Avoiding Fines and Lines at the Ministry of Traffic

I wonder how this guy passes inspection. Loyal camper in the desert.

“Do you need inspection? Or does your car need inspection?” the older Bahraini man asked me as he leaned against my window.

Cross-cultural flirtation was not something I engaged in as it is a perfect opportunity for cross-cultural misunderstandings.  I just smiled at the policeman and shook my head.

Once a car reached five years of age, the government required an inspection before registration.  Part of my December chores was registering two of our cars.

“Let me see your papers.”  The policeman read my husband’s name out loud.  “Your husband?”  I nodded.  He looked disappointed but he would not bother another man’s wife.

“Go to number three,” and he waved me into the brake checking garage’s short line.  There were four cars ahead of me.

In the garage, a second, younger man had no interest in flirting.  He checked my brakes and scribbled on my form.  “Go pay in the office then get third signature.”

I drove down the garage ramp into a mess of cars trying exit the parking lot. The parking lot was completely full and the lanes were blocked as all fifteen car lanes funneled into the one exit.  The people trying to back out of their spaces could not.  I tapped two quick beeps and a man let me in.

I saw a solution.  I did the Bahraini girl thing and pulled up onto the sidewalk next to a palm tree.

Really I was not acting like a Bahraini woman since no respectable woman would ever be down at the Ministry of Traffic.  And no Bahraini woman would park at the far end of a parking lot and walk through the lot.  Their driver would drop them off at the front door.

In fact, I did not know any other expat woman who registered the cars, paid the insurance and did the inspection.  Usually the husband’s company staff took care of all that for them.

I was still wearing my tennis shoes from my morning work-out.  It was an easy dash between the cars to the check-for-fines office.

When I opened the door there was a line of twenty men waiting.  Luckily the one woman wearing her blue officer’s uniform waved me to the front of the line.  She did not want to see me waiting amongst all those men.

For the first time in seven years, I had fines.  Usually I park legally and I have never gotten a speeding ticket.  I did not bother to ask the man to translate the Arabic.  Probably they were from the protests last year when my car’s GPS guided my friend Goldie through the roundabout.   I heard all the license plate numbers were recorded.

I went back outside to the man in the center kiosk.  He was spraying the air with perfume from a purple bottle.  It did not disguise the cigarette he had just extinguished.

He stamped my form, signed it and told me “Post Office” meaning that’s where I had to go next.

Again I danced between the cars honking their impatience.  I jumped into my car, drove off the sidewalk and out the front gate.

The whole thing took twenty minutes.  It was a good day to be a woman.

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Dilmun Makes A Comeback in 2011

The Meeting Point by Lucy Caldwell, Dylan Thomas Award Winner

Lucy Caldwell begins her Dylan Thomas Prize winning book The Meeting Point with

The land of Dilmun is holy, the land of Dilmun is pure.

In Dilmun the raven does not croak, the lion does not kill.

No one says, “My eyes are sick, my head is sick.”

No one says, I am an old man, I am an old woman.”

Sound familiar?  If not, refer to Standing Out in Saudi Arabia.

This verse was written on a 4000 year old clay tablet held in the Bahrain National Museum.

Caldwell wrote a lyrical story of an Irish woman who follows her husband to Bahrain.  Ruth dreamed of a new life in an exotic country.  Like thousands of expat housewives before her, Ruth’s life without financial or domestic responsibilities and a husband who is completely absorbed in his new job leaves her plenty of time to wonder – what do I do all day in Paradise?

Confronted by people living normal existences but under a different belief system and unsupported by the cultural walls of their own country,   expats often find themselves asking the existential question – Who am I?

The Meeting Point describes a woman’s unexpected search to find that answer while describing life in Bahrain in beautiful detail.  I was more than pleasantly surprised by the book.

Tourist Climbing Tree of Life featured in Lucy Caldwell’s Book.

I recommend it if you are interested in expat life, Bahrain or enjoy a well told Irish story.

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