If only you know Dr. Spencer, the title would be so much funnier. She is my regional superintendent who has the best country accent in the world. I decided the best time to tell her about my new job would be during my evaluation...I am really good with tact. Anyways, here is how it went:
DS: Carissa, I think you are doing great and we will work to make next year even better.
Me: Well, I should probably tell you before you make plans for next year...I want to go back to the classroom.
Me: Yes, and actually, I got a job, internationally.
DS: Oh wow, that is fabulous, we had a principal go to China and now he is in France, where are you going?
DS: Oh that will be, wait, Bahwhaaaaatttttt??
I mean, not exactly the first time I had heard a reaction similar to this, but her accent made it perfect.
Well, so let's talk about Bahwhaaaaatttttt. Let's do a little question and answer...I'll do the scary stuff first...I know you all are wondering. I'll do many more posts-you all have a lot of questions!
Where is Bahrain?
Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands with a little more than 700 sq. km. (~270 sq. miles) in area, so it's roughly half the size of Phoenix. It is located in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Bahrain. Saudi Arabia is it's neighbor to the west and Qatar is to the East. It is close to the UAE and across the Gulf? I can see Iran from my window! Just kidding...about being able to see Iran, although it is across the Gulf. Basically, it is surrounded by a bunch of countries we have all heard (little) good and (mostly) bad about. I have talked to Americans in Bahrain and read a few blogs and feel very safe on my little island.
So on the safety note...What about those protests?
Bahrain is a monarchy (King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa-ruling since 2002) with a Prime Minister (Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa-took office in 1971). Interesting to note here Khalifa means successor or representative for Mohammad. So Wiz Khalifa stems from his grandfather saying he was so smart-a successor of his families intelligence, but I digress, a lot. The leaders in Bahrain are Sunni Islams in a majority Shia population. (While of the 1.2 million people in population, 600,000 are non-nationals with about 300,000 being Westerners-all religions are practiced but it is still very much a Muslim Country). With the wave of protests fighting for political freedom, the Bahraini Shiites followed the demonstrations of other countries such as Egypt and Yemen. Seeking to gain more leadership roles for Shiites in the government and rewrite the constitution, peaceful protests were formed. They turned out not to be so peaceful with martial law taken over for three months last spring. Since then, it has been an up and down and I am still learning more. I have read liberal views that I have heard from the Americans at my school are far from the actual truth (New York Times). I have also been given the "rainbows and peaches" stance from the materials put out by the school and government. I believe that it is somewhere in between. The protests are announced, and not where my school is located (Isa Town). I also understand that I have to be safe when I go out somewhere and use the buddy system.
Carissa, you know oil is a cause of a lot of problems between US and the Middle East?
Why yes, I do. I am reminded of how much the oil situation sucks every time I fill my car up for almost $4.00 a gallon ($1.05 a litre). However, in the 1960's when the economy of Bahrain took off with the oil industry, they realized that it may not be a stable source. They have invested greatly in their banking industry and are one of the fastest growing economies of the Arab countries. In 2004, America and Bahrain signed the US-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement aimed at reducing barriers for trade among the two countries. The alliance is really important on another note because the Fifth Fleet Naval base is located in Juffair. They assumed station there in 1971 when Bahrain gained their independence from Britain. On a sidenote, gas is about $.25 a litre or $.94 a gallon-it's like being in 1998 again!
Where do you buy your head coverings from?
I don't. I do not have to cover up from head to toe. Bahrain is a very liberal country recognizing all religions. I am not Muslim, therefore I do not have to cover up. My students may or may not. I have seen pictures with both groups. However, since it is an Islamic nation, I am expected to be respectful of their culture, so no shoulders or knees will be shown unless I am in an American or British establishment. Lots of shawls, cardigans and blazers will be worn-which is great since the whole country is air conditioned. Speaking of air conditioning...
Does it get hot there?
Um, yes. The temperature is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit in winter and about 120 degrees in summer. The county gets about 70 mm of rain a year, or about 2.75 inches. The whole country believes in air conditioning though. Apparently I go from my air conditioned apartment to my air conditioned bus stop to my air conditioned bus to my air conditioned school. So I would wear a jacket of some sort anyways!
Again, I love you all-thank you!
facts and history courtesy of the ever factual Wikipedia, Royal Colleges of Bahrain and documents from Al Bayan.
map courtesy of: http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/asia/bhas.gif