How Things Change the Second Time

The first time, back in June 2014, I was excited to finally be old enough to appreciate living abroad as the last time I was learning to walk, talk, and feed myself which are all great skills for an avid traveler. The first time I had to help pay the hotel, rent the car, walk the dogs, deal with the visas — money, paperwork, and settling in — but the second time would be different.

Fast forward to the fall of 2019 and Caleb is arriving in Bahrain in September and has a room reserved at The K Hotel but is adamant about finding a more permanent place to reside before some of our things arrive so he can set them up before his wife comes to visit. I arrive about three weeks after him in October only to find out that our shipment (packed May 31) won’t be here until the end of November — some things don’t change.

pumpkin spirit in Alosra

I arrived via the civilian airport and took an Uber as Bahrain has given its government taxis the option to do both. BD4 later and I was dropped off in front of a new building, Infinity Suites, and looking around — lost. Turns out that’s just a good landmark for our new place. Caleb is expecting more excitement as he gives me a tour of the three-bedroom, three-bathroom villa with extra hand-washing sink and billiards table with straight cues.

The first thing I notice is the lack of art on the walls. He told me to be tired when I arrived so I stayed awake between San Diego and Houston, even though I was up before 4 am, until Paris with the help of a talkative and food sharing family behind me. I would sleep intermittently until arriving at the island after 6 pm the following day and after my tour going straight to bed.

view from Hotel Diva

The first week had me going to bed just as early but it was making up for waking me by 4 am, so Caleb would just get up with me and we got to have breakfast together before his third double-duty day since my arrival — 2.5 days at work and then four working days unless it lands on a weekend (whether American or Bahrain) and he doesn’t get called in. Last time we got two weeks together before he had to check-in and he only had duty every three days.

The neat thing so far is that as much of the island as I thought I saw last time, besides all the new construction (Avenues Mall, Oasis Mall, and IKEA, etc.) there are still parts I haven’t explored. I spent the first few days just walking around Juffair to get acquainted with what was still here and what wasn’t — restaurants into dirt lots and a corner rental car lot into a skyscraper. Last time we were quick to rent a car to get us back and forth between Amwaj, but it’s so nice to walk beside honking traffic and collision evidence without being stuck on the road.

new place

A new popular place is called Dose Cafe, but I have yet to try it. I was more concerned in my adventures with what the grocery stores had to offer as I found durian, but wasn’t quick to grab its sharp exterior to tote home. Last time I was busy taking pictures of the imported food and this time we will be more interested in trying the odd-shaped and unfamiliar produce as we eat less shawarma and sweets to treat our bodies better than we did last time we were here.

Vaping has really taken off here so that a variety of vaping cafes have opened and there are vaping competitions.. if only this would’ve been an option with cocaine when it was popular.. or alcohol which still is. People need to know when to curb their vices to a healthy amount and don’t worry, for my readers who know me I am trying to take my advice on this as well.

sunrise in Juffair

The next few days would be spent catching up and having coffee with some old friends — Quinn took me to Anna’s for the afternoon and since they’re moving I got to go through what’s left of her bookshelf and bring some home; Manal took me to Seef Mall so we could talk and shop while keeping her 13 and 16-year-old boys entertained; Muhanned bought me plenty of caffeine to keep us talking for hours at Dome Cafe; and Muhammed after inviting me along to pick up his friend’s spare key invited me to lunch to finally meet his family.

He decided on Saturday when they have fish would be best — when I got to sit next to his mom so she could show me how to pop the head off and remove the bones. I know how to do this but usually choose not to. His sister thought I was struggling because I wasn’t eating the stomach bones as I don’t care how small they are this time I still don’t want them stuck in my throat. Lunch turned into dinner and eventually I got a ride home after being invited back.

Sunday afternoon

Caleb and I went to the Quicker Than the Eye: Magic & Comedy Up Close! show featuring Bob Kubota, Michael Finney, David Malek, Jim Leach, and Chris Rose that was presented on base. We moved from the kids’ side to the adult side and I thought it might only be an hour-long, but we laughed for two. My favorite part was the volunteer participation in eating an Oreo and drinking milk for a $100 bet, but she wasn’t able to reproduce the cookie.

I bought some new running shoes for the treadmill, stationary bike, and rusted weights that came in place of a bed in our gym/office/diving supplies room complete with a big desk, a working chair, and a bookcase that needed more books from the library. Caleb got a day off so I rented a Kia Rio ($20 for the day vs. $30 to get a roundtrip Uber) and turned right after Hidd Bridge and explored a bit of ASRY (Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard) Company territory, so mostly boats and beaches, before picking up Caleb for a dive trip.

post-diving dinner

The weather has been amazing, not over 100* F, and only three days of high humidity (over 80%). I get to enjoy the shade and the breezes, with sunglasses on to keep the dust out of my eyes, but I also get to go onto the naval base showing my shoulders and knees. I wonder if this has anything to do with Saudi allowing foreigners to show their ankles and wrists now. We drive around Amwaj before meeting at the Marina to see how many more buildings can be stacked on the sand before more public beaches can be brought over the causeway.

The dive groups were easy to differentiate — those who spoke English (the two of us) and then the two groups of three guys — one speaking Spanish and the other Arabic. Same boat driver but new divemaster takes us to the newly sunk (three months ago) Boeing 747, stripped of all interior items except a few things in the cockpit and then to Al Boom Wreck to look at a boat that was hauling toilets. Visibility could’ve been better but we still saw plenty of angelfish and jellyfish.

microwave repair.. on the house

This month has come to an end and I don’t mind not having a car even if that means that some of my friends on the island don’t want to hang out. Others have moved internationally, some more regional than others, and a bunch have gotten married and one is expecting his second child. I don’t mind not going out because it means I can save money to travel because even Saudi is open to tourists now.

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Good Night Poem

txnight

I lay here and I think of you,
Happy thoughts yet still I’m blue.
You were there when I needed you,
But now your hugs I’m overdue.

I want to cherish you and hold tight,
But those days are gone ever since that night.
I’ll do what’s right and set you free,
I can’t always just think of me.

You gave me your body, heart, and soul,
I will try to give back to you tenfold;
but when I fail do realize this,
You’re the one I’ll always miss.

I’ll shed another tear for you,
I’ll see another sunset without you.
I’ll hear your heartbeat just one more time,
and I’ll wait till your hand is on mine.

I love you now, I always will,
No matter if my voice gets shrill.
Goodnight tonight and tomorrow,
Never again will you feel sorrow.

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When School Binds Your Eyes

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Balboa Park Golf Course

Spring break has come and gone and summer is almost over. I finished the spring semester, all 20.5 units, with my first C on my college record. Caleb and I gave our 45-day notice to vacate our residence in Imperial Beach for the second time, having lived there once before, and having to threaten the company with BBB, a lawyer, and police when we wanted something fixed.

Sparky’s balls, meds, toys, and teeth

In April, I began to donate the dog’s things (bowls, leashes, beds, floaties, toys, meds, etc.) as I couldn’t stand the thought of throwing them away, even if they included a half-chewed bone and a gutless purple monkey. I kept Sparky’s turtle and touch its dirty edges as a tiny reminder of the lives I had to let go and all the memories we shared. I will always remember how awesome they were.

Caleb’s quilt-in-progress

I continue to get rid of things that I have carried around for too long. I made the decision not to have kids, so toting around my baby clothes because Mom wanted me to pass onto my children the toys and clothes from my childhood that she wasn’t able to give to me from hers is no longer an option. I will exchange their space for things I can use, like dive weights that hold water instead of the less colorful ones that don’t so that the teal and blue will make me smile as it reminds me of the sea.

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happy coworker

We (the boss, another employee, and I) got a new girl, Darrien, on the work team and she focuses on teaching the kids yoga and mindfulness. We put the students in small groups and ask them an open-ended question to discuss with their peers, particularly people they might not otherwise talk to.

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view of the outside from inside

Darrien would move on to other things before the school year was out and the principal let us know that our services weren’t needed for the last two weeks in the first half of June, so summer came early. I used this time to petition attendance to a half-credit class (meaning using my other classes already taken to not take that one) so I could focus on the last nine units needed to get my Kinesiology degree — Chemistry 200 and Physiology. I also petitioned that my 100+ units already attained not count against my scheduled enrollment time so that I would get first pick at the new campus, the only one that offered the chemistry class I needed, at Mesa campus; a further commute north.

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blood lab in physiology

May would start with a flat on the car and since I was going to be late to work anyway I took the day off so Caleb and I could get new tires on both vehicles that will be making cross country trips over the summer, just not in the order we thought. The Tribute would get into a few accidents before our trip and end up in the shop after being t-boned by a drunk driver who hit Caleb in an intersection.

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moving day

I got rid of Sparky’s baby teeth. Yes, I had kept them for 11 years in a little container with orange fish on it as I somehow managed to capture one of each type that wasn’t lost to him swallowing it. The movers arrived at the end of May to pack most of our stuff into storage for the last few years of Caleb’s career while we make some major transitions, and the other movers showed up two days later for boxes destined to Bahrain. I moved in next door so that I can finish school while Caleb goes to Virginia for months of engineer related training before joining the boxes on the return to the Island of Sand.

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lunch break from the pontoon

The new tenants, grandma with her son and grandson, in our old address are busy covering the gopher damage with new bricks and potted succulents while the property manager kept $500 of our safety deposit to fix a window blind that the maid service broke and to manage the weeds (dirt) that we left behind. I want to feel bitter, but the cheaper rent was a great deal for us financially. Caleb and I spent the last weekend in San Diego together on his friend Josh’s new pontoon boat, complete with trembling chihuahua and other couples and their kids.

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library, lab, and cardio to class

Caleb would have his collars pinned, by me, as a Senior Chief (almost put his anchor on upside down) on the day we leave San Diego to drive across the country, something we’ve done many times together before and a place we always find solace from the chaos of life; though the long hours on the highway weren’t the relaxation I was going for we had a deadline to meet to get Caleb checked in on time so I could fly back to San Diego on Sunday and start school on Monday.

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scuba, writing, and matcha

We made a massive detour, rushing down the west coast of Florida and speeding up the east side to dive and the only thing that got lost in the mix (or that wasn’t on my wrist when it should’ve been) was my dive watch when we arrived in Key Largo ready to get deep and wet. This would take up a majority of our two weeks on the road and we got to see a lot of new things along the way (that’s in another post).

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post-night class view

My return to San Diego has me getting up before 6 am and getting to school before 7 am where I stay in classes with back-to-back labs in the middle of the day until 7 pm to drive the 30 minutes home while talking with Caleb so I can pack meals for the next day, shower if needed, and get homework done before getting some sleep. I spend my weekends at the kitchen bar getting fed occasionally and partaking in late-night snacks that keep me up and going.

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red, silver, and blue

During July there was the obvious 4th of July holiday, Pride weekend, and Comic-Con. I found time to walk down to the beach for the fireworks — a first after having lived here for probably five years of them. I made time to say hi to house guests — Emma the 8-year-old and Jarod 18 who were both nice, but Danielle the 50+-year-old watching Housewives of Boredom and crying about how she’d kill herself if she had the homework I did wasn’t helpful — and of course I forgot I have headphones to drown out those noises.

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lunch, snack, and dinner

I also made time to take Uncle Ed to dinner for tacos at Salud!, schwarma at The Kebab Shop, and a Mandarin place because the buffet looked closed in the same shopping plaza. He was in town for a long week of work and staying along my route between home and school so I got to listen to him play his cigar box guitar while he found questions to ask about chemistry to add to our discussions. I appreciate his curiosity in my education even if I won’t be a chemist as I’m currently making a B in round two of the class.

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Caleb’s homemade biscuits and mixed fruit jelly

I aced Physiology in six weeks though and enjoyed theorizing with my professor about the possibilities of the body to go wrong when so much is running smoothly every millisecond that we don’t have to think about. I was able to spend the day finishing a 200-page novel and yesterday I mailed my rental physiology book back, mailed Uncle Ed his laptop that he’d left behind, had my new lease notarized, dropped some things to Goodwill, and got a long green dress in the mail from Caleb who looks forward to seeing me in it when I visit in August. 

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I emailed the school to let them know how I was wrongly enrolled for a general education plan when they had my transcripts delivered and checked over so I could transfer a business degree and go to SDSU. I’m glad I made the switch though to a degree in a field that makes me happy and that I can pursue, and so my path has changed into the direction it needed to go. I take another step forward.

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Free To Be Me

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There’s a marching band inside my head,
I only want to stay in bed.
I’m up and trying, dragging lead,
If it were up to me I’d be dead.

I carry on and walk along,
I sometimes hum a happy song.
How much longer must I play along,
Before I finish this sad song.

It’s cold out here, I start to bleed,
Just a little glad I can’t feel my feet.
It trickles down as it warms my seat,
A simple sign of soon to be relief.

Goodbye today, goodbye tonight,
Even though I’ll miss the starry sight.
It was wonderful the moments when I
wasn’t sad or set a fright.

They weren’t enough, they never are,
Happiness always seemed so far.
I tried to reach and to believe
that one day I’d be free to be me.

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Spring Break 2019

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This will be unlike any break before it — spent with cold meds, textbooks, and peanut butter. I need to spend the week catching up, so I can be better prepared and have more time to study in the next eight weeks.

Since last month, I have learned to chip and putt, but only when I can remember to not “break my wrists”, keep my butt out, and always accelerate through. We will be playing on the Balboa Park Golf Course starting in April or we can go to the driving range if we’re not ready to compete against our classmates on nine holes.

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There has been a lot of rain this month, and sickness, so on the days that the soccer field wasn’t closed to prevent our cleats from messing up the field the coach called out too, so this gave me more time to study bones (all but the three of the inner ear, so 203) and muscles (about 80, since it’s difficult to see the deeper ones on models and cadavers) for anatomy — two exams. My grade went from acceptable to awesome, but I’m hoping to do better when we test on the nervous system in three weeks, as I already know the location and function of the 12 cranial nerves.

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Chemistry lecture isn’t going as well as I had hoped. There are hundreds of elements and a million ways to combine them all. It doesn’t help that I completely missed an online assignment worth 20 points, but I talked with the professor and he said he would drop that from my total grade, so that will raise me a letter grade.

Chemistry lab, on the other hand, is going amazingly well. I spend hours watching the professor’s videos and reading the handouts and writing the procedure into my lab notebook. I come prepared, make a minor mistake each time (learning opportunity), and then write about it properly in my post-lab discussion. The only thing I still struggle with is the professor’s humor to have multiple choice quizzes with most of the options being “none of the above” or seemingly tricky.

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how many bones (65), and landmarks(~90), can you count?

I finished my managerial accounting with a 96 or 97, depending on how the professor rounds. The final was six questions and I had two hours to complete. I thought I might spend 20 minutes like I did on the mid-term, but ended up spending 90. My business calculus class is still hanging on by a thread. My midterm for that is in two weeks so I need to study because it accounts for 30% of my overall grade.

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herbed bread

Kickboxing is the easiest class, and it should be at only half a credit. It allows me to blow off steam from the week before going into the weekend. I can see classmates making improvements in other areas of their life — stretching, diet, studying, and rest because the coach cares more about the whole person than just teaching them to punch people in the face (which we avoid).

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(~48) muscles: origin, insertion, and action

I will spend the rest of the week: getting ahead on chemistry labs and doing all the worksheets that have been handed out; coloring, drawing, writing, and using flashcards to study the nervous system; do all 45 practice questions for the math midterm; and go to the gym with Caleb when he gets back from dropping our boat off in Montana. My online kinesiology class starts on April 1st.

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Caleb has been busy mowing the yard (to keep up with the rain), doing dishes after making me dinner, washing and hanging laundry, sewing more on his quilt, and experimenting with new bread recipes to keep me filled up on carbs so I can concentrate on studying and getting in some steps when I need a break and we take a walk together.

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Our shower started to leak more than usual so we got a guy out here for the day (on the landlord’s dollar) to saw through tiles and wall and replace our two handles with one. It’s a bit of a shit job (metal piece stabbed me and grout all over crooked tiles), but at least there’s less rust to be seen.

Our eleventh anniversary was 18 days ago and Caleb made sure his gifts arrived a day early; mine would arrive two weeks later. He got me an owl necklace (to go with my varied collection of the wise animal) and some earrings. I got him a personalized key chain with an acronym for March.

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The principal at work had a birthday and the 7th graders had a little song, with drums, and dance performance to celebrate as they presented her with a cake. The boss gave me a test to administer to the students and he retested the ones who failed the following week. The class average is D.

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The lady that bought the pizza last time hasn’t spoken to me (I’m glad), but the boss still wanted to do pizza and ice cream so I’m grateful I was able to email out of it due to being sick enough to leave anatomy class 45 minutes early one night. But there is a new intern that has impressed the kids with her knowledge of meditation and yoga so she can fill in for my absence and I will see them all after they get back from their two weeks break.

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sheep’s brain with dura mater on the left

Other than all the homework in my life I still find time to walk the neighbor’s dog, watch a TED talk with Caleb during dinner, and talk to my Dad almost daily. I’ve only woken up late once but still made it to school on time and to my favorite parking spot. Caleb rearranged the living room and I thought it would bother me, but the layout works, so I just pull the curtain halfway as the sun begins to set so it doesn’t blind me.

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