My natural instinct as I drove through them in early Doha days was to close my eyes and pray.Read More
With a few unpracticed and child-like strokes, I was able to convey in full colour today's Doha driving madness. How very cathartic to capture 3 hours' distress in 15 minutes' creative release.Read More
There is a blessed perspective and a bellyful of laughs that come from having an 8-year-old around the house. Here are just a few snippets of conversation with her that manage to make us giggle and keep us grounded:
Me: "I just did 20 roll ups."
Kiddo: "They looked like regular sit-ups to me."
Me: "I've been trying to get these right for months."
Kiddo: "You'll have to do a lot more if you wanna catch up."
On My Blog
Me: "Hey, Smilin' Vic, Kiddo, I have 4 subscribers."
Smilin' Vic: "Cool."
Kiddo: "What are subscribers?"
Me: "People who want to read my blog."
Kiddo: "Cool, then they can use your ideas."
Me: "I guess."
Kiddo: "So you only have 4 subscribers in THE WHOLE WORLD?"
Me: (heavy sigh) "Yeah ... "
On Food Choices
Me: "If you don't eat meat, it's hard to get all your protein and be healthy. "
Kiddo: "Just because you want to eat something that was happier alive doesn't mean I have to. Can I just have beans, please? "
Kiddo: "How come women have to wear tops but men don't always?"
Me: "Because men don't have breasts."
Kiddo: "I saw men with boobs at the beach."
Me: "Are you done your homework?"
Kiddo: "Maman, how come people have to die?"
Me (thinking hard): "Because you start to get pretty bored of living once you're past a hundred or so."
Kiddo (thinking hard): "I'm pretty sure I'd rather be bored."
On Desert Fashion
Kiddo: "I'm happy you don't have to wear an abaya, Maman."
Me: "Why's that?"
Kiddo: "Because then no one would get to see your new bra."
Me (silently, in my head): "Note to self: Ditch the shirt ... apparently it's transparent in sunlight."
On Driving in Doha
Me (in the front seat to Smilin' Vic): "Is that driver crazy, blind, or both?"
Kiddo (in the back seat): "I don't think blind crazy people are allowed to drive in Canada, are they Maman?"
Smilin' Vic and Me: sorry, this part was unintelligible through the peals of laughter ...
On Driving in Doha, Part 2
Kiddo: "Why is there always so much traffic in Doha?"
Me: "I don't know ... the roads are too small, there are too many cars, no trains ..."
Kiddo: "Maybe it's 'cause the crazy blind people drive really slow."
Me (silently, in my head): "Time to really start watching my big mouth around Kiddo."
On Michelle Pfeiffer
Kiddo: "Maman, that lady looks just like you."
Me: "And that, my child, is why you will go far in life."
There's just something so crazy great about an eight-year-old's perspective.
I think I'll call this first day on the job a resounding success. Everything went quite smoothly.
Except for traffic.
I dropped Kiddo off at summer camp an hour before I was meant to present at HR. Since her summer camp is a short five-minute drive from the office (literally 2.5 km), I was sure this was more than enough of a time cushion, even for Doha.
Smooth sailing until I veered into the far left lane preparing for the final u-turn before my destination. It had taken me barely 20 minutes to make it that far. Plenty of time to spare.
Or so you would think.
For the next 32 minutes, I sat in that same spot, staring directly across the street at the parking lot meant to harbor my car as I went off to earn some dosh. I watched as the four police officers at the intersection stopped all but oncoming traffic for 32 minutes. I watched as the left-turn traffic light turned green, then amber, then red, then green, then amber, then red, then green ... you get the picture.
I fumed in my car as the other cars corralled around me honked their horns ceaselessly. I resisted the urge to step out, raise my hands in the air and cry out "and WHERE, exactly, would you have me go?" Though I struggled, I managed to maintain my "first day on the job high".
Eventually, all ended well, with me stepping into the lobby exactly 4 minutes before my scheduled meeting with the HR rep. As luck would have it, the HR rep held the elevator door open for me for the ride up.
That's the one good thing about traffic in Doha ... no one is immune. If you're late, chances are most everyone else will be too.
The rest of the day went swimmingly. Other than the call from sports camp saying Kiddo was feeling unwell. After a quick chat with her, we agreed that Smilin' Vic would pop out of work early to bring her home.
One must expect such small glitches on the first day of work. Murphy's Law and all that.
But all in all, I feel like the day was a success. Not a roaring success, but definitely a nice day in a welcoming and seemingly productive environment.
I have a good feeling.
No doubt there could be worse scenarios on the job front:
July in Qatar seems to drag by so much more slowly than any other month of the year.
Not because it has 31 days. Six other months in the year can lay claim to the same.
Not because the daylight hours are that much longer. Sunset only varies by about 1 hr 20 min throughout the year.
Not because there is anything exciting and dangerous going on (apparently the brain produces an illusion of time warp in emergency situations). Nope; everything pretty much slows to a snail's pace in Doha in July.
So why do I feel like time the days simply drag by?
I can't be certain, and there's no science behind my assumptions (other than a few Googled observations on temperature), but I tend to believe that the following contribute directly to the illusion of time dilation in July in Doha:
- On average it is the hottest month of the year. Outdoor activities are not only difficult, they can be quite dangerous if you're not sufficiently hydrated. Daytime temperatures can reach well up into the high 40's (Celsius ... or 104 - 118 F). While nighttime temperatures may dip slightly, this is when the humidity tends to kick in, often reaching upwards of 84% for three days out of four towards the end of the month.
- It is preceded by the end of June, which marks Exodus in Doha for expat wives, moms and kids. All of them wise enough to escape the July 57C (137F) heat index (combined measure of heat and humidity).
- Kiddo's birthday falls smack dab in the middle of the month ... which leaves us scrambling to gather enough friends to throw a half-decent party.
- I'm not working outside the home this summer.
- This year, the month of Ramadan covered most of July (July 8 - August 7, 2013). During the Holy Month of Ramadan in Qatar, the following applies:
- No eating or drinking or smoking in public during sunlight hours.
- Restaurants do not open until Iftar (meal served after sunset to break fast during Ramadan).
- Hotel restaurants and venues are totally dry (no alcoholic beverages are served).
- Cinema halls are closed until Iftar.
- Most entertainment venues (indoor amusement parks, bowling alleys, skating rinks) are closed until after Iftar.
- Residents are asked to pay particular attention to appropriateness of dress and social decorum.
- Some large grocery chains are open from 9:00 a.m. - midnight, but your usual corner store may be open 9:00 a.m. - noon and 7:00 p.m. - midnight, or 6:00 a.m.- 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pretty much left to you to figure out.
- Government and most business working hours are cut down to 5 working hours a day. This makes going anywhere between 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. virtually impossible, extending a 15-minute drive to an hour or more.
- Trying to drive anywhere after 6:30 p.m. or so (after evening prayer) becomes an unforgettable lesson in peril and patience.
But while finding a way to pass the days can be a challenge, it can be done.
- Do your best to socialize, to get outside for a bit, and to enjoy the outdoors where possible. We've enrolled Kiddo in a sports camp for the month. The venue allows kids of all ages to socialize and make new friends, practice indoor sports, go for a short daily swim outside, and get creative. I've met a few moms there and we've arranged to meet up with the kids for playdates, which gets me out of the house as well. Driving Kiddo to camp and doing groceries and running errands in the morning at least gets me out there.
- Catch up on things you've been meaning to get done (I've completed a few organizational projects that I kept on putting aside, and we are catching up on recorded episodes of Jr. Master Chef, America's Got Talent and Come Dine With Me in the evenings).
- Focus on staying healthy. Take advantage of those long afternoons to go to the gym, work out at home, or prepare a new healthy recipe that you've been wanting to try for a while but never got around to.
- Find places to go in the evening that aren't too far away, and hire a car if you really don't feel up to fighting the traffic alone. The streets will get crazy after evening prayer, with many people off to visit friends and family, enjoy an Iftar meal at one of the many Ramadan tents set up for this purpose, head to the mall, or simply "cruise" (unlike us 'unsociables', there are a good deal of people out there who actually enjoy the crowds and the chaos of traffic on the Corniche). Even though we get frazzled by the intensity of it all, we still try to get out a few times during the month for a meal, a trip to the movies or a visit to some friends.
- Go easy on yourself, and allow yourself to enjoy that oft-saught after daytime snooze. Or just take the opportunity to rest up doing something you love. Finish that book, do some arts and crafts with the kids, play the piano mid-afternoon. Just choose one of the things you're always complaining about "not having time to do", and DO it!
July ... the long month.
August ... are we there yet????