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.