walking my talk.  They are also a good reminder that life is good.  I mean really, the truth is if I’m texting my Bahrain besties #bahrained or #bahrainproblems, it means we’re making light out of an annoying situation.  No one is hurt.  No one is in serious danger.  I’m overly grateful to have the means to take care of each situation as well.  We’re turning our complaints into jokes and trying to just do the best we can given our western upbringing in a same same but different country .

During weeks like this I can’t help but think about all the people who move to the United States and have to adjust to life there.  Do they have a term with their friends that helps them get through their adjustments?  Like ‘Merica’d, or “RWB’d“?  That culture shock and adjustment just seems unfathomable to me.  Like all things, living in Bahrain is another great test of letting go of the things I can’t change and learning how to be more adaptable, open minded, and even accepting of the things I don’t wan to accept.  I know not everyone moves as much as we do but maybe my week, my #bahrained vignette will help you to be more compassionate to people in your neighborhood, city, office, or school.  Please, next time you meet someone who has moved to the United States, might I suggest you think of Tad, Trace, Izzy, and I. They are likely going through a similar adjustment period but uniquely their own in a foreign land.  Rather than see them as different or not fitting in, maybe just realize they are a son or daughter making the most out of their given situation and likely getting there version of #bahrained.   

From my heart to yours…

Aloha & Namste

 

Happy 1 year Bahrainiversary to us!

And just like that, we’ve been here for one year [eyes bulge out of disbelief]. In my mind, it feels more like 7 months. To Tad, he says even shorter. But alas, we’ve hit our 1 year Bahrainiversary and we are definitely in full stride.   I had full intentions of writing a 1 year blog before we went to Georgia (the country in Europe, not the United States) but that clearly never happened. So here I am, one month post Georgia finally getting a moment to write.

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Tad and Trace feeding the camels at the Royal Camel Farm.

Bahrain has and continues to treat us well (knock on wood). Tad has been traveling all over the Middle East and back to the United States quite frequently. While he doesn’t like being away so long and so often, he seems to be enjoying the executive treatment at the airport lounges like a kid in a candy store. And let’s be honest, traveling without kids has to feel like winning a jackpot.

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Trace wearing his Pre-Nursery end-of-the-year costume at the bowling alley.  Yes, that’s a 11lb bowling ball.

Trace LOVED attending Kidz World (pre-school) this last year and is still our avid learner and bookworm. To my own fault, I often treat Trace way older than he is. Tad taught Trace how to say, “mommy, I’m just 3.” I wish I didn’t need to be reminded, but I do. He’s just so mature and smart.  Aaaand he still loves to cuddle.  I feel like I can really get into this age.  Maybe 3.5 years is my thing.  2.5 is definitely NOT.  Intro Izzy…

 

 

 

 

 

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Izzy is better at walking in heels than I am.  She has also perfected her fashion blog pose at an impressive age.  

Izzy…Oh Izzy. She is so her own (said with a huge sigh and huge smile). That girl. Pre-Geogia she was getting soooooo bored staying at home with me (yes, she would tell me) and kept asking me to go to school with Trace. Thank goodness Kidz World is hosting a summer camp they both started after our trip to Georgia. Izzy is super excited to be a big kid now and Trace loves having Izzy at “school” with him.  Already, this summer is a big turning point for Iz. Not only is she going to Kidz World every morning with her favorite person in the whole entire World, but she also decided she doesn’t want to wear diapers anymore. Score!  She also has turned up the boundary testing by 300%.  Maybe Trace was this stubborn but if so the amnesia is real.  She’s testing me in every way possible.  Tad just taught her, “mommy, I’m just 2.”  Izzy naturally threw in the head tilt and cute blinks while saying it.  Watch out World…Izzy’s coming for you.

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Getting ready to paddle out for a solo Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) Yoga session.  

And me, oh yeah, me. It’s all divine timing. The week I signed the kids up for summer camp I was contacted by three different yoga studios to teach.  Yoga is just beginning to become a thing here, as is all things natural and holistic.  And with the country being as small as it is, apparently my name got out.  It is really good timing for me to be here now. Now that the kids are at summer camp and soon-to-be pre-school every morning, I’ll be teaching yoga at two new studios in Bahrain while continuing to teach Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) Yoga for Beach Culture and growing my YouTube channel library Yoga with Haunani.  I’ve also been asked to do cupping, acupuncture, and workshops.  We’ll see if that comes to be.  So yeah, we are all in our little Bahraini groove and it feels amazing.

Recently, I’ve noticed Tad and I sharing more and more phrases that start with, “You’d never know unless you lived in Bahrain….(finish the sentence with something new to our family).” So in honor of this one-year mark, I figure I would share some of these insights we’ve gleaned as a family. Honestly, I’m not sure these are specific to Bahrain.  They are probably more like lessons you learn for western family moving anywhere in a Middle Eastern desert-like country.  However, since we live in Bahrain, here goes…

You’d never know unless you lived in Bahrain:

  • 105F degrees feels cool, even with humidity.
  • Having a “guy” for everything is the only way you get things fixed here.
  • Wearing glasses or sunglasses with metal frames during the hot-season (June-October) will burn the side of your face or anywhere that your frames accidentally touches your face.
  • Having your own date tree is the best!
  • Driving gloves are required…not for the cold (the only reason I knew they existed) but for the billion degree steering wheel that cooked in your car while you were getting groceries or running an errand on Base.
  • We are in the middle of everything…it takes 3-5 hours to fly all over the globe and we are definitely taking advantage of it.
  • A 3-5 hour flight with toddlers is no big deal.
  • Hummus in the United States is gross.
  • Tripping or falling onto your hands, knees, and even face, during the hot-season, can lead to 1st and 2nd degree burns.  Izzy helped us figure this one out.
  • Making crisp, fresh french fries is harder than you think.
  • Holistic anything…yoga, Acupuncture, Ayurveda…is spreading like crazy here.  It’s a good time for me to be here and help that growth and education.
  • Keeping a house in good working order…water, electricity, plumbing…is apparently a miracle.  We all live in miracle homes in the States.
  • The “Saudi swoop.”  It’s totally acceptable to cut across three lanes of traffic to make a turn or u-turn.
  • Fruits have seeds in them…duh, I know but everything you buy in grocery stores in the US has been modified to lose the seeds.  I love showing the kids all the different types of seeds and making them learn how to eat around the seeds.  Less work for mommy!
  • You can drink camel’s milk.
  • Rain is both a blessing and a curse.  Blessing because it’s rain in the dessert and a curse because this island was not built for rain.  Everything turns into water front property, including your bedroom floor when the water starts leaking through your roof or running down your walls out of the Air Conditioning units.  We lucked out but several families here had full on rivers in their homes.
  • Google’s Project Fi is the best phone service and invention for families who move abroad and travel a lot.
  • Cars have a lifespan of 10 years.  It’s literally so hot and sandy it destroys the cars. My car is 12 years old and everyday I pray to God it starts and doesn’t fail me mid-drive.
  • High rise buildings and malls are still built by hand…like the whole thing, cement bricks and all.  Only the really rich developers bring in the machines like a crane or cement mixer.  It’s truly impressive.

I’m sure I could keep going on and on because a lot of stuff we’ve gotten use to.

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Now that we are at our one year mark it means we are mentally preparing for our next move.  I know, CRAZY, but that’s how it works.  Move.  Adjust.  Settle.  Prepare (to move again).  Repeat.   With that said, NO we don’t have any idea where we’ll be moving next. Maybe by December but I’m not counting on it until March 2018.  I have asked Tad numerous times to extend and stay here but that will not be happening.

By the way, I post a lot of family (Trace and Izzy) photos and our life in Bahrain on Instagram.  Only a few get shared on Facebook.  So close friends and family, if you want to see more of us, follow me on IG at BreatheConnectBe.  If you want to follow my work (yoga, acupuncture, holistic health), follow me at AlohaYogiMom.

Until next time.  Aloha & Namaste.

The Drakes do Oman, Oct 6-9 2017

I spent Spring Break 2001 in Oman.  Not the most sought after Spring Break location but I was just about to turn 21 years old and studying abroad in Kenya.  Back then, never did I imagine 1. I’d return and 2. with a family (I was that girl who was never going to have kids).  Not that I didn’t like Oman.  My memories of it are beautiful, quieting to my Soul, shawarma (yes, I had my first shawarma in Oman), and the people lovely.  But just because you have fond memories of a place doesn’t mean you’ll go back, more like, get the chance to go back and THAT is the difference.  

Part of my initial shock and excitement of learning we were moving to Bahrain was flooded with memories of Oman.  It felt like the experiences of my past were surely being connected to the present.  I mean really, who goes to Oman on Spring Break? And then who moves to another Middle Eastern country 16 years later?  Clearly my past was preparing me for my future as a globe trotting military spouse…or not and I’m trying to find meaning in something much larger than myself.

When Tad informed me of his interest in going to Oman, I was super excited.  Truly, I never thought I’d ever get the chance to return.  It’s not like I had major connections or people to visit, it’s just one of those places I never thought I’d ever visit again.  But here we were planning a trip to Oman.  From the little I could remember (my excuse is that my frontal cortex was in its infancy of full development in 2001), I knew we would head to Muscat and see some of the most beautiful coastline in the world.  Luckily with the help of TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Facebook planning our trip was relatively easy.  Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, specifically Al Waha “The Oasis,” it was.  And yes, the photos on their website are real.  It is THAT beautiful.  

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Our second international family trip was similar to our first in Dubai, a long four day weekend.  While that doesn’t sound long, when traveling internationally with two toddlers, it’s LONG.  It’s just long enough to know you’re not at home and long enough to feel like you’ve been away a long time when you return.  The great thing about something as simple as a bus or shuttle ride is that Trace loses his mind with excitement. The saying “the journey is the destination” comes to life when traveling with Trace and Izzy.  The little things, a bus ride, shuttle ride on an open top trolley, walking sidewalks, are huge monumental experiences.  This is why traveling with toddlers is TOTALLY worth it.  What Tad and I may consider boring or just a means to get from point A to point B becomes the experience.  Every detail of a four-day vacation is epic for someone in the family.   

When we arrived in Oman it was nighttime.  We hired a pre-paid taxi at the airport to drive us to our hotel 45 minutes away.  While I was trying to stay calm and relaxed, inside I was really hyper and excited to be in Oman again.  Would I recognize anything?  I was staring out the windows pretending not to care but internally I was straining every strand of my poor-night vision to catch a glimpse of something familiar.

As we approached the hotel the hills were rolling and there were a few white washed middle eastern looking villas glowing in the backdrop of date palm silhouettes. As we exited a long beautifully lit tunnel the hotel entrance hit every sense of curiosity and luxury.  I’m pretty sure all four of us spontaneously said, “aaaaawwwwww.” We had arrived and we we knew we were in for a treat.  Not only was our room beautiful, clean, and welcoming, we actually got an adjoining room just for the kids.  WHAT?!!!!  Are you frickin’ kidding me?! Hallelujah!!!  I was beyond excited and probably jumped over the counter to hug the receptionist while exclaiming, “this is already the best hotel we’ve ever stayed at.”  OK, that’s what I was doing in my mind.  Being close to midnight we were all exhausted and the kids happily jumped into their hotel beds.  Izzy refused to sleep in the pack n’ play they had provided and got the opportunity to sleep in a real big-kid bed a.k.a twin size bed.  Clearly she felt like a queen too–the little things.  

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First impressions from the room balcony

The kids were asleep in their own room and the surrounding mountains and nearly full-moon beckoned me to sit outside on the balcony–no book, no drink, no phone, and just sit.  It was glorious.  I may have cried.  Tad drained the mini-bar of its beer. Retrospectively, I now realize the mini-bar raid is a ritual he practices upon arriving at a hotel.  Probably has something to do with traveling with kids but I giggle inside celebrating that he’s just enjoying himself.  

We really didn’t have any plans for our trip except to just play it by ear.  While I have a lot of enviable friends in Bahrain who are super-planners for their family vacations, our approach is one of “let’s see what happens.”  Truthfully, I wish I planned more for our vacations but where does one find the time to research, call, hire, and plan all this stuff???  So really, our vacation style is out of laziness or what I like to tell myself, going with the flow.

We spent our first of two full days at the hotel.  I know, this sounds so lame if you’ve never been to Oman.  I hear the questions now why didn’t we hire a guide, take a jeep safari, go to the wadis, do anything besides stay at the hotel?  To be honest, Tad and I just needed a day of doing nothing.  The hotel was the perfect place to vacation and do nothing.  Between the pools, splash pad, lazy river rides, beautiful beaches, amazing customer service, and delicious food it was a perfect day.  We seriously spent hours just floating around and around and around on the lazy river ride.  Post nap time we somehow got our act together to go to Old Muscat on the hotel shuttle.  

It was the first time we were actually seeing Muscat during the day and it was just as beautiful as I remembered it.  One of the biggest differences between Oman and Bahrain is that there are hills.  No trees, but there are still hills.  Cafe colored desert hillsides with pure white houses flowing into a brilliant turquoise blue ocean is a photographer’s dream.  Izzy decided to string together her first two word phrase on this bus ride pointing out the window yelling with toddler excitement, “Blue boat!  Blue boat!”  No, there were not actually blue boats outside.  After twenty minutes of excitedly exclaiming “blue boat!” and every passenger quickly turning their heads thinking maybe this time there actually was a blue boat, or dhow, we drove into old Muscat where, to everybody’s surprise and delight, sitting in the middle of the bay was…no joke…a blue boat.  Tad and I laughed hysterically.  I know, you’re not laughing as you read this last part but Tad and I will look back at this entry one day and smile with joy remembering “blue boat.”  To give you perspective of this moment, the kids gave Tad a blue boat for his birthday.  

As the bus drove through Old Muscat, specifically the area of Mutrah, we drove past the hotel I stayed at in 2001.  I couldn’t have told you anything about it before we drove-by but the minute I saw it, I knew.  It was a huge de ja vus moment.  I remembered where the shawarma truck was parked, where the souk was located, the memories came flooding back.  It was surreal.

Mutrah Maket is just as lively as the Bahrain market.  Again, the phrase “same same but different” applies to the Mutrah (old Muscat area) souk.  Souks are both tourist traps for their sensory overload but also where locals do their shopping.  Spices.  Gold.  Fake gold.  Brass statues.  Shoes.  Kids clothes.  Fabric.  Food items.  Gems.  Rocks.  Jewelry.  Imagine what a “mall” would be like pre-mall times with no air conditioning, no outside structure, each stall slammed up against each other creating one giant maze, uneven ground, with the smell of not Auntie Anne’s cinnamon pretzels but of thousand year old sweat.  Aaaah, it’s so hard to describe.  If it’s intriguing to you, just come visit.  The “souk” is something that needs to be experienced not read about.

That night we ventured back to the hotel for dinner.  The highlight was when Trace was accosted in the bathroom by two beyond tipsy young ladies (late 20’s I’m guessing).  They thought he was the cutest boy they’d ever seen.  I agreed.  He shy’d away when they asked for an Instagram selfie with him but then he was jumping up and down when they each gave him a kiss on each cheek.  Tad was perplexed by the perfectly shaped red lipstick marks on Trace’s cheeks when we returned to the table.  This is probably an appropriate place to point out that this trip was our first trip with a “potty trained” Trace.  Most potty-training “experts” say don’t make any big changes when you potty-train, routine is everything, yaddah yaddah yah.  Supposedly any big move, stressor, or travel can throw off a child’s sense of comfort and lead to potty-training “regression.”  Well, since Trace had been a full week into his potty-training graduation, we took a trip to Oman.  That’s the type of parents we are.  But Trace chose us as parents and HE DID MARVELOUS!!!  Not one accident!  When they’re ready, they’re ready.

The next day, day two of two, we hired a guide to take us around Muscat to show us some of the big highlights of the city.  Still being a million degrees outside, it was a good way to explore the city–from one AC place to the next.  We saw the fish market (again, same same but different as any other outdoor fish market in a coastal town in the middle east), the Al Alam Palace, the fortressed bay behind Al Alam Palace and near Al Mirani Fort, and then toured the Bait Al Zubair Museum.  With the help of a full complete Trace meltdown, we decided spending the rest of the day at the hotel was best for everyone.

Enter Izzy’s first ice cream experience.  Thank goodness we had our phones with us to capture her unforgettable joy and cuteness.  No words can describe the initial bite.  The mix of, “What is this?  Wow! I like it…I mean love it!  Wait a minute, you guys (parents) have been holding out on meeeeee. More more.” This photo series may be my favorite of all photos taken of my children.

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That night, we had the best family dinner at the hotel’s seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean.  I can’t tell you why or how it worked out so well but the kids behaved like they were 27–no yelling, no screaming, polite, ate everything on their plate, and allowing us to eat like adults, not Neanderthals with our hands.  Maybe the key is taking them to nice restaurants instead of family joints?  So much for their college fund.  Needless to say, Tad and I left the restaurant feeling like we’d won the lotto.  And really, we have.  It was a perfect family vacation.  It wiped away any remaining hesitations about traveling with the kids.  Exploring the world with two amazing kids who embrace the people, the smells, the foods, the languages…we are so grateful for all the blessings in our lives.

Upon leaving Oman we knew we had Nana and Grandpa’s visit, as well as the holiday season quickly approaching so we did not know what our next travel would be.   Luckily, with a little help of the Universe making it nearly impossible to get to India for the New Year as I had hoped, we found ourselves looking forward to a week in Sri Lanka.  

Side note: Sorry this post is nine months late.  I literally have been working on it since last October. Oh Life!  Hopefully I’ll have our Sri Lanka, India, Dubai/Abu Dhabi, and Georgia (the country) trips soon.  Fingers crossed.  Don’t hold your breath.

Until next time…Aloha & Namaste

Ever receive a bird as a party favor? We just did.

Warning: there is swearing in this blog. Yes, it is warranted.

I have so many blogs to write, to catch up my online journal/family memory lane blog.  I’ll get to them.  Some day.  But this one—this one deserves staying up to write.

I consider myself rather imaginative.  I can come up with really crazy stories, out there ideas and hypotheses.  I’m a “free thinker” in so many ways.  But never, ever, ever, EVER in a million years did I ever consider that people gave away birds as party favors, let alone be on the receiving end of this unimaginable concept. But it happened. Oh yes, it happened.  And it happened to me last night.

Let me say, as I begin writing this I’m about 24.5 hours into this cultural comprehension moment and I’m still in a little shock and overcome with random chuckles and LOL moments.  Last night I was leaning more towards the shock side of the experience and as the day progressed, I’m just laughing and giggling at this very unexpected and unconventional “gift.”

Screenshot_20170611-23So how did this happen? The short version: I delivered some goodies for the kids celebrating Gurgaon (a special day in Ramadan) to our neighbors and came home with a bird. Literally, I wish there was more to the story but there really isn’t. The neighbors had invited us to come celebrate Gurgaon with them but by the time they were celebrating (after sunset, Iftar, and prayer) our kids were already asleep. This is not the first time this has happened. The Bahrain family schedule is very different than ours. Since I had prepared goodie bags and some treats, I didn’t want them to go to waste or spoil so I thought I’d just stop by really quick, drop them off, and apologize that our kids had fallen asleep.

Yeah, well as I left our house Tad and I both knew there was no way I could just drop something off. A polite invitation to join the festivities would inevitably happen. For how long I’d be there, we had no idea. I asked Tad to call me if it got too late. So off I went with the goodie bags and cupcakes (from the amazing Semper Fi Treats).

When I arrived there was a sea of shoes already at the front entrance.  Like in Hawai’i, people take their shoes off before entering  a home.  I was greeted by our landlord and he immediately invited me to joint the festivities. Several woman–his sister, wife, mother, and cousins–all came and welcomed me. I couldn’t leave. No matter what I tried to say, it would be unacceptable to leave. So there I was invited to sit and join the family Gurgaon/Ramadan gathering. I was feeling both happy I had changed out of my pajamas and back into my day clothes (jeans and a blouse) since the room was full of beautiful gowns and dresses and super uncomfortable since I had not gone to great lengths to look my best.  In fact, I had the just-got-out-of-the-pool-and-put-on-some-clothes-look.  I was stunning in my own special way.  Haha.

I sat down and was immediately given a huge bag of gifts for Trace and Izzy. I learned quickly it is quite uncomfortable to receive gifts for a holiday you don’t celebrate and from people you barely know. Literally for the next twenty minutes there was song, dancing, and blessings for all the children, especially the new babies in the family. From what I gathered from the cousin who patiently sat next to me and tried to make me feel at home Gurgaon is a big celebration for the children, especially the new babies in the family since last Ramadan (at least this is how it was being celebrated).

During this time there was a non-stop stream of gift giving, mostly candy and food items, but also fully wrapped gifts of all shapes and sizes. I sat there more and more uncomfortable. I literally came over with goodie bags of candy and chocolate and here I was being given so many gifts it eventually would take me three large bags to bring it all home. As the blessings seemed to be winding down, the song and dance less the focus of I saw one of the cousins leaving with her son that goes to Trace’s school. In my mind I thought it would be a good time to leave.  If she’s leaving, it won’t be rude for me to leave either.

After I said my good-byes and thank you’s, I was attempting to walk out when the sister stopped me and asked me to wait for one more gift. I already had three large bags of gifts and food they had just shared, what more could I possibly carry or get? This is when she came out of the house with the bird cage and bird. I’m sure my jaw dropped, my eyes bugged out of my head as I chuckled with disbelief trying to turn the gift away. But when she said it was from the two new babies of the family (I forget their names) I realized there was no turning this bird away. Culturally it would be beyond rude and a disgrace. Somewhere in my shock and bewildered perspective-rocked mind, I thanked her and proceeded to walk home. The rented black and white miniature pony didn’t even get a double-take from me as I carried the chirping bird toward my house.

Thinking back, I must have looked like a crazy unkempt lady walking down the street with bags in one hand, a tiny bird cage holding it in front of me like it was a dirty diaper, while I stared straight ahead like a zombie mumbling quickly and out loud to myself, “Oh my god, we just got a bird. Oh my god, Tad’s going to die. [Quickly glancing into the cage but not long enough to acknowledge the reality of it all] Oh my god, this is a bird. What the f&ck? Who gives a bird? [chuckle] I’m holding a bird. [chuckle] Oh my god, I’m holding a bird. What do I do? Should I let it out now? What the f&ck? What the f&ck? What the f&ck!” Then I was home.  We live two houses away.

Thank goodness Tad is an animal loving Saint who took the news and appearance of a tiny pink cage and scared-shitless bird to heart with a chuckle, open-mind, and heart. He immediately understood the cultural conundrum I was put in and also realized I couldn’t turn the bird away. His first overzealous, animal loving idea was, “great, now we can have a house bird that just flies around.” Having lived with parakeets in my pre-teen years, I immediately vetoed that idea reminding him bird shit would be everywhere. He disappointingly agreed.

Between our disbelief and fits of chuckles and laughter we discussed our other options. Should we release it outside? That wouldn’t work because what would we say when the landlord visited or brought his kid over for a play date and asked about the bird. Would we lie to them? Tell them we “accidentally” let it out? And in our hearts we knew the finch would likely become feral cat food more than anything—which I’m sure would make the neighborhood cats happy and tiny birds are not endangered but the thought of this little bird being mauled by street cats was disheartening.

“It wouldn’t be acceptable to return the bird would it?” we considered. That’s when Tad declared, “I guess we’ll just keep it.” And if any of you know how Tad makes decisions, once it’s made, once it’s declared, it’s done. So, just like that we had a bird. Tad decided it would be good for the kids, the kids could name it, we could only keep it for one year because we could not move with it (military wouldn’t allow it), so what harm could having a bird for one year do? For a second my imagination ran wild with memories of my birds, the cleaning, the smell, biting Trace and Izzy’s fingers, bird getting loose and there being a mad hunt trying to get it back in its cage, and then the tears of having to say good-bye to another beloved friend when we have to PCS (military move). In my mind a lot could go wrong with this bird. But it was decided Tad chose the name Lemy (after _____) and then went to bed. So much for the kids getting to choose a name.

I poured myself a glass of wine, sat there half stunned, half hysterical as this little bird chirped away in a cage way to small and I posted on Instagram and Facebook about our bird. “Does anyone know what type of bird this is? Male? Female?” Screenshot_20170611-211908.pngWithin a few minutes I was informed it was a male zebra finch. Upon doing a Google search I could confirm it was and I began reading up on what I was now going to be responsible for keeping alive for one year until we could re-gift it back to our neighbor/landlord who has a huge aviary at his house.

The information I read was only putting me into greater shock and disbelief. This one overly generous unnecessary gift was escalating quickly. Everything I read said I’d need to get at least one more bird, if not more since they like community. I’d also need to get a huge cage.  If I wasn’t so concerned about early-onset dementia I would have been pounding my head into the table saying, “what the f$ck?!!!!” over and over again. I chugged the wine, told the little birdie to have a good night, turned off the lights and went to bed not convinced his name was Lemy.

After a surprisingly deep night’s sleep the very first thing I woke up thinking was, “Fuck, I have a bird downstairs. Should I go release it before the kids wake up?” I checked my phone really quickly almost hoping I had a message from Tad saying he’d already done it. Nothing. I did have a bunch of social media updates that made it clear birds are either loved or hated; there’s no in between. By the time I had my contacts in and ran down to see if it was still in the cage, I heard Izzy waking. By the time I got back upstairs Izzy was standing at the top of the stairs and immediately said, “I hear birdies.” Her cute little voice saying “birdie” sealed the deal. It was too cute. She would love it. I picked her up and we listened a few more times as I told her we got a new bird. Before I knew it, Trace was up and asking me about the chirping sounds too. The look of anticipation and excitement was like Christmas. Now that I think about it, that must have been quite a morning for them. Go to bed with no clue of anything changing and wake up to mommy and daddy getting a new pet bird. I think we just reinforced their concept that mommy and daddy are magical.

IMG_20170611_090253.jpgTrace and Izzy were in love at first site. I quickly told them it was a Bahrain bird so that when we travel and move it needs to stay in Bahrain. I also told them we needed to find a name for it. Trace wanted Bobby. Izzy thought about it through breakfast than declared Kaka. Both seemed appropriate. After I told them daddy’s name idea, Trace then declared “the parrot” should be called Lemy Bobby Kaka. In good ‘ole Hawaiian style our bird has a forever long name.

Trace keeps calling it a parrot even though I correct him every time. Izzy…oh, Izzy, she is hysterical. She is her own. All day today she has been running up to the cage and yelling, “Boat snack!” to the bird. This makes me laugh out loud every time. For those who don’t get it, it’s a reference to the movie Moana. Maui, the demigod, calls Moana’s chicken a “boat snack.” I found Trace singing to the bird before school because he told me it would make the bird less scared. Izzy also kept saying in her sweetest voice ever, “It’s okay birdie” every time it chirped. So yes, we now have a pet finch (not a parrot) for the next year.

IMG_20170611_204538.jpgThe neighborhood watchman found an unused cage at the landlord’s house so we could upgrade the size of the cage this evening. Tad is already talking about buying a friend for the finch so he doesn’t get lonely and depressed. I, on the other hand, have cleaned the surrounding of the cage five times today. And while the bird seemed to like yoga class today, possibly even falling asleep during savasana, it’s going to take me a while to get over the culture shock of receiving a bird as a party favor.

When something unexpected happens to you that is both hysterically funny and culturally out of the box, it is quite a psychological experiment in mindfulness and watching the mind waver between thoughts and reactions that are both loving and ones that are cruel.  I know this is just a bird.  It’s not like it’s a rare species or human being but still…receiving a bird as a party favor is like my friend texted me, “so funny, so wrong.”  I’m already hesitant to attend any more events at my landlord’s house, especially for Ramadan or Gurgaon next year. I guess our saving grace from a pet chicken or who knows what they’ll hand out next year, is that we will be getting ready to move this time next year. Now THAT is crazy to think about too.

Dubai family weekend

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dubai-airplane

One of the perks, major perks, of living in Bahrain is the travel opportunity.  While some people choose to stay in the cozy land of sand, this girl and her family are committed to taking advantage of any little time-off Tad has to explore the surrounding countries…and continents. If you haven’t taken the time to look up where Kingdom of Bahrain is located, here is a link:  https://goo.gl/maps/KTqgmajsni42  Bahrain is so centrally located to so many countries within a 1-5 hour fly time, it makes the travel opportunities EPIC!  

When we first started talking about traveling we decided we’d start close.  After all, we did just fly across the globe with two toddlers.  Not quite sure how flexible Trace and Izzy actually were to airports, layovers, airplanes, and sleeping in hotel rooms as a family, we chose Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as our first trip.  Again, for those geographically challenged, this is where Dubai is located: https://goo.gl/maps/v7SmECooSmQ2  We figured this would be a good trial.  If all went well, we’d take another trip, and another, and just keep the ball rolling.  Fortunately, that is exactly what happened and ripping the proverbial bandaid off the idea of traveling with two toddlers was the best decision we’ve made so far…as parents.  Hands down.  Not joking.

In mid-August (just two weeks after moving into our new house, six weeks after moving to Bahrain) when Tad came home saying, “if we want to travel over Labor Day weekend I need to tell them tomorrow,” I initially panicked.  Seriously?  Tomorrow?!  There’s nothing like a little external pressure to spend money on traveling to a new country in one day that makes me feel alive.  My response to Tad, “Done.”  Luckily that day I had Googled “Dubai aquarium” on a whim and discovered that Dubai has a beautiful, modern aquarium (in a mall of course).  I had shown the kids at dinner.  They were sold.  I was sold.  And when I showed Tad, he was sold too.  That night after dinner I bought plane tickets to Dubai (a 45 minute flight from Bahrain) and booked our hotel room.  We were off to Dubai for Labor Day weekend.

I’m not going to lie, the day we were suppose to leave for Dubai was a little chaotic and stressful given I was trying to pack as a minimalist, be a mom, get us to the airport on time, and learned our hotel reservation had not been confirmed.  Yep, you read that correctly—no confirmed hotel the day of our flight.  As it was getting closer to GO time (go pick-up Tad at work and head straight to the airport), I was less than put together as a mom or human being.  Really, I was on the verge of, “I’m never doing this again.”  Luckily, as I’m pulling out of the driveway to pick-up Tad, he texts me “Oh, I see that email about the hotel room.  All I needed to do was click the link.”  Aaaaaah.  Exhale.  I was praying that THAT was the extent of the travel hiccoughs…but as a recovering control-freak with very high expectations, I knew I was walking the line of high-strung-mommia. Note: the kids call me “mommia” a lot of the time.  I love it.  

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Traces’s first airport tram ride.  Despite his tired face here, he was a huge fan.

Everything about this trip was new and a major adventure figuring out how travel in and out of Bahrain actually worked.  Luckily, despite what the imagination can come up with, it’s very similar to traveling in the United States.  There are well managed and well signed long term parking lots that seemed “relatively” secure.  Thank goodness we both have island beaters, so parking next to a Lexus SUV is the best theft prevention.  The shuttle bus was a HUGE hit for Trace, as was every part of the trip that included seeing or being inside an airplane, construction vehicle, bus, or taxi.  And despite the germaphobe in me totally freaking out as Trace drug is lovie across the Bahrain and Dubai airports, flying with the kids was really fun.  We learned that traveling with two toddlers comes with its perks, especially if they are crying…extra free snacks on the plane and most importantly being shuttled to the front of almost any long line.  Not that we can make our kids cry on demand (although we might need to start implementing a “travel only” cry command), but luckily Izzy cried at all the right times to be escorted to the front of very, very long immigration and customs lines.  Thatta kid.

We hit Dubai hard knowing we only had two full days.  The itinerary included: aquarium and Burj Khalifa (the tallest man-made building in the World).  For those who don’t have a visual in your head of Dubai or haven’t checked Google images of Dubai just think of the Jetsons cartoon.  You know the one with towering, space-ship like buildings, cars that fly, and everything state-of-the-art and robotic.  That is Dubai.  I didn’t see any flying cars (although I wasn’t going to be surprised if I saw one) but apparently you can now request a “flying Uber” to pick you up.  Totally the Jetsons.   

Day one in Dubai was checking off the must-do’s.  We went straight to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo located in the Dubai Mall.  While Tad and I are not mall types, we definitely know a good thing when we see it and the Dubai Mall is ridiculous.  I mean, there is a full aquarium and the World’s tallest man-made building in it.  That should speak for itself.  

The aquarium started with a beautiful underwater tunnel with fish and sharks the size of cars and it only got better.  It was at the aquarium that we began to see the personality differences between Trace and Izzy.  While Trace was fascinated he was also very, very cautious and a bit scared.  Izzy, on the other hand, was our fearless, independent adventurer who had no troubles walking over glass bridges, feeding massive tuna, and walking up to the fish and crocodiles in the tanks.  This difference was even more glaring at the top of the Burj Khalifa.  

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Tad & Trace with the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa behind

The Burj Khalifa is omnipresent in Dubai.  You can see its needle like spire towering from almost anywhere in the city and it is BEAUTIFUL!  In a very luxurious middle eastern way the whole experience at the Burj Khalifa was over the top.  One can choose to buy a ticket to the first observation deck at level 125 at 456 meters or visit At the Top, the world’s tallest observation deck on level 148 at 555 meters. There was no way we were coming to Dubai and NOT going to the top, so that’s what we did.  It was worth every penny. If you’re going to be in Dubai, go big or go home.  At the Top was breathtaking and truly an experience to remember.  What seemed like a bustling huge city just moments below became a serene toy-like spectacle of a city plan, with no horns, no sounds, just the whisper of the breeze and classical Arabic music playing in the posh lounge.  It was here that Izzy, like her mother, had no problems running straight up to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, while Trace needed to be carried until he warmed up to the idea that Izzy was not falling out of the building.

We did stop on the way down at the 125th level observation deck and yes, even that view was spectacular, but NOTHING like the top. Obviously if you do not like heights the top is not for you. In fact the 125th floor would be out of question too. But me, I love being so high. Insert giggles. I’m that girl who walks straight to the edge of the Grand Canyon and opens her arms wide to take it all in, maybe even throw myself on to my head for a glorious headstand or some random yoga pose to commemorate the view and vastness of it all.  

Day one felt so complete and overwhelming all at the same time but we were so proud of the kids for hanging in, chugging along even when mommy and daddy were dragging them up to the top of the world during their nap time.  We all celebrated the day with a fun swim in the hotel pool and a nice authentic German dinner at the only licensed Hofbrauhaus in the Middle East.  

Day two, our last full day, turned out to be as amazing and adventurous as the first day. What began as a simple idea to go see the indoor ski slopes at the Emirates Mall turned into a whirlwind tour of old Dubai, the spice market, gold souk, and a sunset dhow (traditional wooden boat) ride.  I have always scoffed at the tourist hop-on-hop-off buses because they seemed so obviously touristy, but that’s exactly what we decided to do.  It proved to be a win-win for the kids who were melting in the 100+ degree sun and didn’t want to walk anymore but allowed us to see a lot of the city in an air conditioned bus (even if we did decide to sit on the top level without AC).  It was a blast and we got to see more of Dubai and old Dubai than we would have otherwise.  Everyone was happy.  Trace was ecstatic to be on a double-decker bus.  Izzy got to nap on daddy. Tad and I got to learn a little history, take photos, and explore.    

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Needless to say, the kids crashed hard that night.  Lights out.  For Tad and I, our final evening of unexpected cultural surprises continued as we witnessed two wedding processions in our hotel.  Talk about over-the-top.  It was definitely fun to see another culture’s wedding reception.  It made me really happy Tad and I did a small wedding celebration in Kauai.  One last surprise for the day was spotting a Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay on the Marriott’s wine list.  Woodinville wines represent!!  I was so proud.  

Overall, our trip to Dubai was truly amazing and worth the initial freak out session.  Before we even departed Dubai, Tad and I were planning our next family vacation which would be approximately one month away.  In good ‘ole plan a vacation in one day because Tad needs 30 days to get clearance and approval, that’s what I ended up doing for our trip to Oman.  Until next time, keep your eye out for the hashtag #DrakesinBahrain on your social media feeds.  

And for those who didn’t get to see all our photos from Dubai on Facebook, here you go (I hope this works): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154191505733073&type=1&l=042b5c61c1

One last thing…Izzy is the best ice breaker and show stopper in the Middle East. #likeIzzy

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Izzy walking down the jetway in Dubai.

Cut and paste stories of Bahrain

Clearly we’ve “settled” into our routine of living in Bahrain. I say that because I don’t feel as motivated to write, a direct reflection of feeling comfortable and not having the need to share or think anything is worth sharing.  Then again, my parents were just here for five weeks and spending time with them was a priority.  I bet if I asked them what I should write about, they’d say “driving in Bahrain.”  So I’ll begin working on that one.  In the meantime…

In doing some computer and smart phone cleaning, I found some pieces I had begun to write when we first moved here.  Rather than try to weave them into one long story as if they actually represented now, I figured I’d literally cut and paste.  It may not read as cohesively but I do want to “archive” them in some way as family memories.  Enjoy

5th Anniversary
Immediately upon arriving Tad and I had our 5th wedding anniversary. “Had” being the most appropriate word, not celebrated and definitely not toasted. Honestly, we almost forgot. Oops. In the short to-do list of moving our whole life across the globe we both forgot about our anniversary. This is what I love about us. We did both mention in passing at one of the six airport terminals we got the pleasure of sitting in that the other should not expect anything for our anniversary. But to actually go until about 2pm in the afternoon before remembering…ooops.  Apparently we rock this marriage thing! No really, we do. When we did finally remember, we figured out that still being married after three moves, two deployments, two amazing kids back-to-back, and not having killed our  kids or each other was probably the best gift we could give each other. We then also did the geographic math and discovered we have been in a different state or country for each of our anniversaries: 1st Hawaii. 2nd California. 3rd Florida. 4th Virginia. 5th Bahrain. Not totally outrageous places often sought out for anniversaries but a cool record nonetheless, one that may actually hold up for a few more years. So Happy Anniversary to us.

Moving with Toddlers
Trace and Izzy have been the real rock stars of this move. Yes, kids are adaptable blah blah blah. Aaaaaand no they are not! If you are a parent of a toddler you know as well as anyone that all the psychologist and toddler books says, “routine is everything.” Let me paraphrase the rest for all my friends and family who forget the toddler stage, a.k.a tantrum stage: your child depends on predictability and routine. If you want to mess your child up and deal with tantrums, break their routine. Whatever you do, don’t move across the globe to new sounds, smells, tastes, temperatures, and sights. This will destroy their sense of reality and you will be the one to pay.  Like the awesome and amazing parents we are, we moved across the globe. Why follow the rules?

 

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Izzy’s first tantrum.  The hotel elevator, a convenient place to share how you really feel.

Call it luck, timing, or fateful backlash to moving across the globe, Izzy discovered her voice and opinions about three days after landing in Bahrain. Thank goodness we have TWO toddlers now. Oh joy. Yippee. I was just starting to think this whole parenting thing was getting too easy and boring (said no mom of a two year old. Ever.). I now look forward to the unpredictable nature of wine o’clock. No, not whine o’clock, that’s predictable. That will happen all day long. Wine o’clock is the time I decide to have my first glass of wine. It might be 10am or 2pm.  That’s what makes it so fun. Every day is different. Like a choose your own adventure but every ending I’m the winner. Wine o’ clock is definitely proportional to the psychopathic irrational tendencies of the two toddlers in my life. No shame. The real choose your own adventure horror plot twist is when the wine supply is low at home and your only source of wine is on Base (a full hour outing there and back).  Makes wine o’clock more interesting now, eh?

In all seriousness, Trace and Izzy are doing really well for moving across the globe into 120 degree weather.  Yes, it keeps getting hotter.  The hotel is our saving grace still.  It is hilarious and so sweet to watch Trace and Izzy jet out of the hotel elevator and race to the lobby so they can begin their pageantry of waves, “good morning’s” and “hi’s.” It’s so sweet. The breakfast staff adore the kids too. The commotion of “hello’s”, giggles, and waves that accompany walking into breakfast every morning, or just into the lobby, makes me feel almost like a celebrity. The hotel staff has been so sweet to us.  Tad and I are trying to figure out how to stay in touch. The staff here is truly amazing.  They will be missed.

How Burning Man prepped me for living in Bahrain

Never, and really I mean never, did I ever think my Burning Man adventure would follow me to Bahrain.  Thank God I went to Burning Man to learn how to walk my way through a sand storm.  Today, the day we are moving into our Villa it is so dusty and so windy I can barely see the high rise hotels that are less than 200 meters away from our hotel.  Our beautiful view that I have come to love and admire at every hour of the day…just gone.  Gone behind a wall of dust and sand.  My lungs are already crying and scratchy just looking out over the dust.  This should make for a really interesting move today.

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The view of Manama from our hotel living room.

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The view of Manama from our hotel living room the day we moved out of the hotel.

and the last cut and paste story…

What will go next?…

Our dryer machine was taken away…again; the second time in ten days.  Honestly, it wouldn’t be such a big deal but the temperatures have dropped enough that it now takes a full day and half to air dry/line dry most of the clothes, instead of 30 minutes that it took in the summer.  Insert your sad face emoji here.  As I drive around the neighborhood or look out our windows to the balconies nearby, I realize I’m whining.  I am.

Life in Bahrain, life in “the sandbox” as some of the other Americans call it, as I have mentioned before is same, same but different.  When it comes to the house, this is NO exception.  Our house has every amenity (minus a sink disposal) that a suburban house in the US would have.  Heck, we even have a bidet in every bathroom.  So what lies in the “different” category?  While amazingly beautiful and serene on the outside, is in a constant state of work or repair.  Something is always breaking.

Just in the last 10 days of the dryer deciding it doesn’t want to spin and the electricians telling me they fixed it (they did for one load before it broke again), we also had an electrical short in our downstairs.  After a full day of no electricity in the kitchen, and being told an electrician came by and fixed it (he didn’t), Tad somehow figured out how to trick the circuit breaker to stay on.  In that same time period, the OSN (cable) decided to short out too.  It’s been three days and I don’t anticipate it being fixed within the week.   Oh yes, and the pool pump has taken on a life of its own.  Despite a major language barrier between the pool guy and myself, he tells me, “It’s okay madam.  Automatic timer is okay madam.  It’s okay.”  But it isn’t.

While it seems excessive the constant house repairs and electrical fixes, when I think back on our first few months in the house, this is the norm: blocked sinks, broken upstairs door that needed complete re-welding, air conditioning units needing repair every 7-14 days, broken oven, broken microwave, broken shower heads, broken water pipe, and broken water heaters…insert defeated sad emoji face here.  Each break takes a minimum of two days to coordinate and fix, but I’d say the average is 5-10 days to fix.  Just when everything seems like it’s in good working order around the house give it 10 days and something will go.  Thank goodness I’m not working outside the house doing a typical 8-5.  My domestication value (yes, I made that up just now) is very high right now since I need to be around the house nearly half the month for someone to come fix something.  And if you’ve read previous blogs, the repair man never, NEVER, comes when he says, so I become housebound for days at a time awaiting his arrival.

All this “house stuff” keeps me humble though.  I keep thinking, if this is what our house is like, I can’t imagine what others who have less resources and money are going through to keep their place in working order.  Even our housemaid Anjala laughs at me when I get upset or frustrated about the next thing breaking.  She tells me, “This is normal madam.  All Bahrain is like this.  No need to get upset.”  Whether she’s saying this because she’s figured me out and doesn’t want me to stress, or it’s the truth, she’s like a zen teacher watching over me.  So this, the house, has become a new yoga practice…not allowing all the little things to add up and ruin my day.  The silver lining is that it forces me to stay home with the kiddos and we get to play a lot.  Watching these two transform week after week is pulling at my heart strings in a major way.  I want it to hurry up because I hate toddlers AND at the same time, I never want them to stop saying, “more snuggles mommia.”

I think everyone right now could use more snuggles and less headaches.

Cheers!  To more snuggles and less headaches.

Aloha & Namaste

 

Post-election fire

When I started this blog, one of my main missions was to spread messages of Aloha across the globe. Obviously though, if I am living in a state of fear, than I can’t.  Aloha, like love, and fear are opposites. So the first 48 hours after the election my world was rocked. This past week has been surprising and unexpected to say the least.  Sharing or being Aloha was a far off distant ideal.  Besides the personal healing this election brought up for me, I felt very uncomfortable being a US woman affiliated with the US military living in a Muslim country.  Given the messages previously spoken by DT regarding Muslims, I wasn’t quite sure if all of a sudden it would be safe for me to walk around so carefree as I had become accustom.  Would I be the target of people’s fear or their backlash?  Should I begin to cover my head so I’d fit in more and not stand out?  It is almost ironic my knee-jerk reaction to cover my head when all I hear back in the states is to be careful if you’re covered.  Good thing is, I haven’t experienced anything different.  I wish I could say the same for those back in the States.

Before we moved, my friends, family, and I joked about how moving to Bahrain might just be the best move ever…given the upcoming elections.  The jokes went both ways…if Hillary gets elected, better to be in Bahrain; likewise, if Trump gets elected, better to be in Bahrain.  For me, I never wanted to see the US led by DT and never wanted DT to represent me, let alone become Commander in Chief (aka Tad’s boss).  I didn’t really know who I was going to vote for.  I wasn’t a huge Hillary fan despite loving the idea of a first women President.  Then in May 2016 a library book, Vital Voices, fell off a shelf and landed at my feet.  This book about the non-profit organization, Vital Voices, co-founded by HRC, gave inspiring detail to the ripple affects she has created globally for women’s, and thus, human rights.  It fueled something within.  As the hateful insults and acts of disrespect from DT were getting more blatant, in my heart I knew…just knew there was no way he had a chance of winning the election. I mean really, it was like he was trying to throw it away.  Yes, I seriously thought that and even told Tad that several times.

But I was wrong, oh so wrong…and it hurt OH SO BAD.  In my FB post, I mentioned a “bullet through my heart” but really it felt more like a fire out of control.  And Tad, my rock, my anchor, the one who always has great perspective even when shit is hitting the fan (it’s his job, no really, that’s his job to be the calm in the storm) was in San Diego.  My world felt like it was crumbling.  Everything felt like it was on fire.

During the election as the states began to change from blue to red and orange to red, I had a very personal moment of releasing the dam of 30 plus years of my deepest darkest secret. It hurt. It was personal. In a mere hour, I felt hope dissipate into the deepest pain and disbelief in my adult life. I was just shocked that so many Americans could “overlook” (my words as how I felt them) DT’s direct insults on so many different groups of people and still vote for him. To me, the act of voting for DT actually felt inhumane, like an attack on me, and a direct bullet to my heart.  Then again, I’ve always been a softy for humanity. Now that the emotional tsunami is subsiding I can see in so many ways this election, DT, and all that is following is exactly as it’s suppose to be AND I’m fired up.  It is Divine Timing.

Kam Chancellor, yes, #31 Seattle Seahawks (GO HAWKS!) superstar strong safety, wrote a very powerful message on his IG feed. And while I do not know my Bible versus the message he shares is still the same regardless of your chosen “religion.”

“My president is Trump because I understand that God places kings on thrones (Daniel 2:21), and I must respect who he places in authority (Romans 13:1-7). It’s a reason he placed Donald Trump in this role. To test our FAITH.”

Gulp. Eyes lower as I finally exhale in surrender to the heart and this reality which I was so sad to be a part of…

Fuck, he’s right.

Now before I hear you say, “You’ve fallen into the masses.  Haunani, how could you?” Hear me out.  “Trust the process” or “have faith” DOES NOT mean become complacent.  To me, trust the process and have faith means to accept the outcome as is (what done is done for today) but to use this as a wake-up call, to realize I was becoming complacent in my cozy little bubble and that it’s time to get to work.  I trust and have faith as I stand tall in who I am, what I believe in, and never give up on all of humanity that God/Universe/whatever name you use is behind me 100%.

Maybe, just maybe enough of us have been praying about this “change,” and talking about a “needed change,” that God is delivering all our prayers.  Tuesday was the tipping point, perhaps a gift in disguise.   For many, it’s not how we would like it to look.  It’s messy.  It’s painful.  It’s creating divisions where there once felt like unity.  Friendships are collapsing.  Families are fragmenting.  It’s popped the bubble of my reality and many others. It’s nothing like the 24 minutes of anticipation when ooooie gooooey brownie batter gets transformed and changes into perfect morsels of delight.  But it is a good analogy because to get from the ooooooie goooooey to morsels of delight requires FIRE.  Fire and heat are catalysts. This literal and figurative fire we are feelings, watching, experiencing is the change we were all voting for (no matter who your vote went to)…it just looks a lot different and feels a lot different than we ever anticipated, imagined, and dreamt about when we were praying about it.

Change always requires another force to act upon the current system in order for the molecules, trajectory, and outcomes to change. Literally, this is science. But when it happens to us personally, especially when we weren’t “ready” for this change even though many of us who are most upset have been asking for this change of consciousness for some time, we feel shaken to the core.  And it’s okay to feel shaken, just don’t let those shakes paralyze you.  It’s okay to feel depressed or dark, but trust that the light within you that makes you amazing is still there–it’s just needing a little time out to reflect and become brighter.  I am not tied to one religion but am a very spiritual person and have found much peace and much reassurance through these past few days by sitting in meditation, allowing the waves of my emotions to pass, and then just sitting in the void on the other side of those deeply painful waves.   The message I keep hearing is, “Do you Trust Me?” My heart always explodes into a million rays of light and I begin to feel a strong warm passionate response, “Yesssss. Yesssss. Yes.” But this is my journey. It may not be yours. However, I invite you to find more moments away from FB, social media and the TV to connect with something higher than yourself, go out in nature, move more inward than looking for answers on a screen, listen more deeply to the voice behind the emotions, and possibly see how things begin to shift (if ever so slightly).

Trusting the process is easier said than done but it is the mantra that I have put my faith into and continue to repeat since election day.  It reminds me of my faith and alignment to something higher than myself.   Trust the process for myself and my own healing. Trust the process for my family.  Trust the process for my friends, country, World, and our own perceived divisions. We have all called upon this time to come and now that it is here we need to take responsibility for what we brought in, prayed for, wished, discussed with friends, and day dreamed.  Some may even give thanks to this seemingly dark time.  It’s a choice.

It is incredibly powerful to find one thing about the last few days to be grateful for and watch how the whole perspective begins to shift.  This is especially useful if you feel stuck.  Maybe you’re grateful to see people for who they really are (as hard as it is to see and admit).  Maybe you’re grateful to have a group of friends, or new group of friends around the globe, to turn to.  Maybe you’re grateful or thankful that four, even eight, years are a blink of an eye in the history of our existence.  No matter how personal or grand, gratitude is a very powerful force that can begin to shift the dark to light.  For me…if it were not for this election I would still be pushing down those 30 plus years of silence, shame, guilt, and embarrassment that has built up from being sexually assaulted many times throughout my life. So while election day hurt like hell, I crumbled, relived every moment, remembered every boy or man, sobbed uncontrollably only to pick myself up and feel a tad bit more clear yet weaker than a dead mouse smashed by a car, I proudly and very humbly say thank you election.  Thank you for allowing my dam of anger, silence, shame, guilt, and embarrassment break wide open and pour out of me. Thank you for finally giving that part of me a voice and forever being freed from the fear of anyone (except the one or two people who I had confided in) finding out.  Now that my biggest skeleton in the closet is out, I feel so free.  It feels amazing.  I am not broken.  I am not a different person.  I am just a shinier less convoluted version of myself…AND IT FEELS GREAT.  So not only thank you election for this amazing healing opportunity, I really owe my thanks to DT, the man I hated and felt utter detest towards for the last year or so. Without your ego and hate, I would not be a better person. So truly, thank you.  AND watch out World because I’m FIRED UP!

Now that I have spent a lot of reflection time on the yoga mat and away from the screens…I am hopeful. I am trusting the process. I am definitely NOT becoming complacent but I am trusting the process. I am walking my talk more than ever but with a new fire and passion for really holding myself and others accountable for treating each other with respect, integrity, and love.  I am lucky to have a strong Marine to stand next to me, who makes me more proud of our service to this country and the sacrifices we are constantly making, and to hold my hand with the unknown of a new Commander in Chief who blatantly insults the military.  But I am hopeful and I am trusting the process.  And this is what is allowing me to spread the Aloha once again.

Aloha & Namaste

Please know:  I have spent the last thirteen years of my life digging into the depths of my own fears, suffering, uncertainty, and pain.  I have lost friends, found new friends, grew stronger in my truest of friends, strayed from family and then reunited in tighter bonds, traveled the world working with different teachers looking for the magic pill, cared about humanity so deeply it made me physically sick, gave up on humanity because it felt like too much…and here I am strong, proud, pissed off right now but hopeful, and more aligned with my purpose than ever.  I move in and out of these huge emotional swings and world changing perspectives much quicker than ever before only because I have done it a lot.  If you are reading this and it is the first time you’ve been confronted with this level of disappointment, you are not alone.  You are not broken.  I’ve been there too, a lot.  Please find someone you trust, stay connected, and do not get attached to the emotion.  It too will pass.  This is a major shift in consciousness.  Trust the light within you–it will be there after this feeling of darkness.  You are being asked to clean the closet, to move away anything that dulls your light and to shine brighter than ever.  Stand tall in what you believe in.  We are in this together.

Same same, but different

Note: amateur blogger error.  I swear I posted this weeks ago.  No wonder no one had commented on it.  Ooooops.  A little dated now but still worth keeping around for a few laughs and memories.  Enjoy!

In past blogs, like all of them, I’ve used the phrase “same same, but different.”  In keeping true to my past references, I dedicate this entire blog to life in Bahrain and how it is same same, but different.

Note to reader:  It’s 11pm when I’m starting this blog.  I apologize ahead of time for the lack of editing and lack of flow.  I’m just going to use the good ‘ole listing method for this blog.  If that bothers you, skip this one.  Aaaaand to be clear, NO WAY did I stay up to write this blog.  I too get the creative stroke of genius in the wee-hours of the night, especially on a full moon like tonight, but I love sleep too much to stay up for a blog.  Priorities people.  I’m up this late because there is a Seahawks game starting in 22 minutes.  Which leads me to my first same same, but different example.

Example 1.  Sunday football.  I have had many incarnations in this life.  The agnostic, cheerleader, homecoming queen, the 80 hour work week restaurant manager, waking up to full body pain, coffee and chasing it with wine and whiskey, the hippie, anti-government, live-off-the-grid yogi, the spiritually uplifted but totally ungrounded gotta-figure-this-thing-called-life-out while getting a masters degree in the most out of the box field of medicine, to the current stay-at-home mom living in Bahrain…but through it all I am a die hard football fan.  From the time I can remember, watching football was a family event.  Overtime, as I began to watch the game for the sport and not the cool outfits the “cheerleaders” were wearing (because my “Auntie” was the designer…no joke), I loved the game.  I love the sport.  I love the psychology.  I love to yell at the TV like I know better than the players or coaches.  And I love guacamole.  Every game is better with guacamole.  Duh.  Bahrain is literally half way around the globe but we’ve figured out how to watch NFL games live–God bless Game Pass.  The only drawback is most Sunday games start at 8pm and most Hawks games start around 11pm, ending around 2am.  So yay [insert happy dance] to getting my game fix, booooooo to bags under my eyes and crankiness the next day.  I still love watching the games but there is a totally different vibe to my Sundays when games start so late.  For you football types, imagine trying not to yell at the refs at 1am because you might wake up the kids, your husband, or the neighborhood.  Kind of takes the fun out of the game a little, right?   Also, guacamole at 1 am doesn’t taste as good.  So NFL and Sunday football…Same same, but different.

Example 2.  The Internet.  Clearly we have the internet if we’re watching Game Pass and posting blogs.  But…do you remember the internet 10 years ago?  More like, do you remember the speed of your internet 10 years ago?  Well, that’s what we have going on here.  It. is. so. slooooooooooooooowwwwwwwww.  I’m not complaining (well, not right now but 50% of the time I do get frustrated with the speed) because the alternative to slower or no internet is just out of my modern-day realm of possibilities at this point in life.  So internet…same same, but different.

Example 3.  Alcohol.  I know not everyone drinks, and I’m always really impressed by those who don’t, but our family does.  Obviously (or maybe not so obviously, hehehehe) Trace and Izzy don’t, but mommy and daddy sure need their “mommy milk” and “daddy milk” to survive these toddler years.  Technically, alcohol is illegal in Bahrain.  Thanks to international relations, we can buy alcohol on Base…via a rationing system.  Through an application and approval from Tad’s boss, I was granted 26 points per month (something like that).  Each bottle or six-pack has a point value assigned to it.  As I buy a six-pack or bottle, my points slowly dwindle.  If I use all my points I can’t buy any more alcohol until the 1st of the month when my points renew.  And no, there is no carry over like your cell phone minutes.  I definitely stock up just to use my points towards the end of the month just in case we ever have a huge snow storm and I can’t get out of the house (rookie mistake I made in Virginia that I’ll never make again).  And yes, you have to pay for your alcohol on top of using your points.  While this has definitely decreased my glass of wine while I cook tendency, I have become  more discerning about my wine drinking.  I save my precious glass of wine for those toddler moments when a glass of wine is really needed.  Oh, let’s say, like 10am instead.  Again, priorities people.  So alcohol…same same, but different.

Example 4.  Weekends.  “Weekends?” you ask.  “How can this be same same, but different?”  In Bahrain, and in many middle eastern countries, the weekend is Friday (the holy day) and Saturday.  This means Thursday nights are the equivalent to the American Friday night and Sunday is the first day of the work week.  You’ll hear us say on Thursday night, “Yay, it’s Friday.”  I’m sure we’ve permanently screwed up Trace’s initial concept of days of the week.  Eh.  He’ll get over it.  Practically speaking, if Tad ever really got a day off (which he rarely does), he’d work Sunday-Thursday.  As it is, because his boss’s boss’s boss (or something like that) is in Tampa, Florida, and they work for “the man” who never sleeps, and there are conflicts all over the middle east (in case you haven’t turned on TV or radio in ten years), Tad is at work a lot.  Since the kids and I are impervious to time (one of the blessings of being a toddler and stay-at-home mom) we technically get weekends but really every day just blends in with the next.  So while you all are getting ready to kick back, party, and socialize on Saturday night, it’s a “work night” for us.  Sunday football is a work day and work night for us.  Blah.  So weekends…same same, but different.

Example 5.  Showers.  To my delightful surprise we have decent pressure.  I mean, it’s better than a bucket and cup which I was totally prepared for too. Expect the worst, be surprised and happy about anything better than the worst is the new type of mentality  Tad is slowly encouraging me to embrace.  Another thing about our shower is that I didn’t anticipate hot water.  Yes, this is a developed part of the world, so running water is widely available but when I’m talking about hot water, I’m talking about scalding hot water every time you turn on the faucet–immediate hot water.  Is this a blessing or a curse?  Need to shower? Jump right in. Wash your dishes?  Ready to go. Wash your hands?  Add a little soap and those germs are toast. At first, I was excited. How fun. Instant hot water.  The Environmentalist in me was thrilled, “no wasting water while waiting for it to warm up.  Big tree hug. Then the reality hit. Oh wait, but there is NO cold water. Anywhere. Not in ANY of our faucets. No biggie since we have a water cooler for drinking water and I typically drink warm or room temp water anyway. But the theory of you want what you don’t have hits. “What if I WANT cold water?”  Too bad.  Not getting it. Apparently when the weather begins to drop so will our water temperature. Makes sense. Our house’s water tank is on the roof. It’s basking in the desert sun just absorbing, like a hot pot of water, the heat of every second of every day.  So yes, all our house water is hot. The hotter the day and night, the hotter our water. When we first moved-in the water was scalding hot.  So hot you could barely wash your hands or shower. Never thought that was a possibility.  With a simple lack of foresight, the kids’ bath time was pretty loud with screaming tears of pain as we threw them into scalding hot bath water.  Oooops.  We quickly learned…we need to draw a bath (never thought I’d ever use that phrase in my life) and let the bath water sit for 5-10 minutes until it cooled off.  Soon our water temperature will drop and we won’t have any hot water, only cold water.  We’ll have to test out the water heater and see if it actually works.  So showers…same same, but different.

Since we’re in the house and on the topic of water, let’s stay here for one more example.

Example 6. The sink.  In our kitchen, we have a double stainless steel sink.  A little industrial but it works and I’m grateful for the double basin.  No garbage disposal had me lost for a few months but I’m slowly finding my way.  I’m such a suburban princess. So not only is there no garbage disposal the drains are teeny-tiny, said in Izzy’s cute toddler voice.   Two big basins + two teeny tiny drains = [Insert emoji of me pounding my forehead into the wall].  How does this all add up in a practical sense?  Washing dishes takes fourteen times longer than in the States.  The sink is constantly getting backed up with dirty water because the little strainer is so tiny and the smallest particles of food, i.e. bread crumbs, chicken nugget crumbs, and God forbid if flax seed or chia seed gets washed into the sink, fills the drain strainer immediately.  It doesn’t even matter if we’re using the dishwasher, which we have, because all the food particles still back up in the sink preventing me from even getting the dishes into the dishwasher at any normal rate.  Regardless, I rarely use the dishwasher because it cleans about as well as Trace and Izzy would do if they tried to do the dishes.  Oh, I hear some of you saying, “just wipe off your plates of debris before you wash.”  Aha, I do!  In the four weeks of living here I have managed to scientifically analyze, test, and conclude that the best method for dealing with these tiny sink drains without a disposal is to live off paper plates.  There goes my Environmentalist streak. Noooooo, we don’t use paper plates but I fist bump the families who do.  So sinks…same same, but different.  

So it’s getting really late, so late tomorrow is going to be a treat for everyone.  Poor Izzy.  At least Trace has school in the morning.  I have so many more same same, but different stories about living in Bahrain.  I’ll save them for another blog.

Before I sign off, please know Trace and Izzy were not badly hurt or burned by the hot water in the story shared above.  Toddlers are so dramatic and scream about anything.  I also want to make it very clear that we are incredibly grateful for this opportunity to live here.  I totally understand and am very aware that the stuff shared in this blog is petty in the big scheme of life.  It’s also these little things in life that make Bahrain…Bahrain. Before we know it, we’ll be PCSing to another place and Bahrain will seem like a blink of an eye.  I want to look back and remember what made Bahrain, Bahrain.  These blog posts are those memories, those little things.  And who knows, maybe someone will find a little more gratitude in their day after reading this when they realize just how awesome it is to control the temperature of your own water.  Again, those little things.

Gratitude is one of the most valuable perspectives to have, especially when we have it so good.  And we do have it, SO GOOD.  Life is really good to us…just a wee-bit different in Bahrain.  Different is not bad though, just different.  I personally LOVE IT (most of the time) even though it does take a little more effort, patience, and acceptance.  Since patience is not my forte, more like the biggest life lesson to work on, Bahrain is providing ample experiences for me to lose my mind and then recenter myself as I say, “let it go. let it go.  let it go.”  As a yogi, what more could I ask for than an entire day of challenges to practice patience and acceptance?

Time for me to get to bed.  Seahawks squeaked out another win.  Sorry Falcons fans.  Go Hawks!  And….

Aloha & Namaste y’all.  Until next time.