Bahraini Street Soccer

Guess what we finally have… Fiber-optic WIFI!!! It only took three weeks (rolling eyes). When the Batelco man came to the door he said:

“Hi, you remember me?”
“Yes, you told me you were coming back tomorrow. That was three weeks ago”
“Oh I have been very busy”
“Yeah, you told me ‘in-sha-allah’ when you left. I didn’t know if you would back”
He started laughing, and said, “Okay, Okay, no more ‘in-sha-allah”

I guess he got a kick out of me calling him out. Either way, he got our WIFI working, and I am one happy woman!

The Genest Boys found their new favorite activity: Bedouin Camping! Last weekend the Embassy hosted a Bedouin Camping excursion. Embassy families spent the day at the camp, and a select few (four families to be exact) were ballsy enough to stay over night. A Bedouin Camp is the technical term for camps set up by desert nomadic tribes in Arab countries. Traditionally, they would set up camp wherever they wanted, for however long they wanted, and kept moving. Now, they have quite a few permanent camps for tourist (and brave locals).

The day was a lot of fun. We got there mid-day, ate lunch, and socialized the entire day. No TVs, iPads, nor computers. Just soccer balls, volleyball nets, tents, and sand… tons of sand! The boys were filthy by the end of the day, and they loved it!

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In the last picture you can see what the tents looked like on the outside. When you walked inside there were Persian Rugs and really nice sofas to relax in (unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the inside). They had 3 tents set up.

My favorite part of camping was the campfire. Now, when I say campfire, I am not talking about a fire pit that everyone sits around and roasts marshmallows (although there were marshmallow roasting by a few brave souls). To explain the magnitude of this fire, I will begin with how it was started. First, there was a huge hole dug into the sand. You probably could have buried a body in it (diameter wise). To start the fire, a Bahraini man follow the following steps:

1) Throw two whole pallets in the hole.

2) Have gasoline readily available, and pour it directly on said pallets (you read that correctly…gasoline).

3) Make sure pallets are soaked.

4) Throw matches on pallet.

5) Singe hair on entire body.

6) When the plastic container holding said gasoline is empty, throw it into said fire.

That was not exaggerated for comedic value. That is what actually happened. Luckily, no children were harmed. I was watching from afar while talking to a friend. All of a sudden I saw a huge flame come out of the ground like the Devil himself was going to take all of us directly to Hell. It was crazy, but effective… I guess. Whenever the flame got too low, someone would magically appear with a new pallet and throw it on the fire (there must have been a pallet fairy somewhere because there was a never ending supply). At night, people started sitting around the fire smoking shisha (an arabic device to smoke flavored tobacco), and after we put our babies to sleep we joined the fun. It was a great day.

At night, I was able to sit and talk to three women about their view of Muslim culture. One woman was Jordanian, and the other two were Bahraini. One question I have been wanting to ask has been about being covered. In Bahrain the most common covers I see are the Shayla, the Hijab, and the Niqab (I just found this link, and it will help see the difference between the different types of covers http://twentytwowords.com/not-all-headscarves-are-burkas-7-types-of-muslim-headwear-for-women/ ). The conversation I had was very informative and interesting. If anyone would like to talk to me about it, please feel free to send me an e-mail. I’d love to talk about the conversation I had with them, but out of respect to these ladies I do not want to publish what was said. I was so thankful to be able to have what felt like a candid conversation about it, that being said, I still want to talk to more women about it, to understand the different emotions behind having to stay covered. I cannot express enough how much fun the day and night was. Everyone had such a great time.

The next morning, we left early, and spent half of the next morning sleeping. We were so tired (it may have been too cold for Austin and I, and we MAY have wimped out and slept in the car).

After camping, our next big adventure was visiting Old Muharraq. Old Muharraq is a very tradition part of Bahrain. It is predominately Shi'a, and it is known for how old it is. There is also The Old Muharraq Souq, and preserved old houses, but before we started the cultural stuff, we needed some fuel.

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BAHRAINI BREAKFAST TIME! As usual, it was wonderful! When we got to the restaurant, the lady who sat us asked to hold Austin (which happens everywhere we go). The next part was a little unexpected. She said, “I will take baby while you eat”, then she walked to the kitchen with Austin. Yes, she took my baby! This is the nice lady that allowed Bookie and I to eat breakfast.

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Austin doesn’t look too convinced. She came back about 5 minutes later and gave him back. Now, before you all look up the Bahraini equivalent to Child Protective Services, there was only one exit, and we could see what was going on around us. She wasn’t going to steal my baby, but if she wanted to I’m not sure I would stop her. I would bet money that she would come and find me to return the baby within 10 minutes of keeping him.

When we finish breakfast we wondered around looking for the traditional houses of Old Muharraq. After walking and asking a few locals we finally found one in the most unexpected spot.

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If you look at the open door on the left, you will see the entrance. The house was 1600 years old, and was really awesome. The floor plan was interesting. It was built like a square with an outdoor atrium (just a fancy term for an open area) in the middle. The house was two stories with a kitchen, school house, and two rooms downstairs. The upstairs was open with rugs all over the floor. The rugs were for relaxing and drinking tea. Hunter and Mason enjoyed walking around and acting like our personal Real Estate Agents. I think Hunter got a picture in every room.

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These rugs were beautiful, and hand made.

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This was painted on glass. I thought it was really pretty.

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After we left the house we walked around in hopes of finding an old Sheikh’s house. We did end up finding it, but sadly it was closed for repairs. After that we decided to roam around. While roaming, we stumbled into a tiny coffee shop. This next part is one of my favorite moments in Bahrain so far.

We walked into this tiny coffee shop and inside was the coffee shop owner and his son. The owner’s name was Majid, and his son’s name was Goul. Majid was a wonderful man who was a Yemenis refugee. He was married to a Bahraini woman, and had been in Bahrain for 3 years. He spoke broken english, but was able to carry a conversation with me. Watching him and Bookie talk was like watching spanglish (shall we call it Englic?). They were both trying to practice the other’s language. I love hearing Bookie speak Arabic. He is doing really well, and watching the reaction of people when he starts speaking it is priceless. People either give him a confused then surprised look, or they start laughing at him and say, “you speak arabic my friend?”. Back to Majid and Goul.

When we walked into the coffee shop, Goul was playing on his dad’s phone. I told Hunter and Mason that there was a little boy, and to go say, “Hi”. Goul didn’t speak any English, so I was interested to see how the boys would interact. As a bit of an ice breaker I pulled out the iPad and put on a game for the boys to play. That was the push that the boys needed. The three boys played the rest of the time effortlessly.

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Bookie and I bought two Turkish Coffees (holy poop-sicles, it was really strong, and thick… that’s what she said?), and we spent about ten minutes talking to Majid. Austin was hanging out and snacking on some figs (which he loved!) while Bookie and I drank our coffee.

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Then we got a quick family picture… thanks to Majid.

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Shortly after the pictures, Majid pulled out a soccer ball (because Hunter and Mason were getting a tad bit antsy), and started playing with them in a little alley next to the coffee shop. Watching what happened next was the most amazing feeling. I don’t have words to describe it. My boys were playing street soccer with a boy who didn’t speak their language, and there were no issues. They were kicking the ball to each other and running around laughing. Amazing. The best experience I have had so far. Despite the language barrier, the cultural differences, and the historical tension, the boys had a great time.

This is Ghoul

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To the right, watching the boys is Majid. I thought I got a better picture, but I didn’t. My first huge regret.

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The part that was the most humbling, was when we left. This family clearly was not as fortunate as mine. They were refugees trying to make a living in a new place. When we left, Majid offered his boy’s soccer ball to Mason and Hunter. Of course, Bookie responded, “No thank you.” Majid insisted. Bookie took one more stance to oppose the offer, but Majid effortlessly pushed forward his innate sense of hospitality. In the end, after an endless exchange of cultural sensitivities, Hunter and Mason wound up with Ghoul’s soccer ball. I will never forget that day, and Majid’s kindness.

The more time I spend here, the more I realize that these people are just like us in so many ways. They may not have the money we do, or the same beliefs, but they are people. Like Dr. Seuss said, “a person’s a person no matter how small” (give me a break people, Dr. Seuss may be a children’s author, but his stories are deep!). Arabs are so hospitable, and so kind. Of course, everywhere you go there are good and bad people, but a majority of people we have met have been amazing. The moment we show any interest in their culture and/or language they want to share. Amazing (I think I need to invest in a thesaurus).

Austin made a friend at the coffee shop, too. I have to be honest, Bookie was talking to this man, and I have no idea where he came from or who he was, but he loved Austin. Austin, on the other hand, doesn’t look too amused.

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All in all it was a great day! On another note, I am almost a certified Open Water Diver! I passed my written test, and in a few days I will be starting the practical portion of the certification. I cannot wait!

 
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