Archive for January, 2011

Great Aussie Salute

January 28, 2011

A great image of home - Yokine Bowling Club

Spent today making the great Aussie salute – fending off flies with a bunch of local animal lovers, Doha Dogs and Cats in Qatar to be precise.  A great bunch of ex-pats raising money and awareness and trying to re-home cats and dogs.

Cat Folk

Lolling

Lewis made a fine specimen, by far the cutest moggie there.  I’m torn between wishing him a loving permanent home and wanting him with me. He is still there for the afternoon – I moved him out of his hiding hole so that he could work the room a bit.

Lewis's fav spot

The whole afternoon felt very ‘Perth”; sparse vegetation, ochre colours and the ‘tone’ of the sun.  BBQ’s and esky’s.  A lazy day sitting outside, shaded by a tree, chatting unreserved.  I meet some lovely people full of advice and stories about the type of life you can have here.  There were some lovely dogs and cats too, at least three had been re-homed by the time I left.  It was just out of Doha so I had my first taste of the desert – again, a lot like W.A.

Cat and Dog Folk

I must get a car!  There are beaches to be seen!  Work has said no to a car allowance this contract so for now it’s looking like weekend rentals.   Driving here is a little bit mental – lots of barging into roundabouts, lots of very big land cruisers and a lack of knowledge about what an indicator light is for.  They talk about when you ‘have’ an accident instead of ‘if’ – much like cycling in London – and you know how that turned out for me (snap).

Work had been busy this week – I’m enjoying it; broadcasting is similar all over the world – programmes will arrive late, changes will be made and transmission will always be fine in the end.

The Knitting Group is great – a really nice mix in my week.  I started working with the scratchy yarn from the souk, but it’s way over spun which thwarted my fair isle attempt – it’s now being worked into string bags.  I want my wheel.  The group meets every Monday at a different persons house so i’m also getting to see different living set ups.  Compound life looks more like my cup of tea – bungalows, gardens and swimming pools are the way forward – not really a highrise kind of gal. But this is all a little while off – no decision or offer has been made.

Scratchy Wool

Yet another Australia Day far from home.  I think absence has made me more nationalistic as I realise the cliche of ‘The Lucky Country’ – it really is the most beautiful of places and the national psyche is one to be proud of.  I see myself in the archtypes; the ‘Larrakin’, the sun-worshipper’, ‘she’ll be right mate’ and all that.

I’ve guess I’ve been very homesick this week – watching the Aussie open and seeing the sun-drenched skies made me want to be on a plane yesterday.  Photos of my nephews’ holiday and press pics of Bondi on Australia Day didn’t help.

I’d give anything for a swim in the Never Never Creek at The Promised Land right about now.

Never Never Creek, The Promised Land

I’ve been playing my favourite songs to remind me of what I miss, being sweetly sentimental as I lament the sound of kookaburras and the smell of the sea.  My determination for a simple life in a rural idle gains strength everyday as I strive to work out a means to this end.  If it means a longer stint here then that’s what has to be done.  All I want is chooks and a veggie patch.

‘I’m dreaming of your voices and the songs I’ve never heard.’

A Day at the Souk

January 22, 2011

A day at the souk and my soul is satiated.  I’m heady from the smell of cardamon and incense.

Incense and spices

I have come away with balls of yarn from Bedouin crafts women – itchy but perfect for my first attempt at fair isle knitting – a bag me thinks.

Bedouin Crafts

I have allum for mordanting – I will dye with turmeric for starters if I can find some white fleece.  I bought frankincense and a silk top and scarf, no more than £10 for the two.  Meandering through the lanes I was disorientated several times, circling past the same vendors time and time again.  Unlike the grand bazaar in Istanbul here you are not hassled – the occasional call to try a pashmina or look at fabric, but nothing like the hard sell in other places.

Souk

I keep getting my timings wrong, I arrived just after midday as stalls were closing for lunch so I killed time until four by having some food, a very slow coffee and a wander around the empty lane-ways.  I watched an Indian man make a bracelet, burning resin over coals and a Bedouin women cooking pancakes on a small flat burner in the street.

Making Bracelets

A gem merchant picked I was Australian from my opal ring – I explained how my father had stolen it from a thief.  I visited the animal section and saw parrots, rabbits and manky kittens and pups.  Tiny terrapins and turtles.

Tiny Turtles

Then I just sat and watched the market winding up – men with wheel barrows, women with home make pastries.

Barrows

At the posher end of the souk Arabs and westerners eat alfresco, smoking shiska and drinking juices – fish restaurants, mezze, thai, italian.

  • Fabric Souk
  • I had found a backwater dinner and had a cheap plate of lamb and humous – I don’t feel comfortable sitting on my own in the main strip of the souk – I feel rather self conscious.  This was cheap and easy and a more of a locals’ choice than the main drag.

    My lunch spot

    I had started the day wandering around the harbour – my instinct taking me to a perfect view of the bay across to West Bay and all the sky scrapers.

    My Perfect View

    I sat and stared at an ocean – a happy camper.

    As I was sat taking in the view and the water a security man came and asked me to move.  I had positioned myself smack bang in the middle of Aljareeza Sports’ background to their Asian Cup studio, I has mistaken the studio for a posh cafe.

    Museum of Islamic Art

    It really doesn’t take much to make me happy and today was a good day.

    18 Days In

    January 21, 2011

    I can’t get the Aussie Open at home, but I can get camel races – I always thought they would have riders – apparently not!  Yet another myth dispelled.  There’s been a photo finish.  I’d rather the tennis.

    Camel Races

    As the dust settles (or not as the case in point) this week I had my first batch of doubts about being here for any great length of time.  Whilst I am determined not to write anything negative about the type of life here – it is a very different life and I need to find my groove in a town that thus far is in no way ‘groovy’.  If the only entertainment I can have is going to shopping malls then this town is not for me.

    It will only need a small group of like minded souls. I am doing positive things to help make things easier; like fostering a cat, joining the knitting group, meditating.  I’ve enquired about getting a car allowance and have arranged to get some BBC channels added to my home cable service.

    I’m only 18 days in.

    Trying to keep it all in perspective.  I went out for a walk at lunch during the week – thought I would sit somewhere and get some air and have a ponder – there is no public seating!  There are vast spaces of lawn (not just astro turf), trees and sculptured gardens and not a public seat amongst them.  The only people to be seen were migrant workers sitting in huddles on the ground under trees.  It’s like the air is alien and you can’t be out in it – weirdness!  I get that it gets very very hot – but for at least 4 months of the year it is perfectly pleasant.

    Ed City - open space and no public seating.

    Every time I say I’m going to the post office/ bank I have a chorus of people offering me a lift – it’s closer than the bus-stop in London!  This is always followed by a statement along the lines of ‘but you won’t be able to do that in summer’.  Yes – but it’s winter and a perfectly acceptable – I would even say lovely – 21 degrees!

    I have been very tired since I’ve been here.  Someone posed the theory that it is due to a lack of oxygen – there are simply not enough trees.  I’m unsure of the theory but I agree that trees are in short supply.  I went for a walk around my district and it had the ambience of Osbourne Park on a Sunday. (a reference for Perthites).

    Downtown

    I do think there is one certainty from this Middle Eastern jaunt – my days in the dank dark isle of Britain are numbered – my love affair with sunshine has recommenced.  I feel my old sun drenched self coming to the fore – the ease of life, languidity of days.  I spend my week planning where and how I can loll in the sun and have a swim.  I really need a car!

    In saying that – we’ve had a rain (note the preposition).  Actually we had three days of rain.   When it only rains a few times a year drains are not really a priority – there is nowhere for the rain to go – as I discovered when I miscalculated a puddle attempting to reach a car door – foot sodden with rank water!  I’ve only brought one pair of socks with me – as someone suggested (thanks James) – off to the sock souk!  The incident happen as I had a lovely catch up with Greg, who I know from a few different circles (Gaz and FOXTEL), we went to a great Thai place around the corner from me that I would never have found – it’s attached to a massage parlour.

    Thai Restaurant

    'Do they do a good Pad Thai?' wasn't my first thought.

    I should introduce you to Lewis…

    Lewis

    I feel like an adulterer – but I can assure you that I am only using him for cuddles until my initial three month stint here is over.   He’s fostered from a local cat charity (run by an Aussie) and whilst he’s the prettiest cat I’ve ever had in my home, he is also the loudest. If he doesn’t have a home by the end of March another ‘fosterer’ will look after him.  I think it’s mutually beneficial to Lewis and I – just don’t tell Bubs.

    By the way I finally found the tennis – come on Nadal…

    Have A Nice Day Friday

    January 14, 2011

    Carpet in a lift today

    Today is Friday, the start of my weekend.  Whilst in practice this is fine – work wise it’s very odd.  The term ‘Monday to Friday’ becomes ‘Sunday to Thursday’,  today is 01/14/11 not 14/01/11 – my job is planning with days and dates – my colleagues are starting to take the mickey – I explained that for 43 years my weekends have been Sat and Sun and dates written day first – give me more than 10 days to get it right – you know what I mean!

    Ceremonial Courtyard (Education City)

    Ceremonial Court - Detail (Education City)

    A Qatari women at work said she liked my skirt in the corridor this week – I was chuffed!  I’ve been concerned about what is OK office attire – I took this as a big thumbs up – I’m still completely paranoid about cleavage!

    ‘The West’ could learn something from the stance of family and child care I have observed thus far.  Working parents happily go and pick up kids after school and then come back, for a couple of days a week my colleagues 8 year old daughter comes in at 4pm and happily sits at a desk and does her homework with her Dad helping her.  There is an obvious presence of children and childcare within the building.  It seems so natural and gets me wondering why the powers that be make parenting so difficult in Australia and the UK.  It is simply as it is here – if your child needs to be here for you to work then so be it.

    Education City - University Campus

    Education City - Detail

    I know this statement is weird considering where I am and the culture I am immersed in –  but – there is something wonderful about the fact, and it’s almost a wish come true, that here you can park outside where you want to go, there are no queues, for example I could go to H & M and a – get the to racks, b – get in the fitting room straight away and c- pay and leave.  I go to the bank, they welcome me, get me a seat and smile.  I go to the post office – no line – in and out in under a minute.  Customer service is pitched perfectly.  I love this!  I have secretly wished it for years!  The novelty may spread thin – this also indicates a complete absence of street life and the ambience that ensues.

    Education City

    The knitting group was delightful – a lovely myriad of women of different ages and anglo nations – Brits, Americans, Kiwis and Aussies.  They were full of advice and tips – and directions to beaches!  I have to get a car – at this stage if only for weekends – it will open up the city and country for me.  If I can beach one day a weekend i’ll be a very happy camper.  It was lovely to meet them and get a different perspective on Doha along with some sound financial advice – let’s not pretend anyone is here for any reason other than the money.  I love the transparency of this fact.  It seems very honest.
    The knitting was good too!  Nice to share craft knowledge and meet other knitting nerds.

    Grass Qatar style

    I spent today sun-baking at an apartment block in the City Centre – QAR50 for a banana lounge by a pool and a steam and sauna after.  This could be the way forward until I negotiate my car allowance.

    Pool at Ezdan Towers

    I’m missing the BBC and good tele –  I have to do something about extending my range of channels.  I’m watching a lot of Animal Planet – which is very weird as I worked on all their current promos at BDA  in London – I versioned their January promos for Eastern European and Middle Eastern feeds – and now I am watching them on air in situ.  TV is heavily censored – sex not violence – somewhere there is a reel of kisses:

    At this stage, apart from friends and family of course – I am missing my spinning wheel and my cat.  I’ve enquired about fostering a cat from the local cat charity until I leave in March.  It’s run by an Aussie – hopefully ‘Lewis’ will arrive tomorrow – don’t tell Bubs – I feel like an adulterer!

    Watching the floods at home has been heart wrenching.  I makes my resolve to head home soon stronger as I see images of home and hear tales of the Australian spirit.  The devastation unfathomable as I see places I know covered in water – the flash flood in Towoomba was the stuff of nightmares.  Thoughts and prayers.

    I am going to need a very good wide brimmed sunhat.

    January 8, 2011

    I am awoken every morning at 5am by the Call to Prayer – it gently wakes me from my slumber and then I drift off again.  It’s a very beautiful sound – particularly at sunrise and sunset; it sets the tone of time and place.  I find it very calming.

    View from The Apartment

    The souk was amazing.  A vast network of open spaces and meandering covered lane-ways.  There are spices and fabrics and hookahs and jewellery and pets – random coloured chicks and kittens (yes I was tempted).  I was asked to take tea in a shop selling manchester and bedding – I sat on blankets talking about Australia with a gentleman in traditional Qatari dress.  He spoke knowingly about home and I asked if he had lived there ‘oh no – I just went for a picnic’ was his response – delightful!

    Coloured chooks at the souk

    Ironically he also worked in TV – for the main Al Jazeera Network – he’d worked on OB’s in his younger days and is now in the Tech area – he’d been in tele 39 years!

    I didn’t take many photos of the souk – I was on a mission for kitchen utensils and spices – it was also night – I’m sure there will be plenty off opportunity to capture the mood of them whilst I’m here.

    Compound life will take some getting use to.  Whilst it is essentially four small apartment blocks, it is odd to see the people that you are working with randomly in the carpark.  Our Traffic Scheduler lives three floors below me – I had no idea; he appeared all smiles in national dress to take his son to soccer as I wait for a driver to take me to the CBD.

    Doha City Centre

    The CBD is an architects paradise – no Prince Charles stopping innovative design here.  The detail – on all their buildings – is reminiscent if the Victorian age when the art of masonry was appreciated.  Skyscrapers with filagree – beautiful structures dressed with steel lace work – amazing.

    Steel lace work

    Once again I was the only one walking – cars for hire keep tooting me to see if I am lost or I need a lift.  I just wanted to see the sea!  I followed my nose and Piscean sensibility to the Arabian Gulf.  Azure.

    The Gulf of Arabia

    I managed to find a beach – or what is called a beach here – essentially an empty block along the coast in between two hotels.  There were two Italian sunbakers who gave me the rundown – this is one of two beaches where you can strip off to normal western swimming attire – at the ‘family beach’ I would have to wear a burqini.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burqini

    I figure beggars can’t be choosers – i’ll take any opportunity to swim in the sea having been deprived of my favourite pass time for 6 years – building site beach it is.  For now I can say i’ve dipped my toes in and the water is fine!

    Beach

    Went shopping for essentials at Carrefour – several of us in the homeware section buying clothes horses and pots.  Huge hypermarket – the only thing I couldn’t find was rice milk – but this was compensated by the presence of the yoghurt I can normally only get in France.  So with a full trolley I headed home and can now cook, dry clothes and play music properly from my Mac.

    It’s warm – it’s my favourite type of heat at the moment – but it’s winter and this scares me.  If I choose to stay I could have months in air-con and those who know me well know how much I hate them.  All karma for being the air-conditioner whinger at Teachers TV is firmly coming back my way!  I’ve spent today basking in my hammock that I have strewn on the balcony – pig in mud is me.  I am going to need a very good wide brimmed sunhat!

    Happy little vegemite

    I guess the frequency off this blog will be indicitive of new surroundings and lack of a social structure in the beginning.  I meet with the Doha Knitting group on Monday, they know I’m coming and have put out a call to find me a lift – got to love Crafty Folk!

    R156 G123 B59

    January 6, 2011

    There is a theory that every city has a colour, Sydney is blue, London is grey, Barcelona is gold – Doha would be R156 G123 B59.

    Three days in and first impressions are muted.  I have really only gone from The Apartment to work and visited a couple of malls on the outskirts.  I have yet to enter into the city proper – JCC is at Education City and the Qatar Foundation, on the city perimeter – a huge building project that hosts schools and universities.

    The absence of pedestrians is odd.  Apparently it can be difficult to cross roads as there are few footpaths and few pedestrian crossings – such is the lack of demand.  This evening I went for a swim at the Recreation Centre around the corner from the Studios.  There was no continuous footpath and what I had thought to be lawn was actually astro turf – I guess if it only rains 3-4 times a year why not!  After the swim I had time to kill before my driver arrived so I had a brief walk.  I was the only person outside in the grounds.  I was also the only person in the olympic size pool.  For now the solitude is nice – after London crowds – having spent much of the last year meditating and studying Buddhist philosophy these three months may be nice for my spiritual growth.

    Not being a mall kind of girl I am eager to visit the souks – though whilst in general being unimpressed by shopping malls – Villagio looked like a cross between Vegas and the Truman Show with a huge canal through the middle.  It was full of UK brand stores – M & S, Boots, BHS, Mango – didn’t feel much like Arabia at all – more a Westfield.

    My apartment doesn’t have an address – ‘behind the Doha Clinic, right at the palm tree’ pretty much sums up what I have been told to tell taxi drivers.  The Apartment is huge.  I’ve actually chosen the smaller of the bedrooms – I felt too lost in the big room.

    Every thing works – not exactly my taste of decor – but a few chintzes and sun-catchers should make it feel more like mine.  There is cable – a few English language TV channels and I am very very pleased that I can access BBC radio through my PC – I can still listen to Jarvis on a Sunday.

    Work is great – the facilities amazing – I haven’t worked anywhere with the facilities to go live everyday since Channel Ten over 15 years ago.  Everyone I’ve met is incredibly friendly and helpful.  It is a melting pot of nationalities and languages – lots of French and Italian speakers.  My lack of a second language is embarrassing – I hope to pick up Arabic as I go – at least days of the weeks and numbers so I can check the promos!

    The weekend (Fri & Sat) beckons – I plan to visit the souks and get my kitchen up and running.