Archives for the month of: March, 2013

This Greek dude, Heraclitus, once said “Everything flows, nothings stands still”, which has since been quoted in its various permutations around the globe.

Qatar is definitely not a country standing still. Rapid change is in progress, there are a multitude of significant governmental and environmental changes happening. Strategies are being developed and implemented. New staff are being imported. Qataris are stepping up and in to new exciting jobs and now have more opportunity than ever before. Change is why I’m in Doha.

The change is amazing. Drive just slightly out from the centre of Doha and you get an idea of what ‘old Doha’ was like. You suddenly see the sand and rocks, and realise that yes, you are living in a desert. As an example, I’m borrowing a picture from Doha News that shows Doha in 1975. The pyramid building is the Sheraton, still being built.

West Bay, Doha, 2011

West Bay, Doha, 2011

Above, my photo from November 2011, shows the Sheraton on the far right. Doesn’t that just blow your mind?!

I’m here to drive change initiatives and am ready for some push back while people get used to new ways of working and develop an understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing. Relationships are key. What I wasn’t expecting was so much change to happen to me!

You learn to adapt, to bounce back, to vent when you need to, and when to voice your opinions. And sometimes you realise you shouldn’t leap straight to the next idea as everything might change again in 10 minutes.

And sometimes you realise you’re going to be away for two weeks, and just let the changes roll over you.

2013 will be defined as a year of challenge and change. Bring it!

[While writing this, TED posted an article: The courage to believe change is possible: A Q&A with Melinda Gates about the Positive Disruption TedxChange theme for April, check it out maybe?]

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I once said that I was leaving [on a jet plane] and didn’t know when I’d be back again. But now I know and the answer is Friday! THIS FRIDAY! Yes New Zealand, I will be back for a a couple of weeks. I am blonder, perhaps slightly off-white, and no taller (or shorter, I hope).

Tonight is the night we jet set from Doha to Auckland, to endure a 24+ hour journey via Bangkok. I naively thought that since Emirates fly via Dubai, I’d almost be halfway home. This was a lie but it’ll be worth it.

[Tip: booking from Doha to Auckland on Emirates is actually cheaper than booking Dubai to Auckland, so being sneaky and booking a cheap flight to Dubai doesn’t work! Consider mixing airlines as they have worked out cheaper and quicker for us.]

I haven’t seen the green green grass of home for nearly 2.5 years, meaning I haven’t seen a lot of my family or friends during that time either. I’ve changed a little – I mean, I surprised even myself and got married then moved to the Middle East. No one would have guessed that would happen!

Green grass has turned to brown, clinging onto cracked dirt desperate for a drink. While I am hoping that the weather remains dry and sunny, I’m from the ‘countryside’ where we’re still on rain water from a tank in the garden, and Mum has threatened that we may be bathing in the river if it doesn’t rain any time soon.

My concerns lay with NZ Day 1, where I leave Hubby to fend for himself on my friend’s stag do. Much beer will be consumed, and who knows where they’ll end up, or how he’s going to cope with jet lag!

We’ve got catch ups organised, trips away booked, rugby to watch, and a wedding to attend, not to mention an important birthday (you can provide your present ideas to Hubby here). I’m most excited about seeing Nana and introducing her to Hubby for the first time, turning up to bowling to hang out with my friends, and seeing my friend’s face when his bride walks down the aisle!

Now it’s time to pack, jump on a plane, and arrive in time to crack open a crisp cider on my parent’s deck. (Mum, if you’re reading this, a Monteiths crushed apple cider would be great!)

See you on the other side!

*SQUEEEEEEEE* <—- that’s me, all excited like.

Who said it doesn’t rain in the desert?!

In the last week it has rained on about 3 different days. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve had more rain here than in drought-ridden New Zealand. Meanwhile, it’s snowing in the UK.

Wet Doha is Wet

A Winter’s Morning in Doha

Oddness!

fear /fi(ə)r/

Noun An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Verb Be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening: “farmers fear that they will lose business”.
Synonyms
noun. dread – fright – apprehension – funk – awe – alarm
verb. be afraid – dread – apprehend – funk – be afraid of
____________________

OK, the word ‘fear’ is a bit dramatic. Worried, concerned, or even scared might cover it. Anxious is a bit closer.

I’m taking Hubby home, to my home, to New Zealand for the first time. We’ve had very different upbringings – him, a reasonably privileged private school boy. Me, a semi-rural girl with an RD postal address.

He’s about to enter my world. To see where I grew up, the family home, and what he terms the ‘yacht club’. Hubby is being thrown in the deep end straight into my friend’s stag do with guys he’s never met before on our first day in NZ. Sink or swim! (Or drown with jet lag).

While he’s met my parents and brother, he has yet to be approved by my wider family, especially Nana. No drinking from the bottle now!

On the flipside, he will see the beauty of my world. The lush greenery (providing it rains before we get there!), the beaches, the winding roads. He’ll get to meet some of my favourite and treasured people. I’ll get to play tour guide and show him my favourite places. And I may even get to push him off a bridge.

Despite what he thinks once we’re there, we’re married, my world is now he. And he’s stuck with it!

Where’s the fear in that?

Following my previous anti-racism rant I received another email in response to my request to stop forwarding, with the subject “Who the hell is <<insert name>>?”. Now, the ‘hell’ was quite unnecessary, and I disregarded the contents of the email that went on about how I am a pompous individual (seriously, for asking to stop sending racist emails? Sure, whatever), and instead I focussed on the key question – who am I?

As I approach my 30th birthday you would think it an easy question to answer.

Who are you?

You can answer with your name, age, nationality, location (a/s/l?), but that barely scrapes the surface. Go a little deeper – What do you do? What do you enjoy doing? And deeper still – your beliefs, passions, morals and values. What would you stand up and fight for? What do you fear?

Not all that easy, are they?

Who are you? Read the rest of this entry »

I often receive forwarded emails which end up being instantaneously deleted the second I can judge the tone of the subject and know that I will disagree with the contents. However, there was one sitting in my inbox yesterday, still bold and unread. I opened it.

I’m pretty cool about a lot of stuff, but this email really got to me, entitled “British Wish List”. I won’t relay the entire email here as I don’t want to be seen as supporting it in any way. I replied to the sender (actually, replied to all, because I don’t believe I’m the only one who thinks it inappropriate) asking them to stop forwarding racist emails. I was promptly responded to with “I think this is what 90% of the ENGLISH/WELSH/SCOTTISH population agree with!!”, and another informing me it was what the ‘majority’ of British people thought, and therefore, assumed I was not British. I tossed and turned last night, furious at the response, as what they didn’t realise is that they were talking about me and most of the people I knew in the UK.

I did a quick poll of the Brits around me (luckily my reading of this coincided with the English vs. Wales Six Nations game) and found that 0% of those around me agreed with the contents, 100% were shocked. Now I admit that my quick poll was biased as we’re no longer in Britain, but most of us have only left recently.

So I want to know, are you the 10%?

Read the rest of this entry »

A colleague and I were armed for our second attempt at obtaining a Qatar drivers license. We had all of our weapons aligned – newly signed letters, photocopies of every possible identification, originals of everything, and our eye tests ready.

We jumped in a taxi and headed out to the traffic department.

Entering with trepidation and our fingers crossed, we hoped that this time we would get what we came for.

We were handed a number and waited for only a few seconds before being called up to the counter. The lady reviewed the paperwork, removed the English copies and other bits that were not needed, asked for a photo and payment, and my colleague’s license was printed before my paperwork had been completely processed.

We exited, licenses in hand, and smiles on our faces. Success!

Total time: 10 minutes.

And that folks, is how the system is supposed to operate!

The Doha Film Institute (DFI) hosted the first French cinema week at Katara during 7-13 March. I’m not one who tends to go to the movies, I don’t enjoy the cinema experience, and never remember films I’ve seen or who the actors even are. I’m well known for saying “I haven’t seen that” followed 10 minutes later by “Oh, yeah, this and that happens…”.

There were two films that struck interest in me: Amour – which I recognised from the actress Emmanuelle Riva having been nominated for best actress at the Oscars, and The Intouchables which a friend positively reviewed.

Amour was emotional, and we were warned to have tissues at the ready. It brought me almost to the peak of sadness in some scenes, but moved on to another scene right in time before any tears had a chance to form. My colleague and I left feeling a little sad and commented about “something to look forward to”, growing old and such.

I dragged Hubby along to The Intouchables, and he was concerned it was going to be another depressing movie and he wasn’t that interested. It turned out to be a heart warming and funny tale of two men, we laughed a lot and yet were touched – I highly recommend seeing it if you have the opportunity.

I’m still not a movie buff and won’t head to the cinema for any old mainstream movie, but would much rather snuggle on the couch at home. However, I will be keeping an eye out for future DFI events as the ones I have attended so far have been great, and reasonably priced too!

How to exchange your British license in Qatar:

  1. Get an eye test. You can do this at the licensing centre, but to skip the queues you can pay (30QR) for this at an optician who will complete an application form for you, complete the test, and stamp over your photo.
  2. Get a taxi into the desert to the licensing centre.
  3. Go to the driving license section (door number 3).
  4. Wait for a man to give you a Qmatic number.
  5. Sit and wait for your number to be called.
  6. Go to the counter.
  7. Get told you need to have an eye test. Show your eye test, then get told it needs to be stamped.
  8. Leave the building, cross the car park, walk to the eye testing section (door number 7).
  9. Look confused and lost, get told to go down to the other end. Find optometrist playing on Blackberry (i.e. no queue). Optometrist informs you that you need a stamp, which they don’t have. Go back to main desk.
  10. Pay the man behind the desk another 30QR to supply a stamp. This is for the privilege to receive a date stamp and receipt number on your eye test.
  11. Receive a copy of A Driving Guide with road rules for Qatar. (A recommended read “Children are difficult to see because of their smaller size and they often do unexpected things. Drivers need to watch out for children at all times.” pg 67, A Driving Guide)
  12. Get told to go back to door number 3.
  13. Cross over the car park, avoiding the men asking if you need help with the process (they will take you around and charge you for this).
  14. Wait to receive a new number.
  15. Continue to wait because there’s no one there.
  16. Wait a bit longer before your hand finally slips behind the desk to press the button for yourself and another two people waiting.
  17. Sit and wait for your number to be called.
  18. Go to the counter.
  19. Hand over all of your paperwork (eye test, original and copies of your passport, license, and Qatari ID, a letter from your employer stating that you are allowed to drive (English & Arabic), and passport photos. Basically provide every possible thing to say who you are in original and duplicate form, with copies of front and back).
  20. The licensing rep will review your paperwork.
  21. The licensing rep will compare signatures on the English letter, the Arabic letter, and the company certificate to confirm you are are allowed to drive.
  22. The licensing rep will tell you the signatures don’t match, and one is missing.
  23. You will point out to the missing signature (it’s on the next page with the end of the letter), and that the signatures are the same, one is just bigger than the other.
  24. The licensing rep will tell you the signatures don’t match.
  25. You consider pressing the matter further, but decide against it as they’re just doing their job and following process.
  26. You walk away, exasperated.
  27. You email your employer telling them your tale of rejection and request a new letter.
  28. Your employer is shocked that their signature is no longer their signature, and welcomes you to Qatar.
  29. You receive new copies of your letter and start the process again. Hoping that this time, you will make it out with a new license.

Not to be used as an exact pathway to convert your license, but a humorous guide as to what you may encounter. Make sure you’re thorough and have every document you may possibly need – more is better, just in case!

We arrived at Katara Beach by Karwa (taxi). Unsure exactly where the Drama Theatre was, we asked a man passing on a golf cart who promptly told us to jump on. The Drama Theatre was at the opposite end of Katara Beach from the taxi rank, so we enjoyed the mini ride between the side alleys and amongst people wandering along the beach front.

On arrival we joined a few people milling around the foyer, avoided having our photo taken, and headed in ready for the show. We took our cheap seats near the back of the theatre and waited. A few more people wandered through, but the theatre remained mostly empty. Finally it was time for the show to start, but before it did we were all told to move forward – bonus, paying for a cheap seat and moving up front!

However, it saddened me to see the theatre only a third or so full to see international opera singers Veronique Mercier (soprano) and Gian Luca Pasolini (tenor), accompanied by Massimiliano Bullo on piano. A lack of promotion, a difficulty in the purchasing process, and a delay in printing of the tickets meant this was not a sold out affair, but instead, an intimate show.

I was a little sceptical and concerned the singing may send me into slumber. My musical background lies in 1990s alt-rock, whereas Hubby is a long-time opera fan, and therefore thrilled to see opera in Doha. Since we started dating I have seen a few operas, but I never quite ‘get’ them, often finding myself getting bored, or hoping the ending comes soon (tip: it doesn’t).

Opera Emotions presented a range of the best songs from various operas, and a Puccini wrap up. Now, if you’re anything like me and have absolutely no idea who Puccini is, what he did, or even how to pronounce his name, apparently it was pretty exciting (although he’s seen as being in second place to Verdi) and Hubby was ecstatic. Think Madame Butterfly, Tosca, or La Boheme. Both singers performed beautifully, and it was wonderful to see the emotion on their faces, and be close enough to see the acting that went alongside it. It turns out, I even recognised quite a few of the songs and felt my skin tingle with the performance.

Opera Emotions in Doha

Opera Emotions, 5 March 2013, Katara Drama Theatre

Overall it was a beautiful show, and the right length for me to enjoy the opera.

Bravo!