We waited up until 10pm last night before going to bed. I set the alarm for 7:15 – way more sleep than usually needed but hoping to help recover from jet lag. I got woken up by the club next door and was surprised to hear, “Because all of me loves all of you”. I recalled a dream I had and then went back to sleep. Sparky woke up letting his nails click throughout the place and then coming back to bed to clean the dust off his feet. I knew he had to go outside, but I was tired and didn’t want to get up yet.
Caleb woke up enough, we got dressed, and carried the dogs across the street at 3:45 am. People around here live like vampires – coming out at night. We are probably being stared at, but we are too blurry eyed to care and most of them are drunk in conversation waiting for their rides. It felt later than it was and I would listen to their music and wait to fall asleep. I woke up at 5am to go to the bathroom and figured I could lay down for two more hours, but when I woke at 6am I got out of bed. We were supposed to get a head start on house hunting, but there is only so far we can go on foot and Master Chief never got in touch with us yesterday like he said he would to show us around and introduce me to his wife and some of her friends – so we wait.
Caleb wakes and takes the laundry out of the machine. He put more in there than the dryer could handle so he starts using hangers and drawers and closet space to hang them up. He goes into the den and notices two piles of dried something that we somehow missed the smell of. He picks up the crusted dry poo from the dogs’ makeshift toilet; then remembers that their travel blankets need to be washed and the newspapers that were under them, covered in pee, need to be thrown out.
I make a video of Caroline’s visit to the beaches and post it to YouTube and then it’s time for breakfast. We walk over to Yamin Jana and the server asks for our room number – umm, 9 something, 3 something, and a 5. Then we look on the paper by last name and are welcomed into the dining area. The buffet takes up three walls – toast, yogurt, fruit, veggies, cheese, cereal, juice, coffee, beans, mushrooms, boiled eggs… and as we look we are offered a pancake, waffle, or omelette. We choose pancake, load our plates, and take a seat by the window.
I got rye toast with orange marmalade, a muffin, triangle of brie, a scoop of labnah (sour cream yogurt), slice of tomato, piece of pineapple and honeydew, pineapple juice, and a pancake that resembled a crêpe. The server sees us watching the cleaning crew mopping and squeegee-ing outside and notes that clean up is very much necessary especially after the weekend parties and says something about the humidity. The sun is hiding behind the clouds for now and it feels nice out. We feel guilty heading back to our room and leaving dirty footprints across their freshly mopped floor.
I’m not feeling well. I think it’s a mix of sleep deprivation, dehydration, and the labnah – though I didn’t have that much. I haven’t had to taste the same meal twice in a long time but doing so makes me feel better. I lay on the couch for an hour with Piggy while Caleb adds more yarn to his ball. Regurgitation, relaxation, and some fresh air will cure me. We walk the dogs, give them some food, and then head to The Lagoon that is supposed to have a grocery store closer to us. I notice the tiny mop heads in the window of the parking garage and the thin directional arrows in the road.
The mall is three stories – floors G, 1, 2 – with the second floor mostly construction, the first floor mostly restaurants, and the ground floor offering food, furniture, and spa services. There is a building on each side of the water and a round building built over the water, but the janitor can’t tell us what it is, or we don’t know how to ask, but we do point. I find a ladies prayer room and take a peek inside. There is a place for your shoes, a wash area for hands, feet, and face, and then a carpeted room with a bookshelf in the back. We pass a lot of American version restaurants and though I thought I wouldn’t eat there I want to taste the difference. We make our way from one side to the other, find the elevator, and I finish my water. It’s time to find air-conditioning and more water.
Our hands are swollen as we finish our first litre of water at Pizza Express. We order dough balls with three sauces – pesto, garlic butter, and red pesto – as an appetizer. And for lunch we get two pizzas: Giardiniera with red pesto, veggies, and added balsamic; and Melanzane Piccante with aubergine, jalapeños, Mozzarella and Grana Padano cheeses, rocket and added chilli pepper oil. We order another bottle of water and finish half of that at the table and refill my bottle with the rest. As we are leaving a family comes in – father, mother in jeans with an abaya, two kids, and the nanny. Part of me doesn’t see the point in wearing both – it’s meant to cover womanly curves and save you from sand and sun, but wearing it so loosely just looks bad.
We take our two boxes of pizza and take a short cut home. Caleb thinks about our food allotment money – BD80 a day each – and that even if we go out once a day like we have been we’re only spending BD30 for both of us and will still have enough saved up to pay the large move-in deposit that we will need in 43 days. While we were eating Caleb got a text from Master Chief letting us know that he was going to pick us up in an hour.
When we get to the room I take a shower while Caleb walks the dogs. Master Chief is 30 minutes late and I have no idea where we are going, but I’m sure to bring water, phone, and ID. His name is Francis and we meet his wife, Amy, and their ten-year old son, Nick – a family of talkers. They have a 20-year old son that’s in Japan in the Navy. They take us to a car rental place on American Alley where we can get a good deal – we are to drive the expensive white Nissan tonight and then exchange it tomorrow for the car in our budget.
From there we follow them to base – Caleb’s second time driving in Bahrain. We meet Francis’ XO and they buy things for dinner at their house tonight. Amy is full of recommendations on what brands to buy and where to find the best deals. We stop at Baskin Robbins and I get a Love Potion #31 – ice cream, coffee, and bagels – some of the good treats on base. We go our separate ways at the NEX and buy sunscreen, a red coffee mug for me, a 12-pack of water, Cheerios, and a case of chili Ramen among other items that fit in two bags. On base it’s ok to cart your goods to the gate and then haul them to your car. NEX employees will come by when needed to bring them back to the store.
We waited to buy more fresh produce on the recommendation of Amy to go to Lulu’s Hypermarket. Caleb seems to drive there with ease only having one car drive in the same lane as us once. We missed a turn, but were quickly able to find our way along narrow streets filled with erratically parked cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and delivery trucks. I think of the restrictions of the U.S. and though they may be for ‘our safety’ here parking is a total freedom unless the lot has attendants and even then people park where space is available.
We find parking in the garage and make our way inside. My eyes light up at the sight of a human conveyor belt making shopping a three or four-story mall with carts so convenient – and cool with air vents along the belt. I thought we would start at the top and make our way down, but I got caught at the size of the selections of food on the third floor. We grabbed a basket and made our way down every aisle and through the produce section. I look for paneer and settle for the ready-made boxed dinners with it included. To get our cheese fix we buy Mozzarella, Gouda, and Dutch smoked with pepper. We buy some black truffle oil, two flavors of raviolis, milk to go with the cereal, tomatoes, a mango, and some drinks to try.
On one floor there are kids starting a cake decorating contest. Any place that has air-conditioning is a great place to sell food, have plenty of seating, and events to entertain children while their parents shop. We head back to the car and Caleb hands me the key – so he can navigate. I could get used to this. It’s not so bad when the roads aren’t busy, otherwise it’s like rush hour in Miami. I unpack the groceries and sit down to write. I start to get tired so Caleb pours me a glass of Rockstar.