Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Out! I want out of Doha!" I said. "Let's go and drive and see what we find," I continued, knowing that without a destination, what we would probably find would consist of long stretches of highway, sand and rubble, and more sand and rubble. No matter. I needed out of the city. I was feeling closed in, annoyed with the constant traffic noise, in need of space, peace, clarity.

And so we went.

We drove and drove, listening to Craig Cardiff, Amy Seeley, Great Lake Swimmers, April Smith and the Great Picture Show, Hey Rosetta... you get the picture. It was just what I needed. A long, empty road, and time to let my mind wander.

I thought back over those first few months in Doha. All the worry, all the adjustments. I thought about how the hardest part all along has simply been going back to full-time work after months of just-barely-part-time. Long, slow mornings are a thing of the distant past. Lunches need to be made, little girls tucked into bed, classes prepped, house tidied, all with a looming bedtime deadline of 10pm. Where is this mamma bear supposed to find a space of her own, to claim and to inhabit?

I thought about the continuing time crunch. The get-up, get-showered, get-ready, never-mind-getting-Kaiya-ready for the day... cut to classes, meetings, madly prepping, and oh, could I please find a few moments to just shoot the breeze with my colleagues before rushing out at 2:45 to pick up Kaiya?

My need for space and solitude has become clear.

But something shifted on Saturday. I had low expectations of our little trip. We ended up at the northern tip of Qatar, Madinat Al Shamal. As we drove through the ever-so-quiet town, I had to wonder where on earth all the people were. There were beautiful homes, but it was eerily quiet. Well, except for the stray cats doing the wild thing in the middle of the road. We headed out to the beach and decided to just walk. And as we walked, weights and burdens and worries simply started to slip away.

I think it was the fresh sea air. It smelled different up there. And the blue sky was, yes, bluer. And the din of traffic was simply absent. We came across some tents and some friendly folk going out to sea, but otherwise, it was just us three.

It is hard to explain the mystery of these moments. I am thankful that I had the mindfulness that day to look around, look up, and just breathe. Breathe and let the rest go. And thank God for the renewed clarity. I could see, on that day, the amazing opportunities we have been given here, the fantastic education Kaiya is receiving, the love of family and friends both in Canada and Qatar supporting us. I could also feel the hope. That yes, I will find more time to do the things I love: meet and connect with people, practice yoga, cook good food for my family, and write.

I also had, and have, a sense that I am being taken care of. My questions, doubts and fears... they are being held in someone else's greater hands.

Jeff got it too. And when I later saw his pictures of that day, I was startled by our connection.

I feel ready. Ready for the road that lies ahead. Not in the crazy, fun, day-tripping sort of way, or in the make-a-ton-of-money-and-then-book-it-out-of-here kind of way, but in the let's-sink-deep-into-this- experience-and-see-where-it-takes-us kind of way. Ultimately, I think I can't have it any other way. Because if our lives in Canada are rich with relationships and connections, then this desert life must also become rich. Because otherwise, I just won't stay.

But somehow I think I will stay. Because I kind of believe you usually find what you're looking for.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It was her day.

Last Saturday. And it was. The coldest, windiest day we have yet experienced in Doha. I wore a shirt, a sweater, a jacket... and bare feet. At one point, our pizza even flew away.

But it was her day. And she didn't care. In fact, she loved every minute of it.

Can you tell?

Final cake preparations the evening before were intense. I have realized that when it comes to moms, there are two very black and white camps in the world of birthday celebrations : those who love planning parties, making decorations, and organizing games and activities, and those who are stressed by every last detail, wishing they could sit back, put up their feet, and let all those in the first camp take care of the work.

Guess which side I belong to?

Putting on final touches before going out Friday night. She wanted a princess birthday cake, and I'll be damned if I wasn't going to make her one. Look at the intensity! The sheer focus!!

There she is, in all her glory. Kaiya helped me put on all the beads and sparkles in the end, but she definitely ate double the amount that actually made it on to the cake.

The actual party was simple. After all that cake stress, it's all this mama could muster. ;) We gathered at our favourite park, Dahl Al Hammam and watched the kids while they ate and played (and tried to keep all the food and presents from flying away.)

My favourite part was when we sang to Kaiya. We couldn't light the candles because of the wind, but oh how she loved being sung to! Just as everyone began singing, she stole me a look, placed her hand on my leg, and kept it there for the song. It was the best feeling in the world. Kind of an "I'm growing up, but I still need you" gesture. These sweet moments remind me why I'm so happy to be her mom.

All in a row, enjoying the cake.
Larissa and Caleb.
Sweet Adrian, her best boy buddy.

And Laura, Adrian's sister.

Playing in the sand with her best buddy, Kylee.

Hey you, what surprises do you have in store for your mom and dad this year? Will you continue to amaze us with your storytelling, with all the big words you pull out every day, with your amazing, booty-shaking dance moves? What will 4 be like? How will you grow and change? 

Monday, January 23, 2012

"What's it REALLY Like?"

I now know of three friends - three! - who are thinking of coming to Qatar. This excites me to no end. The thought of adding to the pals I have here with me to walk this leg of the journey with... wow. It would be a very good thing.

A question that has come up with these friends, as well as with many other followers of the blog is, "What's it really like?" This question always makes me laugh. Like, whaddaya mean? You don't believe all the happy, glamorous faces I post here on a weekly basis? But truth be told, as I look back over my posts since we've come here, much information is lacking. There's a lot of the usual family stuff, as well as our exciting little day trips, but actual info on daily life here, as well as info about Qatar in general? Kinda not so much.

I've wanted to do this, but life has been a tad overwhelming here, and time for pontification somewhat rare. Heck, I still haven't even written an entry on the college where I work, and I still haven't sent my mom and dad that picture of all three rows of seats in our Nissan.

So here we go. Little by little, I'm going to provide a bit of an education here. Don't expect amazing. I don't have time to do a ton of research. Honestly, it's going to be mainly my perspective as a white North American working mom. Anyone else you talk to might have a completely different take on some of these issues. But I'm all for spreading the word on how great I think this little-country-that-could is. I want people to know how safe it is, how amazing the weather is, and how great the job opportunities are.

And if I could sum up the best trait of Qatar, it would simply be this: its sense of optimism.

The economy is not falling apart here; it is thriving. There are jobs galore to be had... particularly in the oil and gas industry. However, Qatar is also aware of the finite resource that oil is, and so as a country, it is moving towards becoming a knowledge-based economy. Thus, if you are in the teaching field, it's kind of job heaven here. There is an overall sense here that the future is bright and can just get brighter. And I believe this is true. FIFA 2022 will do much to boost Qatar. Already, there are countless world-class events that take place in Doha... too many to keep up with. Sporting events, film festivals, concerts, motor shows, famous artists. It is truly an exciting time to live here.

For today, I'll leave you with some links to videos that have impressed me. I hope they help to convey some of the optimism in the air here. My personal favourite is the 60 Minutes segment that just aired last Sunday.

1. How to say "Qatar"

2. 60 Minutes piece

3. A promotional video just a tad heavy on the promotion...

4. This is an older 60 Minutes segment, still interesting

5. And this is part two of the older segment

(Huh, I didn't do too bad, now did I? You'd never know this has been my worst week of homesickness and culture shock, now would you?) ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dave!

Friday night, we were privileged to be a part of one friend's 50th birthday celebrations. A friend we figure Jeff has known for 20 years now, a man who has weaved in and out of our lives over the years, and who is becoming a more prominent part of it now... Dave Giesbrecht.

As many of you know, we ended up coming to Qatar with Dave and Tracie and Honour mostly by fluke. Dave and Jeff went to the same teaching abroad fair at Queen's, and when Dave's hopes for a job in Dubai didn't pan out, Jeff suggested Qatar. And by the end of the weekend, both of them had landed jobs at the very same school.

Friday night was a wonderful night, orchestrated by Tracie, the master finder of all fun things to do in Doha. We went to the Oryx Rotana, a hotel I had not even heard of, very close to the airport. It was a swanky evening, starting with wine at The Cellar, where we enjoyed live Latin music. As my last couple of posts have revealed, this past week was pretty up and down for me, and you could say the homesickness and culture shock have definitely been kicking in. Just five minutes before we stepped into The Cellar, I had been listing to Jeff some of the many things I was missing while living in Doha. And as soon as we stepped in the door, a good chunk of that list simply dropped away. It's amazing what live music, a warm, inviting atmosphere, and good company can do. Ya, and quality red wine never hurts...

Carlo and Lourdes

Darren and Larissa. I like the soft, fuzzy glow of this shot.

Dave, the birthday boy, and Tracie

I believe I was saying, "This is so fantastic! Just what I needed!!"

After our drinks, we headed over to the Jazz Lounge, where we enjoyed more live music (what a treat!!), more wine, and tapas. 

I love how the bar and most of the tables were facing the stage. The music was no afterthought here. Fantastic band from South Africa.

Enjoying the tunes

Dave contemplating the meaning of "50." Actually, I think he was just texting someone...

Thank you Dave and Tracie, for a wonderful night out. I am not out of the homesick blahs yet, but this night was a good step in the right direction. We look forward to many more good times with all you folks.

And Dave, I hope this year brings you much joy as you continue to discover yourself in the land of sand and sun. God bless.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Now you're 4.

Hello, Beautiful...

Your mama's been a weepy mess for three days straight. Last year's birthday letter came so easily to me, but I've been pondering this year's for days, weeks even, and I'm still struggling to string together the words.

Kaiya, I want to tell you right now:

You are loved. You are safe. You are secure.

When you walk into a room full of people, and you grimace and pull into me, and start licking your lips, a part of my heart breaks. Because I wonder, "Have I done this to you? Have I brought on this shyness by moving you here?" And I remind myself of my own awkward childhood shyness, and I pray that you, too, will find the courage deep within to keep putting one foot in front of the other to overcome it.

Because when you let go and let out that free, free spirit, my heart bursts with joy and your dad's bursts with pride, and we tell everyone stories about our singing and dancing girl who is ready to take on the world one exuberant shout at a time. Your love is big and strong and fierce and protective. And your silly jokes and dances light up every room you enter.

I'm so proud of you. I'm proud of how hard you have tried to take it all in stride this year, and I'm sorry for all the hard parts. The day we left Canada back in August, you were so excited for our new adventure. You insisted on pulling your own luggage, as you loudly declared to anyone who would listen that we were moving to Qatar. A fellow traveler winked at your dad and I saying, "Three going on fifteen, huh?" You sure were.

When we arrived in Doha, you excitedly pointed out the new sights and sounds. You were thrilled to go swimming every day, and you tried, oh you tried to be good while we dragged you through shopping malls those first few tiring weeks when you should have been sleeping in your bed. You are a bold and spunky trooper, yes you are.

I'm proud of the little cross-culture communicator you've become. When we were at the park last week, and I explained to you that the little boy who was playing with your sand toys couldn't speak English, you knew just what to do. Instead of yelling or grabbing back your toys, you quietly made eye contact, insistently pointed to your bucket and then pointed to yourself. He understood and gave it back, didn't he? And later, when I tried talking to him, you loudly reminded me, "Mom, he speaks Arabic! He doesn't know English."

You've taught me a lot this year. I've been stubborn, you get it from somewhere, but yes, I'm slowly learning. You're bringing out a gentler me, a me who's learning to give a little more, to slow down and play a little more, to love and hug instead of push away and discipline. Be patient with me hon, I'm still learning to listen to you, and I still worry too much about what everyone else thinks. But I promise to keep working on that, to keep softening my heart, and to keep putting you first.

I know I've said it before, but don't grow up too fast, okay? You don't need to play with the older kids, getting anxious as you try to impress them. You just be four, okay? And if that means you still want to suck your thumb and hold onto your blanket, that's just fine by me. You'll be off and running around with the neighbourhood kids before we all know it, so take your time. This turning 4 thing is a little tough on your mom, you know? You are most definitely a little girl now. So anytime you want those hugs and snuggles, you know where to find them.

Happy birthday, Kaiya bear.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


To my faithful Niagara (and Winnipeg) followers:
(sorry for leaving out everyone else; I hope you'll understand...)

I miss you tonight. I miss the easy-breezy way we have with conversation. I miss the knowing looks, the inside jokes. I miss going to Starbucks, the Feathery, and Cat's Caboose with you. I miss the big backyard parties in the summer and the small, cozy get-togethers with blankets and tea during the winter months. I miss how we know each other. You know what pushes my buttons and I know what pushes yours. And we respect and we do our best not to judge. I miss the comfort in knowing that I don't have to impress you anymore. You like me, strangely, just the way I am. And I so miss you stopping by our place. So very much. Impromptu get-togethers that remind us how much we're loved.

But tonight, I'm missing you for Kaiya.

It's a delicate dance for me here, this blogging thing. I love writing; that much is a fact. But putting myself out there, for all to see, that's much more difficult. And being here, I have often wondered at which new path this blog will follow. I'm putting a brave face on for all of us, family and friends. It's a wonderful adventure here, full of amazing opportunity, but I'd be a full-out liar if I said it was all yippy-skippy happiness every day. There are struggles to be sure, just as there are struggles for all of you. But the distance makes those struggles trickier to explain and to navigate. I want you to know that ultimately, we're okay. Posts like this one will just make some of you sad, so that's why I simply can't do them often. I don't want to bring you down.

But tonight I miss you. I miss how you love us, and how you love Kaiya. She's turning four in just a couple days, and if we were in Niagara, there would be the "problem" of too many birthday celebrations, too much cake, too many presents. There would be grandmas and grandpas, aunties and uncles, and even more adopted aunties and uncles, all coming together to shower our girl with love. And as I lay beside her tonight, watching her fall asleep, I cried, missing all of you. Tuesday night will be quiet here, too quiet. We'll have dinner and cake and presents, but we'll miss the comings and goings of all of you. Saturday will be a happier day, with a small kids' party at the park and a pink princess cake, but Tuesday... Tuesday will be tricky.

Kaiya seems none the wiser. All she can talk about is her princess birthday cake. Every day I receive elaborate instructions from her on how to decorate it, what colour the icing should be. But my momma's heart is a little achy this week as I watch my not-so-little girl turn four, and I feel all the everything that goes along with that, and I miss the love and friendship and support of each...one...of...you.

Take care.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

This post brought to you by... K-bear

The Kaiya-ism of the day:

We were making cakes out of green and red playdough yesterday (thank you, Maria!), when Kaiya wiped at her teary eyes (she's sick with a cold). I said, "What's the matter, hon?" She responded, "Just sometimes I have some cry in my eyes." I said, "Oh, we usually call those tears." She stated, "Actually, they're cry-ness. I have some cry-ness in my eyes."

(Geek moment: The ESL teacher in me is amazed at how she recognizes that the suffix -ness is used in noun formation. I'll stop here before my sister throws eggs at me...)

And this is what happens when you give an art-happy almost-4-year-old a tile wall and endless amounts of paper and sticky tack:

The kitchen has always been my favourite room here, and now I like it even more.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Happy New Year!

Okay, so I'm a little late, I know. But with flying back to Doha on the 2nd and then enduring haunting, ever-lingering jet lag since then, you could say I've been a bit ... brain dead.

I'm still brain dead, but work starts for me tomorrow, which may just lead to more of the same. So I figure if I'm going to get that "new year's" post out, it's kind of now or never.

We had a good night. My sister bought the tickets back in, oh, October? We went to John Michael's in Thorold, beside the detention center. Classy. No but really, it was. A massive antipasto buffet, and then dinner. And a midnight buffet, with fruit and pizza. And a complementary bottle of champagne at midnight. Yesssss!

We were excited (and no, silly, Kaiya didn't come with us):

Look at HER, please look at her. She's being cute; I'm just being ridiculous.

The dance was great. All the crappy pop music I have missed (sort of), with Pitbull appearing in like, every second song. Seriously North America? You've got to get over Pitbull. There is far greater talent in this world. (But ya, his tunes are pretty dance-able). The younger crowd (ie. our table, minus us) was mostly self-conscious, but the rest of us 30+ folks really just let loose. Even Jeff danced with me. All night. If standing and bobbing your head qualifies as dancing. (And in my world, it does.) According to Dustin, he "participated." :) Whatever, I was happy, over the moon even. I had a dancing partner all night!

I love this picture of my sister dancing. I hope she does too. Lovin' that free spirit!

Midnight came, and we got the whole bit: champagne, countdown, even balloons and confetti. We'd never been to a New Year's Party like this, and I'd have to say, it rocked.

We're back in Doha now, having survived a very long flight with too many crying infants. I'll philosophize on our return and how we're feeling in another post. For now, I just want to wish you and yours a fabulous 2012. I feel hopeful. I feel good. I think it's going to be a good year.

Cheers, my family and friends!


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

We're 'home'!

Just so no one worries - we made it home! 22 hours of door to door traveling. I'm glad it's over, but now the three-year-old with jetlag syndrome sets in. Wish Kathy the best of luck the next two days as I struggle to stay awake in class - she has to deal with our sleep-deprived child.

We'll write once we get settled.

Good night (1 am and I get up for work at 5!)