Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weekend fun

We took our first outing in our own car on Friday morning. We drove to church- Grace fellowship. They meet in a large meeting room in one of the compounds (Christian churches are still fairly new in Qatar). We arrived (a few minutes late) and walked right in the main door - right into the pulpit in the middle of the praise music! We quickly shut the door and looked for a side entry. I guess this is how they identify visitors! :-) The service was nice- very multicultural. They don't have a pastor, so the speaker rotates from week to week. They seem to have a lot of children and children activities. They also have several small groups and bible studies in get involved in. After the service, several families approached us and invited us out to lunch. We came home after lunch just long enough for the boys to nap. Then we went to colin's 3rd birthday party. It was a fantastic small group of families and the hostess and her visiting mother are both vegan, so there was lots for me to eat!! Super nice surprise!! After the birthday party, another friend held a dinner party for us to meet more people. It was really great to see some familiar faces - two of the families at the dinner party are people we used to work with in Houston 6 years ago. The boys loved playing with all the super hero toys and fighter jets their boys had!! Ken had to work today, so the boys and I scheduled a tour of Doha courtesy exxonmobil. Apparently we can get a personal tour for 3 full days. Doha is not very big, so I have no idea how they fill three days, but it's a nice gesture. We were about 2 hours in (of a planned 6 hr tour), when jaden decided he had had enough and threw up all over himself, his car seat, and all the toys in his lap. Clearly we ended the tour and came home. He seems totally fine now. I'm wondering if he just got a bit car sick as she was whipping around some pretty small side streets, not slowing down for speed bumps, when he lost his cookies. Just glad he's okay now.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We have a car!

So it's official, we finally own a car in Doha - a 2008 Land Rover.  I'm looking forward to getting a driver's license so I can drive it!!!  It's almost cruel to have a car parked in the carport staring at you every day and not be able to drive it anywhere!  Ken doesn't plan to take it to work since there is a van pool service provided by the company.  He has a one hour commute to work, so might as well rest, read, or work while someone else drives.

Getting a car (and a driver's license for Ken) was definitely more challenging than we anticipated.  The nationals aren't always very friendly to foreigners and we've heard they can be especially rude to Asians since they are typically the lower paid workers in Doha.  This doesn't bode well for Ken.  The first time he tried to get his driver's license, he was kicked out!  Can you imagine anyone kicking Ken out of someplace??!!  When he returned, he passed the oral part, but then you get shuttled for the driving portion.  You have to choose if you want a driver's license for an automatic or a manual - Ken planned to get the automatic license.  He was on the shuttle when the driver started barking out instructions in heavily accented English.  Ken couldn't understand him and by the time he finally understood it was his stop, the driver yelled "Too late!"  Ken had to start all over again.  Poor Ken.

Paying for the car wasn't much easier ... I tried to wire the money into the seller's account, but I received a cryptic error message from the bank saying the wire transfer had been cancelled.  Two hours on the phone with the bank to straighten out the mess!!!  Two painful hours!!!  Apparently it's no good to change your physical address to one state, your mailing address to another state, leave them no working phone number, and then wire a large sum of money to a foreign bank.  I think I spoke to every department in the bank from technical support to risk management back to technical support to ecommerce to online support to fraud.  Surprisingly the fraud department was by far the most helpful!!  The whole time I just kept asking, why am I speaking to the fraud dept??  I'm just trying to buy a car!!


On a happier note ... I was invited to my first ladies night last night.  It was nice to meet some ladies - I think there were about a dozen or so ladies there and I have no idea how many bottles of champange we finished, but it was a load of fun.  I really needed some girl time!!

Then today, I came home from the grocery store to find a lady and her son hanging out with my boys.  (I had left the boys at home with a babysitter during their naptime so I could shop alone.)  It was a most pleasant surprise!!  I had met her one other time and she stopped by to visit and decided to stay and wait for me to come home.  The boys had a great time sharing their toys - especially all their superhero costumes!!  And I had a great time visiting with Kathy.

And on Friday, we've been invited to a neighbor's birthday party for their 3 yr old son.  Plus a dinner invitation with a family we both used to work with in Houson 5 years ago!   

We definitely miss our friends and family back home, but I have to say, it's been really easy to meet people here! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

We found bacon!

Beef bacon that is.  I am ever so grateful my neighbor helped me find it in the grocery store and told me to be sure to broil it if we wanted it to get crispy.  Ken had to work late last night, so I surprised the kids with breakfast for dinner and a movie night in our jammies!  I even let them eat dinner at the coffee table.  It was a complete surprise for them and shockingly Jaden didn't even seem to notice it was any different!!! He gobbled it right up!!!

Apparently I can also buy pork products at the liquor stores as soon as we get our liquor license ... better work on that before Ramadan starts!

So excited to get some bacon!

Jaden gobbled up the bacon!  So yummy!!

Finally Some Pictures!

Things seem to be starting to settle into a more normal routine here.  The boys are finally sleeping through the night and taking their normal naps.  The jet lag induced haze has finally lifted.  Yeah!!  We still don't get out too much, but we've met several people around the complex.  We go to the pool most everyday - we were going in the mornings, but then we found out most others go in the evenings.  So now we go in the evenings. 

We went out to lunch today with the Pegasus Club - a social club for ExxonMobil expatriates.  Most of the activities are for the spouses.  We met tons of people and lots of kids.  It was a wonderful outing!!  Everyone is so super nice and helpful!!!  Makes the transition much easier!!

We haven't done many picture worthy things yet, but I wanted to include a few from our first week or so.  Hopefully we'll start getting out and about a bit more in the weeks ahead, but it all takes so much time here.  I have to get my residential permit before I can get my driver's license.  And with Ramadan around the corner (starts July 20), if I don't get it all done by then, I'm out of luck until Ramadan ends (Aug 18).  The paperwork has been submitted, so all we can do is pray and wait ... until then I will continue to use the driver service as needed.

Now for the much anticipated pictures .... sorry I don't have more...

The boys loved their fancy chairs and private TVs with headphones in business class!!!

We made it!!  So happy to see our new house and finally be out of the plane!

Our first dinner in our new house.

Nicholas loves his "sink," but we only have the bidet in the master bathroom. 
He asked us, "why do you get the sink that's just my size?" 

Swimming in the pool on the clubhouse roof.  We have it all to ourselves most mornings. 

After our air shipment arrived, the boys room looks a bit more like home.  The twin beds here are wider than they are at home, so the bedding doesn't fit perfect, but good enough. 

A little piece of Texas for the boys bathroom.  They were super excited! 
(Although, I still can't believe I bought all of this Texas stuff!!!)

Jet lag is tough when you're only 3 ... Nicholas fell asleep on the stairs.

Friday, June 15, 2012

3 strikes and NO BACON!

Friday didn't go exactly the way we had planned... Ken doesn't work on Friday, so we thought we could spend some time together as a family.  (Friday is the holy day here, so the work and school week is Sunday through Thursday).

Original plan was to attend church at Grace Fellowship, a non-demoninational church that appears to most closely resemble PCA/Baptist background.  Yes, church is held on Friday mornings instead of Sunday ... how odd to say "Friday School" after 36 years of Sunday School!!  Unfortunately we didn't get the directions in time to make arrangements for a taxi.  Strike one...

Then we planned to go to the beach.  We can't really go to the public beaches here since I would be required to be covered from my shoulders to my knees, so most expats go to the hotels and pay a fee to use their private beaches.  But when Ken called the hotel to confirm the fee, we found out the beaches are only open to hotel guests on Fridays, not the public.  We can go any other day of the week.  Strike two ...

Next plan was to check out one of the mega malls ... see what stores are available and let the kids play in the arcade/play area that each mall seems to have.  About 15 minutes before the taxi was to arrive, I happened to check Facebook and saw a posting that the mall was closed for 2 days.  Huh??  The entire mall??  Okay... Strike three...

So we ended up going to the grocery store.  OH WOW!!!  For my Pearland friends, think HEB plus with a second story and shoulder to shoulder people!!  Apparently we went at the worst possible time ... Friday afternoons are crazy packed.  I will never go at that time again - ABSOLUTE MADDNESS!!  But fun people watching!!!  We were able to find most everything we were looking for - even several of my vegan products!  Yeah!!  I also liked the seperate station in the produce area to weigh and label each item with a sticker to scan.  Yes it adds another line, but no more people at the check out staring at my produce asking me, "what's that??" and scrolling through their list because I must be the only people to buy some of these things in the US.

By the time we made it home we were starving.  Ken ordered takeout from The Noodle House (super yummy noodles!), while I unpacked all the groceries.  I also whipped up turkey sandwiches for the kids who couldn't wait for the food delivery.  Jaden and Nicholas kept talking about their ham sandwiches and I kept correcting them ... it's turkey.  Jaden insistented it was ham and I explained it can't be ham because we can't buy ham here.  Jaden:  "Why mommy?"  Me: "Because their religion believes that anything from a pig is unclean." Pause, pause, wheels turning, then Jaden: "Isn't bacon from a pig?"  Me: (uh oh) "Yes honey"  Jaden:  Eyes bug out of his head and tears start to well up and "You mean, there's no bacon?!"  You see, bacon is one of Jaden's favorite foods and since my kids eat so little and are so tiny, I put no limit on what they want to eat.  So bacon away at home!  Here, not so much... a rough discovery for Jaden.  Not to worry though, he recovered quickly and we have found several new things we love here -- like chocolate hazelnut wafer cookies and fresh pressed strawberry juice!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nicholas found the only puddle in all of Doha!

We went on our first errand yesterday to turn in the paperwork enrolling Nicholas in his preschool for next year.  I was a little nervous, but all went well ... almost...

Since I don't have a driver's license or car yet, I hired a taxi to take us to Nicholas' school.  I was successul in getting a gate access card for our complex (and met a few neighbors along the way).  We found the school and had a rather lengthy tour.  Boys behaved very well and all was good.  Nicholas was definitely getting sleepy and we needed to get back for his nap.  He stepped off the curb to climb back into the taxi, but this is a kid who can NEVER resist stomping in a puddle.  Apparently the school had just watered their landscaping and a bit of a mud puddle had formed along the curb.  Somehow Nicholas managed to trip over his own two feet and he landed flat in the mud puddle.  We're talking covered in mud from his shoulders to his toes!!!  Poor kid!!!  I swear, the only puddle in all of Doha! I had to take him back inside, strip him down, and wash him off ... mud even made it in his underwear!!!  The school found us some clean dry clothes and we were off.  I so wanted to take a picture, but was afraid it might have been too mean!  :-)

Let's see what today brings...

Please don't think all our days are terrible ... just sharing the funny moments.  Love you all!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My first day in Doha...

I thought I'd celebrate my first full day in Doha with a nice glass of wine.  Of course the wine bottle opener broke before I could get the cork out, so Coconut Juice it is!  :-)  It made me laugh as I thought back over the day and thought I'd share a few snippets of my first day in Doha.

Quality ... it's just not the same as the US!!  I already mentioned the opener for the wine bottle broke on first use.  We've been warned that the glasses provided in our "fully furnished" townhouse will warp in the dishwasher ... not the plastic ware, the glasses!!!  The measuring cup has no lines on it!  The baking sheet warped on it's first use.  All the cooking utensils (spatula, etc) are metal and the pots and pans are of the non stick variety -- metal utensils scratch them all up.  The stove blew a fuse 3 times while making dinner.  Ken tried to reheat something later and couldn't even get it to turn on!  The dead bolt on the front door doesn't work.  There is no hot water in the boys bathtub ... I filled it up using hot water carried up from the kitchen!  And that's just the things I remember! 

Pool and mini market ... my only outing today was to explore the club house and mini market within our townhouse community.  We live very close ... only about 5 units away!  yeah!!  The pool was nice, but the water was cooler than I expected.  My little munchins were shivering in the water after about 45 minutes!  It was later in the evening (about 5pm), but it had to have still been 90 degrees F.  The mini-market was fantastic!!  They have these great little baskets on wheels and I picked up some fresh fruit and veggies for dinner.  I have no idea how much I spent ... I still don't have a grasp on the exhange rate.  It's kind of like monopoly money!  Turns out I can open a tab and pay later.  They also deliver the groceries to your door!  Crazy fun!!!  :-)

Dust ... when Ken said things were dusty, he wasn't kidding!!  I don't know if today was typical, but the sky was hazy gray all day.  It's not clouds, it's the dust in the air!  As the sun was setting, it looked like the moon through a hazy night sky.  Ken said that not all days are this bad ... I hope so!!  You can smell it in the air, it can't be good to breath all that fine sand! 

Jet lag is no fun!

Praise God the boys did AWESOME on the plane! They watched a couple of movies, slept for about 7 hrs, and then watched a couple more movies and then we landed! It couldn't have gone better! Getting through customs and immigration was a breeze thanks to the ExxonMobil service.

We saw our first nationals. The men wear white robes and head dresses showing their face and the women wear black and cover their face. We walked out beside a man, his 2 wives, and a little Asian servant girl pushing all their luggage.

It was warm when we arrived, but not too hot. Probably because it was night time. It was almost 8pm when we arrived and it was pitch black. Ken tells me the sun sets around 6:30 and the sun was up by 4:30 this morning!

Of course since the kids slept so well on the plane, they had no interest in bedtime. I finally got them to sleep and they woke up just 3 hours later. Guess their bodies said it was nap time, not bed time. I couldn't convince them to go back to bed, so we all got up. :-(. We were all exhausted by mid morning and naps lasted longer than I should have allowed. How long will this take to adjust? Hopefully only another day or two!

I'll post some pictures soon...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Goodbyes and Contact Info

Goodbyes are never any fun! Which is why I prefer see you next summer! And it's true- we look forward to coming back next summer to visit both Houston and St Louis (and maybe a few extra stops if we can squeeze it all in).

After the packers came and packed everything up, we stuck around Houston a few days for a very sweet and emotional goodbye party at our church. We were given a beautiful canvas subway art representing our Houston years...I was especially moved to see our dear friends Jax and Britton's names included. I also teared up over Radar's name! He was such a wonderful dog!!! It was very sad to return him to the Humane Society, but we weren't able to take him with us. I tell myself we were just his foster family. We adopted him about 1 1/2 years ago and he had both heart worms and intestinal parasites. We nursed him back to good health and hopefully he is much more adoptable now. Another family is going to love him!

We were able to spend a lot of time with Ken's family before driving up to St Louis to see my family. What a week we had -- bowling, six flags, zoo, purina farms (my personal favorite St. Louis attraction), and Dave and busters. I especially enjoyed our day at six flags with Maria and her girls and the night at D&Bs with all my extended family!! Never dreamed so many people would show up to send us off! I love my family!!

We were scheduled to leave St Louis on a 4:15pm flight, but when we arrived at the airport, we immediately realized we forgot a very important bag at my parents house (who live over an hour away from the airport!). We ended up having my brother bring us the bag, but we missed our flight and had to take the next flight. Of course that flight wasn't direct so we ended up getting into Houston late. I figure if that's the worse thing to happen, we did pretty well!

Today we stopped by the house one last time... Almost made me cry thinking about all the wonderful memories inside those walls. But it was quickly replaced with excitement for our adventures ahead! We are looking forward to what ever God has in store for us. This summer will be hot and difficult as we settle in and learn our way around, but at least we will be together. I counted on the calandar and ken was only home for 13 out of a 70 day span. I hate being apart like that!! Together will be much better and it will be fun to explore a part of the world we would otherwise never go!!

Well it's almost time to head to the airport. Guess I'll spell check this post and add pictures later. Very quick I want to include our new contact information.

Mail (letters and cards only):
Ken and Laura Doan
Doha, Qatar
PO Box 4490
Houston, TX 77210

The line Doha, Qatar is required!!

Thanks to Magic Jack, our new home phone has a local Houston number. Just remember we are 8 hrs ahead (of central time). So between about 2pm and 9pm central time, we will be asleep!
The number is: 713-570-9007

And of course email and Facebook won't change:
Facebook: Laura west Doan

Okay, We're out of here... See you all next summer, unless you come visit before that!!