I'm not one to look back. I focus forward. I'm on a trajectory, to where (spatially) I know not. Yoga is my cocoon. What I transform into, I have an idea. I go forward with this. I like the metamorphosis. I like shedding. I want to dig deeper into this universe, and that means to burrow deeper into my psyche.
It all came to me in yoga class yesterday. I moved through the postures and it was so exquisite that I was left nearly breathless. In a world that is becoming increasingly difficult, in terms of strife, conflict and ego, I find it peaceful to be able to check all that baggage at the front door of the yoga studio. Yes, it can even happen here in Bahrain.
This place... is such a dichotomy. There is something that weighs heavy on my heart currently: The politics of labor here. The politics of pomp and circumstance. I am white. I have a blue passport. I am privileged. It is apparent every single day here. I don't forget it. I can't forget it. Every public space I enter into here is constantly darkened when a worker addresses me by, "Madam." There are a lot of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Filipino workers here (many more as well, but the most populous). They have to address me this way. It makes me sick. Of the personal relationships I cultivate, it starts by forcing people to see me as simply 'Holly.'
Recently a yoga teacher called me 'madam' and I was shocked. A yoga teacher is sensei. A yoga teacher generates respect and gratitude and a sense of knowledge possessed that a practicing yogini or yogi wishes to attain. I was silently screaming because we are both a product of our host culture, in which we, sometimes robotically fall into our expected personas. I was screaming silently because I take for granted that I can shed that expected persona. A true first-world problem to whine over certainly (and whine I did with red wine afterwords last night).
Another observation of mine includes for the task of adjustments during yoga class and the dilemma of male-female roles in this society. A few weeks ago in class I observed that only the males in class were getting adjustments (from a male instructor). As I was longingly looking at the glorious adjustment taking place on the mat next to me, it obviously showed on my face. My teacher, bless him, looked me straight in the eye and asked if I wanted an adjustment. I know I lit up at that moment.
I don't know how else to describe my thoughts here on the subject. I am grateful to practice yoga here in a traditional environment in a class that is not segregated- as all other yoga classes here are that I've found so far. Why do these issues persist in society? Well it is a rhetorical question because I know the (my) answer. Most all reading this blog know the answer. We all remain silent on it though as it is barely tolerable and approachable subject matter. For reasons I can't exactly share without a lot of painful back-peddling.
My freedom. My freedom to live a life where this isn't an issue is indeed an onus to contemplate over here where matters are more complicated. Maybe, though, I am looking at this from such an ingrained culture-bound angle that I can't see what is actually in front of me?
What do I do with this white privilege that lets me glide in/out of scenes in the Kingdom 'under the radar' so to speak? I'm not complaining. I'm contemplating. I contemplate that as a western female, I 'get away with things here' that many can't pull off. My actions are simply shrugged off as permissible or tolerable because 'I'm not from here.'
Anyway, this is me. January 1st, 2015 2 6:30 am. I'm supposed to be in yoga class right now, but I decided to let the Gin/Tonics from last evening digest a bit more and attend 10 am class instead. Besides, it is chilly here in the Kingdom- 17º C (63F) and the kitties are snuggled inside my blanket purring.
Another year begins and im`ma just keep pondering and penning... namaste
Mele Kalikimaka a me Hau`oli Makahiki hou! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year y'all Spreading the Holidaze Cheer
What is the spirit of Christmas I ask? How to celebrate the Spirit of Christmas in the Middle East? It's not difficult as my sweet host island Bahrain looks all decked out for the holidays- their holidays albeit... Bahrain's flag is red and white- to symbolize the people and the blood they shed for their freedom (they are still shedding it BTW). Their National Day celebrations were all last week, but the physical day is December 16th. New Year's is also a huge celebration here- as elsewhere in the world. So, the island is decked out with lights that likely can be seen from space. There is also many, MANY
So, here i am on Christmas morning at my computer to divulge my thoughts to you. My Christmas Spirit you ask? Well, I have my Cuppa Joe next to me- with hot chocolate and Peppermint Schnapps (thanks Navy base). What time is it you ask? Why, it's 7:30 am. Why am I not at work you may ask? (Muslims don't celebrate Christmas- obviously). Our dean at the university said we could take the day off if we wanted. I don't teach on Thursdays anyway (or Mondays or Tuesdays) so, why not?
So I'm steadily sipping my delicious coffee and I have the Christmas Pineapple lights on and Frankincense (from Oman) wafting throughout the house. Here's a picture for you to visualize.
|The kitties love catnip :)|
|I'm in the Holidaze Spirit... Let the festivities begin!|
I've got Bob Marley blaring (to drown out the principal of the boys elementary school across the street on her daily morning tirade with the loud speaker), the kitties are high on fresh catnip and playing with their toys, and I am in my own alternative state. Too bad I couldn't make it to 6:30 am yoga class this morning though... Oh well. That could have possibly helped for what's in store later today- 2 brunches...
I'm hanging with some friends in Sar for lunch, then hitting up my acupuncturist before heading to my host Bahraini family that invited me to their Christmas Supper celebrations (Madam S is also part Native American- Nez Pierce). Tonight I think we're hitting up Al Bastan holiday market at the Formula One racetrack, or the Manama Souk and Bab al Bahrain.
The holiday season here is pretty special and beautiful. The weather could not be more spectacular: low 80's. I've got the Saudi Arabia contingent coming over tomorrow morning- perhaps with my sister in tow. I know it's going to be a festive weekend as they will all be geared up for some sorta naughty shenanigans, which includes copious amounts of adult libations...
I'm thinking they need to go to the horse races, the al Bastan Market, Adliya fun, Manama Souk, the camel farm, and of course Rik's Kountry Kitchen... Oh, let's not forget Sherlock Holmes Bar- as that watering hole holds a special place in my heart- always. It's funny, when my friends come over from Saudi, of course they are up for da kine adult libations. Now, because I have easy access to it here, I hardly partake... So, party's on! Speaking of which, I just might partake in a shot of tequilla as well this Christmas Morning... Why not? Yea.
Yea, Bob Marley & Busta Rhymes singing it up! Yes-I. I'm feeling irie listening to Rastaman Chant. I definitely CAN see clearly now. It's been a while, but it's definitely a bright, sun shiny day. So lookie here, Master Sami Bey and Shaika Spot received a Christman present from Auntie Starr:
|The kits got a catnip toy from Auntie Starr.|
2014 has been a great year of exploration, commitment and happiness.
|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:
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).
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!
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.