20 September 2012

Just so you know...

Just so you know...because I get this question a lot...

Life is good here...and hot like a desert....

However on this island....

Even though we are in the Middle East (Gulf)....

Even though you saw Sex and the City 2......

Even though Lawrence of Arabia had them everywhere....

These are the only Camels I've seen....

Courtyard of my School

17 September 2012

life unpaused

I just reread my post before I left NC.  I discuss how I'm putting my life on pause to move to Bahrain.  Funny thing is, in just three/four weeks, I know my life is not on pause here.  I'm not saying this is where I want to live for the rest of my life.  I'm not saying that I have found my calling and it is Bahrain.  What I am saying is that my life is not on pause.  I know that.

I feel like I'm already growing in my knowledge as a teacher, I am about to go to IB training in one week and I feel a huge need at the school for assessment analysis, why do we test, how do we know the students learned, etc.  I am attached to some of my kids (I want to kick some too-kids are kids!)  I feel a need here, which is crucial for me in a school.

I am going out and having fun.  It's funny but since everyone here is in the same boat we understand that we have to be flexible.  I can see how people meet internationally and become life-long "whatevers".  It's kind of exciting.  I know that I want to settle down somewhere.  And I'm not saying Bahrain, I'm not even saying internationally.  But I am saying my life is not on pause.  And that is exciting.  

15 September 2012


I have been receiving many messages asking if I am safe.  I woke up this morning and read the Gulf Daily News article regarding the protests yesterday.  First, let me explain some things I know about the protests.

1. Fridays are the worst days for protests.  Our weekend is Friday and Saturday here.  Saturday is a normal Saturday, Friday is our Sunday.  If that makes sense.  The weekend used to be Thursday and Friday, but they switched it. Anyways, the groups form after religious services, which is why Fridays are the most prominent days for protests.

2. The protests are not intended to be deadly or dangerous.  Their goal is to literally be a pain in the ass.  One of the major things that occur through out the week are tire fires.  They take large tires, douse them with petroleum and light them on fire in the middle of the freeway, just to be an annoyance, and show the powers that be that they are powerful. There are cop cars stationed on all the freeways and at the gas stations.  If you pull over a cop car will immediately be on you.

So now lets talk about where I live. I live in Manama (pronounced Muh-NAM-a).  My school is in Isa Town (Eesa) which is where ALL of the private schools are and the Ministry of Education.  If you read the article, you see that the protests took place in Riffa and Isa Town, both south of where I live.  They are towards the desert, which the southern half of the island is desert and large compounds for families.  My school in Isa Town is about 15 minutes away with no traffic, but there is always traffic.  There is a small mall in Isa Town, but besides that, the only reason I go there is for school.  Riffa is a compound area.  The other places listed were Muharraq, which is in the diplomat area of the island, and it's own island of the archipelago.  Tubli Bay is the same.  When they say parts of Manama, lets go over what they mean.

I live in a district of Manama called Adliya (pronounced Adlee-ya).  The area where we are used to be water we were told.  You can see my neighborhood on the lower part of the map.  The Navy base is in Juffair (pronounced jew-fair).  We are friends with some of the Royal Navy so we know all riots and protests in advance and are constantly being looked after.  Juffair is about 5 minutes by taxi from my apartment.  Adliya does start the Navy "off limits zone".  We are on the edge of the range of possible activity.  It goes up to the Souq (or Souk pronounced sook) which you can see is close to the diplomatic area.  So basically, the protests are taking place north of me and south of me.  No matter what you believe about politics and policies in the middle east I have been told (and shown nothing different) that the protesters want nothing to do with westerners HERE.  They are not mad at me, or my friends.  They are upset with their government, not me, I am completely safe.  I live in a very western neighborhood and Juffair is all western.  

When we go out to dinner, or grocery shopping, or to bars, it is in Adliya or Juffair.  We have no need to go anywhere else.  My students and their parents are incredibly sweet and eager to learn about my culture and life, as I am to learn about their culture and life.  Half of the population of Bahrain is foreign, with 20% of the total population being western.  It is very welcoming to western life.  

I have not seen any action, riots, protests or disruptions.  I am completely aware of the city around me and like I said, I get daily safety reports from my friends. 

So thank you all for your concerns, thoughts and prayers.  I really am having fun and feel very safe.

***edited to add: New information just came through text that things are still unsafe.  We are taking precautions.  I was supposed to go to base today but the boats (ships, but I like to call them boats) are confined.  I'll keep you updated. ***

05 September 2012

How do you know you are too rich?

Today a girl was wearing sparkle Toms.  If you didn’t know, I own sparkle Toms.  I told her that I did and she said “don’t you love how cheap they are?!”  Yeah, cheap…that’s what I think when I think of Tom’s.  Now we all know that I will spend money on clothes and shoes, but I also know that $60 is not “cheap.”   That is one point today where I realized there is a class difference between me and my students.  

I heard that clothes were expensive here.  That was not a lie.  Everything is priced the same as the States.  I looked at a Michael Kors purse at the mall.  It would have been around $250 in the states (not on sale).  It was 199BD here.  Discount right?  Wrong.  With an exchange rate of 1BD=$2.65 That 199BD purse is now roughly $500.  So my girl's “cheap” Toms were to her, they were only 20-25BD.  That’s the kind of prices their Spring store has (a cheaper shoe store here and in the states.)  Another example is Bath and Body Works.  I wanted hand soap.  Usually it’s 5 for $12 on special, or around $3 a piece when not on a good sale.  I got 3 for 5BD.  That is 3 for $13 roughly.  That stuff adds up fast!  So while I will be making more money here, I won’t be buying that much.  I know, I know, I joke, I kid…I’m going to buy stuff.  Lots of it.  I can’t help it when you have a Tory Burch STORE!!!

Now what is cheap here?  Service industry.  Food is 1-3BD per entrĂ©e.  The most expensive place we’ve gone so far (and it was really nice) was 5BD for steak, mashed potatoes and vegetables.  There is also no formal tipping here and everything delivers.  A couple of nights ago I ordered Hummus, Tabbouleh, and a chicken dish (three different things).  Yes, that’s a lot of food, but it was lunch the next day too.  It cost 4.200BD and I had it delivered to my door.  I gave the guy a 5, because we were told to round up for a tip (it’s a local place and I want them to know I am worth delivering to) so for $13 I had two meals of food...delivered.  Another girl had fried rice delivered.  It was 1.800BD.  So for around $5 she had food at her door.  Ridiculous. 

Taxis are also cheap.  5 of us took one to the local mall which is about 15 minutes away, for 4BD, we thought that was fine, but we were told that was too much by friends!  You can also have secret drivers who are not associated with Taxi companies and they are cheaper.  It is crazy to me how that works.  About half the people I work with have cars and half do not.  I would really like to not have one, and if I can get over having to call someone to pick me up, I think I can make.  We live in a good part of town to walk to things too, so that will be good!

See, with all of the money I’m saving on food and car I can definitely buy more clothes J

Carissa, my love, where are you?

I know, I know, I know….I’ve been in Bahrain almost 2 weeks and no update.  It’s not that I’m too busy.  I’m actually impressed with my free time so far.  I know it won’t stay that way, and I’m hoping to get some tutoring time in, but I’m not too busy.  Well then I must be out going and doing right?  That’s why I’m not blogging.  Well, it’s not really that either.  I am not out and about that much.  The thing is that there is not really anything to blog about.  Life here is pretty much the same as it was back in the states.  Right now I’m sitting at a coffee shop watching a mustang, CRV and Mazda CX9 (cry!) go by.  There are cell phones ringing around me, and a family having coffee on the couch next to me.  Really the only difference right now is that BBC is on the television instead of CNN (and to be honest with the DNC coverage on right now, I’m happy to be watching BBC). 

School starts at 7 (like it did last year) and since I ride the bus we leave the house at 6:15 (like last year).  I get home around 4, and I’m tired by 8 (like last year).  I’m not doing my National Boards (like two years ago) and I’m not doing my Masters (like last year) or coaching/working another job…so basically, I’m bored. 

The main reason we aren’t going and doing right now is because we haven’t been paid yet.  We get paid at the end of the month, so all of us are strapped for cash.  They gave us moving in money which was nice so we are trying to make that last until September 28th .  I’m not bored as in unhappy, I do like it, it’s just there is nothing to blog about!

So let me first start with my “classmates”. We are all starting at the same time and on a two year contract, so it’s like we graduate together.  First of all there is Ezza, Camille and Kristi, all people I had communicated with before I got here.  It was so nice to have a familiar name/face!  Ezza teaches primary and she reminds of Leigh Ann if Leigh Ann could stand little kids.  Camille teaches 7th grade English and is always up for hanging out which is so nice to have a built in friend.  Kristi is my math partner and I’m feeling a flash back to 2006 when Ann and I started at Northwest together.  Kristi and Carissa and we both teach math…and we’re both white girls with light brown hair.  If I didn’t have a foot on her in height there would be no hope (like the height comment Kristi?)  I am so happy to have her as my partner in crime though.

There is also Susan (primary), Allison (primary), Matt (primary), Greg (theatre) Emishea (business) and Dennis (high school Art).  They are all fabulous.  Literally.  Not just saying that.  I am really lucky to have such a good group.  We all live together in great apartments.  It makes me not want to go anywhere else foreign to teach because everyone keeps talking about how nice our places are.  I have tile everything.  Ever wonder how much hair a girl loses during the day?  I know, just look at my floor. 

My school is nice.  It is 80’s vintage, so just like working at NE in the old building.  I really like the faculty.  My classes are going well and everything is smooth so far.  See?  So boring.

Last weekend we all went out to celebrate our first week of work.  We went to a local expat bar.  It is a 5 minute walk from our house so with it being the local navy hang out and so close in this heat, it is our favorite place in Bahrain J  I may expand on this a little more in a later blog…maybe not.  Let’s see how this weekend goes and then I’ll decide the amount of details everybody gets.  As the girls said Thursday night “what happens at JJ’s………gets talked about for the next week on the bus”. 

Thank you to everybody for the well wishes and prayers.  I know you are all anxious for my address, but I don’t have one yet for mail…I’ll let you know.  I do have mobile router so I have skype and gchat at all times.  Add me at Carissa.berglund.