I must confess that at the start of the week, I was rather blue. It's hard adjusting to such isolation. While everyone we meet is super nice, it takes time to build relationships and not being able to drive is a drag! We don't get out much and Ken works ridiculously long hours!! He's not a work-a-holic, so I know this is very difficult for him too. It's just the start of a new job ... trying to get on top of everything when everything is new and challenging and slow here. He gets up every morning around 5am, leaves for work by 6am and doesn't get home until 7pm most nights. He plays with the kids a bit, helps put them to bed, and gets back on his laptop until midnight or later some nights. He usually spends one day home on the weekend (although at least a few hours on the laptop) and then goes in to work one day on the weekend. It's too much right now and we pray that it doesn't last too much longer.
But things are definitely turning up. I took the boys to a "Doha Mums" activity and we officially joined this amazing mom's group. There are over 1100 members -- mostly expat moms with young children. They have about a dozen activities each week and that's only for the summer - it picks up quite a bit during the school year. I'm finding that a lot of things kind of shut down for the summer months. So much of the community here are expats that travel home during the summer months. There just aren't enough people here in the summer to maintain the same level of activities.
Then on Thursday, I was able to get my medical clearance done for my Resident's Permit (RP) !!!! So excited!!!! It's the first of several steps toward driving and independence!!! I have no idea what took so long, but I'm glad it has finally started!!! We arrived on June 11th and the tourist visa is only valid for 30 days. So do the math and yes, I believe we are officially illegal aliens in Qatar. Maybe not though ... I think ExxonMobil may have extended my tourist visa for another 30 days. I just don't have any proof in my passport. Anyway, the first step in the process is to get my medical clearance -- which really means pay a fee, get a chest exray (to check for TB), and get blood work (to check for HIV). It was all very easy thanks to Karen. ExxonMobil pays for an "expeditor" to go with you and hold your hand every step of the way. She showed me where to get my ticket, where to wait, where to sit, where to stand, when to pay, etc, etc, etc. She was FABULOUS!!! I should know if I "pass" the medical exam in 3-4 days (I better pass). Then I go somewhere to be fingerprinted. Then I wait for the paperwork to be processed. Once I have my RP, then I can apply for my driver's license!!! Yeah!!! Typically I think it takes 2-3 weeks, but Ramadan starts is just 1 week, so we'll see.
I mentioned that things kind of shut down during summer months, but it's even more extreme during the holy month of Ramadan. The Muslims fast from sun up to sun down for 30 days. Apparently there are early morning (sun up is 5am) feasts and late night (sun down is 7pm) feasts. Even though we aren't Muslims, we are required to honor the fast by not eating, drinking, or even chewing gum in public from sun up to sun down. We can eat in our home, but not in restaurants or anywhere public - not even a water bottle in the car. So many restaurants close or drastically reduce their hours for the month. Grocery stores, shopping malls, government agencies ... everyone has drastically reduced hours. I've heard that some local foods (particularly fresh milk and chicken) can have diminished supply in the stores as less is produced and less is shipped during Ramadan. You also can't buy alcohol for the month. We went to the QDC (one of two places in the entire country to purchase alcohol and pork) last weekend and it was packed with people stocking up.
So if I don't get my license before Ramadan, it is unlikely I'll get it until after Ramadan ends Aug 19th. Still praying there is a chance to get it before the end of Ramadan -- it would be an ideal time to practice driving. The roads are practically empty during Ramadan and I can figure out the best routes to school and how to get around town without all the crazy drivers on the road with me. :-)
The other thing scheduled smack in the middle of Ramadan is the arrival of our household goods. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Doha on July 28th. I have a feeling nothing will clear customs until long after Ramadan ends. If supplies of milk and chicken run low, how will our household goods have any kind of priority?? But we've managed just fine without all our stuff this long, we'll manage another month or so if we need too. It's only stuff. I think the only thing the boys have missed are their Geo Tracks.
Wow, this is a long post. Sorry!! I don't want it all to sound doom and gloom. While there are many minor struggles and frustrations, God has been very good to us. We are slowly making friends and learning our way around. We're spending valuable time together each and every day. My boys are so very sweet ... they are so content just staying home all the time. As long as we have their precious Bible time, homework time, and arts and crafts time, they are happy. So easy! So sweet!
Have a blessed weekend everyone!! Comment if you read this!! :-) We love to see who's following along...