Friday, June 24, 2011

I'm Still Alive

I need to get better about updating. I've kind of jumped in with both feet here. That, coupled with blowing up my computer (sad but true) the first time I plugged it in has limited my personal time online. Never believe someone when they say, "Computers can switch back and forth between the voltages. You don't have to do anything except find an adapter that fits the outlet. Just plug it in."

I not only fried my desktop's power source, but flipped the breaker and took out the refrigerator and microwave as well. It sounded like a gunshot. Luckily, all it took was another flip of a breaker to turn both back on. Would that the computer was as easy a fix. Luckily the guys at work are going to help me out. They're putting in a good word for me with the local Dell rep.

Aside from that minor glitch, life here in Qatar is going really well. The people at Georgetown are so kind and welcoming. There's a ready-made community here that isn't at all difficult to be given entry to. So far I've been to a BBQ, a brunch, a movie, multiple trips to the mall, and dinner at the souk. When the weather turns a little milder, I'm going to take golf lessons with one coworker and go horseback riding with another. There's a fair amount to do here. You just need to know where to find it.

Work is keeping me busy (though I'm still learning the lay of the land). The new GU building at Education City is really stunning. It's a pleasure to go to work in such an environment. What I'm doing is interesting too. For example, I'm going to Dubai the day after tomorrow (just for the day) to meet with recruitment firms. There's so much to learn.

I'll be leasing a car starting next week. I've been traveling via the kindness of others and by sharing a driver with my friend and coworker, Charmagne. It's been good these last few weeks to be able to get familiar with the roads here. But I'd be lying if I told you I knew my way around.

I'm someone who is very comfortable with written instructions, a map or even landmarks. Here, none of that works. It's nearly impossible for someone to give you detailed written instructions because many, if not most, roads are unnamed. Add to that roundabouts with multiple roads converging, roads shut down without notice for repairs or expansion, and you can imagine how tough it might be for someone to tell you exactly how to get somewhere.

Maps exist, but they're tough too. Again, you see lines indicating roads, but they're not labeled and with all the growth, maps aren't always current.

Destinations don't have addresses. My address is Al Samrya Gardens, near Decoration Roundabout. That seems to be enough for people to find me. But that's so foreign (no pun intended) to my way of thinking, that I don't know I could find me if I didn't know where I was.

You know what I mean.

Landmarks also only work in places. To be honest, away from downtown, a lot of Doha can look much the same. Just the other morning, I was talking to Charmagne about the drive to work (since I've been taking care to memorize the route) and found myself saying, "Okay, so I want to take a left at the second roundabout with the vacant lots on the corners, not the first roundabout with the vacant lots on the corners."

Should be interesting next week. If I were you, I'd stay off the Doha roads till I get acclimated behind the wheel.

Things that are different here from the U.S.:

-Egg yolks are pumpkin colored rather than golden.
-When you go to the movie, you choose your seat and ushers walk you to it.
-It gets light here about 4:30am and dark around 6:30pm.
-Some banks have one ATM for deposits and one for withdrawals.
-At Carrefour, you buy butter in the frozen food section.
-Movies on satellite are uncut, but movies in theatres can be missing entire scenes (Hangover II, I'm looking at you).
-Phone numbers have eight digits, not seven.
-You can't buy vanilla extract (at Carrefour, anyway), but instead vanilla flavoring. I'm guessing it's because vanilla extract has alcohol in it.
-You can drive pretty much over anything here. As long as you don't mind your car bumping over some awfully uneven ground, you can call almost anything a shortcut and go.
-Looking in my kitchen cupboards, my flour is from Kuwait, my grapefruit soda (which I'm addicted to) is from Lebanon, my aluminum foil is from Saudi Arabia, my butter is from Denmark, my frozen pizza is from France, and crackers are from South Korea, my cinnamon is from India, and my chocolate is from England.

For some, multiculturalism starts in the supermarket.

Monday, June 6, 2011

We Made It!

But before we get to that--I was moved by Mr. Peanut.

True fact.

The leader of the crew who packed away my life in boxes was named Mr. J. Peanut. And a lovely legume he was too. Seriously, he and his team did a great job.  They even carried my suitcases to the car for me.  What more could you ask?

That was on Friday of Memorial Day weekend.  After two nights spent at area motels, I flew out Sunday night.  Let me tell you--Qatar Airways' business class is enough to make anyone believe they're a rock star.  It's luxurious in the extreme, and my flight's crew couldn't be faulted when it came to friendly service.

We took off just before 11:00pm.  I settled in to watch a movie before getting comfy (the seat flattened out into a bed) and catching a whole bunch of zees.  I woke up about two hours before we set down in Doha (at 6:30pm, Doha time).  I had just enough time to eat something and freshen up before the 'fasten your seatbelt' sign came on. The 13 hour flight felt like it took a fraction of the time.

Pick-up at the airport went off without a hitch.  My friend from Georgetown-DC, Charmagne, has been helping out over here for the last few months.  She met my flight and escorted me to my new digs.  They are, in a word, palatial--the floors are marble, the counters are granite, the ceiling have got to be 10 or 12 feet high.  Quite a change from my cozy little Baltimore cottage.

Compounds are the norm for western ex-pats in Qatar.  Mine, Al Samrya Gardens, is very nice.  It's got a pool, a gym, a clubhouse, a salon offering massages and nails (and, apparently, reflexology--I haven't actually checked it out yet, but there's a large reflexology display out front) and a mini-mart. You really don't need to venture outside for much--which I suspect is by design.  If I've learned nothing else since moving here it's that Doha doesn't have what you'd call a walking culture.

Here are some pics of my apartment.  I've got three bedrooms and two baths, which of course means I don't need to share with Oliver and Dudley.  I have it on good authority they are relieved.  There aren't any pictures on the walls or rugs on the floor.  But I have a flat screen TV and wireless internet.  That's got to count for something.

The view from the bedrooms

 The kitchen

Master bedroom

 The larger guest bedroom

 And the smaller guest room

 Guest bathroom
(Which is a more interesting picture than the master bath--they're basically the same except for the nifty shower here rather than a tub with floral shower curtain) 

Ollie and Dud arrived safe and sound late Wednesday night. Dudley wasn't daunted at all by his cross-Atlantic venture. Oliver seemed like he might have dropped some weight, but he's been bouncing back beautifully. We take quick walks in the morning and after work, but take our time and tour the compound just before bed. It's cooler that way.

Yes, it's hot.  I believe it got up to 111 degrees today.  But you don't really notice it that much.  You tend to dash from air conditioning into more air conditioning.  We've got a very generous walled back patio; Oliver is desperate to go outside and play in it.  I keep telling him, "Wait until the Fall.  I hear it's lovely around here starting mid-October."  I'm not sure he's buying that.

So far so good. I've got lots more to share. But that will have to wait for my next post.  This one has run long enough already.