Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cartier Polo

Due to travel, I had to pass on the Cartier Polo event; Budman had all the fun of the celebrity sightings on this day: Prince Charles in the first photo and Katherine Jenkins in the second one.



I am also reminded that while these people were in suits and enjoying a cloudy and cool day in London, I was catching the full sun and heat in Bahrain.

PS update

Thanks for aunt, PS, is still about the same. Making small but incremental improvement in the recovery from her stroke. She has also improved a bit in the swallowing area as she has begun to occasionally eat things like banana cream pie. It is still a far cry from taking all her meals orally as she still has the feeding tube, but we are at least seeing a little movement in that direction.

She still takes her therapy (physical, occupational and speech) 5 days a week, and has also improved in the "point to the X" object activities.

Last week, we did have a bit of an unexpected situation arise, when she fell from her wheelchair. The good news is that after CT scans and X-rays, we confirmed no broken bones or contusions. We seem to think she is starting to want to be more mobile...but that will require even more careful monitoring moving forward.

Here is my most recent picture of her with a Baylor University Football Gnome. She had a great laugh the day this little guy arrived...especially when I said that we needed the luck of the gnome this year with our football team.

Bahrainian hotel or Baylor University apartment?

Rather than describe my hotel accommodations in Bahrain, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Blond wood, brown carpets and furniture, no internet connection (perfect for a business trip) and poor lighting. Surely this must be my Baylor apartment from almost 30 years ago?

Sightseeing with colleagues

I will give you the moral of the story in advance: Don't sightsee with colleagues. It can never end well.

If you are interested in knowing why I make this observation, then read on.

Since my business trip to Bahrain was a week in duration and covered a weekend, my three work colleagues and I decided to do a bit of sightseeing on one weekend day. Before I recount our day, let me first introduce you to the rest of my team.

First, meet the solution architect from New Zealand, who we will call "The Kiwi". A big, burly and yet soft-spoken guy who had been on the road already for 9 weeks on this project (please, let that not be a sign of things to come). He was easy-going and informally took on the team lead role amongst the four of us. Next, meet "Costello", a little fireball of a man from Bangalore, India who was our transition expert and could get riled up over the smallest thing - which was incredibly funny. Aptly named because he looked exactly how Lou Costello might have looked if he had been Indian. Finally, meet "P", an easygoing Indian living for the last 15 years in Sydney who was our industry expert. All in all, a very cordial, pleasant, and engaging group.

Since the weekend technically falls on a Friday and Saturday in the Middle East, we were still beholdened to project deadlines and hunkered down for a LONG day of work on Friday. It was decided that we'd take a brief break on Saturday morning and check out the local sights. I mean, how many times were any of us likely to return to Bahrain? Thus, at dinner on Friday evening, we mapped out our route, which was not terribly difficult b/c there were literally only 5-7 things to see and do in Bahrain.

So, Saturday morning, The Kiwi, Costello, P, and Hachie Gal piled into a taxi and commenced Operation Bahrain Quick Tour. With a great sightseeing plan in place, and an air conditioned taxi, we should have been set. Well, best laid plans is all I can say.

The first error in thinking was not to have insisted that our taxi driver, known as "Local TD" for purposes of this post, spoke better English. He was also recommended by the hotel. Although we knew where we wanted to tour, the ability to have our taxi-driver understand basic English words, since none of us spoke Arabic, was kinda essential. At least the car was air-conditioned. The Kiwi insisted he knew where we wanted to go so this was a non-issue. Right! Strike #1.

First stop on the Grand Tour of Bahrain was the Grand Mosque. We had only been in the taxi for 5 minutes when we knew we were in for a hot day. Outside temperature: 108 degrees F. After a few brief pictures outside the mosque, we were allowed to enter the interior, even as non-believers, and take a tour. The only pre-tour requirement: all of us were required to remove our shoes, and Hachie Gal was forcefully put into an abaya and head scarf. No veil required, thankfully. Photo to follow as soon as Costello sends it onward.

45 minutes later, and we have seen only the interior of the Grand Mosque main area. No details on the building, date of construction, materials used, etc...was provided by our tour guide, but rather very lengthy history / philosophy lesson on Islam. Well intentioned but not really what we were after. Strike #2.

After we quietly excused ourselves and exited the mosque, we headed next to see the Bahrain/Saudi Arabia causeway bridge. Why, I am not sure, but 20 minutes later, we arrived at the Saudi/Bahrain border to visit the lookout tower that allows one to see back to Bahrain. Oops, the tower was closed for renovation. So, we saw white dirt and blue sand...yep, already seen that. Strike #3.

Back into the taxi we go and my doubts about the competence of Local TD as a tour guide were confirmed. Next stop was the Number 1 Oil Platform, supposedly the first drilling site in the Middle East. Not really on my top 5 list but there weren't more than 5 sites on the list anyway so I am ready to be wow-ed! Thirty minutes later, lots of driving around in Bahrainian oilfields, and Local TD can't find the location. He's clueless...this in a country that can be driven from tip to toe in 4 hours.

By this time, Costello was getting itchy..impatient...downright verbal with Local TD. Three of us, including myself have been in the back of the taxi for well over and hour and half now...Bottom line: We never found the site. The Kiwi was hogging the A/C airflow in the front seat, and Costello questioned Local TD every 2 minutes, "Do you know where you are going?" Clearly not. Strike #4.

OK, it was REALLY hot now and we only had one more sight left on the list. The team was getting restless, hungry, impatient, and short-tempered. A final stop: the newly restored Portuguese fort. It was actually quite interesting...or should have been b/c it is now SUPER hot. Truth told, this was the only thing I really wanted to see. Upon arrival, we proceeded to walk up to the fort in full-on sun. Not a tree or sign of shade in sight. Twenty steps later, and Costello, with The Kiwi now clearly on his side, declared, "I am done. It's too hot". Sightseeing appropriately draws to a close. We walked back to the car, and Local TD was nowhere to be found. Car was locked up tighter than a drum. 30 minutes later we found him coming out of the cafe area next to the clue where he was or what he was doing. By this time, I have done the mental calculation that I could have actually seen the Portuguese fort in the time it look us to locate Local TD. Strike #5.

Time for lunch. Hachie Gal kicked into overdrive and suggested the Bahrain City Center Mall. It was going to tick all the boxes: Major A/C, lots of dining choices that will surely meet Costello's preferences, no need for Local TD' services any longer, and we can actually stretch our legs. Best of all, Hachie Gal can disappear into a shopping frenzy sans the guys.

8 hours later I emerged from my retail therapy feeling refreshed and ready to face the world.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I am unashamed

OK, so I am travelling with three male business colleagues who apparently think it is "uncool" to admit that they secretly want to take a taxi from the hotel to the HP offices that are only a 5-7 minute walk.

Quoting Cole Porter, no one wants to raise their hand and admit, "it's too darn hot" for walking to the office each morning. Let me go on the record to say that I in fact raised this concern yesterday. Hoots of laughter ensued; cries of "you need to toughen up" ridiculed me as I humbly mentioned I'd like to take a taxi.

OK, the first week we were literally across the street from the client office. Even this 2 minute walk in over-100 temperatures is too much, but what are you gonna do. Second week, we are in the HP offices so in my book, new game. But nooooooooooooo, my colleaugues will have nothing of that and so yesterday morning, the Bahrainian death march ran its course. I was nackered for 2 hours until the water and A/C restored my sanity and curbed my headache.

Today? Hang on a minute. It is 108 degrees F at 8:45 am. Bluntly put, ridicule me all you want. This sister is paying whatever it takes to arrive "sweat-free" at the office.

So, with purpose in my step and conviction in my heart, I stepped out into the Bahranian morning heat and walked 5 steps to the nearest taxi, opened the door, and popped in. Surprisingly, no one was making fun of anyone this morning, as the guys on the team silently followed my lead. sentiment exactly. Apparently, no one wanted to blink first.

Before anyone else reading this post thinks I am a wuss, walk a mile in my shoes. Actually, make that 500 meters and then we'll talk.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pics from Bahrain

For your viewing pleasure....



Hachie Gal and her colleagues in Bahrain.


And of course, Hachie Gal gets her Chili's fix.

My Five Senses in Bahrain

Sight: It’s hazy but bright. Desolate except for buildings that crop up out of the sand. Bright sun on white sand. Blinding. I have spent most of my time on the 10th floor of an office building; as I look up and out towards the end of my line of sight, I see lots and lots of blue water. Small dots on the horizon that appear to be boats.

No odd smells…food or otherwise. Actually, non-descript.

Sound: It’s not a crowded place, so no sounds of hustle and bustle of people, cars, buses, and transportation links. Heck, you can drive around the island in 4 hours. I did wake to the sound of the mosque loudspeaker (just like in Marrakech) announcing prayers. It was loud, but I found it strangely soothing. People of faith going about their business.
Taste: Have not partaken of local cuisine yet…delivery in the office. Does Bahrain even have a local cuisine? Hmmmm.

Touch: my skin is hot and clammy to the touch. It is hot and humid. End of day, shoes covered in dust. Sticky skin.

Still, I am intrigued by this place.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

30,000 hits

Hard to believe the blog has been in existence over 5 years and 30000 views. Thanks for the interest....

First impressions of Bahrain

As I stepped off the plane, I closed my eyes and felt the heat. For a moment was I in Texas? I could have been landing at DFW Airport anytime in a hot Texas summer and I would not have been able to tell the difference. Instead of hearing English or Spanish, Arabic was swirling about me. Yep, definitely some place new.

It did occur to me that it have been years since I had been somewhere so totally different than my collective experiences….unsettling and exciting at the same time.

I tried to take it all in…remember those first impressions. It was a conscious thought. Hot, hot, hot. Humid, ironicall. Concrete buildings. Burkas and veils. Dust – lots of it. And that is before I even left the airport.

It was dusk just as the driver walked me to the car…had it not been as hot as it was, I would have thought it was snowing. A fine dusting of what looked like snow covered every surface….hoods, car rooftops, barriers, road, signage….except it was not snow. It was white dust.
Next impression….turn on the AC, driver man! Whoa - it is hot as Hades!
As we made the journey to the hotel, and the gentle cooling of the car A/C wafted toward me, I relaxed and looked out the car window. A strange mixture of East and West. To the left, a Chili’s Restaurant…to the right, a family of traditionally clad middle easterners…men in long white rooms and red and white checkered hat scarves and women in black from head to toe driving in a luxury SUV. And that sight was repeated again and again. A Starbuck’s collector’s mug from Bahrain is most likely in my future.

The good news is that our hotel is right across the road from the client’s office. The bad news is that I felt I was living in my Baylor dorm room…the blonde wood furniture attached to the wall…the desk, wardrobe, night stand, headboard…flashback to North Russell Dorm circa 1980. To add injury to insult, there was no internet…either old school or Wi-Fi…in the room. How is that remotely possible in the 21st century? And then there was the note to only drink bottle water. This is where I mentally flash forward to the 10 days ahead of me…grrrrr….

Still, I am ready to be bowled over by my first Middle East experience. Let me see what happens and I will get back to you on that one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bahrain Bound

As I put the finishing touches on my India travel visa application, the news came through…you’re headed to Bahrain. I’d like to think my geography knowledge has improved over the last decade, but my first reaction was Bahr-where?

First stop: Google Earth. I knew it was in the Middle East but where exactly. Answer: Bahrain is located off the XX coast of Saudi Arabia, being an island of XX square miles.

Second area of investigation: electrical current and voltage? Sadly, my question was would my UK hairdryer work (let alone the PC or blackberry). Essentially, think British so I was good to go.

Next question: just how hot is it? Last count, 106 degrees F. Yowza! No matter what you wear, that is too darn hot (quoting Cole Porter).
Still, I was intrigued by what was ahead of me, although I did not mention this trip to the Middle East to my mother -in-law. Better to tell her AFTER I return (wink-wink).

Monday, July 19, 2010

BBC Proms

No, it is not an formal dress event where you and your significant other dress up in a tuxedo and fancy dress and attend a dinner/dance type of event. (Sorry, had to explain that to my US contingency!)


This is the 116th year of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) Proms and it still remains true to its original aim: to present the widest possible range of music, performed to the highest standards, to large audiences.

The first Proms concert took place on 10 August 1895 and was the brainchild of the impressario Robert Newman, manager of the newly built Queen's Hall in London. Lots of iterations throughout the years have ensued but it was Henry Woods participation in the series (he oversaw them for the first 50 years) and then the BBC's involvement which began in 1927 that put these concerts on the map.

Today, the proms run for approximately 2 months (mid July-mid September) with 2-3 offerings a day. Most of the "big gun" stuff is in the evening, and most concerts take place at the Royal Albert Hall. Still, there are over 76 concerts to choose from.

With that said, the Budman and I bit the bullet on season tickets as several programs appealed...

BBC Proms 2010 kicked off last Friday night; the downside is that due to the fact that the Budman felt under the weather last weekend and my 10 day business trip to Bahrain commences tomorrow, this has pretty much thrown the first 2 weeks' attendance out the window.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

The trivecta of summer sports

A decade away from the US has resulted in my switching sporting longer do I have a clue as to what is happening in Major League Baseball.

No, the summer is defined by World Cup, followed by Wimbledon, followed by the Tour de France. Yes, I am glued to my TV for the 1 hour TdF highlights every night. Sadly, this year, I missed the first week due to my Texas trip and I will miss the third week due to my Bahrain trip. Bummer, man.

And who am I rooting for? Answer: Andy Scheck

Saturday, July 17, 2010

quirky little habit

You know, I see this type of thing quite a bit... more than you'd think. For a big city that can seem impersonal and soul-less at times, it is the odd little things that bring a smile to my face and remind me of the small day to day considerations of others.

Now, think many times have you been walking down the street and remark to yourself "Oh dear, someone has dropped a glove"... "Oops, someone has lost a shoe"..."dropped an umbrella"..."lost a jacket". In the US, we would normally just walk on by (sad commentary, I suppose).

Not in the UK...people will pick up the lost item and drape it over a fence, tack it on to a tree, lay it gently against a wall. It is as if people want to say to the person who list the item, " I found your personal belonging and have left it here for your pick-up". Point in case:

In the hustle and bustle of today's world, it is touching someone took the time to pick the item up and display it along the manic streets of London in the hopes that its owner would come looking for it.


Friday, July 16, 2010

The green, green grass of home

No, not what you'd think. Not London.

My recent trip to Texas in early July greeted me with temperatures I was prepared for (upper 90s F) and high humidity (>95%) which I was not. Bluntly put, oppressive.

What I was equally unprepared for was the green-ness of Texas. Green grass, green shrubbery, green, green, green. All that rain had apparently made Texas a Garden of Eden this summer, albeit it a muggy one.

Contrast that to the brown-ness of London, with little or no rain.

Mother nature keeps mixing things up.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Trip 2 and 3

Since the last post, I have made two week long trips back to the in mid June and one in early July. Both trips were focused on my aunt but I also tried that "let's work European business hours", so I essentially worked full days from 2:30 - 10:30 am. Ouch!

Peggy is improving incrementally but she still struggles with swallowing and cognition. The skilled nursing center is a godsend, being a pleasant surrounding, modernly and aesthetically appealing, and staffed by some of the most loving and compassionate caregivers I know. A true blessing.

She receives 3 types of therapy a day: physical, speech, and occupational. She is learning to stand, as well as trying to move herself out of the bed, but speech is still non-existent. Somehow we still find a way to communicate.

During the last trip, I did make a detour enroute to the hill country, and celebrated the Fourth of July service with FBC Waxahachie friends. I had the foresight to wear blue and white clothing and knew the choir special being performed, so I was roped into singing in the choir that Sunday morning. It was great to see old friends, hugs necks and hit that high B in the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Indeed, there is no place like home.