Category Archives: Homage

Women Make the World Go Round

Traveling the world, one gets the sense that the treatment of women may be the most dramatic cultural difference from country to country.  It would be easy for one to generalize that women are treated with more respect and dignity in more developed, economically advanced societies, but unfortunately, that is not always the case.  I have found that there is usually something positive to be learned from nearly every society’s approach to women, even if it is not so obvious, as was the case in the countries of the Persian Gulf where I lived and worked.  I have also found that nearly every society, no matter how developed, is lacking in some way or another in its appreciation of women, their place in society, the dignity they should be afforded, etc.  This may be partly due to my bias on the subject and partly due to the fact that there is no monolithic, “correct” approach to gender issues that spans the globe and humanity.  But I can certainly speak to the women of my family and the importance they hold in my life and the life of my other male relatives.

It’s easy in a family like mine to under-appreciate the value of the women in our lives.  It is not because of any shortage of women, they are the dominant sex by numbers in every living generation.  But possibly, for that very reason, it has become easier to cloister ourselves, as men, in our own little world of male ignorance and ineptitude.  I do not want to give the wrong impression of my family, because we are not a family that disrespects women and we certainly do not view their place in the family or society differently than the average American family, but that just might be the problem.  Where does the average American family place a woman’s value and importance in the family and society?  These thoughts are more acute now as I watch as my wife manages pregnancy with brilliance and poise.

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Rather than answer the fluid question above, I would rather focus for a moment on what I know.  I have been married for nearly two years now, and my wife has given my life the missing sauce.  Yes, that’s right, I am like tasteless pasta.  I have come to appreciate the women in my life in a different, more complex way now that I am married and expecting a child.  They challenge us to think differently, colorfully is probably the best way to describe it, and without the cold ordered insensitivity that rules our thoughts.  I guess I should not use the pronoun “us” too loosely, as my feelings and thoughts on this subject are likely not those of “us” men as a whole.  But what has brought me to this gender-based topic is the flurry of life events my family has experienced in recent years.  From pregnancies, as mentioned before, to surgeries, career changes to engagements, and unfortunately, even death, our family has had its share of, “Oh wow! Seriously?” moments.  Each of these moments has been punctuated by the magnificence of the women in my family.

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TLA’s Best of Bahrain

My colleague and former office mate runs a blog called Two Crabs.  It’s a professional operation he’s got going on over there.  Book recommendations, a travelogue, thoughts on work life, the blog is a real powerhouse among Foreign Service blogs.  Just before his departure from Bahrain, he posted an exhaustive list of just what the title of this suggests post suggests: the best of what’s out there to do in Bahrain.  There is no way to top that, but as I reread his post I realized we differed on as many of our opinions about this little island as we agreed upon.  This is not the first time my colleague and fellow blogger has been featured on this blog.  Perhaps you remember Peace Out Man, where I semi-roasted my brother-in-bureaucracy.  Here’s my take (with minor variations to the original work) on his epic project:

Presenting the first (and not necessarily last) TLA Best of Bahrain Awards!  TLA is off to new horizons, to lands unknown, but not without first imparting a little of my less than expert institutional knowledge gained spending over 22 months on this rock on the Western edges Persian Gulf.

RECREATION

Best Friday Brunch: Meh…  If I’m really honest about it, I didn’t much care for Friday brunches.  It was overpriced, over-boozed, and overrated.  You end up spending half the day eating and drinking, and then you end up unable to do anything with the rest of your day and to kick you’re able to enjoy a headache that lasts well into the next morning.  I can think of better ways to spend my Fridays.

Best Beach: Al Dar Island is an under appreciated spot with great views (albeit mostly of oil refineries) and good times.  It’s nice to grab a beer and food and lounge on a beach cabana.  We wanted to rent one of the overnight cabins with some friends but never got around to it.  Honorable Mention: There is a little public beach down on the south western coast called Al Jaza’ir that was a lot better than friends described, and my wife and I sat on a piece of cardboard (it’s more ground up seashells than sand) and ate cheese, salami, and crackers one afternoon.

Al Dar Island

Al Dar Island

Best Tourist Attraction: Qa’lat Al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) is by far the most spectacular historical monument in Bahrain.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to five forts on the seafront and ruins of civilizations that date to times B.C.  However, the most striking remnant of the past is the Portuguese-constructed fort whose minaret-shaped turret is hard to forget.  It is also a great place to people watch, as Bahrainis of all stripes converge there each evening (especially in the fall and spring) to enjoy the walking paths, ride their horses, and dip their feet in the waters of Persian Gulf.  Honorable Mention: Another newly-christened UNESCO WHS, the Pearling Pathway, traces its path through the northern island of Muharraq.  It is difficult to find and hard to follow, but for the adventurous traveler, it is worth the time and energy.

Qa'lat Al-Bahrain

Qa’lat Al-Bahrain

Most underrated tourist attraction: The Manama Suq is a fun spot to frequent if you live in Bahrain, but if you wind through the suq, passing all the gold and trinket shops, as well as the tailor shops and remittance brokers, you will finally reach the intersection where a number of the most important Shi’a religious centers face each other in a perpetual stand off, unwilling to give any more sacred ground to the others.  It is the site of the most fervent of the bloody Ashura processions each year, and the crossroads of an uprising.  Make sure a protest is not planned for your visit.

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Peace Out Man

I met my colleague back in March 2010, when we were both just arriving at Foreign Service Officer School (i.e. Foreign Service Institute‘s A-100 Class).

Not many weeks later we both learned that we would be headed to the same posting in Manama, Bahrain, except that he was scheduled to head there many months before I would arrive.  It was not his top choice.  Regardless, he trailblazed a path for me to follow and set up shop in my future office.  Actually, I should say, our office.  We have shared probably one of the nicest offices available in the Embassy, the only one I know that has two couches in it, with a great view of Tubli Bay (easily the smelliest spot in Bahrain).  Well this post is a homage to my friend who will depart on Thursday to head back to the greener grass for training.  Here a few things I’ll miss (roast): Continue reading

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