Thursday, July 28, 2011


Dearest Friends,

As you can see from the photos here, John's days weren't going by nearly so quickly as mine. There were no parties, no days off.  Unless you were a hard core gambler or closet drug user (there are some stories there to be told) for three weeks straight you got up, you went to work, you went to bed, you got up, you went to work, and so on.  John did say the food was good and plentiful.  It had to be, since meals were the only thing the guys had to look forward to.  If Tiny ever slacked off on the food, he ran the serious risk of inciting a mutiny and getting tossed overboard, regardless of his hefty size!

I think our friend Tim thrived offshore, but then, he was a former firefighter and paramedic who was used to spending his days yukking it up with the guys at the firehouse.  John was more the solitary type.  He did OK though, with Tim to look out for him.  I believe I mentioned earlier, didn't I, that all the guys offshore were given tough-guy nicknames?  One was called Tex, and another called Bullwhip.  The guy in that last photo was called Blue I think, and of course, Tim was called Toad.  What did they call my hubby?  Well, he can thank Tim for that as well.  Probably the very first night that he crawled into his bunk bed, Tim called out to him "Night night, John Boy!"  Of course, their other roomie Tiny picked right up on that, and well, you know how it goes.  I guess John didn't mind too much, or they wouldn't have become such good friends.

Speaking of friends, there is one other thing I should probably mention.  When I talk about the friends we made overseas, and then mention friends we've made in Dallas, Houston, and Midland (all places where we happened to have family nearby), I'm talking about two completely different species.  I come from a large, closely-knit family.  When you have two sisters, a mom and a dad, a little brother and more than a dozen cousins your own age all living in the same town, you don't really need girlfriends.  I always had plenty of people around to do things with and depend upon for help.  However, the people we grew close to when were living on some little island or offshore platform halfway around the world, separated from each other and with no family at all to depend upon, well, they weren't just our friends.  They had become our family!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Wow.  I'd forgotten how different things were the second time John went offshore, compared to what they had been like the previous July.  For one thing, I now had wheels!  I could take myself to the grocery store, or go to the office to check for mail and messages, instead of waiting for someone to bring them to me.  For another, I had a job!  One that I was really good at and found to be quite  stimulating.  Most importantly though, I had friends!

Mr. S, one of the Three Musketeers from our Indo-days, had just moved to Bahrain.  He brought me a brand new camera!
 The first time John left, my only friend had been BD, who was normally very good about stopping by to visit and offering me rides to the stores, but she had just gone back to the states for surgery.  With no phone, no car, no job, no friends, and no hubby, I felt very, very isolated, cut off from the outside world.

Newly single BW brought this lovely auburn-haired beauty over for a visit.  They parted amicably at the end of it.  However, next time he was in Houston, Mr. S gave her a call, and they've been married ever since!
Not so this time.  In fact, if you were to flip through the pages of my little datebook, you might come to the conclusion that I was turning into a regular social butterfly!  The first day after John left was a Friday, our day off.  I spent it much as I did those early days, cleaning out cabinets, reorganizing stuff, and working on various craft and sewing projects.  On Saturday, however, I went to pick up BD after we both got off work.  First we went to the club to play Mah Jong, then we went grocery shopping.  That evening after dinner T&L stopped by for a visit.  Here's how the rest of the week went:
Sunday - Worked 9-12, lunch and work at lending library with H, work 4-7, dinner and visit with P.
Monday - Work 9-12, AWA luncheon with P, N, and BD, shopping at souk, play at P's school
Tuesday - Work 9-12, exercise group at N's
Wednesday - Holiday, luncheon at P's house that didn't end until supper-time!
Thursday - met girls at beach for picnic and sunbathing
Friday - met two other girls at club for brunch

Yep, I'd say things were a whole lot different this time around, wouldn't you?  Miss Becky was definitely coming out of her shell!  I even went so far as to host a dinner party, all by myself, for four of our old friends from Indonesia who had recently been transferred to Bahrain.  No way the old Miss Becky would ever have done that!

 C & F brought a rambunctious toddler with them, whom she had been hugely pregnant with when she hosted my going-away party back in Indonesia.
Needless to say, the time while John was away wasn't dragging quite so painfully slow as it did the first time.  Still, I missed him every bit as much, and I was fairly certain that, for him, each day was longer than the last.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Dearest Friends,

There are three or four things that I remember most about early '77.  First was that, thanks to those books by Adelle Davis, I was rethinking the way I cooked and ate.  I was buying things like vitamins, yogurt and whole wheat flour, for the first time ever, and using them to make whole wheat banana pancakes, yogurt popsicles, and even home-baked bread.  Second was that things at work were really cranking up, and my boss seemed to be giving me more and more responsibility.  I was crazy busy taking inventory every morning, then would take the paperwork home with me to tally up at night.  Once that was complete, there were many new shipments due in that would need to be unpacked and priced, and then M. would be off to Paris again for another buying trip!

Miss Nellie Celebrates a Birthday

Most of all though, I remember the parties -- lots and lots of parties!  There were birthday celebrations and Mah Jong luncheons.  We hosted one party to welcome old friend BW from Indonesia, and went to a Chinese dinner that was a going-away party for JH and his family, who had been so helpful to us when we first arrived.  The highlight of the evening at that one was getting to sit around and watch two guys play the hottest new thing on the market -- an electronic game called Pong!  I'm afraid I was less than impressed.  There were dances at the American Club and out at the fab yard mess hall, and even a barbecue out in the desert.  Sometimes we even went to two parties in one night!  Perhaps we were trying to distract ourselves from that fourth thing -- the thing that was occupying our every waking thought at the time (and probably my dreams as well) -- John's imminent departure. 

Not sure what this party was for.

On Saturday, Feb. 19th, we got word that he would be heading offshore in the next day or two.  On Monday he took off from work early, and drove me down to the hobby shop to get stocked up on projects.  Guess he figured I needed things to keep me busy while he was away.  The next day, right after lunch, I took him out to the fab yard to catch his boat, only to find it was being delayed 24 hours.  We took advantage of our little reprieve to go to the movies that afternoon.  Young Frankenstein happened to be showing, and we figured some good belly laughs were just what we needed.  Much to our surprise, unlike the time when we saw it back in the states and the audience was rolling in the aisles, this time we were the only two people in the entire theatre who laughed even a tiny bit!  I guess Mel Brooks just doesn't translate well into Arabic.

I checked back with John at lunchtime on Wednesday, but he still didn't know when the boat was to depart.  That afternoon I went to my very last French class -- another reason why John was concerned about my having too much time on my hands while he was away.  He finally left early the next morning, Feb. 24th, and our only consolation was that at least we had a month's home leave coming to us in June, and we were planning a stop in Greece on the way home.  Finally I would be able to step foot off this tiny island!

One other thing has become increasingly obvious to me, though, as I have been writing these stories and posting these photos -- something I don't think I was even aware of at the time.  You see the girl in those black slacks and that flowered haltar top, in those two photos above?  She's not the same girl who arrived in Indonesia some 20-odd months ago.  She's come a long, long way from being that shy little mouse who sat meekly in the corner at parties, and rarely strayed from her hubby's side!

Monday, July 18, 2011


Priscilla, Megan and Geoff, with Dear Hubby's Granny out in California
Dearest Friends,

What other books, you may be asking, did I wag home from the Family Bookstore?  These three might surprise you: Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit and Let's Have Healthy Children, both by Adelle Davis, and another book called Nursing Your Baby.  You can blame all three choices on my sister-in-law Priscilla.

Though she might not admit this, despite time spent at both Yuppie U (aka SMU) and as an airline stewardess, Pris had the heart of a hippie hidden deep inside.  The first time I met her, when John and I were just dating, she was absorbed in a book by Adelle Davis, a nutrion guru whose advice about choosing real food over manufactured, and urging the use of supplemental vitamins, seemed to be taking the counter-culture by storm.

Pris was pregnant with her first child when John and I got engaged, and was the first person I'd ever known who wanted to use natural childbirth techniques, and have her hubby (John's brother Mike) in the delivery room with her.  I had one friend who had natural childbirth there in Bahrain, but it was not by choice, and she had no training for it.  It was the only option there at the local hospital -- a good reason not to get pregnant yet.  Priscilla had even joined La Leche League, and was planning to breastfeed!

When we went to visit them in Houston, just before moving to Bahrain, she was newly pregnant with her second child.  Shortly after that they moved to California, where her inner hippie came into full bloom.  Despite her mother's pleadings, her second child was born right there at home, with a midwife in attendance, Pris became the leader of her La Leche League group, and she nursed baby Geoff for a full three years.  She was quite the pioneer, for her day and age.  I wasn't nearly that brave, but having a personal role model and fountain of knowledge made it much easier for me to step out of my comfort zone, and to blaze a new trail from the one I had been raised to follow.

Between her influence, those books, and my broadened view of the world, I suppose it's only natural that I would start to question my original career plans.  The more time you spend in third world countries, the harder it is to justify putting all your energy into convincing people that they must toss out last year's wardrobe to make room for the latest fads.  I had come across some amazing textiles in our travels, however, and the textile labs had been my very favorite classes at UT, which may have led me to consider the possibilities indicated in this hilarious "10-Year Plan" I found tucked into the back of one diary:
  • '77 - Bahrain, John offshore
  • fall 77 - return to States, go to work, buy house (24 yrs. old)
  • winter 77/78 - pregnant
  • fall 78 - 1st child born (25 yrs.)
  • winter 79/80 - pregnant
  • fall 80 - second child born (27 yrs.)
  • fall 82 or 83 - begin graduate degree in Textiles
  • fall 83 - first child in school (30 yrs.)
  • fall 85 - second child in school, get job teaching at University (32 years)
 I seem to remember feeling very strongly that you must have all your children before you were 30, for God forbid you should be an ancient 50 by the time they got out of school!  What a joke that turned out to be.

Friday, July 15, 2011


John's Home-To-Be
Dearest Friends,

Right around this same time, we made a trip to the Family Bookstore, and according to my diary "we just about bought them out!"  I must have been stocking up in preparation for John's move offshore.  You can get a pretty good indication of where my thoughts were heading at the time, just by scanning through my bookshelves.

At the top of my reading list were Europe On $10 A Day and an historical novel called The Greek Treasure.  These books were the first indication that John and I were falling out of love with life overseas.  It was one thing to be experiencing it together, quite another if he was going to be stuck offshore full-time.  We had heard rumors that while people like our friend Toad got to leave and come back on a predictable schedule, and had one week per month where they were totally free, the engineers who were sent offshore tended to get stuck out there if there was no one to fill in for them on their week off, and the week off was kind of a joke anyway, since they were expected to go into the office whenever they were onshore.  So, just in case we got fed up with this arrangement, we started looking into our options.  Turns out, we had only one -- to "drag up".

B&R was not going to transfer John to a nice cushie job back in the States when they needed him there in Bahrain.  However, if he were to force the issue by dragging up (quitting), they had to pay our way back home, ship all our stuff back for us, and there was a good chance that if he re-applied with them once we were there, they'd find him a position in the States -- the definitive word there being "chance."  On the plus side, we had also heard that with the plane tickets they gave you, you could stop as many places as you wanted to on your way home, as long as you didn't back-track on yourself.  Judging from my reading material, I was busy planning our first stop!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Dearest Friends,

After my boss finally came back from her lengthy trips to London and Paris, there was a noticeable chill in the air whenever she and her partner were in the same room.  It may have had something to do with a notation I came across in my diary the other day.  I wrote about having had "some unpleasantness with S. while M. was away", but didn't elaborate.  I don't remember for sure, but I seem to recall her trying to pump me for financial information, or I may have caught her going through papers she shouldn't have been going through.  Whatever it was, M. was more than irritated when I told her, and it meant we were no longer one big happy family at the shop.  A short while later, someone told me M. had sold out to S., and was going to do something else.  Then later I heard, "No, no, that's not right.  They split things into two separate businesses."  A few weeks after that, I was told that M. had rented another space.  Needless to say, I never knew from one day to the next whether I would still have a job for long.  Even worse?  No more freebies at the salon!

On top of all that, there was the fact that several of our friends had taken home-leave to the states over Christmas, or had gone on nice vacations to places like Greece and Cyprus, and were now back and talking about all the fun they had.  Since we had not budged off this tiny desert island in almost a year, and since the only place John was going any time soon was back offshore -- not just occasionally, but as his full-time gig -- it was a tad depressing.  Speaking of this tiny island, know what was really bizarre?  Seeing cars with luggage racks on them in Bahrain.  This was before the causeway to Saudi had been completed, so the furthest you could drive in any direction was thirty miles.  Why would you need a luggage rack?

What really put us over the edge though were the pictures and tapes that started showing up from our families, of all their holiday festivities.  We loved looking at them, and yet, we hated them.  For the past twenty one months, I had been so caught up in my newlywed adventures, I had never given much thought at all to the fact that life was continuing on without us back in the states.  These tapes and photos brought it home in a big way, for I saw that new nephew Geoff was now the same size that his older sister Meg had been when we left, while Meg was running around and jabbering away like a mini-adult!  It set off all kinds of strange feelings that I had trouble identifying.  Could it be possible, that after all this time abroad, I was just now beginning to feel a little, well, there's no other word for it, homesick?  Even more disturbing was the way I could suddenly go all mushy at the sight of an infant.  Was it my imagination, or had something set off the very faintest of tick-tocking sensations, somewhere deep inside me?

Friday, July 8, 2011


Dearest Friends,

One thing I was beginning to realize was that I am not adverse to prying.  In fact, I am quite nosy!  I wanted to know how couples met, where people grew up and went to school, what made them tick, and how they had become who they were today.  Correction: I didn't just want to know.  I needed to know!  I guess I'd always been that way to a certain extent, but being in a place where their backgrounds were so very different from my own had kicked it up a few notches, and sent my curiosity to a whole new level.

The Guest Palace
The three women who piqued my curiosity most were the women I worked with.  First there was M., my boss, and owner of both the shop and salon.  As I mentioned before, she was from a branch of the wealthy ruling family, was married to a second or third cousin and had a couple of kids, however the husband was never around.  One of my friends had been a stewardess before she married and went to work for B&R.  When she was still flying, she got invited to some of the sheikh's parties, and had met the mysterious husband.  She was fairly certain he was gay, and spent most of his time in America, which I could fully understand.  What I couldn't understand was why my boss, who was a strong, smart, college-educated woman who had travelled the world, was willing to settle for that arrangement.

Her business partner S. managed the salon for her, and may have been a cousin as well.  I can't remember for certain.  She too was married to a man who lived elsewhere, and had a baby boy whom she rarely saw.  That I really couldn't understand.  It turns out she had been very unhappy in her marriage right from the beginning, and the only way she could get out was to leave her son to be raised by her husband and his mother.  "But, why?"  "You don't understand.  That's just the way it works here."

Then there was young R., M's little sister.  Like M., she had been sent to the University of Beirut, but midway through her studies the civil war broke out, and they were forced to shut the school down.  The students were then divided up and sent to various universities around the world.  Where did R. end up?  The University of Texas, right here in Austin.  My own alma mater!  Not only that, she happened to be living in an apartment down on Riverside -- party central!  It was pretty hard to keep a straight face sometimes, when M. would tell me that R. wouldn't be home over this or that break, because she had some exams she had to take, or a project she had to work on.  Yeah right!

When they did manage to drag her home, she'd come help out in the shop, and I always enjoyed visiting with her.  I couldn't imagine how difficult it must have been for her, to swing back and forth between that world and this one, where the men and women in her family could not be in the swimming pool at the same time, at their own house!  And where she could try on the cute little tennis outfits that her sister sold there in her shop, but she could not wear them, even on their own private tennis courts.  Instead she had to wear one that covered her knees.  I didn't think there was any way that she would ever come back to Bahrain full-time, after having been given that taste of freedom, but, eventually, she did.

I guess it's true.  Being a princess isn't quite what it's cracked up to be, is it?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Unlike Indonesia, Bahrain did get a bit of winter weather.  Not too frigid, but cold enough that, by mid-November, we were pulling out the few sweaters we had brought with us, and eventually purchased a space heater or two.  The most startling thing about winter weather was that it usually brought a bit of rain.  Sometimes, more than a bit.

On January 1st we celebrated John's 27th birthday at home with a candlelit dinner for two -- beef filet (tenderloin) in a puff pastry crust with madeira sauce.  It had started raining sometime in the afternoon, and by the time we went to bed, it was coming down pretty hard.  It rained all night long.

The next morning, a Sunday, we awoke to find that, though the rain had finally stopped, during the night the water on our street had climbed up over our entry steps, come under the door, filled the long entry way, and was now soaking the edges of our brand new area rug in the big central room of the house.  For once John was probably relieved that he had to go to work on a Moslem holiday (how did he even manage to get there?) and I didn't, for it took me an entire morning to get all the water swept back out the door.

The next day we finally managed to sell the crappy Vega that had given us so much grief -- for less than a third of what we had paid for it.  If you then subtract everything we spent on parts and repairs during the brief time that we owned it...well, let's not even go there.

It rained off and on most of the week.  On Wednesday I got home from work to find we now had an indoor pool!  Did I mention that there were no sewers, or any kind of drainage system, in Bahrain?  I guess they figured, "Why bother?  It only rains one month out of the year!"  But, do you recall what I said earlier, about people tossing their garbage into the street, and the vermin it attracted?  Now think about all that being mixed in with the water that kept seeping under our door.  Yeah.  Nasty!  I spent the next day scrubbing the hell out of that rug and everything else the water had touched, and wondering why on earth I had passed up the chance to move into a nice new house on the company compound back in November, where I could have been neighbors with Paula and Nellie!

This is how Nellie had to dress for work on rainy days.  Her office had similar water problems to our house, but the employees were expected to carry on as usual!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Dearest Friends,

From that point on, it seemed that we had at least two or three parties per month to go to.  There were a couple of outdoor parties, before the weather cooled down, at the one housing complex that actually had a pool (where at least one guy would always piss the women off by drinking enough to find himself thinking "Wow, I have a great idea!  Why don't I jump off that roof or balcony, into the pool!", and where my friend Paula always carried a bottle in her hand -- to brain someone with, should they take a notion to toss her into the pool); there was Casino Night at the American Club, and Singapore Night at the Gulf Hotel; there were a couple of wild parties thrown by the bachelors, and lots of game nights at friend's houses; there were big holiday potlucks, birthday parties, and small dinner parties; and then there was the party to end all parties -- and I don't mean that in a good way, for it almost did just that!

Usually, I made all of my own clothes, but when I heard that the American Women's Association would be hosting a big Christmas dance at the Pearl Restaurant on December 15th, I decided it was time for a splurge!  I picked out a piece of raw silk in a beautiful purple shade, and had a tailor turn it into a gorgeous evening gown for me.  Unfortunately, the style was not all that flattering to my figure.  I had to be very careful to stand up straight and keep my stomach sucked in when I wore it, which is hard to do when you are dancing and having fun!  Then I spent 2 1/2 hours at the salon, letting G. style my hair into a fancy up-do.  Again, not flattering!

I've been going back and forth for days over posting this, I hate that hair-do so much!
Despite all this, I wrote in my diary that we "had a great time!"  No, it wasn't until a day or two later that the trauma really began.  That's when I reported waking up "with a case of the runs."  Good thing it was my day off.  The next evening, John had an upset stomach too.  He was up all night, but insisted on going to work the next day.  He didn't make it through the whole day though.  He came home early and went straight to bed, eating nothing.  I thought I was doing better, but on Tuesday I woke up with "a serious case of dysentery!", and couldn't go to work or eat a thing all day.  Thank heavens the next day was a holiday.

A few days later, when we finally felt well enough to go out into public again, we went to a dance at the club.  That's when we found out that we weren't the only ones who had been suffering.  As it turns out, pretty much everyone who attended the dinner dance at the Pearl had fallen ill!  We had several more relapses after that (I remember having to stop right in the middle of opening our presents, on Christmas morning, to "jet to the john") but we eventually recovered, as did everyone else.