Saturday, March 29, 2014

Goodbye Qatar

Goodbye Doha!
Goodbyes are often tough. And I have been avoiding this one for quite some time. I knew I had to do it. I have been meaning to do it. I have had the best of intentions. But...well... it is bittersweet to close this door, even though I have long since stepped through another passage, and have gotten quite comfy in my new digs.

It has been almost exactly one year since my last blog post. I can't quite believe time has managed to pass at such an alarming rate. These posts have been quietly sitting on a back shelf in my brain, allowing me to busy myself with this current chapter of life.
But once and a while, my dear old blog-friend would shake the sand off and have me notice these words that I once felt very strongly about, and I would get a reminder about something I had written. A significant piece of my life that now seems to have gone by so quickly.

In the weeks leading up to our departure from Qatar, I was so busy. Busy packing. Busy fretting about two babies on a plane for 20+ hours. Busy making plans for the summer and the immediate future. Brimming over with excitement and anticipation of things to come.
I did my rounds - saying my goodbyes to people I knew I may never see again - people that were in my life a few short years, but I know I will never forget their faces. In quiet moments, I'll hear their voices in my head for years to come.

Mercy, who cared about my precious babies like they were her own. Seeing her heartbroken face as we drove away from our villa for the last time still fills my eyes with tears.

Jeff, who left a potted plant on our front door step the morning we brought our son home from the hospital. He would stop by at the end of his shift in our compound just to say 'hi' to our kids because I know it made him feel closer to his own, who were miles away.

My small eclectic group of fellow expat wives who, under any normal circumstance, would have taken me years to get to know. Women I may not have chosen to get to know at all, had I been in any other situation.  The very same women I listed as family members on the emergency contact form at my daughters school.  Those who I cried to and laughed with as we each made Qatar home. Women who today, I can say belong in that part of my heart reserved for only very dear friends, no matter the length of our friendship or miles between us.

I used to complain about Qatar. Sometimes bitterly. I would moan about the horrific drivers on the roads, the endless construction, or the never ending heat.  I spent so much time being angry at the lack of equality and labor standards for poor workers. I lost sleep over the countless number of stray, abused and abandoned animals who couldn't be helped as there were just far too many of them and far too few resources. The tiered manner of existence in Qatar was an especially hard pill to swallow some days.

Sometimes, in the midst of my day to day living that was often filled with small-tasks-turned-enormous, like searching three different grocery stores in order to find one box of Honey Nut Cheerios, or waiting a half day to see a doctor with whom I had scheduled an appointment with a full month in advance, I would lose sight of the blessings. Because those were just as numerous as the negatives, even though I didn't always so easily see them. Often, only time can remind you of those little gems.

The gifts served to me on a shiny gold expat platter when I arrived in Qatar.

My husband worked a mere forty or fifty hours a week, with a fifteen minute commute each day. He actually belonged to us during our life in Doha. He wasn't sucked into a vortex of five lane freeway traffic every single day. He worked in a place that had limits on the time one spent at the office. Our weekends were ours to spend as we wanted. Rare was the need to head in to work on a Saturday morning. Very different from what we were once used to, and have again become accustomed to.

The importance of a hand written letter from a far off friend deserves mention as it was always such an unexpected delight. To those reading this, please know that a tangible piece of home - a few words scribbled on a three week late Christmas card, or an "I'm thinking of you" note out of the blue - those things turned lonely days into happy ones. There were days when walking to that stuffy, halogen-lit mail room and seeing my name scribbled in a familiar script would literally lift me for days. Paper wings. The little gifts and cards on special occasions held such meaning to us while we were in Doha. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Last morning in Qatar,  06/2013
Qatar was a most excellent spring board from which to see the world. The vacations we took will always be some of my very favorite experiences. Those memories will be my 'go to' thoughts in times of stress. Having since been back to traveling with North American airlines, I now long for the real hot towels and three course meals of Qatar Airlines when I board.

The life we experienced while in Qatar was so very cyclical, which I came to love and loathe all at the same time.  The delightfully cool winter evenings which begged for outdoor activities and backyard gatherings, the jam packed restaurant patios in early spring, the sandstorms that seemed to last for days, and the sweltering heat in the summer. The strange role shopping malls came to play in how my week was shaped is something only another person who has lived in Qatar can relate to. The tennis tournaments, the black tie events, and the Eid plans that were made months in advance kept everything flowing in the right direction. In the absence of true seasons, the passage of time each year was marked with social events and sporting tickets.

It was indeed a mixed bag of experiences. It changed me. It changed everyone in my family.  Qatar was on the cusp of more massive changes when we departed, and I am guessing that much has changed this past year. We experienced life in a country that was literally being built up around us. I often wonder what it will look like in ten more years - if those dusty back roads I once traveled will even exist anymore.

So long, Qatar. I am a better person thanks to you.  Maybe we will meet again one day. 

"Why do you go away? So that you can come back someday. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there will see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." - T.Pratchett

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Welcome Baby Jack

I want to introduce my reason for the lack of blog posts in recent months.

This little man has just made us a family of four and we couldn't be happier.

We also couldn't be more tired.

As our house adjusts to the needs of a newborn, we are all falling in love. He is amazing.

Our waking and sleeping hours have been adjusted to accommodate the schedule of this tiny little person who seems to have a fondness for midnight walks around the house.

I have been spending most of my time smelling his soft, fresh newborn scent and snuzzling his tiny body against mine. I rub my cheek on the fuzz that we loosely call 'hair' on the top of his little head constantly.

C and I are amazed at how well our daughter has adapted. She is gentle, protective and loving already.  Just yesterday she marveled that "Baby Jack's nose holes are a bit too small for me to pick his nose for him."
... Now that is some serious sibling love right there. She's already got your back (and your boogers), little man.

Having a baby here in Qatar wasn't exactly part of the plan, but J came into the world happy and healthy.

His journey begins here in this country. Can't wait to see where else life takes him.

Life just got a whole lot sleepier sweeter.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

From A to Z

Three is too many. I know that. I mean come on, two is pushing it, but for us, three is most definitely too many. C didn't believe that I actually believed this. I have no doubt he thought I was angling for # 3 and this was my way of getting what I wanted in a sneakier fashion.
To clarify, I'm not talking about kids... well, not the human variety anyhow. I am a dog gal. Always have been. I love me some furry, four legged, balls of energy and affection. 
And C has granted me two of this variety over the years. He isn't wasn't a dog man, but he's softened over time.  You still won't find him seeking some cuddle time from one of them on the couch, or talking 'doggie talk' to them while they vie for his attention and crazily aim for a stolen lick or two on his face after they haven't seen him all day.
It still makes him uncomfortable to be licked by any animal, and I know he may secretly find the craziness they add to our lives once in a while a bit... much. Truthfully, it is a bit much sometimes.
But, he loves them. Very much. And when his 'boy' (aka Bentley), waits every night at the base of our staircase, not even attempting a stair or two, Colin always remembers he'll be there. He never asks me to go retrieve our smallest dog with bad knees and a weak heart. He fetches Benny in the dark each and every night and gently carries him to his place at the foot of our bed. Every. Night. He knows how Ben likes to be carried, and some nights I hear their (one-sided) discussions as they ascend the stairs for bedtime. Love.
(Pause here to gush over an everyday task of a really good man)
Ask anyone who knows me, and you'll find it's not a secret that my heart belongs to Cooper. It has since we first looked into each others eyes, almost seven years ago in College Station, Texas. He presses my buttons at times and he is not perfect, but man-oh-man, I would do most anything for that dog. I genuinely prefer his company to the human variety on some days. 
I have had lots of hobbies and interests that have (sadly) taken a back burner during our time here in Qatar. I don't paint like I once did, and how awesome would it be to sit down and actually read a book from cover to cover again (and not of the Dr. Seuss variety)?
Somehow, some things have been put on hold while I spend my days with E.  But one thing that has remained a priority is always attempting to do what I can for animal welfare. No matter where we have lived, I try to give some attention, time and money to helping local animals. Everyone has their 'thing', and this is mine.
Qatar has its problems, like every other country does. It is still very much "developing". It has animal cruelty and neglect, just as other areas do if you look hard enough. Sad situations are everywhere here, though - I am not trying to pick on my home-right-now country. I swear I am not. But when you combine the heat, the unforgiving environment (often difficult for an animal to hide from the elements), the lack of public education about animal rights and humane treatment, together with the nonexistence of any official nonprofit humane society, the case becomes a more difficult one.
There are some amazing efforts being made here to help animals in need. New and state-of-the-art veterinary clinics keep popping up, and places like QAWS (Qatar Animal Welfare Society - runs completely on private donations and volunteers), DID (Dogs in Doha, who work on rescuing, treating and then fostering dogs) and 2nd Chance Rescue (an initiative started by a young Qatari national with a huge heart) have made a significant impact on the lives of so many animals in recent years.
Yet, it still seems to 'rain cats and dogs' here on a regular basis.
Too often when my family is out and about in the city, we see such sad cases on the roadside and in empty desert lots.  My eyes seem to search them out now. I can't help it.
Just ask C - in three years, I have dragged exactly five dogs and one kitten into our lives temporarily. These were the saddest of cases that I just could not walk away from. And, happily, 5 out of 6 of these animals were lucky to make it and find forever loving homes in the end.
Sadly this year, my volunteer time I spent walking rescued dogs at 2nd Chance, although so rewarding, has tapered off, due to my growing belly. But with the holidays approaching, I felt it would be nice to try and do something more before the baby arrives.
This is where the '3' comes in. I wanted us to foster a dog in need until it found a loving home.
So I tried casually floating this by C one day.
And guess what?  It wasn't so bad. He didn't say no right away. He did mention that I was crazy and that we had our hands full already. But he also said if it was something I really wanted to do, he would support me. Well hello, new foster family!
After meeting several dogs in need of a huge break, one in particular stuck with me.
She was super skinny and nervous, and avoided eye contact. Such a gentle disposition despite  everything she must have been through. She had been rescued by a kind man on the outskirts of the city, and thanks to the work of both a rescue group and a local vet, she found her way to us.
So, one night early in November, we picked Zahara up to take her home with us.
She was shaking and curled up in a ball in the back of our SUV on the way home. She wouldn't look at us.
She was terrified when we introduced her to Cooper and Bentley (and had every right to be as they weren't exactly polite to our new guest at first).
Those first days, she slept on a bed in our laundry room, eating lots, but seeming very disinterested in anything around her. On her walks, she kept her head down and stayed tucked close to your side.
With a bit of time, our dogs began to behave a little bit more graciously toward her, and after a solid week of coaxing her with affection and treats, she ventured out of the laundry room for a little look around our house.
After a few weeks, she was like a new dog. Still a bit timid and easily scared, but she started actively looking for affection. She played with Cooper & Bentley and loved attention from E. I spoiled her with everything I could think of, but would you believe it... she fell in love with C! She pined for him when he went to work, cried when he went outside without her. She pulled her leash to walk next to him when we walked and I held the lead. Go figure!
As best as the vet could tell,  Zahara was about four years old, and a purebred Saluki, also know as an 'Arabian Saluki' or 'desert dog'.  Long, lean and graceful. Quiet and intelligent. Saluki's can run like the wind (up to 70 km/hr), sleep lots, tend to bond with one person specifically, and sadly, are often mistreated and dumped in this country. After a Saluki finishes it's racing career, it is all too common to see them dropped in the desert, as they are no longer considered useful. This is the most prevalent dog in these parts, and when you come upon a street mix, or 'Doha Special', you can bet money it probably has some Saluki mixed in there.
As she gained weight, we had her spayed, vaccinated and microchipped. We quickly discovered she gets very car sick very easily.  Yuck!
Thanks to a wonderful friend, we found Zahara a more than awesome forever home with a family that will make sure she is completely spoiled and happy for the rest of her life.
She spent the holidays with us, and early in January, she left us to live with her new family. She won't see out her days in Qatar however, as her new fam are packing her up this spring and relocating back to  Australia. She's going to be an Aussie pup!
She was a fantastic house guest. C really had a soft spot for her, and her calmness and gracefulness made our two dogs look like proper lunatics.
Our limit is two dogs. For sure. But if I ever was tempted, it was with Zahara.
Our two months spent helping her rediscover her spark were more than rewarding. It's funny how when you do something without expecting anything in return, you get the greatest gifts. As a family, we got to watch this animal come alive again... we also got to help make a very small difference in the abandoned and stray animal population here. E still talks about her every night before bed.
A great experience that we will likely do again in the future.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One Starry Night

Our third Christmas in Doha was a nice surprise. I spent most of November dreading its arrival, having vowed the year before that we wouldn't spend one more holiday in the desert.
I had visions of seeing my breath as the snow crunched beneath my feet on a cold winter's night... again. I wanted flannel jammies and a fireplace... again. I wanted familiar. I wanted festive.
But, I had to face the truth - I had no business flying anywhere  at seven months pregnant, and it was shaping up to be a quiet Christmas here... again. Every time I thought about throwing caution to the wind and flying back to Canada (or some other snowy and cozy destination), I would get this vivid image in my head of our family, sitting stranded in a busy airport due to a snow storm, hours on end, hoping to get a rescheduled flight... been there, done that. No thanks. 
So we buckled down and tried to make the best of the season here... again.

My absolute highlights:

A Starry Night in the Dunes 
We had skipped out on this two years in a row, but this year when we heard of an expat community here organizing a Christmas evening in the Singing Sand Dunes with a bonfire, Christmas Carols sung by the Doha Singers, 'sledding' down the dunes, and Santa himself arriving with gifts for the kids... well, we had to trek out there and be a part of it. Sooo glad we did. 
There were hundreds of expat families and the festive spirit was contagious. The singing floated through the breezy night air and the fire roared. Santa made time to talk to Ella - who had picked him a bouquet of wildflowers before we left the house and had clung to them for over and hour in the car, waiting to see Santa and give her 'gift' to him - and surprisingly, we knew quite a few families there.

In the end, we left happily humming carols and carrying our tired and happy little girl through the dark to our car. I highly recommend this evening next year, for those interested in a bit of Christmas in an unusual and unexpected place. It was a fantastic experience. (And guess what? We saw stars. Not just one or two fighting to be seen through the sandy city air, but a whole sky full. Sometimes seeing something you hadn't realized you had missed can feel so good!).

Doha Christmas Cup
We missed our family. We missed tradition and the smell of holiday food begging us to indulge. So we decided to have a little gathering. 
Hence, the first Annual Doha Christmas Cup was born. 
We were used to gathering with friends and family, playing games, singing songs and sharing memories. So we brought a little of that here this year. An evening filled with great neighbours and friends, lots of food, and many laughs. It felt like home on this night. So much fun. Congrats to the Duggan's of Nova Scotia (now Doha) who did us fellow Nova Scotians proud by taking home the 'trophy'. 

We made some other great memories this holiday as well. E is three now, and boy can a three year old really make Christmas magical. Seeing Santa, opening presents, watching holiday movies, baking cookies... all the good stuff was extra fun this time around. Memories we won't soon forget.

Bob Hope once said when speaking about the holiday season: "When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness.”
He was right on the money. It was the 'little happinesses' this year that made the biggest differences. 2013 promises to hold big changes for us... and hopefully we stumble upon some 'little happinesses' along the way as well.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Al Zubarah Fort and Fishing Village

I have to say it - Fridays are just downright boring these days. For a long time they weren't. 
We would wake up early and look forward to exploring some new nook of the city. It seemed we always had something to do.
We enjoyed the relative peacefulness of the roads and it reminded us of Sundays growing up... no stores or shops open and that was just fine here. A family day with not too much of anything to do.  
But almost three years in and Fridays have become a thing of dread. I wait all week for Thursday night to arrive so we can casually slip in to the long-awaited weekend, but darn... Friday morning has become a big, soggy let down as of late. 
Get up...get ready...let's eat, and...umm (insert: thumb twiddle here) what? We need to get out of the house and go do something... anything. Anybody have an idea that we haven't done 100 times already?  And... Silence. 
We've just never quite established a routine for this one day of the week.... and yet, we have all the others covered so nicely!
But, alas, there is hope. We have discovered that a case of the Friday-boredom-blues can be turned around with some solid advance planning. Give it a bit of thought through the week, and stash away a few ideas for the weekend.
If we wake up with a game plan in mind,  things are more than okay again. 
Last Friday, we had a plan of attack.

Fort Zubarah
Get up (surprise ~ sun is shining!), quick breakie and dog walk, then off to explore Al Zubarah Fort.
First we had to find Al Zubarah Fort, which turned out to be pretty easy. There were some helpful directions online -- basically, you follow Highway 1 north for a long time (Al Shamal Road), turn off when you see the Zubarah sign, and continue west for approximately 40-ish kms, until you see the fort in the distance.
The drive took about an hour from our house. Not lots to see, but honestly, sometimes looking out at the Qatar desert nothingness as we drive along together (with some eclectic CD playing in the truck), reminds me of the Texas weekend drives we used to take, with no particular destination in mind. 
Al Zubarah Fort Entrance
 There is a long stretch on the way to San Antonio from Houston that must be a cousin to the drive to Zubarah. Nice memories. Lots of flat land to gaze out at and appreciate it for the wide open space that it is. I bet it's really nice at dusk.
 The Zubarah town itself  is said to date back to the early 1760's when pearl diving and trading were a booming business. The fort exists on the edge of where the town once stood. It is noted as an official Qatar Heritage Attraction that houses various artifacts, pottery and cultural displays, and encourages self guided tours through the property. It was built in 1938 on the ruins of an old castle, during the reign of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Qassim Al Thani. The fort was used by both the coast guard and military through the years,  until the mid-1980's when it was converted into a regional museum. There is no cost for entry and it is open to the general public.

Exploring an empty Al Zubarah Fort
 When we arrive at the fort, we are the only ones visiting, and we quickly figure out why. The security guard (who was mighty happy to see us... and, FYI, we read online before we went that it is nice to tip him before you leave) was speedy to inform us that the entire "artifact museum and display" had been removed from the fort a few months back while it was undergoing some restoration. (We hadn't seen anything about this online when planning the trip, unfortunately.)
So the entire place was empty. Not a table, not a picture, not a single piece of pottery or artifact. Nothing... but some dust and a few lonely birds on the rafters.
We were still able to take a nice walk around and have a look at all the rooms in the fort. The security guard didn't know when the historical pieces would be returning, so I guess we'll have to revisit some weekend down the road (a good excuse to go back). 
Ruins inside the fishing village
Since we had time to kill and it was a beautiful day, we headed eastward to check things out, and after a few minutes of meandering down the highway, we stumbled upon our real find for the day.
An old abandoned fishing village (we'd read about it online) was tucked along the shoreline not too far from the road. I recommend an SUV if you are going to venture down to check it out, as some of the sand it pretty loose.

external wall in the fishing village,
leading to the water
We quite enjoyed exploring the old buildings and ruins. Great setting and you got that feeling like it must have an interesting history. 

The one really disappointing thing was the state of the beach at the village... completely full of litter and garbage. 
There was also lots of graffiti on the building walls within the village itself.
I do hope that this fabulous little spot is restored and preserved before too much of it is lost due to neglect or vandalism... it would be a great attraction for both the residents and tourists in Qatar.

A room inside the fishing village
I would say that if you are planning a trip to visit the fort anytime soon (call first and make sure it's gotten the displays back!), also try to find this small village and take a few minutes to walk through its ruins - it is a worthwhile pit stop.  

E and the cannon at Al Zubarah Fort

Old Fishing Village (view from the highway)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Get Up And Go Has Got Up And Gone

I am back. Been back for over a week now. Forgive me for not writing sooner... I was so caught up in living a different kind of life than the one I live here that I had no time to write. It had been a year and I had forgotten. Canada was ahhhh-some.

E and I arrived in Nova Scotia the first week of July. No big issues on the planes home at all. Hooray! We were both pooped, but feeling good. We had purchased a summer cottage the year before (just as we were leaving to head back to Qatar), so this was our first time to be in our new place and enjoy it. I couldn't wait.

We always love our time home. I am pretty sure I have mentioned that before. Being back with familiar faces, familiar paces and such a different way of living is just what we need to fill those internal enthusiasm tanks that can get a bit low after too much time spent abroad. A good dose of where-you-come-from can fix most things, really.

When we became parents, we found that living out of suitcases, ferrying ourselves between grandparents houses, and living on other peoples schedules was great for the first week or two, but when the time came to fly back to Doha, we always felt secretly ready. Ready to be back in our own space with our own things. That's such a nice part of coming back. That first night when you get back from a long day or two of travel, and are finally able to get a nice hot shower and collapse into the cool sheets of your own bed -- that feeling is priceless.
But this time... this time coming back was hard. So freaking hard. I can't put my finger on just one reason, as they're all muddled together in my mind still.
Our summer place brought so much J O Y.
As soon as C joined us, it felt like a happy little home... our home. In Canada. Now there's a thought. When did we become such expats, anyhow?

We spent the summer starting to make the house "ours". We mowed grass, painted walls, cut trees, built decks, planted flowers, organized rooms, and purchased... everything. We worked, but, we played too. We filled the rooms with laughter and love. Our friends and family came to visit us this time. For the first time, we got to stay put for a while. Our time seemed longer - and our days fuller. Having our own home base sure was nice.

To say E loved country living would be an understatement. Each day she'd burst out the door, wanting to explore everything around her. This little girl from Qatar got to be a Canadian kid for a summer.

So, hence my blog title. I am back. But I am still dragging. I'm coming back around to desert life slower than usual this time. I miss the cool Nova Scotia nights and the crystal clear skies.
I miss my girlfriends and my parents. I long for a proper grocery store again. I crave the calmness on the roads. I dream about having Kenny's Pizza and Fuzzy's fries just one more time.

Qatar seems to have lots of new faces lately, but sadly (for me), lots of faces that have become near and dear to my heart are moving on to new assignments very soon. Some goodbyes to be said in coming weeks.

So forgive me friends for my delay in writing and responding. I am coming around again. I promise. My batteries have been recharged, but my ON switch is a little stuck a the moment.

It was bound to happen after such a fantastic summer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Little Girl From Another Planet

Making this place our home wasn't her choice. She may have had something to say about our move here if she'd had a voice back then. She was just a wee little thing when she arrived on this planet, after all, and it was so very different from the one she was born on.
But, she didn't complain. The world, as she knows it, is here.
She has learned to crawl, then talk and walk on this planet. She believes this is her home.
She sat on her first camel when she was 10 months old. She can identify what hummus, tabouli, fattoush and halloumi are without blinking an eye. She has come to know the distant droning of the daily calls to prayer as an expected and normal occurrence.
She knows that on her 'planet', if she runs out her back door without shoes on anytime after breakfast and before dinner to play, that the patio bricks will be so hot they'll burn the bottoms of her little feet.
Remember - shoes first.
She has sat in awe of many a sunset so huge and brilliant that she felt she could just reach out and touch them - and, she keeps trying without success, to her dismay.
Her sunglasses are not a young girl's fashion accessory for silly pictures at the pool, but a daily must-have element that, if accidentally forgotten at home, she gets very upset about. Squinting is really no fun after the first few minutes.
She doesn't really know trees, except for the palm variety. She sees pictures in her story books of all sorts of trees, big and small, green and lush, and traces their branches with her little fingers. I wonder if she wonders where all these special trees are hiding.
On her planet, there is virtually no rain. She talks about rain and umbrellas and mud puddles with an excitement only a child can muster about these sorts of things. Every day when she looks out her bedroom window hoping for a change in the weather, there sits the sun, smiling back at her. Always shining. Her constant friend.
Our physical home is surrounded by nine foot cement walls, and when inside our compound, it's much like living in a little bubble. A cement bubble, of sorts. She greets our compound security guards here like you would a postman. She sees them every single day. 'Hi, Guys.'
Her family unit is very small on this planet. Mommy, Daddy, Mercy and her Puppies. We talk about grandparents, auntie, friends and family like we talk about the rain, birthdays and Christmas time. Special things that are a bit farther away than we'd like them to be.
Her friends here are an eclectic group of little people from many other planets (and a few from this one). Planets called Canada, USA, Holland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Egypt, Lebanon and Spain. They have different shades of skin and some can even speak other languages. These friends from other planets all play the same though. Playing looks to be a universal thing, thank goodness.
On this planet, she somehow learned very early how to recognize kindness in a strangers eyes. Even the youngest of people from this planet know when two eyes are smiling at them. One doesn't need to see the rest of a face for that. Smiling eyes are very common here.
When a lady wrapped in black cloth quickly bends down to kiss her check or touch her hair and whispers "jameela" or "hallwa habibi", she always smiles back at them.
On this planet, her blond hair and blue eyes are a crowd-pleaser. Big people from planets named India, The Philippines, and China stop us and ask if they can take a picture with her. She has come to expect special treatment at restaurants and cafes, where the staff treat her with extra special attention.
So many things this little girl has seen and done here. Her home.
You can then imagine her confusion when I recently started talking about how we are going "home" soon.
Home to Canada for the summer. It might as well be an actual planet to her, it's such a far off concept. Too big for such a little girl.
E has proudly quipped 'Home is Doha. We live in Doha.' in response to my enthusiastic comments about our upcoming trip.
I have told her how she and I get to go on an airplane to Canada to visit everyone there. Her brows start to crease and she quickly corrects me: "And Daddy, and Mercy and my Puppies too. We all go to Cadan-a."
"No, hunny, just you and I. Daddy will come later and Mercy will stay home with the dogs."
This news hasn't been well received. Not yet.
But, I know she will love it.
This trip is going to be a special one for her. She is not a baby in my arms this year, but a little girl, wanting to touch and feel and explore everything her little world has to offer.
B e  s t i l l  m y  b e a t i n g  h e a r t.
This new planet - her home for this summer -  the planet of my childhood - is filled with things she has never seen or done. Things she doesn't yet understand. Things that will excite and amaze her.
She will get to breath in cool fresh air.  To sleep with her bedroom window open. To walk in the morning dew on the grass. To see ACTUAL grass... fields and hills of it just waiting for her to run and play. She'll get to spot local wildlife. And the trees... just wait until she sees all the trees.
She'll get to walk through as many mud puddles as we can find, and turn her sweet face toward the sky so that she can feel the rain on her cheeks. Because you can bet it will rain there. She'll feel strangely cold some mornings because she only knows warm. Cold will be such a new sensation. There will be no air conditioning needed.
She will sit by a bonfire this summer and listen to songs and stories. She'll see the night sky without a haze of sand clouding the stars. She will swim in the ocean. She will go for evening drives with her grandparents who will spoil her with ice cream treats. She will get bitten by mosquitoes. She will scrape her knees while playing with her new little friends from Cadan-a. She will laugh and dance and build sand castles with the children of our childhood friends. This may be the summer that their friendships are solidified for life. She will be 'just an ordinary kid' like every other child in the restaurants we dine in. Wow.
This new planet is filled with people that love her more than she can imagine. People who will not only smile with their eyes, but their whole bodies when they get to see her again. People she will love so much more by the end of this summer.
I can't wait to take her there. I wish we could all go together. It's been a year since I have been home, to my 'planet'.  A year is too long to stay away. Two more weeks to go. It will drag on, and then strangely, I know our summer will seem to fly by.
Hopefully, this will be the only summer we won't all go together. Maybe our planets won't be so far apart next year.

 Two more weeks!