Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More About Pregnancy

This is another one of those things I have learned about Bahrain. First, you never notice when women here are pregnant, at least not most of the time. Many women here where the abaya (long back robe), and it's very loose, so if the ladies are pregnant, you really don't know, unless they don't where one. Even if they don't wear the abaya, most of the Muslim women where looser, more flowy-type clothes, so it can still be hard to tell they are pregnant until they are 8 or so months along. So, that's one of the things about pregnancy here that is interesting. In America, you know pretty quickly when someone is pregnant, and many women usually flaunt it. So here is the other crazy thing about pregnant people. Whenever many women discover that they are pregnant (not all women, though), it is pretty much like telling them they have been diagnosed with some terminal illness and that they won't make it to see next month. When  I say this, what I mean is that when the women are told, most of them immediately quit there job, and feel as though they need to be on bed rest, or something of that sort. This maybe be understandable at 8 or 9 months, but at 2 or 3 months, or any months under 8, seems just a little silly to me. I mean, other than potential morning sickness, I don't know what could be stopping you from working when you are 3 months along, especially at simple jobs like paper filing.
I still have not gotten myself into the minds of Bahraini's, but this is just one of those things that perhaps I will never understand.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Birthday in Bahrain (night 1)

Here's some of the group, at the Intercontinental Hotel

Charmaine and I enjoying tasty beverages

Sheela, me, Rachel, and Alana

The prize of the night

Twas the night before my birthday,
and out in Bahrain,
from partying and shenanigans,
I did not refrain.

Yes, I made that one up all on my own! So, my birthday fell on a Friday this year, and it was the first birthday away from home, but I didn't let that stop me from the fun I deserve. However, partying had to begin on a Thursday, starting at school. 
For once, my kids did something sweet. During homeroom, one of the girls stop me and told me to stand in front of the board. Then, she signaled for all of the other kids to stand up. She counted to 3 and they all sang happy birthday to me, twice. It was really cute and sweet, and put a smile on my face and made me laugh. Of course the rest of the day afterwards was total madness. But, my kids did enjoy the cake I brought in for the class party.
So, at the end of school, which involved a parent meeting, meetings with a supervisor, and teacher meetings, I was able to go home and get a nap in, and energize myself for the night.
The location of choice was the Intercontinental Hotel, where there is a South African band, and ladies night of course. We arrived, got ourselves a table and some cocktails, and joined in on the dancing. As the night went on, more friends joined, which made me happy, because I loved surrounding myself with my friends, and I'm so happy that I have made such good friends since I have been here. 
Anyways, on top of the free drinks, there were many other awesome things that occurred during the evening. First, the band did a whole Happy birthday thing for me. They took me out of the crowd, brought me up on stage, and brought me a cake with a candle, and sang to me, and had me dance on the stage. (I will have to get these pics from Rachel, or however took them, and then post them). After the cake and singing, I returned to our table to have a lovely bottle of champagne, compliments of Rachel's friend, Tom. Around the time of the champagne consumption, our eyes seemed to have shifted to a very large display martini glass. It was about 1.5-2 ft. tall, and Rachel felt that this would be a nice addition to our apartment, and would be nice for having large drinks with crazy straws. Needless to say, this glass made it's way back to our apartment. 
Continuing onward, Rachel, Alana, and I left the hotel, and went back to Alana's house, where we hung out for a short while. At this point, I was feeling very tired, and was being convinced into staying there. However, Rachel and her boyfriend Michael rescued me, telling me that this may not have been the best place for me to be staying, especially in "my condition". So, where was the best place for me to stay? On a small couch at their hotel room. 
I woke up a bit achy from sleeping in a ball, and not to mention a headache that felt as though my head had been squashed by the wheels of a truck. Fortunately, Rachel and Mike let me into the bed where I spend a bit more time resting, before heading back to the apartment.
Now, it was Friday, my actual birthday. The day was off to a bit of a rough start, but I went home, and went back to bed until about 4 pm, so that I could rest and recharge, and get ready to do it all over again!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stripping Down to Nothing

I figured the title might be "attention grabbing". By no means did I mean that I was stripping down to nothing! (it's way too cold here right now for that) What I meant, as you can see, was stripping my classroom down to nothing. I figured I don't write a whole lot about school or my classroom, considering that I am teaching and all. But, this is one of those new year, new beginning type things.
So, why did I remove all of the tables and chairs from the classroom? If you haven't seen the pictures of the room in my earlier blogs, there are 4 groups, with 2 tables together making a hexagon for each group, and 6-7 kids at each table. Anyways, I have been constantly telling my students about how important it is for them to keep the room clean, and how the classroom is not a garbage can. Despite my plea's to keep the room tidy, the kids continue to leave their pencils, erasers, and other trash on the floor daily, and it's been really getting on my nerves that the kids could be so sloppy and inconsiderate. Not to mention I have to constantly apologize to the cleaning people when they come in to clean the desks and vacuum the floor. They spend a good amount of time scrubbing the pencil and marker marks the kids put on the tables, and have to pick up big trash and vacuum the small trash which is all over the floor. Really, it's kind of embarrassing. 
By the end of the week, I had been feeling completely and utterly fed up with the mess the kids were making. So, on Thursday, after the kids left, and before the cleaning people arrived, I decided to do a garbage inventory of the floor (and mind you, that the floor wasn't even that bad on Thursday, it's seen far worse). As I counted the things I found on the floor, I wrote the list on the whiteboard. It read as follows: 12 pencils, 7 erasers, 2 bottles, 2 tissues, 3 crayons, and 37 other countable pieces of miscellaneous paper, pieces of tissue, plastic wrappers, and things of that sort, totaling about 63 things I found on the floor that should not have been there. This of course didn't count the other items that were too small to count, such as very tiny pieces of torn up tissue crumbled into little balls and shreds, or the pencils shavings that the kids often dump on the floor. 
After counting the mess, the cleaning people came and did their thing. Then it was my turn to do mine, which was the stripping down part. I closed the door, blasted some screaming death metal (this helps me with the rage I feel some days after school), and started moving the tables and chairs.
When all was said and done, I was able to put half of the tables against the back wall, with all chairs underneath (which prevents kids from trying to crawl underneath the tables). The remaining tables were placed throughout the room, most being used to put papers or books on. Now, there was just empty space in the middle. This was looking good, and I was feeling pretty amped about the change.
So today (Sunday), finally arrived. Prior to the kids coming, many teachers often come in and say good morning, and many were very shocked with my room, and asked me why I did it. But once I explained, they understood (I think). Then, it was time to get the kids and bring them up. When they walked in the classroom, they were definitely shocked, and immediately were asking questions. Some had already guessed that it was because the class is so messy. Once everyone was settled, I explained to them that if they are going to make sure a mess of the room, and write all over the desks, then they will have no desks or chairs to make a mess of. And the more mess that was on the floor, the more mess they were going to have to sit on daily, and that they would have to "earn" the tables and chairs back.
Well, I think that the kids might want to earn their class back, because I had many students that were uncomfortable from having to sit on the floor for so long, with out laying down or anything. Good torture if you ask me. 
So this was the exciting event to kick off the week. I really am hoping to see improvement in the classroom neatness, which I feel I have already seen today. Now, with no tables or chairs to block the view, it is very easy for the kids to see the mess they make, and easier for them to clean it up.

Brunch at the Movenpick

Rachel and Mike

Ahhhhh, brunch. What a wonderful event, and great way to start your weekend. So, 2 weekends ago, a group of us went to brunch to celebrate my roommate Rachel's boyfriends' (Mike) birthday. Although there are many hotels that host brunch in Bahrain, they chose the Movenpick hotel. The hotel is very big and very nice. We got all dressed up in dresses and heels for this occasion. Brunch cost 25BD, and is all you can eat, and all you can drink! Now, as opposed to many brunches where the food is mediocre and there usually isn't all you can drink (at least not in the states at most places), this was an amazing brunch. There was tons of different styles and types of food to chose from, and it was all very delicious. They even had sushi and fresh sashimi! In addition, the servers kept refilling your glass with champagne (without you having to ask), and there was a mojito station, in which the bartender would put as much rum as you would like into the glass. 
The other interesting thing about brunch is that it lasts about 4-5 hours, which is much longer than U.S. brunch. And, let's not forget that there was a band, a balloon man, an ice cream stand, and a cotton candy maker! This brunch truly had it all.
After spending about 4 and a half hours eating and drinking inside the hotel, we decided to relocate ourselves to the outside seating area near the pool, where the men were able to enjoy their cigars, and the ladies were able to smoke some sheesha. This went on until about 7pm or so, and then we once again made our way back inside to the bar lounge area, and continued to hang out and have a few beverages. 
Around 9 or 9:30pm, after being at the hotel for 9 hours, we decided it was time to go out dancing and burn off the food and drinks we just indulged in. 
The rest of the night was needless to say, rather interesting and strange, as I found myself towards the end of the night, with a group of people I didn't really know. (You may inquire further for details). Regardless, if you ever find yourself visiting Bahrain, I highly recommend making your way to brunch at one of the many hotels that hosts brunch. It is very much worth it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Going to the Doctor (part 2)

This was just hilarious to Charmaine and I

Charmaine, and many other people here always say, "you wouldn't believe the things you see or have happen here, unless you are here experiencing it". Let me tell you, that is the truth. There are days where I am pretty sure I am living in the twilight zone. Example: One day, I have a student come up to me with a paper in his hand. He shows me the paper, which was one that we had just completed in class, and says to me, "Miss Jamie, I found this on the floor. I don't know whose paper it is." I look at the paper, and yes, it has a name on it. And whose name is on the paper? The boy who is standing there asking whose it is! I look back at him, trying not to laugh, and say, "Well, it looks like your name is on here, so I'm pretty sure it must be yours." He takes the paper back, looks at it and says, "Oh, that's my paper!", and goes back to his seat. This left me shocked and not fully sure of what had just happened. You see, strange things like this happen daily, and the kids really do say some "out there" things.
Anyways, back to the doctors visit. So, yesterday, I had to go to the hospital. I was experiencing a flare-up in my low back, so there was a lot of pain and a really bothersome nerve. I wasn't able to go to school because it was very painful, and trying to deal with 25 kids while being in pain is not easy. So, Charmaine came and took me to the hospital so that we could get it looked at, get me some medicine, and a doctor's note.
Just like any other hospital in the world, the wait was long. We sat for quite some time, 4 hours I believe. I must say, I do give the doctor credit for being creative in saying what the problem "could" be. This doctor seemed to think that maybe I have Arthritis in my back and hip. Yeah, way to make me feel like an old lady! After this Arthritis assumption, the doctor sent me to x-ray so he could have a better look at my back. So, we get to x-ray, and the lady gives me a gown to change in to. At least this gown wasn't a used gown like at the first clinic I went to. So, on the door of the changing room, and to the x-ray room, was this absolutely hysterical cartoon of a baby inside the uterus saying, "Please mum, tell them I'm here!". Charmaine and I say this and were laughing so hard that we were in tears. Something about this poster really struck us funny.
Moving onward. Here is one of those other twilight-zone type things about Bahrain. So, I finally get into the x-ray room, and the technician is standing inside. Now, in the U.S., before you ever get an x-ray, the technicians MUST ask you if you are pregnant, or if there is a possibility that you are. In the States, they probably start asking this around the age of 12, because you just never know when someone is going to be pregnant, and with many girls, it probably a possibility. This has to be asked because the x-ray can be harmful to the fetus. Now, do you think they ask you if you might be pregnant here in Bahrain? Of course not! Here, the only thing they ask you is, "Are you married?" And if you say no, then apparently you automatically are not pregnant. Amazing, right? 
Now, of course, I am not pregnant, but I just couldn't believe that the people here assume that if you aren't married, then you aren't pregnant! I can't even imagine what it would be like if they assumed such a thing back at home. Obviously, lots of girls would be getting x-rays when they aren't supposed to. I understand that the culture is totally different, and here, they REALLY don't believe in sex before marriage, but honestly, this is 2012, and it seems like there are more girls having babies before marriage than there are girls having babies that are married. 
So when all was said and done, I was finally able to leave the hospital with some Arthritis medicines and cream. I even got lucky enough to get medicine that isn't approved by the FDA! Scary right? 
Really, if something ever happens to me here where I need serious medical attention, I've already told my mom to have someone fly me home on a jet, because the medical practices here are just get a bit scary for me.

New Year, New Beginnings?

People always say the New Year is for new beginnings. I would like to think that applies to my life and is true. I came back to Bahrain ready for a new beginning. Time to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Although many things would not be new, I was hoping for improvements, mainly in the area of school. Of course, school would still be there and the rules would be the same, but I was very hopeful that my students would come back rested and ready for a new beginning as well. I hoped this beginning meant them behaving and sitting quietly when they're supposed to, following directions, and just not frustrating me too much in general.
Well, I must say, the first day knocked my socks off and I felt as though God had answered my prayers. The kids came back, and they actually sat quietly during lessons, and weren't shouting in the halls, and just being good overall. This was just thrilling and I couldn't believe it!
Well, I guess I should have gone with my gut instinct and not believed it. Like my mom always quotes, "all good things must come to an end." After about 2 or 3 days, the kids were back to their usual selves mostly. Although I do feel that it is still a bit better than before, it is by no means perfect, or even close, but I guess that's just asking for too much.
Regardless of the behavior, I'm still working on believing that the New Year will bring good things and hopefully I will be able to enjoy it to the fullest. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Very Arab New Year

The party hall

People dancing

Me and Arab Santa (creepy, I know)

Some of the band

Amy and I

The belly dancer, and Arab Santa dancing with another man

This is the first new years since high school where I have not had to work. For once in my life, I was not stuck working at a restaurant/bar on New Year's Eve. However, I still didn't get to enjoy a home celebration. After flying from Pittsburgh to Chicago, I then flew from Chicago to Jordan, where I then had an 18 and a half hour layover. Due to such a long layover, I was once again put in a hotel by Royal Jordanian. And again, I stayed at the Golden Tulip. Upon arrival, I was relieved to see a sign in the lobby announcing that the hotel would be hosting a New Year's Eve event that evening. So, I immediately bought a ticket. I figured I would much rather attend this even than sit in my room feeling lonely and sad that I'm by myself. When I got to my room, I had to take a nap, since I had just spent a very long time traveling, and was looking pretty bad, with bloodshot eyes and washed-out skin.
I woke up from the nap and got ready for the party. The event was very nice. The dining hall was decorated and held about 200 or so people. The party would include dinner buffet, a d.j., a band, and a belly dancer. Of course, I didn't know a single soul, but I did make my way to a table of 3 people, sat down, and introduced myself. The others at the table (1 girl, 2 guys), were there by themselves as well, so we all had that in common. Although I do not remember the names of the guys at the table, the girl I sat with was Amy, and she was very nice company for the evening. 
The dinner buffet was very nice, and had a big variety of food. The only part that wasn't so good about it was that alcohol was not included, not even for a champagne toast at midnight. We enjoyed our food, and ordered drinks from the bar. The band and d.j. were pretty good too. After a while, Amy and I were ready to dance. We immediately noticed a creepy Arab man dressed up as Santa, dancing out on the floor. I felt obligated to take a photo with such a creepy character. However, this photo op caused me to be stuck with Arab Santa for much of the evening. After taking the photo, he wanted to dance with me the WHOLE night. After the midnight countdown, and some more dancing, the belly dancer came to the floor. I must say, I was very disappointed. She did not do a good job at all. There was not much enthusiasm put into her dance, and she seemed to barely move. I believe I could have done a better job. 
After about 3 or 4 minutes, the belly dancer left the dance floor, and began to dance around the room. During this time, Arab Santa pulled me out to the dance floor, so it was just the 2 of us dancing! At one point he got down and stopped dancing, and wanted me to dance by myself and belly dance in front of the entire crowd of 200 people. Now, although I am not a shy person, this was a bit too intimidating for me to be put on the spot like this, so I told him to get up and dance with me, until I could dance my way off the dance floor. I don't like being the center of attention in a situation like this.
Finally, around 3am the party came to a close. I was exhausted and so ready to sleep. I said my goodbyes to the table and Amy, and headed to sleep.
New Years turned out much better than I had anticipated, and I didn't have to spend it totally alone. Although I would have loved to have been in Pittsburgh, New Year's Eve in Jordan was ok in my book!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Home for the Holidays

Patrick, Alexei, and Zeina. Poor Alexei had his teeth pulled, so he was hurting :(

Me, my brothers, and a few of my cousins

My sisters!

Britney, Isaiah, and me

There's no place like home! Coming home for the holiday's had been something I had been anticipation for quite some time. Although Bahrain is warm and sunny, I was ready to take on the cold winter climates just to  come and see the people that I had been missing dearly. I left Bahrain on a Thursday evening, after school. I felt like the school day couldn't happen fast enough, and I was so antsy to get going. When the day finally ended, I couldn't help but have a massive smile on my face. Getting to the place I call home was the challenge. My trip began by me flying from Bahrain into Jordan, where I had to stay overnight due to my 11 hour layover. Fortunately, Royal Jordanian put me in a hotel for the night, at the Golden Tulip. I got some rest, and was ready bright and early to get on the plane to fly into Chicago. Now, going to Chicago is where the painful part of the travel home was. We boarded the plane a bit later than expected. Then, because they had to wait for people who were in transit from other flights, we had to just sit on the plane and wait for an hour before the other passengers arrived. The flight was already a 14 hour flight, and now it was 15 hours I would have to actually sit on this plane.
When we finally took off, I was happy we were in motion, but not happy about the delay. The flight was full, so I was stuck in the same seat the whole time. As you can imagine, 15 hours in the same spot is a real challenge. I was very uncomfortable and my butt and legs and back were killing me from sitting, even though I was getting up to stretch and move around. When we began the descent into Chicago, I could feel myself getting happier by the second. I had a 4 hour layover, so I grabbed some soup and stopped at a bar while I waited. When the time to go to Pittsburgh came, I felt like singing and dancing though the airport, knowing that home was only and hour and a half away.
This was my long journey to the wonderful city of Pittsburgh. Driving home from the airport, and coming through the tunnels to see the city was so amazing. Even though it was a cold and cloudy night, the city was still equally magnificent. Everything felt surreal, like a dream.
My time home was so full of many emotions. It had its moments of happiness, and sadness as well. Smiles and frowns, heartbreak and joy. So many things were the same as when I left, and yet things were different as well. I had so many mixed emotions, and felt ways that I hadn't even anticipated. Nonetheless, I got to come home to the people and places I know and love dearly. I got to see so many friends and family. I loved being able to share my crazy Bahrain stories with everyone, and watch their expressions and see them laugh. Having people laugh at me and my stories is by far one of my favorite things. I really do love to entertain. And its funny, because most of the stories I tell are ones that were not funny when they happened, so I'm glad that I can look back and laugh. 
The holiday break ended so quickly. Time always flies when your having fun. It was painful to leave everyone behind, again. Fortunately, I had been preparing for leaving again for a long time, so it made it a little easier since I was ready for it. My parents made it through saying goodbye without crying (at least not in front of me), and of course my brothers didn't cry (they never do). I even made it most of the time without crying, until I was on the plane in Chicago, getting ready to take off for Jordan. That's when the emotions began to build up inside. I actually had tears pouring down my face while I was on the airplane waiting for takeoff. The lady across the aisle was staring at me like I was crazy. Finally, after about 20 minutes, I pulled it together and got a hold of myself. I remembered that although I was sad about leaving the States, I have some amazing friends in Bahrain who will be just as happy to see me as I am happy to see them.
Adam playing guitar in the kitchen