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 ( 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 ( ). 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 ( 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.

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.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The House That Friends Built (Under Construction... again!)

Do not be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before we can meet again. And, meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those we call friends. ~ Richard Bach

Feeling a bit homesick today, hence this post...

I can't say I have ever had trouble making new friends. Fortunately for me, the friends I had as a girl are still some of my most treasured relationships - they have become so familiar to me that our memories of the past have bled into one another over time, and when telling a story, you can never be sure if you were actually there, or, you just think you were because you have laughed and/or cried over those memories together so many times. So, in terms of friendships, these women are my foundation... my first, and the ones that can bear the heaviest loads.

My years in Halifax afforded me the opportunity to meet more strange and wonderful people to add to my 'house of friends'. Mostly women (& a few lucky men), they saw me through thick and thin as I changed careers, apartments, hair cuts, relationships and so on. My first floor.

Moving to Texas brought a new & unexpected challenge, however. For the first time, I didn't know anyone but my husband. Not one soul. Poor, poor Colin. Suddenly Colin was my lone friend, which meant I was surprisingly hurt when he was reluctant at my suggestion to go for a pedicure or go shopping for a new shower curtain.

It took time (during which, Colin was the best friend a girl could have - thank you, love), but I did make some more-than-fabulous friends. Neighbours, coworkers, classmates, fitness class participants - you name it. I found some real keepers in the most unlikely places.
Leaving Texas after four years felt like leaving Canada all over again - more tears than I would like...but what a great statement to type when you think about it! Lucky me, really.

To make a long story short, here I am again. Ahh, the life of a travelling engineer's wife. No friends (at least those that are immediately tangible) to speak of. Colin is my one man band once more. Lucky him. Which leads me to my point...Ella and I went for a morning visit to a neighbours house this morning. This new neighbour also has a sweet little girl, ten days younger than Ella. Our visit was really nice - talk of babies, husbands, travel, and missing home came easy for both of us. A great way to spend a few Sunday morning hours. Yay!

Here's the thing - as I walked back home with a sleepy Ella, a warm breeze blowing on my face and sun shining down on me, I got completely and totally sad. Sad! Like tears stinging the eyeballs sad. The trouble? Well, not only do I now miss Nova Scotia and everyone in it, I also thoroughly miss Texas and my 'peeps' there. A killer dose of double home sickness washed over me. DOUBLE home sickness. Yuck.

I promise to get over it. Hopefully soon. But, is there ever a time when those unexpected floods of emotion stop sneaking up on you? I am guessing no.

It's now evening here, and I am going to shake off my pouty face and go search for a car with my BFF. I should have wheels again by the end of the week. Thank God. (Not like I feel like braving the madness of the roads, but I know I must.)
So, dear friends in other countries, know I thought of each and every one of you today while I sulked about my far-away-ed-ness. The pain is slightly eased by Vonage, Skype, Blackberry, and email, thank goodness. Gotta love technology.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Three Weeks In

I think it is safe to say that we've had the opportunity to have a decent look at our new surroundings now, as we quickly approach the 'one month' mark.
I have had the chance to form some very solid first impressions. These may or may not change with time (I hope some do), and they may differ from Colin's first thoughts, but here goes...

Qipco Compound - I think I like it. If I may back up for just a second, I had to put total faith in my husband here. He made a trip to Doha this past November, with strict instructions to take pictures of EVERYTHING he saw that would be relevant to our new lives/living arrangements. Bless him, he did try. But, unfortunately for me, Brazil and England had a soccer match going on the weekend he was here (which he got great tickets to), so his camera ended up containing about 15% of pictures I wanted to see and 85% futball pics. Those pictures were impressive too, but didn't quite give me the information I longed for. Anyhow, Qipco has turned out to be a nice little spot.

It seems to me that Canadians are like birds of a feather in these kinds of situations - we do indeed flock together. Day #1, we find out our immediate neighbours to the right of us are originally from New Brunswick (what is it with us and having great Canadian neighbours, anyhow?). They have been our very own Canuck-type angels, as they were the first to ring our bell and introduce themselves, had us over for dinner our first night when our fridge was pretty much empty, brought us alcohol to tide us over until we got our permits (haha!), and have driven Ella & I around several times during the day when Colin is at work with our one rental car, preventing me from going mad in a big empty house. Across the street there are more Canadians - one home happens to hold an impressive looking 18 year old young lady that just may be Ella's new babysitter so Colin & I can sneak off to the compound gym or restaurant for an hour here and there.

So far, I have been invited to ladies morning coffee groups and tea socials, garden parties, play groups, and fitness classes. My new cell phone rings surprisingly often, and our doorbell is getting lots of use. Truthfully, these women all seem to have very busy schedules. Although I miss my Texas friends with all my heart, it is nice to feel so welcome here.

Physically, Qipco is not bad to look at. All the houses look pretty much the same. The landscaping is very tropical looking, lots of kids and pets running around. There are about 200 families in total - roughly half Exxon and half Shell. All ages & nationalities. Not so bad at all. Inside our house still needs lots of 'stuff'. With our big sea shipment still a month away, it looks quite empty. We've been steadily buying things that help make it feel more like a home, but I still miss our house. Really miss it. Sigh.

Little Blue Men - The Little Blue Men are not only in our compound, but scattered all through the city. They are literally like 'Little Blue Men', as they all wear blue coveralls when working (and seem quite petite). These men are here from other (poorer) countries to get jobs as labourers, often to send money back home to support their families. I am immediately not very impressed with how they are treated here. I will write more on this topic later, but will say that it does put things into perspective for me, for sure. All of the comforts and little luxuries of everyday life that I take for granted (and now complain about not having), these men will never get to experience. So, when I brush my teeth in the single sink in our Master Bath tonight and feel tempted to whine about missing our double sinks, I will remember to be thankful.

The LBM in Qipco seem to be much better off than those scattered at roadwork and construction sites around town. They are electricians, carpenters, plumbers and gardeners, and are called whenever a resident needs a repair or whatnot. They wash cars and do custom woodwork on the side. Wow. I have already befriended Bernardo, our gardener (although his English is terrible, we are building a relationship based on hand signals and gestures. As I try to make our garden something special to me, he will be a great asset!).

Roundabouts - What the hell? I mean seriously. I get the whole idea of how they should work, but here, that concept just doesn't fly. They replace most traffic lights in Doha, and are everywhere. This wouldn't be a big problem, but combine a decent sized roundabout at a busy intersection with a couple of local nut job drivers, and you are suddenly in a very dangerous situation. As I said before, I will eventually dedicate a whole blog entry to the wondrous drivers of Qatar, but for now, let me say that the roundabouts have added white hairs to my head, and have caused me to wake a peaceful Ella in the backseat with my "OH MY GOD's", "Whooo's" and "Holy Shit's". It has to get better, right?

The Heat - This has to be payback for when I used to say the Texas summers had to be "hotter than the fiery depths of hell". No, indeed they were not. I was a fool. The Doha spring appears to be ten times hotter than the Texas summer, which leads me to believe that my next summer on this earth will be indescribable as far as heat goes. The average daily temperature since we have arrived has been about 36 degrees Celsius, raising deep concerns for me about the coming soaring temps. What will 50 degrees (122 f) feel like to a fair-skinned maiden such as myself? I don't do well when I open the oven door too quickly to check on supper. The locals say this summer is going to be a hot one. Please pray for us.

The Bean - Despite all the hiccups making my life a bit of a mess right now, there is one special shining light that I must mention. Sweet sweet Ella (currently also known as 'Beaner' or 'The Bean' to her father and I) is doing just fine here in Qatar. One may even say she has settled in the best out of all five of us.

Colin and I both agree that when she smiles at us, everything in our little world feels right. Even though she has been dragged through bustling markets, historic souqs, arabian rug stores, grocery stores, malls, restaurants and car dealerships constantly this month with two tired & periodically cranky parents, she has been a real trooper. I know every parent must say this, but I swear she is the cutest baby I have ever laid eyes on (sorry to my friends who also thought that they must have had the cutest baby ever, as Ella now takes the prize). Be sure to check out her site to see updated pics.

TGIT - Thank God It's Thursday. And, I do thank God. Not sure what it is, but this new Sunday to Thursday work week for Colin seems to fly by. Its really quite amazing. He agrees. One morning its Sunday and he's off to work, and then it is suddenly Thursday and he is home for the weekend. Seriously. It's quite nifty.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Great City of Doha

We happen to arrive in Doha at night, on a particularly clear evening, so the lights of the city are quite impressive as we approach. Apparently our new home is on the other side of the city from the airport, so we get to oohh and ahhh at the sights as we drive along.
The thing we both immediately comment on - the driving. Holy cow. Complete chaos. The Qatari's are quite new behind the wheels of their fancy SUVs, and it shows. Speeding, cutting off, honking, very intimidating looking roundabouts. I think to myself, 'breath'. It just looks worse at night. (More on the driving later!)

After a quick 20 minute drive, we pull up to our new compound... sandy lot on the outskirts of the city with palm trees lining the gates. The security guards approach our little caravan and already know our names! They've been expecting us! In we go.

Hello villa #14. I get Ella and I out of the van, hand Ella (who is looking very sleepy by now but has decided to stay awake and take it all in with her folks) off to daddy, and get to the business of allowing the pups to relieve themselves. After about 22 straight hours of crate time, neither of my genius little fur balls has soiled their crates. They did do an immediate relief-job on our new front lawn, however.

Suitcases unloaded, dogs now leashed & happy, we turn the key to our new place.
We spend ten minutes having a look around, and... not too bad at all. Certainly not the fanciest place I've been in, but I can definitely make this home for a couple years. I feel both completely pooped and relieved. Off to bed for all five of us. Night one is spent in our new Super King Sized bed - Ella between us, dogs by our feet. We all have quite an impressive sleep.