Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Adventures and the Fountain from Hell

I'm pretty upset with myself.  Several months ago, Shoulda Been a Cowgirl (SBC) and I had quite the adventure and I 100% forgot to blog about it, and it is definitely worthy of a blog.

It was back in August, it was the day that Mr. Curly Sweatervest was leaving Bahrain, which means that it was Ramadan, it was hot, and I was wearing too much clothes.  I decided that I wanted to test drive a Kia Sportage, to see if that was the vehicle I wanted when I got back to the states.  I knew there was a Kia dealer, and there's a highway that runs through the location where several dealerships are, and I assumed (oh silly Teh Megan) that's where the Kia dealership was.  I asked SBC if she wanted to accompany me on an adventure.  This was around 08 or so.  We were both on nights, or at least I was, so 08 was pretty late to be starting an adventure, but she agreed.

I called the dealership, after having the most ridiculous time navigating their website, to make sure that they were open.  Ramadan means that business have the most random hours.. FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH OF RAMADAN.  Annoying.

I told Teh Bear to have sweet dreams, and left my apartment to pick up SBC.  No biggie.  We were jammin' to the iTouch and makin' our way to what I had deemed "car dealer alley".  I had failed to remember morning rush hour traffic, which kinda held us back some, but we pushed through it.  We finally started seeing car dealerships, and we were both on the lookout for the Kia sign, SBC more than me, because driving with the Arabs means concentration on the road and all the other idiots.  We never saw a Kia sign.  Disappointment started to set in.  We circled around a roundabout and returned the way we came, still keeping our eyes peeled.  I saw a sign that had the Bin Hindi name (which is who ran the Kia dealership), but I only saw it as we were going 60ish mph down the highway while trying not to hit the barriers beside me or the car in front of me. Because we weren't sure we hadn't missed it, we turned around and tried again, to no avail.

Now I was starting to get frustrated, in addition to the fact that I was up past my bedtime.  I called the dealership, since they were the last number I had called.  While they say most people in Bahrain grow up speaking English, that doesn't mean I can understand any of the English they are saying with such thick Arabic accents added in.  I struggled to understand the receptionist, who transferred me to a dealer who said something about the American Embassy and a left at the 2nd light.  I told him the highway name (because we had conveniently passed a sign that said the name of the highway as I was speaking to him) and he said he didn't know where that was.  WHAT?!  How do you not know where "car dealer alley" is, Mr. Man?  I tried to explain where we were via surroundings, but that seems to only work in the American South or in small towns.

Sadly, like a bad American, I had no idea where the American Embassy was to even have a gauge of where to start following his directions.  I did what any Arab would do, and said "ok, ok." and gave him the bobble head nod even though he couldn't see me.  SBC is watching all this, highly amused.  I didn't want to get lost, because it was getting "late"...  I decided we should go back to my apartment and get on Google Maps and get directions to the embassy.  I mean, that should be on google maps, right?

We were already headed back to my apartment when traffic came to a stand still.  We started creeping up a bridge, which made me pretty uncomfortable.  I've not got a super lot of confidence in Arab architecture due to all the elevators that I've ridden in Bahrain being very... scary..  That's the best word I have to describe them.  I was worried that a bunch of cars stopped on a bridge could only lead to disaster.  I was also curious why we were stopped.  Eventually, traffic started moving towards the 2 outside lanes (of the 5 lane bridge).  SBC said she saw flashing lights ahead and we had heard a siren behind us trying to plow its way through the traffic.  Not sure if it was successful or not.  Finally, we saw the problem.  A few cars were stopped in the middle lane.  Only in Bahrain.  I didn't really get a chance to look at what had happened, but not only were these cars not just stopped, it was actually a 5 car pile up accident.  And it was almost 7 cars when I almost rear-ended the guy in front of me who was rubber-neckin'.  I laid on the horn and he realized that he had practically stopped.

At this point, I was starting to feel bad for keeping SBC from her beauty sleep.  I offered to drop her off at home before going back to my place to get directions, but she reassured me that she was fine and she would stick out this adventure with me.  Little did she know what this entire adventure would entail.

I was easily able to find the American Embassy on Google Maps and realized just how close we actually were.  I also checked out some of the "attractions" past the embassy so I would know when we'd went too far, this was helpful...  We got back on the road, morning rush-hour well past by now.  We passed under the bridge we'd taken to get to "car dealer alley" and started looking for an American flag, because all embassies have the flag of their country flying at them...  Or at least that's the way it is in movies.

We passed by a building that was grey concrete, had rows and rows of concertina wire around it, and I had a feeling it was probably an embassy, but we couldn't find a flag on it, so we kept driving.  Then I started recoginizing places that I'd seen on Google Maps that were past the embassy.  Super frustrated, I started looking for a place to turn around.  Finally, we found a light where we could make a left turn and an older Arabic man who was beside us at the light gestured for us to roll down the window.  SBC looked at me, and I looked at her, both us trying to decide if we were actually going to roll down the window.  Because we are too nice, we did.  He asked us how to get to the financial district.  We told him he was way off, but to go towards the right.  We laughed that he was asking 2 lost girls for directions as we made the left turn to go back towards where we had started.

We came upon the big grey building again, and this time SBC saw the American flag flying in the far corner.  Not only was the flag not prominently displayed, I'm pretty sure getting into the compound would have probably required my military ID, my NC driver's license, my official passport, and a blood signature to get into.  Lucky for us, that's not where we were going.  We passed the embassy and immediately called the car dealer to tell him we had found the embassy and to ask for further directions..  I had forgotten what he had told me, and at this point, I seriously didn't want to get lost.

He told me to go through 2 red lights, then at the 3rd red light, turn left.  After I made the left, just look for the Kia signs.  At 11am (11pm my time), that sounded way more confusing, so I just went with it.  I followed the directions and we drove through several red lights after turning left and with each red light, I started to get more nervous we were lost again.  I was starting to think we should find a place to turn around when SBC shouted, THERE IT IS!!!  Pretty sure angels in heaven started signing.

Teh Megan on a mission (SBC photo)
It had taken us almost 3 hours to find this dealership.  I pretty much jetted out of the car and into the dealership for 2 reasons, 1) there was a Sportage parked at the door, I felt like it was a sign.. it wanted me to drive it.  2) it was stupid hot outside and I knew there would be A/C inside.

After the A/C blasted away my frustration, we walked around the inside of the dealership, checking out the display Sportage.  I was entranced.  A dealer came and spoke to us and I told him I wanted to drive one.  There were murmurs in not-English, but eventually, it was arranged.  He went and started the one sitting outside the front door.  Scorrreee!  The dealer rode with us, which was kinda disappointing to me, because I had plans to really test this car out.  He made me do a u-turn at the first light and I said I wanted to drive for more than 5 minutes.  The dealer explained to me that I was actually driving a Sportage that someone had already purchased.  Well, ok then.  We promptly returned back to the dealership and made arrangements to drive another Sportage that evening.  We agreed on 8pm.

SBC and I left the dealership, and I decided to take a different way home than we had came, which was dumb.  We almost ended up driving through the Souq, which would have probably meant me enlisting some Arab to drive my car out of the maze that is the Souq.  After almost an hour of driving home, I dropped off SBC and she assured me that she would go with me that night, after our "naps" to test drive the other Sportage.

Sleep time it was.

I got a call right around the time that I woke up from Teh HP Wizard.  She said Mr. Curly Sweatervest, herself, and SBC were going to The Meat Company for Mr. Curly Sweatervest's last meal in Bahrain.  She said 730pm.  I said I'd be there.  I was running late, of course, but SBC and I arrived right around the time we should have been arriving at the dealership.  I called the dealer and said we'd be late, he reminded me they closed at 10, so if I wanted an hour to drive it, to not come later than 9.  Ok.

Dinner was had, which was bittersweet, because it meant Mr. Curly Sweatervest was really leaving us!  Around 845pm we got in the car and headed towards the dealership.  I didn't know of any shortcuts, so we went the same way we had went that morning.  We arrived with no issues, if you can imagine that.

The Sportage that I'd driven earlier that day was still in front of the entrance but now it was running.  As we went out to find the Sportage I was going to test drive, the guy who had purchased the car was getting into his new Sportage.  I whispered to SBC that we had already driven his new car and we giggled.  The dealer made the Sportage start by pushing a button and I was smitten all over again.  SBC and I got in and made ourselves comfortable.  The dealer was still standing there to help us get out of the semi-parking garage we were parked in.  With the help of the handy-dandy back-up camera, we made it out of there with no issues.  Smitten was no longer a strong enough word to describe my feelings for this car.  We got out onto the highway and SBC plugged in the iTouch for some jams.  She was also messing with other do-hickies and do-dads.  She somehow managed to turn on the heated seats.  Both of our butts were burning.  It was still probably 100°F outside, and we did NOT need heated seats.  I managed to make the red light turn to blue while not hitting any other cars beside us or anything else.  My butt immediately started to feel cool.  Hello, air ventilated drivers seat.  SBC's butt was not as happy though.  I was completely enraptured by this vehicle.  We did some gunning of the engine, we did some skidding stops (which I pre-warned SBC about before I did it, so she wouldn't freak out on me), and then we tested the stereo with some very loud Bruno Mars which was in fierce competition with us singing at the top of our lungs.

The Sportage met all my desires.  It meant spending a lot more money than I had originally intended, but it also meant getting everything I could possibly want, along with the super awesome warranty that new Kia's come with.  Sadly, it was almost 945p, so it was time to start heading back to the dealership.  Once I turned it off, I couldn't figure out how to turn it back on, because the dealer obviously knew secrets that I will have to learn.  I took some photos of the vehicle before I brought the keys back inside.

SBC and I left.  We were excited because the Sportage was awesome and it meant that I could start looking for a vehicle before I got back to the states.  Then her cell phone rang.  It was pretty late for someone to be calling.  It was the dealer.  I'd left my phone in the Sportage.  Teh Megan fail.  Luckily, we hadn't went too far, but we still had to go further away to turn around and go back.  Siiiigh.  After we picked up my phone, we started to head home.

Once we got back to the Grand Mosque, I noticed the fountain was on.  I'd been wanting to take night photos of the fountain for a long time, to include while Teh Bear was in Bahrain, but we'd never done it.  So, I asked SBC if we could stop at the Mosque and walk to the fountain and take some photos since I had my tripod and camera.  She agreed.  We pulled in the Mosque parking lot and parked closest to the gate.  We walked to the fountain, miserable because of how humid and hot it was.  No wonder I hadn't taken these photos yet!

I still managed to get some acceptable shots, although not the greatest.  SBC had already stopped taking photos when I finally accepted the defeat of the weather.  I was hot and grouchy and just wanted to go home and take a shower and a nap.  She agreed.  We crossed the highway again and arrived at the Mosque.... where the gates were closed.

Through the gates of the Grand Mosque.  Hai Kaar!  :(
I was crushed.  SBC was crushed.  She had left her purse in the car (with her keys and wallet), I had left my wallet in the car (which meant no building key)...  Plus, we now had to walk home.  Granted, I don't live that far from the Mosque, but SBC lives a little further away than I do.  Luckily, she had her cell phone in her pocket and she called Teh HP Wizard and asked for a ride to her apartment, since she had a rental car.

After all the adventure that we'd packed into 24 hours, I'm pretty sure SBC actually made a self-pact to never go anywhere with me again if I didn't know where I was going with directions first and to not embark on any "whim" adventures with me either.

It's definitely much funnier now than it was the day that all this went down, for sure.

The Fountain from Hell
PS.  I am going through with the Kia Sportage.  I also had the idea to go take more fountain shots recently and realized that I packed out my tripod with my HHG.  It's for the best.


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