Thursday, June 30, 2011


Miss Nellie
Dearest Friends,

The next big party was given by our new friends Nellie and Dave.  They are the couple we spotted in our hotel cafe that very first day in Bahrain (though at the time we didn't even know they were from Texas, much less that they worked for the same company as us)  They and the Sanfords moved back to Houston at the same time as us, so we all became very close there, becoming parents together and throwing showers for each other.  We sort of lost track of them when we moved to Midland, then went back overseas.  However, when we moved back to Houston and went to get our son registered at his new high school, guess who was there, checking everyone's vaccination records?  Nurse Nellie!  Small world, huh?  We went a few years without seeing them after we both moved again, but now it turns out they are planning to retire to the Hill Country like us, and are scouting out their options, which is how we got to have this mini-reunion with her and the Sanfords recently.

But I digress.  We're supposed to be talking about great parties here!  You see, many of the B&R employees were from Texas, and we missed our good ol' Tex-Mex food somethin' fierce!  You could get Mexican at the American Club occasionally, and there was another restaurant called Dreamland that served it on Thursday nights, but it just wasn't the same.  Then Nellie had a brilliant idea.  None of us felt up to fixing an entire Mexican dinner all on our own, from guacamole and margaritas through pralines and tres leches, but we each had at least one thing we could make fairly well.  So, Nellie decided to host a Mexican potluck, inviting about ten couples over, and asking each one to bring something.

Man-oh-man!  Did we ever feast that night!  It was the last day of September, and the perfect way to celebrate the return of cooler weather.  It was so much fun, in fact, and so little work for the hostess, that I stole her idea and have hosted one of these myself almost every fall since!

Perhaps you are wondering why there are Christmas decorations up in September?  Well, I have a confession to make.  I couldn't find any photos from the Tex-Mex party, so I fudged and used some from another party that Nellie and Dave gave just a couple of months later, after they had moved into their new house on the company compound.  Same hosts.  Same guests.  Same country.  You get the idea.

P.S.  Aren't you just lovin' all this 70s Chic couture, and our Cher/Dorothy Hamill/Farrah Fawcett hairstyles?

Monday, June 27, 2011


Dearest Friends,

What do you do, when you haven't much to do?  You give parties!

I spotted Miss Nellie in the hotel restaurant our very first morning in Bahrain.  Of course, I had no way of knowing she would end up being one of my best buddies!
By September, thanks to the weekly baseball games, we finally knew enough people, and had our house furnished well enough, to host our first big shindig.  These houses were perfect for parties.  All you had to do was take the furniture out of that big central room and hide it in one of the bedrooms, and you had yourself a dance-floor!  John got busy recording one of his famous dance tapes, and I spent my evenings making party food (the ever popular Bisquick Cheese & Sausage balls, and such) and filling our freezer with it.  Of course, there would be a fondue pot at the party as well -- which I had to borrow from BD, since all my wedding gifts had been left in the States.

Miss Paula
The infamous Toad (Paula's hubby) and JV
I made out invitations and John drew maps, then we both took them to work and handed them out to everyone we knew.  Thirty or forty people showed up, but not one of them was a co-worker of mine.  I remember feeling a little hurt, but also more than a little relieved.  I didn't want to insult them by not inviting them, but on the other hand, I just couldn't picture any of them mixing and mingling with the rowdy B&R crowd! (I think this was the party where Toad grabbed a cucumber off my kitchen counter and stuck it in his pants, just to see if anyone would notice.  Nellie did - and just about passed out)  Well,  my boss's younger sister R. might have enjoyed it, but she was away at school at the time -- in Austin, Texas of all places!  More about her later.

D, T & L, and John's boss DC.  DC liked to tell people that I once threatened him with bodily harm if he didn't get my hubby off that dang platform (he was way overdue, as usual), but he knew I was only teasing...sort of.
The party must have been a success.  We didn't get rid of the last guests until about 1:00 a.m!  The next day we slept until 10:00 (unheard of for me) got up long enough to put the house back in order, then had to take a nap.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Other than our weekly excursions to El Chicos for some good ol' Tex Mex, and the occasional plate of Americanized spaghetti and meatballs, I grew up totally oblivious to the cuisines of other countries.  The first time I tasted Chinese food was when my best friend's parents, who had emigrated from there, fixed a big feast for us in honor of her graduation.  My first taste of Japanese was in college, when a roomie fixed sukiyaki for me.  So, as you can imagine, living overseas, amongst people from all over the world, was quite the eye-opener for me.

Is it just me, or did Dear Hubby look a lot like Ryan Gosling back in those days?
As for my hubby, he grew up with a meat and potatoes man for a father.  George liked his meals to be predictable, so pretty much every week it would be meatloaf and mashed potatoes one night, steak and baked potatoes another, hamburgers on Saturday, roast beef on know the drill.  I just couldn't cook like that.  I would have gone insane from the monotony in just a few months.

I know, I've posted this before, but it's the only one I've got of me cooking!
If I was going to cook, I was going to be adventurous -- try new things, take a few risks.  Some of my experiments turned out great.  Some?  Not so much.  Trouble was, I had trouble remembering which recipes were which.  That could be why John swears we never had the same thing twice.  I always accuse him of exaggerating, but after flipping through a few of these date books of mine, I have to admit, there may be some basis to his claims.  We were eating everything from Bedoin Sandwiches and Indonesian Smoor to Veal Inverness and Gaelic Steak Flambe'!  Very rarely did he get an ordinary meat and potatoes meal -- and this was all before I discovered my special treasures at the Family Bookstore.

BD, Paula and Nellie were always willing guinea pigs for my culinary experiments.
One weekend when we were at the bookstore, just browsing around, I finally ventured away from the fiction shelves and discovered a whole section of "cookery books."  The only cookbook I owned at that point was one of those huge, dictionary-like tomes with lots of words but no pictures other than the occasional diagram for dismembering a chicken or such.  Imagine my delight upon finding a British collection of international cookbooks, where every single recipe had a beautiful, full-page color photograph to go with it!  Of course, being British, the measurements were all metric, and the recipes called for veggies I'd never heard of, like aubergines and courgettes, but did I let that deter me?  Heck no!  That first day, I bought only one volume -- the one on Middle Eastern cookery -- but by the time we left Bahrain, I had pretty much the whole collection.  Poor John.  From that point on, about the only time he got meat loaf was on his birthday!

Monday, June 20, 2011


 Hubby goes native: learning to appreciate the comfort of caftans in a desert climate.
Dearest Friends,

The one thing that most amazes me, as I read back through my small stack of date books from the 70s (which I hadn't looked at in twenty or thirty years) is just how much I somehow managed to forget.  This was such a momentous era in my life, I thought I would remember it all forever -- in detail!

How could I have completely forgotten, for instance, coming home from work at noon on my birthday to discover that "everything in our garage has been ripped off!"  Not only did I not remember the burglary, I didn't even remember having a garage!  Besides, no one ever got robbed in Bahrain, and what could we possibly have had in there that was worth losing a hand for?  Some empty trunks?  A few pitiful Christmas decorations?

Further along, however, I read that John came home early that evening "to talk to our landlord about our missing stuff", and five days later "we got the stuff from our garage back!"  Finally those memories began floating to the surface.  We weren't really robbed.  The landlord had our stuff!  He must have just decided he wanted to use that garage himself, or maybe he promised it to a more important tenant or something (which could explain why I didn't remember having one).  I faintly remembered someone in the neighborhood, perhaps our friend with the candy and cigarette shop, telling us that they saw our stuff being loaded up, and that we should go talk to the landlord.

As I sat here trying to dredge up these details, it struck me that our brain has much in common with a garage.  Or perhaps an attic would be a better metaphor, being at the tippy-top and all.  Whatever.  The thing is, whenever a house gets too cluttered, we box up some stuff and shove it into the garage or attic.  Each time we do this, other stuff gets shoved further and further towards the back until, eventually, we forget it's even there.  Occasionally, though, when we are up there digging around in search of one thing, we stumble across something else, and that which was forgotten comes flooding back.

Miss Becky decides to go native too!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Fortunately for all concerned, John was a waaaay better driving instructor than my dad or high school coach had been.  He never screamed, or cried, or yanked my pony tail when he wanted me to stop.  In fact, he even took the time to tell me a little bit about how the gear mechanism worked, which made it easier to remember when and why I needed to clutch and shift.

After only three practice sessions with him, I wrote "Hey, I think I'm finally getting the hang of this!" And though, after the fourth one, I wrote "ugh, today's lesson didn't go so hot,"  John decided to turn me loose nonetheless.

A few days later, I made a run to the grocery store.  Afterwards, driving along a nice straight stretch of road, I realized I was really thirsty.  Gawd, how I missed being able to drive through McDonalds or Sonic for a big cup of soda with lots of crushed ice!  Instead I had to settle for reaching into the grocery sack next to me, pulling out a warm can of Pepsi (no Coke products allowed in Bahrain) and holding the steering wheel steady in the crooks of my elbows while popping it open.  It wasn't until I saw the roundabout directly ahead, that I realized I had a serious problem.  I needed to shift gears, and a quick scan told me this new car had no cup holders.  So what was a girl to do?  I quickly tossed the open drink over my shoulder, and prayed that I could get the mess cleaned up before my hubby saw it!

Later I fessed up, and dear John searched the souk until he found one of those plastic cup holders that you could hook into the window slot.  Not long after that, my friend BD and I were out running some erands together, when a Bahraini gentleman in an expensive car decided to exit a roundabout from the inside lane, forcing us off the road and up onto a curb.  Seeing what had happened, he pulled over too.  We climbed out of the car, seriously shaken, but not injured.

About that time, a cop came over.  He walked slowly around the vehicle, inspecting it for damage, then spoke to me in Arabic.  I assumed he was asking us if we were OK, so I smiled and told him we were fine. Both men inspected the car again, peering in through the windows.  The wreck-causer became very animated, pointing to something and waving his arms around.  The cop turned to me, asking more questions.  "No, really.  We're fine!  Don't worry about it."  That's when BD grabbed my arm, saying "Uh, Becky.  I don't think they are the least bit concerned about our welfare.  I'm pretty sure that bozo just pointed to your soda can, then told the cop you are drunk and it was all your fault!"  Thank heavens her Arabic was way better than mine.  She finally convinced the cop that I was not drunk, sticking the can right up under his nose, and he eventually let us go.  I was furious about how rude he was to us, while treating the culprit with such deference and letting him off without so much as a reprimand, but BD stuffed me back into the car, saying "Just be thankful that they aren't hauling us off to a jail somewhere, never to be heard from again!"  I swore off "drinkin' and drivin'" until we were safely back in the states.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Dearest Friends,

I have never been able to decide which is worse -- being bored to tears because absolutely nothing is going on, or being totally stressed out, because too much is going on.  For me, it has usually been a case of "be careful what you wish for."  If I complained about being bored, someone up there was sure to send the pendulum swinging all the way to the other side of the spectrum, which is what happened in Bahrain.

Ha!  Bet you didn't know I used to work in a "saloon"!
No sooner had my boss returned from London, than she announced that she would be leaving on a buying trip to Paris within a couple of weeks.  Handling the correspondence with our French suppliers had been a real struggle while she was away, so as soon as I heard that she was leaving again, I got myself down to Alliance Francaise and signed up for a three-afternoons-a-week French class.  Unlike my high school classes, AF believed in speaking nothing but French in class from the very first day.  Although I ended up being the star pupil when it came to vocabulary, my accent caused my teacher to shake his head in woe on more than one occasion, whilst muttering something about "You Texans!"  The hairdresser I worked with, George, was from Lebanon, and spoke French fluently.  When he heard I was taking lessons, he started trying to hold conversations with me as he did my hair.  That's when I probably should have realized that there is a short circuit between my tongue and my brain, and that the only way I would ever be able to communicate would be via the written word.  It took my trying to speak several different languages, including English, before I finally figured that out.

John's job was undergoing some changes as well.  First of all, they took away his half-day off each Thursday, and he was back to working ten hours a day, six days a week.  Then he came home with news of a company-housing compound that was nearing completion, and he said perhaps we should consider moving out there.  "Why on earth would I want to do that, when I've gone to all this trouble to fix this place up, and we live in walking distance to my job, the American club, a movie theater, and everything else."  "Well, um, because it looks like I'm gonna be spending a lot more time off-shore, and I thought you might be more comfortable having people around who can help you out when I'm away."  Well, crap.  But I still wasn't movin'!

Not sure why he was taking pictures of the engine.
On top of my refusal to budge, John had the worst day off ever, right about that time.  We tried to go to the beach, but our car broke down.  So we walked to our friends T & L's house and borrowed their car, but it broke down on us too!  We then caught a taxi over to S & BD's house, so that John could borrow some tools to work on the cars with.  I guess that was the straw that broke the camels back.  The next day we were at the Honda show room, looking at brand new Civics.  He probably figured he'd never have a moment's peace off-shore, unless I had reliable transportation.  Now all he had to do was wait for ours to arrive (which would take at least a month), then pray that our marriage would survive his having to teach me to drive a stick-shift!

It was a bright, lemon yellow, as I recall.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Well, no wonder I got offered the job at Beaute' so quickly this time, when they never even called me back the first time I applied.  There was more to it than just my learning to type!  My new boss was a Zayani, one branch of the wealthy ruling family, and a mere two weeks after she hired me, she headed off to their London pied a terre, for two months, leaving me completely on my own!

In the meantime, John had roomed with this one guy while he was offshore.  Everyone called him Toad.  The offshore gang were big on tough, manly nicknames like Tex and Toad and Tiny.  Tiny was John's other roomie, the head cook.  He weighed 300 lbs. and liked to sleep "nekkid".  Bet you're glad there are no photos of that!

The net around the helipad, in case the pilot misses his mark.  People are NOT supposed to be on it.
Though you may find it hard to fathom from these photos, Toad (a former fire-fighter and EMT) was the safety guy offshore, and probably the most clean-cut and conservative of the whole lot.

Playing cards with this gang can be a very scary proposition.
Anyhoo, just as John had asked his friends to keep an eye on me while he was gone, I suspect someone in the office probably asked Toad to keep an eye on my hubby.

As it turned out, Toad also had a young new wife from Texas.  I guess she was pretty lonely too, since her only friend had gone home to Scotland for the summer,  her new job as a kindergarten teacher at the American School wouldn't start until fall, and her hubby was one of those who only came home for one week a month.

Of course, I didn't know any of this at the time, but I'm guessing that Mr. Toad told his little wife that she needed to meet me, 'cause not long after he got back from the platform, John came home from work with an invitation.  We had been asked over for hamburgers and homemade ice cream, to the house of some girl that neither of us had ever even met!  I thought that was kinda strange.

Little did I know, it was to be one of the most important meetings of our lives -- the one that would lead us to our very best friends of nigh on 35 years now, our wonderfully fun, crazy, quirky soulmates, Paula and Tim!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Early the next morning, our friend JH showed up with the shipments.  I couldn't believe they were finally here! (well, all except the dining room set)  That same afternoon, he stopped back by to hook up our stereo, so I could have music while I unpacked.  From that point on, either he or my friend BD's husband would stop by almost daily, to bring mail or phone messages.  I had a feeling my hubby had asked them to keep an eye on his poor, defenseless little wifey while he was gone!  Did I mention that BD, my best (and pretty much only) friend, had gone back to the states to have surgery, and might be gone a couple of months?  Needless to say, I was one lonely girl, and was thrilled to death to have all this unpacking, arranging, and nesting to do, to help pass the time while both John and BD were away.

The day after the shipment arrived, I spent several hours out at the naval base/American school, talking to prospective employers.  The jobs all sounded dead boring -- nothing I would ever have considered back in the states -- but I was getting pretty desperate by that point.  Plus, there were certain perks that came with a navy job.  For one thing, you could get and send mail via their APO system, which was waaaaay quicker and more reliable than our usual method.  Even better, you could shop at their commissary on base, which occasionally got very cool stuff, like Dr. Pepper!

When I was about halfway through my typing classes, I noticed that the sign was back up in the window of that salon/boutique I had been so interested in.  Guess the first person they hired didn't work out.  I sent them my new, improved resume', and crossed all my fingers and toes.  A few days later I was asked, not only to come in and talk with them, but also to come back and discuss a job in the counselor's office at the school.

John finally made it back after a full two weeks offshore, and man oh man, was it good to have him back!  He seemed pretty darn happy to be there, too.  I'm not sure he was really cut out for the offshore life, so was quite happy that it was a one-time thing for him, and not his regular gig.  I couldn't imagine living in a foreign country by yourself, and only getting to see your husband one week out of every month, the way some women did.

The next morning I went back to the school, and they offered me the job.  Such a quandary I was in!  I desperately wanted the job at the boutique, but wasn't sure they were all that impressed by my interview.  What to do, what to do?  I turned the school down.

A few hours later, when John came home for lunch, I was a nervous wreck about telling him I had passed up a sure thing.  Fortunately, he had a message in his hand, asking me to stop back by the boutique at my earliest convenience.  I was over there in two seconds flat.  Not only did I have a job, I was to start the very next day!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Remember the typing classes I mentioned a while back?  Well, oddly enough, those classes became the high point of my days after a while -- which only proves how desperate I was to get out of the house!  If you recall, I was alone in an Arabic speaking neighborhood, with no car, no phone, and none of my personal belongings.  The few expat friends I had made all had jobs already, and the Bahraini women in my hood, if I ever managed to catch them out of the house, were not exactly what you would call chatty.  By mid-June, though, things were starting to look up.

The first excitement was hearing that there was a neat little handicrafts shop deep in the heart of the souk, if you could find it.  Expats couldn't own businesses there, but this one was opened by a British woman who just happened to have a Bahraini husband.  Since I was sick to death of macrame by that point, we immediately went out in search of it.  Not only was I able to stock up on needlepoint supplies, I also found some very "groovy" candle-making kits, and some hooked-yarn pillow kits that looked like shag carpet on steroids.  I remember thinking they were pretty "far out" at the time.  What can I say?  It was the 70s.

My other lifesaver was the American Club.  Slowly but surely I was getting more and more involved in the activities they had to offer there, such as the American Women's Association and all their various meetings and demonstrations, including Mah Jong lessons!  It was hotter 'n hades out by this time, and our neighborhood had frequent power outages.  When I just couldn't take it anymore, I could walk over to the nice cool club and have a coke, check out some books, and call about a few more job possibilities.

Towards the end of June, we finally heard that our shipments were really coming this time.  Unfortunately, they were to arrive right around the same time that they were planning to send John out to work on an offshore platform for a week or two.  I prayed that the shipment would come first, since I wouldn't have a clue how to get it delivered and unpacked without him, and had no way to communicate with anyone at the office!

It showed up on Thursday morning, July 1st, but since that was the beginning of their weekend, it wouldn't clear customs until Saturday morning, and John was to leave that very afternoon!  Can you imagine my frustration?  Fortunately, we had something to distract ourselves with on Friday.  In honor of America's big Bicentennial celebration, both the American Embassy and the American Club had planned all kinds of festivities, from Bingo to barbecues.  But on Saturday we waited...and waited...and waited.  No shipment.  When we could wait no longer, I took John to catch his boat for the hellish trip out to the platform, and did my best to stay cheerful.  I didn't think he really needed to be worrying about me, while he was busy puking his toenails up -- even if I had no earthly idea how I was going to make it through the next two weeks without him.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Dearest Friends,

We are finally back from our two-week riverboat cruise through southern France.  It was wonderful, but I missed you all terribly.  Being in Paris again triggered a trip down memory lane, to the last time we were there.  It was part of a month-long adventure through Europe, on our way home from Bahrain.  I'd love to tell you more about it, but that would be getting ahead of myself, now wouldn't  it?