Making this place our home wasn't her choice. She may have had something to say about our move here if she'd had a voice back then. She was just a wee little thing when she arrived on this planet, after all, and it was so very different from the one she was born on.But, she didn't complain. The world, as she knows it, is here.
She has learned to crawl, then talk and walk on this planet. She believes this is her home.
She sat on her first camel when she was 10 months old. She can identify what hummus, tabouli, fattoush and halloumi are without blinking an eye. She has come to know the distant droning of the daily calls to prayer as an expected and normal occurrence.
She knows that on her 'planet', if she runs out her back door without shoes on anytime after breakfast and before dinner to play, that the patio bricks will be so hot they'll burn the bottoms of her little feet.
Remember - shoes first.
She has sat in awe of many a sunset so huge and brilliant that she felt she could just reach out and touch them - and, she keeps trying without success, to her dismay.
Her sunglasses are not a young girl's fashion accessory for silly pictures at the pool, but a daily must-have element that, if accidentally forgotten at home, she gets very upset about. Squinting is really no fun after the first few minutes.
She doesn't really know trees, except for the palm variety. She sees pictures in her story books of all sorts of trees, big and small, green and lush, and traces their branches with her little fingers. I wonder if she wonders where all these special trees are hiding.
On her planet, there is virtually no rain. She talks about rain and umbrellas and mud puddles with an excitement only a child can muster about these sorts of things. Every day when she looks out her bedroom window hoping for a change in the weather, there sits the sun, smiling back at her. Always shining. Her constant friend.
Our physical home is surrounded by nine foot cement walls, and when inside our compound, it's much like living in a little bubble. A cement bubble, of sorts. She greets our compound security guards here like you would a postman. She sees them every single day. 'Hi, Guys.'
Her family unit is very small on this planet. Mommy, Daddy, Mercy and her Puppies. We talk about grandparents, auntie, friends and family like we talk about the rain, birthdays and Christmas time. Special things that are a bit farther away than we'd like them to be.
Her friends here are an eclectic group of little people from many other planets (and a few from this one). Planets called Canada, USA, Holland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Egypt, Lebanon and Spain. They have different shades of skin and some can even speak other languages. These friends from other planets all play the same though. Playing looks to be a universal thing, thank goodness.
On this planet, she somehow learned very early how to recognize kindness in a strangers eyes. Even the youngest of people from this planet know when two eyes are smiling at them. One doesn't need to see the rest of a face for that. Smiling eyes are very common here.
When a lady wrapped in black cloth quickly bends down to kiss her check or touch her hair and whispers "jameela" or "hallwa habibi", she always smiles back at them.
On this planet, her blond hair and blue eyes are a crowd-pleaser. Big people from planets named India, The Philippines, and China stop us and ask if they can take a picture with her. She has come to expect special treatment at restaurants and cafes, where the staff treat her with extra special attention.
So many things this little girl has seen and done here. Her home.
You can then imagine her confusion when I recently started talking about how we are going "home" soon.
Home to Canada for the summer. It might as well be an actual planet to her, it's such a far off concept. Too big for such a little girl.
E has proudly quipped 'Home is Doha. We live in Doha.' in response to my enthusiastic comments about our upcoming trip.
I have told her how she and I get to go on an airplane to Canada to visit everyone there. Her brows start to crease and she quickly corrects me: "And Daddy, and Mercy and my Puppies too. We all go to Cadan-a."
"No, hunny, just you and I. Daddy will come later and Mercy will stay home with the dogs."
This news hasn't been well received. Not yet.
But, I know she will love it.
This trip is going to be a special one for her. She is not a baby in my arms this year, but a little girl, wanting to touch and feel and explore everything her little world has to offer.
B e s t i l l m y b e a t i n g h e a r t.
This new planet - her home for this summer - the planet of my childhood - is filled with things she has never seen or done. Things she doesn't yet understand. Things that will excite and amaze her.
She will get to breath in cool fresh air. To sleep with her bedroom window open. To walk in the morning dew on the grass. To see ACTUAL grass... fields and hills of it just waiting for her to run and play. She'll get to spot local wildlife. And the trees... just wait until she sees all the trees.
She'll get to walk through as many mud puddles as we can find, and turn her sweet face toward the sky so that she can feel the rain on her cheeks. Because you can bet it will rain there. She'll feel strangely cold some mornings because she only knows warm. Cold will be such a new sensation. There will be no air conditioning needed.
She will sit by a bonfire this summer and listen to songs and stories. She'll see the night sky without a haze of sand clouding the stars. She will swim in the ocean. She will go for evening drives with her grandparents who will spoil her with ice cream treats. She will get bitten by mosquitoes. She will scrape her knees while playing with her new little friends from Cadan-a. She will laugh and dance and build sand castles with the children of our childhood friends. This may be the summer that their friendships are solidified for life. She will be 'just an ordinary kid' like every other child in the restaurants we dine in. Wow.
This new planet is filled with people that love her more than she can imagine. People who will not only smile with their eyes, but their whole bodies when they get to see her again. People she will love so much more by the end of this summer.
I can't wait to take her there. I wish we could all go together. It's been a year since I have been home, to my 'planet'. A year is too long to stay away. Two more weeks to go. It will drag on, and then strangely, I know our summer will seem to fly by.
Hopefully, this will be the only summer we won't all go together. Maybe our planets won't be so far apart next year.
Two more weeks!