12.15.2014

Bahrain Hypnopompic

Shaika Spot admiring Kali


Sami Bey also likes to hang out by the Kali alter












So... I've (re)discovered Bikram Yoga... By 're-discovering', I mean that I took one class probably 10 years ago back home on Maui.  I'm an Ashtanga Girl so I can't say that I enjoyed Bikram enough to go back at that time.  It was just something I hadn't done before so wanted to try it out.  As a yogini, I think one of the basic tenets of being a 'discipline' is to remain flexible- in anything.  It's not just about your body transformation.  It's more about your mind actually.  

 I had many questions at the time.  At that time Bikram Yoga was just starting to see some action within the yoga junkie crowd on Maui. It was soon to become pretty firmly entrenched into accepted yoga society, but still remained a mystery to us Vinyasa Flow faithfuls. I wondered about the first movement of the series- the standing tall, clasping your hands and placing your knuckles under your chin while breathing in and lifting elbows while chin was down, and then exhaling and bringing elbows down down to chest level again and repeating.  I thought it looked silly (still do) but more than that, I was trying to figure out the health benefit.  How did the arms thing help you to oxygenate your lungs further- or was that even the point?  I wondered why there were no inversions in the series. I also remember the intense heat (who can forget)... Bikram yoga uses heaters to heat the room to 40ºC/104ºF with about a 40% humidity.  This speedball of crazy consititues Bikrim Wonderland... This is optimal because the heat is:

  • Keeping the body from overheating (contrary to popular misconception)
  • Protecting the muscles to allow for deeper stretching
  • Detoxing the body (open pores to let toxins out)
  • Thinning the blood to clear the circulatory system
  • Increasing heart rate for better cardiovascular workout
  • Improving strength by putting muscle tissue in optimal state for reorganization
  • Reorganize the lipids (fat) in the muscular structure

So, I came. I saw. I experienced. I left.  I never returned- until now. Fast-forward to a decade later.  One day Angie-baby and I are driving around, as we always do for 'sport.' We were driving through al Hamala and we both noticed a building with a sign, "Pure Yoga".  Yes we stopped that car's forward movement, backed up and went through a trying process of navigating Bahrain's roads where one can't easily back-track without going through a series of hoops.  We made it and walked into the studio.  Much to Angie-baby's delight, the words "Bikram Yoga" flowed out of the chicks mouth that was working.  I was analyzing those words more carefully... 

The studio was nice, clean and I knew from experience how involved Bikram was.  Thinking back to that one experience, and comparing it to the yoga experience I've been having here in Bahrain (more like a series of stretches with no rhythm or flow), I decided to also hop on the Bikram Bandwagon... The next morning I was in my first Bikram Yoga class in ten years at 11am.  It was pure hell.  I made it though and felt grateful afterwards. Two days later I went back for more and had a great class. Last night was my third night and Angie-baby joined in. It was my evening class.  I must say that I am more of a morning yoga girl.  For one thing, I hadn't eaten a single meal that day.  Earlier, at the university, I ate a few stalks of coveted celery (actually, celery is everywhere here, unlike Turkey, but it is still expensive) with some peanut butter.  I had a few squares of dark chocolate leftover from my birthday. I had a stick of Seitan.  I got home at 2:30pm and thought about eating, but remembered class was in 3 hours so halas, I ate nothing.

In retrospect this was not wise, but certainly was the wisest choice to make at the time.  I struggled through class.  It was so hot and humid, but I made it and, again, felt fantastic afterwards.  We celebrated by heading to al Abraj in Wakif area for dinner!  Man did it feel good to sit there while my body was steaming. It was a particularly satisfying meal indeed!

As we left and got back on Ali al Ahd Highway, we realized that Bahrain's National Day celebrations had already begun.  How delightful it was to cruise 'the strip'.  Cars were jam-packed all decked out in red and while with the Bahrain flags flowing out of all cars.  Children were hoisted up out of the sunroofs and smiling and waving (very dangerous, but people seem indifferent to it here and do it on a regular basis actually). Men were dressed up in their national costumes and everybody was animated.  Cars were still driving crazy.  Most cars had pictures of the king somewhere on them- like some kind of temporary sticker that adheres to windows.  Many even had these regal scenes on their front windshield.  I couldn't figure out how they could see when driving... 

Bahrain's young men were flowing outside their cars.  They had squirt guns, some sort of spray snow and all cars were communicating with each other.  Many had Anonymous masks on- which I found incredibly interesting... for many reasons while I won't go into here, now. Many were looking at us and trying to talk to us, "Hello.  How are you? What is your name?"  So, the environment was festive and it was so interesting, this nationalistic display here in my tiny host island nation.

Bahrain during National Day celebrations is totally decked out.  Red and white lights are strung EVERYWHERE.  They are on the trees, bushes, overpasses, etc.  Elaborate decorations are put up EVERYWHERE as well.  I mean, you can see Bahrain from space during National Day celebrations I would think. I believe that cars simply 'cruise' the main drags all around the island. December 16th (National Day) Highway happens to be near to where I live. Cars from all around the island likely travel here to drive on this iconic strip?  Who knows. All I know is that the highway was littered with cars full of merryment. We all had one mission.  To reach Riffa Roundabout Clocktower.  This is 'the strip' headquarters.  As we neared the roundabout traffic was at a standstill.  Many groups of cars were not singing, etc. At this point it had already taken us one hour to travel maybe 4 kilometers. Our friend, Mademoiselle S, called us to see what we were doing.  She was right behind us with her sisters doing the same thing we were!  

Once we got to the roundabout, we realized that the police were there and had shut down our exit to go home.  So, we went past and headed into East Riffa to take another route- along with everybody else.  When we finally got back on track to take our exit off of Sheikh Salman Highway, I asked, "Do you want to do it again?" It was just a joke as we were both talking about how exhausted we were from yoga class and eating.  We were both so excited to get to our homes and just sleep peacefully.  It was after 11pm at this point.  It took us 1.5 hours to get back from Hamad Town Roundabout 0- where the festivities began. We both looked at each other and decided that we would check it out since we knew that if traffic was congested up ahead, we had an ace in the hole- our shortcut to work every morning when traffic was piled up going towards Riffa Clocktower Roundabout.  As we neared our shortcut we saw the traffic in a holding pattern.  We opted to take the shortcut.  Enough was enough.  We followed a bunch of cars with their flags waving to try to find a route to our apartments and successfully managed to find a direct route!

Shaika Spot and Sami Bey were pretty happy to see me and were jumping all about.  I dropped into bed and immediately got out my computer to check what was going on across island on Twitter.  Of course, not all the population is excited about National Day, so there were also some demonstrations in the villages. It was now 2am and I was exhausted, which brings me to the original purpose of this post...

I woke up this morning at 9am fresh from a vivid, bizarre, hypnopompic dream... I've been dreaming a lot (or at least remembering my dreams) since I started doing Bikram Yoga.  Perhaps it's because I'm exhausting myself so sleeping soundly?  I don't really know.  I am having incredible dreams though. I had a bike and was biking on a road that seemed familiar from my childhood in SoCal. Suddenly I was biking on water (a recent flooded road?) I realized I was biking on water and this seemed so incredible to me.  I kept on biking.  I somehow managed to find a small dock where some boats were turned over on it.  I took refuge on one of these.  Suddenly one of the boats was pushed into the water, and then the one next to me.  Next thing I knew, I was in the water on my bike.  But I was sinking this time.  I wasn't scared.  A (row) boat captain saved me- I think.  Now I'm at this row boat captain's little A-frame house in the charming woods.  I like him.  There is a 'Mad-Hatteresque' type of dinner party happening. I am involved! I decide to sneak away when I'd had enough (as I'm prone to do).

The End.

12.13.2014

Treasure Chest


Every day might be a Hollyday for me, but not every day is Christmas!  No, it's not here yet but it's definitely feeling festive over here in the Middle East Sandbox.  There are holiday lights everywhere. Surely you must be able to view all this from space.  Of course, Bahrain's National Day is coming up on December 16th.  We also have the 17th off as well so it certainly seems like the holiday season.  I know many of you are looking at the above picture and have already decided what my early present is, but you will never guess what it actually is!  First off, Angie-baby and Sami found it in the souk and immediately thought of me.  It's not like I was naughty and unwrapped my present early as they simply handed it to me...

What it actually is folks... is an electric incense burner that works in the cigarette lighter of a car!  Amazing that there is a market for this here!  I mean, incense is burned everywhere and I have many incense burners, but who would have thought you need one in your car as well!  This is so brilliant and makes me smile.  I can't wait to try it out tomorrow morning driving to work! 

Incense is a way of life here in the Gulf countries.  I have made a regular habit of visiting 'my' incense guy, Bacim, down in the Manama Souk.  He always educates me on the various ouds.  He is always giving me mixtures of things he makes so I can sample it at home.  One thing he has, and I never saw the need for, until now, is a great selection of electric incense burners...  Because I burn so much incense, it has become increasingly cumbersome for me to continue lighting charcoal coils... Oh the burden of scent satisfaction.  So, my next step in this big game of oud appreciation is to purchase a burner.  And I think I know the one I want... It is a camel.  It is so cheesy-cool that I MUST have it.

There are many good things about burning incense.  Angie-baby made me smile one day when she came over and picked up Sami-Bey (which is no easy task as he isn't exactly 'lithe'). She said, "Oh, Sami Bey smells like incense- nice."  Hee hee.  Yes, the kitties have no fear of incense anymore.  On one of our many adventures into abaya shopping, one time a store owner told us that women regularly smoke out their abayas with incense so they smell nice.  Makes total sense to me.  I would want to smoke out my abaya as well.  Some ouds are so intoxicating that they make me swoon, and of course one would want people around them to swoon and bask in exotic smells. 

I'm currently looking for another Arabian perfume.  This is also a great shopping adventure: going to the souks and smelling perfumes.  It is great fun and I have a guy who knows 'my smell' that I can consult now.  He even offers to lure us in his shop with fresh Arabic coffee!  There is a store I've been wanting to go into since last year at A`ali Mall that sells super expensive scents, but I'm thinking is likely worth it.  After all, there is no pricetag too high for a 'swoon' effect...

In other news, it's been a pretty great weekend.  I started going to Bikrim Yoga (gasp)!  I guess out of necessity (it's the closest yoga studio to my house) it started, but am finally starting to enjoy it.  For those that don't know, Bikrim Yoga ("hot" yoga) is with heaters so it's super hot in class and everybody is dripping with sweat.  It's a 90-minute class with a prescribed set of postures that work the largest muscles first to the smallest.  It's a complete way to warm up your muscle groups properly- as the story goes.  As my story goes, it is grueling and sweaty and slippery.  But, it works for my schedule.  It's a bit pricy, but isn't all yoga these days.  I guess it's comparable to Hawaii prices. 

Friday night our gang went down south into the desert- where most all Bahrainis camp out in fall and winter.  Families rent camps for the entire season, and it is a big event.  We were headquartered at what I termed, 'young male camp' because it was all dudes on 3-wheelers and motorcycles popping wheeling up/down the strip where food was being sold. Nary a female was to be seen.  So, we were quite the attraction- especially being escorted by a local dude... It was great entertainment though.  We took out our camp chairs next to the car, and ate food and drank tea and Arabic coffee and watched all the shenanigans- and there were a lot of shenanigans.  There was definitely a  lot of testosterone overflowing.  A good time was had by all basically.  Again, what we make of our 'roadtrips' on this tiny island is a pretty big thing actually.  It is definitely my favorite pastime to just cruise around.  Too bad most drivers here are so reckless though and love to tailgate super fast...

Friday day I went to the navy base to watch Exodus: Gods and Kings (FYI, I'm not in the military, but because my teaching grant is funded by the DOS Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and because I'm in Bahrain, I get access to the base.  This, of course, is most useful when needing to purchase alcohol at super cheap prices). Even though the theatres in this country are super huge and luxurious, etc, I don't like going to movies here.  Everybody has their cell phones on, and lights are lighting up and people are whispering (which is like screaming while watching a movie, or just as annoying), etc.  Another annoyance is that most movies are 'edited' (I suppose that's a safe term to use). Some movies are even banned from theatres here- like Exodus. Why? Well, specifically for Exodus, which is about Moses being taken away from his (Jewish) land and being in Pharoah's court and then being banished and heading into Christian land to settle, etc.  Well, none of that is a problem actually.  The problem is that God is personified. With this movie, 'He' is a small boy WITH A BRITISH ACCENT... Enough about the movie as I don't want to spoil it for anyone.  Let me just say that Christian Bale is a pretty good Moses. Ben Kingsley is an added bonus. As well as the dude from Breaking Bad...

I had a friend that wanted to go on base so I met her out at the front entrance. I first saved her Thanksgiving, and now I saved her Christmas so I'm feeling like a good Samaritan for sure. We have this thing where when we finally finish with all her shopping, we head to the bar and have outrageous drinks while eating Taco Bell.  Yes, the base comes in quite handy actually... It's a dose of America in a foreign land.  This is definitely a foreign concept for me, yet I have to admit that I enjoy the benefits it gives me... One thing that is particularly charming in a strange way is when you are at the movie theatre.  As soon as the lights go out and before the trailers start playing, everybody stands up at attention while the National Anthem is played.  I'll just say it's an odd experience.  Priceless though in terms of watching a movie without cell phones going off... Worth it?  YES!!! You can also take outside food and drink into the theatre!  Another added benefit for sure...

Life is a treasure chest of events to savior and indeed I found many treasures to behold this week!

12.04.2014

Tis the season

   

 I've successfully made it to my favorite season here in Year Two for me in the Middle East. The weather is cold (mid 80's during the day to low 70's at night), all the windows are open to let that cool, fresh air escape into my apartment, I have Christmas lights strung up, etc... The highlights though are certainly my cats- which have magically turned into lap cats this year- only when it suits them of course... It generally suits them when I'm on the couch reading, on the computer researching or in bed sleeping- which covers a lot of time while at home.

     Speaking of reading, somehow I've finally broken the spell I've been under for the past few years entailing only reading about politics and ancient history- mostly concerning the MENA region. I have Mademoiselle S to thank for this.  Let me just say this so you all know.  When I step foot into your house for the first time, I'm scanning. I'm scanning the kitchen, living areas, all the nick-knacks, etc.  I'm scanning to get an idea of how you live. I find this fascinating because we are all divided up ethnically, culturally, regionally but we all find ourselves in some of the same old, familiar patterns that give us comfort.

     For instance, it generally makes me nervous to go into a super clean, organized household.  I get over it, of course.  I think we all have this vision of what we want to be a part of.  I mean sure I like looking at architectural magazines and see these fantastic shots of modern living with the absence of tchotchke (I just looked up that word for spelling purposes and found out that it is specifically a Jewish-American term, which I find interesting because I heard this word as a kid growing up and we weren't Jewish) on every flat space that really doesn't serve a purpose but to clutter open space. The reality though is that I need to live, and I enjoy seeing how others live in their dwellings.  I like to see what's out in open view.  These are the most useful things I find.  For some it's the channel changer/tv.  For many here in this part of the world, myself included, it's incense burners. The favorite couch has the best view. The displays of items collected on travels (this is a big one for me in my particular dwellings), etc.

     So at Mademoiselle S's family home, I zeroed in on her cat (hard to not single out as it's the largest kitty kat I've ever laid my eyes on) and on her bookshelf. Yes, the coveted bookshelf.  To understand the dilemma of having to move and needing to get rid of many books... it is THIS dilemma that I love to find in other people as well.  It's like an instant attraction...

     Speaking of attraction, another side story here. I was at City Center with Angie-baby a few weeks back and we were having coffee at Starbuckys when we both spotted it. Him. HIM. Yes, the Purple Shoes man in the thobe with something unfamiliar in his hand.  What is that he is carrying that is not a phone?  Closer look please.  Stay discreet please.  Slowly turn chair around for a better look.  Oh my goodness!  It's a book!  It's a literature book! Yes, instant attraction.  I, we actually, admired from afar for a good, long time... To finish off this tangent so I can get back to my previous tangent (this post), I will say that Mr. Purple Shoes was spotted yet again at City Center last week.  Angie-baby spotted him while Mademoiselle S & I were busy being lame and not spotting him.  We've decided Purple Shoes is a regular at City Center, and perhaps Starbuckys. We will continue on with our reconnaissance mission concerning this unique specimen.

     So, there I was petting a 30 pound cat that likely has caused a permanent divet in the bed as Felix no doubt has a favorite spot in the bed. My eyes were naturally scanning the room.  It looked lived in.  I always like that.  I love to see what people surround themselves with that are useful and purposeful.  After trying to ignore the books for a long enough time (I was, of course, fascinated with the kitties of the house), I went to sit on the floor in direct view of the bookcase.  I started out slowly, but as I scanned titles, I touched every book. This is like divulging a dirty little secret with a definite kink to it- touching others books.

     Books tell so much about a person.  I mean, look at Purple Shoes.  Someone I don't even know, but had this ultimate trifecta going on: purple shoes, a book, handsome.  It's an unbeatable line-up really.  The man likes to read books- at the mall (okay, I admit the mall thing is a bit weird as I don't particularly care for mall rats).  Still, I want a closer look.  It wasn't just a cool iPad cover, was it?

     Back to Hamad Town.  So, this bookshelf had many 'foreign' books in that there were a lot of titles that I wasn't familiar with.  Or, I was familiar with, but haven't read as they weren't my genre of choice.  As I looked at the plethora of books, I wondered why I haven't read some of the titles.  Why wasn't modern literature my genre?  I instantly knew that I must read some of these coveted titles and educate myself of something that was clearly lacking in my personality, I suddenly decided.  What would I do if I ever had a casual conversation with Purple Shoes and Toni Morrison was brought up?  What would I do?  Would I try to bluff my way through the conversation?  Come on, I didn't even know that she was African-American... We left Mademoiselle S's house late that evening.  I was carrying a copy of one of her favorite Morrison books, Sula.

     Fast forward today this same encounter with Purple Shoes and I would say, "Yes!  I found 'Sula" to be a bittersweet sign of the times of post World War I in the American Midwest."

Tis the season- to read.

11.21.2014

Whose weird world is it anyway?

It's a bright, beautiful sunny-yet-not-hot Saturday morning and I'm in bed with a hot cuppa joe at 11am.  I know it seems late, but I've already accomplished a host of chores: fed the kitties, given the kitties a fresh litter box, fed the neighbor's kitten, put in a load of laundry and made coffee... I know, right? Intense, rigorous schedule I have to keep up with.

I've been thinking about immigration- as that's in the news in America these days. So, immigration, emigration, and work, and lack-of-work-necessitating-need-to-emigrate, etc.  I think back to my life home on Maui.  I was always working.  I had a good life, but I was always working.  Sure, I took lengthy vacations- because I could.  I had a boss, or bosses, that let me.  Why? Because I worked all the time, I suppose.  And I did a good job, I suppose...

I also suspect that it was because of my profession.  An archaeologist certainly isn't a run-of-the-mill profession.  I guess that affords us with some liberties because we're a weird bunch, we are.  Indeed!  This is the problem though. I didn't realize I was weird because I was always an archaeologist- except for the stints where I was a wanna-be clothing designer, waitress, bartender, etc.

So now that I'm teaching, I see it is still a 'weird' profession.  I should get more specific I suppose so as not to offend teachers... Teaching EFL (English as a foreign language) means you are teaching in another country than America (if you are American).  So, EFL teachers are, mostly, weird.  I mean this with the utmost compassion and respect and analytical, critical analysis... Hee hee!

Here's my example to defend my weirdness: I am single.  I have no kids.  I work some.  I travel a lot. No one in this industry thinks this is weird... Sure I have some secrets- biggies actually :) yet I consider myself fairly 'normal' in my 'weirdness.' There are far more EFL teachers out there who have moved on from 'weird' to weirdo, in my humble opinion.  It seems to work out for all, I guess, is my point.  It's kinda like an extension of being an archaeologist- except you have to dress nicer, and not cuss (I'm working on this still).

As I was focused on watching my coffee settle into the french press, I realized that I post a lot of pictures of my travels yet I have hardly posted pictures about my home life- except for the kitties, and when I go out and about here in the Kingdom of Bahrain.  I have loads of pictures of my house and surroundings so I thought I would post them for all to see.  I suppose many of my friends- especially in Hawaii- are curious to my humdrum existence here in terms of what I do when I'm doing nothing...

My favorite way of being active when 'doing nothing' is to grab my neighbor and just drive around.  Of course I like it better when she drives us around because then I can take  pictures!  We affectionately coin this 'doing nothing' time "Sunday driving" (on Fridays, of course).  Friday mornings, and even afternoons, are perfect driving opportunities because not a lot of people are out on the roads.  Firstly because it's the start of the weekend, and also because Fridays are the big mosque days here in the Muslim world. By the way, Friday mornings before prayer are the absolute best times to go grocery shopping, stop in at Viva or Batelco and top off your phone/internet credits, etc. and basically anything where a transaction has to occur- for the same above-mentioned reasons.

So, the following pictures constitute our (mostly) Sunday driving excursions. Enjoy: Oh, wait.  Just one note.  As most of these pictures were taken while driving, they are not of the best quality.  So there's that...

Okay.  Sunday driving take 2:








Flamenco in Manama Souk!



home away from home?



preparing for Diwali celebrations at the Manama Souk


Diwali celebrations at the Hindu temple inside the souk with Mr. Sharad, who runs the temple!




in the hood



heavy






looking glass

preparing for a night at the theatre!  A swank venue!


























Riffa Clocktower Roundabout


the new police station...