Saturday, September 16, 2017

Birding in Bahrain

I apologize that this is not a post about quilting just yet.  My machines are up but I am waiting on one of them to get a computer part back that had to be sent to the states to get fixed.  I'm working on a custom quilt now but I believe it will be a gift so I haven't posted pictures of it anywhere.  It is coming along nicely, but I'm  not spending hours and hours on my feet working like I did when I was in Texas.  Standing and quilting all day is hard on the back and feet.  I'm lucky to be able to take more time to complete a project and not overtax myself getting things done.  But, it will be done and I'll post pictures as soon as I know the recipient has the quilt.

In the meantime, I'm posting a little off topic.  My mom and dad have gotten extremely involved in Birding.  I have seen their enthusiasm for the hobby and during the six months my husband was here in Bahrain and I was still in Texas, I jumped in with both feet and went birding with the folks and I fell in love with it. The hunt for that bird, trying to get a perfect picture of it, identifying the birds, counting how many new birds I've seen and photographed, it's all so much fun.  It was a fantastic way for me to spend time with my parents and boy did we have some great laughs and fun stories to tell about our treks out into nature looking for birds.  Birding in Texas is great.  Migrants fly through every spring and fall, some birds winter there and of course the resident birds that stay all year are all on the list to try to capture.  When I left Texas in June, my 2017 bird count was at 145.  That's 145 different birds that I was able to get a picture of.  I've seen other birds, but without the picture to identify, we would rather not count it.  It seems like cheating when I say I've seen a Belted Kingfisher (twice) but never gotten a picture of one.  Who's to know that it was really a Belted Kingfisher?  The hardest I've ever laughed with Mom and Dad is that time the Kingfisher got away.  They rib me about it now which is a lot of fun.

Now that I'm in Bahrain, I have been trying to find out about how I could go birding here.  It's a desert island.  It's very hot in the summer with temps over 110 F.  It's also very, very humid which is another huge obstacle to overcome while outside. During the hottest, most humid days, the "feels like" temp can go over 130 F.  Yikes!!!!  Being September, the temps are starting to go down and I've noticed an increase in the birds coming into the little inlet that is very near our house.  I have read through a website about Birding in Bahrain and they mention that many birds will winter here on the island.  I believe August and September is when the migrants will come back South.  So, I decided to walk over and try to get some shots of these little creatures.

First lesson learned.....the camera needs time to acclimate to the humidity.  I had to open up the lens and try to get it warmed up and stop fogging up.  

Second lesson learned....I was in the wrong position with the sun in order to take good pictures to identify birds.  Most everything I got were silhouetted and there will be no way to identify the birds while shooting pictures into the sun.  But, it does make for some pretty shots of the area and the birds in the habitat.

I believe this is a Great White Egret

Lots of waders.  I can't identify them though.

Maybe some Great White Egrets and maybe some Herons.  I just don't know.

I believe these may be some sort of Plover or Sandpiper.

As you can tell by the pictures above, the camera finally was able to clear out of the steam on the glass and I could get clear shots.

One thing that I get frustrated about is that my camera is fast on getting pictures of birds, but my lens is not adequate to zoom in on them to get clear closeups.  Those types of lenses cost way, way too much and I just can't see myself spending thousands of dollars on a lens.  I'd rather spend that money on my quilting or on travel to see the different places around this side of the world.  So, what I do is take as close up as I can, then go into my computer and crop the birds up close.  The picture is not the greatest at all, but I can try to get an identification much better.

Once I positioned myself to where I could take some pictures of the birds to my left and right instead of into the sun, I may be able to identify the birds.  I'll have to do a lot of research to identify.
I am almost certain this is a Redshank.

This is the original shot of the Redshank above.

While I was standing there on the rocks taking pictures, our resident stray dogs came around.  Just so you all know, I am a reformed dog hater.  Before we got our little pup, Mumford, I hated all dogs.  Having him has transformed me.  Seeing these strays, skinny and dirty, makes me sad.  I took a few pictures of the dog encounter.

At first, two dogs came over and went down into the inlet.  A male and a female.

They plopped themselves down maybe in an effort to cool down.  These two ventured off and I continued to take pictures.  Then came along three more strays and the original two came back and started barking at the others.  The two finally left after trying to make a show of force and maybe deciding that the other three just wanted to put belly to cool wet ground just like they had.  None of the dogs stuck around for long.  Maybe they didn't like me standing so close by.

I had enough of the hot and humidity so I started making my way back home.  As I was walking I noticed a little bird fly out from the rocks.  I'm trying to find out what kind of bird this is.  I believe that I captured the male and then the female.  Now to go try to identify them.

All in all, a somewhat successful bird outing but only because of the last two birds.  I know there are places I can go to try to get pictures of birds, it just needs to cool down a little more.  In the meantime, some area shots of my little part of Bahrain.

No, not a McDonalds, just the Hidd bridge.

I will be able to get clear shots of the city from where we are without the haze once it cools down.  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Upheaval, The Trip, The Culture, The Settling

Here I sit, halfway across the world away from family, friends, and quilt customers, awaiting new and adventurous things to happen.  I am finally at a point of feeling normal after three months of change. Lots of change.  As promised in my post in May, I wanted to document my journey across the ocean and desert about our move to Bahrain.  So buckle your seat belts, here we go....

The Upheaval

My husband accepted a job and was transferred to the lovely little island of the Kingdom of Bahrain. For those of you who don't know where in the world that is, it's a small island in the Persian Gulf beside Saudi Arabia.

Don't let all the blue in this picture fool you.  I downloaded this picture from the Bahrain tourist page. This is hot desert with lots and lots of sand, but plopped down in the middle of a gulf so also... lots and lots of humidity.  It's hot in the summertime, with 'feels like' temps of 130 F.  But I've been told it's great during the rest of the year.  It is a beautiful place in it's own way though.  So many buildings have unique architecture and of course the sea always makes for a beautiful setting.  There is just not a lot of green which I already miss terribly.  I was a little apprehensive at first moving to a middle eastern country but have had all my fears squashed by learning more about Bahrain and meeting the people who call this their homeland.

My husband moved in December to start his job while I stayed behind in Texas to wait out the lease we had on our house and to get all of our stateside things settled.  He found us a place to live with the specific instructions to find room for both of my Innova longarm machines.  He did a great job with finding something that was small and cozy enough for just the two of us and big enough to house two huge quilting machines and all of my quilting and sewing goodies.

While my husband was in Bahrain, starting his new job and getting us set up with housing, I was back in the states getting all of our worldly goods situated for their transition.  I had to empty out a storage unit and put it all in our garage.

Everything from storage moved into one place ready for the packers 
I had to get our pets (a dog and two cats) ready for their journey by arranging their transport and getting them acclimated to their kennels which they would spend more than 24 hours inside.
Our happy little pup, Mumford, getting used to his kennel
I had to get ready for three different moves by separating everything that we owned.  Storage, our youngest sons first apartment and what was going over to Bahrain.  Separating it all and coordinating what would go where and when was stressful and I kept telling myself we had way, way too much stuff.  The good thing is that the packers were the ones to come and pack up all the boxes.  Thank goodness I didn't have to do that part alone.  I just had to get it ready in three different stages.  When one group of packers came, I would have to show them around and say....don't take that but take that.  And yes, I have already wished for things we have in storage to have made it into our things in Bahrain.

The packers came and packed our storage items and took it all away to a storage facility.  We will get back once we move back to the states.

Ready for storage. 

Boxes ready to move into storage

Then it was time to tear down my machines.  Since my husband was already over in Bahrain and couldn't help with my machines, I didn't trust the packers to break my expensive machines down.  So I hired the best Innova team out there from Jo's Quilting Studio to do it for me.  Jo is the Texas dealer for Innova and her son takes care of machine install and tear down.  They came and broke my machines both down, labeling everything and crating them up perfectly getting them ready for their journey.  It was such a load off of my mind to know that my machines were going to make it across safely tucked away in their crates.  I pictured all the people that had to move those big heavy crates wondering what in the world was inside of them all.

Levi breaking down my 26" with Navigator

Dustin breaking down my 22" 

Breaking down the big machine

Crated and waiting for a another move
We are still in upheaval mode.  Storage has all been taking out of the house so now I get ready for everything to be packed for going over to Bahrain.  Which included all of my quilts.  It was comical going all over the house, taking quilts down from walls, getting them out of closets and off of beds and out from under tables.  I put them all in one place.  When the people came to pack up, they were amazed at how many there were.  Well.....I'm a quilter, I own quilts.

All of the quilts I have in the house.  This reminds me of the Princess and the Pea.
 After everything was packed and taken away for the move across the world, I had separated furniture and kitchen bathroom goods that our youngest son, Colby, would be taking to his first apartment in Nacogdoches where he is in his third year of college.  It was a little crazy because I needed to be out of the rental house by end of May, but we couldn't move the furniture into his apartment in Nacogdoches until after June 8th.  It was a lot of scurrying around trying to find out where to put it all.  The whole time I'm stressing out about it, Colby is telling me that it would all be just fine.  In the end, it was.  I thank God for the parents of one of Colby's friends and new roommate to help us store everything for that week and then take it up to Nacogdoches on the day of their move in.  I also thank God for my family coming to the rescue with trucks to move everything out of the house.
Family moving furniture for Colby's new adventure

Colby and his two new roommates singing the lease for their first apartment.  
Last to go were the pets.  I was sending them on to Bahrain a few weeks before I was to travel out so I wouldn't have to wonder where they would be going until I left.  It was easier for us all.  Shout out to Jet-a-Pet for doing all the travel ticket arrangements and solving a problem with their tickets at the last minute by getting a new flight for them.  Jet-a-Pet also came and picked up my fur babies and took them to the airport and made sure they were safely put onto the plane.  I worried about them the whole time, but they made it safe and sound.

Kennels ready for the pets to make their journey
One last shout out goes to my wonderful parents.  They not only kept me sane and busy my last few months there in Texas but they helped me with all the loose ends like cleaning, giving me a place to stay until my flight out of the country, feeding me at every single turn, helping me take my car to be shipped out, being ears to listen to all my complaints, shoulders to rest my head on when I was beat down tired, and loving care and smiles to lift me up from the sadness of my move away.  I can not express how great it was to spend so much time with my folks.  I'm so glad I had that time to gather wonderful memories to help me get past being so far away and having so much time in between when I will get to see them next.
Last thing at the house, cleaning and giving Mom bunny ears in the mirror picture.

Dad's cinnamon rolls are the best ever. 

After all the rushing around moving things, de-stressing in my parents back yard
looking at the birds is the most peaceful thing a girl could ever have.  
 One last thing I needed to do before my flight out was to take my car up to Dallas to have it shipped overseas.  Mom and Dad helped me with that as well.  There were a lot of rules that had to be done before the car could be shipped, like making sure it only had exactly a quarter of a tank of gas in it. When we got to Dallas, I had way more than a quarter of a tank so we thought we would siphon it out.  Did you know that cars made after a certain year has a screen on the tank so gas can't be siphoned out?  We didn't.  I had to take it to a auto shop to have the gas taken out.  Ugh.
Dad and I finding out we can't siphon gas out of the car.
Plus him wearing his Houston Astro's shirt in Texas Ranger country.  

 The Trip

The day finally came where it was my turn to leave.  I had sent everything else on it's way, even my precious machines and animals and now it was time for me.  I had a long, long couple of days to get over to Bahrain.
Early morning, bags packed, smile on my face,
ready to travel to finally be with my loving husband
 I had a 12 hour layover in Norfolk and also had to transfer from one airport to the airport on base since I was traveling on the military flight over to Bahrain.  While we were stationed in Italy, we met some wonderful families and one of them, the Baylosis family, live in Norfolk now.  Anna was so very generous to pick me up from the airport and take me to lunch before taking me to the base airport.  Since we knew each other in Italy, she took me out to lunch at a wonderful little Neapolitan restaurant.  The food and company was fantastic.  It was great reconnecting with the family.

Fantastic Italian lunch and lots of good memories. 
 I was finally dropped off at the base airport, and had to wait out the time until the flight took off for overseas.  The military flight is on a regular commercial airplane but lands in several different cities with military bases in them.  Once we took off, we would then land in four different bases going over to Bahrain.  The worst part of this was every time we landed, everyone had to get off of the plane and wait for two or three hours for refueling.  It took way longer to get to my final destination than it would if I would have flown a regular commercial flight.  The best part of this was that one of the stops was in Naples, Italy where our oldest son, Bradley and his beautiful little family is now stationed. So the timing was perfect where they came up to the airport when I landed there and took me out to lunch in Naples.  It was wonderful seeing my grandson and spending a little time with them all.
My son and his beautiful family
 So remember that smile from before?  This is me after almost 48 hours of travel and layover time. It was exhausting.  We all know that there is no good way to sleep on an airplane.
I laugh every time I see this picture.  I'm glad I took it
when I landed after my two day travel ordeal.  It's funny now, but
I was exhausted then.
Finally, I arrived to the waiting arms of my husband and our animals.  They were all happy to see me and I was happy to see them.
Our villa in Bahrain.

The fur babies were so happy to have their lap back.

 The Culture

Bahrain is an Arabic country which makes some people formulate high opinions of terrorism and strict Islamic rules.  I'm hear to tell you that Bahrain is nothing like that.  After two months living here, I find that these are all people that are just like me and you, who want peace in the world, who work hard to put food on the table and a roof over their families heads and who just want to be happy in life.  Bahrain is a very progressive and diverse country.  They do not have the extreme rules that Saudi Arabia has.  In Saudi, women aren't allowed to drive or be seen without their Burka's on. There are a lot of other rules in Saudi that Bahrain does not have and I'm finding them all out as I go. It just makes me very glad we aren't in Saudi Arabia.  Life here in Bahrain is practically like being in the States, just the people dress differently.  Everyone speaks English to some extent so we have not had to try to learn a different language.

Most Bahraini people dress in the traditional Islamic dress, White robes and head scarves for the men and the black burkas for women.  But it is all a choice. You will see the men wearing suits or regular jeans and shirts with ball caps on and the women have all types of different variations of their black dress.  The most traditional being completely covered from head to toe with a flowing black fabric.  There is the Abaya which is the black, long sleeve robe that goes all the way to the ground.  Over that they may where another long piece of fabric that drapes over their heads and does not even show their face.  There are not a ton of women that wear the completely covered Burkas. Some will wear just the head scarf wrapped around their hair and just showing their face, while some wear the veil that covers their nose and mouth only showing their eyes. have the women that wear just the long robe, closed up, with their hair out and flowing, or the women that have the black robe on just over their clothes with it open just like you would see if they were just wearing a jacket.  There are so many different variations of all the dress.  I have been fascinated with it all really.  The most prominent idea of women's dress is modesty.  You do not see their bare legs at all and most times, no bare arms either.  Since most of the women do wear the long black robes and head scarfs, it's so fun to see what kind of shoes they have peaking out underneath.  I've seen teenage girls with sparkly pink tennis shoes.  And talk about make-up.  They make up their face like nothing I've ever seen before.  I guess that since people can't see anything but their eyes or face, that is the way the express themselves instead of through clothing.  I completely respect these women and the way they dress but I had to laugh once when I was walking through the grocery store.  There was a lady in full dress Burka, completely covered from head to toe, but she had her glasses sitting on the outside of the face scarf.  I also giggle when I see these ladies eating with their face veils on.  They just pick it up, stick their forks (or ice cream cones) under neath and eat away.  It makes me smile.

My husband and I have been trying to learn as much as we can about the culture and the best way we have so far is from our neighbors.  We have met two of our neighbor families and had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with them about their culture and ours.  It's very interesting to hear everything from the call to prayer five times a day, to the way they dress, to their food and traditions.  When I first arrived, it was the beginning of Ramadan.  Ramadan is the holy month for all Muslims.  They fast during the daylight hours for 30 days and have celebrations and give to charity and eat like crazy fools after the sun goes down.  We were told we were not allowed to eat or drink out in public.  But of course, since we are not Muslim, we could eat during the day.  We just needed to do it privately, out of respect.  The Bahraini people decorate their homes like we do for Christmas just not as extravagantly.  There are a lot of other things that go with Ramadan that I'm sure we will learn something new every year.
Decorations of a villa in our neighborhood for Ramadan
When I first arrived, Eric took me all over the island.  It was neat seeing all the beautiful buildings and the way people live here.  The malls are extravagant and is the place to be during the hot summer days.  We have found out the hard way that the malls are jam packed on weekends which means there is no parking what so ever and you get to sit in line in a gridlocked parking garage for an hour.  We know now when not to go to the mall.
Cityscape of Manama Bahrain

Inside one of the malls
 I wanted to learn as much as I could about the culture so we went to the Bahrain National Museum.  It was very cool walking through the museum reading everything about their traditions and about where they all came from.  There was an entire section about their textiles and clothing which included some awesome facts about embroidery.
Bahrain National Museum

Lots to learn about how they did their embroidery way back when

You can find quilting inspiration everywhere.
This is a wall inside the Bahrain National Museum.
 Then we went out to the Tree of Life.  It's a very old, large tree out in the middle of nowhere.  Scientists do not know how this tree survives since the nearest water source is two miles away.  Some say it survives because they believe it is standing in what was once the Garden of Eden.  Interesting.  It was a pretty awesome tree though.  
The Tree of Life with my honey 

The Tree of Life

Sunset across the bay
Yummy food. Turkish flat bread, hummus and mixed grilled meats

 I was able to take a tour of the the Grand Mosque.  It was very interesting to hear about this and some of the aspects of the religion.  All the women on the tour had to put on a head scarf and robe.  This will probably be the only time I ever wear one. It was interesting to learn that there are no pictures or drawings of people in mosques.   The only thing allowed in the decoration of a mosque are words and geometric designs.  So, as a quilter, the geometric designs were extremely interesting to see.  More quilt inspirations.  Men gather and pray in the main part of the mosque and there is a section where women go to pray.  The reason why they are seperated is that they don't want any type of distractions to get in the way of prayer.
The inside courtyard of the Grand Mosque

I'm wearing the traditional Head Scarf inside the Mosque.
Men were not allowed to wear shorts
and we all had to take off our shoes.

Quilt inspiration in the rug of the mosque

The Settling

While I waited for our household goods to arrive, I had lots of time on my hands.  Before I came over to Bahrain, my husband bought me a little sewing machine that plugs into 220 volts and he had it waiting for me.  Only a quilters husband would know how important a gesture that was.  Then my aunt sent me a little quilters care package, with fabric and kits, and little sewing necessities.  I would sew on a quilt top while my husband was at work.

My little temporary set up to sew before all of my stuff arrived in country.
 Since I had to get rid of my design wall awhile ago when I moved, I really needed to create one here.  I ordered some foam board and had it mailed to me here.  I had to tape it together with duct tape and it ended up being a wonderful size on the wall.  Because the walls are all concrete here, I needed to find an innovative way to hang the design wall.  Large command hooks all the way around the foam board did the trick.  Then I pinned up a flannel like blanket in order to put my blocks up.  Perfect.
Command hooks to hold my design wall on the concrete walls

Every quilter must have a design wall.
 Finally, after two months, our household goods arrived.  Its like Christmas opening up the boxes and unpacking everything to make this villa our home.  This is always the best part of moving.  Getting to decorate and put things where they need to go.  It was a happy day when our things arrived.
It will all find it's place eventually

It took 8 guys to bring in these two long crates
that have my long pools and rails in them.  They all
seemed very confused as to what was inside so
I showed them a picture of the machines.  I think
they were still confused.  Haha

My machines arrived safe and sound all snugged up in their crates.
 After several weeks of unpacking I have finally gotten some semblance of normalcy around here. Again because of the concrete walls, I've had to come up with ways to hang my quilts.  I've used Command products, this time the heavy duty Velcro that I pin to the quilt and then the back sticks to the wall.  Let's hope they hold up for as long as we are here.  
My favorite quilt pieced and quilted by me and applique designed and finished by my mom.
Its in the perfect spot in our new home.

Quilts everywhere.  

I ordered a bunch of batting to bring over in preparation for not getting to
have rolls mailed to me here.  I'm not too sure how long all these will last
but for now, we can't have any quests stay on this bed until we find a place for the batting
and all the extra quilts.

I have two large boxes and these hanging quilt tops waiting
for me to get my machines up and running.
I will be finishing most of my personal and my Moms quilts
before I take on any customers.  

Getting setup for piecing.  This is still a work in progress.
 We had the time to put up my machines.  I am so thankful for my husband.  He is so extremely handy to have around.  He just digs in and gets it all done.  The first machine we set up was the one with the Navigator (robotic computer).  It is actually not working just yet because of an issue we are having with the computer part.  It is in the works to get fixed from Innova so I hope to have that machine up and running in a few weeks time.  My smaller machine that I do all my custom work on is all set and ready to go so all I have to do is load up a quilt and get to quilting.
Unpacking the rails and poles from the long crates

My handy husband

She can breath now.  

One machine up.  The poles go on next and the computer box sent to get looked at.

My 22" Innova with lightening stitch.  She's ready to go.
Mumford has supervised us in the building of the machine the entire time.
 Both of my machines are fitting into the same room very well.  The entire time I've owned these machines, they have always been in two different rooms.  I'm excited to have them both together.  We were a little worried about the space in the room but with them both up and the poles in place, I've got plenty of room to walk between them.
Both machines are fitting into one room very nicely.
Whew.  Now that was a very long blog post.  I apologize.  It's been a long journey and I'm very happy to be at a point where I will be able to work on quilting and start traveling the world again with my husband.  We plan on visiting as many new places as we can while we are over here.