Saturday, March 29, 2014

Goodbye Qatar

Goodbye Doha!
Goodbyes are often tough. And I have been avoiding this one for quite some time. I knew I had to do it. I have been meaning to do it. I have had the best of intentions. But...well... it is bittersweet to close this door, even though I have long since stepped through another passage, and have gotten quite comfy in my new digs.

It has been almost exactly one year since my last blog post. I can't quite believe time has managed to pass at such an alarming rate. These posts have been quietly sitting on a back shelf in my brain, allowing me to busy myself with this current chapter of life.
But once and a while, my dear old blog-friend would shake the sand off and have me notice these words that I once felt very strongly about, and I would get a reminder about something I had written. A significant piece of my life that now seems to have gone by so quickly.

In the weeks leading up to our departure from Qatar, I was so busy. Busy packing. Busy fretting about two babies on a plane for 20+ hours. Busy making plans for the summer and the immediate future. Brimming over with excitement and anticipation of things to come.
I did my rounds - saying my goodbyes to people I knew I may never see again - people that were in my life a few short years, but I know I will never forget their faces. In quiet moments, I'll hear their voices in my head for years to come.

Mercy, who cared about my precious babies like they were her own. Seeing her heartbroken face as we drove away from our villa for the last time still fills my eyes with tears.

Jeff, who left a potted plant on our front door step the morning we brought our son home from the hospital. He would stop by at the end of his shift in our compound just to say 'hi' to our kids because I know it made him feel closer to his own, who were miles away.

My small eclectic group of fellow expat wives who, under any normal circumstance, would have taken me years to get to know. Women I may not have chosen to get to know at all, had I been in any other situation.  The very same women I listed as family members on the emergency contact form at my daughters school.  Those who I cried to and laughed with as we each made Qatar home. Women who today, I can say belong in that part of my heart reserved for only very dear friends, no matter the length of our friendship or miles between us.

I used to complain about Qatar. Sometimes bitterly. I would moan about the horrific drivers on the roads, the endless construction, or the never ending heat.  I spent so much time being angry at the lack of equality and labor standards for poor workers. I lost sleep over the countless number of stray, abused and abandoned animals who couldn't be helped as there were just far too many of them and far too few resources. The tiered manner of existence in Qatar was an especially hard pill to swallow some days.

Sometimes, in the midst of my day to day living that was often filled with small-tasks-turned-enormous, like searching three different grocery stores in order to find one box of Honey Nut Cheerios, or waiting a half day to see a doctor with whom I had scheduled an appointment with a full month in advance, I would lose sight of the blessings. Because those were just as numerous as the negatives, even though I didn't always so easily see them. Often, only time can remind you of those little gems.

The gifts served to me on a shiny gold expat platter when I arrived in Qatar.

My husband worked a mere forty or fifty hours a week, with a fifteen minute commute each day. He actually belonged to us during our life in Doha. He wasn't sucked into a vortex of five lane freeway traffic every single day. He worked in a place that had limits on the time one spent at the office. Our weekends were ours to spend as we wanted. Rare was the need to head in to work on a Saturday morning. Very different from what we were once used to, and have again become accustomed to.

The importance of a hand written letter from a far off friend deserves mention as it was always such an unexpected delight. To those reading this, please know that a tangible piece of home - a few words scribbled on a three week late Christmas card, or an "I'm thinking of you" note out of the blue - those things turned lonely days into happy ones. There were days when walking to that stuffy, halogen-lit mail room and seeing my name scribbled in a familiar script would literally lift me for days. Paper wings. The little gifts and cards on special occasions held such meaning to us while we were in Doha. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Last morning in Qatar,  06/2013
Qatar was a most excellent spring board from which to see the world. The vacations we took will always be some of my very favorite experiences. Those memories will be my 'go to' thoughts in times of stress. Having since been back to traveling with North American airlines, I now long for the real hot towels and three course meals of Qatar Airlines when I board.

The life we experienced while in Qatar was so very cyclical, which I came to love and loathe all at the same time.  The delightfully cool winter evenings which begged for outdoor activities and backyard gatherings, the jam packed restaurant patios in early spring, the sandstorms that seemed to last for days, and the sweltering heat in the summer. The strange role shopping malls came to play in how my week was shaped is something only another person who has lived in Qatar can relate to. The tennis tournaments, the black tie events, and the Eid plans that were made months in advance kept everything flowing in the right direction. In the absence of true seasons, the passage of time each year was marked with social events and sporting tickets.

It was indeed a mixed bag of experiences. It changed me. It changed everyone in my family.  Qatar was on the cusp of more massive changes when we departed, and I am guessing that much has changed this past year. We experienced life in a country that was literally being built up around us. I often wonder what it will look like in ten more years - if those dusty back roads I once traveled will even exist anymore.

So long, Qatar. I am a better person thanks to you.  Maybe we will meet again one day. 

"Why do you go away? So that you can come back someday. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there will see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." - T.Pratchett


  1. Canada still misses you! Thanks for the final post. Hoping to hear more of your new adventure! LC

  2. The first time I read this, I was too emotional to write a comment, and had to leave it for a few days. Now, going back to it, it still brings tears to my eyes. You’ve so beautifully conveyed not only your experience living here, but mine and I’m sure that of many others as well. That love-hate (or maybe it’s only like-dislike) relationship we expats have with this place is not easy to put into words. But I guess once we call it “home”, we’re never the same. Thanks for the awesome farewell post. Doha misses you… I miss you! xo

    1. Desert Mama - how I miss you too! Write on your blog more often so I can keep up with the happenings in the Big Q! xox