I have officially been in Bahrain for one week, and I am just now able to have the gumption to sit at a table, alone on base, and write to you all.
While I will speak on my travel from the United States in a later post, I was up for 40 hours by the time I reached my destination. One hour after arriving at our hotel, I received a devastating call from Washington State on news regarding my father, sending me into a complete tizzy. I wasn’t quite sure where the lack of sleep ended and grief began. I just know that I was unable to move, curled into a ball with my hands on my head, almost banging out the visual memory of the many maps that I had looked at upon my arrival. I was embarking upon a crash course of what it feels like to be so far away from family and knowing that there was nothing I could do about getting to my father.
I couldn’t even get myself to message my family that I had arrived, and gave my husband the phone to call my best friend who was in charge of informing my rock of a network at home.
At the release of the news, the only options were fight or flight. In reality, my body chose flight, where the only thing fleeing was anything that was left in my body as I left the room to sit on a toilet with a bucket next to my face. That exact moment had to be the worst physical position, geographical location, and unbridled reaction that I had ever been exposed to, in every single way that one could imagine.
Will and I processed the news together for about three hours and all I could do was stare at a wall and/or hide my face underneath his body - this was not my life.
At some point in the day, I recalled a moment of total darkness and sadness that my father had experienced in his late 20’s - the exact age of myself. He had just been recently separated from his wife, in a brutal fashion, and had three young children that were thrown into the mix. In his desperation, he picked his life up in California and decided to spend four weeks traveling the land of his people - Israel. I felt his pain, I heard his voice, and I picked my weak head off of my husband saying, “my dad wants me to experience this country”.
I stood up, with Will’s help, looked at my swollen crying face in the bathroom mirror, and I knew that if I did not leave the United States Naval Base today, I would forever spend my time in a foreign land afraid of opening my home’s door.
We walked outside, him holding my hand the entire way, and I took my beginning steps onto the soil of a new world. Walking down the sidewalk, I saw a grouping of Bahraini’s sitting on big arm chairs with one older gentleman in a white throbe and keffiyeh (headdress) who was sleeping lazily in the shade. I had expected to see these sort of sights, but not 30 yards from my first step. I immediately thought, ‘where is my camera?!’. That was the start of remembering my “why”, as I had been so enthralled with the idea of moving to this country and to work in a constant state of wonder.
It was at that time where I swore that I would only think about emotional stresses when I was behind our closed doors and that these cultural moments were going to be reserved for separated thinking. All easier said than done, but the first step was to not talk about cancer when I was out in town. It worked, and we were off to eat a traditional Iranian meal. My oh my, it was everything I had ever hoped to taste in the Middle East.
I grew up on various Israeli dishes - my dad always working to keep us close to our ancestral ties. So to taste these flavors on such an elevated level with ingredients that were not typical to my cabinet (like the use of mint), it felt like the earth had prepared my food with hands only working to create the freshest culinary experience. Better yet, the dishes left me feeling rejuvenated and not weighted down like many of the processed food you will find in America. This was what I had lived to experience in eating.
As I have struggled immensely with food allergies and eating in general, this had to be the greatest light at the end of the tunnel for such a heavy day of emotions. All the while, my loving husband looked across the table at me actually eating, telling me just how happy he was in watching me enjoy these dishes - a true testament to the small blessings that we were having to find together in this time. I couldn’t help but to smile and knew then that this was a huge moment, hearing my dad telling me, “that is so great, baby! I’m so proud of you”.
I now realize how significant it was that I could already self-soothe with his voice, as I will be depending on tuning into his consistent responses for the rest of my life. I mean, how lucky am I to have a father who is proud of me for EATING?
My first day in Bahrain was, what I feel to be, the worst day that I will ever spend in a foreign country. Though in it comes so many blessings, as I am walking my father’s love for Middle Eastern culture and I am tasting the dishes that he thrives off. I feel him in these moments, so strongly, and unfortunately know that I am prepared for the nearing time where I truly won’t have him to call on a phone. However, acknowledging the use of soul connection and confident in the fact that I will be talking to my father for the rest of my life - him meeting me in my best and worst moments to come.
I will be back home in a few weeks and will need to table these foreign experiences. But, it is all worth it because I am beautifully blessed and a well-equipped woman in my father’s love.