Friday, September 30, 2011

20 Signs You Have Crossed The Line

So, as many of you know, I have been slugging it out in Doha by myself this month.
Taking one for the team.
Single-parenting for thirty-some-odd action packed days in the desert. (Read that again and insert lots of sarcasm around the words ‘action packed’).

C has left us here -sniff sniff- while he is away for work in Texas (if I hear of one more Mexican dish passing his lips, I may go blind with jealousy), and although I have sat down to update my blog on a few occasions over the last 2.5 weeks, I just haven't been able to transform my musings into typed words.
But, here I am now, and as I have had extra time this month to ponder my thoughts internally - due to current lack of spousal-banter available to me - I have decided to compile a list of some of the oddities that have become little pieces of our daily existence here in Qatar.
It seems you can always pick out those folks who are new to Doha - I was there myself not so long ago (almost two years already), and there is a very clear line between those that are still adjusting to life in the Middle East (this can be a long process), and those expats who have become accustomed to the many quirks of Doha and manage to blend in to everyday life here - essentially, 'crossing the line'.
For all you seasoned Doha 'line-crossers',  I hope you extract a few laughs from the list below. For those still on the other side... come back to this post in six months or a year and see how you fare then.

20 Signs You have Crossed The Line
1. You start to feel chilly when the temperature dips into the 20C's. Sweater weather!
2. You begin planning your next holiday the day after you get back from your last one.

3. You not only feed the stray cats on your compound, you name them & greet them when you see one another.

4. You no longer require a watch -- the  Call to Prayer and position of the sun tell you all you need to know about the time.

5. You become a defensive driving  force to be reckoned with on the road, and don't think twice about taking a short cut over a curb or through the sand to get where you are going. Occasionally, you even bust out the ‘patience sign’ at other drivers.

6. You catch yourself saying 'shukran', 'yella' and 'inshallah' while conversing with others.

7. When speaking to people from India, you find yourself wobbling your head to and fro for no apparent reason, but you can't seem to stop yourself.

8. You haven't changed the sheets on your own bed in a very long time, yet they are always clean and fresh.
9. It no longer bothers you when, in the MILLISECOND it takes a light to change from red to green, someone is already ferociously blowing their horn at you.

10. You no longer feel the urge to take pictures when a truck load of sheep or camels stops next to you at a red light.

11. You search through the moving sales of other expats like a miner digging for gold, and find yourself buying things you don’t at all need ("OMG, they have a _____ for sale. We MUST snatch this up before someone else does!")

12. You stock pile alcohol in a spare room in your home 'just in case'.

13. You think it’s completely normal to set up a picnic (complete with lawn chairs, tables and blankets) for the whole family at 11 o'clock at night.
14. You pace back and forth outside your neighbour’s villa when you pick up the unmistakable scent of smuggled bacon wafting through the windows.

15. You start to ponder the punishment if caught with your own suitcase full of pork... how bad could it really be?

16. You have a closet full of custom tailored suits, tuxedos, dresses, skirts, and any number of shirts/pants that fit you to a 'T' because you had them made just for you at one of the 5000 tailor shops around town.

17. You no longer fear a left hand turn in a roundabout, but embrace it wholeheartedly. Hesitation is for the weak.

18. You know that if a restaurant will cook it for you, they will also deliver it to you at home -- 'no problem'.

19. You get up early Friday morning and have nothing to do, but just can't wait to go for a drive and enjoy the empty roads.

20. You never get your weekend days confused anymore. Thursday night is the best night of the week and Saturday night is a drag - end of story.

I don’t quite have all of these covered yet, but am creeping my way through the list at a very steady pace.
What about you?
...Crossed the Line Yet?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Day in Kuwait

This week we had to make a trip to Kuwait.
Kuwait City had never made it on my 'places to go in my lifetime' list, but this trip was necessary.
When we were in Nova Scotia this summer, we found a great summer cottage that we are in the process of buying. I'll talk more on that later, but in order to get everything ready to close on our house deal, we had to get some papers notarized.
Sounds easy enough, but who knew that there is no such thing as a Notary Public (a person who can witness and certify legal documents) in Qatar.
We tried everything to get help here... and since there is no Canadian Embassy in Qatar, the process turned out to be quite difficult.
We tried lawyers, judges, and both the UK and USA Embassies. We tried to find an active member of the Canadian Military. Sought help from coworkers, friends and neighbours. Sent out emails, visited government offices and made countless phone calls. We had both our financial advisor and lawyer trying to help from Nova Scotia. We really tried every legal angle that we could to get our papers notarized, but no luck.

The embassy that serves Canadians living in Qatar is based in Kuwait City.
So, on Sunday night, after exhausting all possibilities of finding a legal notary here, we booked three last minute tickets for a day trip to Kuwait. There and back in one day. This should be interesting!

The Kuwait Towers - one of the
country's famous landmarks

I think it would have been a different trip if we had to navigate it on our own, but luck was on our side this week. It turns out that C has a colleague at work that is Kuwaiti. This friend (God bless him) has some serious connections in his hometown.
Turns out he & his family are... let's just say... "important" local folks. The night before we leave, he calls C and says "leave the details to me. I will take care of your visit". An intriguing statement, right?

Well, we had a great day! The flight was just over an hour, and as soon as we step off the plane, a very official looking man was there to greet us. He zipped us right through customs and the visa process. There were literally over 100 people waiting for visas. Easily saved us an hour or two... can you say awesome?

Ealr morning Kuwait, taken
 from the airplane on our way in

Then we roll outside with this guy to find a very cushy ride waiting for us with our own driver for the day. WHAT?
Yep. Away we go.
We are taken right to the Canadian Embassy, where we get everything done without any trouble. Sigh of relief. Even though it was a pain to have to travel to get there, seeing and talking to other Canadians is always such a pleasure when you live far away from home.
We carried on friendly banter about the weather, hockey, our shared experiences living in the middle east, and our visits "back home" with several of the embassy workers while attending to our business. Our driver waited the whole time! I could get used to this.
After business was complete, off we went for a tour of the city.
I am surprised at what I see. It's a busy, bustling city that spans along the north-east coast of the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, the word 'kuwait' is derived from the Arabic word 'akwat' meaning 'fortress built near water'. The city appears to me to be much greener, more developed, and a bit less humid than Qatar. Many similarities, but lots of differences too. 

a downtown mosque

Driving through the city, you could almost feel it's history - crumbled buildings on the outskirts of town that probably once stood proudly before the Gulf War. We got to see the Dasman Palace, where the Emir of Kuwait lived, and where the Battle of Dasman took place when Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait.
A busy and bustling, and 'visually Americanized' downtown core drew our attention and we (I) just had to stop and visit one of the malls. What a place to break out the visa! I wished we had more time to shop. C is happy we didn't.

The guy making fresh pasta at the
spot we had lunch

We were taken to an exceptional Italian restaurant for lunch, where all three of us over-indulged on fresh bread and homemade pasta. Yum.

Our day in Kuwait ended with more assistance at the airport. We were 'checked in' by our driver as we waited in the VIP lounge. Seriously.
Ella snoozed in her stroller, I sipped on lemonade and read the local paper, and C watched the evening news.

If I had known what a great trip was in store for us this Tuesday, I would have pressured C to spend the night and see more of the city.

Our flight back was smooth, and Ella got to sleep in her own bed last night. We were all ready for a good sleep after a long day.

A busy and successful trip overall.

Thanks Kuwait, for treating us so well. Special thanks to C's friend who tried to show us why he loves his city so much. He gave us a day to remember in his favorite place.

And hey... Canadian government - if any of you read this - you promised us an embassy almost two years ago. Come on already! We are not patiently waiting...
Sightseeing in Kuwait City, Sept 2011