Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas #2 in Doha

This year, for the second year in a row, we decided to stay in Doha for Christmas.
Last year, it was an easy call to stay put, as we had visitors, and visitors make all the difference during the holidays. They bring the festive with them when they arrive.
This year though, it was just us. Most of our neighbours cleared out to spend the holidays at home with their family and friends. Some went on vacation in search of snowy mountains or boozy beaches. We were one of the few families staying here.
Happily saddled with neighbourly tasks of watering plants and feeding cats. A staycation for us that we were actually really looking forward to. It seemed ages since we had family time where we weren't frantically stuffing our suitcases and heading to the airport on some long haul flight.
So I did the usual things - decorated house, put tree up, sought out a decent Butterball, blah blah... everything was in place to have a great little time here with C and E.
But those old feelings started creeping over me early in December...

Longing to be home.
Wishing for snow and non-stop Christmas music on the radio.
Wanting to hug my parents and clink glasses with old friends.
Missing our old family decorations that I foolishly forgot to include in our shipment when we moved here.
Yearning for pink cheeks, and snow crunching under my boots, and recognizing just about everyone at midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Hugs and smiles everywhere.
Dying for that contented bundled-up-by-the-fireplace-with-a-blanket-and-a-good-book kind of feeling.
You get my drift.

So boo hoo hoo. I was away from home over the holidays and started feeling a little sorry for myself.
I trudged through the malls (that were void of any holiday cheer and decoration), never finding quite what I was looking for, growling about the driving, the line ups and the complete lack of holiday spirit.

This lasted a few long days (long and painful days, if you ask C).

Then I stopped my silliness. I gave myself a very strong figurative kick in the a**, and told myself to smarten up.
I am here in this place by choice. I live a very blessed life. One that allows me to stay home every day with my daughter. One that brings sunshine through my window every single morning when I wake up.  One that has given us a very special and eclectic group of friends from all over the world. This IS our home.  What matters most is that we do what we can here to make our holiday special.
So I got out a pen and paper and I made a list. What would make us feel better about being here over the holidays? The bigger picture.

This is what I came up with:

- Every day, do one thing to make a difference to someone else.

And that is what we did. No huge 'change the world' gestures, but several small, really nice ones. And boy, did it feel good.
What Christmas should feel like on the inside. 'Tis the Season, after all.

The Highlights: The week leading up to Christmas, I became a baking machine. My oven only shut off when I went to bed at night. No joke.  Chocolate swirl banana loaf,  a multitude of shortbread and sugar cookies, fudge brownies and peanut brittle. I bought cookie tins and cake boxes and made each package festive. No matter the religion of my recipients. I was sweating it out in the kitchen to get a few smiles (albeit some toothless ones) from the people who work very hard to make our compound a home. Each gardener, carpenter, electrician, painter and security guard that we have come to know in our almost two years here got a baked gift. I handed them out my kitchen window as the workers walked by or I called them each to the house if I knew which shift they were working. C came home twice to different Kenyan security guards having a glass of milk and some cookies in our kitchen while we waited for a fresh batch to come out of the oven. We both smiled as we scrolled through pictures of  wives and kids on their mobile phones. The people they missed. What mattered to them.

After I shut the oven off, we moved on to another little project. We were going to buy some Christmas Eve lunch for some people who might enjoy a free treat. A kind gesture on a special day for us.
First stop was a local fast food chain, where we loaded up over a dozen meals into bags. Second stop - the underground parking lot of a local mall. The parking lots here are often filled with workers in bright orange coveralls, stationed every fifty feet or so, asking to wash your car while you shop, for about 10qar (under 3 bucks). What I have noticed about these guys (as I do tend to park in these lots often) is that they never seem very happy, and, they are all pretty skinny. Today lunch is on us, boys.
It took us all of five minutes to hand out the meals. We even got a few mumbles of "Thank you, Merry Christmas".  Just a small treat on what is probably a long day for them, but I swear even Ella was smiling as we drove away. We were really getting in to the spirit of things now.
That same day, we gave three big bags of E's gently used toys to a waiter in our favorite lunch spot. We knew he had three kids, and we also knew that Ella had more toys than she could ever play with. He was very happy to have them and she hasn't even noticed them gone. Worked out well for both parties.
C, loving on some puppies from QAWS
We paused from our little mission to give Ella a great Christmas Day. And we did have a great day.
We played, we laughed, we ate, we Skyped, we napped. Santa indeed found us!

Our last planned make-a-difference-this-Christmas activity came yesterday. This one holds a special place in my heart.
We arrived at a local animal shelter, which basically consisted of some makeshift kennel trailers strung together on a large piece of farm land on the outskirts of town, headed up by some volunteers with super huge hearts and heaps of dedication. They have over 100 animals they have to feed, walk, and care for every day.
We spent the afternoon walking different dogs and puppies out around the farm land. Talk about rewarding. We stayed till the sun went down. Ella cried half way home asking to "go walk more puppies". C wants to go back too. We may make it a regular family activity in 2012.

All in all, a really great Christmas.
No huge resolutions for me this new year... just going to try and stay focused on what matters most. It was nice to be reminded that the easiest way to make yourself happy is to do something nice for someone else. I highly recommend it - it worked like a charm for us.
Happy 2012, everyone!


  1. aww! this got me teary. nothing like doing good deeds to remind oneself how lucky we are, and how heartwarming being kind to others really can be. i am going to make an extra effort to do this more often too. great ideas and great post! xox J

  2. We miss you back home in Canada! Glad to hear you made the holidays special still! Love, Anne M.

  3. The true meaning of the Christmas Season. I do realize how blessed we are and the act of showing it, to make other happy, will be something I will try to show and do for 2012. Again you have wrote another great blog. Thanks.

  4. This is for sure the true meaning of the christmas season, I had a little cry and I realized that we do live a blessed life. thank you for sharing

  5. Outstanding Chisholms! Your story definitely touched my heart.

  6. I too find my self a bit teary eyed great times and many more ahead see you all soon. Xoxo Leanne MN

  7. I will check out this QAWS.

  8. Danny and Joanne MurphyJanuary 3, 2012 at 6:02 AM

    OK Tash! I am at work sitting in my office with tears rolling down my face! This is the true meaning of Christmas; you are setting a great example for Ella. God Bless and lots of love. Danny and Joanne xoxo

    1. Thanks Joanne- hope you guys are doing well and 2012 is treating you well! XOX