Monday, December 27, 2004

Weekend story I - Trip to Bahrain

Over the weekend I was plagued by a horrible cough and I managed to progessively loose my voice.

We were planning a driving to Bahrain, but just the night before the drive I had discovered that we didn't have hubby's passport. It is one of the regulations here that upsets him. His passport is kept by the employer (the company) in exchange for the local identity card called the Iqama. Actually what upset him the most was that he was asked to surrender his passport because he is Asian. He knows that the white-boys in his office wasn't asked to surrender their passports. When he complained to the people involved they said something like this...

"Well we have to collect your passport you see. Because otherwise the Filipinos and the Indians will ask to keep their own passports too!"

Talk about double standards and racism. But they don't even see it as racism anymore. To them its normal, they respect and allow the Westerners to get away with most things and we Asians are considered their slaves, more or less. C'est la vie.

But anyways I was digressing.

So we thought we would drive to the Eastern province and try to find a taxi cab to drive us to Bahrain. This trip was crucial for me because I needed to activate my exit-re-entry visa. They are very obsessed with control here. Should we decide that we want to leave the country at any time, it would be impossible unless we have an exit permit. And to re-enter the country again, one requires a multiple exit-reentry visa. And we would need to use this visa within 2 months of it being issued. Failure to do so will mean a 1,000 riyals fine.

So basically once we applied for one, we need to use it almost immediately.

And so there we were trying to find a way of getting over to Bahrain. Luckily our friend had a contact who could help us. He is a cab driver in Khobar. But we were rather shocked to find out the cost of ferrying us over the border. 250 riyals one way. 500 riyals return. And only to ferry us across the border, not to drive us around town. Hmpphhrrrr.

If I was coughing before crossing the border, somehow my cough stopped bordering me when we arrived across the border. It was such a different atmosphere there. We went to Seef Mall which is one of the bigger Malls in Bahrain. There were lots of people without Abaya both Western and Arabic. And even those wearing Abayas had beautiful coloured ones. People were smiling and there was Music in the Mall. Something that you won't hear in any of the Malls just across the border.

And I know this sounds silly, but I was so taken by the fact that the salespersons at the foodcourt are WOMEN! Smiling women at that! And they were not just the Filipinos/Indian/Bangledeshi but Arabic women as well. Pretty ones too! Such a change for me to see their faces uncovered and serving me with a smile, speaking beautiful English!

Perhaps for the rest of you in the normal world, all these things are normal and common to you. But for me, it is a huge change and a pleasant surprise indeed! At last I feel human again. That as a woman, we are part of the society, not just beings shrouded in black from top to bottom hidden from sight.

But alas, we only had 2.5 hrs there before we would be ferried back across the border. I was really sad when it was time to leave. I bought a box of Leonidas Belgian chocolate to bring back with me. I think I almost cried when I had to put my Abaya on again. Back to the world of blackness.

And my cough came back again!

No comments: