25 October 2012

Eid Mubarak

If someone asked me why we celebrate Christmas I would have a couple of explanations.  These are from my head, so excuse the misinterpretations, but this is honestly what I would say when someone says why do you celebrate Christmas  I would say it is the time Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.  The Virgin Mary and Joseph gave birth to baby Jesus in a manger.  We give presents representative of the presents the three wisemen brought to baby Jesus.  It has become marketed and commercialized with the invention of Santa Claus has origins of greek and german descent, coming from Sinterklaus and Saint Nicholas.  Coca Cola really brought the image of Santa to our minds.  Christmas to me is a time for family to gather, eat good food and exchange presents to show your gratitude. 
What do you wear?  For family dinner you look nice, nothing too dressy, at church you dress up and then you wear pajamas Christmas morning when Santa comes.  And if you are like my mom’s family, you wear the pajamas you opened the night before. 
What do you eat? Turkey or Ham and all of the fixings but each family is different.  My MN family does a Christmas eve brunch with egg bake and then dinner (stuffed shells always pop into my head, but it varies).  Most families make their favorites.  And there are more cookies and bars than you can imagine.
What kind of presents do you give?  Whatever people want, or want to give!  I can always guarantee underwear and gum from Santa.  Kids usually get one super cool big present, Barbie dream house esque.  But again, it varies. 
What do you do? Play games as a family, catch up with the relatives you only see once a year, enjoy each others company, go to church, watch football, etc.
Well I asked my students to describe Eid to me.  I asked what should I know about the holiday.  I am very eager to learn about the Arabic culture and Islamic traditions.  My kids do a great job of teaching me Arabic; I can now say a formal hello and response, good morning, hi, thank you, good night, and Happy Eid.  However they sucked at teaching me about Eid. 
I had my tutor group (14 year olds) write something on the board about Eid.  I got $, money, dinars, we get moola.  I asked what other presents they give and they said it is not a present holiday, it is only money.  And only kids get money.  I actually had one kid say, “Miss you are giving us money, yes?”  I laughed in his face, I’m not sure how joking he was being.  So I asked more direct questions:
What do you wear?  Traditional clothes.  Everyone does? No. Why do you wear traditional clothes (Abayas and Dishdash)? Because we are supposed to.
What do you eat? Machboos (a REALLY good yellow rice dish with chicken or lamb…or La7am as my kids spell it)
What do you do?  We see our family, we play games, we get money, we go shopping. 
Why do you do all of this?  Because it is Eid.
I then asked my other classes….
Why do you celebrate Eid? Because of Hajj (trip to Mecca)
Why do people go to Mecca? Because it is holy. 
God it’s like pulling teeth sometimes…
Now I am not a good Christian. I actually often question my faith or the word Christian.  I do believe in a higher power.  I think the world is a scary place without a little faith.  However, my journey as a spiritual person is still in its beginning stages.  Saying that, I was brought up knowing what Christmas was about.  I don’t know if it’s America, the Christian faith or what…but I bet any Atheist can tell you the “story” of Jesus or Santa Claus.  My students told me nothing about the Abraham sacrificing Ishmael to show his obedience to God.  Or that God intervened with a sheep, which is why it’s the Feast of the Sacrifice holiday.  Its why they eat lamb.  Now Kristi’s sixth graders told her about the sacrificing of the sheep and that you give some to the poor.  But my teenagers couldn’t?  I was very frustrated.  However some of you may be frustrated with my lack of Christmas knowledge.  Maybe I’ll learn more Inshallah.    

18 October 2012

Technology differences

Its funny how technolgy differs here.  Some things are so advanced and others seem so behind. 

Cell phones (mobiles): text messages are the most expensive things on earth here.  Ok not really ( 35 fils, which is 10 cents) but you do have to pay per text, most packages come with 30 texts a month.

Wifi: the reason texts are so uncommon is because people use wifi.  i actually carry around a hotspot with me. 

Banks: pin codes are so secret. Online banking makes you use their scrambled keyboard to input your password. However online bill pay is a pain which requires special set up through the bank which has crazy hours. Food: delivery is serious around here. Call centers distribute your order and know your name and location when you call. However, notice "call". Online ordering is just becoming common place. I'll think of more I'm sure, but that starts you off :)

14 October 2012

In response to my first tears in Bahrain…

It’s no surprise that I want babies. I’ve seriously wanted kids since I was 18.  While I went through a phase where the idea of having a child repulsed me, I believe it was due to setting and plot rather than actual feelings.  People here cannot believe how badly I want to play with a baby (so that I can give it back).  I think it’s mostly because I left some important people back in the states, including my daughter, who is not a baby, but still needs to be taken care of every now and then like we all do.   While I’m not sure how a biological family will play in my cards, I know how important family in all senses of the word is, and I will expand on my current family in the future, I know I will. 

First of all, why is family so important?  I have two dads, two moms and multiple grandparents.  A lot of people would put labels on all of them, my biological dad, my maternal grandparents, etc, but really why do it?  I know the moment a true friend has been made because they can tell which parent/grandparent I am talking about by context.  They also understand, and aren’t weirded out when I say “my kids” or “my daughter”. 

Family is important because I know how lucky I am to have so many adults in my life who care about me and my happiness and who helped raise me.  I say adults because I am referring to those older than me….my mom’s parents who, no matter how hard they fight it, still cry almost every time I call them (this has only been exacerbated by me living on the opposite side of the world.)  My Aunt Peggy and Uncle Jeff who show me that love can work, and being best friends is important, and having passion for life is even more so.  My Grandma Sarah, who I know waits for facebook updates to make sure I’m ok, and also probably updates John about my life more than I do.  I love my Aunt Barb who gets me, and I wish I got to see her more than every other year. 

There are also adults who are not older (well slightly) than me, but are definitely more adult than I am.  I used to feel like the “adult” of MGC but now living over here I’ve realized I’m definitely not.  Jamie has a baby (who I miss seeing).  Leslie is everything I want to be as an educator and Leigh Ann is the blend of fun and professional all adults should be.  My cousin Jessi is the adult that I can’t believe.  She is a mom of two and I cannot believe what an amazing job she is doing.  I’m very proud of her (if I can be since I consider her to be more adult than me).
Notice I haven’t mentioned parents?  Well I feel like I talk about them a lot.  However when I read Leah’s post, especially this part:

“the most comforting thing about my mom is that doesn’t judge me, regardless of what I do.  The choices I make are completely up to me, and she knows that.  She always says, ‘As long as you’re happy, I support you.’”

I realized how much they shaped me.  They let me make my own mistakes.  They help me when I need it.  They taught me that love and support can get you through anything, but you have to be strong enough to get through. I haven’t always been strong enough, but I feel like I am a strong, confident adult because of my upbringing. I want to share this attitude with my current and future family. 

I am a teacher because I love family.  The classroom is my family.  The students are my kids.  For some, literally.   I’m not sure if I needed Leah or if Leah needed me more.  I think we needed each other at this point in our lives.  We needed to know that there was someone out there who cared enough.  She needed to know that someone loved her enough to kick her ass into gear, and love her when an ass kicking didn’t work.  I needed someone to show me how real a family is beyond traditional definition.  I have always said I have had more than I should, money, time, love; I have more than any one person deserves.   All I want is to share, but I had no idea when I cooked a dinner, or took a math book (god am I really that nerdy?) that I would find such a great kid to love. 

It’s amazing that while miles separate me from my “family” I know that if I were to move back to North Carolina tomorrow I could pick right back up.  I am doing great here in Bahrain.  I really do love it and am feeling good about my decision.  However tonight was the first night where I realized how much I am missing back home.  I knew that the world would go on without me, I knew that I would go on and do great things (parents also taught me to be overly confident).  However, I forgot that I would miss the great accomplishments of people.  

I am missing relationships form and get serious and I guarantee I will miss an engagement or wedding amongst my closest friends. I missed Leslie run a half marathon.   I am missing Emily graduate from college in a VERY surprising three years.  And the one who brought on this sapfest, I am missing Leah be an adult, so I want to say that I am proud…of everyone, because in some way or another, I hope to have a little bit of the faith, love and courage that the people I am missing tonight have, to do all of these great things that I am missing.   Keep trucking.  I love everyone.  I miss everyone, but all it takes is someone behind you, pushing you, with arms to catch you, to remind you that you can achieve anything you set your heart out to accomplish. 

How appropriate that we read this in class today…

But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go through your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”

09 October 2012

Nurses wear suits

I'm at the hospital, not for me, with a friend. I'll update about her nausea and abdominal pain later (hypothesis is appendix, but really we're hoping for just BGs).
Here is what happens though.....
Go in to ER.  Everyone looks at you like you are crazy.  Apparently you only go to ER if they deem you to be an emergency.  My friend was not, but they escorted us to check in.  We waited for about 5 mins before they took care of her health insurance forms.  They called her back to triage, which is where they took her temperature and blood pressure.  That's it.  Then they sent us to the doctor.  The doctor looked at her (before the nurse) said all was fine, but he wanted samples and an ultrasound.  We did the samples, well she did them I stood there.  We left for a couple of hours and went back for the results.  Because this time we were there at night, the wait was a little longer, but she saw her doctor from earlier in the day, and a new doctor in an hours time.  She then went to the pharmacy and got her meds (nothing serious, but so glad we went to the hospital) and well...that was it.  It cost 5BD ($13).  The only annoying thing was that we had to leave and come back.

Quick facts about hospitals in Bahrain:

  • Nurses wear suit jackets made out of scrub material over their cutesy scrubs.
  • You queue for everything with a number.  And they ring an annoying doorbell to update you on which number is up...hope you don't have a headache!
  • You are constantly on the move.  I thought I would sit and wait for a long time with her...it wasn't even worth it to set up my computer.  
  • I watched a guy pass chocolates on a tray to the staff . I'm serious.
  • They have modesty nurses.  A person who is meant to protect your modesty.  My friend had a male doctor with a female nurse in the room.  The nurse pulled my friends shirt up for the doctor...that's it.  We have a friend who had her gallbladder taken out last year and she had a nurse primarily meant to keep her covered the entire time.  
  • Security is not big at the hospital...we walked where ever we wanted to
  • I already said it but 5BD....for the whole day....awesome

06 October 2012

What is brunch?

So there is something you should know about Bahrain, it is an awkward blend of Islamic culture, western ways and social status'. 

The island is smaller than most US capitals.  With that being said, half of the island is desert where large (religious) families live in compounds.  So basically everything I do is within Manama which is probably the size of Durham. 

So within this tiny area, you have a smattering of cultures from the traditional Muslims, to Hindu, to westerners like myself.  It is also a very hypocritical island.  This is like a judgement free zone as long as you do not mind being judged.  Muslims drink here, and some even eat pork, but don't you dare say that outloud.  The westerners all date eachother and can trace their relationships through others, but dont discuss who did what with who at the party, unless they are out of earshot.

So what do you do on this Muslim island? 
Shop: the stores here are just like home, including varying levels of slut tasticness.  The lingerie stores are worse than Victorias Secret with their mannequins.  The clothes are all short, or backless.  Malls are extravagant and over the top.  But you better believe they have a mosque and a call to prayer.

Pool: it is hot here so pool parties are common.  Hotels will have pool parties. However, just to note, most of the time, you do not go swimming.  You just look cute.  Because it is a time to be seen, be social and not judge who is judging who.  Oh and dress in very little clothing that costs more than my rent.  I think I have figured out there is a mathematical relationship between clothes and conservativeness...you can dress anyway you want to as long as the cost of the clothes is worth it,  if x=amount covered and y=cost of clothes then x+y>the cost of judgement.  This does not apply to women who wear the long robes, because some of them cost more than my house, not mortgage payment, but my house.

Eat:  food is available anytime of day, with free delivery, anytime.  There is also any type of food you can imagine, local cuisine, mexican, east asian, etc.  The portions are not huge, but they always want you to try as much as you can.  If you are offered food, it is also very rude to turn it down.  Of course you will like anything they serve, otherwise you are so american.

Drink: alcohol is not widely available,  not all restaurants have a liquor license.  It is actually illegal to sell alcohol to a Muslim.  However when they have alcohol, they do it right.  The liquor store delivers and you get a discount when you do that.  Restaurants always try to get you a double when they can.  I've been in restaurants with men covered drinking a bottle of wine, and then judging me for wearing a short dress.  I was at a party with a friend from Lebanon.  Another friend was there and he was from the same city as her.  She drank her drink out of a juice glass because he may tell somebody back home that she was drinking.  His rum and coke looked great in the coke bottle too. 

Well anyways, the hotels around here combine two of these things into a 4 hour marathon of all you can eat and drink brunch.  Stations are set up in different areas with different foods and drinks.  They keep your champagne glass full at all times.  It is also the place to be seen.  I knew people there and I've only been on the island for a month!

After brunch, you continue drinking.  Then you go to a pool party.  This was my Friday.  

And as I say in my perfected Arabic voice "this is how we do." 

Just so there is no confusion, it is a lot of fun here, and I do like it :)