Archives for the month of: February, 2013

Numbers excite me, I’m not going to lie. Watching the graph displaying how many visitors and how many views I’ve had on my various posts is even more exciting. Then reading the details of how you all ended up here… well, some of that is just plain entertaining.

So, hello to my readers from far reaches of the globe, to the one reader who stumbled over my blog from Martinique (yes, I had to google it too!). To my friends, family and others from the UK and New Zealand. And to people I may or may not know in North America, the Middle East, and across Asia.

Kia ora to readers who have followed my Twitter or Facebook links, and especially to those who were looking for something different. To Kiwis looking for jobs in Doha (keep looking and don’t give up!) and to those of you who hoped to find something on homosexuality or love or both.

The numbers of you are small, but encourage me nonetheless. Hubby won’t let me check his blog stats as he believes it would only encourage me and spur me on further. Frankly, I think he’s just scared of losing.

TAIT: Thank Allah It’s Thursday. I’m off to enjoy my weekend, stare at some more numbers, and plot a graph or two, safe in the knowledge my true geekdom has been exposed.

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An initial meeting with a stranger, a chat, commonalities, a loose bond, an acquaintance, and eventually a friend.

As an adult these steps are difficult. We are no longer forced into social contact with strangers through school or university, and we do not want to rely on work colleagues for socialising. How does a grown up make friends?

In the past it has been through courses or hobbies [the Internet counts, right?], or friends of friends, all recent arrivals in a strange land. Now I am in an even stranger land, with different cultures and languages. Alcohol is not readily available to break the ice, and socialising is often done through private dinner parties.

As a woman at a bar you are likely to be hit on by men wanting more than a chat, and it’s genuinely difficult to form platonic relationships when the male to female ratio is so skewed. This also means it’s difficult to make female friends, as there are so few in comparison. A large proportion of women are mothers, meaning they socialise in a different circle.

Many people are only in Doha for a short period of time, 6 months to 1 year, and it would be easy to slip into that mindset “I’m only here for a year, why should I bother?”. You have to force yourself.

We’re on the lookout for interesting courses and hobbies, clubs and exercise options. Things we can do together. Activities we can do separately.

Because, as much as we love spending time with each other, Hubby and I cannot spend a year isolating ourselves.

Do you have suggestions of fun things we can try? How do you make new friends now you’re a ‘grown up’?

I’m bored.

Work has not yet kicked into gear, and sitting on our hands while decisions are being made is  difficult. I can at least connect to the office WiFi with my personal tablet, but many websites are blocked (in fact, the whole “social networking” category!). Doing nothing is exhausting.

Then I pootle home to my apartment. It’s dark and cool, and combined with the early morning wake up, it makes me sleepy. Hubby usually arrives a couple of hours later, and I spend that time attempting to stave off sleep, sometimes unsuccessfully.

We’ve so easily and quickly slipped into the hum-drum of daily life in Doha. Hubby describes our yawn-worthy routine here. I have hobbies that I have packed up and brought over. Calligraphy ink sitting unopened, my camera missing daily use, my ukulele requiring a complete tune-up, and my boxing gloves wishing they were punching something. The gym is downstairs, swimming pools are in the same building. Yet I lack the motivation to actually do anything.

I’m Boring

I will leave you with the words of The Mint Chicks – You’re Bored Because You’re Boring

If you're bored, probably being boring

I left you the other day with the thoughts of things I dislike. Of course, living in the desert is not all doom and gloom (for it’s too sunny, you see).

Doha Likes:

1. Living with Hubby – I’m contractually obliged to have this on the list (plus he’s in the room as I type this). No longer do I have to pack an overnight bag, travel between houses, or buy duplicates. What? Were you expecting something more romantic? He feeds me too.

2. The Sun – “the sun will come out tomorrow” and the day after and the day after that. Apparently it occasionally rains, and when it does mothers are scared of their children getting wet and therefore getting sick. Even when the weather is ‘bad’ it’s usually mist or dust, or perhaps a little windy, but the sun is still visible. Every city looks better when the sun shines, plus it means I get my dose of vitamin D and avoid the SAD.

3. Fresh n Fruity – being devoid of booze is OK by me, and what I love is their replacement with fresh, fruity, tasty drinks. Non-alcoholic mojitos in various flavours, fresh fruit cocktails with layers of mango, strawberry, melon, avocado (yes, avocado!). They are delicious!

4. The Local – as mentioned, the shopping mall is a short walk away. While I dislike the shopping part, I do appreciate the fact we have a large supermarket so close to us. No longer do I have to battle the small Metro or Express and complain when they don’t have everything I need!

4a. Condoms – yeah yeah, laugh away, but seriously, I was surprised that condoms are so freely available. Sex is illegal unless you’re married (it’s only illegal if you get caught), so imagine my surprise on Valentine’s day to see a large display of condoms in the local supermarket. For such a conservative society, the fact these are available on the promo aisle with a large sign ‘Prices from the Heart’ was pretty liberal. Of course, we can all imagine what’s going on behind closed doors, so it’s good to see they acknowledge this and take sexual health seriously.

5. The Corniche – while walking is generally not the done thing, you can walk along the 7.5km stretch of the corniche, a wide pedestrian footpath which wraps around the bay. As you meander you take in the smell of the ocean, the old against the backdrop of the new, the beautiful architecture, and the dhow boats covered in fairy lights, bobbing along awaiting passengers. It’s also a great place to people watch – groups of men holding hands, women walking, listening to music and talking in groups, people exercising on the free outdoor equipment, and children cycling with their training wheels on.

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West Bay, Doha from across the Corniche
KiwiinQatar, November 2012

6. Souq WaqifSouq Waqif is the main souq/market in Doha. Apparently it is the most touristy, but there are so many locals in the souq you cannot really tell. The smell of spices surrounds you as you wander through. You can sit, eat, drink, and people watch.

7. Taxis – taxis are cheap here, with the minimum cost of 10QR, less than £2 or NZ$4. Imagine getting a car to yourself for less than the price of a zone 1 journey on the tube!

8. Driving – driving is a definite option here, once which I am still seriously considering. Yes, it seems intimidating, but the fact that it’s a real prospect is exciting.

9. Family Oriented – the Doha lifestyle actually reminds me of life in New Zealand. Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world (probably due to the fact that if you do anything wrong you can be deported immediately). It’s also a very family focussed culture. This means families are out together, children can wander further away from their parents without need to worry, groups of families are picnicking along the corniche, and everything is quite relaxed. It’s a contrast from London where parents are paranoid, rushing and tense. While I don’t have a family [Hubby has been threatened if he says ‘not yet’ again] I can appreciate that this wouldn’t be a bad place to have one.

10. Shiny and New – I’m still a newbie in Doha, there’s so much more to do and see. Cultural differences to understand and respect. Other countries to travel to. People to meet. And that’s pretty exciting.

“This is the dream and we’re living it.” – Hubby

This is my fifth week in Doha, and we had all been warned that we would experience highs and lows throughout our time here.

Today I present my Doha Dislikes:

1. Doha Dust – dust kicks up and whips around you, getting up your nose, in your eyes, and leaves a gritty feeling in your mouth. Being in the desert this is not unexpected. However, the majority of the dust is from the growing concrete jungle all around.

2. Constant Construction  it never stops. A concrete skeleton has been erected outside of our apartment, and the constant droning is the white noise we fall asleep to. Construction workers work shifts to enable the work to continue through the night.

3. Labourer Treatment  – the worker ants are throughout the city, recognisable in blue overalls, rushing around to complete the multitude of projects around. Being only worker ants, they are treated as such, with few rights. There are ‘family’ areas of the city that these single male workers cannot enter. They can attend one health centre and the queue extends down the road, which is fine in winter, but imagine being sick and standing outside in 50 degree heat. However, something must attract them here, and keep them here. Many have left their homes and families. Many send money home to support them. I wonder, would money be enough?

4. Needing Approval – you need approval for everything. Your employer must supply a letter stating you can open a bank account. That you can exchange your drivers licence for a Qatar licence. That you can apply for a liquor licence.

5. American English – it hurts to use ‘z’, drop ‘u’, and write ‘center’.

6. Roundabouts – they still scare me. Seriously, which lane do you want? All of them? Oh, no, you just want to exit from the middle. Sigh.

7. Speed – some things are painfully slow. You hang around waiting and waiting. For example, our work laptops were ordered in November, and we’re still computer-less. But then things suddenly happen, or they want things to have been done yesterday.

8. Disrespect – I’m a woman in non-traditional clothing, but covered up. Do not toot at me when I am trying to cross the road. Do not slow down beside me because you don’t believe in walking. Do not leer at me because I’m on the street. And do not think that I am a working girl just because the directions to get to work involve the words ‘Radisson Blu’.

9. Shopping – I shop like a man, only when I need something, and I like to go directly to the shop I need and get in and out as quickly as possible. Shopping is a national past time here, and while having a large mall just down the road from us is convenient, it’s unfortunate that it’s the closest ‘thing to do’. I am not sure dislike of shopping will decrease over time, so for now I’m trying to get in and out for necessities only.

10. Hands Tied – you can’t book anything until you have your work visa and exit permit approved, and while I have mine Hubby has not yet started the process. It’s making me twitchy. I’m desperate to get home in April for a week of celebrations and another of travel, to introduce Hubby to family and friends, and to show him where I grew up and how beautiful New Zealand is. I hate not having any travel plans in the diary, and as soon as everything is approved I am booking!

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great things about being here as well. But I’ll save that for the next episode!

I was nervous, ridiculously nervous. I had just moved into the apartment and unpacked the essentials (wedding photo, Pon & Zi, Mrs Hubby dressing gown). I then sat fidgeting. Wandered aimlessly around the apartment. Leapt every time my phone beeped.

And finally, “I’m outside”.

I couldn’t have moved faster. I hadn’t even checked I looked presentable before racing down.

After lugging all 4 suitcases to the room he surveyed the premises. “Good work Wifey”.

And all was right with the world again.

I’ve been living the single life for the last 4 weeks in Doha. That might lead you to believe that I’ve been partying hard, staying out all hours, and experimenting with all the new things.

In reality it means eating cereal for dinner, watching terrible movies, going to bed early, and not needing to shave my legs.

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life, so to speak. I’m super excited about moving into my our apartment where I can finally unpack and begin to get settled in life here.

Tomorrow is also the day when hubby arrives. I should be more excited, but am reserving that just in case anything happens and he doesn’t make it (I’m shaking my fist at you, London snow). All my excitement was burnt out when his move was delayed on the weekend.

Tomorrow I start my life living with a boy. Oh, sure, I was flatting with boys, but there just aren’t that many Bob’s in the world, ya know? And we’ve done things differently, having never lived together, getting married, then separating before finally committing to the same household.

It’s been 4 weeks since we last saw each other – what happens if we suddenly don’t like each other? If hubby realises he can’t handle my terrible puns? If I can’t handle his desperation for a booze and pork license?

I worry about things that don’t even warrant worrying about. In fact, sometimes I have nothing to worry about, so I start making things up to worry about. Today is one of those moments.

Tomorrow I will move into our apartment, unpack, and make our new home. Hubby will arrive and everything is going to be just fine.

Tomorrow is just the beginning.

Today is National Sports Day in Qatar, a public holiday where sport and physical activity is promoted. People were out in force, enjoying the ‘winter’ weather (high of 28 degrees Celsius), walking along the corniche, and enjoying the activities around Doha.

The population of Qatar is only 26% female (Statistics Authority, January, 2013). [Interestingly, even though there are plenty of men to go around, it’s accepted for men to have multiple wives. But that’s a topic for another day.]

Today it certainly felt like I was in the minority.

Groups of men were everywhere, walking arm in arm, hand in hand, fingers interlocked, or arms wrapped around each other while listening to live music. There was a lot of man love. But let me clarify, they are not homosexual. In fact, homosexuality is illegal here, as per Islamic law.

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Holding hands is a sign of friendship or respect among males.

This isn’t the first time I have seen man love, but it is the first time I have seen man love when sober.

New Zealand males do it differently. Add alcohol and suddenly ‘man piles’ occur, and I quickly make my escape before threats of nudity or flashing are carried out. I doubt they would ever hold hands while walking along the beach front.

[Edit: I stand corrected, a NZ male friend was holding hands and skipping through waves on a beach on the weekend.]

It’s also not that acceptable for couples to hold hands in public here, some couples do, but it’s not really the done thing. Groups of women also don’t touch like males do.

What are your thoughts of men holding hands? Men, would you ever hold your mate’s hand in public?

Share your man love moments!

Last week I was beginning to get excited at the prospect of actually seeing my husband. We’ve been married two months now, and have spent less than half of that time actually together. Unfortunately my excitement was premature, and his arrival has been delayed due to visa issues. You see, you have to get used to these sorts of things – in general life is pretty relaxed, you won’t get answers until the last minute, and then suddenly things are rushed through.

An example is eating out, they are slow to serve you, but even slower to bring you the bill. Your waiter won’t dare to come over and ask if you’d like anything else, nor will they rush you out. It’s actually quite nice for a lazy weekend lunch, but sometimes you just wish they’d hurry or let you order another drink.

The exception is driving. If you don’t move as soon as that light turns green, you’ll know about it! Drivers here are not shy to toot, race along, and change lanes at will. Most roads are a minimum speed of 80km/h, with many at 100km/h. And let me tell you, it’s pretty scary racing along at 100km and seeing a queue of traffic stopped ahead of you!

Yesterday I committed to living a year in a building in West Bay, an expensive shiny new part of Doha. I opted for ease and availability rather than trying to save a couple of thousand riyals. And to be honest, options were pretty limited! I move in this Thursday, and am pretty excited to unpack and use a washing machine (washing your knickers in the kitchen sink gets tiring after a while!).

Coincidentally, Thursday [also known as as the commercial day called ‘Valentines’] is when hubby is meant to arrive, so he gets to move straight into our ready-made living quarters without suffering through a month of hotel living and apartment hunting. Lucky thing.

Hilarious updates to follow on my experiences living with my husband for the first time. Yes yes, comedy gold is about to happen!

But for now, time to partake in a Doha past time – a dinner party with colleagues.

I live in a desert.

I live in a desert, but you probably wouldn’t know it.

There is greenery, trees, grass and birds. It’s currently about the same temperature as summer at home, and it rarely rains here. While you ponder how the grass is still green you feel a light dusting of water. The sprinklers are on.

West Bay is one of most fake areas. It’s so brand spanking new, buildings are still going up, footpaths stop midway, and the architecture is astounding. This area barely existed 10 years ago. Now it’s full of people from all over, mostly heading towards the City Center shopping mall.

Malls didn’t exist here previously. Rumour has it that prior to shopping malls, people used to go to the doctor to ‘hang out’ in the air conditioning, as there was no where else to go in summer. Now you can conduct your shopping in air conditioned comfort.

The local population is actually tiny, with far more international workers than locals. I am probably exposed to a much higher percentage of Qataris because of my workplace. And locals don’t live in West Bay.

I need to get out of here. I need to go beyond the façade.

Come on Qatar, show me the real you!