Modern Day Pilgrims

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Invisible Charlotte

Today I had a doctor’s appointment at the Embassy’s Health Unit.  The appointment was for me and not for Charlotte, but she thought it was for her and started crying when we started to walk through the Health Unit doors.  We told her the appointment was for mommy and took her to an area of the Health Unit that has a child’s table, puzzles, kids books, and other toys.  We told her she could sit down and play, but she still didn’t seem sure.  Chris and I went into the office where my appointment was (which was right by the children’s area) while Charlotte stayed at the kids table.  NIcole, the nurse, could see her from where she was seated in the office, but Charlotte was so quiet that Chris and I kept peeking to believe that she really was still there.  Every time we peeked at her, Charlotte was sitting perfectly still and quiet and had her blanket over her head.  At home, she always plays the game “Where’s Charlotte” by putting a blanket over her head.  We’re pretty sure she thinks we can’t see her if she’s hiding under a blanket, so we think her doing that today was to hide so she wouldn’t have to be seen by the doctor.  It was funny and sad at the same time.  I went out to the hallway and said, “Charlotte?  Charlotte?”  And she took the blanket off her head and looked at me with a scared little face.  I comforted her and told her once again that the appointment was for me and not for her and asked if she wanted to sit on my lap.  She said yes, so I brought her into the office with me and she sat so still and cuddled with me the rest of the time.  Too cute.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Today I am mourning the loss of our 3 date trees.  When I went outside to pick some ripe dates about an hour ago (as I've been doing everyday), all three trees had their date bunches cut off.  Apparently, the gardeners did this and they didn't bother asking permission.  They cut down all the dates in our compound, including the dates at my friends house.  A month ago, she told the gardeners not to do anything with her date bunches because she wanted them for herself.  She's now pretty sure they didn't understand her even though they said "okay".  We're not sure what they do with them, but I'm guessing they sell them as a side income.  Frustrating.  :-(

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ramadan Begins

And so it begins.  Today marks the beginning of Ramadan, a significant Muslim observance that will last for pretty much all of August.  I already vented a bit about my thoughts on Ramadan here.  I have major issues with the Islamic religion in general, and their observance of Ramadan is no exception.  I have nothing against fasting, but since Muslims fast to a false god and do it forcefully and flauntingly, I can't help but take issue.

Matthew 6:17 says "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." This verse implies that all Christians will fast at some point, and that we shouldn't flaunt our fasting.  We're supposed to go about our day as we normally would and not look or act any differently.  I like the way Charlie Handren, pastor of Glory in Christ Fellowship in Minnesota, defined fasting on his blog: "Jesus warned us in Matthew 6:16-18 not to fast in order to be seen by others. We should heed this advice and be careful that we are not doing what we’re doing for the praise of men and women. But this does not mean that we cannot fast publicly together, any more than his teaching to pray in secret means that we cannot pray publicly together. Again, the key is doing what we’re doing, in the depths of our hearts, for the glory of God and not the praise of others."

This is not how Muslims fast, from what I've read and observed.  Of course, I can't expect them to fast biblically when they don't follow the God of the Bible to begin with.  Ramadan is quite the religious observance and partially shuts down Bahrain (and I'm sure other Muslim countries) for a month every year.  In today's version of Ramadan, everyone but the most strict Muslims find a way to bend the rules.  They either sleep all day and stay up all night to avoid the temptation of food, drink, sex, and smoking, or they absolutely binge at night when the sun goes down.  Muslim scholars would say a person is only supposed to eat and drink what he or she needs to sustain them through the fast.  From the number of Iftar buffets that Chris and I have personally watched people binge at during Ramadan, it is safe to say that not every Muslim observes this "moderation" guideline.

I've mentioned before that during Ramadan, it is illegal for anyone - Muslim or not - to eat, drink, or smoke in public.  The government wants to ensure that all Muslims observe Ramadan and they don't want the temptation of food, drink, or cigarettes dangled before Muslim eyes.  As a result, with just a few exceptions, restaurants are closed between sunup and sundown during Ramadan, even though grocery stores are still open.  Even more intriguing, there are billboards all over town that say "Ramadan Kareem" (god is generous) and depict delicious food a person should consider enjoying at sundown.  During Ramadan, there are a lot of food deals in grocery stores and in restaurants to help celebrate Iftar, the breaking of the fast each day.  To me, seeing sumptuous looking food on billboards would be just as tempting as watching someone eat, but apparently the Bahrain government hasn't noticed or doesn't care about this contradiction.
To conclude this post, here are a few billboards that depict what I'm talking about.  Since it's so hot outside and since I can't even drink water in my car, I'm not going to go around town taking pictures of this year's billboards.  These are billboards I found on google, and they'll have to suffice.  You may be surprised by some of the companies wishing a happy Ramadan or advertising that "god is generous" through the phrase, Ramadan Kareem: