Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Seasons of Qatar

It's surreal to go from the blissful temperatures and hues of our Canadian summer into the hot, soupy mess that is winter in Qatar. Well, no, it's not actually winter. It's summer. But in my Northern mind, it may as well be winter, for all the time we spend indoors. We sit indoors, looking out at the shimmering desert heat through tinted windows. When we venture outside, usually for a quick dash to the car, we are blinded by the blasting sun, reflecting off the beige upon beige. The sun, that was a dear friend back in Canada, here feels oppressive, a giant, glowering orange ball of fire, dipping into the dust at sunset.  

Admittedly, this glowering ball was Canadian...

The heat is thick. Thick and wet. And when there is a breeze, it brings no comfort, no cooling effect. It just brings more of the same. Like standing on the wrong side of an air conditioner, as a friend once said.

Years upon years spent in Canada have made me anticipate the coming of the seasons. Hot and humid Niagara summers leading to cooling temperatures, long pants and sweaters. And then the darkening of the skies and the summoning of winter. Leaves dropping, temperatures freezing, early nights spent indoors, warming ourselves with candles and tea. The long, dark winter that I often struggled to endure. But then, finally, spring. With its rains, unpredictable temperatures, and lengthening days. Slowly leading back again to the hot, sun-filled summer.

Even though we're into our third year here, I still struggle with the rhythm of Qatar's seasons. Just as Canadians are turning their thoughts ever indoors, Qatar blossoms. Temperatures cool and the parks and beaches come alive. We go out as much as we can, enjoying the dunes, Souq Waqif and the Corniche, and our many favourite parks. As Canadians moan about yet another cloudy day, yet another blast of snow, we bask in the sun. It feels limitless, endless. But end it does, and by the end of April, just as Canadians are firing up their barbecues, we are spending less and less time outside, becoming creatures of our darkened villas once more.

It is strange to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder and a lack of vitamin D in a country that revels in so very much SUN.

I remember our first year, the panic I felt when March came. "We must spend as much time outside as we possibly can!" I had no idea what to expect, how hot it would get, how fast. And while each year varies a bit, you can be sure that from May through to October, the 40+ degree weather will make you think twice before planning an outdoor adventure.

And so we learn the rhythms of our new seasons. Cooped up children play outdoors once the sun has dipped past the roofs of villas. They run and scream on the streets, cheeks bright red. Dinnertime is often followed by evening swims in too-warm pools. And hot day times are spent indoors, playing and reading and creating, with occasional trips to one of the many mall play areas.

And we come prepared. On my "to buy in Canada" shopping list this summer were many items, including cream of tartar. The guy in the Superstore told me it was in the soup aisle. Haha. He really did. When I finally found it at Bulk Barn (oh to have one of those in Qatar...), I bought enough to last a year of playdough-making. And then I bought books, and little games, and a variety of colouring books. Simple tools can go a long way in helping cagey kids (and their parents).

Playdough cookies and noodles

But most of all, we thank God that there's a reprieve. For while winter in Canada can often stretch from November into late March, each scorcher of a Qatari summer is broken up straight through the middle with two blessed months in cooler Canadian temperatures. We've learned to deal with 40 degree heat. But 50? That's just a bit much.


Anonymous said...

Isabelle is trying to understand the rules of this game.Babi

mariaborito said...

Thanks for sharing. I do think of you as the days turn inward. I never realized the seasons in Qatar. Love the picture. Isabelle is sitting up?!
I remember missing the pumpkins when I lived in England. I think you do a great job of coping with the changes. Better than I could ever adapt. You have an ability to embrace the new cultures and find ways of bringing your own into the mix and celebrating where you are from. Blessings to you:)

jhpwestvan said...

A very good account of life in Qatar for a northerner.

jhpwestvan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.