Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Festive for Sale

Ho ho ho-ly sh**, it's hot out here!
It is December is Doha, and as we gear up for the holidays here, I have to say that this is the most un-Christmas-y I have ever felt. Not in a bah-humbug way, but in a more general, not feeling like 'tis the season kind of way.
First, there was the issue of a Christmas tree. I don't know what we were thinking when we packed our boxes to come here, as we did not bring ONE  decoration with us. Not one. No dingle balls for the tree, no decorative manger with a wee little Jesus, no lights, no beads or pine bows, no wreath, and most notably... NO TREE. I must have been in some kind of post pregnancy fog or something.

As per usual, I start to fret about the availability of trees (real or artificial) here in Doha, where Christmas is not a big event in the stores. So about two weeks ago, I get wind that a few stores are indeed selling artificial Christmas trees, but it's slim pickin's, and the prices were on the high side. Off we go one Thursday evening (our 'Friday') in search of a new tree.
We find two possibilities. The first, is in a home store rightly named 'The One' (http://www.theoneplanet.com/), and they actually have a decent variety of artificial trees, but one look at the price tag and my night is ruined. The tree we liked... a mere 3700 Qatari Riyals! That is about $1000 USD (give or take). WHAT? Here's the crazy part - we both stood there and considered spending that much on a just okay looking tree. It wasn't dipped in gold, or so real looking you might mistakenly water it. It didn't walk or talk or do tricks.  No, it definitely looked fake, and was a bit bare, if you want to know the truth. I told Colin we needed to walk away and discuss this. Obviously, we had lost our minds.
Clearly, the sand was once again clouding our better judgement. I could fly to Canada one way for that price. An expression I heard my husband use last week sums this up perfectly: paying that much for a Christmas tree is just a little bit "Qatarded". (I know, funny right?) So, we walk around the mall a bit to talk about our options.

And there it is looming in the distance. Carrefour (http://www.carrefouruae.com/). Carrefour is like a European version of Walmart, but in Doha, this store really isn't European-like at all. It is often over crowded and poorly staffed, and since it is a combination of home goods and groceries, you always seem to get a faint 'raw meat' smell in the air when you are shopping. I secretly think it is the store where all other stores send their products that no one else will buy. I try and avoid our Carrefour whenever I can.
I know they probably have trees in there, so we agree to check. Yep, five different styles of artificial trees - including one white and one black one. Who would want a black tree? But there is one the same size and fullness as our tree in The One, and guess what? It is 497QAR (about $140USD).
Funny thing is, I would scoff at paying 140 bucks for a tree like this one back home, but now, it appears a steal of a deal. Did we load it in the cart and wheel it home immediately? No, no we did not.
We actually debated. Yes, we went back and forth between the two stores, trying to decide if the uglier tree was worth the big price break. Or, if the nicer tree was really THAT much nicer. Foolishness.

After too much time had passed, Ella had had enough of our inabilitiy to decide and started to complain, so we finally settled on the cheaper tree. (If we hadn't, I don't think I would have been able to write about it, for fear you all would think I'd lost my mind!).

It is now up, decorated, and looking pretty nice, I think. All the decorations are new, so no old favorites or family keepsakes this year. Trying to find a tree topper proved to be an extraordinary challenge, as well.
We have since put some lights up outside, decorated inside, and even gotten some good Christmas music all ready to go. I have dragged out my Christmas cookbooks, looked into where we can get a good turkey (don't get me started on the price of the turkey), sent all our cards in the mail, and found out what time the English Christmas Eve service is at our church.

We have been to a few Christmas parties already, and we did get quite the kick out of Santa arriving on a camel. That was a sight we had never seen before!




A final thought on the tree thing... after we made our purchase, I stumbled upon this website: http://dohadailydeal.com/. God Bless the Dutch - fresh Christmas trees shipped to my door in Doha, from Holland, for a mere 1000QAR (about $275USD). Haha! I guess you can get anything here if you are willing to pay the price.

OUR BIG NEWS: We are having company for Christmas this year! Who would want to come to the sandy desert for the holidays, you ask? The Janz`s from Calgary, that`s who! We are really looking forward to their arrival -  nothing like great friends to make us feel a little more festive. Can't wait till they get here next week!

Here's hoping that Santa finds us all here in our new home. No chimney this year, but we'll leave the patio door open just a crack. Ho ho ho!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Paris in November

This is long overdue but...

I think it is safe to say that all three of us fell in love with Paris on day one. What a fabulous city. I think we would have found it fabulous any time we visited, but, visiting now, after living in Qatar for a while, made it especially nice.

First thing we noticed was the weather. We arrived on a rainy, cloudy day, which couldn't have been better for us. Strange right? But after being rain & cloud-deprived for so long, that cranky looking sky with its random sprinkling of mist was a down right treat. Ella kept looking around, like 'what is this wet stuff that is falling on us?'... hard to believe she hasn't really experienced rain yet!


One of the most attractive things about the city (like many old cities) was its buildings. The history is amazing and looking at the details in each one we passed was just awesome. No two the same.

My quick 'favorite things about Paris list' to sum it all up (in no particular order, as they were all great):


Ella and one of many baguettes...

1. The bread - the bread deserves to be in a seperate category and not just lumped in with 'food'. It also deserves to be mentioned first, as many of you know, I am a bread fan (understatement, really). Parisians love their bread, and it is everywhere. We had bread with every meal (Ella included) and felt compelled to buy fresh baguette from street bakeries as we walked around, just to fit in, as everyone else was walking and munching on their fresh baguettes.

2. The food & wine - both more than great, and we slowly ate and drank our way across the city at every meal. Good thing we were walking everywhere to offset the calories a bit! (If you read this May, I apologize... it couldn't be helped!)

3. The dogs - Being an animal lover in Qatar has been difficult at times, as no longer can we bring our dogs with us when we go many places. When you do see dogs in the city, they are often stray and looking very hungry (tug at heart strings here). So, seeing big Retrievers tucked in under their owners chairs at cafes and little pomeranians obediently walking through stores next to their families was a welcome sight. Bonus: Ella has learned to say "woof" when she sees a puppy, so there were lots of excited woofs as we explored.

4. The chocolate - Stores and stores devoted solely to chocolate and delicious things covered in chocolate. And I thought the Qatari's had a sweet tooth!

5. The history - Everywhere we went there were magnificent old buildings, statues and monuments. So much to take in, so little time.

7. The small cars - Five years in Texas got me somewhat accustomed to seeing 'big rigs' everywhere. Then, our ten months here, where almost every vehicle is a large desert-ready SUV, I had begun to forget about the smaller vehicles. Paris was crammed with Smart cars, hatch-backs, and scooters. Loved, loved, loved this.
6. The Frenchness - The fashionable slightly-disheveled-but-oh-so-put-together appearance of the  people carrying their baguettes, morning papers, and puffing away on a cigarette was very cool. We both agreed that the smoking just didn't seems as offensive here, oddly enough. I mean, we were aware of it, and tried to steer Ella away from all smokers at all times, but so many people doing it made it seem much more acceptable and commonplace. Weird, I know, coming from a smoke-hater.

8. The markets/shopping - This was the kind of shopping I have missed. Little shops all lined together, each selling a curious assortment of things that bring a warmth to my heart. Colin indulged me repreatedly while I wandered through as many boutiques as I could, trying my rusty french out on shop keepers, and buying the odd knick knack here and there.

 
9. The ART - Paris certainly got my creative juices flowing. Studios and galleries everywhere, it seemed. Our day in Montemarte was amazingly inspirational. Artists at every turn, painting their hearts out! Never mind the museums filled with Monet, Manet, Renoir, van Gogh and countless other historical artists. You could wander through the museums for days on end and still not see everything.


10. The winding streets - Old cobblestone streets snaking around the city in every direction... filled with businesses, churches, people bundled up for winter weather, scents of baking bread.... ahhh.
 

So there you have it, our Paris adventure in a nut shell.  It was a glorious eight days and we do plan on returning again some day, fingers crossed.

Vive la France!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

It's been a few weeks since I have had time to write, so first let me roll the clock back a bit and update you on the week before we left for our Eid holiday to Paris.

For the entire week just before we left on vacation, I had registered for a photography class at Virginia Commonwealth University here in Qatar. I wasn't really thinking about how hectic my week would be, but, I made it to every class and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the ins and outs of my new Canon (I will discuss this later).

My point in telling you this is to give you an idea that I spent the days running around with Ella getting us ready for our trip, and the evenings in my class... throw in a birthday celebration for Colin and a few other volunteer activities, and I was solidly busy... so, I was thoroughly looking forward to a trip to my hair salon on Tuesday afternoon.

Ella had had her vaccinations that morning and I was a bit hesitant to leave her, but I really needed some hair attention (I had let it go too long and I was looking a bit shaggy) and it was only going to be an hour or so. So, Ella happily had her afternoon nap (with Mercy keeping a close eye on her), and I snuck away to have some much needed salon time.

Doha doesn't have the selection or quality of salons that I am accustomed to. Sure, there are some swanky places, but they often come with huge price tags and not always the greatest service. Plus, finding a person who is skilled at cutting curly & thick hair like mine is always a pain in the butt.
After a few different trips to various places around Doha to "sample" the stylists that were recommended to me by friends, I ended up with one spot that I was pretty happy with. All English speakers, funky atmosphere, and a stylist whose hair was as curly as mine, and had "Master Stylist" next to her name on her card. We hit it off and I have been going there since May.
It should be mentioned here, that last time I went to this person (I have grey hairs now people... I need to maintain my 'color' every six weeks...), she mistakenly used a lighter shade than I normally use on my hair, which she had to try and correct before I left. The salon was busy that day and my appointment ended up taking forever. My hair took a bit of a beating that time - too many chemicals, I think - but I was understanding. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes... and she had confided in me that she was having man-troubles at the time. Enough said - I forgave her for the slip up.

So, I had waited extra long for this new appointment, wanting to give my hair a chance to bounce back from the double chemical dose I inflicted on it a few months earlier.

I get there on time, happy to have an hour to relax, and to get a chance to treat myself before our vacation.
Long story a bit shorter... she is "touching up" my roots with a gooey mixture that looks PRETTY damn orange. I immediately comment:

Me: "Gee, this looks pretty orange. Are you sure?"

My girl (not mentioning her name on the off chance she may ever stumble upon this): "Tash, trust me. I know what I am doing"

Me: "Okay. But it kinda looks pumpkin-y orange"

My girl: "Read your magazine. Stop worrying. I promise it will look great"

So, I get a nice warm hot chocolate and dive into the new People magazine while my poor hair is 'processing'. I started to grow uneasy every time I look in the mirror. The goop on my head seemed to be glowing brighter and brighter. Anyone that knows anything about dyeing hair knows that the stuff generally darkens as it processes, right? So, I call to my girl once again, and she once again reassures me that I am worrying over nothing. Okay - I need to put a sock in it as I am being obsessive (odd for me, right?).
I sit there for what seems like an eternity, and finally its time to wash it off. OMG. I can tell when she is washing that something isn't right, just by the way she pauses repeatedly to examine the top of my head. What has happened?

I ask to see a mirror. She hesitates. We lock eyes and I know she has done it again. I look in the mirror she reluctantly passes me (while telling me it will take 'no time at all to fix'), and I see what I feared most... about 1/2 an inch from my scalp up is a very odd shade of reddish orange. Are you freaking kidding me? BRIGHT reddish-orange.

I have a newly-vaccinated baby to get back to, and I hear it is raining outside - I HAVEN'T SEEN RAIN IN NINE MONTHS. I want to go home, not go through this again. I sit there silently fuming as she slops on another batch of BROWN goop. Ahh, so she remembered the secret potion she used before? A little late. How hard is BROWN to mix up? Just basic run-of-the-mill BROWN.

But this time, things are not feeling right. Burn. Yes, my head is burning. Slight at first. Not so much to warrant a complaint. Besides, she has left me to sit here alone while she takes in her next person, as she is now running late, so I have no one to complain to. Five minutes pass. Ten. I can't stand it anymore. I catch her eye and tell her I need this stuff off my head now. She says "I think its ready anyhow". So we wash. The water does nothing to ease the now pain I am starting to feel. I can feel panic bubbling up inside me as I start to think that maybe my hair is falling out. What have I done? Eek!

So, I look in her mirror again. Okay, it is back to normal now, but my scalp is completely on fire and it looks like she has left streaks of brown dye on my forehead and across one my my cheeks. It turns out that crap doesn't come off too easily once you get it on your face.

I am wild on the inside now. Trying to keep my cool, I tell 'my girl' not to bother blow dry it, as I am worried about Ella, and Colin is already on his way home from work. My photography class is in one hour. I have to go.

I pay my bill in a rush to get out of there, and head home. So, to review: 3 hours and 45 minutes in salon, 2 batches of burning hair dye left sitting on scalp, NO haircut to speak of (the thing I wanted most of all), and a huge bill at the end.

By the time I get home, I am in quite the state. I fly around the house crazily changing my clothes for class, while hysterically telling Colin what has just happened. I didn't even get to snuggle with my poor Ella! He is trying desperately to reassure me that it looks great, but when I stop moving around and stand before him... guess what he says? He says: "You've got something on your face".

WHAT? I had forgotten. Rush to bathroom. Mother of God, my face has brown hair dye stains smudged all over it. As does the side of my neck and the tip of one ear. I am about to go into a mad ranting rage just as the doorbell rings, and my friend is here to pick me up for class.

I scrub my face like a maniac, grab my camera, and head out the door.

Mindy (the friend who I am taking class with) was very sympathetic as I ranted on about my afternoon. She lends me a scarf she had in the car to hide the neck stains. She even tried to tell me that no one would notice my brown smudge face from across the classroom. Whatever. I knew how I must have looked with wet frizzy hair, a brown and pink face (pink from rubbing my flesh raw trying to wash the brown off before leaving the house), a scarf on my neck when its 30 degrees outside,and no make up on. You can just picture it, can't you?

Wouldn't you know it that we were taking portraits that night! PORTRAITS. I am not even joking.

My hair is pretty much back to normal now, and the colour is the same as it always is. On a very bright note, I went to a great little salon in Paris on day two of our trip and had a fantastic haircut and a gentle-so-worth-every-euro scalp massage & conditioning treatment. It made up for everything... well, almost everything... head isn't tender anymore but I now have a slight mental scar from the whole experience.

My girl, by the way, has emailed and texted me a few times, apologizing and wanting me to come in for a proper cut. She was very apologetic about what happened. I wrote her back an email and told her (very nicely) that my head would be taking a break from the salon for a while.

So, my question to you is this - do I break up with her? I really like 'my girl' as a person, but can't really trust her potion-mixing skills anymore. I would miss the funky little salon, but perhaps its time to start 'seeing' a new stylist? Do I just never go back, or, do I akwardly explain why I can't? I figure I won't need a cut till around Christmas... breaking up is so complicated!

Your comments are oh so welcome!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Goodbye To Some GREAT Neighbours!

I watched the moving truck pack up our neighbour's house this morning. Sigh.
Our favourite neighbours (the 'Canadians' I wrote about many months ago), are leaving Doha and moving to Houston.
So sad to see them go, as they've become wonderful friends. We are going to miss you both very much!

Wishing them a safe journey and all the best as they start another new chapter together.



May you have warm words on a cool evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And a smooth road all the way to your door.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lone Star Lovin' Fix

I will start off by saying that I am almost four pounds heavier than I was when I wrote my last post.
3.52lbs to be exact. Yes, it seems that I ate - and drank - with reckless abandon while on our visit to Texas. What a trip!

Without making Doha sound terrible (because it really isn't), I sort of felt like someone who has been in the dark for a long while, and suddenly steps out into direct sunlight, squinting & blinking and trying to take all the brightness in at once. Back to North American life!

We get off the plane, and yet again, I am struck by the vast amounts of GREEN everywhere. Trees, bushes... grass, glorious grass! We both commented as we drove down the I45 at how polite and calm the drivers all were (Imagine! Those words would have never left my mouth a year ago!).

While Colin buttered our bread at the office (thanks for that, darling... although he did get some time off to relax too - yay!), Ella and I motored around The Woodlands and Houston, visiting with friends, enjoying every moment together, and soaking up the sun.

The weather was PERFECT, as October in Texas often is.

It amazed me how thrilled I got when shopping - so many things to choose from... aisles and aisles... at my very finger tips. Stores and stores full of well stocked shelves. Deals everywhere! I had forgotten how affordable things in Texas were. I remember now why our Canadian friends and families came to visit us and "Christmas" shop at the same time, no matter the time of year.

I admit that I went a little crazy 'stocking up' (see my earlier post on hoarding), and when we checked in to Qatar Air on our return flight, our suitcases were all at their maximum weights (70 lbs each) - chock full of pure random goodness. Lost and lots of random goodness. I even (very) briefly considered throwing out old things to make more space for wonderful new things. I didn't, but boy did I pack with precision.

Back to the 3.52 lbs for a second. Despite the fact that my thoughtful personal trainer in Doha warned me about my vacation with words like "over indulging", "restraint", and "dedication", I went for it. Had to, really. Lupe's, Panera Bread, Tommy Bahama's, Rico's, Black Walnut, several MARGARITAS - I had to jam in all of our old favorites in just 14 days, plus a healthy dose of fine hotel livin'... A tall order! Thanks to all our sweet friends who met us for lovely breakfasts, lunches, dinners, coffees & ice creams... yummo!
This trip was a real treat for us - gave us time to reconnect with some special people that we plan to keep in our lives for a very long time. Lots of laughs every single day.

It confirmed for me that our little family needs to get ourselves back to Texas some day (with some prayers and a little luck perhaps) and, that even though it was hard to leave and return to Doha, it was good to be home again when we got here.

The weather has really cooled off, and we are settling back in to a nice routine once more. Ella slept through the night last night at last - first time in seven days (Au revoir, jet lag!!). And, getting licked from head to toe by two adoring little dogs when you get home from a long day of travelling is a wonderful end to an awesome two weeks.
In the mean time, it is back to the gym for me.
Paris in three weeks, mes amies!

Il n'y a qu' un bonheur dans la vie, c'est d'aimer et d'ĂȘtre aimĂ©.

Monday, September 20, 2010

If In Doubt, Buy Two

It started off innocently enough. I was warned by a few of my neighbours here that certain household items can be hard to find when shopping in Doha. It was recommended to me that if I find a brand that I once used back home, buy it in bulk as it may not be there next time I went to look for it.
I took their advice with a grain of salt. I didn't feel I was attached to any brand or product in particular. Big deal if I had to use a new brand with a nice little arabic label scrolled across it, right? Wrong. Oh so wrong.
My first solo outings here in Doha were for essentials only - groceries, baby items, and household things we didn't think to pack in our shipments. Needing those things forced a jet lagged version of myself out in those first few days when I was very wary of going anywhere without Colin. I would load Ella up in the truck and spend our mornings scowering the shelves of new stores, lists in hand, trying to get us comfy in our new digs. These stores had lots of 'stuff' - just not the stuff I was used to!

I began noticing some rather 'odd' things when I shopped.

For starters, where were these stores hiding all the good toilet paper? I consider myself a bit of a toilet paper snob, and, as my father says... "you have to be good to your bum, dear" (he is also a tp snob and has actually spent time calculating what the going rate of good roll of toilet paper is worth, so one you do some quick math to determine if you are getting a deal when deciding what to buy).

While purusing the toiletries aisle, my heart starts to beat a little faster. All of this toilet paper is 1.) heavily scented, and 2.) coloured.

What? No. Wait now. I want my double roll of cottony soft Cottonelle with the white puppy on the package. Not this peach coloured, sand paper-y, tangerine smelling nonsense. It turns out that the decent quality white stuff was the toilet paper minority on the shelves.
My list goes on and on. I found out that I do in fact have very strong preferences to the things I want used in my home. It also turns out that over the years, I have become quite environmentally aware of the products we use every day... laundry detergent, household cleaners, all of Ella's baby products. Good luck finding any 'green' anything. (Don't even get me started on the absence of any type of recycling). The most popular items here seem to smell the strongest.
Getting back to my point, I began to realize that the neighbour ladies were right. They have been there, done that and I had to start stocking up on some good stuff'.
So, it became a sort of a personal challenge I would take on for the comfort my family. When I scored a bottle of Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter in the condiment aisle, it was a small victory for Clan Chisholm. But hang on now. A dark shadow of doubt inevitably started creeping in on my victory celebration. One, two, three, four. There are only four jars of Skippy Creamy on the entire shelf. Oh no. What if I can't find it again? I don't think I have ever seen it here before. Panic. Better buy two just to be safe.

Hypoallergenic Baby Safe Bounce Sheets... a thrill of excitement runs through me when I find them in a random store one day. I never really used Bounce sheets before, but never mind. I need five boxes. Lord only knows when these puppies will be back on the shelf again.

Organic baby food with no additives or preservatives? I practically clear the shelf with one swoop of my arm.

Scoring any type of dog treat is a major milestone. Our boys are a tad bit spoiled. They actually have learned to expect a treat when they see us carrying in grocery bags. If I find a rawhide bone or a squeaky toy, my heart sings with pure joy.
No one would believe what I went through to find and purchase a tube of Super Glue. Apparently it is a popluar thing as the shelf in each store I went to would have a label for super glue, but the box would be empty. Hmm.
It is a whole other story when we talk about alcohol. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not much of a drinker. I may have a drink or two a month, on average. But, put me in a place where there is only one liquor store in the entire country...well, who knows when I will visit it again! What if they suddenly closed it or it caught fire? We can't be caught without adult beverages in the house, now can we? Let's stock up! Our pantry is now ready for a major party for us and 100 of our best alcohol-drinking-friends at the drop of a hat. We laugh everytime we walk in and look at the stock pile. We have enough wine to float a boat. Guaranteed we will be giving away lots of it when we move.

I now routinely stock up on everything when I shop. Why take the risk? Trips to the grocery store (often 'stores') is no small task with a fiesty 11 month old. I buy extra so we have it "just in case".
I just looked up the definition of a hoarder to see if I qualified, and I don't think I do:

HOARDER -A person who acquires and fails to throw out a large number of items that would appear to have little or no value to others.

Well, that is not certainly not me. This stuff has big time value to others. Doesn't it? Me, a hoarder? Not a chance.
I am more of a "Collector of Household Necessities". I have enough canned goods to keep us going for months if need be.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Huggin' and A Kissin'


It happened to me again this past weekend. In fact, it happens so often these days that I feel I have to discuss it here... SOCIAL KISSES.
Let me start off by saying that I come from a very long line of huggers. My whole family likes to embrace. Hugs all the time for everyone. And, I married a hugger. He comes from a proud line of huggers as well. It's what we do. Do we also kiss, you ask? Why, of course we do, but our social kisses are generally limited to a select few. It is quite common, for example, to plant a kiss on a grandmother, favorite aunt, or any sweet little child when meeting or saying goodbye.
Perhaps an Eastern Canadian thing? Not sure.
Enter our time in Texas. Now, here is where my social-kiss-dial was turned up a few notches. We made all kinds of new friends in the USA. All of our new Texan amigos seemed to enjoy a quick squeeze now and then as well.

Our European friends however... all die hard kissers. I have to admit, I was caught off guard a few times - me going in for a nice farewell hug and suddenly someones lips are upon me, approaching rapidly at an odd angle because I didn't suspect the sudden smooch headed my way. It only took a few awkward pecks for me to figure it out - I had to prepare myself.

It seemed that, generally speaking, most folks gave two quick 'air' type kisses (more like cheek touches), but our Dutch friends liked to go in for three light cheek grazes. Not so predictable.

So now, we're back to real time. Here I am in the land of the Ex-Pat, and it seems everywhere I turn, someone is trying to plant one (or two, or three) on me. I am in a constant state of social kiss paranoia.

Don't get me wrong, I like kissing. I just need to be prepared. We were at a work function of Colin's recently and as I was meeting and greeting, I was getting hugged and kissed from all directions.

The "incident" that spurred my writing about this: the husband of a friend was greeting me. They are Australian. I see him moving in for what looks to be a hug. I start to hug him, and, oh no, he has landed a lightning-bolt-speed kiss on my cheek! The weird part - he went in for a kiss (expecting me to know this), and as he approached, I saw 'hug' written all over him. So as a result, as he ejected himself from the kiss, I was just beginning my hug. Therefore, for a split second in time, he was pulling away and I was actually holding him in place. He was trying to free himself and I wasn't having it. He was stuck in a forced embrace for about one second (that seemed like an eternity!). I was getting my hug if he was getting his kiss. It was the weirdest moment I have had in a while. Definitely an 8 out of 10 on the awkward scale for sure.

Perhaps it will become second nature to me. All this social love is contagious. I instantly feel more connected with these kissers as they have entered my personal space zone more than once for some social greeting love. Not so bad really.

What would make my life a whole lot easier? A quick flip of the hand, holding up the number of kisses expected just before smooches are exchanged. Asking too much? Probably.
Lookout expats of Doha, if it is kisses you want, then it is kisses you'll get... maybe one too many or one too few from time to time, but go easy on me... I am a hugger, afterall.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Another Trip Under Our Belts

On August 22, we left Doha for the second time this summer, to fly back to Nova Scotia. Our close friends Laura & Stan decided to get hitched and we couldn't miss it. The flights were more of a challenge this time, as Ella seems to be asserting her independence quite a bit these days, but we made it.

Fast forward through lots of driving, one wedding out on the Mira, LOTS of bacon eating, a sun set cruise with a boat full of Chisholms, photo morning in the park with all our friends children, and some short & sweet visits with old friends, and... our eight days were up.


Coming back to Doha was definitely easier than leaving. I think the three of us were just so pooped that we silently agreed to rest on the flights. Our luggage was apparently tired too, as it took three days to find its way back to us after we landed. Looks like we'll be needing a new set as the wheel are strangely all missing now? Hmm.


So, are we done dragging our poor child from place to place for a while? No, no we are not. In October we are headed to Houston for two weeks and in November we have planned a family vacation to Paris! Bring on the jet lag - we are going to be pros soon enough!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Maybe, Maybe Not

Well, I am trying something new this month. I have hired a personal trainer. I know, I know - shocked right? Me too.

It's just that this heat is doing nothing for my physical activity level, and I am terrible at going to the gym (and being productive on my own once there). It's been nine months since Ella was born and honestly, I haven't worked out really hard once in those nine months. Shame on me.
So...
I have just completed session # 7 with May (my trainer). She is one tough cookie. I am constantly trying to decide if I love her or hate her, as she makes me do one painful exercise after another. I mostly hate her as I am working out, but when I get home and feel good, I love her again.

After my very first session (where I am quite sure there were tears rolling down my face but I cleverly concealed them with my own sweat), I honestly had trouble walking home. It was early in the morning, and I could hear the call to prayer playing in the distance... I looked around and wondered if I collapsed on the sidewalk under a palm, would anyone eventually find me? The compound is pretty much deserted for the summer. I figured I would give one of the Blue Men a heart attack if they eventually came upon my passed out self as they mowed grass or watered flowers, so I hobbled home slowly. My legs weren't the same for about four days. Ouch! Colin enjoyed teasing me about the whole thing.

May makes me do crazy exercises that I swear she must stay up at night and actually invent. I have caught other gym-goers staring at us (mostly me), but no matter. I am going to keep it up as long as I can. Wish me luck!

PS
I think I am starting to get a little loopy with no rain. Like, not even a cloud in the sky for weeks and weeks. Please, let it rain soon. PLEASE.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Epiphany

Doha doesn't have oodles of greenery and trees (obviously), but there are lots of palm trees around. Pretty much everywhere in the city. These palm trees look inconspicuous enough (although not like the ones in Texas, for sure) so I didn't really pay much attention to them... until recently.

For the last month or so, I have noticed that many of these palm trees started having bunches and bunches of oval ball things hanging from them - like big bunches of grapes. I called them 'coconut ball bunches' for lack of a better phrase (they actually don't look like coconuts at all, but they are in about the same place).

These oval balls started catching my attention when I noticed that locals were placing mesh bags around many of the bunches up in the trees. Being the smarty pants that I am, I assume (to myself) that the local conscientious gardeners must do this to prevent them from falling all over lawns and streets & making a mess. Makes sense right? Right.

Then Cooper and Bentley start taking an unnatural interest in the coconut balls on the ground. They pull and tug at their leashes whenever they see them scattered on the ground (which is often as we have many in our front lawn). Then - they eat them. Devour them really. They gobble them up like they are the tastiest things they have ever experienced in their furry little lives. So, I am thinking my dogs are pretty strange. And, really, neither of them has a great track record of having superior taste preferences (Bentley's dish of choice would be bird poop and dried worms, while Cooper rathers fresh baby spit up), so I assume this is just a new weird little habit. But, then their craziness gets more and more intense as the days go by and the coconut balls start turning color from a yellowish green to a dried up purple. Hmmm.

My wheels start turning again, and I decide I have to look into this further. So I google it. OMG!

Of course! I should have known. How could I not have known?(For the record - Colin had no idea either.)
I am so stunned sometimes, I swear.

Dates! Date Palms! Actually, Phoenix Dectylifera. Of course. I live in the land of dates... they even sell them at kiosks in the malls. DATES. My lightbulb was burning brightly now as the pieces fell into place. My dogs love dates.

Mystery solved!



And, We're Back!



Our two weeks totally really flew by. We spent it zipping across Canada from Calgary to Halifax, Antigonish & Sydney and back again, with many stops (we have a baby now, after all) in between. No visit was long enough, but we had lots of laughs, ate and drank too much, and watched as our families fell even more in love with Ella, and beamed as some of our friends got to meet her for the first time. Smile.

We are back in Doha now - and I gotta say, even though I miss Canada, it is good to be back in our own space. Living out of a suitcase with an eight month old loses its' appeal quickly. We all suffered from jet lag upon our return, but Ella's urge to want to party all night and sleep all day is still going strong. Hoping to get her back on track very soon!










Monday, June 14, 2010

Ready or Not

Here we come... well, almost. We leave Doha tonight at 3:50am , heading to Canada. So much to do between now and then. What to bring for Ella that will cover all possible scenarios on a plane. I have been making lists and gathering things for days. We are nowhere near ready... I should actually be doing that right this moment, but classic me... have to put it off for a bit yet. I do my best work under pressure.

A few quick updates:


  • I am currently trying to nurse a baby sparrow back to health. The little guy eats every half hour. Very time consuming. We have had "Nike" (fittingly named after the shoebox he currently calls his home) for five days now. Dogs 'found' him last weekend. He has come a long way, but still not sure if he will make it. Very touch and go. Delicate little guy. Fingers crossed.


  • Mercy is going to be living at our house while we are gone to take care of Coops and Ben. I have been pestering her with rules, notes and reminders for two solid weeks. She just smiles and says, "Don't worry Ma'am". I hate leaving my boys. Hate it. I told the security guards at our gate that if they find either dog wandering the compound alone, there is big money in it for a safe return. I think they assume I am crazy. I think it would have to be huge money for one of them to touch my dogs, as they go to great lengths to avoid them on our walks. I guess if one wanted to break into Qipco, you could just show up with a pack of poodles and charge the gate.


Ella now crawls AND stands up in her crib. Life has changed suddenly. Can't turn our heads for a second and she is up to something. I was secretly hoping she wouldn't crawl until AFTER our 22 hour plane ride. She had other plans!

  • I am learning not to love anything on television too much. Movies, sitcoms (no new ones), news...whatever. Guaranteed as soon as I 'get into' a program on TV, the signal gets sketchy and I am left with a fuzzy mess to try and view my show on. Infuriating. We've taken to watching purchased DVDs lately. Lots of movie nights, which is actually a great way to spend an evening if the only thing you can find on TV in English is a staticky Britsh cooking show.
  • Can it get any hotter? Yes. Yes, it can. Stupid, stupid question.
  • Thank goodness I like orange. Since World Cup has started (so long Colin, I will miss you), our neighbours have taken to decorating. It appears from their 'decorations' that they are all Dutch. Holland flags, banners, and streamers adorn our little compound. Ik houd voetbal! (How was that, Marena?)
  • Night time unicycler. Yep, we have one here. Every night when we walk the dogs, there is a man who is out about the same time as we are, and is practicing his unicycling on our service road. At first he was terrible, and we would hold our breath and watch him tumble forward, but now he is markedly better. He stays going for long stretches at a time. I think, by the accent, he is British. Colin & I are both very impressed how far he's come. I guess living in a place like this allows you the time to try things you always thought about doing. Unicycling. Hmm. Not just yet. Maybe I can find some time to pick up a paint brush first instead.
Ok folks, Ella is starting to cry and we have a marathon pack ahead of us, so better go start our day. Please pray we have a safe and uneventful plane ride. Seriously. Send good vibes this way! Will write again soon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hot Stones, Anyone?

The month of May has been a busy one so far, hence my lack of posts. Colin's sister, Ryanne, visited us from Korea, followed by Colin's mom, Kim. We had a great time, and Ella beamed with all of the love and attention showered upon her. If any of you are planning on moving around the world, I highly suggest having a baby first. It will ensure your family seeks you out to visit the baby no matter where you relocate.

It just so happened that Mother's Day fell smack dab in the middle of Kim's visit. Being that this was my very first Mother's Day (yay!), Kim and I were both treated with gift certificates to a local spa in a five star resort. Hooray for Mother's Day! Mama loves her spa trips!

Here we go...
I promptly book Kim and I in for two one hour massages. I find out that this is not a regular run of the mill spa, but a "Traditional Chinese Body Care Facility". OK, I am down with that. My body is indeed in need of some care these days. Bring it on.
The massages we reserve are of the hot stone variety. The gift certificate says "Full Body Hot Stone Massage". I have had hot stone treatments before and have been pleased. Sounds like a good deal.


I am actually laughing to myself as I write this. It is still very funny.

OK... so, we arrive. The massage therapists are Chinese. An important observation. More 'authentic'.

In a quick moment of panic, I worry that the lady with whom I booked the massages with misunderstood me on the phone. It looks as though Kim and I are in the same room? No. This will not do. I love my mother-in-law, but no need to get that intimate with her. I need to be alone with my massage giver. I politely inquire if we are in separate rooms. The Chinese receptionist lady says "No problem". She shows us, rather proudly, the curtain that divides the 'room' into two. Right. Not ideal, but I can make do with the curtain. Kim and I agree this is fine. I walk to my "half" of the room and Kim to her "half".

This is where the weirdness starts. My massage therapist comes in and says "Take clothes off and put here", gesturing to a little table for my clothes. I nod. We stand there in awkward silence. She isn't leaving. She wants me to strip down to my drawers while she stands there with nothing else to do but watch. I can hear through the curtain wall that Kim's lady is doing the same thing to her. My lady gets the hint that I am not stripping while she gawks at me, so she turns her back and pretends to be busy shuffling the hot stones inside their little oven.

I get naked (well, as naked as I care to be with a complete stranger. I leave the underwear firmly in place). I quickly hop under the warm towel provided.

My lady tells me to put my face in the hole. I hate doing that. Anyone that has ever gotten a massage knows this is not a comfortable thing to do and leaves you feeling a bit claustrophobic. Whatever. I will do almost anything for a good back rub. Face goes in hole.

The massage begins (as does Kim's, as our ladies are now talking to one another quietly). Feels good. I am happy.

The whole thing is relatively uneventful until my lady starts on my legs. Before I know it, she has got me twisted like a pretzel. She is rotating my legs in all sorts of funny angles and I am not quite sure what to think. Relax, I tell myself. This is probably some kind of Chinese magic massage that will add five years to my life.

But wait, it gets even more exciting. I hear this strange thumping sound coming from behind the curtain-wall. What could it be? Someone puffing up pillows on a bed? Beating the dust out of a rug? Oh no. It is Kim. Her lady is whomp-whomp-whomping her. It must be quite forceful, as I can almost feel it myself. I suppress the urge to laugh out loud in my hole. Poor Kim. My lady may be a limb-bender but Kim's is clearly beating the tar out of her.

Then it begins. Gently at first. Whomp. Then whomp whomp. My lady starts karate chopping my back and behind like she means it. Oh my goodness. I don't quite know what to do, but to lie there and take it. So I do. I listen to the alternating whack-thump-pat of our massage therapists working their ways across our poor North American selves, knowing that if I hear so much as one peep from Kim's half of the room that I will not be able to control myself. I can feel laughter bubbling up inside me. Then I have a flashback. This beating has triggered a memory (or, it has more like 'beaten' a memory out of me)...

Travelling in China with my dear friend Joanne, we decide to treat ourselves to a day at the spa. We get massages. Oh my goodness, they beat us there too. Except I seem to remember them actually getting up on the table with us to try out some wrestling-type moves. Wow.

So, wait... it gets weirder. I some how zone out for a while, and am brought back to the moment when my lady whispers 'turn over'. OK. I turn over, careful to keep my towel in place across my torso. She resumes her bending/beating hot stone massage. Kind of feels good. Then... WHOOSH. No towel. She has removed my protective layer and is now massaging what appears to be my appendix. What the hell? Where is my towel? I stare wide eyed up at the ceiling thinking about my next move. Good thing it is dark in here. Should I run? Should I search for the towel somewhere on the floor? Do I dare say something to her? I seem to have gone speechless. I opt to remain frozen in my spot as this woman gives me a TRUE full body massage. She was much too close to my bits and pieces for my liking. Was Kim going through this crazy intimate rub down too?

After another thirty minutes, the full body work over ends. Just like that, the lights come on, my lady has gone, and I am left to gather my dignity alone in my half room. I can hear that Kim is also getting dressed. This is what follows:

Me: "Kim?"

Kim, after a muffled noise: "Yes?"

Me: "You decent?"

Kim: Pause. "Yes"

I cautiously pull the curtain aside and look at Kim. Her eyes are wild with squelched laughter. I feel tears burn my eyes just looking at her. I need to laugh. She says something like "Don't talk to me about it until we are outside", and I obey.

We quickly leave and break into a massive laughing attack in the elevator. We actually laughed all the way home, and then again when we shared with Colin.

What on earth just happened? After comparing notes, it seems we both got the ultimate full meal deal of massages, and yes, Kim also had hot stones in places she wasn't quite at peace with either.

What an experience. I will end with saying it was one Mother's Day massage not soon to be forgotten. Next time, I will look for the item on the menu that doesn't say 'full body'.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Okay, here it is.

I promised, therefore I must deliver. DRIVING IN QATAR. Sigh. Big, big, big sigh. I am devoting this entry entirely to the "drivers" of Qatar. If any Qatari's happen to stumble upon my little blog, please forgive me if my words sound harsh, but while you are thinking about forgiving me, please get your Mont Blanc pens out and take some notes - I have a few gentle suggestions for you.

I have had sufficient time to examine these people and their racing striped, plastic covered seats (no matter the vehicle age), and faux- fur covered dash board automobiles. I am not exaggerating when I say that driving in this city has taken years off my life. It is the only huge stressor in my current existence. Yes, I know I can be a bit dramatic at times, but I am neither exaggerating or embellishing here. It does not matter where I sit in the car - driving, passenge-ing, even in the back seat - my stomach still lurches at big roundabouts, and I say my Hail Mary's silently when I glance out the window at a smushed-up abandoned SUV left on the side of the road like a tin can, after what could only be a major accident.

I am currently working on perfecting my mind reading skills. It is a tall order. One has to be more than a mind reader when driving here. I will glare into the eyes of a Qatari woman pulled up next to me at a roundabout or red light - often that is the only part of her I can see at all... sometimes I am forced to glare into the black space where I think her eyes might be, as her face is completely covered - and try to decide if she looks like she may tramp on the gas and cut into my lane, or if she plans on sticking it out in her own lane for a while longer. A fleeting thought enters my head- I wonder if she can even see me at all. What is a gal's peripheral vision like with a cloth over her eyes and Louis Vuitton sunglasses over that cloth? I can only guess. Shudder.

The men are the worst by far - so very unpredictable. So much so in fact that when a Qatari man slows and gestures to me to go ahead and enter his lane (a nice thing to do for another driver), I begin to doubt his sincerity. Shame on me.

The Indian drivers are in a class of their own, and may take the prize for being the best Wolves-in-Sheep's-Clothing. If there is a speed camera within 10 miles, they are the picture of safety and precision. Hands at ten and two. Eyes straight ahead. But when no one is looking, they will sneak up on you and create their very own lanes (the shoulder of the road or straight up the middle of two lanes will do just fine), and can squeeze the largest SUV into the smallest of spaces. Impressive really, if it weren't so frightening. They love being snuggled right up to your bumper or side mirrors. No room to breath the hot desert air at all.

In our short three months here (yes, it has been that long) we have seen many fender benders and far too many close calls. I know the other drivers must look at my car and think to themselves, "Strange. That woman's car blinks". You can spot an expat a mile away (literally) when you see their vehicle switch on a signal light. No one else seems to know what a turn indicator is for. Certainly not to signal your intention to move your vehicle in the direction of the blinking light. Really though. Blinkers in Doha are for the weak. It is far more heart racing and adrenaline pumping to have to guess who is going to go in what direction at any given moment. My spidey senses are tingling constantly.

A note about Colin... My gentle, patient husband (who is never ever seen 'losing it'... unlike his wife!) has, on occasion, been transformed into a complete stranger before my very eyes when caught up in the craziness of the Doha roads. He sighs. He grunts. He shakes his head and makes clicking sounds with his tongue. He occasionally SWEARS. He blows his horn. He does not, however, make any hand gestures of any kind (we could get in some serious trouble for this one). The colourful phrases he has muttered while saving us from getting side-swiped or rear-ended would make a sailor blush. His stress (so rarely seen) amplifies my stress. Oh, it is bad. Real bad. I feel like I am on a ride at the fair that flings you every which direction and when you get off, your stomach is fluttering and your head is swirling. It makes me need to take a nap.

I should clarify here that it is not always like this. Sometimes the roads are just fine to travel on. Often, I get to and fro without any issues whatsoever. These trips are glorious. I feel accomplished and energized. Yes, we made it! Friday mornings are the best for driving, but a cruel irony... the stores are all shut. I must say that some Doha drivers are very conscientious , law abiding citizens. I should not paint everyone with the same brush, I know. Please forgive me, but I do speak of the majority. I am hopeful this will change.

We really just have to be careful anytime before or after lunch time, supper time, Thursday nights, Friday nights, Saturday nights, driving near a wedding tent, a mosque, the Corniche, the souqs... you get my point. Trying to park could give you a stroke if you aren't careful.
I realize that in the whole grand scheme of things that the Qatari's are actually doing wonderfully considering that Doha has risen up out of the sand as a vibrant and booming city virtually overnight. It wasn't that long ago that you would be hard pressed to find a car amongst the camels. They are doing very well, considering.
I have been given the hand gesture for 'patience' more times than I can count. Strange, it is always when I am yielding (at a yield sign) and a Qatari honks, flashes his lights, and then, as he pulls out and speeds ahead of me into the rush of oncoming traffic, he looks back and calmly gestures... "patience". I could choke on my tongue when this happens. Makes no sense! You, my dear sirs, YOU need the patience.
I was recently purchasing something in a store owned by a Qatari man. We were making small talk and he was asking how I am enjoying living in Doha. My reply was a positive one, but I mentioned the driving was mad. He laughs. He agrees. I ask him about the hand gesture I have been recieving. Indeed, it does means 'patience'. Why then, I ask, are they giving it to me, when I am clearly being 'patient'? He answers: "The Arabs... they are crazy." Then he chuckles. Enough said.
We will be okay, Inshallah. (
http://www.grapeshisha.com/culture/inshallah.html) Hopefully, we will navigate through all the craziness and stay happy and healthy during our time here. Blog readers, say a prayer or two to your guardian angels for us. We need them all.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

We're Booked

We are officially booked for our first trip home. What a completely complicated ordeal! It actually took two days of phone calls to get it all straightened out. Whew! Glad it's done.

We couldn't seem to get all the flights we needed directly from any one airline carrier (our trip has multi-city destinations), so we finally decided to try a travel site. We've had family members have trouble using these sites, but the flight selection was decent and so was the price. I won't directly mention the site, in case some of you are fans...let's just call it Nexpedia.com. Such a nightmare. Long story short, we booked and paid for our tickets only to find out the booking omitted Ella in the end. Outside of North America, an infant has to be booked as a separate passenger (not attached to a parents ticket). Nexpedia.com wouldn't acknowledge her as a travelling passenger. The folks at Nexpedia.com turned out to be completely useless (offering to cancel and rebook our flights again - they had Ella on another flight - but oops... the flights went up $5000+ in price overnight!). We had to make a trip to the airport to physically visit Qatar Airways... still no luck correcting the problem. Three long and pleading phone calls to Air Canada later, we finally have it sorted... we think.
So - drum roll, please - we are coming home! We leave Qatar June 16 to fly to Calgary for Dave and Kirsten's wedding on June 19. We leave Calgary on June 20 for ten days in Nova Scotia, returning to Doha on the 30th.
Although I had hoped for a stop in Texas, we couldn't do it this time around. I am still hoping to get there later this year though.
Tips on travelling on long haul flights with an almost-eight-month-old very welcome!

PS - Construction on our brick patio extension has suddenly halted. The LBM have been called away on a very important 'tiling' project in villa #12, preparing it for new people. Damn them. When I asked when they could get back there and finish, I am met with blank stares and then a "yes ma'am". I think we have negotiated that work will resume in 'two days' (I know this from the fingers the head LBM kept holding up?). Gone are the days of efficiency and deadlines... welcome to Doha! I'll keep you posted if and when it's ever finished...

McDoha

Yesterday, when we were driving home from the airport, I got a sudden urge for some salty McDonald's french fries. It seems we've noticed many McDonald's restaurants in our travels around Doha, so I thought scooting through a drive thru would be no big deal. I quickly punch "McDonald's" into the GPS. Great - there is one about a two miles from here.

Not saying anything about what a pain in the ass I am, Colin turns us around and finds the spot. Not sure how old the satellite map is, but our 'destination' is nothing but a sand lot. What? Now I want fries more than ever.

The next McDonald's on the GPS locator is 4 miles away and looks to be in a mall, so I skip that one. I am searching for a drive thru - my mind is made up. Third time is a charm, right?


Number three is a success - it has a 24 hour drive thru! Yay! But guess what? The drive thru is a man standing in the back of the building. No menu. He IS the menu. I get my fries and a McChicken (from memory) and Colin orders something called a "Mctasty". The man tallies up our bill in his mind (38QR), then runs ahead to the drive thru window (yes, they have one!), leans inside with his body, makes change, and runs back to our car. Side note - it was 38 degrees yesterday.

Good thing we don't crave fast food too often - this place was a bit out of the way. Anyhow, my meal tasted like any McDonald's I've ever had, but Colin's surprise "McTasty" was very "McNasty". He didn't eat it. Oops!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Another busy week has passed! A few thoughts to share...

The Ma'amSir Phenomenon - It seems that where ever we go, Colin & I are now addressed collectively. We are now one being, known to all customer service workers in malls, hotels, restaurants, etc, as "Ma'amsir". It sounds more like mumser when they say it.
"Hello Ma'amsir. Table for two and baby, Ma'amsir?"
I quite enjoy it. And when mom was with us, we became "Hello Ma'amsirma'am" or, even funnier, "Hello Ma'amMa'amSir" (mummumser). I can't help but make faces at Colin when someone says it. Silly, I know.

Racing Stripes Everywhere - I know I said I would dedicate a whole entry to the Qatari driving, and I will... soon.
Today I do have to make mention of the very popular, specific 'style' of vehicle you see everywhere. Hands down, the Toyota Land Cruiser seems to me to be the vehicle of choice on the road... but whatever it is the locals choose to drive, the majority of cars seem to have one thing in common: the whacked-out 1980's flashy gold, silver and red racing stripes. They adorn both sides of the vehicle, and stretch from headlight to bumper. I told Colin I refused to buy a bedazzled SUV for myself, but it was a difficult task to accomplish. The fancy paint jobs are everywhere! I have noticed that many of our neighbours drive them, and I hope this is a trend that doesn't catch on. Perhaps in two years, I will be longing for such a paint job on my own car. If you come for a visit while we are here, and we pick you up from the airport in such a psycadellic ride, just bite your tongue. We may just think it's stylish.

Midnight Swims - As I write this, my mom is on a plane somewhere on her way back to Nova Scotia. She had a great trip, and we were on the go every single day - poor Ella! An important discovery for me though: the compound pool. Of course I have been to the pool already, but mom & I started venturing down for a swim before bed most nights... somewhere between 10pm and midnight. It turns out the pool is open 24 hours a day, so why not? Anyhow, the water at this time is a perfect temperature, there isn't a soul around, and I could think of worse ways to end a day. Someone else hurry and visit us so I can have a swimming partner while Colin and Ella snooze!

Construction began in our backyard this morning. We are having our brick patio extended to accommodate a covered sitting area (the next phase of construction). I just brought the LBM some refreshments as it is hot out there anyhow, but the blue coveralls must make it just about unbearable! Anyhow, so excited for this new space. This is part of my continued effort to make our backyard a place you really want to be in. I hope we get to use it before the crazy heat arrives... fingers crossed!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April has Arrived

It makes for dull conversation that when I open my eyes every morning, the sun is shining and there is not a cloud in the sky. I mean, come on, I am a Maritimer, for Pete's Sake! We live and breath to comment on and complain about the weather. But no, I can't do either this week. Its been beautiful. Hot and sunny - not too hot - with a great breeze. (I have thrown in a few groans about blowing sand and having to wear goopy sunscreen just for good measure while conversing with neighbours, etc. It's been difficult.)

Big news in my backyard - the few meters of 'sandbox' that I dug up and filled with soil and planted with seeds, in attempts to start a little garden, have started to sprout!! This was my "trial" patch to see if anything would/could grow back there, and so far, I can check yes for both carrots and cucumbers (three rows of each). I am quite impressed with my 2.5 inch little sprouts, and am praying that they continue to thrive. Who knows, perhaps I'll rip up all of the sad little patches of grass back there and go crazy with a big ol' Texas sized garden. Probably not, but its a nice thought.

My mom's visit is going swimmingly. She's having a blast and it's amazing what an extra set of hands is worth with a five month old baby. I love it. Suddenly I can do things without one-arming it. Quite nifty.

I must stop here to say to all my friends who moved to be closer to their parents when they decided to start families... I now get it. Ella is quite taken with this new wild-haired lady that immediately presents herself at Ella's slightest coo. I actually can leave them alone together and get stuff done! Wow. I know Colin is enjoying it too. Side note here - Colin's mom & sister both booked their tickets to come visit next month. Yay for visitors!

I must mention the highlights of our week. First one was our trip to the Museum of Islamic Art. What a place! I do enjoy museums but this one was extra special. Their current Pearl exhibit (which they are soon sending on tour around the world) was absolutely breathtaking. I highly recommend spending an afternoon if it turns up near any of you. I immediately told Colin that I now must have some new pearls of my own. He just smiled - I'll take that as a yes?

Our other highlight this weekend - we went camel riding! Oh, how fun! We actually got to drive out to the more desert-y area of Qatar, which was a sight to behold in itself. Nothing but sand and a few sad little roads. I can now say I have stood in the desert... the actual desert. I got sand in every crevice you could imagine, and I think I am still tasting it tonight.

But, getting back to the camels... is it weird to say that I think they are beautiful? In a gnarly-toothed, smelly kind of way, but I thought they were very impressive animals. Strangely graceful. Their fur (is that what you call it?) was pretty soft too. I don't know... maybe the sand is clogging my clear judgement. Anyone agree with me? Mom had a blast and we all laughed lots. This was a day that was filled with the real 'good' stuff.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Al-Ahli Hospital & My Mom's Arrival

We made our first visit to the local hospital this week!


On Saturday nights, Colin has found a soccer team to join on the compound. This was week #2, and, unfortunately, he fell. Well, in actual fact, he was tripped, but it doesn't really matter (although he says it does).

The end result... he comes home Saturday evening with his tail between his legs, walking rather slowly. He's holding his wrist and limping. What!?

They play on a hard surface and when he fell, he caught himself with his left hand (he's broken a bone on this side before doing the very same thing). I tell him we should make a trip to the ER that evening, so we get it over with. Nope. According to my sulky husband (who is hurting more than he is admitting), he is "just fine" and wants to sleep on it.

Eight hours and a couple of bags of frozen peas later, he reluctantly agrees to head to the hospital. We choose a privatized hospital that is about 10 minutes away (http://www.ahlihospital.com/). We get to see both the Orthopedics and Radiology wings. We pay cash for his treatment and hope to get reimbursed through our new insurance later. Not a bad experience at all, really. (Pictured right: One wounded husband, one sleeping baby while we waited @ the ER)

The verdict: a fractured left wrist and a broken big toe. His toe actually makes my stomach weak to look at... very swollen and completely purple. Ouch.

Later that same night, Colin's wrist now splinted and his prescription anti-imflammatories making everything seem okay again, we head to the airport to pick up my mom.

Her flight was due at 7:45pm, but was slightly delayed. Ella lost her patience with waiting about 45 minutes in, which meant her Mommy lost their great spot at the arrivals terminal amongst a sea of people waiting for flights to arrive. Colin stuck it out in the crowd while I walked with one tired baby.

She walks through the arrival gate at 9:15pm, looking completely thrilled, despite the fact she's been flying for 18 hours. Ella perks up quite a bit (thank goodness) and everyone is very happy. Her flight went great and she made it through Heathrow without any hiccups whatsoever. Yay for us!
Typical of my mother, she gets completely unpacked and 'moved in' to her new bedroom before crashing late last night... always has to settle in!
So here we are - day one of her visit. We spent the morning poolside - Ella and I hiding in the shade enjoying the breeze, while Mom spends her time in the pool and "getting some sun on her legs". Funny thing is, my mother has been trying to get sun on her legs for as long as I have been on this earth, and guess what? I have never ever seen her legs any color but white. Not white really, kind of a creamy shade of transparent. We are pale folks.

We are going Greek tonight! We have reservations at Mykonos - a Greek restaurant close to our compound (http://www.qatarliving.com/reviews/restaurants/mediterranean/mykonos-restaurantant ). Can't wait!

I've stolen a few moments to myself to write this while Ella and Mom both indulge in an afternoon siesta.
I'll write more this week - I see some shopping, more exploring, and, a little camel riding in our immediate futures!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Holy Leopard, Mercy Me & Caged Birds

So, it's been an interesting couple of days for me.

First (and most importantly), Ella turned five months old on Monday. I honestly can't believe that five months have flown by that quickly. I feel like it was just a few weeks ago when Colin & I were snuggling on the couch at home - me very pregnant - talking about who we thought she'd look like and when she might finally get here. Wow. 2009 was really our best year ever - so full of wonderful surprises. Happy five month birthday, Bunny.

Other news... we have successfully purchased a car! Yay for us. One down, one to go. Colin actually did 90% of the leg work, and, believe me when I say there was LOTS of leg work. Purchasing a vehicle in Qatar is a bit of a challenge. Colin spent hours in various line ups and government offices in order to get us mobile again. And yesterday, our new wheels came home (http://www.newpajero.com/). So of course, we wanted to go out for a drive last night. Off we went for a spin around town!
The drive was relatively uneventful, UNTIL... we pull up to a roundabout. This one had traffic lights, so we are waiting at a red. This is what follows:

Colin - "Look! The car in front of us has a dog in it."

Tasha - "Sh*t - that's a big dog"

(The 'dog' then pokes his head out the back passenger side window to look at us.)

Tasha (stupidly) - "Kind of looks like a big cat"

Colin - "IT IS A CAT! OMG, It's a Leopard!"

Colin & Tasha in unison - "They have a freakin' leopard in their car!!!"

We then try to tail the leopard car in order for me to snap a photo of this absolutely crazy sight on my Blackberry. This animal was hanging out the window of this little car, and pacing back and forth in the back seat. No one else in the traffic jam seemed the least bit phased, and yet, Colin & I were going nuts that the person driving the car actually had a wild animal with him. Anyhow, I missed the picture when the light changed, and then we lost sight of the car.

So completely berserk. I asked my neighbours about it today & apparently although banned, animals like spotted leopards and cheetahs have become popular pets to some locals. Come on people... really? It was exciting (in a scary way) to see anyhow.

M...
When I turned thirty (just a few moons ago), my gift to myself was a biweekly housekeeper. Greatest gift to self ever. Ladies, I highly recommend it. Colin had not one complaint as this let him off the hook on a few regular chores around the house. Theresa was excellent, and I soon realized that there were many things in life that I could go without, but my Theresa was not going to be one of them.

Fast forward to this week. I was on a mission to find a new housekeeper. It seems that just about every house on the compound either has part time help, or, a live in person. I met a couple ladies who I just didn't get the right 'vibe' from (probably because our 'vibes' were of different languages). Then a neighbour told me she was hiring a new lady and this person had other days available and had excellent references. I arrange to meet her & immediately like her. We agreed she would start on Monday.

What a glorious day Monday was. The clouds parted and the sun shone down upon our villa. Such a sweet sweet sound a vacuum cleaner makes when you are not the one hauling it around the house. I may be in love.... with Mercy. This woman can clean like no one I have ever seen. Every nook and cranny. I think she would have vacuumed the dogs if they got close enough. And guess what? She came back today and did ironing! I hate ironing! (Actually, I flat out refuse to do ironing... too dangerous, really. Scalding hot is not a temperature I am interested in. Colin is the iron-er in our house).
To sum it up - she is AWESOME. And, she will be working for us TWO days a week. Hooray for Mercy! She is great! Hooray for me in my unwrinkled clothes! Things are starting to look a little brighter for sure. Perhaps it's the gleam from all the furniture polish and Windex! Ha ha!

Last, but certainly not least, an occurrence definitely worth mentioning - I went out today by myself! Well, Ella was with me, but we went shopping on our own! I successfully navigated five roundabouts and one ginormous parking garage. Didn't get lost or get in an accident. I know how completely ridiculous I sound, given that I am an experienced accident-free driver, who has driven in many parts of the world with confidence. But, due to the fact we've only had one vehicle so far this month, and, when we've gone we have used the 'tag team' approach (meaning one reads the map and one drives the car), today was a big deal. (Side note: my earlier comments on the local drivers will help to explain my hesitancy to go solo.)

I took my handy Garmin GPS, my sweet little lady, and my wallet, and off to shop we went! Mama treated herself to three new pairs of shoes and a new outfit. I really couldn't help it. I felt as though I had to celebrate. All joking aside, I was starting to feel a bit like a caged bird. My conclusion: if I can plan our outings around the major traffic congestion times and avoid huge roundabouts until I am familiar with the roads, I think we will be just fine.


Tomorrow is TGIT and three days until my amazing mother flies half way around the world to visit us. Can't wait to see you, Mom. I have even found you a camel to ride.