So we have made the decision to leave link to part 1 and left one island for another link to part 2 and now we move on to the next chapter.
We arrived on the tiny island of Bahrain with high expectations. After all, Bahrain and Dubai can’t be to dissimilar can they? Eh-hem! So we were a bit naive back then that was part of the reason for travelling isn’t it? We are met at the airport by Jayne’s head of department Heidi who was very nice and she recommended a hire car company (yikes, driving already!) and we set off for the apartment. What were our first impressions of Bahrain? A dusty, baron and run down little corner of the desert. Its nickname to expats is The Sandpit. As we eventually came to realise we were being a little harsh but it was an intense time. Total emotional and physical overload.
Traveling around Bahrain. Pendulum rocking it in the background!
Three month old passion fruit sir?
The apartment was a bit of a shock. It was dirty and dusty and uncleaned. I won’t even tell you what was in the fridge. Heidi decided to personally put us up in a hotel so they could get someone in to make it presentable. We arrived back the next day and it was a bit better…..a bit! Still having an ultra-positive attitude we said “what the hell” and proceeded to make the flat our own. We concentrated on our daughter’s room and made sure we made it all colourful and pink and added some of her toys that we had brought. We went to the supermarket to start buying the thing we needed and that’s when the meltdown happened.
Don’t Panic. Panic!
You couldn’t class me as cautious by any stretch of the imagination but at the same time I’m not frivolous either. You need to picture the scenario. I have been made redundant from a job I had been fairly successful in and had been there a long time and have come to Bahrain with no job, not totally clear whether Jayne’s salary is going to cover our expenses and finally, are now buying expensive stuff to go in the flat! A flat that at the time I’m not very happy with. Cue childish, panicky outburst! Oh dear. This all happened in the pots and pans aisle of Geant supermarket!
I prefer cheesecake
What you come to realise with a bit of experience is that you cannot take a small part of your life abroad and say that that part defines it. It’s like eating a tiny piece of a fruit cake and saying you know what the whole cake tastes like. Finances are a big part of that. We have earned different salaries in different countries and at times taking a big drop to move but you won’t know whether you are better or worse off financially until your whole life settles into a routine. You can take a pay cut to live in a different country and be better off. You could be financially worse off but spiritually better off. You just won’t know until you do it. Once I calmed down and started to breathe again (sheesh!) life settled down.
Our arrival coincided with Ramadan. For those of you who don’t know what Ramadan is, it is a holy month in the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast during daylight hours to represent and rein act the prophet’s trials and tribulations. I hope I have put that accurately and eloquently enough to do it justice. The issue for us and our lack of understanding or connections was that lots of things were closed and there is very little to do during the day. Just imagine, it’s 50 degrees, we know one person and everywhere is shut or seems shut. Solitary confinement springs to mind. It was clearly the most time we had all spent together, ever. A few more days and it would be over.
The Impressive King Fahad Causway. It is built over the sea, is 15km long and goes to Saudi Arabia.
School did not start for Jayne for a few days and for Jaime a couple of weeks. So we had time to explore. Our flat was situated in Sanad on the East side of Bahrain. It’s a small Shia village that is fairly close to the school. The local people were very curious to see some British people wandering around using the same shops and the little bakery on the corner. Jaime would get a lot of attention from women who would want to play with her blonde hair which at first was a bit disconcerting but Jaime liked the attention so we got used to it. We were trying to learn a bit of Arabic so we could converse a bit more and get to know people a bit better. I enjoyed that time together and started to feel at home in our little flat.
Jaime loving her new bedroom.
Welcome to the Jungle
School started for Jayne and immediately it didn’t feel right to her. Jayne is very organised and professional and the school was certainly not that. We can look back and laugh at those feelings now because most schools internationally are unorganised and are winging it a bit! This one was particularly chaotic though. Jayne was starting to have growing concerns and that was unsettling for all of us.
Then it was Jaime’s turn to have her first day at school. One requirement that we had back then that is certainly no longer a requirement, in fact quite the opposite, was that there were other English speaking kids at the school. We were told categorically yes there were and in fact there are other British kids at the school. There clearly were not! On her first day I left Jaime looking a bit bewildered in the meeting hall with all these Bahraini children bouncing off of the walls and having just stood up for the Kings anthem. As a six year old she dealt with it superbly but the fact is that she was isolated and the strategy of the school was to take her out of lessons to do extra Arabic for a few hours a day.
Swine Flu? Shouldn’t we discreetly change the name?
Jaime was in school for a total of nine days. She said she loved the teachers who loved her back but that the other children were all speaking in Arabic during the day and the boys kept hitting her on the shoulder! Bless her. I think she was liked there but the kids didn’t really know what to do with her and the language barrier was huge. Then the Swine Flu Epidemic hit and there was panic in Bahrain. Arabs are particularly susceptible to swine flu because of widespread sickle cell anaemia so the schools shut down indefinitely. The teachers were still required to attend but there was not a student in sight.
The NO day
There were two days that I will never forget the first one we call the NO day.
Those growing concerns about the school for both the girls was increasing and we were starting to feel that we had made a mistake! Again experience has taught us that you need to give things time and we had agreed a year but they were only words. The school was a mess, Jaime was isolated and missing a lot of normal schooling because of swine flu and to be honest we were glad she didn’t have to go. On this particular day we had just been informed of a delay and uncertainty of a loan on a new car. A new car that would save us money as the hire company were trying to rip us off. I had been turned down for another job and I was starting to feel the pressure. We returned a lamp shade to the shopping mall that didn’t work out of the box and we were told that ‘we broke it’. It was one of those days that was saying ‘give up and go home, this is not going to get any better.’
Jayne had been called back to school for the first time since the swine flu epidemic and she was hoping to see some leadership, direction and instruction when she arrived. On arrival there was nothing in reception apart from a notice on behalf of all staff to The Principal acknowledging the sorrow “on the demise of her goldfish!” That was the straw that broke the camel’s back (please excuse the pun) for Jayne. She came home that evening shell shocked, sat on the side of the bed and said that we needed to think about going home.
The YES Day
Psychologically I believe that luck and good fortune are shaped by our own attitudes. If you are in a negative mood all those little subtleties in the day that can swing one way or the other will go the wrong way and we kind of do that to ourselves. Approaching life in a positive manner can help to turn the little things around and in turn those little things become big things. I need to take my own advice sometimes.
Jayne was on the PC when I got up looking excited. One of the big international schools there were looking for a business teacher. Bearing in mind that we were told that you won’t get a job with those schools they don’t recruit on the island, it was a shock. Jayne spent the morning filling out the form and writing this brilliant cover letter. I was blown away by it and I was absolutely certain that she had a great chance. This set the tone for the day. We were buzzing and wanted to go out and have some fun. Then while out we receive a call from the Subaru car showroom to say the loan had been accepted! WHAT!! Then we met some very nice people that wanted to show us around. I’m happy to report that these people are still good friends today. Suddenly we were looking forward again and had a glimmer of hope. But would it last……….
Until next time. Thanks for reading.