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.  Over time, 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 halfway 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 a 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!

Aloha & Namaste y’all.  Until next time.

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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.