I Love Dubai

July 31, 2011

I love Dubai.

Dubai Skyline

I was incredibly fortunate this weekend in that in order to renew my business visa I had to undertake a ‘visa run’.  This involved leaving Qatar for three business days whilst they processed the visa – twice before this has fallen through and to be honest it is a much needed break – that I would love it so completely has suprised me – I am very very taken with its’ charms.

Dubai Creek

There is a real sense of urbanity, people on the street, a melting pot of cultures – it doesn’t feel so dominated by religion here – it is present but not the be all and end all, I’ve barely noticed the call to prayer.  There are footpaths and street life and no restrictions on what you can wear on the street or on the beach.  It’s a grown up functioning city with a really nice pulse.  It simply seems more civilised here.

Jumeira Beach

The traffic is not so chaotic either.  There is not the urgency to keep moving at any cost, to be the first one there (wherever ‘there’ may be – often a red light or another car). In Dubai it’s the normal ebb and flow of city traffic, congested yes, but orderly and patient.

Interestingly I always ask the taxi drivers where they are from and if they like it here (in Doha or Dubai).  Every taxi driver in Dubai said yes they like it here, when asking the same question in Doha I have yet to hear a positive response.

Abra's on Dubai Creek

Admittedly I largely stayed away from the glitz – I’ve never been a five star girl – but catching abras across the creek and wandering through the souks, bartering with merchants is so my cup of tea.  At the spice souk I found indigo – the joy this gave me beats manolo blahnik shoes any day.

Indigo, Alum and other Delights

I was limited in what I could do by the heat.  It really was very very hot – I braved the metro and saw what was feasible, but ventures like wandering along the coast, exploring the CBD and back streets were not for this trip.

I’m not much of a mall girl either, much preferring markets and second hand rummages,  but Dubai Mall was impressive.  Aquariums in the atrium, Bloomingdales, Galleries LaFayette, 50 foot waterfalls.  Me, being me, was satiated by a Neal’s Yard for shampoo, a health food shop for flax and polenta and Waitrose for a salad.

Dubai Mall

Outside of the Mall was the dancing fountain – seriously one of the campest things I’ve ever seen (and we know I’ve seen a lot of camp!).  This was in the shadow of the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa – why was is necessary to build something that tall? Well there are the phallic theories – I had no desire to enter.  It was seriously tall – I wasn’t about to test my vertigo!

Burj Khalifa and Fountain

On day two I took advantage of the free beach shuttle that was run by the hotel.  The driver dropped me at a lovely park, Al Mamzar, in the north. Five dirum to enter (a pound) and the same for a brolly.  The park reminded me of Nielsen Park in Sydney – lovely shady trees giving way to two pristine beaches, people in ‘normal’ bathing attire.  I had sunscreen on, which I re applied, and I kept under the brolly when not in the water – the water was not exactly cold but not quite a bath – still refreshing as the temp was in the mid forties.  The bus dropped me at 10 and picked me up at three.

Al Mamzar Beach

It has been years since I’ve spent a day at the beach – and those who know me well know what a beach baby I am – I was pig in shit!   However the colour of me as soon as I had showered was frightening – the fact that it has given way to a tan is sheer good luck.   I thought I had given myself first degree burn – a lesson learnt!  The sun must have got through the umbrella, I even had panda eyes!

Souk Madinet

Spent my last night having a bit of a bender with my old mate from tele in Sydney, Rose.  It was great to hang out with an Aussie chick and reminisce about Sydney and mutual friends and cathartic to vent honestly and safely about how we find life in the Middle East.

Burj Al Arab from Souk Madinat

We started sipping Sauvignon Blanc at Souk Mandinat, then onto rose on a roof top bar 24-floors up at The Jumiera Beach Resort before one too many caipirinhas at the Buddha Bar – being evicted when the house lights came on at 2 am – I haven’t had a bender in a very very long time – it was fun; I say as I sit typing in the airport terminal nursing my hangover.

24th Floor View

Tomorrow is Ramadan – drinking water in public is forbidden, the work hours shorter and I need to cover even more of my sassy flesh, all restaurants are shut during the day and you can not buy alcohol anywhere until after Eid.  Night time will be fireworks and feasting.


Fever

July 22, 2011

Desert Sunset

It’s 45 deg outside and I think I have a fever – and it’s the weekend – my joy knows no bounds!   I’m not sure if it is a fever or that I’m just hot from the heat – all I know is that I keep sweating from a spot just under my neck above my cleavage – it’s like I’ve developed some kind of reptilian gland.  The air con is on – which is giving me a kind of chill and I feel like I am in a catch 22 lose lose loop for the day (please let it be only a day).  But it gives me a chance to write and I have finally started watching The Sopranos from scratch – so I have plenty to keep me happily bed ridden when not bathed in sweat.

It’s a quiet house at the moment, Peanut is asleep next to me and the other girls are sound asleep in another room.   Peanut has been adopted and will leave me tomorrow so it will be back to me and the two older girls, hopefully the hissing will cease and i’ll have an harmonious feline home.

Mosque Tower

I have been feeling much better the last week or so – I think in naming my Culture Shock I have turned a corner in starting to accept the lifestyle here.  There are many thinks that I will never get use too – horrendous driving practices, subjugation of women, covering up in 48deg heat, migrant workers toiling away on construction sites in said heat.  But my anger about it is subsiding – I’m slipping into an acceptance which is a much safer place for my mental health.

On talking about my job on the phone with Dad I verbalised something which I find interesting to note.  This is the first job I’ve ever had in my career where I feel like a ‘worker’  (we’ll exclude the Myer/ Grace Bros years from this statement and focus on tele and teaching jobs).  In all my other jobs I have felt like my input mattered, that I could add something to a discussion, that my view was heard – perhaps dismissed – but at least heard.  It’s a cultural difference but here I know that my job is ‘x’ – I am to do as directed with no discourse.  I am kept below the parapet, my lack of Arabic aids this post, and it is a position I am more than happy to undertake – which surprises me.

Nan and I at Work

I’ve always been interested in class – coming from Oz where we are reputedly one big ‘middle class’ to Great Briton where people are proudly ‘working class’ (not a statement I had ever heard in Australia) and they don’t vote for their Upper House – it is given over to ‘Lords’ (????- what the!).  To Qatar where the stratification of where is one’s place is ramped to another level.  As a ‘western’ expat I sit below Qatari’s and alongside Arab expats and above the sub continent migrant workers.  There is little flow between the strata – I work largely with expat Arabs, but other friends here only have western colleagues and have very little interaction with Arabic culture – it is very much stick to ‘your kind’, which I guess is the life of the ex-pat in many regions of the world.

More of the Souk

Fingers crossed I have a visa run to Dubai next weekend – but this is the third time I’ve been ready to go and they have stamped my passport here so I won’t hold my breathe – but I really do need to visit a Neal’s Yard!  Not to mention that a change of scene from the dust of Doha would do me the world of good – dust of Dubai anyone.

I’ve been keeping a low profile, as I have indicated Doha has cleaned out; many friends are away and the heat has stepped up quite a few notches.  I’m taking the opportunity to save money and huddle indoors with the air-con on and doing lots of crafty bits.  I have been spinning and dyeing silk and have decided it is time to teach myself to knit socks (thanks for that kit Karen) – it really is akin to surviving an English winter and I smile to myself as I remember my banter about the universe owing me a summer after my double winter when I arrived in the UK – oh the irony!  I guess I’ve claimed it back!  Ramadan starts sometime in the next 2 weeks so work hours will shorten – I have a bag of raw fleece and silk caps on order from the UK so lots of yarn making ahead of me.

Silk Dyed with Sumac

Just as I type this Peanut has woken and wants to play fetch…

Fetch


Culture Shock

July 12, 2011

Souk

Culture shock  [mass noun]
the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
(Oxford Dictionary)

I believe I am experience classic phases of culture shock.  Where I would have hoped that I was open minded to the dominant culture here, I am (as I’m sure many have picked up on) struggling to come with terms with the logic of many things that I see and hear.  I’ve been raised in a secular country and I’m finding the religious aspects and the implications of this on daily life here harder to accept than I thought I would.

Negotiation phase
… Excitement may eventually give way to unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to experience unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive to one’s cultural attitude.
                                                (Wikipedia)

I am trying very hard not to judge by my own western standards, and reminding myself that my culture is different, not superior, and it’s hard – it is all I have to bring to the table.

Souk Porter Poses for a Pic.

The difference in cultural references amuses me – you realise how much of who you are is steeped in media references – I’m meeting people who don’t know To Kill a Mocking Bird or The Wizard of Oz!   I have a colleague who is the spitting image of Victor Kiriakis from Days of Our Lives and I can not share this with anyone!  I don’t intend for this to sound patronizing – I don’t have knowledge of Arabic popular culture – but it does bring a smile to my face I try to explain what ‘page 3’ means.

Hardware Shops in the Souk

I seriously thought I was going loopy earlier this week when I keep having flashbacks to more hedonistic times and events.  I was at work and literally laughing out loud as I remembered bizarre and inappropriate vignettes of a former life.  For those of you that get the references they included being in The Dome, Girlesque at The Imperial, Mardi Grass in  Nimbin, jumping around to The Stone Roses (tracks – not live) in underground basement bars in Kings Cross – all during a work day.

I do remember going through a similar phase in the UK – but being English speaking you assimilate quicker and slip into the dominant culture with greater ease.  After six years of the Beeb (I have yet to drop 6Music for JJJ) – here I am forced to go seeking news and entertainment and I am rediscovering my Australianess – tuning into the ABC and catching up on TV, music and current affairs.  I somehow feel more Australian here than I ever did in the UK and it’s very nice.   It reinforces what I miss, appreciate and love about home and our national psyche.  If absence makes the heart grow fonder then I am very smitten.

Women in the Souk

So, if the research is correct and I am going through text book ‘culture shock’ then this phase will pass, I will adjust and land on the other side a more rounded individual with a better understanding and acceptance of Islam and the Gulf States.

If not then I just come home.

Home - Bellinger River

Time to talk of the weather   There had been two days to recall that were seriously vile – sandstorms, humidity and intense heat (akin to being in a scratchy 40deg London fog) but overall the heat had not bothered me.  I would have said – it’s hot,  but as yet I am yet to feel overwhelmed by it. However this week the humidity kicked in – there was a noticeable difference in the quality of air and not ever having suffered from asthma I found that my breathing was impaired.  The next two months will the worse weather wise – and it hasn’t dropped below 45deg since my return in May.

Setting Sun - view from bedroom

In saying this I am permanently in air con – from the house, to the car, to work.  I am wearing a hat when in the sun and not sunbaking or spending too long out there – I much prefer this to an English winter – when I think to last December – brrrrrrr – but let’s check that notion mid September shall we.


A Thanksgiving

June 30, 2011

I’ve been a bit bleak of late – in order to snap out of it – I have at least another 4 months here – I decided to change tack in my thinking and here are some musings I had throughout the week.  I’ve come out the otherside a lot more positive than where I sat  this time last week.

I guess being here is making me appreciative of all the life experience I have had so far.  Driving to work listening to Pulp very loud (I have an obsession with Jarvis at the moment), thinking that these folk will never know the experience of dancing in a field, loved up and hedonistic twisting to random tunes as the sun rises.  Whilst I am a million miles from this is age and place – I’ve done it, lived it.

It's Not All Beige

I’m very nostalgic and thankful for the diverse range of experiences I have had thus far.  Some of my life choices would be distasteful to many here and at home.  I fully appreciate that I am judging by my own set of values – I have not grown up indoctrinated in an orthodox religion – and for this I am truly thankful.

I think to back to Bellingen and my green wooden house on stilts – from the back verandah I could see nothing but green – 10 mins from the Never Never Creek in the Promised Land where I’d pitch my hammock in the shade and you could skinny dip with no-one batting an eyelid.  Here I need to cover my shoulders and knees to swim at the local beach.

My Green Wooden House

12 Years in Sydney – living the party life – clubs and dance parties – good mates.  Living in Bondi – Saturday brunches and afternoons on the beach – Vanessa’s Drag Races – hilarious afternoons in the sun.  Bad Dog parties – dirty grimy disco trash.  Mmmm mmm mmm.

The Nephews Visit Me in Bondi

Growing up in Perth, riding push bikes, weekends at the beach, Sunday drives with Grandad in the car.  Post adolescent days of the Red Parrot and The Underground – goth picnics in the hills – getting pissed on cheap white wine and walking through abandoned train tunnels.

Goth Picnic, John Forrest National Park, 1988 (?)

London – Europe at my doorstep.  The best job ever – creative freedom for a TV channel with a purpose in the heart of Soho.  Living North, East and South; cycling my way through the city in the dead of night, just me and the foxes.  Kat on her Penny as I flank her through Critical Mass rallies.  Nude bike rides, Pride marches and anti-Pope rallies – the freedom to congregate on mass to celebrate, protest and express opinion without fear of reprisals.

Pete and Penny (and Kat)

Learning crafts from an amazing myriad of women eager to share their knowledge and talents on everything textile.  Being taught how to spin wool literally from the sheep’s back at the farm every weekend.

Beauville Nightmarket

European summers with Karen and Rich in Beauville – melon and floc and petanque.  Visiting mates in Switzerland, snow and spas – Easters in Italy – missing flights due to traffic jams in Florence.

Sienna

So as I sulk in the desert backwater that is Qatar I am mindful of the fortunes I have had and that I am lucky – lucky to have the freedom to live such a diverse range of experiences and to have such an amazing family and group of mates flung far and wide.

I must look at this time, this sabbatical from western culture, for the unique experience that it is.

Knowing that the day will come when I’m sitting in my garden, mates visiting, bbq on, beer in hand and I will relay tales of my time in Qatar with mirth and fondness – and perhaps a little relief – along with a gratitude for the tax free income and the cultural experience.

Home

This isn’t forever.  The future is bright with rain forests, deserted beaches and churning oceans, old mates and new friends.  I possess one of the greatest gifts this life can afford – an Australian passport.


I’d Rather Be At Glastonbury

June 25, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

I want to be at Glastonbury!  Or is it that I am craving the opportunity to even contemplate being in the company of so many like minded souls.  The very idea that I could have so many options of cool bands, dance tents and environments seems so alien from downtown Doha, Qatar.

The Dairy Queen and The Ramada - last nights venue

Instead last night I went out for a friend’s birthday and ended up in a very bad piano bar full of men and filipino prostitutes.  The entertainment was akin to being on a bad cruise with the obligatory renditions of Celine Dion and Whitney – my ears were bleeding!
Meanwhile Radiohead are playing the Park Stage – grrrrrr

There is frustration in not being able to stream images of the festival through my shit internet connection and am ‘making do’ with the wonderful 6music coverage – could have lived without hearing Primal Scream do Loaded and Come Together though!  Beggars can’t be chooses and my ears are fully satiated from the amazing tunage coming through the radio.

I knew summer would be difficult here – and it’s starting to rub as the town clears out and mates are enjoying the European summer and all the liberties that this affords.  But I am saving money and keeping my mental health in check – there is much humour amongst ex-pats and the ridiculous situations and hypocrisies we encounter.

There are many hilarious (and many non hilarious) things I have seen that I don’t feel I can write about as it would paint a negative on my host culture, I’ve been brought up to always be polite to your host – so I say nothing.

Migrant Workers 46deg.

I am aware that my perspective is narrowing here – the more I see and observe, the less integrated I feel as I pull back from cultural diversity and fail to understand many customs and traditions.  I thought I would be more open-minded, but this lefty feminist is failing to accept certain levels of conservatism and patriarchy – I don’t think this is a bad thing – I just have to watch my big mouth and keep criticisms to myself and/or safe environments.  I am very watchful, making observations and keeping a journal of sorts – aware of things that can not be discussed in a public forum.

I feel that this is making my little blog a tad samey and negative in tone. which was not my original intention.

The weeks have settled into a rhythm – there is enough to keep me occupied and I am doing lots of spinning and crafty stuff.  I’m swimming and cooking and having a balance of social nights out a few times a week – there always something on.  There was another “pork party” – things you find to do here!

Porky Pig Party V2 - our host

I don’t hate it here, I don’t love it either – i’m in a weird limbo  – earning money to sustain a totally different type of lifestyle to this once I return home to Oz – here’s hoping ‘the end justifies the means’.

I have completely stuffed up the status quo of my apartment by introducing cat number three to the feline world.  Top dog cat Carla has been hissing and growling for four days – not a happy kitty – all in not well at ‘Yakkers Holiday Camp for Cats’.   Kitten ‘Peanut’ is completely oblivious to the trouble she’s caused.

Peanut

I am officially a crazy cat lady as I now have three cats in the flat, I’m feeding four cats at work and am now feeding some strays downstairs at the compound – Doha had no cats until the 70’s – there was a rat/mice problem so they brought in 5000 cats and released them into the streets – hence the number of ferals and a genuine problem.  I went on a visit to the government vet to see  how the system of ‘capture, neuter, return’ works and now drive with two traps in the back of the car – as I said – ‘crazy cat lady’  I’m sure my colleagues at work think I’m nuts as I don my sun hat and grab the cat biscuits every morning to do my rounds.

In closing I guess my mud phobia would have made this years’ Glastonbury a tad unbearable – but a weekend of watching the merry makers from the comfort of my couch would have been great – guess I’m ‘not in Kansas anymore’ and await a time when Splendor in The Grass becomes a diary marker.


Off Piste

June 14, 2011

I am feeling a little of piste.  After an initial month of positive thoughts and focus I am increasingly wondering how the f*** I ended up here.  Instead of focusing on the silver linings, thoughts of discontent and alienation are seeping in.  Trying to keep my eye firmly on the prize whilst contemplating how and why the Fates sent me here.

Old Fort

The hardest thing is having to ‘cover up’ it’s been over 45 for weeks and I want to wear as little as possible – a singlet top – but this is ‘inappropriate’ and is starting to p**s me off.  I was no so subtly reminder of the dress policy last week as I undid a top button on a shirt – revealing the top of a singlet top and exposing a small amount of cleavage.  I was previously told that a skirt coming in a 2cm under my knee was also too short.  All conversations have been friendly and instigated by my female colleagues.

I also had an urge to change my ring tone to something inappropriate – Closer by the Nine Inch Nails came to mind – I feel decidedly subversive at the moment.  Of course this will not happen – I don’t want to be arrested – but I did have an afternoon at work listening to lots of rude, dark heavy tunage to purge myself – Grinderman and Peaches helped.

Museum of Islamic Art

I’ve been keeping busy – Qatar is very social as ex-pats tend to stick together and everyone is hospitable and friendly.  Sometimes evenings out are not exactly my cup of tea, but it’s a bit like when I was living in the country – you make do with what’s on offer and keep an open mind – I don’t really expect any alternative discos or sublime art exhibitions.  In saying that there was a Dutch Masters exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art which was rather good – always love a Vermeer – and the building was great.  My only criticism is that it needed to be dressed a little better in the foyer – you could tell straight blokes had a handle on the interiors!

There have been a few house parties and nights out in lovely hotel bars – all posh cocktails  and top end service.  Had an hilarious camp night out with trolly dollies, glitter and a truck load of pork – very random.

A Touch of Desert Camp

Looks like cat number 3 may stay with me over the summer – the place is about to empty as all the schools and uni’s break for summer and people take leave to escape the heat. For example out of 12 women in my knitting group only three of us are around over the summer.  I’m already working on my Ramadan plan – a good craft project and a list of others in town to share hospitality whilst everything is shut during daylight hours.  All hotel bars will close and no restaurants open during the day – not sure what the deal is with work – I think they give us a tent out the back where smokers and eaters must co-exist.  Can’t say I’m looking forward to it – but my plan is to expect the worse and then it can only get better (a bit like flying Ryan Air).

Cat 2 of 2 - Carla

Have made excursions to the beach a couple of times – even found a cute fishing village overlooking some mangroves – the nicest ‘view’ thus far.

Fishing Village

Mangroves - nicest view thus far

Some of the dust storms have been quite severe – there was a day I didn’t dare leave the flat.

Dust Storm

Overall I am preferring the heat to an English winter – but must say I do miss clouds (of the white variety) and a day of rain could be rather pleasant.


I’m back. It’s conservative. It’s hot.

May 10, 2011

I don’t have much to say really.  I’m back.  It’s conservative. It’s hot.

The road ahead

I think what I miss the most is any semblance of subversion.  Perhaps an odd thing to miss, but I’m in a place where everyone plays by a set of rules which leads to an almost bland homogeny, and i’ve always liked to hover in the subcultural alternative fringe.  It’s not that I want to do anything illegal – more that the uniformity and conservatism makes life a tad benign.

But I knew what I was coming back too – this is just an observation really.  My eye is firmly on the prize.

It’s hot.  Very hot.  It’s already Perth summer heat and it’s only spring.  I’ve worked out how to make the best of the air-cons so that I am not under the constant barrage of cold air.  I drove to the beach – an hour to get there – after an hour I knew the sun was too hot – I may be tanorexic but I’m not stupid – I want brown not blisters.

Fuwairit Beach

Driving is making the world of difference.  Having my stuff is making it home (for now) and my two new cats, Jess and Carla, are keeping me on my toes and giving me some company.

1 of 2 - Jessica Cat

London was great – weather was unseasonably warm.  Though I have to say it was a different country than the one I left in January – recession and spending cuts on everyone’s lips and an sense of economic bleakness for the immediate future that wasn’t there before.

On the eve of the big day

Malta was amazing – a mix of histories – neolithic to roman to renaissance.  Quirky bus rides, blue seas, great food and good mates.  So nice to spend a week with Joe and let him play guide and revel in his Malteseness – there was a boat ride around the island and a day trip to Sicily thrown in too – simply sensational.

Valetta and our boat

Maltese Bus

Back to London for packing and a royal hoo ha.  Trafalgar Square for the wedding made for a fine last day with Joe in London town.  I was quite teary as I left – a sense of leaving and the finality of a significant life phase, but in order to have an interesting life every so often you need to pack up and move on – and I want home with choices.  Here is fine for now.  Hot and fine.

Farewell Blighty


Back to Green

April 1, 2011

Daffodils

Decided to get a cab from Paddington – couldn’t face the tube – figured it was 11pm my time and I just wanted home – my London home.

It was a good move – taking me past Hyde Park, down Mayfair to Hyde Park corner and the Aust War Memorial, through Victoria – there were people on the street and trees and green.  Green!  If anyone is to ask what I missed the most – Green.  Over Vauxhall bridge, so close to the farm and the goats and the sheep – can’t wait for tomorrow to be spinning at the farm again.  Through Kennington, the park, Brixton and home.

The flat seemed very small for the first 5 minutes, and cold with no grumpy cat to greet me.  (Bubs is staying with Joe).  Opening the stack of mail – statements, bills and flyers for the art house films and philharmonic orchestras – how much I grown culturally since coming here – I’ve noted my transition from sub to high culture since I’ve been here – but there are few cities where you have access to such amazing cultural diversity – theatre, opera, ballet, art – I won’t have this when I am living with my chooks in rural NSW (or where ever I may end up).

I’m all sentimental as I reminisce about how good this town has been to me – clarity in hindsight.  OK to be leaving, but justifiably sad too – I made a good life in this town, it took a long long time to find my groove.

But in the end I want home.  I’ve been wanting it for so long now.

Breakfast

I woke early. 6.30am, figured as I am back 3 hours this wasn’t too bad.  As there was no fresh food in the house I decided to make bread.  Can I say that my 9.30am breakfast of home baked bread, boiled eggs with hand grown and made tomato chutney was sheer and utter bliss.

I wandered down through Herne Hill, marveling at daffodils, magnolias and cherry blossoms.  Train to Victoria.  London has been described to me, and often by me, as a big churning cog – as I entered the tube at Victoria I literally felt myself enter its’ motion.

Magnolia, Half Moon Lane

I headed for Soho – first stop a well over due haircut – my hair was the longest it’s ever been, but three months of desalinated water and sandy air has seen me shorn back to shoulder length.

Popping up at Oxford Circus brought such a grin to my face, quick visit to Liberty for some yarn, wandered down Carnaby Street, veggies from Berwick St and a few other essential supplies – back to a rhythm and swagger.  All the time aware that this lifestyle is coming to an end – which I am perfectly fine with – but good to be mindful of in the moment.

Oxford Circus

Popped into Teachers, lunch with Andy and the Tech boys – tales of adventures over 1/2 pints of ale.  Listened to their concerns of impending redundancies and remembering being there six months ago – the whole company gets axed at the end of this month.  The UK is not in a good place at the moment.

Home and I made soup and have just finished a well over due spin on my wheel – oh how I have missed her!  I’m looking at her trying to work out if I can indeed fit her in Mum’s big blue suitcase –  believe I can.  Radio 6 Music setting a tone.

Off to dinner with the UK arm of the family tonight – Karen, Rich and Sarah.  Tomorrow is spinning – I believe there are at least two new lambs – and then Colleen is in town in her annual pop in before MIP.  Sunday is a catch up with Kat via a visit to The Royal Albert Hall to hear some Tchiacovsky.  So it’s jam packed all all incredibly pleasant.  I’m a happy camper right here, right now.

At the end of my road this afternoon


Change of Tones

March 25, 2011

On the way to the beach...

I realise I’ve been a tad quiet of late – Mum has asked me to tone down any negative perceptions I have of the place, given the religious and political climate here, so I guess I’m going by the theory of if you’ve got nothing nice to say then say nothing.  I do however have nice things to say but will keep my more political musings quieter and save them for when we meet and/or the book deal (I jest).

I’ve made a couple of mates who are taking the edge of things – had a fun random night out last night which was well over due.  Started at Thai Snack – the restaurant in the massage parlour and a Doha institution.  As I’ve started knowing my way around and how to give directions people have said  ‘uh! behind Thai Snack – everyone knows where that is!’  Here you do not use street names but ‘landmarks’ – turn at ‘Toys R’Us’ behind Mega Mart, over the road from the Sheraton and all the roundabouts have an English name –  ‘TV’ roundabout is near the Al Jazeera News channels, ‘Decoration’, near a huge tacky home and decorating store and ‘Rainbow’ – has a rainbow arch on it (no gay pride here folks).

We were sat outside near the water feature – lovely outside temperature and had delightful girlie chats about being new to Doha – I being the veteran on 10 weeks.   The three of us had a thai banquet – dumplings, spring rolls, chicken wings (we passed on the chicken anus’s posted on the menu) and a whole baked fish and half a duck – £13 or AU$20 each.

Horse

We had all gone to the beach last weekend.  I had scrawled some directions on a piece of paper when I had been chatting to ‘veteran expat’ about beaches accessible by a normal car.  It went something like take the North road for 40 mins, turn at ‘x’ resort and the beach is to the right – Bob’s your uncle – he was right!  Pristine white sand and clear aquamarine water – temperature was perfect, depth to your arm pits – I was ‘pig in shit’ (apologies for the pork reference).

Beach

So after gorging ourselves on amazing food at Thai Snack we jumped in my mates car and headed for the ‘city’ – via my mates amazing apartment in West Bay overlooking the sea – everyone has a pool but me!

NOT at my Apartment

We headed to the Sheraton; Doha’s oldest hotel and very cool 70’s – I like it.  We thought we may have problems as only one of us had their passport – my passport is with HR at work awaiting my exit visa (see below) and many places won’t let you in without one.  So we rock up to the Irish bar and are given the ’are you hotel guests, are you members, do you have a passport’ line by the doorbitch – on not being able to present said passport it was a repeated ‘sorry it’s Qatari law’ – the colour photocopy would not do.  He was very stern and serious, repeating the ‘Qatari law’ line. He then threw us – ‘but you could try the Latino bar next door’.

Sheraton is the 'sail' type structore on the foreshore.

So apparently ‘Qatari law’ doesn’t apply to the cool ambient Latino bar with the live singer, dancing and cheap cocktails – cool!  So a round of mojitos, a wiggle to some salsa and the obligatory sleazy Columbian saw a couple of hours of old fashioned good fun. The fun of the evening was really in the hilarity of the circumstances you can find yourself in this town – restaurants in massage parlours, bizarre drinking laws, being able to just park anywhere on the footpath.

We were an eclectic bunch – all of us promo girls and new to Doha.  A Nigerian/English, a Singaporean/Malay and an Anglo Australian woman went into a bar…

On the craftyside I now have three solar dyeing bundles heating up on the balcony – tumeric root, eucalyptus and tea and just eucalypt – results in May.  I also played with cold dyeing with bougainvillea flowers and got a lovely pink.

Solar Dyeing Project - Eucalypt

I have officially signed up for another six months starting May 1st.  Figure I need to find out about a Gulf summer for myself – may rue this call.  I am still only a freelancer, so I will become a person with no country of residence as I give up my lovely flat in London (thanks Karen & Rich!) and essentially become a ‘tax exile’.  In order to leave Qatar you must have an exit visa signed by your employer – hence I leave in under a week and have no passport.

Mosque

So, I arrive in London next Thursday to pack up my life, sort out all my paperwork, visit Malta with Joe and Alex and see the Royals wed.  I am liking that my last full day in the UK is the day of the Royal Wedding.  I want to be in the crowd at the Queen Victoria monument, at the end of The Mall, in front of the palace waving a Union Jack as my farewell to Blighty.  She has hosted me well – I’ve had my ups and downs in the UK but London is one damn fine town.

Trafalgar Square & Whitehall from the National Gallery Steps


Elbows a No Go?

March 12, 2011

General Landscape - D Ring Road

It was International Women’s Day this week and I have been giving much contemplation to the plight of women less fortunate than myself.  Thinking of the freedoms I normally have as a western women and how much the small compromises I am being asked to make out of respect for the local culture annoy me and then comparing these to the plight of those denied an education, in forced marriages and powerless to create their own opportunities.  The least I can do is try to raise a little consciousness.

It’s heating up here – I had two days of toddler and mascot wrangling at work this week – 4000 kids over 2 days.  It was hot work!  At various points I went to strip down a layer – to a tank top – but remembered that this was a no go – especially as it was a work function.  To be fair elbows are ok – upper arms not so much.

Lili and I

I am an angry greeny leftist feminist this week as I see nuclear power plants on the brink of meltdown and contemplate the greed of men.  The earth quake and following tsunami were awful but I can’t stop reflecting on the concepts of Gaia – Mother Earth appears to be one pissed off lady!

Just did a news check – no longer on the brink of a meltdown – we have an explosion at a  nuclear power plant.  C’mon Aussies let’s mine some uranium!  Its 100% safe.

All this has interrupted a lazy weekend, saving Riyals as I wait to hear confirmation of a new contract, whilst planning a small segue to Malta in April.

I’ve been in the hammock reading Tales from the Arabian Nights, listening to my slow day mix, The Velvets, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and the like.  It’s warm.  The cat is curled up in the bathroom sink.  I contemplate leaving the house but don’t fancy catching cabs – I can’t wait to get a car – the novelty is wearing thin as I feel the limits of my borders as the sun heats up – I’m already walking in the shade!

Must be a Qatar cat thing.

Had a nice birthday – spent way too much money on a spa and massage followed by dinner at the Souk.  All okay – glad it’s over and done with!

Birthday Mocktail

I made my first solar dye jar today – I boiled up turmeric root from the souk, laid the roots on some cloth, bound the cloth up, whacked it in a jar and poured on the dye water – plan is to leave it for either 3 weeks (if I am not coming back) or until I return in May.  Eucalypt and black tea experiments planned. I really want my spinning wheel today – the idleness is wearing thin.

Solar Dye - Day 1 Turmeric

I think I should turn off the TV, crank up some tunes and go back to the hammock…