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Victoria Twead

Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools Are Home

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:43:53)   (1746 Reads)

Victoria Twead

Goodbye sand and suffocating heat. Goodbye political protests, shootings and constant helicopter activity above. Sadly, goodbye to our friends, too. To be honest, we’d grown fond of Bahrain and leaving it was harder than we thought it would be. I clearly remember our last day in Bahrain two weeks ago.

UPS came and collected our boxes for shipping, we handed in our apartment keys, and Ahmed the taxi driver drove us to the airport. We passed two military checkpoints, but, being Westerners, were waved through. We passed the Pearl Roundabout, scene of the terrible shootings last February and stared at the new highway intersection. Back in February, the Pearl Monument had stood there proudly, the most famous statue in Bahrain. Then the Shi’ite protesters camped under its giant shadow until government forces fired on them whilst they slept. Shortly after, the government demolished the monument, saying it had been ‘defiled’ by the protesters, and laid down a new highway intersection in its place.    more ...


Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools Have Enough

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:40:24)   (2291 Reads)

Victoria Twead

Isn’t it exhilarating when you’ve been fretting over a life-changing decision, finally make up your minds, and just know you’ve made the right choice? That’s how Joe and I felt after we typed this letter:

Dear Ms. N,
Please accept this as our formal notification that we are resigning from our posts of High School Math/Physics teacher, and Grade 6 English teacher and will not be returning for the new term in August 2011.
This decision was not an easy one, but we have decided that we would like to return to our home in Spain and retire. We very much appreciate the opportunities we have been given here, and the welcome and support the school has given us.
We wish you all every success in the future,
Yours sincerely,
Joe and Victoria Twead
   more ...


Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools Count the Days

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:37:28)   (1550 Reads)

Victoria Twead

A calendar hangs on the kitchen wall here in our luxury apartment in the city of Manama, Bahrain. It is a mass of arrows, untidy notes and spidery scribbles, but the eye is drawn to the thick, black lines created by marker pen. This is how Joe and I cross off the days until the end of our year’s contract, and our return to Spain.

There are no more protest marches here in the Kingdom of Bahrain as they are now forbidden. Anyone breaking this law is imprisoned and severely dealt with. However, pro-Government demonstrations are encouraged, even within schools. Posters plaster every spare space of wall, whether inside classrooms, in school corridors or on the outside walls. Students’ work is removed from bulletin boards and replaced by posters. The posters are massive photographs of either the King, Crown Prince or Prime Minister smiling benignly upon their subjects.    more ...


Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools Stay Put

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:34:05)   (2060 Reads)

Victoria Twead

Nobody is allowed to talk about what is happening here in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The news channels and internet have fallen silent, and I, too, will say little. Joe and I only have 10 weeks to complete of our contract teaching in an International School in the city of Manama, and then we hop aboard that plane back to Spain and our crazy, beloved village in the Andalucían mountains. How we long for the fresh mountain breezes and tasting food without a dusting of sand...

Last month, the troubles here in Bahrain escalated to the point where the British Embassy advised us to evacuate. They even laid on a special flight for British expats, although the fare cost more than a regular flight... (And they wondered why it returned to Britain empty?) But we’ve never felt personally threatened here, in spite of distant gunfire, numerous checkpoints, tanks parked along the roads and constant helicopter activity above. So we stayed. Nearly all the American and Canadian teachers left, and the Lebanese male teachers were deported. We felt we should stay and help keep the school open because the school has been very good to us and we owed the owners that.    more ...


Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools Shed Tears

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:30:34)   (2068 Reads)

Victoria Twead

What a sad month... As you all know, Joe and I left our beloved Spanish village to work in the Middle East for one year, teaching at an International school. Many people had hardly heard of the Kingdom of Bahrain, but then, on Valentine’s Day it catapulted to top BBC and CNN news topics.

I’m just an expat, and would never presume to pass an opinion on the politics of Bahrain. Forgive me if I over-simplify matters; this is just how one old fool outsider understands it. All I know is that Joe and I have grown really fond of this little island, and the events of the past month have really shaken us.    more ...


Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools and Cars

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:28:27)   (1936 Reads)

Victoria Twead

Neither Joe nor I have driven a car in six months. Not since we left El Hoyo, our beloved Spanish mountain village to work for a year teaching in the Middle East. In Spain, our little jeep was essential. The nearest shops were half an hour away over the mountains, and we needed the jeep to collect everything; bags of cement, bricks, logs, chicken grain as well as groceries.

No, we don’t need a car here in Bahrain because the school provides the teachers with a bus to work. And Jalal, our driver, ensures that our journey is never dull. His time-keeping is appalling, but his driving is lightning-fast and creative. Every morning we are treated to a white-knuckle drive.    more ...


Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools and the Tree of Life

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:23:56)   (1899 Reads)

Victoria Twead

It’s hard getting up in the morning before the red sun climbs over the desert horizon. It’s hard catching the bus to school as it weaves between skyscrapers picking up other sleepy teachers. It’s hard dropping the card into the clocking-in machine at school and starting to teach at 7.30 am. But it’s our fault. We chose to leave our beloved village in the Spanish mountains and come here to live in a city in the Middle East and work in an International School for a year.

If we’d stayed in Spain, life would be very different. We’d get up when we wanted to, without alarm clocks shrilling in our ears. It would be much colder, yes, but there’d be no traffic sounds, no skyscrapers. The hills would be dotted with almond blossom and the urgent ‘click-click-click’ sound of quails calling mates would echo round the valley. But here in the Kingdom of Bahrain, there are no birds to be seen except for pigeons and a few scavenging seagulls. And no trees except for ornamental ones, watered daily.    more ...


Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Christmas Cancelled for the Two Old Fools

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:21:48)   (2370 Reads)

Victoria Twead

Christmas in our little Spanish mountain village of El Hoyo is a low-key affair, but charming. A banner pronouncing ‘Feliz Navidad’ is hung across the entrance to the village and the trees in the square are decked with white fairy lights. Although people don’t send each other Christmas cards, they do decorate their houses with a Belén, or intricate, miniature nativity scene. Our neighbours always proudly show us theirs, displayed in their living rooms in pride of place. Unlike the UK, where Christmas is a massive commercial event, Christmas in Spain is much quainter and focuses far more on the religious significance.

Joe and I love Christmas in El Hoyo, so it’s quite a wrench to be here, in the Muslim Kingdom of Bahrain for Christmas. However, we’ve been quite surprised. Funny little Christmas trees have sprung up in odd places, like our hotel lobby, and some of the bigger stores are actually selling Christmas merchandise. Bahrain is home to thousands of expats, so I guess that’s to be expected.    more ...


Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools and Kids

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:19:23)   (1940 Reads)

Victoria Twead

In our little mountain village in Spain, children rule. They run wild in the streets, get up to all sorts of mischief and are regarded as little angels by their doting parents. And they are. Joe and I have always found Spanish kids to be delightful, polite and charming.

So when we signed our contracts to teach for a year in an International School in the Kingdom of Bahrain, we wondered how different the kids would be in the Middle East.

Well, their life-style is certainly different. In Spain, kids’ lives are governed by the seasons and their huge families. Fiestas, football, grape pressing, endless summer weeks romping in the village, the beach, Christmas... all important times for Spanish children. Here in Bahrain, the children we teach come from wealthy families. They have every material possession, are looked after by maids and brought to school by drivers. It’s too hot to play outside, there are no nice beaches and leisure time is spent in the city malls.    more ...


Columnists > Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead

From Spain to Bahrain - Two Old Fools Go Shopping

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:13:16)   (1888 Reads)

Victoria Twead

October is the month for stock-piling firewood in our little Spanish village of El Hoyo. Evenings are very cool, and by the end of the month we would be lighting the wood-burning stove nightly. Not so here in the Kingdom of Bahrain where, for just one year, we’re working as teachers in an International School. For the first time in six years, we don’t need to think about logs.

Here in Bahrain it is cool inside, thanks to A/C, but step outside and the heat still produces an instant sweat. Clothes, too, are a problem. The showing of arms and shoulders is unacceptable but neither is it comfortable to wear too much. The clothes I brought with me from Spain were inappropriate, and I needed some more to wear to school.    more ...