Tales of Bahrain – The Ritz

The Expat life is a very unique one. Slight dissimilarities occur in varying overseas countries through different customs and local habits, but generally expat life is very much alike.

I grew up in such a life of luxury and now once again find myself experiencing it on a visit to my sister who lives abroad. So many memories of it are coming back to me, and being here sometimes makes it somewhat a surreal deja vu.

Vangie my sister’s household help is addicted to karaoke. Every night she retreats into her own quarters and sings the night away. It is a form of stress relief I am told,  …of walking the dog, doing the household chores and sometimes babysitting the kids. She has two of her own as well, grown ups themselves now, as super Vangie is apparently 52 but doesn’t look a day over 40.

My sister and her family are members of the Ritz Club. This sounds horribly posh and in fact is….but it is a very normal thing to do if one lives abroad. It’s part of socializing and enjoying the perks of life overseas. (Not necessarily The Ritz, but any nice club with a pool, some children’s facilities and preferably a beach and good food, will do). The Ritz membership opens only for short periods of time and only platinum members are allowed to join, this to ensure that the right crowd fills the scene of course making it even more desirable. Platinum membership…meaning you have to bring in loads of ‘platinum’ (yes…money) to join. So, now for a week, I too have been a ‘platinum’ member as family of the lucky few are allowed to visit and enjoy the facilities…at an extra price of course….of…even more platinum money! If I would have been Vangie, the household help, I could have gone in for free with my sister, as members are more than encouraged to bring their nannies or maids to tend to the children.

You pay for service, naturally, as fantastic security is standing guard at the entrance, checking every single car with an oversized dentist mirror, which is placed beneath each vehicle for accurate observation, checking for bombs and boobs…(well, they don’t check out the boobs on purpose, it’s just that most women around here dress a bit more conservatively than the beach loving expats).
Once you’ve parked and made your way through security at the entrance door, once again checking for suspicious objects and obvious boobs then you get to sign in properly in a guestbook by the aquarium filled with tropical fish. After that it’s clear sailing to the pool and beach area, where you are treated like His Royal Highness Himself. Men rush to place your sunchairs in the right sunlight, crisp white towels are placed neatly on top of them (two of course as one is so passee). A few minutes later, and I think they time this…another guy rushes over to take your drinks order….only to come back a little while later with drinks and the bill, realising he forgot to take off the 20% platinum discount you get as platinum member….duh…!!!

All morning one wades in the sea and naps in the sun, then at mid day feeling peckish one strolls towards the lunchbar and chooses from a selection of salads, and sandwiches and once again, waiters crowd the tables like eager flies.

After lunch, a brisk walk along the man made beach scenery and then, back to the sunbed for a siesta. Awakened by a frlendly looking man, asking if you would like yet another drink. Which you do, because Bahraini temperatures make you want to rehydrate as often as possible.

At the end of the day, feeling sunkissed and tired from all the socializing, eating and sleeping…one trots down the same path of entry and kindly thanks all those souls that jumped at every request made.
I sometimes wonder if they were genuinely happy to hear us say, ‘see you tomorrow’…. !!

PS. The kids have a completely different experience of this, if you ask them about their day at the beach, they will tell you they went fishing, crab hunting, built sand pyramids (or in our case volcanoe’s) and they loved the hotdogs with french fries and ice  cream for lunch. Naturally leaving out all their fights, arguments and temper tantrums…which in most cases the nannies had to deal with anyway as the parents were too busy doing all of the above. 😉

Stay tuned for more Bahraini tales….

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