We pour our water and as soon as Ali says food I’m the first in line. I’m grateful for this only because I get the opportunity to take a picture of the design on the hummus before dipping the large spoon into it. From there I’m quick to fill my plate and get out of the way of all the other hungry patrons. I add tabbouleh, olive salad, fresh veggies, spring rolls, pickled mango, and a piece of breaded fish (unknowingly) to my plate. I eat the fish with the mango to help with both flavors – more to tame the mango and spice up the bland fish.
Some people bring their dessert with them, but with my patience I return with cherry flan, a three-tiered chocolate cake with a banana layer, fresh fruit with delicious mango, and the first serving of fresh made ice cream with bananas and chocolate. We are scheduled to be here until 1:15 and everyone is done eating 20 minutes before that. We drink some more water and use the large bottles provided on the table to refill our own bottles.
As people sit and converse the staff comes by to collect plates and I notice that so many of them are covered in food – whole spring rolls and cucumber slices. I would think that as adults we would be more able to judge the amount of food we can intake at one sitting, but perhaps in this culture it’s ok to throw away so much of your host’s food. I have to remember we are only at a restaurant and that they may be used to this.
I use this time to go to the bathroom – partly because I have to go, but also because I want a picture of the sign. After doing so I notice some small figurines in the hall, but the chef thinks I’m a girl going to the men’s room (and I probably would have) so I go the other way to find the proper room. They have candies for sell and thick wooden doors on the stalls. When I’m done in there I go back to the men’s hallway on the other side of the restaurant to get a picture of the figurines. I get a text from Caleb to hurry back – dessert is being served.
What really gets me with the public manners of others is when they pass around the date and coffee – an inch tall cup filled partially with a local brew. I ate my date first and its sweetness helped with the wood pulp taste of my dessert drink. I looked around to see what others thought and happened to glance at a girl squinting her eyes, sticking out her tongue, and pulling her head back showing absolute disgust. I have my dad to thank that I’m more prepared for these moments. I hope that by the end of the college girls’ ten-week visit here they are better at hiding these emotions for the future sake of the jobs they are seeking and for the viewing pleasure of other diners.
Time to go to our last stop on today’s itinerary – Bahrain National Museum. I can tell we are arriving by the large art sculptures outside the walls on the lawn. The entrance fee is BD1 – a great deal for the amount of things to see inside. We start listening to Ali in the Hall of Graves about the babies buried in ceramic pots and decide to go off on our own taking interest in the pottery and spears. The Dilmun Hall shows us artefacts from excavations – pottery, arrowheads, jewelry, and pearls. Outside has sculptures and a view that is also impressive. I love the mix of historical and modern.
In the Customs and Traditions Hall we see coin mints, a wedding dress, hair products, kids learning the Qur’an, and group gold embroidery. Upstairs in the Crafts and Trades Hall we see a model fishing boat, a large ground loom, and the largest oysters I’ve ever seen. Caleb replies, “Where do you think large pearls come from?” We see sandal and spice merchants, a barber mid-shave, and a blacksmith burning something in a hall that resembles a souq.
The next exhibit room is Tylos (Greek name for Bahrain) and Islam Hall. Here we see pottery, weapons, and coins influenced under the Persian Empire from the 6th to 3rd century BC. Throughout Caleb’s visits to this island it has gone from the State of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2011. Being a writer myself I’m always impressed to see written words that have survived weather and politics and time. That’s what we find in the Documents and Manuscripts Hall – a complaint letter from India about the importing of pearls, a decree of 1941 regarding the renting of properties, and a proclamation on slavery in 1937.
There was also a ruler board made of cardboard and strings used for making lines on pages, a wall showing the growth of the Arabic language, and a corner filled with pearl-covered Qur’an’s with matching boxes to store them in – beautiful, historical, local, and something to be proud of. Downstairs the floor is covered in a map of the island of Bahrain. On the walls are explanations to match the raised exhibits in the middle of the room with push lights that show you other sites of interest on the island via a scale model.
We saw some people gathered by the exit but noticed we weren’t leaving yet so we wandered into the Visible Differences exhibit full of paintings, pictures, fiber arts, the use of lights and razor blades, and other visions of what makes art. There are two floors, but after seeing the first one we need to check on the group and one of the museum attendants hands us a free book explaining the art. We see the mom holding one child and hear the other and go back in to visit the second floor. I’m so glad we are able to see this as it’s a temporary exhibit which means it will be worth it to come back every three months when they change it.
We head towards the group where they are filling out evaluation forms for our tour guide and waiting on their buddies to join them. I enjoyed Ali’s wisdom and his frequent sayings: basically, and all these things. We used this opportunity to step inside the Recreational Purpose exhibit – dedicated by the Ministry of Culture to the naming of Manama as Capital of Arab Tourism 2013 by the Arab League. They took six photographers from out of the country and five locals and set them free to get their interpretation of the country – finding a different way to advertise what this place has to offer – a comfy chair by the ocean, a dusty mountain, a covered car in a dirt lot, the wooden fence popular around construction sites, and farmers with roses as heads – not all realist, but all interesting.
This is our last time today getting on the bus with tall steps and padded seat covers. I don’t know what material I expected and they weren’t given the chance to get hot. The driver gets to stay on the bus with the air running while parked in the shade. His lunch was brought to him. We are dropped back off where we were picked up. Part of me is ready to jump in the car and go home, but I remember we have to get a pre-lease from the housing office on base. We walk there to find out that they closed at 2pm today and it’s not yet 3:30 – which would be ok if they closed at 4pm.
Caleb has me roll the windows down until the car cools somewhat. We are in the outer turn lane (may not be marked that way, but that’s how it’s used) and when the light turns green this SUV attempts to merge into me. He almost goes straight when he thinks I am, but is quick to turn when he realizes I’m not fighting his right for direction, but I won’t be pushed out of my spot. If you want in my lane you need to get in front or behind me – not beside me. We have a Maserati drive beside us on the on ramp so I speed up to go around him, then let him tailgate me down the road, and get over to let him pass before we turn.
Bahrain is building a new residents/visitors gate to Amwaj and two lanes have been reduced to one. I’m fine with merging with the drivers that were already in the other lane, but watching them come up beside me just to cut me off doesn’t work – even if they are security they know what they’re doing. In the parking lot is a GMC Denali, shiny and white, but with the front of the car and back of the mirrors covered in an orangish-brown spray paint dirt. The license plate is KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and it’s a protective coat (easily washes off with water) to protect from the rocks they will be speeding over to get here.
We get inside with ten minutes to walk the dogs or so I think. We were suppose to meet with Myra at 4pm. I have Caleb text her because I have no service. She tells him that she texted me at 2pm to confirm and when I didn’t she cancelled. She replies that she can pick us up at 10am tomorrow. We shall see. Took the dogs for a walk. Diana, the realtor, told us that she walks her dogs every night around the island about 6km which is 3.7 miles. Caleb thought we might be able to do that. I told him we would start and either finish carrying the dogs around or turn back when they were ready. The dogs’ tongues fell out 20 minutes into it, about halfway across Najmah, and we realised that even though it’s dark out at 7pm that doesn’t mean it’s not still 91 degrees, but it does mean the sidewalk is cool enough for the dogs to walk on and soon I can walk to Amy’s who lives on Tala.
Peeling clothes off is necessary once inside and so is refilling the dogs’ empty water bowl which is probably a sixth the size of theirs that is being shipped over. You know you’re in the desert when you can turn on the cold water and it’s still hot, but it feels good to wash off the sweat of the day, to realize I’m slowly combating jet lag, and to come into the living room and see the dogs passed out on the couch. The internet is still slow so there will be no blogging tonight. I could feel bummed, but I will save that feeling until we get a place of our own. Right now I’m sharing a connection with at least 30 other users and Bahrain either doesn’t have many internet cables or these guys are downloading some long films. It seems there won’t be any reading either as my eyes begin to grow heavy. I’m just waiting on The Real Housewives of Disney to download so I can watch it and then go to bed.