Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Randomness

It's weekend #2 of sickness around here. Sucky, sucky sickness. It started with a stomach bug last weekend, and now, this week we've all got the head cold from hell. The one that just won't go away. Just when you think you're getting better and your energy is up, you get zapped into the next phase of hell-dom. First, sore throat, leading into nasal congestion, on to hacking chest cough, and then to splitting headache. I'm currently in hack stage, while Jeff's in splitting stage. We don't know where Kaiya's at, except that there's been an unusual amount of patience-testing whining and crying the past few days. So she's definitely still sick with something.

Don't worry, mom, we're pretty sure it's not SARS.

But there was a whole lotta this today:

Funny thing though, my desire to lie around is still mostly being outdone by my ever-present nesting instinct. I thought women mostly nest towards the END of their pregnancies. For me, it's been ever since we returned to Qatar. Maybe it's a subconscious introvert reaction to having spent every single day with family and friends throughout the summer. I think it's more my need to get back to healthy food after a whole lot of eating-on-the-go for two straight months. Whatever the reason, today found me making a double batch of granola, delicious morning glory muffins, and a large pot of my favourite-ever soup.

There we were, a bedraggled bunch, shuffling our way around the house... Kaiya sitting at the table drawing flowers, Jeff making interesting smoothies with our new Bamix, and me making my favourite-ever soup. I turned to Jeff and said, "It really should be raining." Jeff looked at me, puzzled, glancing at the ever-present sun through the window. "I don't know... it's just the Canadian in me I guess. It's the end of September, we're all sick, and I'm making comfort food. It should be cool and crisp, with a dreary gray sky and a slow and steady drizzle. Don't you think it would make it all more cozy?" Jeff didn't say much. I guess it was the combination of splitting headache and smoothie-making concentration.

As we were sitting down to lunch, I looked out the window and swore I saw clouds. Or at least a lack of super-hot-blazing sun. I stepped outside. "It's cloudy!!!" I exclaimed. My family shuffled out the door to look for the proof themselves. Hm, yes, clouds. Then, while eating lunch, I was sure I heard a distinct rumbling. "Thunder?" I said. "No way," said Jeff. "It's probably the trucks rumbling by. (whatever, Jeff) Those aren't thunder clouds."

But as the day went on, I was proven right. The rumbling continued, and Jeff had to admit it was a quiet Friday, and there were no trucks. At one point, he even saw a flash of lightning. And then......... rain. Oh sweet blessed rain. All 50 or so muddy drops of you. Enough to make me open the window just a crack (while leaving the air conditioning blasting, of course) so that I could hear the drops and feel the cool breeze. Okay, there was no cool breeze, more like a hot-sauna wind, but I can still dream.

Proof of rain:

And lucky you, the recipe to my favourite-ever soup:

Spicy Carrot & Lentil Soup

1/2 tsp. chili flakes
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tbsp. olive oil
650 g. carrots, coarsely grated
2 celery sticks, finely sliced
150 g. split red lentils
1.2 liters of stock
125 ml coconut milk
plain yogurt or sour cream
handful of coriander
  • Put chili flakes and cumin seeds in a large pot and toast for a minute, till fragrant. Set aside half of seeds for use later.
  • Add oil to pot and stir in carrots and celery. Let them do their thing for a few minutes. Then add lentils, stock and coconut milk.
  • Bring to simmer and cook about 15 minutes, covered, till lentils are tender.
  • Blitz soup and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Add yogurt, coriander and extra spices to each serving.

It should look something like this:

It took me 3 tries to get the first step of that recipe right today. First I mistakenly added oil to the spices I should have been toasting. Then, I burned the second batch. Proof, perhaps, that I really should have been just lying around in bed.

I'll leave you today with the #1 reason why being sick just ain't so bad:

Bringing Kaiya into our bed, snuggling and then watching her sleep.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sensible Hypotheses

I was initially puzzled when Kaiya used the word "sensibly." Most big words in my girl's vocabulary are easily traced back to the show "Dinosaur Train," by far her favourite show in the whole wide world. Like when she said at dinner one night, "I observe that we're all very hungry." Or when she has stated, "I have a hypothesis," going on to explain a deep mystery in her life, like why her princess balloon is still floating up to the ceiling even after two full weeks. "Dinosaur Train" also explains why she's able to speak so eloquently about carnivores, herbivores, predators, and many species of dinosaur I've never heard of. And why she doesn't like other TV shows..."Mom, they're boring. They don't have paleontologists on them."

The word "sensibly" is not used in "Dinosaur Train." Not ever. But when Kaiya said something about "behaving sensibly," I had my own hypothesis about where this word was coming from. And when Jeff and I attended the parents' morning at Kaiya's school, and her teacher talked to the children, in his lovely British accent, about acting sensibly, I knew my hypothesis was correct.

You could say Kaiya is absolutely loving school. And if we were bursting at the seams with pride for her before, well now it's all just become a bit much. Like, get a hold of yourselves, Momma and Poppa Epp. Get a GRIP!

Kaiya's first day. I told her to smile big. "Mom, I already am!"

Mr. Unicorn, all the way from Canada. So big on my little girl!

But how can I get a grip when every day my girl comes home and tells me about the new phonemes she's learning (she calls them 'phomenes.') My nerdy-wordy heart is over the moon when she tells me, "Today we learned the phomene /p/" while holding her finger in front of her mouth, 'coz you know, you're supposed to feel the breath on your finger (it's called aspiration, all you non-nerdy wordy folk). When I ask her if she knows what letter goes with the sound /p/, she puts her finger in the air and says, "P!" and then starts tracing it in the air..."First you go down the pirate's body and then around the pirate's head!"

Somebody slay me... it's all too much for me to handle.

And as you can see below, Kaiya is already in love with her teacher. She comes home every day with funny stories he's told the class. On the parents' morning, both Jeff and I were impressed by his confidence, enthusiasm and organization. The man runs a tight ship. But honestly, I'm mostly impressed by the sheer quantities of scratch-n-sniff stickers this man possesses.

Here we were, bracing ourselves for another transition. But it's week 3 now, and it's all been incredibly smooth, smooth sailing.

I think she was ready.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Time to Celebrate!

Happy anniversary to my man. It's our day. Fourteen years ago today, a very young and naive guy and gal decided to get hitched. I have sadly realized we have none of our wedding photos here with us in Qatar! (It's okay, we look kinda funny in them)

So here we are on our first date night last year, when we celebrated my birthday/our anniversary/good God, we've made it through the first couple weeks!

Tonight, we will celebrate in the same place, one of our favourites here, Katara. We'll be trying a seafood restaurant that's new to us, and I'm sure we'll be doing a lot of... remember whens.

Fourteen years, and each one just keeps getting better. As I said in this post: "I feel hopeful. I feel good. I think it's going to be a good year."

I love you, my fellow adventurer. I couldn't have found a better match.

Raise a glass for us tonight, friends!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's September, Isn't It?

Last weekend I felt "the pang." I didn't mean to. It was totally subconscious. But as I watched my daughter walk alone to the kiddie pool, jump in, and entertain herself, the pang came. That's what I had come to call it in the past year... anytime I needed a word to refer to the dull ache inside my chest, the ache for the missing sibling, the sigh, always under my breath of "I'm sorry, hon, we always meant for you to have a playmate." There it was. The pang.

And then I shook my head - literally - looked down at my ever-growing belly, and realized I hadn't felt the pang since sometime in May. Sometime when that dull ache was replaced by complete shock, surprise, a good dose of fear, and every now and then, awestruck joy.

We are not there yet. We still have half a pregnancy to go. And I am, as a friend coined this summer, "allergic to hope." My side of the family is not generally known for its sparkling optimism. ;) But an ultrasound this week, and a completely healthy pregnancy so far, have made me realize there is a very good chance this is really going to happen. Kaiya may very well soon have a sibling.

I don't know what we would have done if our surprise in May hadn't come about. We have both always stubbornly held to the dream of having more than one child. This past year had been a year of shelving that dream. We had, on and off, discussed returning to fertility treatments or looking into adoption, but neither option felt right. So for the remainder of the year we had decided to simply cool it. Year 1 of adjusting to life in Qatar was plenty enough to have on our plates, thank you very much. The decision was made to re-visit "the talk" in September.

And here we are. It's September. And as I write, my ipad is propped neatly on a pillow which is propped neatly against my bulging belly. I'm still slightly in shock. But mostly, I'm feeling incredibly, indescribably BLESSED. Like, serious tears in my eyes blessed. Year 2 is being so good to us here. A whole year of wondering if we had made the right decision to come here, and now here we are, and life is being so good. So very good. It's as Jeff said back in May, "I think, maybe, just maybe, the universe is beginning to conspire FOR us again."

I look back, over the past few years, and I see the connections, see how it all fits together. And I'm just thankful.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

(Mis)Communication... Updated

Our food arrived, without even a call from Landmark. Amazing.

We were charged 100QR exactly.

I got serious gut rot after eating our pizza, lettuce-less bagel and pasta salad. I know I've liked their food before, but last night was not our night. 

On the upside, we had really good homemade food tonight. And I think we'll stock our freezer with a pizza or two for the next time I'm tempted by take-out. Thanks for the tip, Larissa!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I made an unfortunate dinner selection for tonight. After realizing (pre-cooking, thankfully) that no one was going to like the daring recipe I had chosen for the evening, we decided to order take-out. Take-out is always an adventure in this country. Kind of a one-off thing. "Let's try such-and-such for dinner tonight." We try it. It's gross. We don't do it again. And every couple of months, we repeat.

This time I went to my trusty Doha Mums forum to look for suggestions. I came across "Bread and Bagels." A restaurant whose food I remember enjoying at a college lunch buffet. After looking at their online menu, I took a deep breath and dove in.

"Hello, Bread and Bagels."
"Hello, do you do delivery to Gharaffa?"
"Just a minute.".... (quick pass off to another employee)
"Yes, Ma'am?"
"Do you deliver to Gharaffa?"
"Well, yes, but it's a minimum order of 100QR."
"That's funny. Your website says it's a minimum order of 60QR."
"But Ma'am, you know, Gharaffa is so far for us."
"Right. Well, why don't I tell you what I'd like to order and you can tell me if it's enough."
"I'd like the Turkey-something-or-other pizza and the Bagel Pizza."
"Sorry, Ma'am, we don't have the Bagel Pizza."
"Okay, well, how about the Chicken-something-or-other sandwich and the Caesar salad?"
"Okay. Let me transfer you to our driver and you can give him directions to your home."

... (transfer)

"We live in Gharaffa by the big Lulu Hypermarket."
"By Landmark?"
"Well, sort of. We are very close to the Lulu Hypermarket. You know, by Shamal Road and Duhail Interchange."
"Oh, yes, the Lulu next to Qatar Foundation housing."
"No, not the small Lulu. The big one."
"Yes, by Qatar Foundation housing. By Lot 2."
"No. That is Lulu Express. We live by Lulu Hypermarket. The big one."
"By Landmark?"
"You don't know where Lulu Hypermarket is?"
"Do I turn right at Landmark?"
... (choosing to just go on)... "Listen, we live just behind the Lulu, in Compound blah-blah-blah 3...
"Yes, blah-blah-blah Street..."
"No, blah-blah-blah #3, villa # blah-blah-blah."
"Okay, I'll call you when I get to Landmark."
(previous order-taker gets back on the line)

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but no Caesar Salad. We don't have romaine lettuce."
"You don't (then go out and buy some??) ... Okay, how about a Garden salad."
"No. No lettuce."
"No lettuce at all?"
"No. How about a pasta salad?"
"Sure. Um (thinking "Whatever" at this point) How about a tuna pasta salad."
"Okay, thank you Ma'am."
"Yes. Goodbye."


We might just eat sometime tonight.

And we probably won't do this again.

(till a couple months from now)

Friday, September 07, 2012

First Impressions, Second Time Around

It's been almost two weeks since we've been back. Two surprisingly relaxed, tranquil weeks in a land so foreign to our Canadian selves that we can't help but be surprised by all the differences, all over again.

We're back in a country where...
-people place special covers over their cars while they're away for the summer to protect them from the unrelenting sand and dust

-we have to pull Kaiya out of the bathwater-temps pools because her cheeks are turning bright red (instead of Canada, where we pull her out because her lips are turning blue!)
-in the summers, the water heater's turned off and we switch the tap to "cold" for hot water and "hot" for warm
-we are welcomed back home by our nanny with a note that states: "Welcome back Sir Jeff, Ma'am Kathy and Kaiya"
-my glasses steam up every time I step outside in the heat of the summer
-men in red jumpsuits offer to wash my car in the parking lot while I do my grocery shopping
-much time is spent picking through limp, well-worn produce, longing for the fruit and veggie stands of Niagara
-mosquitos and most flies are gloriously absent, but the ants come with a painful bite
-one lone English pop station plays the strangest variety of music and programs I've ever heard
-fiery orange sunsets drop, night after night, into the dusty, sandy Doha haze
-we struggle to find ways to make 14-foot high ceilings "cozy"
-windows are sadly tinted to keep out the hot, hot sun
-left hand turns are rare and roundabouts make you dizzy
-vehicles are very, very big
-neighbourhood friends come from around the world, and new acquaintances always swap stories of "so how long've you been in the Gulf?"
-children are loved and spoiled, far beyond my own comfort levels

To show you what I mean by the last point, here's a text Jeff sent me in our first week back:
"So we were stopped at a light and Kaiya was being very cute, waving and smiling at a Qatari couple next to us. We both rolled down windows. Next thing I knew he had tossed a small pack of candy into the car!"

Not that strange of an occurrence here, believe it or not.

Back in our other home in Canada this summer, I struggled to put to words the experience of our first year. I found Qatar just didn't fit as neatly into little sub-categories like Japan did. Our first year left us more or less with general impressions that weren't always easily described. And so, as I often do, I remained silent. Not always helpful, especially when you're wanting family and friends to connect and understand what life is like in your current chapter.

Towards the end of the summer, I read this post from an Australian blogger who was also getting ready to head back after the holidays. And it just hit me... it really is another world here, another planet. So different from our daily Canadian existence that it's hard for me to even explain, at least not without making it sound like a caricature of itself. And somehow, that settled it for me. I live and operate in two completely opposite worlds. The differences are so great... the daily struggles, the social issues, the lifestyle, etc. etc. that they are hard to explain. But that's okay. I don't really need everyone in my Canadian circles to understand my Qatari circles... (although I love it when they try!) I can just live with these differences and enjoy each of my homes for what they are ... to me.

It's funny, because even after just a week, all these differences have started to blend together again, and now we're just home. Home in another place. Far, far away.