Guatemala was a beautiful country full of incredible people. It was also incredibly dangerous and, in the fifteen months my daughter lived there, she went to the mall, the school, and Antigua. Oh, and the grocery store. That was it. There wasn’t a local park to play in. There wasn’t a safe neighborhood, other than our own, to walk in. That was one of the biggest reasons we chose to leave- we wanted to have a safe place for our family to grow.
Bahrain has definitely proved to be that place. We live in an amazing neighborhood with people who drive a little too fast, but is otherwise safe. There are parks on every corner, sidewalks for bike-riding, and kids galore. On our street alone, the girls have eight ready-made playmates in the other teachers’ kids. And you might not expect it, but there is grass. And a pond with ducks, right in our backyard. Well, it’s a tiny walk down the street and around the corner. Actually, we might have to drive there to keep the little legs from getting too tired. But it’s in the neighborhood.
In our welcome packet to the school, we got a magazine called ‘FAB’ and I remember being thrilled when I opened it. It is really nothing more than a directory of hospitals, local clubs, and other various phone numbers and locations, but it was exciting. There were activities for toddlers. ACTIVITIES. Actual places where small people and their adults could go for interactive fun. There were play dates and indoor play areas listed. They told me where I could meet other mothers for coffee or sign my kid up for ballet. I remember the excitement of knowing I could do something with my daughter, besides just walk around our tiny neighborhood, avoiding human contact in case someone tried to speak to me in Spanish.
Then we got here. And the truth is, there is some good and bad to the lifestyle that we lead. The good is really, really good. You move to a new school with a handful to a plethora of other new teachers and you spend your first weeks getting shuttled around the country together. You have immediate friends, an instant family. There is no worry that you might spend days and nights or even weeks alone, not knowing how or where to go to meet new people- the new people are all right there, in your face. This is wonderful because it takes a lot of pressure off of settling in AND making friends.
But it’s bad because you can get too comfortable and you forget that you need a life outside of your school. Not only do I work with my colleagues, but I live on the same street with them. I live in a neighborhood with a grocery store and a restaurant I can walk to, parks every which way I turn, and insta-friends just outside my door. Literally.
It can make a person lazy.
I’ve been lazy. I forgot to go out and meet new people. I neglected to make friends who did not work at my school. And I did not work too hard to find things for my kids do that off of this street.
Until recently. Knowing that there is an end-date in sight, I have decided to do all the things there are to do in Bahrain, especially before it gets hot again. And that started with a trip to Aldliya last weekend. It was the last day of the The Nest, an interactive art exhibit in the Al Riwaq Art Space at Block 338. The girls and I went last year and it was a pretty nice day out, though they were still a little young to appreciate the event.
This year, not so much. The exhibition featured several interactive art features- a technology-free installation, which encouraged participants to put down the digital and gaze at the stars on the ‘hammocks.’ The artist said that it was how Bahraini’s used to make friends- star-gazing on their roofs at night.
There were the rolling waves of grass which my children adored. They could bounce from one wave to the next, hide behind the hills, play ‘king of the world,’ and slide down the other side. They alternated between that and the recycled/reclaimed slide and rocket ship that was on the other side of the small children’s area. Aunt L and I sat for at least an hour, watching the girls bounce back and forth without a moment of boredom.
The Space also featured local artists selling their wares. We found a particularly amazing artist who created animals and pictures using Arabic words. I was particularly drawn to an owl created from the Arabic word for knowledge (Maarifa).
We don’t seem to get a lot of opportunities for art in Bahrain, at least not for art that the under five set can appreciate. But I must say, The Nest is an amazing day out for families, children, and adults of any age. I could have easily spent the entire day there, and managed to spend far longer there than I expected. The girls lapped it up. And I enjoyed their appreciation. If you’re in Bahrain next December/January, keep an eye out and get thee to Adliya.
This weekend, we are heading to the Science Center and the Air Show. I’ll let you know how those go.