WHEW! It has been quite a whirlwind since my last post. A lot of fun, but almost non stop. I like it though. Here is what I have been up to in weeks 29-32.
– Formula 1 in Bahrain
– Bahrain hockey
– Hockey in Dubai
– Worst Hotel EVER
– 1000 miles
– Parking in Bahrain 2
Formula 1 in Bahrain
Bahrain is a small island, only 30 miles long and 11 miles wide with a population of around 1 million people. One would not think that this would allow for such a large event as a Formula 1 race, arguably one of the largest fan bases in the world. Well, Bahrain International Circuit is quite the track. While I have not been able to see it, I have been around it and it is pretty nice condition. The area is in the middle of the island, and it is a main attraction of people to the island. During the week of the race, the population on the island definitely increased. There are big parties everywhere and the whole island is aware of the race. Even the opposition groups who feel as if the race should not be held here due to their feelings toward the government.
I was unable to secure time off to attend the race, which was disappointing, but after the weekend I had, I was just fine with that. That Friday, I was invited to a dinner with friends where the original DJ from the Black Eyed Peas was performing. The dinner was at Mesei restaurant, an Asian fusion 3 story restaurant. The performance was on the roof and the evening was beautiful. The food…so amazing! The DJ…not so much. He sucked. The best part was the beef short ribs with potatoes and vegetables that I cannot even explain how good they were. I can still taste the food as I write this post and it has been almost a month.
We all shared food as a table and just ordered drinks and food and danced and sang. It was a really good night. I met a few people from other hockey teams I would be meeting in Dubai and they were great. Hockey is just full of such fun and amazing people.
The next night was a VIP party at the Dragon Hotel in Amwaj. This was a Formula 1 prestige party that they have every year and I got to attend thanks to an invitation from a hockey friend. The party was by the pool right by the beach and was just gorgeous. There were artists from UK, Russia, Lebanon, Netherlands, and Italy. The evening was awesome as the weather was great and the people were even better. Even more awesome was talking to my friend’s wife who graduated from USC in 2005. We talked about California. As weird as it may sound, it was nice to talk to someone about back home who actually knew what was back home.
After that party ended, we met up with some of my other friends and went over to SkyBar, a rooftop bar above one of the hotels. As with any late nights, there were some annoying people there and the next morning I found that I had done the stupid thing of talking to people back home and sending a few dumb texts. My bad. Haha.
Well, the night/morning was still going and our group got smaller, but we went to another after party where we wound down the evening. I wish they had Jack in the Box here, which is the favorite late night snack back home, but instead we hit Shwarma Alley and got a couple Shwarmas and then headed home for a few hours of sleep. While the rest of my friends were going to the Formula 1 race, I had to work. A long day it would be. I was going to Dubai that week for hockey so I was fine missing the race.
A quick little history of hockey in Bahrian:
Once upon a time…probably 25 plus years ago…a guy brought hockey to Bahrain. Several ex pats from Canada and Europe who were working in Bahrain got to playing. Eventually, they started a tournament team and called themselves the Bahrain Sharks. They went to the tournaments in the GCC and they won, a lot. Most were ex pats and with training they picked up a few Bahrainis. Well, most of those ex pats eventually left Bahrain, and the Sharks kind of faded away. Those expats started a new team and called themselves the GCC Aeros. During this time, more Bahrainis were getting into hockey, even going to the Asian Winter Olympic games in Kazakhstan. The team was made up 90% of Bahrainis and they picked up ex pats who came and were willing to help coach and play.
The team struggles because the rink we practice in is too small. They don’t have a true training program, and the ice is well…yeah…it is cold at least. More on this later as this is a project I am working on. The team went to tournaments, but did not do well. No wins or even placing in tournaments. In Qatar we learned A LOT, but have a long way to go. How did we do this tournament? Welll…
Hockey in Dubai
Another day, another hockey tournament, another country. WOOHOO! I had been to Dubai before, but I had not BEEN to Dubai. I actually got a passport stamp this time, and spent some time in the country. I had one mission…hockey. That was all. My vacation started out on a sour note when I was informed that I did not get the promotion here, but I guess that means that my path will just take a different direction that I thought. It is beyond my control, I am just here for the ride.
This tournament in Dubai has been going on for over 20 years. Hockey in United Arab Emirates is pretty huge. They have the Dubai Mighty Camels adult league, women’s teams, and even the Emirates Hockey League. Hockey was brought here by the ex pats who come to work in banking, oil fields, or whatever odd jobs. What I found is that many of the people who came here for a year or two have been here for over twenty. They love it. Not just for the money, but for the life. It is not what you would think of when you sit at home and watch it on TV. It is pretty great.
I have been going to hockey tournaments since I was 14. I organized the first team from my league to go to a tournament, and since then I have really enjoyed them. The best part is meeting people from all over to share your love of the sport. This tournament in Dubai is the best tournament I have been to hands down. Vegas has nothing on this tournament. Seriously. All my hockey friends back home you have to understand that Vegas has nothing on the Dubai tournament. In speaking with my friends here they cannot wait to go to Vegas and play hockey. I told them they would be bored.
First, Vegas tournaments are held over several rinks across the city. The teams come from all over the place and there is not much camaraderie amongst the different teams. Even amongst teams, they break up after games and do their own thing.
Dubai is a family. People plan their vacations around this tournament. There are people who have been going for 15-20 years. I met a really great couple from Canada who met at the tournament 15 years ago, got married, and they come every year.
There are four divisions: A, B, C, and Beer. Surely you all can figure out the level of experience and type of game for each division. Typically, the A division has a team from Russia that comes in and just blows everyone away. They were not there this year, so I missed them, but there was a lot of great hockey.
Teams came from all over to play. A team from Finland came in to play, another team with Fins who play in Dubai was there, two teams from Switzerland were there, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and of course Bahrain.
We played in the beer division. Our competition consisted of teams from Dubai, Qatar, and Switzerland. Everyone has always compared the Bahrain Ice Hockey team to the Jamaican bobsled team, so this time our team name was the Bahrain Cool Runners.
We won our first game, then tied the following two. Our final round robin game we again won which put us into the finals. We played really well. In the finals we let them come back in the last minute and then lost in overtime. A second place finish is nothing to be ashamed of and all the guys were proud. As they should be. I am so proud of all the guys who went down there. So much fun. (photo credit to Sian).
Also at the tournament was Allan Nicholls, who played #12 Johnny Upton from the Chiefs in Slap Shot, arguably the best sports movie of all time. He signed autographs, took pictures, and even sang O’ Canada. Very cool.
Worst hotel EVER!
I decided to find a hotel in Dubai near the Al Nasr Leisurland ice rink where our games were going to be played. There is one hotel, the Movenpick, which was on the other side, but it was a little more expensive than what I wanted to pay, about $15 a night.. So, I went to this website and found this hotel called Al Faris 3 hotel and apartments. I read the reviews and saw that it appeared to be a pretty okay hotel. The first night I flew in we dropped our gear off at the rink and caught a cab to find my hotel. The hotel was about half a mile away from the rink, but I didn’t know exactly where. When the cab driver stopped and said where the hotel was, it was an empty looking storefront. No lights, nothing. The cab driver tells me “go down the alley to the desk.” HA! Right. I saw it…”American goes down alley in Dubai at 10 pm at night.” I took the chance and found the front desk.
The clerk tells me that he did not have room keys because the system was broken so I had to wait for a security guard or worker to let me into my room. I should have stopped at that point. The second night, after our game I went back to my room to shower. This was when I found all the mold in the shower. It was everywhere! And, they gave me one towel. ONE! No towel for the floor, no washcloths, hand towels, nothing. When I was showering, the hose to the showerhead broke and got water everywhere. I was going back to the rink, so I spoke to the front desk and told him about the mold and shower hose, to which the clerks response was “oh, so you want us to clean?” Ummm…you think?!?!?! And I asked for more towels.
Well, I came back to my room later that night/early morning and found that no cleaning had been done and no towels were dropped off. I again went to the rink all day and we had two games, one morning and one late afternoon. I showered at the rink just in case they didn’t clean the one in my room. Which, I found out they DID NOT!!! I again complained. Blank stare. They gave me one more towel at least. I spent most of the night at the hockey rink watching the games, and told the desk clerk I needed a taxi at 6 am to take me to the Dubai mall where my 8 am hockey game would be and also that I needed a late checkout at 2 pm. Oh, and the lights didn’t work right in my room, and the second night the satellite tv went out! The washing machine didn’t work right and just rolled my clothes in water for about 2 hours and I didn’t get to dry them out.
The next morning I get up and the “taxi” is actually a guy in a private vehicle which cost my almost ten times more than what the taxi would have. I think it was the security guards cousin or something I am sure. Whatever, it got me where I needed to go. After our game I get back at 1130 am get a call from the desk clerk saying that checkout is at noon. Obviously the pass down that I needed a late check out did not get through. I go down to talk to the manager and tell him the mold never got fixed, the TV didn’t work, all the other messes, and that I wanted a refund on one or two nights. He laughed at me and said “oh, we cannot do that.” Such crap. I was pissed. This was the worst hotel I have ever stayed. The customer service was horrible on top of all the other crap. I shoulda sprung the extra money. Lesson learned.
I bought my car in December, and it was shipped from Virginia to Bahrain with 4 miles on the odometer. When I received the car in February it had 6 miles from the transportation. This past week I just hit 1000 miles. It feels weird that on an island of only 30 miles by 11 miles that I could do that so quickly. One of my favorite pastimes is going out for long drives and getting lost. I do that some here in Bahrain, but nothing spectacular like back home. I guess I have been without realizing it. I should take more time and appreciate where I am driving.
Parking in Bahrain 2
In previous posts I have shared pictures of people parking in Bahrain. I have a few more. One is my parking job where I parked on the sidewalk against traffic. I don’t typically do this, but hey it was there and nobody complained.
This other one is from the supermarket near my home. This guy pulled right up to the doors, in the area where it is clearly blocked off for foot traffic only and just parked it.
The tournament in Dubai has been the highlight of my year so far. I really enjoyed being there and meeting everyone, while playing some great hockey. I plan on making a return trip no matter where I am in the world. Still adjusting to living in Bahrain. Adjusting to a lot of things I suppose that is just life. I don’t know where this path leads, but I am enjoying following wherever I am taken.
Thanks for reading!