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Bahrain: Getting Into Gear and Going All the Way…

Our topics range from the highbrow to the lowlife this week, with an exhortation to read more books from across the Arab world, a child’s misunderstanding of a word in a cartoon, and an encounter with a prostitute. A new blogger has just arrived in Bahrain, and another blogger has just returned from a holiday in Iran – where he experienced rather more than he had bargained on during a taxi ride…

Widening horizons
We start this week with Layal, who recently read some books published in Yemen, and wants to encourage others to read more widely from around the Arab world:

لأتحدث عن نفسي وبعد ان انهيت قرأت هذين الكتابين , لاحظت ان معظم ما قرأته بالسابق ينحصر بكتاب من مصر ولبنان والعراق وفي الاونه الاخيره السعوديه (لا اقصد بذلك التقسيم ) ولكن جودة الانتاج الادبي والفكري في قطر معين يجعل من تسليط الضوء علي بقيه كتابه امرا سهلا, بينما اجد اننا بحاجه لتسليط الضوء علي انتاج بقيه الاقطار العربيه بقصد الوصول لعمقها والتعرف علي ثقافتها
Just talking about myself, when I finished reading these books, I noticed that most of what I have read previously has been limited to books from Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq, and more recently, Saudi Arabia (and I don't intend any classification by this). The good quality of an intellectual and literary work from a particular country makes shining a light on its remaining books an easy matter, but I feel that we need to shine a light on the output of the remaining Arab countries, in an effort to reach their depths and learn about their cultures.

For more of Layal's thoughts see here.

Keep on talking
A number of bloggers have posted interesting conversations this week. We start with a conversation between a young Yagoob and his father Salman, just after Yagoob has watched a cartoon in which the main character, Sinan, has been told to take some rest after exerting himself. However, the word used to indicate ‘some’ rest or literally ‘a measure of’ is the same word used for ‘an instalment’ – and young Yagoob has got confused:

يعقوب: بابا
سلمان: نعم يبه
يعقوب: شنو يعني قسطاً
سلمان: القسط بابا شي مال كبار بس مب زين
يعقوب: ليش بابا مب زين؟
سلمان:لأنه هم و نكد
يعقوب: ما فهمت بابا شنو يعني قسط؟؟
سلمان: هههههههههه انزين بابا بشرح لك,,, انا اشتغل وايد و اتعب بس معاشي اشوي ما يكفينا فاروح البنك أخذ منهم فلوس بس بشرط اني ارجع الفلوس كل شهر حق جمن سنة
يعقوب: انزين.. شنو القسط؟
سلمان: القسط هم و نكد يا ولدي, و هو البيزات اللي لازم ارجعها كل شهر حق البنك عقب ما خذيت منهم
يعقوب (و هو حزين): ياخذون كل بيزاتك بابا ما يصير!
سلمان: لا بابا ما ياخذون بيزاتي كامل بس النص لكن هالقسط ما يخليني انام و لا احلم و لا ارتاح!
يعقوب: بس بابا ابو سنان يقول حق سنان عليك أن تأخذ قسطا من الراحة, يعني لازم يروح البنك ؟؟ بس هو تعبان ما فيه شدة!
سلمان يضحك إلى حد البكاء على كلام ابنه البريء
سلمان: والله بابا جان زين البنوك تعطي أقساط من الراحة! جان زين جان زين…
Yagoob: Dad…
Salman: Yes, son?
Yagoob: What does ‘qist‘ mean?
Salman: A ‘qist‘ (instalment) is something for grown-ups, but it's not good.
Yagoob: Why isn't it good?
Salman: Because it's worry and trouble.
Yagoob: Dad, I don’t understand, what's an instalment?
Salman: Aaagh…OK, I'll explain. I work hard and I exhaust myself but my salary isn't quite enough, so I go to the bank to take some money from them. But that's on condition that I return the money each month over several years.
Yagoob: OK…But what is an instalment?
Salman: An instalment is worry and trouble, son, it's the money that I have to pay the bank every month after I've taken some from them.
Yagoob (who is sad): They take all your money, Dad? That's no good!
Salman: No, son, they don't take all my money, just half, but that instalment doesn't let me sleep or dream or relax!
Yagoob: But Dad, Sinan's father told Sinan that he had to take an instalment of rest, does that mean he has to go to the bank?? But he's tired and has no strength!
Hearing the words of his innocent son, Salman laughs until he cries…
Salman: Really, son, it would be great if the banks gave instalments of rest! It would great, so great…

Our second conversation comes from one of the bloggers from the group blog Word on the street, who describes a ‘red-light’ night on the town with his colleague. After they have entered a bar for a drink, and his colleague has overcome his worry about being seen by someone he knows, our blogger decides to call over an attractive and scantily-clad prostitute to sit with them:

زميلي: (مستغرباً) من صجك انت ؟!
أنا: تعرفني انا مو مال هالسوالف بس نضحك عليها.
زميلي: (مبتسماً) يالله راوينا شطارتك!
الآسيوية: إسمي ليلي، كيف حالكم يا شباب.
أنا: حالنا أفضل بعد أن رأيناك يا عسل.
الآسيوية: (ضاحكةً) توقف أنت تحرجني.
أنا: تعملين هنا؟
الآسيوية: نعم.
أنا: (ملوحاً للنادلة) ماذا تشربين ياعزيزتي؟
الآسيوية: فودكا بلو لوسمحت.
أنا: أتردد كثيراً على هذه الحانة ولكنها المرة الأولى التي اراك فيها. اانت جديدة هنا؟
الآسيوية: نعم. وصلت للبحرين الأسبوع الماضي.
أنا: وما رأيك في البحرين؟
الآسيوية: أفضل بكثير من بلدي.
أنا: لماذا ذلك؟
الآسيوية: ما أكسبه في البحرين في الشهر الواحد يعادل ما أكسبه عاماً كاملاً في بلدي.
أنا: أعرف شعورك. عملت في اوروبا لفترة من الزمن و كنت أكسب ما يعادل مرتب وزير في البحرين لكن إلتزاماتي العائلية حتمت عليي الرجوع.
زميلي: (مبتسماً و بصوت خافت) بل! وصارت عندك إلتزامات عائلية بعد! بروحك اتدور شغل برة و تبي اتهاجر من الوضع التعبان.
أنا: (ضاحكاً) اسكت لاتطلع تفهم عربي!
الآسيوية: (بوجه عابس) لدي ابن مريض و عملي يغطي تكاليف علاجه. لا أنوي البقاء هنا بعد علاجه.
زميلي: مسكينة.
أنا: يمكن اتقول الصدق و يمكن تبي تكسر خاطرنا. أغلب الظن تبي تكسر خاطري حق اراعيها في المقسوم بعدين، وحتى لو صدق هالشي ما ابرر العمل في مهنة خطرة مثل هذي.
My colleague: (astonished) Are you serious?!
Me: You know me, I’m not that type, let’s just have a laugh at her.
My colleague: (smiling) Wow, show us how smart you are!
Asian girl: My name’s Laila, how are you, lads?
Me: We’re better now we’ve seen you, sweetheart.
Asian girl: (laughing) Stop it, you’re embarrassing me!
Me: Do you work here?
Asian girl: Yes.
Me: (signalling to waitress) What are you drinking, love?
Asian girl: Vodka Blue, please.
Me: I come to this bar a lot, but this is the first time I’ve seen you. Are you new here?
Asian girl: Yes – I arrived in Bahrain last week.
Me: What do you think of Bahrain?
Asian girl: Much better than my country.
Me: Why’s that?
Asian girl: What I earn in Bahrain in one month is the same as what I earn in a whole year in my country.
Me: I know what you mean. I worked in Europe for a while and I earned the equivalent of a minister’s salary in Bahrain – but my family commitments forced me to come back.
My colleague: (smiling, and in a low voice) Right! And you even have family commitments! You are already looking for work abroad, wanting to escape from the difficult situation here…
Me: (laughing) Shut up, she might understand Arabic!
Asian girl: (with a gloomy face) I have a sick son, and by working I cover the expense of his treatment. I don’t plan to stay here after he’s been treated.
My colleague: Poor thing…
Me: Maybe she’s telling the truth, and maybe she’s wants us to feel sorry for her. I think she probably wants me to feel sorry, so I’ll take care of her with the tip later. And even if it’s all true, it doesn’t justify working in a dangerous job like this.

For the rest of the conversation see here

Ali has a more general point to make about conversations, phone conversations in particular:

من أكثر الأمور إزعاجاً و تعقيداً هو اضطرارك لاستقبال مكالمة هاتفية ، مع مرور الدقائق تلاحظ أنها :
– أطول مما يجب ..
– ليست ممتعة أبداً ..
– عليك استخدام تعبير مختلف للرد في كل مرة (اي ، صح ، صدق ، فعلاً ، أها ، اي والله ، عجيب ….الخ) ..
– عليك أن تبقى مستمعاً إذ ليس لديك ما تضيفه في الحوار الممل ..
و يترتب على ذلك :
– إضاعة وقتك و إن كان غير ثمين
– احساسك بالاستغراب لعدم انتباه محدثك لكل الاشارات السلبية التي أطلقتها و التي تصر و بوضوح على رغبتك في إنهاء المكالمة ..
– إحساسك بالذنب كونك ستكذب في النهاية لاخراج نفسك من دوامة الاتصال..
One of the most annoying and complicated things is the obligation to accept a phone call, and as the minutes pass you notice that:
-it’s longer than it need be
-it’s not at all interesting
-you have to use a different expression to answer every time (yes, that’s right, seriously?, aha, really?, great, etc)
-you have to keep listening even if you have nothing to add to the boring conversation

And the result of all that:
-the loss of your time even if it was not valuable
-your feeling of astonishment that the person talking to you didn’t pick up on all the negative signs you gave and which clearly insisted on your desire to end the conversation
-your feeling of guilt at lying in the end to extract yourself from the vortex of the conversation…

Glad to have moved to Bahrain…
Sous is a Swedish woman who recently moved from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, and is happy to be here:

Came here yesterday and I must say it feels pretty fine even though I am still tired. … I am so pleased I am not in Saudi (no offence Saudis) but I might still pop over there sometime to run some errands. What I really like about Bahrain is the mix of people and that the society is alive. People dress how they want and all people I have ever met here so far (from my visits from before) have all been friendly. I know it’s a country with all kinds of people rude, nice, friendly and whatever but I just feel it’s a “real and normal” country unlike Saudi. Just to see people smile here makes my heart happy. Women smiling and looking at my little daughter today, who excitedly ran through the Geant Mall (I don’t know the name of the mall), well it is just so nice to see their faces and smiles. Talk about enjoying the little things in life..

…and glad to be home in Bahrain!

We finish this week with a post by Concerned Citizen X, recently returned from a holiday in Iran, who entertains us with an account of an uncomfortable journey he undertook in a shared taxi – that he calls ‘My Date with a Stick Shift‘:

So we got a cab, me and an acquaintance sat in the front. Yes, the both of us sat on one seat, we had to squeeze in though and there in lay the problem. The other four sat in the back.

NOW, 99.99999 % of all cars in IRAN are manual, so the driver has one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the Stick shift, forcefully guiding the stick from one gear to the next.

Unfortunately, since I was sitting on the inside, gears one and two were, well let’s just say they really got acquainted to my thigh and left cheek, and I'm not talking about my face here.

As I felt the driver change into third gear, yes I say felt, not saw but felt, because now the stick shift was touching the under parts of my left thigh.

He then looked at me, and with an embarrassed grin asks if I would give him permission to shift into fourth gear.

I got the message and had to take it like a mannnnnnn, fourth gear was right under my bottom and no matter how much I squeezed and squirmed, twisted and turned, I just could not shift it, the goods I mean, away from the inevitable, so I gave in and took it like a man.

During the trip, all I could think of was, STOP, NO TRESPASSING, DO NOT ENTER, PRIVATE PROPERTY, and for the love of god, pleeeeeeeeeeeeesseeee nooooooooooo BUMPY ROAaaDDDS!

By the end of the trip I had gone to third base and back with the stick shift gear box, at least three times that come to mind, but fourth base was safe, cause I had my cheeks shut iron tight, and when I pounced out of the cab as it stopped at our final destination, and pushing my acquaintance during my rush, I could have sworn I saw the gear box wink at me……

Ouch…More from Bahrain's bloggers next week!

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