Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Qatar Train Map

I found the paper with the map! How cool is this?

When I look at this, I think if the money ever runs out in Qatar, they will still have invested in a superior infrastructure – education, transportation, roads, parks, attractive public areas, effective policing and traffic control – way more important than luxury malls.

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November 24, 2009 Posted by | Building, Community, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Qatar, Social Issues, Values | 6 Comments

LOLCat: You are SO busted!

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Humor | 1 Comment

Train (Qatar to Bahrain) Construction to Start

What excites me about this project is that the train which will begin construction soon, also ties in with a beautifully laid out public train system to link major hubs in Qatar. I wish I had taken a photo of the map in the paper – it looks like the London tube system, different lines – different colors, circles where you can switch lines . . . Qatar is definitely going to do this, and to me, it is very exciting.

What public transportation means to me – instead of driving, which I don’t mind all that much, I can sit and read a book!

Qatar-Bahrain causeway work to start in early 2010
Web posted at: 11/23/2009 6:49:46
Source ::: Reuters
ABU DHABI: Construction of a 40km causeway that would connect gas exporter Qatar to the Gulf island state of Bahrain will start in the first quarter of 2010, an official said yesterday.

“We are evaluating the final design and cost of the project and expect construction to start early next year,” Jaber Al Mohannadi, general manager of the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Foundation, told a conference in Abu Dhabi.

Construction was initially scheduled to start in 2009, but the addition of rail lines delayed the project.

“Project completion will be in 2015,” he said, but declined to give the estimated cost of the project because the figure was yet to be finalized.

Contractors selected to carry out the project include France’s Vinci and Germany’s Hochtief AG, Mohannadi said.

The latest official cost estimate of the causeway, one of the longest in the world, stands at $3bn to be shared between Bahrain and Qatar. Users of the bridge will have to pay a toll, Mohannadi said.

Jassim Ali, a member of the financial and economic affairs committee of Bahrain’s parliament, estimated the project to cost $4-$5bn.

“Qatar will probably be providing some soft financing to Bahrain” to help cover its share of the cost of the project, Ali said.

Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, has one of the world’s highest per capita gross domestic product, while Bahrain is a small oil producer with limited public finances.

The rail tracks on the causeway would be part of a planned train network that will connect the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which also include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is an important business hub of the region.

The 1,940km GCC rail network will cost $20-$25bn as Gulf Arab states plan to spend more than $100bn on various rail projects to improve public transportation.

Qatar and German rail and logistics group Deutsche Bahn [DBN.UL] signed a $23bn deal that provides for building a passenger and freight railway.

Bahrain in April launched a new port that it hopes would help it become a shipping hub for the northern part of the Gulf.

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Building, Bureaucracy, Community, Doha, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | | 5 Comments

The Tribal in all of us – Prayers for Rain

I know it is about that time of the year . . . clouds are gathering, you can almost smell rain coming. And yet it holds off. Every year, in Qatar, and also in Kuwait, the national leader gathers with his people and prays for rain.

What country doesn’t need rain? Even in the Pacific Northwest, where jokes are made about the abundance of rain, when the rains fail to fall, people pray for rain.

I remember living in Monterey, California during a drought; it didn’t rain for a couple YEARS. When it rained, people danced in the streets for joy.

There is no sweeter smell on earth, I think, that the smell of the first rain hitting the dusty earth.

From today’s Gulf Times

Prayer for rains
HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani joining the worshippers to perform the Istisqa (rain-seeking prayer) at the Al Wajbah prayer ground yesterday morning. The prayer is in line with the Sunnah (sayings and deeds) of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), who performed Istisqa prayers when there was a delay in rainfall.

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Doha, ExPat Life, Leadership, Living Conditions, Qatar, Weather | 11 Comments

Cats Purr Purr-posefully

This study cracks me up. When a cat is catting around you in the morning, it is usually because they are hungry, and they want you to feed them. If you get up and feed them, you have just encouraged them to bother you. YOU train the cat to bother you! The Qatteri Cat knows I won’t get up and feed him until I am ready. With me, he will purr, but he settles down and waits for me to get up – and feed him. LOL, I guess he has me trained, too.

From today’s BBC News:

Cat owners may have suspected as much, but it seems our feline friends have found a way to manipulate us humans.

Researchers at the University of Sussex have discovered that cats use a “soliciting purr” to overpower their owners and garner attention and food.

Unlike regular purring, this sound incorporates a “cry”, with a similar frequency to a human baby’s.

The team said cats have “tapped into” a human bias – producing a sound that humans find very difficult to ignore.

Dr Karen McComb, the lead author of the study that was published in the journal Current Biology, said the research was inspired by her own cat, Pepo.

“He would wake me up in the morning with this insistent purr that was really rather annoying,” Dr McComb told BBC News.

“After a little bit of investigation, I discovered that there are other cat owners who are similarly bombarded early in the morning.”

While miaowing might get a cat expelled from the bedroom, Dr McComb said that this pestering purr often convinced beleaguered pet lovers to get up and fill their cat’s bowl.
To find out why, her team had to train cat owners to make recordings of their own cats’ vocal tactics – recording both their “soliciting purrs” and regular, “non-soliciting” purrs.
“When we played the recordings to human volunteers, even those people with no experience of cats found the soliciting purrs more urgent and less pleasant,” said Dr McComb.

How annoying?

She and her team also asked the volunteers to rate the different purrs – giving them a score based on how urgent and pleasant they perceived them to be.

“We could then relate the scores back to the specific purrs,” explained Dr McComb. “The key thing (that made the purrs more unpleasant and difficult to ignore) was the relative level of this embedded high-frequency sound.”

“When an animal vocalises, the vocal folds (or cords) held across the stream of air snap shut at a particular frequency,” explained Dr McComb. The perceived pitch of that sound depends on the size, length and tension of the vocal folds.

“But cats are able to produce a low frequency purr by activating the muscles of their vocal folds – stimulating them to vibrate,” explained Dr McComb.

Since each of these sounds is produced by a different mechanism, cats are able to embed a high-pitched cry in an otherwise relaxing purr.

“How urgent and unpleasant the purr is seems to depend on how much energy the cat puts into producing that cry,” said Dr McComb.

Previous studies have found similarities between a domestic cat’s cry and the cry of a human baby – a sound that humans are highly sensitive to.

Dr McComb said that the cry occurs at a low level in cats’ normal purring. “But we think that (they) learn to dramatically exaggerate it when it proves effective in generating a response from humans.”

She added that the trait seemed to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one relationship with their owners.

“Obviously we don’t know what’s going on inside their minds,” said Dr McComb. “But they learn how to do this, and then they do it quite deliberately.”

So how does Dr McComb feel about Pepo now she knows he has been manipulating her all these years?

“He’s been the inspiration for this whole study, so I’ll forgive him – credit where credit’s due.”

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Experiment, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pets, Relationships | Leave a comment

Cooling Down in Qatar

I quilt. I quilt for hours. In my quilting room, I stream National Public Radio from KUOW in Seattle, and when they say the temperature is 49°F and there are high winds expected, I almost feel cold.

So when I say it is cooling down in Qatar, it is a little tongue-in-cheek. I’m the Alaska girl, remember? We went sleeveless if it got up to 65°F; 70°+ was a heatwave.

Now that it is “cooling down”, the temperatures at night are just under 70°F.

I’m still running the A/C; looking forward to the days when I can turn it off. But, compared to the searing heat of summer, this is heaven. 🙂

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Doha, ExPat Life, Humor, Living Conditions, Qatar, Seattle, Uncategorized, Weather | Leave a comment

“You’re Such a Good Driver”

Twice in the last two weeks, friends riding with me have said “You’re such a good driver.” You’d think I would be flattered, but instead, it makes me aware of how much I have adapted to driving conditions in Doha. The truth is, I am pretty good. The truth is, that’s not a good thing.

Doha is smaller than Kuwait. The trick in Doha is to know which roads are closed, (that is usually in the newspaper,) and to have two or three routes to get to the same place. The trick is to know where the lanes are going to go wonky with all the people needing to make a left turn, and at the same time, how to avoid the mandatory left turn lane that can catch you by surprise.

The trick is to yield to the bigger vehicle, especially if he is a cement truck, crane, or similar very heavy vehicle, unless you think you can quickly get ahead of them so you won’t have to go 15 km/hr for the next thirty miles. The trick is to avoid being behind a truck loaded with not-secured concrete blocks. The trick is to know that new cameras are going up all the time – have you noticed? Even the locals are slowing down, so I am guessing that the fines here are being imposed across the board.

Last week, I even saw a policeman pull a truck over for an illegal left turn – he turned from the lane next to the legal turn lane – he got pulled over. I don’t know if he got a citation, but he got a talking to. He seemed to be listening respectfully. I was shocked. There are times you will see three lanes turn left, only one of which is the legal left turn lane. It’s so common, you take it for granted. But things seem to be changing.

I have also caught myself doing some things I would never ever think of doing in the US. I needed to use a cash machine, and all the parking spaces were filled. I gave it 5 seconds thought, parked my car behind two cars right by the cash machine, and prayed no one would need to move while I was getting my money. Unfortunately – no one did. My bad behavior was positively reinforced.

The other night, picking up food on the way home, I begged some workers to let me park in a marked “no parking” spot so I could pick up my food.

“Bas hamsa deqiqa” I smiled as I ran to pick up my food, which, fortunately was ready and I paid, ran back out, tipped a little for the spot and drove off.

These are things I would never never never do in the United States. I do it here because it makes my life easier and because . . . everybody else does it.

I can still hear my Mother’s voice saying “and if everyone were jumping off a bridge, would you do that?” That’s what mother’s say. I probably said it myself. And here I am, knowing I shouldn’t do it, and doing it.

When I first got here, a woman was taking me shopping and as we got to the roundabouts, she said “You’ve just got to commit!” and she would whirl through the roundabout with seconds to spare. An Iranian friend got us from the airport to the Diplomatic Club once in 17 minutes in peak night-time traffic. It was easier for me to watch the clock than to watch her drive; she didn’t even look left when she entered the roundabouts. And she got us across town in 17 minutes. I still wonder at that accomplishment, and feel myself, at the same time, quaking in my boots at her confidence.

So I wonder if my admiring friends feel the same way, if I have become so used to local driving that I am adapting dare-devil tactics in my driving as well as in my parking?

I shudder at the re-education I will have to undergo when I return to the US for good.

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Safety | 6 Comments

The Little Sailor in Najma

This is a story of good advertising and good luck. In a recent Peninsula magazine was a full page ad for a new restaurant, the Little Sailor. It looked clean, and interesting, so we decided to seek it out for a seafood dinner.

We are so glad we did. The Little Sailor is located on a not-that-easy to reach street – either you are coming from Airport Road on C-Ring and you turn right, I think at the third right turn from the light, or you go down Najma, from C-ring, turning right at the small roundabout just past the Commercial Bank on your right, go to the end of the road, turn right, go a short distance to the end of that road, turn left and then turn left again on the next street and you will see the Little Sailor on your left.

It’s small, but they are doing a steady and continuous business. At one point, every table was taken, people coming in and placing to-go orders. They don’t have a printed menu yet, which always makes me nervous, but we plunged in, hoping we had enough to cover the bill. 🙂

We started with the seafood soup, which was delicious – it tasted like good health as soon as we started eating, and was full of fish chunks. It is hearty and filling. They have two versions, a cream version and a clear version. We went with the clear version; we loved it.

I chose Fish and Chips for my entree, and AdventureMan chose grilled shrimp. We had more than enough, the portions were generous:

The batter on the fish was light and airy, like tempura batter. It allowed the flavor of the fish to shine!

As he was talking with the manager, AM learned that The Little Sailor is associated with the same company as Al Maharah, in the Suq al Waqif hotel. No wonder everything tastes so fresh and so delicious!

When our bill came, we got a happy surprise:

QR 104 comes to around $29. for this feast of fresh seafood. 🙂

November 21, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Photos, Qatar | Leave a comment

Glorious View in Qatar

Yesterday I was invited to an all-gals party, and normally, I don’t accept any outside invitations on Friday, which is AdventureMan’s only day off the entire week, but this date was special, and I went, and I had a wonderful afternoon, full of laughs and good friendships.

When I walked in, I had a moment’s nostalgia for Kuwait, and my endless view from my mustard colored tower – this woman had the Qatar equivalent – the view that goes forever.

The windows were open, the breezes were blowing, the laughter was infectious and the food was delicious – what is not to love?

Only six years ago, when I first came to Qatar (almost seven years now) the building from which I took these photos didn’t exist. Looking north, only a few low buildings, the Intercon and the Ritz Carleton existed – and now, it’s almost like another Corniche in the making out at The Pearl. The speed with which this has happened is breathtaking.

November 21, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Building, Doha, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Photos, Qatar | 4 Comments

He turns a desert into pools of water

One of today’s readings in The Lectionary are these verses from a much longer reading, Psalm 107. When I read these lines, I can’t help thinking how this very dull and flat land, Qatar, this little thumb sticking up into the Gulf, has greened, how the oil and gas have served to green this land, to change its face, and how much money is flowing out from this country to many other countries of the world.

All those of us from far away countries who labor here are benefitting from these springs of wealth, sending money home.

33He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36And there he lets the hungry live,
and they establish a town to live in;
37they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
and get a fruitful yield.
38By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their cattle decrease.

39When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
40he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41but he raises up the needy out of distress,
and makes their families like flocks.
42The upright see it and are glad;
and all wickedness stops its mouth.
43Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

For my Christian readers, Muslims also use the Psalms as holy readings –

“The Qur’an (Surah An-Nisa 4:163) states “and to David We gave the Psalms”. Therefore, Islam confirms the Psalms as being inspired of God.”

Did you know that?

November 21, 2009 Posted by | Blogging, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Random Musings, Spiritual | Leave a comment