... since I have last blogged.
SO MUCH has happened in my world since we last talked.
The beautiful country I live in has been through a serious crisis and has managed to come out bruised but not beaten.
I would love to blog about the whole experience but where would I begin. All the details seem to blur together.
It's funny, all the serious protesting and demonstrations began on Valentine's Day, and nobody "felt the love" (pun intended).
* 100 tanks and military personnel have arrived from neighboring Saudi Arabia to assist in keeping the peace. They are currently living in a whole tented camp outside of City Centre Mall, which I guess is convenient if they need a new pair of Gucci shoes or something for a fancy dinner party in the sand (LAUGH)!
* The Pearl Roundabout (NOT "Square" - thank you very much) has been bulldozed and is currently on it's way to becoming a
traffic crossing that is ANYTHING but circular.
* Over 100 US military family members have voluntarily left the country to return to the States, Tanner is missing his five classmates who left and hopes they will be permitted to return.
* The British Embassy made it mandatory that all English families return to their home nation, however the employees were permitted to stay. Many friends left and from what I understand a few have returned.
* We have been unable to receive milk (which comes from Saudi Arabia) on three separate occasions, each time less than a week. Three cheers for long life shelf milk in a box, right?!?!?!
* During the height of the protesting down in the Pearl Roundabout a few thousand anti government demonstrators gathered. They slept in the traffic circle in large tents and lounged on couches they brought from their homes. They proudly displayed their coffeepots, cooking grills, homemade "Down with Khalifa" signs and pretty much enjoyed the carnival-like atmosphere they had created for over a month. It was such a disturbance that traffic was completely redirected and the area eventually became closed off. One morning on my way to work I was driving on the Sail Bridge and a group of protestors (see photos) just hopped out of vans and proceeded to block passage on the bridge... they even came equipped with guys in orange vests to stop traffic! Very organized (and annoying).
* During the above mentioned height of protesting, hundreds of thousands of citizens of Bahrain felt that the behavior at the Pearl Roundabout was disruptive, dangerous and not benefiting the common good of it's citizens. On four occasions the pro-government rallies assembled at the Grand Mosque in Manama. Hundreds of thousands of people proudly wore the Bahraini flag draped across their backs and waved them in the air. Prayers for peace and calm were petitioned. I was leaving the base on one such evening, I witnessed the gathering unfold from my car and that is where the pictures below came from. I actually got teary eyed because I could really feel how badly these citizens wanted their home back. They longed for things to be back to normal, to feel safe in their own country.
* Strict curfews have come and gone and returned yet again. There were days where we were not allowed to leave our home. Tanner missed a total of three weeks of school because of school closures and early dismissals due to "traffic concerns". At least that's what the school calls them. What they are really trying to say with out saying it is this: "We don't want a dangerous protest to spontaneously erupt and your precious children to be stuck in a bus in the middle of it." I agree completely, so we treat it like a snow day around here... however the "snow" is sand and we "sled" at the beach! ;)
* Check points, lovely checkpoints. Most people complain about them however, I think they are GREAT! They make me feel safe. Personally, I could do without the dudes in the black ski masks (they really ARE a little on the freaky side) but that's OK. Tanner and Gavin are so completely and utterly oblivious to the whole thing. ALL OF IT. It makes me wonder if I am raising total and complete "un-observers" OR if this whole strange experience is just so "business as usual" that they don't even notice it in the least. Either way, checkpoints are the "new normal" and I don't mind.
* Sadly, the country has lost a TON of money over the last two months... I believe a billion dollars in two months was the last reported amount. The Formula One race season always kicks-off here in Bahrain and it was canceled as was the month long Spring Of Culture (which hosts a month of daily concerts, shows and festivals). The malls were closed for weeks and the bridge to Saudi was closed. So as you can imagine tourism is pretty much in the tank. Hotels, restaurants, taxis and shops nationwide are taking the brunt of the burden and truly feeling the affects of the unrest.
* The Crown Prince looks like he has aged about ten years over the past two months, I wish him luck and grace because he's going to need it. I pray that the worst of the unrest is over but only time will tell. Currently the government is trying to promote "business as usual" by lifting the curfew from midnight to 4 AM and only doing checkpoints during times of non-daylight. The malls are trying to do ANYTHING to bring people out of their homes and into the land of "spending bliss".
A month ago my parents came for a two week visit. It was during a critical time in the protesting and we appreciate their courage in making the 26 hour journey to get here. We spent a lot of time at the island community where we live, thank goodness we have a closed community where we have the freedom to get out and about while still being "home". Tanner was out of school for the whole of their visit, which gave them more time to hang out together. We were blessed to have an amazing time as three generations at the beach. The kids really enjoyed real quality time showing off "their Bahrain" to Grandpa and Nini.
All this being said, I am in the middle of trying to open a business with my friend who is a local Bahraini. We plan on opening the doors in 30 short days. She worries about foot traffic being that we are opening at a nearby mall. I keep reassuring her that all will be OK and that it will be a huge success but deep inside I think we both still have some reservations. It is crucial that life returns to normal, and quickly.
Thank you for tuning in and catching up with us. I know it's been a while and for that I apologize. Life here with the political climate being what it's been has been a little overwhelming at times... and I would rather write when I have a clear head without involving too many emotions. Peace.