Archives for posts with tag: Doha

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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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!

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!

The weekend seems to roll around quickly. Working on a Sunday is a drag, but by the time Thursday arrives it feels like it has been a short week, woo!

Thursday before last Hubby and I had loose plans to do things, but we ended up both falling asleep separate couches due to exhaustion from the early work mornings. Yes, you should be jealous of our rock n roll lifestyle.

This weekend we had tickets. Thursday I ventured out with a colleague to the Museum of Islamic Art to watch the premier screening of one of the UK’s top 100 films of all time, The Red Shoes. Of course, being the film novice I am, I had never heard of it, which I actually felt OK about when I realised it was older than my parents. The film was opened by various dignitaries and when I heard “mayor of London” I attempted to hunt out Boris’s hair. I’d missed “The Lord Mayor” part, and was left feeling disappointed that we didn’t get to hear Boris rambling. Anyhoo, the film was part of Qatar UK 2013, with events happening in both countries – keep an eye out if you’re in the UK too.

Friday night we ventured out again, this time to see the Doha Players perform The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged). That meant 37 plays in 97 minutes, performed by 3 amateur actors. They promised a laugh a minute, and in the first half it delivered, with cultural sensitivities observed and commented on (“Dude, we can’t say that, we’re in Doha!”), plays performed in dance, rap, and all of Shakespeare’s comedies ‘rewritten’ into one very short version. Intermission provided FREE water and chocolate, yes, really, FREE. The second half was all Hamlet, with audience participation (I avoided eye contact), with the finale of shorter and yet shorter interpretations of the play. 

What was interesting in both of these is audience behaviour. I had been warned about cellphone use during movies, and people talking throughout, but at both the film and stage show people walked out. Walked. Out. Stood up from the middle of their row, got others to stand up to let them out, blocked views, and walked out.

I thought it odd, as neither was bad. But perhaps that’s it, as Westerners, or Kiwis, or Brits, we just sit through things, unless they are so bad we have to leave. Or maybe it’s just me making sure I’m not double booked. Or perhaps it’s the fact I’ve spent the money on it, and will therefore stick with it!

Have you ever walked out of a show or movie? Did you feel bad for doing so?

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.

Image

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’ve recently moved countries and appear to have a lot more time on my hands these days, and Elly suggested I try blogging. So far I have one reader, thanks Miss Elly!

You may not know me, but hey, that’s what’s this is about. Each year I try to recap what happened, but I’ve been a tad delayed this year (with the moving countries ‘n all that). 2012 turned out to be a spectacular year. So, here’s a summary, or, as I like to call it, my brag book. (Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not normally this proud, but seriously, it was pretty amazing!).

I had a great time travelling: I froze in Iceland, Bognor Regis and Sweden, and failed to snowboard at a music festival in Austria. I went back in time on the Isle of Wight, and went from lying on the beach one day to wearing a coat in north France the next. I consumed gelato in Italy, meandered through Dusseldorf and hunted street art in Berlin. I celebrated a 30th in France, had a spa break in Norfolk, a work trip to Doha, and a romantic weekend in Paris.

I saw my parents and brother for the first time since leaving New Zealand when they came to visit in the UK. We quickly slipped back into family ways and enjoyed the sights of London and Wales, but especially the Chelsea Flower Show, amazing food, and Matilda the Musical.

We were told at work we needed to find a new job as our organisation was going through a massive restructure. So, I went out and I got a new job. Then, before I started, I got offered an even better one overseas that I never thought I would.

But most importantly, I got married to the most amazing man that I was led to through a range of decisions in my past. Oh, getting married may not sound that unusual, but I never wanted to get married, and then I met hubby, but that is probably a story for another day. The fact is, we’d talked about it, then the job offer came through, and next thing you know we’re walking down the [registry office] aisle 5 weeks later.

Then came Christmas, then 2013, and next thing you know I get whisked away to my new home in Doha, Qatar.

Welcome to the desert, it sure is going to be an interesting ride!