Monday, 19 April 2010

Tales of Bahrain - Burqa

Having booked a holiday to a Muslim country where women wear Burqas had me slightly nervous to say the least.  As some of you may know, my children are very European and not at all prudish, so, I had to instruct the girls to please pack their bikini tops (no topless sunbathing this time...) and some longsleeved shirts and trousers. They could not understand why we would ever need those in the Bahraini heat, but I insisted and they were all packed into the suitcase.
Having gained a few 'winter pounds' myself, I was quite happy not to have to 'show' it all... so I too left well equipped and with the proper attire.

We arrived at the airport and I couldn't help but feel a little intimidated by all the men in their white 'gowns' properly called a 'thawb' or 'thobe'..the few women we encountered were dressed in Burqas and so my first impression was made.

I came in thinking all men here were evil and women had to be humble and had no rights whatsoever.

As we took our tours of the local shoppingmalls...yes, I admit I have to check those out before any other local sightseeing or museums...I started noticing that there does not seem to be a set of rules about how much of the Burqa outfit you are supposed to wear. Some women wear the complete thing, covering everything even the eyes...well, they have a bit of see through cloth so they don't trip or bump into anybody as that is a big no no.  (I have to say that I wonder how the men recognise their own they carry some sort of tracking device ?!) Whereas other women only wear something on their head in the style of Amy Winehouse's hairdo and skinny jeans look. Another group likes to wear the Burqa dress (abaya), but leaves out any hair or head accesories and then there are women that dress too tartish to even mention.....
Spending the afternoon at the Ritz one day I even saw a Burkini !!! Yes....a Burqa...bikini !!! It looks magnificent ! And to tell you the truth it would have looked better on me than my skimpy, barely covering my rolls, bikini. My only concern was how excruciatingly warm the whole thing looked... how cold it must feel when exiting the water ... and also how drenched one must feel when wearing it all day at the pool as it is a one piece body suit type thing. They came in all colours and I have to say it made them look like someone straight out of a Star Trek episode....for those of you of the next generation....I guess Avatar would do too...

The proper every day Burqa's are by no means plain black. I have seen them embroidered colourfully or even with Swarovsky crystals and diamonds and I swear I even think I saw one that said ''Juicy" in glittery letters on the sleeve !!! ;-)
My sister informed me that there are many couturiers who design Burqa's, it's just not something I would ever have imagined, but there is a whole Burka Fashion World out there.... !!!

Therefore it is a faux pas not to accompany your beautiful designer Burqa by an even more expensive designer bag. And so a vast array of Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucci are trustworthy companions in this fashion 'marriage' ( you must pronounce this last word with a French accent for the sounds more sophisticated that way).

So, once my eyes had been opened to this I observed every single lady in a Burqa with great curiousity and admiration.
I also saw these same women out shopping with their husbands, (now to me that was a very progressive thing, as the ex hated going shopping for clothes with me...) patiently waiting on lounge chairs and of course happily paying for stacks of, what to me seemed useless buys as no one would ever see them wearing any of it. But even so it was all bought and probably worn underneath their Burqa and indoors when home alone.

It has intrigued me tremendously, and I have to say that being someone who feels that a person's eyes are the doorway to their soul, I found it much more of an intimate experience to often only have their eyes to look at or into, much more so than any low cut top or maxi mini skirt could ever have revealed.

So I will one day leave here with a different view....

Muslim Burqa wearing women are fashionistas and like all women....they love it when the man picks up the tab !!!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Tales of Bahrain - The Ritz

The Expat life is a very unique one. Slight dissimilarities occur in varying overseas countries through different customs and local habits, but generally expat life is very much alike.

I grew up in such a life of luxury and now once again find myself experiencing it on a visit to my sister who lives abroad. So many memories of it are coming back to me, and being here sometimes makes it somewhat a surreal deja vu.

Vangie my sister's household help is addicted to karaoke. Every night she retreats into her own quarters and sings the night away. It is a form of stress relief I am told,  ...of walking the dog, doing the household chores and sometimes babysitting the kids. She has two of her own as well, grown ups themselves now, as super Vangie is apparently 52 but doesn't look a day over 40.

My sister and her family are members of the Ritz Club. This sounds horribly posh and in fact is....but it is a very normal thing to do if one lives abroad. It's part of socializing and enjoying the perks of life overseas. (Not necessarily The Ritz, but any nice club with a pool, some children's facilities and preferably a beach and good food, will do). The Ritz membership opens only for short periods of time and only platinum members are allowed to join, this to ensure that the right crowd fills the scene of course making it even more desirable. Platinum membership...meaning you have to bring in loads of 'platinum' ( to join. So, now for a week, I too have been a 'platinum' member as family of the lucky few are allowed to visit and enjoy the an extra price of course....of...even more platinum money! If I would have been Vangie, the household help, I could have gone in for free with my sister, as members are more than encouraged to bring their nannies or maids to tend to the children.

You pay for service, naturally, as fantastic security is standing guard at the entrance, checking every single car with an oversized dentist mirror, which is placed beneath each vehicle for accurate observation, checking for bombs and boobs...(well, they don't check out the boobs on purpose, it's just that most women around here dress a bit more conservatively than the beach loving expats).
Once you've parked and made your way through security at the entrance door, once again checking for suspicious objects and obvious boobs then you get to sign in properly in a guestbook by the aquarium filled with tropical fish. After that it's clear sailing to the pool and beach area, where you are treated like His Royal Highness Himself. Men rush to place your sunchairs in the right sunlight, crisp white towels are placed neatly on top of them (two of course as one is so passee). A few minutes later, and I think they time this...another guy rushes over to take your drinks order....only to come back a little while later with drinks and the bill, realising he forgot to take off the 20% platinum discount you get as platinum member....duh...!!!

All morning one wades in the sea and naps in the sun, then at mid day feeling peckish one strolls towards the lunchbar and chooses from a selection of salads, and sandwiches and once again, waiters crowd the tables like eager flies.

After lunch, a brisk walk along the man made beach scenery and then, back to the sunbed for a siesta. Awakened by a frlendly looking man, asking if you would like yet another drink. Which you do, because Bahraini temperatures make you want to rehydrate as often as possible.

At the end of the day, feeling sunkissed and tired from all the socializing, eating and trots down the same path of entry and kindly thanks all those souls that jumped at every request made.
I sometimes wonder if they were genuinely happy to hear us say, 'see you tomorrow'.... !!

PS. The kids have a completely different experience of this, if you ask them about their day at the beach, they will tell you they went fishing, crab hunting, built sand pyramids (or in our case volcanoe's) and they loved the hotdogs with french fries and ice  cream for lunch. Naturally leaving out all their fights, arguments and temper tantrums...which in most cases the nannies had to deal with anyway as the parents were too busy doing all of the above. ;-)

Stay tuned for more Bahraini tales....

Monday, 12 April 2010

Somewhere over the Rainbow

As I sit relaxing in the Bahraini sunshine, enjoying the warmth and soft sea breeze, I can hear my kids' laughter in the distance as they are playing in the clear blue water, I notice several couples. Man and wife, with their children, enjoying a day out together or perhaps even an entire holiday. They look happy, sometimes very much in love still, strolling on the beach, hand in hand kids at their sides. Often stopping to admire their children playing or swimming, talking amongst themselves, enjoying, and sharing these special moments. Moments they created together the day they decided to start and become that family.

Some couples even grow to look alike whilst others just have the same mannerisms. The one thing they all have in common is that recognisable look of sheer pride and joy between them as they watch their biggest accomplishment ever made.

Their children.

The music playing through the lunchbar speakers makes it all even more idyllic and I find myself seeing everything through rose coloured glasses. Thinking all these people are as blissfully happy as this holiday scenery is making them seem. Or maybe....they truly are happy. Maybe... some couples go through life happy to have found each other in their distant past. Is this really the case and what makes and keeps them happy?

It seems so rare these days that I can't help but wonder if only a few lucky souls are allowed to know the secret formula ?!

From what I can see, it has nothing to do with looks, physical appearance, or size. It's a strong bond and it's found within a certain glance they share with one another, unreachable to the outsiders naked eye, yet so apparent and soul reaching. A specific glance only known to them, and exchanged between them.

I lay here admiring it. Remembering what it was like and feeling proud to recognize it. Still at times sharing rare moments of it, but never quite the same. Is it possible to experience it more than once in life? Or is this something shared only within that family circle. Would I be prepared to let someone in to such private "territory". Risking letting down the newly set up "boundaries" to build new ones creating a new and totally different  "formation" and "configuration"?!

Seeing the world today through these 'happy' glasses, feels good and once again establishes hope of what may one day be found somewhere over the rainbow... for now I'm sharing this feeling without the glance, with me, myself and I .... and my own inner soul.  ;-)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Intercontinental Supermom

Packed our bags...ready to go....

The kids and I are off on our first intercontinental trip together ever...just the four of us. I feel utterly responsible and a little nervous because I'm the only adult in charge, and for some strange reason I still kind of feel an UM (an Unaccompanied Minor). First we're taking the train and then a seven hour flight to Bahrain. Will I manage with two suitcases, and three kids to watch over ?!

Of course I will !!

It will be peanuts....I've gotten used to travelling alone with them now. Last year we took a trip to France. I drove for 9 straight hours, the kids felt like the Three Musketeers in the back of our Volvo and I was their hero mom, with my GPS man always available for on the spot traffic news updates.

We had a blast that summer. Packed a picnic, drinks and plenty of junkfood to survive any major six month war, and off we were. By the time we'd been in the car for 20 solid minutes, most of the sandwiches had been devoured, and our first sanitary stop was pleaded. Impatient as I am, I explained that at this rate we would never get to the south of France. So, after a quick stop, we jumped back in the car and decided to only stop again if strictly necessary. I must say the kids are now pro's at this. We stop, jump out, refuel, pay, kids and I rush to the toilets and then we dash back to the car, ready for our next stretch. Sometimes we only stop for fuel and my son has become very handy at urinating in an empty plastic bottle in full motion ! ;-) I am so proud of him !

So, this should be a piece of cake.

I've explained about the different religious customs over there and even though they find some aspects incomprehensible, I think they understand that they need to be on their best behaviour. We're off to visit my sister and her family, who left last year to settle in dust town ! They have been enjoying the expat life one that we too had as children of expat parents. Sunny weather and warm temperatures have been predicted and so we've happily packed our swimsuits and slippers, sunblock in hand we say goodbye to the cloudy, rainy and cold European weather !

Something I may have casually left out of my heroic tale, is that I am terrified of flying. Hence my drive to France last year. It is a fear I do not wish upon my children, so I buckle up and bravely pretend I love it. Last year on a trip to Denmark with the kids, my son kept asking me when the plane was going to crash. Having no idea what or how to answer him, I kind of ignored the question, constantly pretending I could spot something utterly amazing through the window and so leading his attention away from my biggest fear. It's true I think, what they say, children have a sixth sense for these things and so tomorrow we will all be getting on the plane and whilst my kids are scared to death that we will crash, I will be in utter zen mode, pretending I am totally at peace about flying. As usual we will say our prayers before take off and hope that God will stick to our unspoken deal. (If we are to crash, let it be straight away and not after a long and stressful flight, that is just plane plain cruel.) Supermom and the three musketeers flying off to new horizons.

Who's kidding whom huh ?!!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


For years I thought I was invincible...

I'm not one of those people that drives fast in an agressive way, I just love the way my car feels as it's floating over the road, when I reach a certain speed. I love to drive, and when possible I will drive at vfast velocity. For years I have been lucky enough not to get caught and only sometimes did a fine end up on my doorstep.
Last summer I drove through the french countryside and I think the kids only remember seeing stripes of green and lavender as we speeded over the perfectly maintained toll roads. At times joined by another fellow speedster each taking turns leading the way, only stopping for fuel or quick sanitary breaks.

Twice last week, a friend of mine had to give me a call, asking me if I had been the blue blurr racing past. And both times I had to admit that I had been in a hurry and was driving slightly over the limit.

Many friends predicted that one day...I would get caught....and yet..I felt invincible.

Last Saturday, the kids and I were on our way to visit my parents and the roads were empty and calm. Plenty of space to enjoy pressing down the accelerator and of course I did just that. Without going into great detail suffice it to say, it was plenty fast.
Then a little white figure on a motorbike appeared in the distance and I let go of the gaspedal and even stepped on my breaks a bit, hoping (against better judgement ) that I would not be noticed. I drove right past the police officer and for a second thought he may not follow, but he did, and of course signed me to follow him to the next stop. So I did.

At arrival, I was greated by an entire army of  police men (none of which seemed nice enough, as by now I'm sure you all know I screen for possible dates in whatever situation ...;-)).
The motorbike officer, a bearded fellow who looked a lot like a young version of Santa Claus, asked me for my drivers license and registration. I handed everything over and sheepishly asked him if maybe he could let me off with a warning this time. He could hardly believe what I had just asked of him and kindly but strictly reminded me that I had been caught on camera, and that  I had exceeded the limit by so much that I had to hand in my license per direct.

I was overcome by a sense of  impossibility, yet I did not feel the need to rebel or throw a tantrum about it. I let it go, and accepted my fate.

Whilst I sat there filling in papers, answering questions and blowing into a weird box to test for alcohol ( which by the way would have been ridiculous to have in my blood at 11.30am !) I realised I was not as invincible as I had thought. My drivers license was confiscated and I will presumably have to make due without it for the next 15 days.

A friend and his wife were kind enough to come to the rescue and drive me, the car and the kids home. I felt defeated, numbed and especially silly for having thought I could avoid ever getting caught.

Now, feeling amputated in a way, I find myself dependant on others and their kindness to drive this caught out speed offender around.
Have I learnt my lesson?  I cannot yet I may be harbouring a Speedy Gonzales dna  perpetrator within me. Question is...does he speak fine language ?! Or does he too believe he is invincible ?!

To speed or not to speed, that remains is the question.... ;-)

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Mr. Hunky Dory Pagent

Last Thursday we held the Mr. Hunky Dory Pagent and in doing so decided to raise some money and awareness for breast cancer research, and so we made it a funfilled charity event !
Most of the fun was in the preparation of it all. One of my best friends and I went into town Tuesday on our quest for the perfect gift to give to our winning contestant. Seeing as it was only men competing, we could think of only one theme of So off we went to the sex shop to buy a prize worthy gift.

We couldn't quite find the shop and decided to call my friend's husband and ask him for directions. This led to a lunch date with him in town.....we agreed to meet him in a cosy restaurant next to the sexshop. My friend and I chose a table to sit at and were suddenly bulleted by sugar cubes...the culprits were two men sitting upstairs, one a friend and aquaintance, the other I had only met once before. They too joined us at our table and we started telling them about our Mr. Hunky Dory Pagent and Pink Ribbon cause with great enthousiasm. The guy I hardly knew suddenly offered me dvd's, as many as I would like he said. I didn't quite get it and wondered what it was he was actually offering me, but without letting on that I had no clue, I kept the conversation going and told them all about our intent for the pagent. Again he offered me dvd's this time he asked me how many I would need ...20..., 30... and that I could pick them up right after lunch as he had them at the office. By this stage, I really wanted to know what kind of dvd's he was talking about, so I cautiously asked him. Everyone at the table started laughing, and as it turns out, he organizes the erotic fairs and he was offering me sextapes. I'm afaid I felt truly naive, but I thanked him and took him up on his offer !!

Thursday....the ex, our kids and I went to hang up all the balloons and the Mr. Hunky Dory Pagent  2010 banner, which was kindly donated to me by the ex. - I think he still thought I was going to be Mr. Hunky Dory's prize and he was probably happy to finally be getting rid of me once and for all ! ;-)

We started off our festivities with a girly dinner at the Chinees restaurant and then we were off to the café hosting our event! I pinned all the women with home made pink ribbons and started my search for Mr. Hunky Dory's. Two men offered to do a catwalk show on the bar practically straight away, and as promised they got on the bar, and gave us a fantastic show...hips and waists moving rythmically to the music, and then all of a sudden T.shirts were taken off !! I think they loved the attention and therefore gave us a great performance !
Off I was to look for more willing contestants...a few guy friends had promised me they would go on the 'catwalk' for me, to get the party going, but when I approached them, they seemed extremely hesitant and resistant and asked me to get some other 'fools' to do an act first. So off I was...and I found 3 wonderful young guys who told me that they thought it was a fantastic cause and they soon got on the bar and gave us an amazing dance show ! I was so proud of them, so young....yet so willing to do something good for a worthwhile cause !
I approached my guy friends once again and asked them to take the stage, but to my great disappointment, they declined...I couldn't believe it...but nothing I said changed their minds.

One of the two big guys that started the whole thing off won the Mr.Hunky Dory Pagent, he is now the proud owner of inflatable 'pleeeep'.  The young guys were awarded the second prize and I am sure they too will put their gifts to good use !

All in all we had a fantastic evening, with many donations and lots of happy people. Who knows we may even have a Mr. Hunky Dory Pagent 2011 next year.... ;-)

For those of you who were paying attention...and were wondering what happened to the sextapes.. sometime at around 2am they disappeared out of a paperbag in no time !! ;-)

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Under the Weather...

Feeling a little under the blog coming soon ! Sorry guys...