Playing Baseball in a Shamal

Bahrain’s Minor League

As we drove up to the baseball field the wind blew in from the northeast.  The shamal blocked out the sun and sand filled the air.  But the game wasn’t cancelled.  I consoled the kids.

“You can tell your kids, when I was growing up we used to play baseball during sandstorms.”

Actually it’s been quite a year for Ace, Mark and Susan’s baseball team.

Baseball is NOT Bahrain’s national sport.  However, the season began with enough kids for three teams in the Minor League.  The third team folded within a few weeks as players and coaches quit coming to practice.

Tires burning behind the baseball field.

The two remaining teams played each other 22 times this “season” amidst burning tires and tear gas.  Often they spent hours on the road as traffic was diverted by political demonstrations.

For the top fifteen players, going to Dubai for the Little League Tournament was the highlight of their year.  Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai each fielded two teams of their top players and for the first time, three teams from Perth, Australia showed up.

The Bahrain team played their hearts out and endured despite some tough umpiring.  They lost all their games to Dubai, Qatar and two of the Perth teams.

After forging ahead, the Perth teams recognized they had the upper hand and in both games they displayed good sportsmanship and eased up.  They quit stealing bases and called in their back-up pitchers.  They still won by a huge margin but they did not completely trounce our younger, less experienced team.

And as they shook hands after the final game, the Perth coach told our kids that they heard about what had been happening in Bahrain.  They wanted to remember them and asked if they could trade jerseys.

Our team eagerly traded their red jerseys for the Perthian blue and white.  The next morning they all went to the Wild Wadi water park together.  The trip ended with heart-felt hugs and promises to see each other at next year’s tournament.

Yesterday morning as he got out of the car, Mark said in an Australian accent,

“Remember to put a shrimp on the barbe for me, Ma.”

Despite the losses, it was a perfect life lesson in sportsmanship, playing for the love of the game and the camaraderie of team sports.

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The Magic of Jo Malone

Before leaving for dinner last night, I sprayed on Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir cologne.

Instantly I found myself transported to my friend Deborah’s guest bathroom one warm morning.  Next to the sink, she had set out Pomegranate Noir hand cream and cologne for her guests.  I softened my hands and sprayed my hair.  When I rejoined my three friends on the veranda, my essence enveloped everyone.

Deborah teased me, “I forget how much I love that scent.”

We laughed as we sat around her table under the fan, sipping Russian Caravan tea, telling about our most recent trips to Syria, Ireland and Oman and recounting stories of our mothers, fathers and children.

Living overseas is like a pomegranate.

You move to this entirely different land with its own smooth skin.   At first the round red orb is like a completely different planet, one you have never seen before.  Then after a bit of study and adjustment, you figure out how to peel the skin.  When you open the fruit inside you discover lots of different cultures, both expat and local.  Generally the people are quite interesting and before you know it, you find you have all these amazing friends from around the globe.  Each is packed with tiny, sweet stories about the lives they have led.  The richness of your time together stains your hands.  Just as pomegranate juice is known to keep us young, the memories of your expat years stay with you forever.

Then there’s the noir.

The Pomegranate Noir lingered on my pillow, waking me.  And in the blackness of the night, I began to think about my friend Deborah who returned to Australia last summer.   My rational brain knows being an expat means my friends will eventually go home or depart to new assignment in a new country.  We can stay in touch.  Someday I will visit her.

But still – my heart misses my amazing friend and I weep as I remember sitting together in her garden surrounded by palm trees and bougainvillea.

The Pomegranate Noir of expat life.

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