Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

KLM Customer Service – I’m Impressed

There are days when my phone doesn’t ring at all. I’m not a big phone person, sometimes my friends are out of town, there can be a hundred reasons my phone doesn’t ring including the fact that not a lot of people have my phone number.

So when my phone rang this afternoon, I was surprised, but a few people know I am back in town and I wondered who it could be.

KLM said the little phone screen. KLM calling me? Did I lose something and I don’t even know it?

“This is Mr. SoAndSo with KLM Customer Service, we are calling to ask how was your flight?”


He also asked if I had any criticisms or suggestions. . . Soliciting customer feedback . . . amazing.

Actually, the KLM part of the flight was magnificent. I got on the plane and slept almost all the way to Qatar, I was so exhausted. I don’t even remember anything, but I was really really really glad no one woke me to ask if I wanted a meal or anything. For me, that is a really good flight.

I am still so blown away that they called and asked.

September 17, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, KLM, Qatar | 7 Comments

T’fadl(i), God Whispers

Arriving back in Doha, it’s Ramadan, and it’s like Christmas. Not the way Christmas is supposed to be, but the way Christmas sometimes brings out the very worst in us. At the grocery store, the very first indication is the parking – I suppose it might be this bad from time to time, but today it felt like everyone was in the ME FIRST mode. The parking lot was congested with guys just sitting and waiting for their riders to come back, and people afraid that the parking spot they had their eye on was going to be taken by someone else. There were moments of gridlock, and impatient honking.

It’s easier for me to handle than for those who are fasting.

Inside the store, the faces are stern and their is an air of desperation. Women are looking for new ways to provide special meals (imagine, having to come up with an entire month of special meals!) and I imagine the budgets are strained right now, especially with the big Eid coming up.

We all know that we are to humble ourselves and to give way to others. We are told to do more than just give way, but to give way willingly, and with grace, with a smile. It’s something our two religions share, the emphasis on humbling oneself to serve the greater good. The meaning of the polite Arabic t’fadl (to a man) or t’fadli (to a woman), it means, literally, you are to be preferred (over/before me). It is my spiritual exercise during Ramadan, when everyone else is pushing and shoving and grabbing and taking priority, that I am relishing deferring, elaborate politeness, and giving the hand sign for patience (palm up, fingers together, thumb on middle finger, pushing upward) to those who are honking at me while I wait for someone to back out of the parking space I don’t even need.

It probably doesn’t get me any points, spiritually, to be so aggressively polite; I am enjoying it too much.

September 17, 2009 Posted by | Civility, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar, Ramadan, Shopping | 2 Comments

Holiday Inn Express, Seattle-Tacoma Airport

AdventureMan and I are what we call “Michelin Red R” people. When we were younger, living in Europe courtesy of Uncle Sam, every now and then – not often enough – AdventureMan would take some leave and we would go off adventuring, all over, but our greatest love was traveling in France.

We always had the latest Michelin, but through the years, we discovered that the fanciest places were not the places we liked the best. We would save up and go to a multiple-starred restaurant, order their speciality, and discover that the food was so rich, even with the small portions, even a three course meal would have us awake in the middle of the night, busy digesting the richness of the food.

We discovered, by trial and error, the Michelin red R, which stands for good local food at reasonable prices. Most of these places, you could order a la carte, and while the food remained rich, we found we could enjoy it more eating less of it.

There was also a red R equivalent in the hotels and inns section, but I think maybe it was a red rocking chair. It’s been a while since we’ve made a big trip into France . . .

The Holiday Inn Express at the Seattle Tacoma Airport is a red R in my book. I actually have free nights available at a higher priced chain, but we stayed there on our last long trip, and while the surroundings were luxurious, we found we felt crowded, we like more space and we like NOT to have features we really don’t care about. The rooms were actually about the same size as the one I am staying in, but over-furnished, over-stuffed, crowded.

For being by the airport, it was very very quiet. The shuttle picked me up at the airport almost immediately, they had my room and keys all prepared and waiting for me, it was about the fastest I have ever been checked in.

They are refurbishing the hotel and I like it. I got a new room, with serene furnishings, and all the furnishings I need without too many furnishings. I even had my choice of soft or firm pillows – right in the room. The bathroom was about 6 feet by 10 feet, and had a BIG feel, with terrazzo floors and one of those outward swooping shower curtains.


This is VERY handy, especially if you are tired and don’t want to go out looking for a place to eat, and especially if you are a female traveling alone. I ordered miso soup and salmon teriyaki and had it in under an hour, delivered to my door. There were a huge variety of restaurants to choose from. Wooo HOOO.


I like a room to have a clock I can see in the middle of the night, with an alarm:


I would prefer wi-fi, which is available in the lobby, but they provide a cable in the room, so I have no complaints:


My own little coffee maker, my own little refrigerator, and a little sink and microwave. In the closet is also an ironing board and iron. Yes, it matters to me.



And didn’t we just read that metal showerheads gather less bacteria than plastic ones?


Just the right toiletries, not too much, not too little, and a hairdryer. I know it is becoming standard, but even in the nicest hotels sometimes you can get a surprise, and – sometimes they don’t work!


And, just in case there is something missing, they provide it – complimentary – at the desk. I like the graciousness of that.


September 17, 2009 Posted by | ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Tools, Travel, Women's Issues | 3 Comments