Thursday, October 22, 2009

The City Centre Guy

Whenever I'm feeling a bit low and I just need to smile, all I need to do is drive into the Bahrain City Centre (shopping mall) carpark and drive out. Yes, you've read me correctly - simply drive in and drive straight out. (This exercise interspersed by a spot of retail therapy will make me smile a little more broadly, but honestly, I'm a woman with simple needs).

So what exactly am I on about? Let me introduce you to the City Centre Guy. He's like a kind of traffic control person who stands at the level one exit of the mall carpark - and control traffic he does...with a whole lot of enthusiasm! This guy really does pour his heart into what he does... standing in scorching conditions, he just keeps smiling - and with a casual salute and very rehearsed wave of the hand, he makes you want to keep smiling too. You may not be able to picture this, so you can check him out yourself on this Youtube video put together by one of his many fans (but to be honest, I don't think it does him justice!):

On his way to becoming something of a local icon, this guy (named Gulzar Ahmed, formerly a corporal in the Pakistan army) even has a Facebook fanpage dedicated to him! Can you believe, he already has 7000+ fans! (That's almost 4500 more than the clothing label Zara has on Fb but far, far less than Vegemite's 100,000+ fans - If you want to find him on Facebook, just look up 'City Centre Guy'). With this fan club, he's even made headline news:

Below is a link to another article about him that recently appeared in a local publication. Mr City Centre definitely gives new meaning to 'service with a smile'.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where the streets have no name

I wish Bahrain had a Melway... or a Manaway... it would make sooo much sense! If you need to go anywhere in Bahrain, you usually need directions. Receiving directions here can be convoluted and any set of directions received is likely to include the following phrases:

"You'll pass a beige building" - ummm...not really helpful as pretty much all the architecture in Bahrain could be described as, well, beige (OK to be fair some of the building are an equally blah shade of grey and brown).

"Turn left after the cold store" - Cold store: Bahraini for milk bar - you'll find one on every street corner (at least). With so many around, they are not necessarily the most obvious landmarks.

"You'll see a big mosque" - Hello?! Muslim country! There are more mosques here than..well...than there are churches in Adelaide!!

By the time you've heard all that, you're not sure you can even be bothered.

Hand-drawn maps can be helpful, but let's face it, most people are not cartographers and one person's perception of distance and proportion can differ significantly from another's. That was the lesson I learnt today when I ventured out to a new neighborhood to run an errand, using a map drawn by a friend. I should have known the map wasn't to scale and what looked like three millimeters on paper was in reality half a kilometer. My mistake, perhaps I should have tried Google maps first.

But honestly, the whole process just confuses me - especially when I don't have the best sense of direction to begin with (I'm the type who has to keep muttering "King William, Queen Elizabeth" to myself just to remember the Melbourne CBD grid). 

To be fair, There is some (slight) method to the madness. The main/major roads do have names which is nice and helpful, but the smaller streets do not. No street names - just street numbers (and luckily local sat nav devices - not to mention the pizza delivery people, recognise this system). It's not the most user-friendly system, but at least it's a system. We live on road 3119. Sounds promising. You'd think that our street would be sandwiched somewhere between road 3118 and 3120. Not the case, from what I can gather - 3118 is the street behind us... fine...but I've looked around for road 3120 - not quite sure where it is. My guess is that it's about 3 blocks away... past two cold stores, a beige building and a big mosque.

For a satellite map of Bahrain:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sleep deprivation is definitely a form of torture

I have just returned from a brief (and impromptu) 13-day visit to Oz. (Obviously, I'm intent on making it clear that the trip was short - not quite a fortnight - for friends I missed out on seeing, sorry! I hope to be back soon).

You will recall, in my last post, after a quiet Eid day, I longed for the booked-for-breakfast/lunch/dinner lifestyle that we were once accustomed to in Melbourne. My exact words, drenched in yearning, were, "the grass is always greener"... Be careful what you wish for. Not trying to sound ungrateful or was wonderful being amongst fam and friends... but a calmer, stress-free, slower paced trip home might have been a little more relaxing.

We landed back in Bahrain this morning and I am EXHAUSTED. I am ready to collapse in a heap. I barely slept two hours on the overnight, 14-hour flight from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi (which was followed by a two hour transit and one hour flight from AD to Bah). Why didn't I sleep? Because, I was watching over a toddler who refused to wear her seat belt whilst asleep - as a result of which, she had a tendency to roll off her seat and shout out at regular intervals through the night. Suffice it to say, I haven't been this sleep deprived since...well since this child of mine was a baby. She's usually been a good traveler, so it's the first time I've been this exhausted (maybe second time - my first trip to Bahrain was on my own - with a newly walking toddler. Fun). On this occasion, each time I dozed into slumber, I was woken by a thump or a wiggle, or a cry and then I'd be up again. It was as though toothpicks were keeping my eyes wide open. M was with us, but my dear M (bless him) could sleep through a cyclone - so he was relatively unaffected by these intense sleep conditions...but he did take over supervisory duties once he was up and alert - at which point I happily handed over my sheriff’s badge.

I am in absolute awe of all those mums and dads who frequently travel with more than one child. Does more children mean that you should expect nil sleep on a journey? Given the way I'm feeling today, this is a really unsettling thought. Next time round, something like this (above) might be nice?