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 an 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-Georgia 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 share 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 from a 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 touch 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 degrees 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.  A blessing because it’s rain in the desert and a curse because this island was not built for rain.  Everything turns into waterfront 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 every day 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 used 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.

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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 on my online journal/family memory lane blog.  I’ll get to them.  Someday.  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 celebrated in Bahrain) 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 to 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 join the festivities. Several women–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 goodbyes 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 birdcage 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 birdcage 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 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 a 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 on 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.

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 smartphone 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 mentioned, 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 before remembering…ooops.  Clearly, we are a good match for each other with very low expectations.  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 say, “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 up 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 adores 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 sandstorm.  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 a 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 repairman 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 fewer 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 when the next thing breaks.  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 heartstrings 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 fewer headaches.

Cheers!  To more snuggles and fewer headaches.

Aloha & Namaste

 

The oven man

I’m still thinking about the 20-minute conversation I had with the oven repair guy yesterday. For so many reasons our conversation crossed so many cultural barriers and expectations–a real learning experience for both of us.

Before I get to the conversation I have to share that the reason why I even had this interaction is because when we moved into our villa, I discovered that only three of the five burners worked, the ignite for the burners didn’t work, the oven light didn’t work, there weren’t degrees on the oven dial, and the oven ignite didn’t work.  Nothing too extreme, especially since we found a long grill lighter (a.k.a “torch”…British terms make me giggle still).  But what it does mean is that I get to use my gumby-yogi-like-ninja skills every time I want to use the oven.  Picture me manually lifting the bottom tray of the oven, positioning the long grill lighter just at the right angle towards the gas hose as I turn the gas knob with the other hand, all while using my feet, legs, or hip to ward off two curious toddlers who would love more than anything to “help” a.k.a. catch on fire.  I know, I know.  “Booo hooo, I’m such a spoiled American,” I can hear my international friends poke at me.  But really, I have been taking my oven and stove for granted back in the States.  Luckily, we have an amazing landlord who is willing to play to my spoiled American ways and agreed to have our oven “fixed,” or some variation of that concept.

So jump ahead to the oven repair man returning our oven after being “fixed”…

The conversation started off by him asking me about the round thing that I hung in the oven.  He wanted to know what it was called, what it did, how much it cost, where to buy it, and why did I have it. When I told him it was called an oven thermometer, a $5 fix, probably found on eBay, to an oven with no control settings that allowed me to cook better, he called me an “expert cook.” I laughed in his face. Then when he asked how I knew so much about cooking and I told him I do most, if not all, of the cooking in the house his jaw literally dropped. His eyes shot out of his head when I told him I don’t have a full-time nanny or housemaid, so I do the cooking.  To confirm what I told him and to make sure he understood my statement correctly, he then asked in about three different ways who watches the kids and who cleans if I don’t have a full-time maid. He really couldn’t believe that I did that too. I think he then gave me a compliment when he said: “I hope for my wife to be as strong as you one day.”

This young, definitely younger than me, Pakistani oven repair guy shared that he and his wife just had their first baby and so she needs a full-time housemaid.  I chuckled and called him a good man for making sure she had support.  I shared that I wish I had had full-time help when Trace was born but that things in America were different.  When I shared that most of my friends in America didn’t have full time or part time housemaids, he again looked puzzled as if saying, “How could this be?”  A conversation about finances with the oven repair guy seemed a little too intimate so I just said, “you’re lucky to have a full-time housemaid.”  We chuckled.  His smile lingered with approval.

What I keep thinking about is that we spoke with each other the way I would with anyone back in the States and by doing so I hope I didn’t offend him.  I looked into his eyes as we spoke, the way I would do in the States. Even in this “liberal” country, I rarely see women looking into the eyes of men.  I’ve even been told that looking into the eyes of men is not “recommended.”  I laughed at some of the things he shared, showed him how to look up the oven thermometer on eBay, and then even told him if he had any more questions about cooking with a thermometer he could contact me–just like an expert.  Haha.  Everything about our conversation seemed so natural, and yet, still thinking about it over 24 hours later, it was against the grain.

To all of you in the States, I know this all sounds so simple but it really was a perspective shattering moment that I got to witness and share.  Who knows if he’ll ever need my “expert” oven advice again (I can’t help but giggle a little every time I hear his voice in my mind say “expert cook”) or if he’ll even go out and buy a thermometer and try to explain to his housemaid why she needs to use it.  But for me, I really want to remember this moment (hence, this blog).  It represents so much of my experience here in Bahrain so far.  A melting pot of people just making the most of their opportunities while learning from each other, often without even trying.  Every day I learn so much from the people and culture around me.  Every day is like a 3rd-grade field trip to the science center.  The world as you know it explodes into awesome possibility and understanding that what I once knew was so small and insignificant to what is out there.

One of the aspects of travel I have always loved is learning about others’ perspective and experiences in the world.  We all walk on the same planet and yet what we see, feel, hear, believe are potentially radically different.  It’s this realization of all the human potential that makes me really feel alive.  Makes me really feel like I know nothing and there is a whole Universe beckoning me to learn more and dive deeper into the human experience.  I feel blessed to be diving deeper in Bahrain and to be sharing some of my human experiences with others as well.  As I get to have these daily experiences, like with this young Pakistani oven repair man or the samosa man, I hope they feel or sense my genuine sincerity to just be present.  Maybe even capture a bit of the Aloha spirit.  After all, we are both spirits having a human experience…we just happen to be in Bahrain.

 

Living in Bahrain, part 1

I’m titling this blog “part 1” because I’m sure in the next two years I will have so much more to add.  Having only been in the country for 2 months and really living among the people for three and a half weeks (but feels like a year already) gives me lots of room for discovery, mishaps, and adventure.

So what is like actually living here?  Same, same but different.  I know I’ve used this phrase before in previous posts but it really is the only way to describe it.  I learned this phrase during my bachelorette, globe-trotting days.  Essentially, life in Bahrain is life (same, same) with its own unique twist, taste, and punch (but different).

Bahrain is almost all urban, at least the areas that we are allowed to live, work, and play.  So moving from the white picket fence, cozy, suburban Stafford, Virginia to an urban, middle eastern country is like moving from any comfy confines of suburbia (same same) to any major city like NYC or Chicago (but different).  I had a short stint of living in Brooklyn to attend my graduate program in NYC when I first met Tad (the things we do for love) and I remember how grocery shopping was such a production.  I always felt so accomplished after grocery shopping.  It’s like that here too.  Sometimes the most mundane, day-to-day things, like grocery shopping, getting gas, finding someone’s house, feels like a HUGE accomplishment.  Other things, like getting gas, finding someone’s house, and grocery shopping, feel totally like no-big-deal.  So see, same same but different.  Haha, now I have you really confused.

Let me give you an example, one that really sticks out in my mind to this day.  The day I got our house keys duplicated I felt like a frickin’ queen!  I was so excited I even texted a friend about it, “Takes forever to do anything here.  The day I got keys duplicated, I felt like I deserved a top-shelf martini.”  Keys duplicated…yes, a huge accomplishment with two kids in 120+degree weather.   Then again, anything in 120+ degree weather is a huge accomplishment.  Oh, I also didn’t know where this place was located.  All I had to go on was someone’s description that said: “the place is in shawarma alley, look for the key.”  My inner monologue, “Seriously?! Look for a key?  A big key?  Small key?  Ugh.”  So by the time I got home without getting into a car accident, without getting another parking ticket, no tantrums, and three sets of working keys duplicated…I felt amazing!  Now, jump ahead three more weeks I’d feel super comfortable doing this again but am so thankful I don’t have to and will enjoy a top-shelf martini just reminiscing that triumphant day.

Part of the challenge, and thus a feeling of accomplishment doing the basic daily things, is the sense of time is not as concrete as my western, type-A, fiery, pitta (for all my Ayurveda yogi peeps) mind would like.  Think, island time + total lack of commitment to the time you said you’d be there = San Diego….ooops, I mean Bahrain.  Haha, just a little love to my San Diego friends.  I easily could have shown up at the place to duplicate keys and they would have been closed.  The added summer heat gives an extra excuse for some to close up shop especially if their AC breaks or the shop owner is smarter than their shoppers and realizes it’s too hot for any sane human to be out shopping.  While some businesses post their hours, a lot don’t.  And even if there are posted hours, it still doesn’t mean they’ll be open.  Granted, if I’m going to one of the major malls their hours are set and are followed.  But anything else–you just never know.  Thank goodness Trace is still fond of the song Hakuna Matata to remind me that life here means no worries, for the rest of your days. It’s a problem free philosophy…Hakuna Matata.  Good luck getting that out of your head today.  You’re welcome 🙂

I happen to keep track of the first day I was living in our villa and Tad had gone to work.  Right off the bat, I realized it was going to be one of those “welcome to Bahrain days” full of tests and initiations.  Because it started off so early and I was already laughing at life by 6:30am I actually kept a log of the day.  I figured one day I would look back and miss it.  Since so many of you continue to share with me, “keep writing, I love hearing what it’s like for you over there” I’m going to share this daily log.  I haven’t changed a thing:

First day in our villa with Tad going to work:
Wake at 5:20am because the garbage truck comes.  Sounds like we have no walls.  
6:30am Roosters crowing.  De jas vous to living in Kenya.  Part nostalgia, part ready to ring its neck.
Doves and other birds waking. I like it. Love it actually.
I know at 7:30 the “workers” are coming to fix up the house since the weekends (Friday and Saturday) are truly no work days. I make sure the kids are up and breakfast at least on the table.
7:45 no one. The kids are now destroying the house and covering it with their toys making any worker crew thrilled at best…if they ever show up.
7:50 right on time. Workers? It ‘s the same two guys who have been stopping by all weekend to ask how we are doing.  I wonder if Bahrain time is like Hawaiian time. We are on an island after all.
The stench of the workers makes me gag. Not like I smell like roses anymore after months of fast food, eating out, curries, and new spices.
Make new reading nook for Trace in his room. So cool.
11:00 ish.  Gets too hot and everyone hibernates.  Seriously, where did everyone go?  Disappeared. Are they going to come back and finish up?
Nap time.  First hot yoga class. Me, myself and I by the pool. Sweaty. Very sweaty.
Break the curtains they worked so hard to put up this morning. Ugh.
Find Olympics on TV. Internet not working. Sad face.
Take a walk around the block. Ferrel cats everywhere.  Fun.   Masala Village-Yes! Cold store guy waved. Aaah, I’m a local.
Get home to guys standing in front of house who’s only words are “curtains. Now? Is ok?” Charades helps a lot. I let the kids run around trying to keep them out of curtains guys way only to discover water everywhere. A mini lake and trickling water feature down stairs. Oh no. 2″ standing water in the laundry room. Trace and Izzy think it’s the coolest thing ever and immediately start playing in the soapy water (booyah, bath time!). Leave the 2″ standing water for later.  I have to make dinner and keep kids away from curtain guys.
Dinner time.  Made it.  No wine or beer.  Ugh.  
101 degrees at 6:50pm, sun has set and I’m sweating worst than a Bikram yoga class as I squeegee standing water to garage area where I hope it evaporates.

Take aways from the day: nothing is going to be as easy. Do not plan around a working crew’s schedule.  Always have wine.

So there you have it.  A day-in-the-life.  I’d like to say that was a rare day.  But as I reread it and compare it to life now, it’s not.  It’s the norm.  While that first day felt like a huge mess, test of patience, and composure, I realize that’s what life is like here.  Really, that’s what life is like anywhere you live.  Life is messy.  The test is, can you make lemonade out of lemons?  Not all days are that packed with testing my sense of humor and patience, but many of them are.  People not showing up, or arriving five hours late, is not surprising anymore.  In fact, anticipated.  We’re going on an extra week of trying to have a piece of furniture delivered.  It was going to be delivered last week.  Tad and I looked at each other and said, “yeah, right.”  We are still waiting.

This blog feels like it’s coming to an end but I realize I have barely scratched the surface of the title “Living in Bahrain.”  I also am realizing that I could write for days about the “same same but different” aspects of life in Bahrain.  I guess I have a few more blogs ahead of me to write.   Stay tuned.

Before I go, I want to just THANK YOU for all the support you’ve sent via email, texts, or care packages.  Although we are on the other side of the globe, for some of you, I feel closer than ever.  You know who you are, so thank you for reaching out, keeping me in the loop and just being YOU!  It already feels like “home” here.  Living like this is truly what my Soul thrives on.  I love it.  I do miss home, friends, and family a lot, A LOT, A LOT but it only makes me more grateful for the time we live in where I can live in Bahrain and Facebook and Instagram stalk you at all hours of the day.  I love you all.  Keep smiling and spreading the Aloha that lives within all of us!  Smooooch.

 

Our new villa

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Front gate of our villa

Villa, a beautiful word I previously associated with southern France, green rolling hills, and lots of wine.  Now, scratch the wine and the green rolling hills, we are living in a villa in Bahrain, a desert flatland of cement jungles and no alcohol.  The word “villa” is just Bahrain’s term for “house.”  Villa does sound so fancy.  Just say it, “My villa is in Parkridge (our former suburb neighborhood in Virginia),” or “I’ll meet you at the villa.”  Fancy, right?  Not that I need fancy in my life, but it’s fun to say.

The Navy Base here does not have housing for most of the people, especially families, who move to Bahrain.   I hear the Embassy and some of the other DOD (Department of Defense) families are given housing but it’s too out in town.  When we arrived in Bahrain, we immediately checked into a nice hotel, acting as our temporary lodging, until we found our own villa or flat, a.k.a apartment or condo.  After a housing brief on Base, we were free to find our own place with a little pressure knowing we would only be allotted 45 days in the hotel.  45 days sounds like a long time in a hotel.  It is.  Although I have heard of some families living in their hotel for up to three months trying to find a place to live. At first, 45 days sounded like a nice retreat. Why rush?  In reality, 45 days was an incredible motivation tool to find a place as soon as possible because finding a house in 100+ degree weather was not as enjoyable as I would have liked it to be.

Finding a place was, in many respects, similar to the process you’d do in the States pre-Red Fin or Trulia.  Contact a reputable (in our case, Navy Base Housing approved) real estate agent, tell them your price range, furnished, partially, or unfurnished (we needed fully furnished), must have’s (i.e. bathtub for kid’s, washing machine, safe neighborhood), would like’s (i.e. pool, dryer, garage), and then off you go to look at places.  The difference is, we didn’t have a car, Tad was already working entrusting the process to me, and I had two toddlers who were still adjusting to Bahrain time and heat.  Luckily, in Bahrain, the real estate agent picks you up at the hotel and drives you around to look at places.  Thank goodness, since Tad and I discovered very early on that Google is only about 75% correct and always 2 blocks slower than you need it to be.  The day after our housing brief (I was on it knowing other families were moving here in droves) our real estate agent and associate picked Trace, Izzy, and I up in their very chilly AC SUV (not all families are so lucky to have cold AC) and off we went looking for a place to call home.  Our version of House Hunters Bahrain was far from film worthy.  Trace and Izzy were beyond tired, hot, and realized very quickly that looking at houses was not fun, so started saying, “I want to go home” within 15 minutes of our 2-hour house searching time.  It made for an oh-so-awesome-stab-me-in-the-eye-with-an-ice-pick type of experience.  Except, I have a fascination with real estate and looking at houses, so I was also loving it…with an ice pick in my eye type of love.  Out of keeping my sanity and marriage together, I quickly figured out how to enroll our kids in the Base’s childcare center so I could look at houses while they enjoyed air conditioning and the comfort of other like-minded toddlers.  Win-win for everyone.

Before we moved to Bahrain I heard the place to live was Amwaj Islands. Beautiful blue turquoise beaches, many expat and American families, close community, and a great lagoon with outdoor shopping and groceries.  You should Google it, it’s gorgeous.  I started dreaming of Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga (SUP Yoga) every day.  What I learned very quickly is the Saudi’s, with their ridiculous amounts of money, have driven up the market in Amwaj.  What an American family used to be able to afford with a housing allowance like ours, a 4-5 bedroom villa on the water, would now only get us a 3 bedroom flat maybe with a water view or a small 3 bedroom villa at best.  On top of that, logistically the Navy had recently changed the pay structure for housing allowances which the local landlords and property managers were either resistant to the change or just not “getting it” so made the negotiations and discussions beyond frustrating.  The ocean addict in me was heartbroken but I was hoping something would open up near the water.  We started looking all over the island (yes, Bahrain is a cluster of islands) and discovered, like in the US, if you’re willing to move away from the coastline, your money can go a long way.

Most of the villas the real estate agent showed us were in compounds or gated communities.  Essentially compounds are clusters of villas gated off with security.  Some were gorgeous mansions but too far a commute for our liking.  Even though Bahrain is small and by Google standards, 20-25 minutes to get to the Navy Base from some of the furthest places, the reality of Bahrain driving is that you need to double your travel time to get anywhere due to traffic lights, accidents, and getting lost.

The very first time we looked at the villa we are now living in we got lost zigzagging through the narrow streets (again, Google is 2 blocks slow and not super accurate).  When we finally found the general area of the house, we stepped out of the car and I had a deja vous moment of being back in Pune, India.  My heart fluttered.  When we walked into the house, our jaws dropped by the size of the place.  It was huge, peaceful, and way too much for our four-person family.  I should note here, Lou and Coco, our sweet dogs are living with Tad’s mom and dad in Tallahassee, a.k.a Dog Paradise.  Dogs are not a common house pet in Bahrain and often frowned upon.  With the 100+ degree heat, six plane flights to get here, and the generous offer by Lisa and Van, we knew the best decision for their health and wellbeing was to leave them in Florida.

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Our street. Our neighborhood is very quiet, safe, and very Bahrain. Narrow streets, small local shops, the smell of incense often wafting from a house, and friendly smiles.

 

After a week of looking at villas and flats (I looked at over 20 places) and being exhausted and frustrated by the process it came down to a three bedroom penthouse flat in Amwaj with tiny rooms and no storage but a killer view of the Gulf or a spacious standalone (not in a compound) four bedroom villa in Adliya closer to Base and a lot of Bahraini culture. We, actually I made Tad make the final call since I’m horrible at making decisions, liked being closer to Base and being in a villa closer to the Bahraini people and culture.  We made an offer directly with the landlord and he accepted right away.  After a day of double guessing, I always do this, I settled into our decision and haven’t looked back.  I love it in Adliya and I love our villa!  It was definitely the right choice for our family and our landlord is AMAZING.  A really nice guy who has already welcomed us into his family.  Apparently, most of the villas and flats within a two block radius are his family.

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A view of our neighbors and general neighborhood.

Adliya is a large neighborhood in the capital city Manama.  Maybe I’m biased or just not as familiar with some of the other areas of Bahrain yet but so far it really feels like Adliya has a lot of cultural heart.  A diversity of restaurants in both price and ethnic cuisine, street food (yummmm), a “restaurant row” of sorts where no cars can drive, local artist displaying sculptures and art, cafes to enjoy a small bite outside (when it cools down), live music on Thursday and Friday nights (our weekend nights in Bahrain), and many foreign Embassies are located in Adliya.  It’s not a place a lot of foreigners come to party, like the neighboring area of Juffair, but it is where locals go out.  Our Real Estate agent pointed out three restaurants very close to our house the royal family visits regularly.  As soon as the temperature cools off (probably sometime in September), Tad and I are looking forward to walking around and getting to know our neighborhood and neighbors.  We can’t wait to put the kids in the stroller or wagon and walk toward Shawarma Alley (street food central), introduce them to bargaining for cool and awesome furniture (I so love this!), freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, and finding the Samosa man who apparently makes the best Samosas in Bahrain and is a stone throws away from our villa in some window between two shops.   Undoubtedly, his Samosas will rock.

While my vision of moving into a fully furnished villa looked like a house that was deep cleaned the day before and totally put together ready to just start living, Tad (my grounding reality check) reminded and prepped me for the inevitable.  We moved into our villa about two weeks ago to a pile of partially functioning furniture that greeted us when we opened the front door, dust thicker than a sandstorm at Burning Man, and the smell of new paint.  We couldn’t have been more excited!–not in a sarcastic way, we really were excited and ready to have some place to call home.  There was lots of cleaning, moving and reassembling furniture, and realizing we didn’t have this or that in the kitchen for making a basic meal.  In essence, it was like moving into any new house.  You’d think we’d be more prepared by now after all our moves.

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Our entry with date palms.

Our new villa is about twice the size of our old house in Virginia, at least it feels that way. It has a nice open floor plan in the living area with enough space to be an indoor gym for the kids by day and a beautiful yoga studio when it’s cleaned at nap time, four ginormous bedrooms, tall 12-15′ ceilings, a huge kitchen, and a lot of Middle Eastern charm and character.  There is a small outdoor pool that is about the size and feel of a large jacuzzi (no heating needed, duh).  When the temperatures cool down, I’ll be using the open roof deck as a garden and place to host dinner parties.  My favorite part of our villa is the garden with the date palms right when you enter the front gate.  They produce the most amazing dates I’ve ever eaten.  Izzy is a huge fan too.

 

 

So what is like actually living here?  I think I need to save this for another blog.

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Tad and I have tried to take many photos of our place and we both have come to the conclusion that photos do not capture the feel or awesomeness of this place.  You’ll just have to come to see for yourself. Our guest room is ready and I’ve already begun making reservations.

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Will we ever leave this little piece of paradise?  Until next time…

Aloha & Namaste

The nanny conundrum

When moving to Bahrain, one of the very first things you are made aware of by others who have lived here is that it is very easy, affordable, and highly recommended to get a housemaid or nanny.  “OMG, really?!  Yessssss please,” is how I reacted.  Since moving here, I’ve been a part of many discussions regarding hiring a nanny or housemaid.  The questions and discussions are philosophical, ethical, and mostly about logistics.  While I have those same questions, I’m also experiencing a nanny conundrum different from many of the other American military spouses–I’m being perceived AS the nanny.

I am humbled. Embarrassed. Mad. Yes, even sad.

Before we moved to Bahrain I had a moment where I was crying to my husband because I heard the majority of the service industry, housemaids, and nannies in Bahrain are Filipina. I was crying because for an untrained eye (uhhemmm, Bahrainis) I can easily pass as a Filipina. I was upset because I didn’t want everyone to think I was Trace and Izzy’s nanny. Tad assured me I did NOT look anything like a Filipina and not to worry. His advice and insights are often a grounding dose of reality for me so I shook it off and didn’t think of it again.

Until…

Two weeks into our time in Bahrain my fear came to fruition. As I described in First 30 days in Bahrain, a Filipina nanny, two of them actually, thought I was a Filipina nanny taking care of Trace and Izzy. At the time, I laughed it off like no big deal. Inside, I crumbled. Internally, I was bawling again. Of course the first thing I did when we got back to the room was text Tad and let him know what happened. You know, the real mature, passive-aggressive “I was right” text. Secondly, I texted my girlfriends knowing I’d get their unconditional support. I was right, they sent me the perfect texts reminding me how awful that must feel and that I was sexier than a nanny. Haha, ok I may have read between their lines to make myself feel better but you all have those friends too. So you get it.

All you moms reading this, would you be bothered if someone called you your child’s “nanny”? Am I being way too sensitive?

Obviously, it still bothers me.  In the past, I might have pretended like it didn’t bother me. However, all my years of yoga have trained me to run straight into my discomfort and triggers.  I truly believe the things that trigger us most are our biggest teachers.  Now, I’m not one to just push it aside.  Why hold onto that stuff?  Better out than in, as I say.

So I’ve begun to reflect. Really try and figure out WHY does being called and perceived a nanny feel so hurtful? In a country where housemaids and nannies are in almost every household, maybe including ours when we find the right match, I feel like this is an important quandary to figure out so I can truly respect the cultural norms and nannies here and across the globe.  I also want to walk a little taller and spread the Aloha with my kiddos around Bahrain without this hanging over my head.  Heads up, this blog is not about Bahrain and more an inner monologue of my “nanny conundrum”. Please only read on if you have a sincere interest in helping me grow as a person.

So, why am I so triggered by being perceived as and called the nanny? This is what I’ve figured out so far…

Nanny is just a word and title, right?  “Who cares, let it go,” I tell myself. But I can’t.

Clearly, my ego feels belittled and my heart sad, angry, and hurt. In writing this, it is clear I believe those titles are somehow degrading and insulting.  Me, a housemaid?  Me, a nanny?  “I’m better than that,” my ego cries. But am I?

My ego is hurt just thinking about being called a “nanny” because 1. a nanny couldn’t love my children the way I do, 2. all that charm and brilliance Trace and Izzy display wouldn’t be given due credit to me (which I realize is an insult to all the wonderful people who have shaped my children’s lives) and 3. because I’m THEIR MOM. My vagina has the memory and scars to prove it. Forever.  For all those reasons, that’s why I don’t like being called their nanny.

I realize no harm is meant by other’s preconceived notions.  I mean I fit the image: short, Asian looking, English speaking (yes, most everyone in Bahrain speaks English), walking with or toting two toddlers (but obviously they look like me, as I’ve been told), and really cute. Haha, had to add that.  So yes, I see how I fit the image.  Aaaand, it still hurts.  I see this as an opportunity to grow, to become more patient, compassionate, and break through my own barriers of conditioning.  Hopefully, someone reading this has a clear perception of what’s really going on and can call me out or drop a great big wisdom bomb on me. Seriously, I’m open to your insights, thoughts, or reflections.  Please share them.

I laugh as I write because of all the things I’ve seen, witnessed, and learned so far in Bahrain, THIS is what’s been the most challenging for me.  I’ve traveled quite a bit in the past so a lot of the other stuff (the smells, the dirt, the driving, the stares, the physical reactions) doesn’t really phase me. Teachings come in the most unexpected ways.

Anyway, I promise more pictures of the kids and house soon.  We did move into a beautiful house in the heart and soul of Adliya and are starting to get settled.  Feels so good.  I only get to write when the kids are napping. So send good wishes for long restful naps. I love you all!  And don’t forget to drop a bomb of insight or reflection for me.  Thank you.

Aloha & Namaste

The transition to Bahrain

Note: In retrospect, my first blog about Bahrain titled “The first 30 days in Bahrain” should have been titled something like, “What I’ve observed in the first 30 days”  because this blog is really more about the first 30 days.  I’m new to this blog thing.  I’ll learn.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.

The most common question I keep getting asked is, “How was the move?  How is it? What is it like?”  The answers to these questions are not so straightforward.  The short answer is, “it’s good, same same but different,” a phrase often heard when traveling abroad.  The more truthful answer is…

We landed here on June 30th after six flights. Yes, SIX, with Trace who is 2.5 years old and Izzy who was 15.5 months old.  Why six flights you ask?  Because the military booked them for us.  Period.  Need I say more?  Tad came home excited (clearly he hadn’t flown with the children before) that we were flying from Tallahassee to Orlando to Dulles to Norfolk.  We’d spend the night in Norfolk to start our outbound rotator flight (military flight) from Norfolk to Spain to Italy and finally Bahrain.  My grey hairs started sprouting immediately.

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Trace finally sleeps on the airplane.

Our first flight out of Tallahassee proved to be the biggest test and an act of trust and constant prayer.  The airlines the military booked us through, a smaller partner of United, was not ready or prepared to handle a military family moving abroad with our extra luggage, overweight, car seats, and stroller.  While Trace was totally excited that it was a propeller airplane, like Dusty Crophopper!!!, I kept praying that our bags, strollers, and car seats with HANDWRITTEN baggage tags (yes, their printers happen to break the morning of our flight) would make it to Norfolk.  I didn’t hold my breath and immediately knew we would be shopping for new stuff in Bahrain.  To my delightful surprise, everything made it to Norfolk.  I can’t say the same from Norfolk to Bahrain but everything eventually caught up to us and for that 6 flights to Bahrain was a miracle.  

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So cute it hurts. Miss Iz sleeping on the airplane

The flights were not as bad as I had anticipated (no, I didn’t bootleg some Xanex), thanks to introducing Trace to the tablet and movies. Best move ever.  Izzy had more stir crazy moments but I don’t blame her. She finally figured out that flying is boring and slept.  The hardest part was keeping them from going absolutely bonkers at the airport in Spain and Italy. That’s when I needed a drink and Xanex. Too bad for me.  So all-in-all, the kids did great, waaaaay better than I expected for six flights and three days in airplanes and airports.

We landed in Bahrain at 0230 (that’s 2:30 am) three days after leaving Tallahassee.  It was 99 degrees.  It was a slap in the sweaty face of reality.  Luckily, Tad’s sponsor (the guy he replaced) met us at the airport and took great care to make sure were shown the ropes for the first few days.  He set us up to live at the Elite Resort and Spa until we could find our own house.  No, there is no Base living here.  Everyone lives out in town.  We did find our place to call home relatively quickly but here we are on day 32 in the hotel due to logistics and paperwork.  Patience is definitely the theme of my life right now.  The hotel is a large international hotel (mostly Saudi’s on vacation, their nannies, and other US military personnel moving to or leaving Bahrain) with amazing customer service.  Our room is a large two bedroom suite with a kitchen on the 14th floor overlooking the capital city of Manama and two bays.

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The view from our hotel room. Looking at Manama, Bahrain.

Hotel living seemed daunting at first but now I think it was a great way to adjust. Everyone here is so nice and helpful. They love, LOVE, Trace and Izzy…a lot! Almost too much contact for my liking but it’s just the customs here. Trace and Izzy have handled it well though. Izzy typically gets this look of fear, finds me, and then runs to me saying, “Mama. Mama.” Trace sometimes lets people hold him. The creepy ones he runs. His judgment of character is on point. Thank goodness.

Tad started work…yes, the day we arrived. He truly is a juxtaposition of lazy and hard working. I can learn a lot. The Navy Base where Tad works is nothing exciting.  Just a bunch of square buildings (with frigid AC…hallelujah!), lots of imported palm trees, and sand.  Really describes the whole island.  Trace insists on wearing his flip flops then immediately cries and complains of getting sand in his shoes. He’s a smart boy, except when it comes to his flip-flops and sand. Bless his two and a half-year-old heart.  I have felt very grounded by a steady yoga and meditation practice that somehow feels easier to find the time to do here than back in Virginia.  My travel bug has been reborn and despite having two toddlers in tow, I want to see, really see, smell, feel, hear, taste, this place.  #Bahrainorbust

Trace and Izzy are adjusting as well as possible but it’s not easy being a toddler anywhere in the world, let alone during a big move like this. Yes, Izzy entered her toddler stage sometime between Tallahassee and Bahrain.  Let’s really add some fuel to the fire, yippeee.  She’s discovered her voice, opinions, and screams a.k.a death squeals.  Why didn’t any of my mom friends with girls tell me of this horrible noise?  The first five days were the roughest due to several factors, 1. everything–the sounds, smells, clothes, beds, food, the brightness of the sun, dust, taste of water, weather, EVERYTHING–was new to the kids which were fun and exciting until it wasn’t, 2.  Trace and Izzy had to learn to share a room for their first time while having troubles adapting to the time change (no big surprise), and 3. Ramadan was in full swing.  Eventually, total exhaustion won and the kids got on schedule but that was right around Eid, the last day of Ramadan.  Ramadan is a holy month for the Islam religion.  Not being Islam and arriving during their holidays with two toddlers in 100+ weather was quite a treat (insert loads of sarcasm).  Out of respect, we did not eat or drink in public, show public displays of affection, or wear anything a typical westerner would in 100+ degree weather.  100+ degree outings with two toddlers who can’t have water is not a reality I wish on anyone.  Trace made us pay for it.  I don’t blame him. So for selfish reasons, Eid (the last day of Ramadan) was something I celebrated too.

I think changing routine is exactly what every psychologist and toddler book says not to do.  But we did it.  We had to.  Overall, they did great and I don’t blame them a single bit for crying more, being more clingy, and a little more irritating. I feel the same towards them. Locals seem to love, maybe tolerate is a better term, Americans so nothing but good vibes so far.  Almost everyone speaks English, or some version of it.  People seem utterly surprised when I share that I’m from the United States.  Maybe I should begin by asking where they think I’m from.  My hunch is they think I’m from the Philippines (refer to First 30 days in Bahrain blog).

Sorry, there is a lack of photos so far.  Honestly, it just looks like an urban city with a lot of dust. Well, and the photos on Google are better.  Just do a quick Google search.

A hui hou…until next time…

Aloha & Namaste

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A beautiful sunset view from the master bedroom in our hotel room.

First 30 days in Bahrain

Booom! Just like that, we’ve been here for 30 days.  So here is what I’ve learned.

Time flies. Duh, we’ve all heard this. Let’s get to something better. Moving on.

You pronounce the H in Bahrain. It’s a small guttural sound. Ba-hrain.

Tall ceiling houses are awesome and why don’t we do that in States?  Can any architect enlighten me and answer my question?

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My version of an abaya.

Abaya, the Bahrain name for their version of the burqa. Click here for some middle eastern education on women’s thobes.  While they make my independent American woman privileged feminist shreeeeek, there are many reasons why they rock: 1. I wouldn’t have to do my hair or dress nicely, in fact, I’ve thought many a time, how many of these women are naked under their abaya. I doubt any of them are but that’s my nudist independent American privileged feminist making sense of it. I’d go naked. 2: It hides the sweat marks that will inevitably show up in 106 degrees, 80% humidity weather. Think about it. Crotch sweat. No problem, I’m wearing an abaya. Armpit sweat that blends with your boob sweat. No problem. Abaya. Butt sweat because I had to drive somewhere and my car seat absorbed the 106 degrees and holds it like an oven, therefore, cooking my muscle and flesh like a turkey in a deep fryer. No problem. Abaya. 3: It’s true that it cools you down. I know it sounds counter-intuitive and while I haven’t tested the full head to toe thing, I am learning through my own melatonin prone skin that a tank top (yes, I can wear one here on Base and at the International resort where we are staying) is way hotter than if I wear a light cover-up, like my fun Wrightsville SUP hoodie (no, Jarrod didn’t pay me. I really just love my hoodie). The cover provides your own shade. Yes, I sweat like crazy (see #2) but my body temperature immediately drops. So YEAH for abayas. No, I won’t be buying one anytime soon.  Never say never.

Women are women are women anywhere. I don’t speak Arabic, or Hindi, or any other language I’ve heard here well enough to understand it. However, I have spent enough time traveling and a lot of time in nail salons to know when someone, meaning the lady next to you, is gossiping. While I haven’t spent a ton of time hanging outside the hotel (shameful head drop), breakfast time is when everyone in the hotel comes together in the Noor breakfast tent (jump two paragraphs). What I do know from being a woman is, all the ladies who sit together and are close enough to my table to hear…talk in the same intonations, giggles, laughs, gasps, and tisking that you would hear if you were overhearing a gaggle of my friends at a hotel all-you-can-eat buffet on vacation.  Women talk. We talk about everything and anything.  And for some reason food makes us dive into the best conversations. Yes, I realize we could be part of the topic of conversation, especially since I confuse the hell out of the guests with my half Asian looks with kids calling me “mommy.” Read on…

Moms are moms are moms…unless they think you’re the nanny. Ugh. I will probably write more on this because it’s really a brain teaser and lesson for me. In short, Filipina and South East Asian women make up the majority of the service staff here in the Kingdom of Bahrain. [Note: Yes, it’s the official name. I live in a Kingdom! Ha. Except read on because I’m the nanny here.] Housemaids and nannies are almost a given. Every family I’ve seen stay here at the hotel so far, mostly coming from other Persian Gulf states, mainly Saudi Arabia, bring their nannies, mainly Filipina, with them on vacation. So, if you’ve never seen me, click to see my Instagram feed, or just know I’m half Asian half Caucasian. For an untrained eye, I can EASILY pass as Filipina. Even for a trained eye, I pass as a Filipina. The 2nd week here one of the Filipina nannies whom I’d seen a few times at the pool with a gaggle of kids asked me if the two kids I was with were my own. When I said YES, she told me she was surprised. She then asked where I was from. When I told her USA, she laughed and giggled, leaned over to the other Filipina nanny sitting next to her (yes, this particular family had two nannies with them. I think I counted 7 children they were watching) giggled, chatted quickly in their own language (see paragraph before this on women) and then turned to me and told me she thought I was the Filipina nanny. I was not surprised but at the same time, my heart ached a little. I mean, I guess I am a nanny too but “EXCUSE ME?!!! I’M THEIR MOM” is what I really wanted to say. I have a feeling this is going to be an ongoing conversation with every Bahraini and Saudi I meet. “NO, I’m not their nanny.  They’re mine,” immediately giving me the mommy street cred I deserve. Moving on…

Breakfast in a Noor tent tastes TEN times better. OH wait, maybe it just tastes better because it’s an all-you-can-eat international buffet that I DID NOT COOK. Woot woot! A Noor tent, at least at the Elite resort looks like this:

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Breakfast tent at the Elite Resort & Spa

Now tell me breakfast doesn’t taste 10 times better?!

Buying food here will break the budget. God bless the families who have teenagers. $8 blackberries, $7 raspberries. I was so shocked, I pulled a very Asian move and took a picture.  Proof.   IMG_20160720_171255.jpg“OMG” is f&cking right. I hear you can get cheaper produce on the island and you better believe I’ll be looking soon. Until then, please eat all the berries you can for me and my children and enjoy every little bite and seed stuck in your teeth. I refuse to pay $1/blackberry. Yes, there were 8 blackberries in that container. I counted.

Just days before our one month mark I got my first parking ticket. Actually, I got it the first full day as a new car owner in Bahrain (did you pronounce the “H”? Just checking). I got the ticket right near Base. The ironic thing is, I was going to base (yes, with Trace and Izzy on a nice balmy 101 degree morning) to get my Base parking pass for my new car. The extra dirt lot the only place to park if you don’t have your Base pass (yes it’s name is perfect description) was full so I parked where other cars were near sidewalks. Something inside warned me I may end up with a ticket but there were cars parked ON the sidewalk. “Clearly the locals know something I don’t, I’ll be good” and marched off to get our pass. No pass (printer was broken) and two very upset kids later, we arrive at our car and the parking ticket. I wish I had taken a picture. All the cars parked ON the sidewalk had no tickets. My car, nicely parallel-parked 6″ from the curb had the parking ticket. Because I knew it was a possibility I wasn’t too upset but bummed nonetheless. Having registered the vehicle the day before and witnessing firsthand the organized chaos and lack of logistics at the Traffic Department, I am glad I know what I’m in for to pay my ticket and laughing thinking about the reality I’ve created for myself. I will make sure to stop at the wine store today just for the post-paying off a parking ticket with two kids on a weekend in 100-degree weather extravaganza. #Bahrainorbust

I’m not sure where this blog site will take me. It used to be devoted to yoga, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and mostly holistic health topics.  I thought about starting a whole new blog, but why?  I do love writing. I’ve been encouraged to write for a long time and have been asked to write several books by clients and students. Who knows. Maybe my time in Bahrain will be more focused on writing. If you support this idea, want me to write more, have topics or questions for me, please let me know. And please share the blog if you feel like you know someone who’d appreciate the insightful shenanigans of an aloha hearted yogi military wife mommy. And please always feel free to start a mindful dialogue in the comments section below.

Aloha & Namaste

Fear. Oh how I’ve come to conquer thee.

July 17, 2017:  I jumped on WordPress just now (it’s nap time for the kids) to write a blog and voila I discovered a blog that never went public written one year ago.  Crazy!  So, I guess this is my post.  A little dated but still a good one.  And as always, it’s perfect timing and a perfect reminder.  Now on with the blog from July 17, 2016…

On June 30th our family (my husband, 2.5 yo, 15-month-old, and myself) landed in the Kingdom of Bahrain to live here for a few years. We never know exactly how long, it’s a military thing. So you’d think there would have been many times in the months prior to this move where fear would have risen. From the time we got the news to the actual move, fear was never one of the emotions I felt or experienced. Yes, a litany of other emotions I experienced but fear was not one of them.

However, when we started looking for a house I noticed with every single hour that passed that I wasn’t being shown the “perfect place” by our real estate agent my liver was getting more and more bound up…Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) term for frustrated or angry. I would find myself going through the mental pep-talks, “Breathe Haunani. Let it go. It’s going to be alright.” But was it?! Would it?!

Luckily my yoga practice has continued to be relatively strong since arriving and when I sat to meditate on these feelings I realized the underlying emotion I was experiencing was not anger or frustration but fear. In my experience, most non-loving feelings boil down to fear. Try it, take a look at your emotions; easier said than done, but it becomes easier with guidance and lots and lots of practice…i.e. yoga.  When I sat with my fear, I realized what I was afraid of was not being able to live near the beautiful seas of Bahrain.  It wasn’t death I was afraid of or being attacked, it was afraid of my own desires not being fulfilled. How silly and selfish is that?  Haha.  I can see how ridiculous this is now, but at the time I was losing my appetite over it and becoming Mrs. Bitch Queen to my kids. Not fair to them…or anyone.

I try not to compare my emotions and suffering. I try to just see them as they are. Judgment arises, of course, but a healthy form that allows me to see the big picture laugh at myself and then find it easier to let go. So that’s what I did.   My kids were napping when I got to sit in this self-reflection and they were still napping so I decided to dig a little deeper.  What, really, is fear? I’ve asked myself this question for years. It’s a goodie. Something I enjoy contemplating.

As I sat there contemplating ‘what is fear?’, I really felt in the core of my being that fear is not trusting God, the Universe, or whatever you call your higher source.  In Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eight path/branches of yoga is a guide toward living liberated from the illusions of the mind, discovering one’s true nature, and ultimately being liberated from our own suffering.  One of the eight branches is called Yama, or personal observances.  Within the Yamas, Ishvara pranidhana or devotion to Ishvara (God), is one of these self-practices and observances.  When I was sitting and contemplating ‘what is fear?’ it became clear that one act of devotion is to trust.  To trust myself in acting with discernment and decision making with my husband.  To trust that our decision would not be the “wrong” one.  To trust that our decision would be the “best one given the information we were given.”  I do believe that we are all connected to all things, we are a part of nature, we are divine creatures that walk and talk with will and consciousness, then not trusting God, or the Creator is very scary. Simply not trusting God would mean not trusting all of my being. THAT is scary.

The good thing is, it’s been easier to manage this whole house hunting process in Bahrain now that I have that revealed. God’s got my back. I’m doing my due diligence, acting and choosing with discernment. If it’s meant to be then great but most likely where we end up will be better than anything I could have imagined or dreamed up for my family. This I have experienced time and time again. I limit my reality with my own desires or expectations. If I can trust God, the life I will get to live and experience will be brighter and more amazing than my little brain can hope to control.

So while I may not have totally conquered fear in all its forms, like my title would suggest, it does feel good to know that Bahrain is already turning into another great teacher.  I am not surprised.  I look forward to keeping my fears in check and coming back to “trust God” or “trust the process” as our time in Bahrain unfolds.