Why Write?

Originally, I created this blog to document my trip to India. Upon my return, I realized that I couldn't shake the writing bug.
So, feel free to read about my adventures in India and stay tuned for my traveling updates!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Foreign Propositions

There are certain things about living in the Middle East that a Western woman will never get used to, one of them is the fact that men think they can "buy you." Over the past six months, I have mentally recorded each of these encounters and have even given names to each of my perpetrators. I used to be afraid of these confrontations. Now, each time I am propositioned, it makes me stronger, more defiant, and aware of my surroundings. I am no longer shocked by these men's suggestions. However, I have decided it's time to expose the truth. Here is the catalog of my encounters. I have broken them down into two categories, “One Time Offenders” and “Common Offenders.”

One Time Offenders

Danny Zuko (from Grease):
While walking back to my car at a convenient store, this man proceeded to pull along side of my car. He asked if I "needed a ride." He continued to haggle me by suggesting, "I can take you anywhere you need to go." Even after I got into my vechicle he waited along side of my car. I shoed him out of the way and drove off. Sure buddy! I really need a ride! LAME!

Donald Trump:
This guy was a real charmer. After I left McDonalds, he had the audacity to ask me, "HOW MUCH?" I must confess, I had already had a long week at work and was not in the mood. This one got a vicious answer and I spurted back repeatedly in a booming voice, "I AM NOT A PROSTITUTE!!!" At least this one apologized. Like he could afford me anyway! Ha!

This scrawny man tried to convince me that I was a princess. "Pick Me" "Pick Me" "Pick ME" he kept saying.
 Dude! Calm yourself!
Mr. Chivalry:
This charmer paid for my meal at KFC. I should have known not to accept favors. He gave me his business card and said, "please call me, I am free tonight."

Car Stalker #1:
This past summer my bloody car broke down so I had to walk to and from work. One day, this guy pulled along side of me in his car and asked, "How much?" I didn't respond and kept walking forward. Then he tried a different approach, "Do you need a ride?" I told him to bug off!
 I had to walk with him pestering me like that for an entire block!
Car Stalker #2:
This time, I was walking to the grocery store to get some milk. FYI, If I am going to walk somewhere by myself, I always take the busiest streets. However, on this day, even the crowded streets didn't keep me from harm. Same type of situation, this guy sees me while driving down the street. He slows his car down and propositioned me. This guy wouldn't give it up so I yelled at him, "LEAVE ME ALONE." Finally, he drove off. The creep was still looking at me from his rear view mirror.

Common Offenders
(too many to count)
Taxi Drivers:
These guys aren't really taxi drivers. They pull up and ask if I "need a ride." As if?
Are you Russian?:
I have gotten this line a few times. Guys ask me if I'm a Russian hooker. I guess I do have blonde hair and my grandmother was Ukrainian. I can see how they would get confused.
Giggling School Boys:
Here’s a shout out to all of the Pakistani and Indian Men. They see me and start whispering and pointing in my direction. Often I hear giggles as they stare my way. They remind me of little boys. Luckily, these types of men never approach me!
Whistle in the Wind:
These are the type of men who will slow down, roll down their car windows, and whistle at me while I am walking down the street. It even happens at stoplights when I am in the safety of my car. Just the other day, I caught a group of policemen, riding in their work vehicle, smiling, winking, and waving at me. Seriously! What's with these people? It's irritating! 

The Truth of the Matter

My friend Jody, AKA Joseph, thinks that someone will one day make a book out of my crazy travel adventures! Who knows? Maybe he's correct! Between my personal life and my travels, I certainly have enough drama to make a best seller!

Now to my friends and family reading this from back home. Please don't worry about me. I don't walk around in mini skirts and I don't show any cleavage (not that I have it anyway). But, you get the picture, I dress modestly. I have learned to fend for myself over here. With everything going on back in "America," I often wonder if I am in a safer location than you guys??! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas!

Oh Christmas, how I love thee! Honestly, I love everything about you!  I love you for the energy that you emulate. I love you for your food. I love you for your music and holiday cheer. I love you for your craft projects and decorating ideas.
I love you because you make me feel young again and that is surely something I never want to forget.

Can you recall the blissful reminder of the years gone by? You know, when life was simple and everything made sense? Oh how I love the fury of events leading up to Christmas. Colorful trees decorated with handmade popcorn garlands. Festive lights. Maddening Christmas cookie sessions. Holiday parties. Extended family gathering together to sing carols. Pollyanna gift exchanges. I can remember every detail as if it were yesterday. Just the thought of you, dear Christmas, fills me with true happiness and joy.

What about this one? Do you remember the pure agony of trying to fall to sleep on Christmas Eve? You know, those sleepless nights where your excited heart couldn't seem to find rest?  "What will I get this year?" you would ask yourself.
All the world knows that it's nearly impossible to sleep on Christmas Eve!

Most importantly, Christmas, you remind me of everything important in life; family and friends! Wasn't it just yesterday that my family celebrated this holiday in one location? Sigh. This year my Dad is in Hong Kong, I'm in Bahrain, and the rest of the family is in Colorado. But, I can't dwell on such things. I may have caved and allowed myself five minutes of nostalgic memories but it's time to plod forward.

Even though I love you dearly Christmas, I have decided to boycott you this year! 

I haven't purchased any gifts.  I don't have a Christmas tree. I didn't make any Christmas cards and I haven't written a Christmas newsletter. No church to go to on Christmas Eve in this Muslim country.

Somehow, my roommate has convinced me to cook a Christmas dinner with him. How did that happen? How did I find myself if the role of hosting a dinner party? Our other roommate is in Scotland and she is the "queen of the kitchen." We will miss her skills dearly in the kitchen and will have to make do on our own.

It's funny because I wanted to sit at home and avoid Christmas altogether. I guess I thought it would be too painful to participate.  I have been joking with my friends that I feel like Scrooge this year because of my lack of Christmas spirit.

What's a Christmas Junkie to do in a foreign land? 
Well, I'll tell you. As this will be my first "non-traditional" Christmas away from my family, I want to do it in style. Therefore, I have decided to spend my day dressed as, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas! Yep! I have the whole costume lined up! Green tights, long, creepy nails, and green hair dye. I'm going for the look of," Sassy Grinch" so I won't be painting my face green. I even have a Santa corset to top it off.

Stay tuned for my adventures as the Grinch Who Stole Christmas!

PS-For my followers, I will be writing the final entry of Car Bodies and Batteries soon! As of late, my work and personal life has gotten the best of me!!!!

This is How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Friday, December 21, 2012

Car Batteries and Body Bags-Part 3

So, where did we leave off last? Yes, that's right. Miss Amy was in a taxi cab riding out to the town of Sitra. She arrived right before the store closed. In she entered, with determination written all over her face. She navigated her way through the language barrier and managed to purchase a shinny new car battery. This small triumph caused her to stroll back to the taxi with a look of pride on her face. She had done it! It almost felt like Christmas! Or, so she thought.

Miss Amy brought the battery home and called up her friend for help. Together, they attempted to install the battery. The only problem was the clerk had sold them the wrong battery model. The terminals were on the wrong side of the car battery!!! Chalk it up to miscommunication??? More phone calls, more delays, and it became evident that this ordeal was far from over. The bloody store was closed for the next four days and Miss Amy had to wait for what seemed like an eternity for a chance to exchange the car battery!

The time finally arrived when she could take a second trip out to Sitra. This time, she brought her trusted friend along for company. It was a smart move on her part because the store did not have the correct battery. They learned from the sales clerk that they would have to venture further into the town of Sitra to a different shop. The clerk advised Miss Amy and her "accomplice" that American's NEVER go there!  But they were desperate! At this point Miss Amy had been without a vehicle for almost two weeks. Desperate times call for desperate measures, isn't that what they say?

They got directions, thanked the clerk, and continued their journey into the unknown. They carried on down the crowded streets with cars honking and dealt with deathly long stop lights. They passed a round about, then another, and then another. They passed an armored vehicle with a policeman perched on the roof, holding a machine gun!  Continuing further down the road only ensured that more armored vehicles were present. Miss Amy and her friend tried not to stare and they whispered to the heavens, a prayer of safety.

Finally, they arrived at the shop. The transaction was painless. Thus, they exited the shop, just a little after dark. As they retraced their steps they noticed a few changes in their surroundings. The number of armored vehicles had increased! Now, in addition to armored vehicles, there were police cars stationed along side of the road. The bright twirling, flashing lights, gave off the appearance of tacky Christmas lights . "What in the world was going on?" Miss Amy thought to herself.

Just as they were navigating their way through the last round about, a frightful scene appeared before their very eyes, one in which Miss Amy will NEVER forget! Off to the right, perched at the top of a sand dune, were eight armored vehicles! Located in front of each vehicle was a policemen, holding a shield, and sporting a pointed machine gun! The beaming lights of the vehicles cast ominous shadows on the cars passing by. Upon closer examination, Miss Amy noticed that at the feet of each policeman was a black body bag!!!

Yes, eight armored vehicles, eight policemen, and eight body bags, all lined up on the side of the road! Now that's a recipe for nightmares!

So, you will be happy to know that Miss Amy was finally able to get her car up and running again! She learned how to install a car battery and now considers herself an expert on such things. If your car ever breaks down in Bahrain, you know who to call!

Car Batteries and Body Bags-Part 1

Car Batteries and Body Bags-Part 2

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lunch Break in Iran?

Who doesn't enjoy eating lunch, right? If you are at all like Miss Amy, a lover of food, you look forward to kicking back, slipping your shoes off, and eating something delicious during your lunch break at work. Miss Amy is the type of person who starts thinking about lunch within an hour of her arrival to work. Her co-workers often chide her for being able to eat like a man. But Miss Amy is from Dutch ancestry and we all know how they like good food, especially cheese and chocolate.

So one Thursday in November, Miss Amy set about her normal schedule. Having stayed up a little too late the previous night, she arrived to work without her lunch bag, which had fortuitously been left on the kitchen counter at home.

Like clockwork, the lunch hour arrived and she was food-less and ravenous. As a teacher of English in Bahrain, Miss Amy found herself rotating back and forth between two tutoring centers. On this particular Thursday, the monumental day that she forgot her lunch, she happened to be at the remote center, located near the Saudi Arabian border. 

Surely, she concluded, if she ventured into the nearby walled village, she would be able to find a suitable place to appease her appetite. This is how she found herself in her car, headed away from the safety of the tutoring center, alone. 

As she drove down the narrow, half hazardous, unpaved streets, she noted the black flags flying from each doorway, ominously reminding her that it was the week of Ashura, which marks the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali (the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad). In the Islamic religion, there are two sects, Shias and Sunnis. After speaking with her students, Miss Amy had discovered that Ashura is solely celebrated by the Shi’a population. In some countries, like Bahrain, this holiday is often observed by self mutilation, as a way to avenge the death of Husayn, the last true blood line to the Prophet Mohammad. The black flags posted on every corner, signaled to Amy that she was entering a Shi’a neighborhood and it was clear that the people of this village were in mourning. 

Spurred on by her growling stomach, she carried on down the narrow street in search of food. She located a sorry looking cafe with a sign that read “Hot Burger” and concluded that this was no time to think about gourmet food; it was simply “business.” This was going to be, “as good as it would get.” 

She parked the car, locked the door, and strolled up to the cafe take-out window. The man at the counter, stared at Miss Amy with wide, buggy eyes. She concluded that little eye contact would be best and she thanked the heavens that she had worn a long skirt that day.  After several attempts of asking for a menu, she was given a crinkled looking sheet of paper with words written in Arabic and English. She placed her order, or so she thought, and was shooed inside to wait. 

Shocked to see that she had been issued into a small waiting area with a frontal view of the kitchen, she waited. And she waited. And she waited. One, two, three men came in after her. All of them seemed to know what they were doing. Order, wait, get your food. Feeling her stomach growling, she sighed a simple sigh of frustration. Why was no one looking at her? Why wasn’t the cook saying something like, “your order will be next.” 

Finally, the light bulb went on, “I am a woman.” And this simple conclusion sent her racing out of the cafe, back to the safety of her car. The workers, probably not quite sure what to do, simply had ignored her because she was a woman and they could not serve her food! 

She abandoned all hopes of getting lunch and switched gears to “getting out of dodge.” Miss Amy, shaken by her cafe experience, made a wrong turn, and then another wrong turn. Each turn somehow led her deeper and deeper into the village. She passed an Iranian mosque. She passed frisky looking teenage boys moseying down the side walk. She passed several women, with pots of food in their hands. 

At this point, she lost all sense of direction and found herself stuck in the middle of a traffic jam. Cars were coming at her at all sides and people were crowded on the street corners. Panic rose in her throat and she cursed the fact that she was a white, female, lost in a Shi’a village. 

Not entirely immune to dangerous situations, she reminded herself of the time her well water was poisoned, while living in Haiti. Miss Amy and her roommate at the time, were cooped up in their house for two days, with armed guards outside. They waited until the police could catch the culprit, a disgruntled grounds keeper who had been fired six months prior. Surely, she thought to herself, if she had survived that experience, she could get through this as well. 
Just when all hope seemed lost, a man dressed in a white throbe, took control of the traffic dilemma. He parted the sea of cars, like Moses did when he parted the Red Sea and pointed Miss Amy in the right direction. All eyes were on her at this moment and she tried to give a friendly wave as she exited the scene.  After a few more turns and plenty of horn honking (not on Miss Amy’s part), she found herself on a familiar road, leading her back to work. No food. A bit shaken up. Starving! But, she had survived! Lesson learned: ALWAYS PACK YOUR LUNCH OR YOU COULD WIND UP IN IRAN!