Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Sleepy Little Doha

My husband used to travel in and out of Doha for years before we actually moved there. He would tell me stories about “sleepy little Doha,” before-natural gas Doha, in a country that was not the richest country in the world. The international community then was so small that they would gather at the American Ambassador’s residence on Fridays for drinks and a cook-out, casually exchanging information and gossip on a lazy afternoon. This was also pre 9-11, when the need for mind-numbing security was not so imperative.

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I received the above photo in the mail today, and I laughed out loud and showed AdventureMan. We were there when the Sheraton Hotel was “way out there” in the middle of no-where. A new mall with a Carrefour had opened near the Sheraton and was visible from the dhow parking in mid-Doha.

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Look just above the dhows, to the left of the white building with green windows and you will see a flat building and Carrefour on it.

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The pyramid on the right is the Sheraton, once the hottest hotel in Doha. To the left, you can see the white building with the green windows, which almost disappears now. I want you to notice how relatively bare the skyline is, and this is 2005.

 

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These two buildings used to be the tallest on the Corniche.

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You can see them in the lower right of this photo, dwarfed by all the new sky-scrapers. At the far left, you can see one of my very favorites, a (formerly) tall building with a mosque built jutting out in the middle. You can barely see it now; it used to be one of the most prominent buildings on the Corniche.

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This is what the building looks like when not surrounded by giants.

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This is what it looks like now, almost indistinguishable from the buildings surrounding and overwhelming it.

I used to meet a friend every Tuesday morning and walk the Corniche. We watched the buildings going up, tributes to the huge amounts of cash pouring into the Doha economy and the huge egos that need to build huge towers to put their names on. As they were being built, there were constant fires, mostly electrical, which challenged the fire department and killed the low-paid laborers. American firms seeking office space brought in experts to inspect buildings before renting them, to be sure modern, safe construction practices had been used. Most of the new high rises had been built with severe deficits, unsafe concrete, unsafe wiring, failure to allow people to evacuate safely in case of an emergency and elevators that barely worked even when brand new.

We particularly laughed at the giant phallic silver building front and center.

The extreme heat and humidity of Doha is hard on even good construction, drying out sealants on the windows (allowing dust and water to penetrate), peeling facades, making buildings a mere twenty years old look dingy and severely weathered. One relatively new building had windows popping out in its first five years.

On a hot night AdventureMan and I would have dinner downtown, often at The Majlis, and then go out to the Corniche and board one of the dhows decorated with strings of Christmas lights for a cooling ride along the coastline, where the breezes would blow and Sleepy Little Doha would sparkle.

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September 23, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Building, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar | 1 Comment

When Nothing Means Something

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I lived through the 70’s and the ’80’s and as I have watched the young of our generation grow to maturity, I have had hope for a different kind of world. I believed I saw it coming, a new way of thinking, where women had equality, where all people had respect regardless of skin shade. I suspected it would be slow, but the dinosaurs my age and older would die off, leaving the more enlightened young people in charge.

When Obama was elected, I danced for joy. I saw it as a sign – a man of color elected President of the United States! To me, he embodied what our nation was established to attain. Freedom. Liberty. Justice for ALL. Equal opportunity.

This morning,  AdventureMan and I were talking; as I was leaving his office I tweaked his photos by mere centimeters. They had shifted and were just a little crooked.

“I hope you don’t mind,” I said (and I had already done it.)

(Barely perceptible pause, but a pause none the less) “Oh no, my dear.”

We both broke out laughing. Sometimes people who have been married for a long time lie to each other in such a way, to be polite, not to rock the boat, but at the same time letting the other person know exactly how you feel about something.

That barely imperceptible pause had meaning. Nothing was something.

When you are a teen-age girl, there are a lot of things you tell yourself when trying to figure out what to do.

“Really, nothing happened  . . . .”

“I wasn’t supposed to be at that party”

Maybe I shouldn’t have worn that bathing-suit. Maybe it was my fault”

“I know Mom and Dad would back me, but they would also be really pissed.”

“Do I want to be known as ‘that girl?'”

Maybe you talk to your friends. Most girls won’t talk to their parents, unless it is really severe and you can’t hide it.

I now – I worked with rape victims for two years at a Rape Crisis line. We listened. We offered information. We listened. We offered to go with them if they wanted to tell someone, like the police. We educated – police, hospital workers, first responders, parents. We listened. We went to court with the victims who chose to file charges. We listened.

The bravest woman I ever met was in Doha. I had agreed to meet with her when her mother told me she had been assaulted. She had been offered a ride home, the guy was the big brother of a school friend, driving her and her sister home. Instead, he and his friend drove deep into the desert, forced the girl out of the car and told her to co-operate and they would leave her little sister alone.

She negotiated. She wouldn’t do all that they tried to force her to do. Then they took her home.

She talked to a couple friends, who told her she needed to tell her parents because it had happened before, and could happen again. The young girls were like prey to these guys.

She went to the police, she named names. They were arrested, and when she saw them in the line-up, she told the police she needed for them to take off their clothes so she could tell for sure that it was them. She knew it was them. She also knew that they were from a good family and that nothing serious was going to happen to them no matter what the charges, but she wanted a moment where she could humiliate them in some small way for the way she had been abused and mistreated.

It was one of those unequal power moments, but she used what little power she had.

“I wanted to get this on the record,” she told me, “I wanted to make sure that when they go to get married, that their names will be on the record, and if not, people in Doha have long memories. Who will want to marry their daughters to these men?”

She was 16.

Her family suffered. Her father was heart-broken that he had brought his family to Doha and that he had, as he saw it, failed to protect his daughter. The family left Doha soon thereafter.

I still honor that girl, her courage, her wisdom, her dry-eyed willingness to speak out.

And I believe Dr. Ford. I believe she kept it to herself, maybe sharing a little with close friends. She was terrified and she was 15. She carried it for a long time. For most rape victims, like my 16 year old friend, the sexual violation pales in comparison to the violation of personal boundaries and the fear that you may not survive. You are in shock. You often blame yourself. You want to move on, and you don’t want to be known as “that girl that got raped.” She was younger than Kavanaugh, less powerful, a teen-ager.

President Trump, you are just an ignorant oaf. You think you are something, but you are nothing. It’s not like women are assaulted and men aren’t. A thousand Catholic boys can tell you differently, and they feel the same shame as female victims feel. I hope everyone in America reads your ignorant, hateful, smarmy tweet and see the horror in having you as a President.

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Leadership, Mating Behavior, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Relationships, Survival, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Who Knew? Intlxpatr Turns 12 Years Old

Welcome! Grab a flute, come on in and mingle.

 

Who knew, when I held my breath and posted my first post in September of 2006, that I would still be blogging – with the same blog (!) – twelve years later.

I miss my life. It’s hard to remember that it wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t. When I started blogging in Kuwait, I was once again going up against the steep learning curve of starting over in a new place, discovering where to buy groceries (milk and dairy at the local Co-op, fresh vegetables at a huge vegetable market to the south of Fintas, western staples – a luxury – at the Sultan Center. I bought what I needed, most of the time, but occasionally, a price would be so shockingly out of line that I couldn’t bring myself to do it – like a package of chocolate chip cookies that you just cut and bake for something like $15 when I could make them from scratch by myself. But I digress.

Blogging was new and fresh, and I loved reading the thoughts of other bloggers. I learned so much, and I learned to think differently. Their thoughts were not my thoughts, and I got a very clear view of my own cultural blinders.

I also met some wonderful Kuwaitis. It was a world I loved, a world of ideas and discussions. It was fun. I quickly felt at home in Kuwait; I felt I was gaining perspective from many minds, and it helped me form a more complex picture. I laugh to think it will never be a complete picture; you know how even people you’ve known for a long time can surprise you?

AventureMan told me today I had surprised him. He was talking about how good we are at doing our homework for trips, and how we “roll with the punches.” In my very direct way, I said “No we don’t! We gripe with the punches.”

First I got a stunned silence, then the guffaw of laughter, and then we were both laughing. I love it that I can still catch him by surprise.

So welcome to the celebration of 12 years sharing lives, sharing ideas, sharing our common humanity. This year, in addition to the beautiful cakes I have so much fun enjoying in virtual world, I have added cupcakes, in honor of a five year old granddaughter who has a great eye.

 

 

 

Please stay as long as you’d like . . .

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Pensacola, Shopping | 10 Comments

Are You Chinese?

I always like to see where my visitors are coming from. Lately, I’ve had a surge in visitors from Hong Kong/ SAR / China.

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Usually, most of my visitors are from the USA, Canada and Kuwait. If you are Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese or SAR, could you give me a clue as to what has drawn your attention to this blog? I’m just curious.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Blogging, Cross Cultural, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Unknown Unknowns

Gordon was rolling in and no one knew if it would come as a tropical storm or a hurricane. Trust me, preparing for a hurricane is a lot of work, and we had to make a decision whether or not to put up the window coverings (we did not), to check over our hurricane supplies, like water, batteries, towels, buckets, cat cages, etc, which we did. I even made a big fresh pot of coffee, in case it were a long time before I saw coffee again, I could even drink it cold. AdventureMan cleaned the gutters, brought in outdoor furniture that could blow around, and placed heavier plants strategically so they would damage the house as little as possible if carried by hurricane force winds. Like I said, it is a lot of work.

 

We had wind and rain, lots of wind and sheets of rain, and bangs of thunder, and bangs of electrical conduits exploding, but although the power dimmed, we did not lose power entirely. Our only leaks this storm are in the garage.

The morning dawned; continued windy and rainy and thundery. We decided to go to a nearby Italian restaurant for lunch and had to detour three times before we could get there, twice due to deep pockets of water in the road, too deep to drive through, and once due to a tree down over the road. There are lots of pockets of deep water, and several trees down. We got off easy.

Aarrgh; now for putting all the carpets back down, getting the outdoor furniture back outside and putting the house back in “normal” mode.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Florida, Living Conditions, Survival, Weather | | Leave a comment

First World Problem

My problems are probably not your problems, but we all have to carry our own loads.

So yesterday, I was on the way to the YMCA for my water aerobics class; it helps me fight creeping depression. Why would I be depressed? Existentially, the tone of the current regime offends me, offends my values, and I have to fight not only depression, but also angry frustration. So I pray, asking for input which will alter my sour outlook.

At the pool, the first person I run into is one of my long-time pool buddies, and she has her little daughter with her. I ask how she is doing, and she says “I am not happy.” I know this woman, she is a good woman, and a conscientious mother. She goes on to say that she is at an age where other parents are waving their children off into independence, into college and jobs and marriages and children, and that will never happen for her. Her little daughter is 31, with Downs syndrome. She is a sweet, easy woman, but will always be a little girl.

My friend wasn’t complaining. She was just telling me how she saw her life at that moment in time, she was sharing her reality. I hugged her. It wouldn’t change anything, but she knew I was listening.

I left with an entirely changed point of view, going home to help AdventureMan take care of our two little “petites-enfants.” Tropical Storm Gordon is rolling in, their parents have to work and school has closed down in concerns for the safety of the children and their transportation. My problems are so First World. I got the input I needed.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Community, Exercise, Faith, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment