Browsing Tag

Qatar

Expat, Qatar

Things I Will Miss About Qatar

June 19, 2017

Things I Will Miss About Qatar

As this post goes live, I will be on a plane leaving Qatar for good probably crying a little. I have lived in Qatar for almost four years and have grown to love the land, the people and the culture. Despite it being a sometimes difficult place to live for a single person, I will miss it terribly. Here are some of the things I will miss the most about Qatar.

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

Living in a foreign country is nothing like visiting a country on a trip. My patience was tested on a daily basis. On any given day, I would also complain about something that had irritated the American in me. However, I have learned more patience and understanding from this. Not only this, but I have learned about new things this way. I have tried new foods and traditions because of this.

The People

I will miss my friends and coworkers. In Qatar, being an expat means that your first friends are likely to be your coworkers. We get together outside of work and celebrate holidays together. I have made some great friends here as well that are planning on meeting up with me on the road, and I can’t wait. My students are also a part of this. I work in a school with less than 500 students, so I know many of them personally. I will miss seeing them grow and graduate.

But it isn’t just people I am close with that I will miss. I will miss meeting new people from new places. Many times I go to dinner with people, and there are five or more nationalities at the table. At my going away party there were people from eight different countries! Learning about other people’s cultures while being here has been the best thing about living here.

The Culture

Qatari culture is traditional and modern at the same time. They still participate in cultural traditions, such as falconry, souqs and shisha. However, they also love malls, cars and five-star restaurants. This has been the best of both worlds. I have learned about their traditions and their values. The family is huge here, and I appreciate that. Everyone will ask after your family even though they have never met them.

I haven’t just learned about Qatari culture, but all the expats I have met have shared with me their culture and traditions. I have learned about Indian festivals, Aussie footy, Thai food, and I can now understand an Irish person speaking English!

The Food

Ah, the food. Food plays a central role of social activity here. This is due in some part to the restrictions on alcohol as people don’t gather at their neighborhood bars but at their favorite brunch places or holes in the wall.

You can also try food from all over the world with ease. The world is truly represented in food in Qatar. Not only that, but people bring food from their home countries for you to try. My last week of work, my Indian coworker brought me some of the food she had made for her family the night before. Homemade Indian food is so much better than restaurant Indian food. Last night, I went to a party, and there was Turkish food, and I will miss homemade hummus!

The Desert

Living in a country without much green has been a bit hard, but it has made me love the desert. I have driven all over the desert here to explore the country. I have loved off-roading in my Jeep. The desert holds secrets that would have never have revealed themselves to me if I had gotten out and explored. I have seen camels on the beach and desert flowers. The desert also gets green when it rains! Who knew!

Ramadan and Eid

Yes, I know Ramadan will continue no matter where I am, but experiencing it in a Muslim-majority country has been something I have enjoyed. By nature, I enjoy learning. Learning about the Qatari Ramadan traditions, the meanings behind things and the spirit of giving has been one of the highlights of living here. I truly believe this has made me a more accepting person.

I will miss the Eid holiday as it always signified a vacation for me. Yes, less of a meaning than Ramadan and definitely not what they celebrate during this time. Although many Muslims go on vacation during this time as well to be with family. Best of all there were two of these a year I was given vacation time around! Double the fun.

My Jeep

I loved my Jeep, and it got lots of use driving around the country from the desert to the beach. The fact that it was red meant people noticed me coming down the road and I hope it helped me avoid accidents. In a sea of white cars, it was easy to find in the car parking lots. I actually cried when I sold it. Now a nice Lebanese guy owns it and is taking his new dog on adventures in it.

My apartment

Now that I am going to be traveling full-time, I won’t have a permanent place of my own. While the apartment had its weird quirks, I have enjoyed it. It is the largest place I have lived in by myself, and I slowly grew into being able to stand on the balcony without fear. It took awhile, but it became home.

There are probably things about Qatar that I will miss that I have failed to mention here, but something somewhere will remind me of it, and I will think of Qatar. As we say here, I love Qatar!

Expat, Prep, Qatar

Packing is Tedious!

June 5, 2017

Packing is tedious

Packing to go on a trip is stressful, at least for me. I make lists and usually pack a few days before just in case I have forgotten anything. So imagine packing your entire life up to move back to your home country! The packing is not only stressful, but it is tedious.

Every item that is in your house has to have a decision made about it. Every pen, every piece of paper, every book and magazine has to be touched and a decision made. Do I keep it, toss it, donate it or sell it? Obviously, storing anything is not an option.

Then you realize whatever you decide to keep has to fit into your suitcases since I am not using a shipping company to send my stuff back. This means you really have to get brutal with the keep, toss or donate decision. I am only taking my favorite clothes, shoes, books and the few souvenirs I have collected. I am hoping to go in four or five checked suitcases.

Why so little? Well, I technically don’t have a place to live in the US. All my things will go into storage at my parent’s house along with all the stuff that is in storage there already. I am very lucky they have enough space to keep my stuff, and I don’t have to pay for storage while I am on my long trip.

I know some people would have a hard time purging so much of their stuff because we all become so attached to the things we own. However, I did this when I moved to Qatar, and except for some furniture and one pair of shoes, I don’t remember a single thing I got rid of. Honestly, individual items of clothes and knickknacks, I have no idea what I owned now. So, I don’t miss those things at all.

After this move, I will write a whole post on how I have done this. Have you ever given away or sold most of your things when moving? Do you find packing tedious?

Hotel/Accommodation, Middle East, Qatar, Travel

Staycation at the Westin Doha

May 22, 2017

Staycation at the Westin DohaBack in December, I won a free night stay at the Westin Doha. The Westin Doha is a newish hotel in Doha and it is not in the area where most of the hotels have been built. In the past few weeks, I have read a few negative reviews regarding events and a few of the restaurants. Since the voucher was going to expire and I am about to leave, I thought I would give it a try and have a staycation for one night.

The Room

When you enter the room, you are greeted with a panoramic view of the whole room, including some of the bathroom. After I noticed the open layout of the room, the next thing I noticed was the soaker tub that looks out over the room. I couldn’t wait to get it and soak for a while. It seemed like you could see the television from the tub. Watching a movie from the tub sounded like a great idea. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the tv from the tub. This was due to the divide between the room and the bathroom. Seems like a huge design flaw.

Staycation at Westin Doha

Staycation at the Westin Doha

However, the rest of the room was pretty great. My room was a deluxe room with a pool view. The room was quite large and had a king sized bed. The Westin Hotel is known for its beds and it did not disappoint! Thick carpet with a beautiful design extends throughout. Heavy blackout curtains block out the Middle Eastern sun perfectly.

Staycation at the Westin Doha

Staycation at the Westin Doha

The usual amenities are present, such as a desk and a beautiful cabinet with the mini fridge and coffee and tea. For all the Brits out there, yes, there is evaporated milk for your tea! What was great was there were plenty of international plugs for all your devices. One complaint was that my room was right by the elevator and everyone is loud getting off the elevator. Not really the hotel’s fault, but the door could have been sound proofed. The other issue was that they had lights on sensors so when you get out of bed at night, you can see. Great idea, but they took forever to go off and one time it went off when I was moving around in the bed.

The Food

The restaurant I had heard good things about was Sabai Thai. It is a small restaurant set back from the hotel. Unfortunately, you have to go outside to reach Sabai Thai, which during the summer in Qatar it could be an issue. When entering there was a Thai woman playing a traditional Thai instrument that had a lovely sound and was so much better than the loud music some place blast in restaurants.

I did not order a starter as I wanted dessert. For the main course, I ordered, Gai Phad Med Mamuang. This is a stir fried chicken dish with cashew nuts, spring onions and chili paste. It was served with steamed rice. The dish was light and flavorful and they asked how spicy I wanted it. I said light since I wasn’t sure how spicy light would be. I could have gone with the medium. For dessert, I ordered my favorite Thai dessert of Mango Sticky Rice. Theirs was probably the best I have ever had! The mango was really ripe and the coconut sauce was not too sweet.

Staycation at the Westin Doha

Staycation at the Westin Doha

In addition to good food and atmosphere, the service was great and never had to wait for anything.

The Service

When I called to make the reservation, I had to email them the voucher, which seemed odd, but I went with it. After I emailed it, everything went smoothly. They even asked if I want to book any spa treatments and asked for my SPG number for points. This service was the same when I arrived. Someone greeted me when I entered and escorted me to the check-in desk. While checking in, I was brought a hot towel and a juice.

About 15 minutes after I arrived in my room, the front desk called to make sure I was happy with my room. While I didn’t call them for anything during my stay, I am sure it would have been quick and efficient. Upon checking out, I was also given great service. There was only one person checking people in and out. Another staff person saw me waiting and quickly went to a desk to check me out.

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay and if I was in Doha longer, I would be going back for another staycation. The pools are huge and look amazing. I also wish I had more time to explore the menu of Sabai Thai.

Have you stayed at a Westin? What was your experience?

 

 

 

Expat, Prep, Qatar, Travel

Pre-Repatriation Blues?

April 24, 2017

Pre-repatriation

Many expats talk about the repatriation blues after they return to their home country. It can be hard to adjust to life back in your own country since it is now not the normal or having the excitement of moving to a new country. I have what I am calling the pre-repatriation blues.

The What?

Since I am not technically repatriating, I am not even sure this is the right term! I am only returning to my home country to store my stuff and see my family. I am sad to be leaving Qatar. A few times right after I gave notice, I had the feeling I had made a mistake and that I shouldn’t go. It is hard to describe what I was feeling. It was a mix of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. What was I thinking quitting this well-paid exotic local job? Then reality set in that, for me, living to work isn’t how I want to live my life.

Then came the reaction to my post about quitting my job. I expected some sad reactions and a few supportive ones. I expected the people who disagreed with what I was doing would not say anything. Most of that happened, but I was overwhelmed by the statements of support not only from friends and family but total strangers. Then the sadness really set in as the more people you tell, the more disappointed friends, coworkers and students I encountered. They aren’t disappointed that I am traveling, but that I can’t stay and travel from Qatar. I have been on the verge of tears many times. One student insists on giving me a hug every time I see her. Who wouldn’t be sad to leave after all the outpouring of love!

Just like with everything else, time helps. Every week gets easier, and I get a few more things checked off the long list of to-dos before I go. That last day, though, I am trying not to think about it.

It Would Be Easier to Stay

Part of these “blues” are because it would be easier to just stay in Qatar. So many things have to be done to be able to leave Qatar. The biggest thing for me is selling my car, which I managed to do yesterday. Because people leave Qatar in cycles around the school year, selling your car in the Spring can be difficult, and you are most likely not going to get as much money for it as you wanted. The other part of this is fielding the calls from people who know that you have to sell the car and making ridiculous offers for the car. I had some people be very rude as well. Like somehow, I owed them the car since they were willing to make an offer! (We won’t talk about the fact that I was also emotionally attached to my car!)

The next hurdle to jump is closing your bank account. That sounds so simple in theory. Go in and close it, right? Not so fast. First, you have to cancel your credit card. Credit cards here are attached to your bank account, so I can’t close my account till the credit card has been cleared for 45 days. Since I never picked up the credit card or activated it should be reasonable that I shouldn’t have to wait the 45 days, but no! So now I won’t be able to close my bank account until some time in late May. It isn’t the end of the world, but something I could take care of now.

Qatar uses a sponsorship system for expats working in the country. Basically, my company sponsors me to be in the country. Part of that includes getting a residence permit. This also has to be canceled before I go. My company needs ten business days to do that. Then once it is canceled, I have seven days to leave Qatar. Not stressful at all! This means I will leave four days after my last day of work. Again, it isn’t bad as I have started to pack, but it adds some pressure.

And I wouldn’t have to say goodbye!

Packing and Purging

The other part of all this is that I am determined to return to the US in my suitcases and not have to ship anything home. I am ruthless when it comes to getting rid of my possessions. Five bags of clothes and shoes have gone out the door and countless bags of paper trash. The rest of it will be sold or given away before I leave.

Packing has already begun, so that is the least stressful part about this whole situation. It also means I should know if I will need to ship some stuff. The only hard part will be getting it all to the airport.

Have you moved back home after being an expat? Did you have pre-repatriation blues?

%d bloggers like this: