Middle Eastern High

People set up in strategic viewing spots along the roads,

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was a fairly good indication that we were on the right track,

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as we made our way towards the Sakhir Airbase to attend the Bahrain International Airshow.

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The Bahrain leg of the International Grand Prix Circuit arrives early April on the Island.
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Not being motor sport types, we haven’t taken advantage of the ‘Early Bird’ ticket sales yet…but perhaps we should –

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because until recently we had not considered ourselves airshow types either…

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The Airshow is a biennial event and one that we would not normally make an effort to attend, however living a more suburban life now without the sea on our doorstep demands new social challenges ….

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A dramatic sun set bouncing off a desert setting created beautiful light, adding additional drama to an already charged atmosphere –

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Quite Intense and even a bit emotional …

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Teams from the Middle East and beyond participate in this stunning show.

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British Aerobatic Champ, Mark Jeffries, Russian Knights flying Sukhoi Su-27’s,

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The Twisters with their Twilight Pyrotechnic Display, UAE Al Fursan flying Aermacchi MB-3 39 NAT Jets,

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Saudi Hawks flying their BAE Hawk MK 65’s,

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and the Sarang Helicopter Display Team from India in modified HAL Dhruv Crafts .

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Unclear at the time as to who or what exactly we were watching….. we were completely clear on the fact that it was all rather spectacular. IMG_9971

Celebrating Special Events in Unique Destinations – 2016 Bahrain International Air Show.  Late January 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festive Bahrain

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We arrived back in Bahrain on the 21st December after an admin trip home to South Africa, unsure what to expect as we headed towards Christmas in the Middle East. Our flight touched down in the evening and to our surprise Manama was ablaze with red and white lights.

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The 16 of Dec is Bahrain’s National Day and the Island State goes big!  Every inch of the city-scape is lit up – including the palm trees.The national colours, red and white… add to what feels like a Christmas atmosphere: This included an enormous Santa and his full crew of reindeer splashed across the side of a skyscraper! Eric pointed out this rather Christmas like theme to Anif, our driver, who insisted that these where National Day lights, not Christmas…but somehow it is hard to ignore 30 meters of the ‘Man in Red’ flying across a building..  Perhaps someone ordered the wrong box…but luckily red and white !

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The Middle East or certainly Bahrain, Dubai and Qatar celebrate the Gregorian New Year too, perhaps due to the influence of their huge expat populations?  Dubai currently holds the  number one position for ‘Place to Be’  with all number of events and rocking parties taking place on the 31st, at some seriously rocking prices.

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Since our arrival last year, Bahrain seems to have rolled from one celebratory event into the next..Shortly after landing we noticed the atmosphere warm up for Eid-al-Adha, an Islamic festival commemorating Ibrahim’s (or Abraham’s) obedience. There is a festive spirit in the air competing with the smell of goat, used by certain Southern Asian Muslim communities as a part of a sacrifice re-enactment ritual which might account for the increased presence of these creatures on the back of bakkies (pick-ups) at this time.

Eid  is rapidly followed by the Arabic New Year.  Lunar based, this date changes a bit each year and coincidences with Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca – considered the largest yearly gathering of people world-wide. Along the coastline of Bahrain, little baskets of plants can be found washed ashore – a Bahraini tradition created for the children who stay home while their parents take the holy journey. The seeds, planted at the beginning of the journey, begin to sprout around the time of the pilgrims return. These baskets are then sent off in the water in the direction of the holy place with love and wishes for a safe journey back.

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While many of the Arabic Elite spend this holiday period time hanging out in smart hotels with private beaches – where you will find gorgeous young bikini clad Arabic girls racing their wet bikes – or perhaps on the tracks racing their thoroughbred camels,

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the general populous let their hair down in simpler ways…

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The water-parks and Malls are packed out and as the weather cools in the early evenings families arrive to picnic and swim.

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Boys and their toys come out to play, including a bit of horse dipping,

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and as the sun sets the families pack up and the evening crowd arrive filling up the large stretches of empty land along certain parts of the coast line as the Bahrani gather for a bit of drag racing…

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as if there isn’t enough dust already..

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And now that 2015’s final quarter of festivities has come to an end, the post season sales are on and Bahrain is celebrating yet again with a 30 day shopping festival. SHOP BAHRAIN runs from late December through to the end of January and includes an outdoor Ice Rink among the attractions and sales that I suspect give London a run…

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all of which culminate in the final blast – The Bahrain International Airshow.

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So that’s how it rolls,this side of the Gulf, come year end, and as they say: A  Very Merry Everything and a Happy Ever After…

Celebrating Festive Occasions where-ever you may be…January 2016

 

Embracing Change

2015 has been a year of change for our family. Changing homes and changing countries.

I am not sure what part of these types of process’s are more stressful – the planning and anticipation, or the actual events, none the less, here we are, settling into life in the Middle East – a far cry and distance from Chintsa East on the Southern Coast of South Africa.

The Kingdom of Bahrain – our current spot on The Rock – is an archipelago of 18 islands, many of which are  joined to the mainland by causeways or landfill.

Once a central part of the ancient Dulmin Civilization which spread across Southern Iraq and Kuwait, its name refers to ‘two seas’ – although no one seems quite clear  which two seas exactly….

With a heritage rich in pearl diving, fishing and trading, the island now offers fabulous Malls and pretty good infrastructure but is sadly lacking in quality beaches or any obvious beach pride – even though the ocean is still used extensively for fishing and recreation.

The sea is beautiful and the patches of green that have survived in between the ongoing and extensive development allude to what was once a garden island, apparently milder in temperature before the bulk of it trees were removed. In fact rumour has it that this may well have been the site or at least the inspiration for the original garden story…way back when…

Now dust and heat prevail through the scorching summers although the winters I am assured, are milder.

From pearls and trade, Bahrain discovered and moved into oil production and a new stage of  wealth. Oil transportation pipes run along side many of the highways (see the image above) and with oil came currency which in turn led to banking – now another part of Bahrain’s personality, with the Dinar rated as one of the world’s strongest currencies.

Down the road from our complex lies the 25 km long King Fhad Causeway joining Bahrain to Saudi. Since the start of the oil years Bahrain has become a haven for families of expats working in Saudi, offering what many consider a more liberal lifestyle.

Apparently around half the population currently living in Bahrain are expat, and as of yet I have still to come across anyone who speaks negatively of their experience here. Rather telling…

While Bahrain may not be shiny pearls, palms and peace- all of the time – it has provided us so far with some fascinating experiences, including extreme heat, friendly people, diverse cultures, fabulous food and insight into Arabic and Muslim lifestyles. We also get to spend regular time together as a family which makes for a much needed change 🙂

Last week I sat around a  table drinking coffee and chatting with some of the women living around us. Strong, interesting women from Germany, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, The States, France and Scotland. I came away from that experience feeling exhilarated – who wouldn’t?  I anticipate an interesting journey ahead…

For More on the In’s and Out’s of Bahrain read my friend IIka’s blog An Expat in Bahrain – A Guide to Loving Life at:  https://ilkaclune.wordpress.com/

Sept / Oct 2015 – Celebrating New Experiences and our move to Bahrain   

Lazy Sipho

The over-riding mood of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this year was fairly dark. Themes touching on Race, Culture and General Disillusionment dominated the stages…. A bit like the mood of our Nation at the moment ….with the usual characters – Violence, Lawlessness and Political Disarray playing starring roles….

But amid the chaos pockets of hope exist and once again The Arts did its magic-  bringing folk together from all walks of life to share experiences which heighten emotions and force engagement with the nitty -gritty of life – all of it enhanced by the rawness of the live theatre experience….

One pocket of hope this year was the eight school children from Chintsa Drama Club who through the hard work of lovely Ms Charlotte, International Volunteer Coordinator and Drama Graduate, had a chance to engage with a South Africa they had never seen before. 

These youngsters live lives that are challenged daily by poverty, lack of opportunity and at times just flat out abuse…but through drama club they access moments to step out of character and into dreams, longings and imagination. They are gazed at, focused on,  appreciated and applauded. And one hopes that for brief periods of time perhaps, they ‘get away’.

Due to Charlotte’s tenacious character and sheer determination this group of young troubadours ended up on a road trip to South Africa’s largest Arts Festival and performed a special home-brewed story about Sipho the Lazy Boy,

to appreciative and ever growing audiences on the Drosty Lawns.

In between performing the drama group attended shows and seeped up the atmosphere….

And as their experiences grew, so did their performance and improvisation..until,

by day three we weren’t sure if we were watching the same story,

but we were certainly being entertained!

With their experience as Arts Festival Performers under their belt,

they brought ‘Sipho’ home to Chintsa,

and presented their final performance to family, friends and local community –

bringing a bit of the Festival home too.

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

Thornton Wilder

July 2015 – Celebrating the formation of and first performances by the Chintsa Drama Club and their fabulous trip to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. 

A Useful Papa

Papas can be useful type creatures…

But some are more useful than others….The really useful ones are strong, like bionic robots – they lift you up and throw you right over their shoulder on a whim..

A Useful Papa is fun to have around…

like a giant goofy clown with batteries that recharge each morning at daybreak,

after just four cups of coffee.

Useful Papas are practical, like moving jungle gyms to be climbed on and from which the view is always better…

A Useful Papa is smart –  like an interactive ‘How To Do It’ manual. They always seem to manage to sort out the sticky bits,

or will happily show you how to turn on the power tools…

And useful Papas are adventurous, like some kind of cool movie person – and they always want you to do the adventurous stuff with them, even when you are still little and it feels a bit scary.

But that is just because Useful Papas have so much to share and they want to share it all with YOU!

A Useful Papa is good for pulling you up cliff faces.

They are good for shark viewing when you want to get right up close….

although Useful Papas are not always the best at remembering all the rules….

They are great for taking you on surf ski safaris,

or for giving you sailing lessons.

Useful Papas make patient teachers,

and helpful recovery agents.

They do crazy things like swim next to you in freezing cold mountain pools while you scream your lungs out, and they don’t even mind…

If you have a Useful Papa you never know what is going to happen next and sometimes things can get wild….

But Useful Papas also like to just hang out …

and sometimes they don’t say much… but you know that if you have a Useful Papa you have someone who will listen intently. And even though Useful Papas can be big, a bit rough and even furry – they are good at looking after you, great at looking out for you, wonderful to snuggle with and the best at holding you gently.

 We are lucky because we have a very Useful Papa.

 Celebrating Fathers Day – June 2015

The Scene

Langebaan was once a sleepy fishing village resting in a protected part of the extensive Langebaan Lagoon on the West Coast of South Africa. This is a part of our coastline that has a distinct Mediterranean feel.

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Fynbos creeps towards the water and cottages along the beach cling to their old-world charm, family treasures – handed down from one generation to the next.

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The once quiet village has now grown into a popular holiday location for Capetonians  and the traditional ‘fishing village’ part of town has been contained behind quaint shale walls which in return are surrounded by holiday mansions and golf developments. Langebaan also has wind and has become a destination for international travelers to South Africa in search of kitesurfing skills – drawn to the weather conditions, gorgeous landscape and our ever weakening currency.

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While no longer a village, Langebaan still alludes to a quiet demeanor when the weather is calm…. but when the wind blows, the tempo rises a notch or two…

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This happens pretty much every day…during the windy season.

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To catch Shark Bay looking like this you need to hit it early because by 15 knots around Noon this kite crèche is filled with white horses and beginners.

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But even Shark Bay at its busiest cannot compare to ‘The Scene’ going on at Main Beach!IMG_3425

With the wind come the vehicles loaded with students and gear from every kitesurfing school in the area, and with the students come the instructors with their foreign accents and mouth pieces. They strut militantly along the waters edge, in a stressful fashion yelling instructions to their students,

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who try desperately to listen, remain untangled and out of the rip, while fighting ‘the fear’. In addition there is the added accessory of the ‘dedicated boat guy’ ready and waiting to come to your rescue – for a fee of course which is definitely not calculated in South African Rands… IMG_3442

And all of this is on a quiet day. Over one hundred kites are said to be in the air at any given moment over season’s peak.

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And when you are done for the day you simply retire to one of the restaurants that line the shore, or better yet, settle in at a trendy singles-style Flash Packer Venue and hang around the pool with gorgeous internationals lounging on colourful, giant bean bags in tiny swim wear..Langebaan is an experience worth checking out…

But while That Scene continues,

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we head on home to Our Scene, along a wilder part of the coast line,

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where you find cows on the beach instead of fancy vehicles and smart restaurants.

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And there is no boat rescue crew in sight.

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Where the Papa is the instructor, and the lagoon small, but uncrowded,

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and the mood…….well it’s simply chillaxed.

Celebrating Sleepy Chintsa, its Uncrowded Scene and kite lessons for the girls. Late 2014 / Early 2015

 

The Making of Watermen

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Close on five years ago the Unstressed Surf School was formed. It was named after a young surfer who died in a car crash. He went by the name of ‘Unstressed Erik’. No matter the conditions, according to Erik the surf was always on and the waves ‘cooking’. This positive energy was the grounding of the Unstressed and continues even today.

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The Unstressed Surf School is a youth development programme. It has many agendas as these types of programmes do. It is also one of a number in our area attempting to address issues around inequality, health, poverty, education and living conditions, all of which add value.

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But this one has stolen my heart.

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Perhaps it is the innocence of the kids that holds me captive –

their energy and continual resilience despite circumstance. These kids have never known the bright sparkle of a chlorinated swimming pool nor had access to water wings, pool parties and the season’s latest swim wear.

Perhaps it is the joy of watching the teaching process kick in as splashes, kickers and sinkers become swimmers, paddlers and surfers.

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Or perhaps my attachment is grounded in my personal fears and desperate hope for the future of our area and country,

and my belief that cross-cultural engagement is fundamental to the healing process and that sport has no borders.

Certainly all of these ideals play a role but at the end of the day,

another agenda is met, one that allows me to spend hours on end in a beautiful place,

with fabulous, energized kids, doing cool stuff relating to the ocean.

And I get to watch as these kids grow into fine, strong watermen.

 Celebrating the Success of the Unstressed – Dec 2014 /Jan 2015

Current Unstressed Update:  Over the summer the Unstressed Seniors spent time on Chintsa Beach under the supervision of Marc Fennell: Surf Photographer, Instructor, Life Guard Trainer and Superb Waterman. They assisted the Wild Coast Life-guards as a means of introducing these young men to Life-guarding as a potential career. They trained hard, learnt how to use surf ski’s, knee boards and other life-guard equipment and grew in stamina and confidence. This year we plan to continue with this and assist them as they start working towards obtaining their SPA’s (Surf Proficiency Award) – This will allow them to pursue careers related to water safety and training.