Our Second Weekend Starts

driving the Hyundai i10

Caleb captures me driving the Hyundai i10

Last night we went to bed at 9pm. I got some good sleep before Miley Cyrus came blasting through our window at 3am. Let me clarify – it was her song Wrecking Ball, not her pulling off some Kool-Aid Man stunt. When my alarm went off this morning and I took Sparky out, with Caleb and Piggy still cuddling in bed, there was a car parked on the stairs and three guys dancing and stumbling their way across the parking lot to their car.

ASU - Applied Science University

ASU – Applied Science University – by Caleb

When Sparky and I walked in the other two woke up and we all went outside together. Some of the staff was leaving too. It will be nice to have our own place away from the clubs so that it’s safer to walk to the beach to watch the sunrise and not have to worry about being mistaken for stairs – though here it’s legal to use the sidewalk as a parking space. Last night was the first time we weren’t able to park in the lot up the ramp and our car seems fine this morning after a night in the sand.

gas factory

gas factory, southern Bahrain

Another carb-filled breakfast to energize us for the day. I look at the listings of things to do and a lot is closed on Friday (the local Sunday) so we decide to drive to the Tree of Life. It will take us about an hour to get there. We stop at the BAPCO (Bahrain Petroleum Co.) in Muharraq to get BD1 of gas. Given the option I choose jayyid (91 octane) over the 95 octane mumtaz that’s offered by base next to diesel. Caleb navigates us to King Hamad Highway where I can follow the signs to our destination. We pass the Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) center with pipe lines above ground looking like train tracks with support beams keeping them off the ground.

no camping beyond this sign

no camping beyond this sign on gas company property

I turn right, at 8:30, before Google maps has planned and we go with it. The road starts out paved but curves away from the tree so I take the rocky looking road that is part damaged and dangerous for small cars and part sand dunes that small cars can get stuck in. Caleb suggests that I keep my foot steadily on the gas instead of slamming on it to speed us out of there like I did. We make our way around to the regular road and just park – instead of driving a little further and parking more near the main entrance. At the tree we learn that the ruins at the base used to be houses and a family planted a seed, put some water on it, and then disappeared, but the tree is still here.

a new-to-me sign

a new-to-me sign on the way to the Tree of Life

The security official tells us about the large display around the site with metal plaques on the wall showing other old trees from around the world. He tells us we can come back at night to see the place lit up. It’s a large mesquite tree with pieces of wood holding up some of the branches to keep them from getting buried in sand. My favorite part was watching the tiny birds (size of hummingbirds) fly among the branches. If they were any bigger the amount of water they would require would be too much. There are some guys there posing all over the tree – touching, leaning, standing, sitting. Another family shows up and the heat of the day is arriving. They leave with child in hand and carrying the kid’s shoes.

a branch of the Tree of Life

a branch of the Tree of Life – by Caleb

We head southeast from the tree to get a look at the outside of the Sheik Isa Air Base and catch a glimpse of the water on the other side. It seems longer because the road curves beside it. Next, we go left at a round-about towards Durrat Al-Bahrain – the fancy little shapes in the water that resemble fish and shrimp. There are large houses seen in the distance from the guard shack and this is the furthest south that we can go – unless we make friends with one of the residents and take the smaller road all the way to the tip.

Caleb caught me admiring the tree

Caleb caught me admiring the tree

Leading up to the shack is a winding road surrounding by greenery – palm trees, bushes, and grass, at a level to keep the view of the desert out. We get to see the gardener turn a bush from natural growth into a square of uniform design. From here we can only head north. Our next plan is to go to Um Al Naasan – the large island between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The road to get there must be yellow on the map because there is a lot of graffiti on the walls, but there are also a lot of people selling produce from the back of their truck. I want to stop and get a large watermelon, but there is some pre-sliced offered for breakfast every morning.

the ruins nearby - by Caleb

the ruins nearby – by Caleb

We make it to the last exit and Caleb decides we should turn around. No need to chance getting stuck or in another accident without our passports (while they get our one-year visas) and no CPR card because we need a visa to do that. I’m just happy getting this close to Saudi Arabia. I can wait at least another two weeks for our visas and I still need to go shopping for proper attire over there and let Caleb in the driver’s seat. I’m not concerned with making it to the main land yet, but I was looking forward to seeing the main island, Um Al Naasan, possibly Jiddah, and the Middle Island.

a close-up of the greenery

a close-up of the greenery

We could just turn around and get back on King Fahd Causeway, but I take a left instead towards Flamingo Gardens wondering if the king had some ordered for others to see. Another left turn and it’s either a private residence or an animal resort. We turn right and down the road get to pass the guard sitting on the other side of the large gate – big enough to fit eight of our tiny cars through. We drive a little farther and even though the gate is open (where we could walk in or possibly drive) we turn around to be met with a customs SUV waiting in the road.

looking up

looking up

I pause as I wonder if I’ve gone too far or if they tracked us down from turning around from a security checkpoint earlier. It said there was construction ahead, and possibly not much else, so we turned around instead of bothering with it. Maybe next time. The customs car flashes its lights at me and then waves us around. I almost went too far right but laughed it off as we drove back to the causeway.

gotta keep it together

gotta keep it together

From there we had shopping for swimwear, being touristy at Arad Fort, and going home to walk dogs on the list. Caleb directs us to Seef Mall – a two-story shopping plaza where we arrive at 10:30. The top floor is mostly food – Stickhouse, Spud, and Auntie Anne’s with no jalapeño bagels. We walk into a few clothing stores downstairs and I find my first traditional swimsuit. It has a long top (mid-thigh) with a hood giving you the ability to cover just your head or your face too and long pants to match. I thought about getting one – full purple or orange top with black pants – but I don’t see me wearing the hood.

a tree hat - Caleb's idea

a tree hat – Caleb’s idea

These large shopping centres are all about entertaining kids with a large ball pit, riding large stuffed animals on wheels, and a large bubble to walk around in available at this one. We finish looking around and stop by Stickhouse – gelato on sticks – to get me a mango, kiwi, something stack before we go. The top flavour was like a cherry or other berry with the skin sticking in my teeth. It was delicious. I’m quick to finish it as we get in the car. I’m surprised the heat didn’t have it running down my arm, but it was handed to me with frost on it – colder to last longer. 

the wall of trees

the wall of tree plaques

With no swim trunks luck here we head to base where Caleb has no problem finding two pairs on sale. I tried looking out in town, but the tops are made for smaller women. Then I tried to find bottoms and the sizes are different making it time-consuming in the trial (fitting) room. There are no options on base – maybe some sleepwear or workout gear, until we notice a sales rack in the hall that has two one-pieces. I don’t feel like fighting with the other women to get a look at them. Caleb says I can wear his shorts, but maybe I will brave the booty shorts at the pool – the same pool where women wear tiny bikinis.

the tree

the tree

Now it’s around 1pm and Caleb wants to know if I still want to go to Arad Fort. Not really, I want to go home and cool off. We can go to the fort tomorrow in the cool of the morning – 90 degrees. We will play the take your clothes off and lay on the cold marble floor and make fart noises with your sweaty back game when we are done walking the dogs. Caleb wins of course, but we both had fun cooling off.

north from Darrat Al Bahrain

north from Durrat Al-Bahrain

We have a late lunch of butternut squash raviolis with black truffle oil after I have my dessert from the other day – crème brûlée with lemon grass and a sliced strawberry on top. Definitely better fresh but still good. Caleb makes tea from the four packets of Lipton provided. He fills the water boiler (what I thought was a coffee pot) and has to quickly unplug it before it bubbles over. We throw in the packets and let it cool so that Caleb can reuse one of our tall water bottles and have iced tea later.

somewhere along the route

somewhere along the route to Saudi

Caleb promised the dogs some sausage earlier in the week and we finally remembered this morning. He brought back two pieces and split one before we left and one after they ate lunch. It’s a good way to reward them for not crapping in the hotel – something that’s happened at least three times since we’ve been here – damn jet lag. While we sit here listening to the party outside Caleb shares something he read in the Weekender: Because every week deserves a happy ending. Issue 71. Some guy in the UK has a hot wing challenge: eat ten and win 100 British pounds. Twenty people have tried, some have left in an ambulance, and the maximum number eaten so far is two. Seems dumb to me but it gets Caleb thinking about dinner.

driving through town

driving through town

It doesn’t help that I’m looking through the What’s Up? June edition of MWR Bahrain and the thick booklet they gave us full of restaurant, museum, and shopping ideas. I’m naming random restaurants and Caleb wants pasta, but remembers that I wanted to try the noodle place. We think it would be cool to have it delivered so Caleb calls the Noodle House – a restaurant in the Seef area that tells us The Dragon is too far. Caleb tries to call the correct place – Noodle Factory in the Lagoon, but can’t find a menu.

Flamingo Gardens

Flamingo Gardens

It’s another party night and as we drive over giving up our parking spot I think about how we could’ve walked there and back. We park in front of the parking lot where the road curves in and walk into the plaza. Last time we were there were just employees. Tonight the place is packed with men surrounded by women. Caleb wonders how many are wives, daughters, mothers, and nannies as it seems everyone is out for the holiday.

top half of a burkini

top half of a burkini

We are greeted and seated at the Noodle Factory at 5:45 and choose all but one of their veggie options – the spring rolls with sauce, the Cantonese noodles, and the wok-fried veggies. The other side dish was eggplant. We are also given four dipping sauces – sweet chilli, soy sauce, a chunky orange sauce, and sriracha peppers in oil – our favorite. I’m feeling festive and order a green dragon. It’s a cocktail – just a juice drink with crunchy seeds, a lemon slice, and mint garnish – no alcohol. Caleb checks us in via Foursquare and is rewarded with a buy-one-get-one drink special so I order a jungle nectar too. It’s bright orange and hides the crunchy seeds inside.

cars, trains, and sweets at Seef Mall

a car, train, and sweet stand at Seef Mall

The food was good, nothing fancy. Our waiter is glad to hear it’s our first time and hopes we will be coming back. He hands us a survey of service for a chance to win BD125, and a delivery menu for next time. I enjoy the relaxing walk back to the car. I’m worried about finding parking, but on approach we notice a spot, one that is taken as we turn up the ramp. Just as quickly I reverse to let two cars out giving me a choice of spots though the valet guy was pointing for me to park the Hot Wheels I’m driving under the stairs.

something fishy about this mall

something fishy about this mall

With the car parked, and the leftovers put away, we settle on the couch for another movie night. I look forward to getting household goods so that we have more activities to rely on – like running, reading, and knitting. I will do my blogging during the day while Caleb is at work unless I’m hanging out with other wives. Tonight’s film is Just My Luck with Lindsey Lohan. She’s lucky until she kisses a guy and then the drama ensues.

a green dragon at Noodle Factory

a green dragon at Noodle Factory

When Caleb gave me that look as if to ask ‘are we really watching this?’ I should’ve changed it to a more educational channel like Discovery that plays Inventions that Shook the World or maybe the animal channel, but the movie did its job keeping us up until 9pm. I think the jet lag is over now that we are all sleeping through the night, but we need to get on a more definite schedule of eating and going to sleep. Perhaps tomorrow we can walk the dogs at 7pm, get sweaty without trying, and then go for a swim.

spring roll cigar, anyone?

spring roll cigar, anyone?

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