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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