So here we are in the Kingdom of Bahrain, one of the Gulf states, and rubbing our eyes in disbelief. So much to tell!
I can only give you the briefest of glimpses in this blog but can assure you I have a bulging notebook of material for my third book, bursting to be told… But I must discipline myself and finish the ‘Chickens’ sequel first.
I get asked the question every day: “What is it really like, living and teaching in the Middle East?” No short answer, but as a chronic list-maker, (my nickname is Schindler) I’ll try and convey our first impressions.
- The heat. Imagine Spain in high summer and multiply it by 1000. The apartment is cool, thanks to A/C, and when you flush the toilet, the water is so hot it steams.
- Sand. No hills, no birds (apart from some exhausted-looking pigeons) no animals, no insects, no trees, no flowers, no weeds, no earth. Just sand. Skyscrapers and neon lights rising out of the desert.
- Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim year, a period of strict fasting. Nobody eats, or even sips water, between dawn and sunset. We had to wait for the top Islamic cleric to announce enough of the waxing crescent moon was visible to the naked eye for Ramadan to be declared over. Until then, Joe and I were forced to hide in cupboards to sneakily drink water.
- Bewildering Arabic etiquette. Never compliment an arab about a possession or he’ll be obliged to give it to you. Never offer anything with your left hand. Ladies, always cover yourself up. And many more…
- The school. Run as a business. Teachers and staff queue to clock in at 7.00 am and out again at 2.30pm. Spies in every classroom and corridor. (Yes, spies.)
- The pupils. Mostly boys, mostly called Mohammed. Easy to learn names, but I suspect Parents Evening will be confusing.
And we thought moving from England to Spain was a culture shock?