Friday, November 30, 2007

day 30

Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
We went downtown to the Gold Souq today, it's near old-town Manama. We were walking down the street and I heard a SLAM! and turned to see these gentlemen playing cutthroat dominoes.

Several of the guys visiting here wanted to buy fake rolexs, and this was the place to get them. As I had no interest in either gold nor knock-off watches I wandered around. There were all kinds of small businesses selling mostly jewelry and knick-knacks (hookahs, table runners, pewter camels, magic boxes (puzzle boxes),etc.) You are expected to dicker, no one pays the price on the label. One of the permanent party guys here likes to go just to haggle. He rarely buys the thing, but he's damned good at getting their best price.

So - as you can see - I got a rare day off. It was nice to wander around a bit. I'm just getting a feel for how the city is laid out. I wish I had some real time off to explore, I think I would love old-town Manama. I've been on an island for almost 5 weeks and haven't been anywhere near the water. Oh well, maybe next time.

7 days and I'm on a plane....

Thursday, November 29, 2007

day 29

despite evidence and rumors to the contrary I am actually on this planet and not 250,000 miles away. Here's a bit of greenery that could not survive in that other environment. (ignore the shadows pointing the wrong direction).

Hoo boy, this place is jumping. All the permanent party folks are back and there's a host of visitors (like myself). So, no more quiet. Confusion will reign for a while. it's already started - someone was left at the apartment this morning. Lunch is being ordered in due to the logistics of trying to get a large number of people out somewhere. I fully expect a mess trying to figure out whose food is whose. Oh well. no big deal, it'll iron itself out.

8 days............

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

day 28

our production methods are state-of-the-art, the envy of our competitors.....

I'm afraid I have nothing witty, pithy, observational, or otherwise of interest to contribute today. More visitors are arriving, people are starting to return from vacation so routines are about to change. I think my driving days are about up, the person whose vehicle I am using is supposed to be back as of today. That will bite, I have enjoyed the freedom even if I haven't had much use for it. I will attempt to commandeer it from time to time for various nefarious activities.

9 days left!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

day 27

You know, not in my wildest dreams would I cast myself in this role, although I will admit to occasionally wondering if those I train are about the age of this young student.

Monday, November 26, 2007

day 26

"One of things is not like the others, one of things doesn't belong..."

It struck me a bit funny to see, in addition to the coast guard boats, a dhow (I think that's the correct term, maybe I'll find out if I ever make it to the museum). Up along the national highway on the north side of Manama there are almost life-size replicas of this kind of boat at most of the on/off ramps. I'll try to get a picture when I'm up there next.

Well, I'm moving out of my apartment into another a few floors down, there's a crew of accountants coming in and someone had the idea of letting them all stay in the same apartment. I've been here 4 weeks today, I hope I don't allow a month-old habit to guide me into my old bedroom whilst occupied. I mean, there's sharing and then there's sharing - and I'm not into sharing that much.

gotta go unpack, no rest for the wicked weary. nighty-night.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

day 25

.....made it! (that was close.)

Not all of the dust in the air is the result of strong winds. This island is a rock, with a little dust on top. When they dig any hole, they have to literally use jackhammers (industrial size, on a backhoe machine) to break up the rock. When they excavate the broken rock, they dump it through a screen (as above) to sift out the smaller rock and dirt which will be used to backfill the hole after whatever is placed into it. If you look at the picture, you can see that under the screen is a pile of dirt, and in front of the screen is rock waiting to be screened. Sometimes they have to continue to hammer at the rock to make enough backfill to completely fill the hole. What's left are piles of rock that I'm not sure where they eventually go to live, but apparently it takes a while, because I see these piles in a lot of places.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

day 24

dust storm
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
Got buffeted around a little this morning coming to work. The wind is up and dust is everywhere. This picture really didn't capture the amount of dust in the air, but those dust drifts in the road were really moving, and constantly replaced.

I didn't take the half day off I was entitled to, I had some system changes to take care of. So, next Friday?

I have had an interesting experience working with the staff here. 90 so-odd percent of the people I am working with are Pakistani. They are very hierarchical. If I am telling someone how to do something and their boss happens to be in the room, they will look to their boss for approval before doing as I instruct. However, if I am the only one present, I become the boss and there is no problem.

When the training session is over in the plant, I am offered tea (on a saucer, of course). It is usually cardamom tea with cream and sugar. If I am in one of the main offices and tea time comes around, I am brought tea with some crackers and/or cookies. There is a person whose job it is to bring and serve the tea and crackers and to take away the empties. This is done twice a day. Yesterday it was well past tea time, but the clerk I was training insisted that he get me a cup himself and wouldn't take no for an answer. He didn't have any (I guess he had had his earlier) but by god I sure was. I am told that the plant manager, should he have a visitor, will peremptorily order any of his subordinates - including his deputy - to go fetch tea and/or any refreshment. Last year there was a celebration here at the plant during Eid al-Fitr (celebrating the end of Ramadan) and one of the plant managers (a Pakistani) asked his boss the general manager of operations here (an American) if he enjoyed the lamb he had just finished. Being told yes, the Pakistani yelled over to his deputy-plant manager, who was eating, who immediately got up and fixed a big plate of lamb and brought it over to the general manager and waited until he had tasted it and got approval.

This also means that all decisions rise to the top. Everything here is approved by a plant manager. Purchases are approved 3 times, and receipts 2 times all by the plant manager and any supervisor whose department the purchase is for. Invoice payment is approved 3 times. Authority rests with just a few people. Part of my job here is to eliminate most of the bottle necks involved with this process and to devolve the decisions to the level that purchases can be managed effectively with little delay. Their current system is little more than a means to manage paper. With my system, there is no paper, no signatures, no middle-men.

I have my job cut out for me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

day 23

Behold! This is as close as I could come to Saudi Arabia. This picture is taken from a tower on a man-made island in the Persian Gulf between the two countries - on the King Fahd Causeway. It was financed and built by the Saudi government to the tune of 1.2 billion dollars. It is a little over 15 miles long and consists of 5 bridges and man-made dikes - with the central border-crossing island. It opened in 1986. I guess this really is the border, there are gates beyond which you cannot pass without the right papers. Trucks are parked everywhere getting inspected (I guess). The tower (in which there is also a restaurant) was little populated. There is an identical tower on the island over on the Saudi side.

We ran into a guy who had actually come across from Saudi Arabia, just to say he had been to Bahrain. He told us that the tower on the Saudi side of the island was really crowded, that it is a popular spot for Saudis to come, apparently it is a big deal to be able to visit Bahrain (or just to get a hazy view of it). He was a visitor to Saudi himself, staying for 20 days. He said that we were lucky to be visiting Bahrain instead of Saudi Arabia. He didn't elaborate, but I'm guessing that Khobar (the city on the Saudi end of the causeway) is not a very happening place. I have been told that Thursday night Saudis start pouring across the causeway in search of a good time - and alcohol. It isn't unusual to see Saudi license plates during the week, either.

So, we wandered around the base of the tower, took a few pictures - I tried to get a picture of Khobar but it was so hazy the pictures really didn't come out. After a little while, we returned to our part of the world and had lunch. It was particularly fitting end to the afternoon that the restaurant we ate at didn't serve alcohol.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

day 22

Happy Thanksgiving!

I worked 12 hours today, left and went to eat a turkey buffet at Ric's. There were two kinds of turkey (smoked and fried), 3 kinds of dressing, two kinds of potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, sweet potatoe casserole, glazed carrots, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, pineapple fluff and a pumpkin cake roll.

lots of food, and it was okay - really. Not spectacular, but okay. We took our time and b.s.'d about this and that and made jokes about how it was the best turkey we'd ever had - here. it was the first and only turkey any of us had had here, but that's beside the point. Some Foster's helped wash it down and livened things up a bit.

I talked to my family a few minutes ago, they had just sat down to their turkey dinner. I wish I were there.

I wish that you all have a happy thanksgiving, surrounded by your families.

Tomorrow - off to the Saudi border.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

day 21

my (temporary) office
Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
yet another last-minute post, the internet at the apartment was giving me fits last night. So, I came in early (5:30 AM) to finish what I couldn't last night - including this missive. This is where I'm spending my time when I'm not in the plant training. The owner of this office is back in the states, home for thanksgiving. I'll move back out when he returns next week and probably set up shop in the conference room.

Gotta go, sorry for the abbreviated posts the past few days but textile manufacturing waits for no man.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

day 20

Sorry for the 11th hour post. I tried to post last night but the internet wouldn't stay up.

This is where I'm spending all my waking moments lately. Work, work, work, work, work, work, work. This is where I'm about to go to, as soon as I finish this and my bowl of cereal.

Good night to you all, or good morning to me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

day 19

a bit of green in the browns of the area. They do actually plant shrubs, groundcover, and palm trees in the medians. Grass is planted outside the ritzy places - it is much more expensive to plant grass than it is to put in brick pavers, which is very popular here.

Well - the guys left today leaving me alone. There are a few other americans visiting, but they aren't guys I know and we don't work together. I'll be seeing them for dinner occasionally. I didn't have time to miss my departed colleagues as I've been working all day (it's 4:50 AM). tomorrow is going to be a long day.

time for a nap before work. kali nickta

Sunday, November 18, 2007

day 18

Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
Tomorrow is my son's birthday. My dad's is a few days after. I was hoping to be able to find some cards and mail them (just how efficient is the royal mail?) but I have not even been anywhere I could find any. I will still look for some and mail them, they'll just have to be late.

I am a bit sad tonight. I was originally scheduled to leave here tomorrow. The guys I came with are all excited about going home, they're packing and in general in a great mood. All of the stuff they were consumed with while here are now not so important - the issues are either dealt with, or plans are laid to solve them. My job is just really starting, it'll take me 3 weeks to climb that hill to the top and take the leap - onto that plane on it's way home. They face 24 to 27 hours of travel ahead before they can hug their wives and start to forget the 18 hour days here. We talked about cooking thanksgiving dinner on the way back from the plant. (I've never heard of pressure-cooking a turkey!) Both of these guys are cooking their birds and are worried that they won't be recovered from the trip to be in shape to do so.

I might to to Ric's american - they are serving turkey thanksgiving. I might go, but it'll be busy as Thursday night here is like Friday night at home - everyone goes out to party and the roads will be wicked-busy. Swanson does a passable turkey and dressing tv dinner.

I really miss my family. I miss you guys too, I don't have time to read my regular blogs, I see maybe one or two a day - on a good day. I hope all is well with you all.

gute nacht.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

day 17

Originally uploaded by greens n cornbread
this is apropos of nothing in particular, I just "ran" across it during one of my daily walks and it struck my funny bone. Not only is this the sewer, it is a foul sewer.

I wish I had more to talk about, but my work is really all-consuming right now. I just updated this week's time sheet and I turned in 89.5 hours. I am skipping sleep to post this.

A bit of minutiae from today - I had Thai food for the first time. A spicy soup for starters that was all about pepper and lime and mint and prawns and lemongrass. major goodness. The main course was duck cooked in a pepper-garlic sauce - more major goodness. I had crepes with mango and ?something? fruit and mango sorbet for afters.

heading for bed, masah alhair to you all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

day 16

This is all I can offer today - the view at night - what is all I'm seeing lately with the long days.

Implementation tomorrow!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

day 15

Today all I can offer is a view from the roof, one I have not seen lately as my work is rather all-consuming now.

Please enjoy the view, may the warmth reach you - we have plenty to spare.

good night.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

day 14

Although there are a lot of cars about, after all this is the capital city, they are primarily new cars owned by those who can afford them. The majority of the labor force in this country don't have vehicles, and so the companies they work for pick them up from where they live in the mornings and take them home at night. This scene is just down the street from where I live and you can see the coverall-ed workers getting on this mini-bus going to work. There are a lot of these buses on the road. The truck in the forefront of this picture is used to haul laborers to and from job sites - these would be the guys who bust rocks beside the road, dig the ditches, work the construction sites - general laborers. The guys in the buses are a step up, they appear to be skilled workers of some sort - factory floor or better. Anyway, you'll see these trucks packed to the gills, swerving through the roundabouts. I am told they didn't used to have shelters over the truck bed, this is a recent government requirement. Apparently this shelter is to help prevent these guys from spilling out all over the place if the truck tips over. It doesn't look too effective to me, but I haven't seen an accident either. At least it provides some shelter from the direct sun, which has got to be a godsend especially in the 120 degree heat of the summer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

day 13

THEY'RE EVERYWHERE! although I did think I was passing a KOA at first.

Sorry - No time today, deadlines a-looming. Be good.

Monday, November 12, 2007

day 12

Today's walk discoveries: The Egyptian embassy and the Charter Council for Action. Action for what? Oh, and there was the specific institution for training in hospitality.

I haven't been able to find out much more about the tents thing, except now here's a picture for you. It was suggested to me that this is kind of a "back to their roots" thing, back to their bedouin past. In any case, it begins around this time of year and lasts until spring. Last night as we were going home we saw a kid playing with an RC car and we also saw a few campfires.

Light post today, mucho work to do, not much else happening. Das Vedanio.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day 11

I'm over here in my adult world, living with some guys, going to work with them, coming home with them. I see so few children. Sometimes when we're at lunch someone will be there with their kids. I see a few school buses in the morning, kids all sitting behind the bus windows in their uniforms. I haven't been anywhere where there would be a lot of kids. Yesterday at lunch there was a woman with two kids sitting at a table behind a partition, kids running around, she scolding them and then one of them pealed with laughter. What a beautiful sound.

My wife told me last night that my daughter has recently been through a controversy. She is an officer in a group called the Campus Nerds. They put on two haunted houses, one for kids and one for adults. Well, apparently they had a noose in the haunted house. Someone took a picture of it and made a big stink. I've been told that it made the local paper. The end result is that the Campus Nerds had to go make a formal apology to a black fraternity on campus.

The Campus Nerds is not a racist organization - it's a bunch of kids who like anime, computer gaming, etc. You know, geeks. They created a haunted house using images that have been a part of halloween since before my time. This isn't Jena. No one was trying to keep black students out. But someone got all PC on these kids and made a huge stink over nothing. I am sensitive to the legacy of slavery and the racism born of it, I grew up in an area where black people were farm hands, house maids, common laborers and were constantly reminded of their place. I understand the legacy of the KKK and the murders they committed. What I don't understand is why something so obviously not meant to be racist was deliberately made out be so. Ghosts hanging in effigy have long been a staple halloween decoration all over this country. It isn't as if hanging was solely inflicted upon black people. Hanging was the primary means of capital punishment in this country until well into the middle of this century. It was the means of execution for Saddaam Hussein. So now my daughter has been initiated into this world where speech is monitored for fear of offending someone, constantly worried that a look or a gesture will be misinterpreted as a leer or an insult. She isn't out of college yet. She's in, what was for me at least, the last insulated world she'll live in. She should be making good friends and happy memories that'll last her a lifetime, not be dumped slap into the middle of the real world where intentions don't matter and victimization rules the day.

I wish she were back at the age where all she had to worry about was if mommy was going to let her have a piece of candy before supper.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

day 10

During my walk today I ran across the Algerian and Senegalese embassies and the Bahrain Music Society. I am beginning to get the feeling we are in the diplomatic section of Manama. The US embassy is about a half mile from where we are staying, I haven't walked that far out yet, maybe I'll get to wave at a marine as I go by one day. The house above is close by and is indicative of homes in this part of the city. They are all behind walls and either have a strip of planting along the outside of the wall or more likely they train these bushes to grow out & over the wall. One guy has enough of an overhang to park his car under.

Today is a half day at work. Which means I'll go back to the villa and work a few hours from there. There's a rumor that we might go to the mall today, so that'll be nice.

I haven't been able to find out anything more about the tents, I'll try to tell what I've been told. In the fall & winter when it cools down people go "camping" out in these uninhabited areas. Remember I've described Bahrain as a rock covered with dust, so these are open areas outside the city crossed by the occasional road. They set tents up, they look kinda like marquee tents people in the states use for outdoor wedding receptions, only not white. These tents are dotted across the landscape. As it is early in the season, they are spread out, semi-isolated. There are also meeting areas being set up, where people can gather. I don't know what they do when they gather, that's just what I've learned so far. There will be little cold stores set up, like a miniature 7-11, so people can buy supplies. I think that they go out to their campsite on the weekends, or maybe even live out of them for periods of time. In the next few days I'll get some pictures and ask around and try to find out more for you.

Enjoy your weekend, think of me working while you're sitting around the pool.

Friday, November 09, 2007

day 9

Friday! Which is Saturday for me as it is my day off. Breakfast at Ric's American - omelete and a short stack with coffee. Took a longer walk this morning, found the Iranian embassy. Started to take a picture and thought better of it when I saw the guard. Some get a bit testy about that. Saw a few more tom cats, including yesterday's - only today he was in the dumpster instead of beside it.

My return date is being extended to Dec 6th. At least that is the plan. I'm hearing December flights are fairly booked. We'll see.

I am now the chauffeur of the group. Drove to and from work yesterday and out to dinner last night. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. But - I am not ready for down town yet. We drive through a patch of undeveloped area every day, nothing but pipelines moving oil from the wells to tank farms. And tents. Apparently about this time every year when it cools down people set up these tents out from the city where they go to stay. I hear that it builds up, more and more tents, turning into little cities, with cold stores (the equivalent here of the corner stop-n-go, etc), central gathering places festooned with banners and the like.

So, I'll put in a few hours of work today (Maggie) tonight we grill and tomorrow back to work.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

day 8

I remembered to take my camera with me on my morning walk today. I hadn't seen animals or even pets since I'd been here - until I started walking in the mornings. I've only seen one stray dog, I see several people walking their dogs, and I see a handful of stray cats. This guy just happened to turn his head just as I took the picture - he had been watching something across the street. He certainly looks well fed.

I am extending my trip. There's been a series of technical glitches loading the system software and really I needed a few weeks to learn how they do things here. Laura took it pretty hard, she's had a bit of a rough time as we've had a series of problems one after another since I left. Remembering how I felt when she was in Europe with her sisters this past spring I know how she feels. I've said before that it was different for the one staying home vs. the one away. I am busy all day long. I get up, walk (the slowest part of my day) get ready and go to work, work all day, leave in the evening (6:00 PM now - since daylight savings time kicked in we are working an hour later to give us back the few hours we could talk to folks at work in the states.) get back to the apartment just long enough to scrounge dinner (go out usually). Finish supper/return to the apartment, work for about an hour (or - hallelujah, relax watch the TV or B.S.) and go to bed. I am constantly busy so I'm kept from thinking about home much. But several times during the day I find myself wishing I were home, or that Laura were here - I see something I think she'd like or something will make me laugh and I want to share it with her. And I now have to delay that for a few more weeks beyond my original return date. That was a long phone call.

Anyway, work is progressing but is still trying to kick me in the stones, so away to it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

day 7

All but 2 of the US management here are leaving today and tomorrow. One of the remaining two will be leaving Sunday, I believe. I took out a pad and pen and during this morning's commute made copious notes that I am transcribing and will verify during the next trips to and from here. Hoo boy, this is about to get interesting.

During today's walk I found an "English Children's School", and Indian Ayurvedic Medical Clinic, and some kind of Bahraini Governmental Industrial training office.

Just to clear up one minor misconception - there is absolutely no sand here. All of those piles in the pictures are of dirt. This island is a big rock with lots of fine, fine particulate dirt. And dust is everywhere. Think if driving down a dirt road at 30 miles an hour in the backroads during a dry summer - the cloud of dust behind you is what happens here when the wind blows. There are guys who go around to the apartment buildings and a lot of night spots offering to wash your car while you're inside.

Work continues to kick my butt, so I will let this go for now.

Happy Trails.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

day 6

I got up at 6:00 AM this morning to go walking. It hadn't been my intention to do so, but I woke up at 5:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. With all of the restaurant eating my pants have been feeling a little tight around the waist, so I off I went. I am going to try to keep it up. I learned this morning that we live near the Syrian embassy, a hospital, a Bahraini Businesswoman's institute, a Lybian Brotherhood Society, a Cultural Exchange (but which cultures are being exchanged?), and a lot of apartment buildings like ours above. Some older, one or two newer. By six AM the day is in full swing in this neighborhood as it has been daylight for about an hour and the construction sites are all buzzing. The weather is nice now, but I imagine that with temps into the 115 - 120 degree range in mid summer I can see the benefit of getting work done in the relative cool of a 5:00 AM morning. As I walk by I get an occasional nod as I pass and a few stares. The guy cutting rebar stopped as I walked by as to not shower me with sparks. I crossed the road anyway so as not to interrupt his work overly long. I think I will start getting a better feel for this country the more I wander off on my own. That opportunity will increasingly present itself as several of the guys here are rotating back to the US for vacations this week. My time behind the wheel of a vehicle, I think, is rapidly approaching. oh boy.

Things at work are getting really stressful, I've got a buttload of things to do and no time to do them, so TTFN!

Monday, November 05, 2007

day 5

The week is in full swing, so I work at work, and I work at the apartment. (you see the laptops strewn about?) The pattern during the week is that we leave in the morning a few minutes after 8:00 and get to the plant @ 8:45. Work, work, work, break for lunch around noonish - at the Yum Yum Tree, say, go back to the plant, work, work, work and leave - starting today - at 6:00 PM (after dark) as now that daylight savings has kicked in the time difference between here and the east coast is now 8 hours, so working 'till six gives us back an hour when the US offices and we are working. We leave, go back to the apartments where we try to decide about supper, actually go to supper (or fix it) and come back - to work, work, work while watching TV until bedtime.

So you can see, I have an exciting time here in the mid-east! Not much to say today, so I will close this and attempt for more intriguing posts for you in the future.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

day 4

Just so that people don't think I'm in some lush island paradise, where everyone lies around the pool drinking beer all of the time, I thought I'd show what the scenery around the plant(s) look like. We're on the back of the industrial park with the world's largest aluminum smelting plant on one side and dusty land on the other. The funny thing to me is that the new offices at the other plant (we're supposed to be moving today - in sha' allah) have green grass out front. A narrow belt, but still.... Very unusual here - it's the only grass I've seen here.

The tarps at the bottom of the picture are shading the parking spaces. During the middle of the summer the temps hit @115 - 120F with 75% humidity so cars left in the sun will have internal temps that would cook you. BIT - not right now. Temps in the low 90s during the day, nights are getting cool. And breezy. You see these tarp/tent covers outside of any building of size - the hospital nearby, the mall, etc. Many buildings also are built with underground parking under them. Makes sense in this climate.

While traffic is wild around here, it is predictably wild. Everyone takes it in stride, a few horn blows if there's some unpredictable move, maybe a hand jesture - no big deal. But today coming to work we saw an episode of road rage. We came up on a car with Bahraini tags that had slowed beside a car with Saudi tags, windows were down and the drivers were yelling at each other. We came up behind the Bahraini, who then sped up, changed lanes pulling in front of the Saudi and then slammed on his brakes, practically stopping - in the middle of a 3 lane highway. From what I'm told, Saudi drivers are C.R.A.Z.Y and Bahrainis hate them. I've seen a few cars with Saudi plates doing twice the speed of traffic, weaving in and out like it's a formula one race. I asked if there are a lot of hand guns here, and was told no, but knives are a different matter. I figure if my driving here (which has yet to happen, but is coming I think) ever causes that level of ire, best to cut and run than stay and get cut.

Yesterday was a half-day of work at the plant. (This is the normal schedule). We went back to the apartment where I worked most of the afternoon - so Toto is still a mystery land to me. One of the big wigs here is leaving Wednesday to go home for a few weeks, he's the guy who've I've been riding around with. He's got a map he's promised me, so maybe I'll be able to use his car and map and start exploring. We'll see.

**note: I usually make a point of replying to all comments to my posts. I want to apologize for not doing so lately. I have very little time for blogging right now, and what I have is reserved for posting here during nablopomo. I do, however, read them all. I will resume doing so as I find the time.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

day 3

Yesterday was our day off, it being اليوم للجمع - i.e. Friday - the Muslim day of worship. I got up and a few of us went to Rick's American for breakfast - fried eggs, over easy, home fries, bacon, biscuit with sausage gravy and a bowl of grits. You know, standard middle-eastern fare. I spent a few hours working and then went up to the roof sat by the pool with a few others and b.s.'d. Afterwards I went back to the apartment, blogged a little and then we met in another apartment and cooked spaghetti for supper, with salad, bread, and apple pie with ice cream for desert. Baskin Robbins ice cream. I can't quite get over western it is here. Of course, this is this country's capital city and while there are many more europeans than americans here it is like New York, just with more dirt. You can - and many guys do - stay here for weeks eating just as you would at home.

But there is no escaping you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. As today is a half-day of work, I hope to start searching for the wizard this afternoon, and find out if the munchkins really do eat the flying monkeys, or is that just an old-wives tale.

Friday, November 02, 2007

day 2

One consequence of an arid climate with little ground cover is the dust. IT IS EVERYWHERE. Guys hang around popular places offering to wash (wipe down) your car while you eat/shop/whatever. It's been windy for the past two days, so everything is extra dusty. Today, being Friday, is the weekend. Everyone parties on Thursday night. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper downtown. That in and of itself is a topic. There are few intersections where roads cross, with traffic taking turns to go. Instead there are traffic circles everywhere. They are each of them a race, everyone jockeying to enter the circle. Nowhere else is the axiom "he who hesitates is lost" more true. You've got to be aggressive in order to get anywhere.

De asked about the food - well, since I've been here I've had Hardee's, Benegans, Rick's American, Japanese steak house, and - pakistani at a food court called the Yum Yum. The guys I'm here with have been here many times before for 3-4 weeks at a time and they all want american food. The only real arabic food I've had since being here was on the Gulf Air flight from Dubai to Bahrain. But - I've got some time, I've made known my wishes for local food.

So far, all of the boning up I did on my arabic has come to naught. Most of the people where I'm working are Pakistani. When you go to a restaurant the help is frequently Filipino. Most of the laborers here are foreign. Apparently the Bahraini are paid by the government (oil revenues, etc) so there aren't many that are laborers. This isn't unusual in this part of the world, from what I've been told and heard in the past.

Anyway, since today is a day off I'm hoping the other guys'll get up soon and we can sightsee.

And the maid - he is an unseen presence who comes during the day while we're at work. I'll post pictures of the apartment sometime soon. It's nice.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

ready....., steady........go!

I am going to try to keep up with nablopomo whilst in the midst of my trip. odds are I won't get very far - I haven't had more than 15 minutes for blogging since arriving, so you do the math.

In any event, I'll share the view outside of my apartment - in response to Scott's challenge from sometime back in the olden times when I was in the US and could keep up with what day it is.

These pictures were taken in front of the apartment building I'm staying in.

This is the view across the street from the entrance into the apartment building.

This is the view 90 degrees to the right.

this is the view from the window in the living room. That little slice of blue above the dirt is the Persian Gulf. There is A LOT of dirt here. This island is mostly rock. So the scenery has a overwhelming khaki color with random palms sprinkled in for a peek of greenery.

So, anyway, here's a start to the month. Wish me luck keeping up with it, the real work here hasn't even started yet.