Friday, August 5, 2011

Alone in Dhahran

Well, summer is here, Ramadan has begun, and Momma and Baby Gnome have returned to the States for the month of August. This is tough for Papa Gnome, but summers here are tough enough for the adults, but they REALLY weigh on the children. At the end of the school year, basically every expat with children sends them back to their motherlands for the summer... sounds glorious, but it is tough. Baby Gnome (who will probably demand to be called 'Big Girl Gnome' soon), outlasted the Academy children, the ARAMCO children, and the consulate kids and was quickly going stir crazy as the last blond hair, blue eyed child in the Eastern Province. So it is worth the grueling 24 hours of travel, not to mention all the family she gets to impress with her new vocabulary and ability to go to the big girl potty... well, most of the time.
Meanwhile, Papa Gnome gets to endure Ramadan... in Saudi Arabia... in August... alone. Miss you already Momma and Baby!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Baby Gnome turns 2!

Happy times for the Gnome Family in Saudi Arabia, s Baby Gnome turned 2 this week! She had a great birthday week (who wouldn't when the celebrations are spread across a week, instead of just a day?) ! It was great for Mama and Papa Gnome to see how much she has grown from her 1 year old birthday, which was essentially a playdate with her friends in Orlando, and Christmas where she was more interested in the unwrapping process than the gift giving/receiving part :).

Baby Gnome had a birthday party at Nursery, with all of her new friends, and learned how to emphasize that it was in fact 'my birthday!' When she came home that night we had our own little celebration for her, frusutrated by the lack of a working Vonage phone (i don't think that stupid phone is long for this world anymore), but opening all of her presents from around the world she was really excited!

When the weekend came Baby Gnome (with some help from Mama and Papa Gnome) hosted a pool party! Lots of her best friends came over and she smiled and had so much fun for hours on end.

The sad part of life in Saudi Arabia is that in the summer EVERYONE leaves, not that i blame any of them, but this also means that all of the Gnome family's friends are heading home soon. We are really going to miss them, especially the families that are moving on to bigger and better things next year. I guess its just part of the lifestyle, but we are definitely going to miss them!

Stay tuned for more updates soon!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Escape from Dhahran

We just spent four amazing days in Cyprus which made usnot want to go back. We really needed a get away from our little boring life in Dhahran. Don’t get us wrong it isn’t a bad life it just isn’t as active and entertaining as we need. Speaking of entertaining we stayed at a very nice family resort in Limissol which had an awesome playground, indoor pool, beach, great drink menu, and tons of crazy cats. Also, renting a car was a great idea because there is so much to see and do all over the island. However, driving on the left hand side of the road can be a bit tricky and Papa Gnome did awesome! Mama Gnome on the other hand was a little on the questionable side. The weather was perfect and the landscape was breathtaking. This time of year is there the low season which was great so we didn’t have to fight any crowds or make reservations. However, there isn’t any real good breakfast place open in the morning because they don’t open and serve fooduntil well after 1000. We did find a bakery that is open 24hrs a day and boy was it amazing! Baby Gnome’s favorite baked good was the hotdog wrapped in pastry, that’s our American girl.

Once we arrived in Cyprus you would have thought we could leave our worries behind, well that wasn’t true because the country we fly in and out of was and is going through civil unrest. We really didn’t think anything was going to happen big in Bahrain so we thought we were safe to make travel plans especially since our original travel plans to Egypt were impacted because of civil unrest. There is a running joke at the Consulate wherever the Gnome Family plans to visit or visits falls apart. It’s our secret powers but is it a secret if I just admitted to it?

One would think that you would never have to fight to get back to Dhahran but that was almost the case. Our RSO here kept us in formed and up to date on all the stuff going on in Bahrain and made us feel at ease with the stuff we were seeing on TV. He said the TV was a lot worse then what was really going on and that it was isolated to one area. He even came and collected us from the airport at 330am in an up armored vehicle. We made it safely home with just enough time to sleep for one and half hours and go to work.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas time in the Kingdom

This week was interesting, we were worried about our presents from friends and family arriving with the delays caused by snow in the U.S. and europe, but Christmas was saved when the APO decided to stay open Thursday and Friday (our weekend here in the Kingdom), and we had 3 presents arrive today on Christmas Eve! The interesting thing about APO is that it is all consolidated in the States, then packaged together and sent overseas together. So, that means that you can get a lot of companies to do free shipping to APO because it is in the U.S., and if you ever ship personally remember the 'express', 'priority', and other expedited shipping only gets it to New York then its on the same priority of everything else that is APO the rest of the trip.

By far, the most interesting part was the Consulate Christmas tree decorating party. The Consulate had a little celebration for all employees to attend which included putting up the tree in the entrance of the Chancery and then we would all eat a bunch of yummy desserts. It all started out great with Christmas music playing and everyone happy to be doing something other than work. Well, it got funny because for some reason we decided the decorating should be handled by the Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Lebanese. They attacked teh tree with determination, excitement, and every possible decoration that could be dug out of the warehouse in time! They even pushed all the Americans out of the way because they knew what had to be done, but they seemed have forgotten that we have been doing this since childhood. They put lights on the tree and then decided to check to see if the lights worked and they didn't. Instead of taking them off they left them and found new ones which happen to be iciles light, that you hang outside, after putting half of them on they then checked to see if the lights worked and only half did. In the end it was amazing to watch these wonderful people work so hard to make the Consulate Christmas tree so special. The tree ended up great, but experience goes a long way and perhaps next year we will shy away from having anyone with 'Islamic Republic of ____' as the key Christmas tree decorator or at least give them a lesson on an easier way of doing things.

Mama Gnome has been in full baking mode, she has made at least 7 dozen cookies already for motorpool, security, neighbors, etc... and has now baked her first loaf of homemade French bread (which looks and smells awesome), and has another, less impressive loaf of bread that is currently baking...we most likely won't mention it again after this post.

We are trying to establish some Christmas traditions, but are noticing that some have to be slightly altered...instead of driving around to look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve, we will take the golf cart around the compound visiting neighbors. Instead of Snow Angels, we have made Sand Angels. Instead of waking up to excited kids, hopefully, it will just be the first Prayer Call. The only thing we can't replicate is having our amazing and loving family with us. We miss everyone so much, but we hope that everyone has an amazing Christmas wherever they are.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sand Storm or a Snow Storm, which do you perfer?

Since Thanksgiving, time has really moved fast and it is now almost Christmas. We have our tree up that Auntie Mini Me Gnome (she is our lifesaver) was nice enough to smuggle in for us and most of the Christmas gifts have arrived by APO. Our wonderful dog Pagoda made it here thanks to our amazing family that got her ready for the big move while we were here. So all in all it is shaping up to be a very interesting Christmas. We are however, lacking in Christmas decorations and the only thing we could find are Poinsettas, so they are all around the house looking cheerful and glee. Baby Gnome is rocking out to her favorite Christmas song "Jingle Bells," she makes us sing it all the time while she shakes her bells... or is it jingle?

Shopping here has been the hightlight of Mama Gnome's days because she still hasn't started her job yet. She has become an expert at operating the difficult TV at the gym and indepth knowledge of course of all the grocery stores in our area. Wereposa commented about LuLu's shopping center on our last post and let me tell you we love the chicken biriyani and can't wait to try out all the other food you mentioned. Also, now that I know that Mozambique doesn't have LuLu's it's off our list of next assignments. Seriously though LuLu's has everything you need and more, but with that being said it gets very crowded and crazy, so we go in the early morning when the Arabs are still sleeping. If we feel like shopping like an American we go to the ARAMCO commissary or the Tamimi market. Hyperpanda is a nice Wal-Mart like option, and the Carrefour is great for Cheeses... the General Manager said he can put in special requests for us, amazing!

The best thing about shopping here is the selections in the produce section because they have such a wide selection of vegetables either shipped in by boat (throughout Southwest Asia) or airfreight (expensive from Europe). If you want a sweet potato look long and hard because the one from India is different than the one from Egypt. We think they both taste fine but they are nothing like the ones from home, starting with the fact that they are white. So it has been a lot of fun exploring all these new options and most options have worked our pretty well. There is one problem, the butter here is not that good for baking or cooking so our next project is to find good baking butter for the Christmas cookies. Projects are so much fun especially when you get to eat it afterwards.

We have been watching AFN (American Forces Network), our only real contact with the outside world, and have seen all the ridiculous amounts of snow everyone is getting back home and was not jealous until the other day. We thought we were living the good life with the average temperature in the mid-70s and that everyone else back home was freezing their butts off, well that has changed. We received a rather large sand storm the other day and you couldn't see very far ahead and it was terrible to breath. Today is the third day and it is starting to finally clear and we can almost see the sun again. The temperature has dropped and so we may not be able to go swimming any more. We would love to have snow over this dirty nasty dust and sand for numerous reason you can probable guess. Maybe when everyone stops wearing little face masks to block the sand it will start feeling like Christmas or maybe it will still feel like Saudi.

For more good news our HHE arrived last week at the port but here is the bad news our Saudi paperwork isn't complete so we can't get our stuff. Guess you have to take the good with the bad, our stuff made at least and we will received when it's time. For those interested, it only took about a month and a half for our HHE to get here, we were told at first it could be four months but we were talking to the wrong people.

We hope everyone has a great Christmas and will keep all of you in our prayers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Only a few weeks in Dhahran

Things have been so interesting since our last posting and we have been learning a lot about The Kingdom (Saudi Arabia). We live on the Consulate compound which is very beautiful with green parrots that fly around at sunset; however, it only take 4 minutes to walk from the front gate to the back, so it is tiny. Our house is very old, but big and nice with a cute green front yard. Our UAB arrived a week after we got here and the only reason it took so long was because it went from the US to Sri Lanka then to Saudi. It doesn't make sense but it made it undamaged, and that is the most important thing.

We don't want to paint a picture that this is paradise, because it has a lot of difficulties... but with a positive attitude we can make the best out of anything. It is really difficult for a woman to live here because of all the strict religious laws requiring women to act or look a certain way. Mama Gnome wears an abaya and tries not to look men in the face or to hold Papa Gnomes hands in public. However, it isn't mandatory to wear an abaya because many westener women wear a cardigin (they do get harassed by the locals) but a lot of Saudi women are covered head to toe and all you can see is their eyes. Some of the most restrictive things are that it is illegal for women to drive, no Christian items, no pork, and no alcohol! Also, you have to plan your entire day around prayer call because the shops close for it. Sounds pretty easy to plan the day... well it isn't because they have a prayer call every 2 to 3 hours and since Mama Gnome can't drive we have to coordinate with the motorpool for pick up. It really isn't hard, it just takes some planning thank goodness Mama Gnome is an awesome planner.

We have adjusted to the new life and it is kind of fun. We have already gone shopping at Ikea, found an awesome pecan pie at Tamimi's grocery store, awesome Indian food at LuLu's and the weather here is perfect. The consulate people are very welcoming and throw some great parties. Tonight we are off for a big Thanksgiving dinner the consulate is doing as a group, and Papa Gnome is excited for stuffing! ...more soon!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The First Leg of the Journey to The Kingdom

Well, we can't say the trip so far has been flawless because we have caused some self inflicted drama. Nothing like leaving a bag at Aunt Beach Bunny Gnome's house and not realizing it until we got to the airport. However, we had her super, soon to be, husband swoop into save the day but it still required us to run to the gate, Baby Gnome is heavy!

With our layover in DC we were able to hang out with our dearest friends for lunch. It was amazing to see them and say goodbye (which was sad) but we will see them in Paris in April. We miss them already.

Now traveling with a toddler was a very interesting and a crazy experience which we are now slightly intimidated about doing it again. Baby Gnome really didn't want to go to sleep and she made it known to the entire plane to Frankfurt. The lady in front of us was literally the last person n the plane to turn off her light, and finally we were able to get her to sleep for about 5 hrs of the 8 hr flight. The poor little girl just wanted her own bed and we can't blame her.

Speaking of Frankfurt we have already eaten Schnitzel which will be our last taste of pork for awhile and it was awesome. Additionally, we are staying at the Marriott and they upgraded us to a Jr Suite which included an Entertainment center which had the Motown hits CD collection. Baby Gnome is just dancing around the suite and shaking her little butt as much as she can to artist like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Commodores. Our favorite so far is "Super Freak" by Rick James, wierd but funny. This hotel has been great and it is right down the road from the natural history muesum called the Senckenburg Muesum. It is a great museum for toddlers to run around and act crazy and a nice park along the way that Baby Gnome got a chance to play in the falling leaves...unlikely she will have that pleasure in the Kingdom :)

We are lying in bed, watching German MTV, drinking our 1/2 liter Franziskaner Weissbiers and eating various pork sandwiches, tomorrow will be an adventure and we are looking forward to it...but not before enjoying our last few hours here!