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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Bahrain - week one 

My apologies for the lack of posting. The worst of all possible outcomes has befallen me in terms of internet connectivity. The Navy in its generosity has put me up in a rather nice hotel, complete with Wi-fi internet access in all the rooms, restaurants, by the pool... the whole works. The only problem is that it costs an arm and a leg, so I will only be using it when I've got a bunch of free time. (It's pay per day.)

In any case, I have been here for almost a week now, but I have been busy so my experiences have been confined to the hotel and the base. However, that is not to say that there is nothing interesting to talk about.

There is Abraham, for example.

Last Sunday evening I was sitting in the hotel bar, talking with another Navy guy, when a man in the traditional Arab robe and keffiyeh walked up and enthusiastically stuck out his hand to greet us. "Hello, boys! How are you tonight?"

To make a long story short, Abraham was a Saudi who spent seven years in Little Rock at the University of Arkansas. "I'm an Arkansas Razorback," he informed us early in the conversation. Despite this, he loves America and goes back often. Abraham bought us drinks and the three of us spent a while having a very pleasant discussion about our two countries, although we did refrain from discussing politics. The best thing to say as an American serviceman in an Arab country is that you don't concern yourself with how the civilian leadership makes policy, and that you just take their direction and carry out your mission. Saying much more than that is a good way to create some uncomfortable tension, although in the case of Abraham, I think that he was looking for a discussion and not an argument.

There are many like him in the bars of Bahrain. Unsurprisingly, since bars do not exist across the causeway in Saudi. A lot of things that are commonplace in this country are unthinkable 25 kilometers away.

But there is just something amusing about a bar full of traditionally dressed Saudis, each with a beer in hand.

I think it says something about the level to which the people of that country have bought into the system. But that's a discussion for some other time.

I have more busy days ahead of me, but hopefully I'll have some time to get away from the hotel and the base. Perhaps on Sunday. The Beit Al Qu'ran is one place I did not visit the last time I was here, and there are some other cultural sites I would like to see. With any luck, I'll have more to write about soon. Remind me to mention the 12-hour power outage.

For now, ma'as salaamah.
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