We made it safely to Bahrain. The airport was an experience. We got checked into the Abu Dhabi airport without incident. When we started boarding, we actually had to board a bus first. Turns out our plane was lined up in a back lot with a several other planes. Such a potpourri of people on the bus. Lots of different languages. There was a large contingency of men who were being sent to Bahrain (and maybe beyond) to do labor work. They looked like cattle being herded.
The plane ride was short—almost exactly like flying from Indianapolis to Chicago. When we landed in Bahrain, we took another bus from the plane to the airport. This bus ride was much shorter, which is good, because the stench of people who hadn’t bathed in weeks was hanging in the air.
The passport line. Why is it I always manage to get in the line that moves the slowest? Of course, I became one of the reasons the line moved slow. I had to fill out a card explaining where I came from, why I was in Bahrain, when I would be leaving, etc. The passport agent asked me lots of questions. It’s good Darren was with me and carrying credentials that made him very legitimate. We weren’t sure why they don’t hand out those questionnaire cards on the airplane. That would have save lots of time.
Security. After the passports and before we could get our bag, we had to go through a little security line. They pulled aside my camera bag and asked me about it. They wanted to know if it was my camera and what it was for. I told them it was just for personal photos. They really don’t like photos here. People in Abu Dhabi were leery of photos, too. I remember at the Mosque and Emirates Palace Hotel, there were signs about not taking photos of the local people.
Darren has a favorite cab driver in Bahrain named Mohed. We called him before we left Abu Dhabi and, God love him, he was waiting right in the lobby for us. We all walked out to his little cab—probably the cutest cab I’ve ever seen. It almost looked like a PT Cruiser, but with slightly different lines. The top was all painted out in checkers. Our luggage went next to the driver. We sat in the back with tons of leg room. It was nice. Driving through Bahrain, I liked what I was seeing. We passed a shipyard where they were making wooden boats. I definitely want to go back and look at that again. I’d like to photograph the boats if nobody takes issue with it.
We spent yesterday afternoon/evening entertaining some of Darren’s friends and co-workers. A few of them are leaving for new assignments, so there were lots of toasts and stories and heartfelt speeches. We started the gathering at Darren’s flat. Then we all went to the chief’s club on base. There was a more formal gathering of people there. Six men were given awards and sent on to their next assignment with applause and laughter and poems and genuine care. All done Navy-style, of course. It was really fun. Eric, the master chief I met in Tennessee, was there. He presented three awards. He was kind enough, after the first award, to introduce me to the entire group and have them welcome me. I felt like some kind of VIP.
I’ll look forward to seeing more of Bahrain in the coming week.