Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gas prices are unbelievable!!

Since I didn't have a driver's license until recently, I never paid much attention to the gas prices here.  Today, I needed to fill up the tank for the first time.  Of course, at the gas station, I had no idea how much I was paying since I'm an ignorant American that can't convert Qatari Riyal per liter to USDL per gallon in my head.  I came home and googled the conversions ... I paid 88 cents / gallon!!!!  Can you believe it???  I'm not sure I was of legal driving age the last time the US saw those prices!!! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Life in Qatar

A few days ago, it felt rather pleasant outside, so we went out for a game of soccer in the backyard ... followed by a bike ride around the neighborhood.  I couldn't believe how long we lasted outside!  I was curious to know the temperature, so I checked online and it was a balmy 104F!  Really??!!!  This is what pleasant feels like??!!!  Clearly, we've spent a summer in the middle east if 104F feels pleasant!!!

Last Thursday, Ken and I arranged for a babysitter and went out exploring a bit.  First we wandered around the Pearl ... a high end community with a boardwalk ... yachts in the water, hotels and apartments above fancy restaurants and even fancier shops. The only store I recognized was Ferrari and Mazarati - clearly NOT stores we can shop in!  Then we checked out the Souk Waqif - a fun outdoor market area with local wares and restaurants.  We had dinner in an Iraqi Restaurant ... good food - typical middle eastern food with hummous, baba ganouj, flat bread and various grilled meats on a stick. 

Here are some of the yachts docked at the Pearl...

The Zig Zag towers, near the Pearl.  Crazy architecture!

Downtown Doha ... I'll have to find a better angle near the Corniche (fancy street by the water).

This is the Iraqi restaurant where we ate - it was prettier than the picture indicates.  Screens (like the one leaning against the column) are used to give Muslim women privacy while they eat.  They have to remove their Abaya that covers their face in order to eat, but it would be inappropriate for the public to see their face, so the screens are put up for their privacy.

I'm going to have to find out what this building is - it was very pretty all lit up at night.



Then on Saturday, Jaden had his Kindergarten assessment at the American School.  Praise the Lord, we got his official acceptance letter from the school today!!!  Apparently there is a waiting list up the wazzoo for the school, but students from their corporate sponsers (thank you ExxonMobil) get moved to the top of the list.  Since submitting his application back in ~Feb, we've been told there is no guarantee of placement.  I was starting to get nervous with the start of school looming just around the corner!!!  A huge sigh of relief after receiving the official acceptance today!!  I was ill prepared to homeschool!!

After his assessment on Saturday, we took the boys bowling.  It was a huge bowling alley with 32 lanes.  When I tried to order some lunch,  I was told I couldn't take any of the Filipino food out to the lanes.  (The restaurant was separate from where the lanes were, but you could take food to your lanes ... well, anything except the Filipino food).  Of course I had to ask why and the server very politely explained that Qatari people don't like the smell of Filipino food and therefore it can't be taken out to the lanes.  Wow!  It's a huge bowling alley, Qatari people must have exceptionally sensitive noses!! 

Brotherly love at the bowling alley.
Jaden got a strike!
Nicholas in action!!  We had to be VERY patient as his ball slowly meandered down the lane.  :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Celebrating Eid at the beach!

We have officially survived our first Ramadan, which ended last night!  For the most part, Ramadan didn't impact our life too much.  Since I didn't have a driver's license for most of the month, we didn't get out and about too much.  We thought Ramadan ended day before yesterday, so we took the boys to the mall and movies.  The theater was open, but the concession stand and all the restaurants and food court/stands in the mall were still closed.  Of course, we arrived at lunch time, so we were all hungry and no food!!  The grocery store in the mall sold prepared foods, so we picked up some food for the boys (they can eat in public, but adults can't during Ramadan).  For those that know me well, you know that I can't skip a meal ... headaches and the "west" temper comes out in full force when I don't get food.  How do Muslims go all day without any food or drink for an entire month??  I couldn't do it and keep my family.  I got so hungry, I actually hid in a bathroom stall and ate a snack!!!  So gross!!!  But you gotta do what you gotta do!

Today is the start of Eid - a holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan.  I imagine Muslims are feasting all day long!  I would if I just fasted for 30 days!!

Ken has a few days off for Eid, we took the boys to the beach.  The water was amazingly clear and so calm!!!  It was a really nice beach!  Shallow forever, so the water was ridiculously warm!!!  Almost like a hot tub in some areas!!  The boys loved the warm water, but still not a huge fan of the salt.  I was impressed we stayed as long as we did ... even with the water and cooler breeze, it was crazy hot!!

 Al Wakra beach ... about 30 minutes from our house.

Nicholas looking for tiny little crabs in the shallow water.

Jaden holding some of the tiny crabs.

Working together...

The boys bucket of "loot" - lots of clams and tiny little hermit crabs.  We had to change the water in the bucket frequently so we didn't cook the little critters!  :-) 

I don't think I've posted any pictures from around Doha ... here's the turning circle right before the beach.  They often have statues in the middle ... this one looked like a giant shell.

This was the sand dune right before the beach ... sand dune or sand mountain??

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Ahhh ....

A wonderfully relaxing vacation to Greece was just what our family needed.  I needed to get away, the boys needed a bit of fun, and Ken needed a break from work ... all was accomplished in one beautiful week on a cruise to Greece. 

We flew to Venice, Italy on Friday, August 10.  The boys thought it was so cool to take water taxis to the hotel and around town.  We had never been to Venice and were pleasantly surpised by how much we enjoyed it.  I had heard that it was dirty and the water canals were stinky, but we didn't find that to be the case.  Maybe it's seasonal and we got lucky, but we really had a good time.  I just love being able to walk a city ... the outdoor cafes, the Murano glass, San Marco cathedral and it's glorious mosiacs, the music, the life of the city ... all were fantastic!  The boys liked the views from San Marco Tower, the pigeons in the open squares, and the gelato!  Yummm!!  The gelato!!!  Made me remember our honeymoon (in Italy) where I fell in love with Pistachio and Tiramisu flavored ice cream!! 

Here are a few pics from our day in Venice:

Gondolas docked for the evening...

Typical water canal full of gondolas...

 Boys enjoying their first gelato!  Not sure if Jaden is holding Ken's ice cream, or if he ate two.  Jaden can easily polish off two ice cream cones, so no telling.

And I have to share this one ... so funny!!!  Jaden is really big into taking pictures with my phone, our camera, or even his DS.  Nicholas decided to get in on the action for vacation.  He took one picture, here it is:

This is the horse in front of San Marco Cathedral.  We were on a balcony that didn't allow us to take a clear shot of the front of the horse, so he took a picture of the horse's rear end.  He thought it was HILARIOUS!!  And so did we!  Nicholas is our little jokester!  I just love him (when I don't want to strangle him)!!

On Saturday, August 11, we got on board our cruise ship (Norwegian Jade).  It was our first cruise.  The food was excessive, the evening shows were fantastic, the kid's club was convenient, and the pool was surprisingly cold (but we're used to very warm pools in Houston and Doha).  All in all, we're glad we took a cruise, but not sure we will do another one too soon.  Ken thought it was too lazy.  I have to agree, after finishing my third book, I got a little bored too.

Here are the highlights in pictures ...

Our first stop was Corfu, Greece.  I took a lot of pictures, but can anything be more beautiful than this??  God is amazing!!!!  His creation is breathtaking!!

Next stop was volcano hiking in Santorini.  The city is high on the cliff in the background of the picture.  Our cruise ship is just behind Jaden too.

I was super proud of Jaden for hiking all the way up and back by himself.  He wasn't carried once!!!  Way to go Jaden!!  It wasn't a long or strenuous hike, but it was HOT!!

Of course the highlight for the boys in Santorini was getting to steer the tour boat!  The captain was so nice to let our boys "drive."

After Jaden took a turn, Nicholas had the courage to try as well! 

Next stop was the beach in Mykonos.  The water was amazing, but the boys thought it was cold.  (My kids are wimps when it comes to water temperature!)  I could have sat here with a cocktail all day!!

Ken rented a jet ski and took the boys out.  They had a blast!!! 

Last stop was Katakolo (ancient Olympia).  The boys love reading The Magic Tree House books and we had just finished reading about Jack and Annie's great adventure to Ancient Olympia right before our vacation - perfect timing!  Of course the next book in the series was about the Titanic, not so perfect timing right before boarding a cruise ship!!  Oops!!! 

Ken and I were surprised by the size of the site of the ruins.  It was very impressive and a wonderful experience to see the birthplace of the Olympics while the Olympics were taking place in London!

And finally, a few pictures from the cruise boat.  We all enjoyed the evening shows on the boat!!

Jaden acted like he met a celebrity when he saw the cruise director!  So cute!

The boys loved the few activities they attended in the kids club.  Face painting was definitely the biggest fan favorite.  The first time, they painted on super hero masks and made capes out of tissue paper.

The tiger face painting was far more impressive the next day!!  Roar!

And why is it that we never seem to remember to take any pictures of us??  We have tons of pictures of the boys and only one or two of us.  We need to get better about that!

Hope you enjoyed these handful or so of pictures. 
Going through vacation pictures and updating my blog was my treat after I finished unpacking...

All Unpacked!

I'm so excited to be done unpacking!!!  I think I did pretty well.  Everything arrived, unloaded, out of boxes and put away in less than 2 days!!!  I even set up the computer and the TV by myself (usually something I make Ken do.)  Yippee!!  The moving company just needs to come back to pick up the mountains of boxes and paper.  And then I have to decide on where to hang pictures. 

The boys were so excited to get their Geo Tracks trains set up, but they have actually played more with their musical instruments and the Foos Ball table.  So glad we decided to bring the foos ball table!  I almost left it in storage, but the boys are finally tall enough to play (standing on stools).  I'm hoping that I get better as we play more ... some day I want to actually challenge Ken in the game!!  As it stands, he KILLS me every time... and I even make him play with only his left hand!  :-( 

It's amazing the difference a few personal belongings make to a furnished house.  I'm especially happy to have my bed and some rugs to soften the tile floors.  I was not so happy to find two laundry baskets full of dirty laundry!!  Why didn't the laundry fairy wash those for me while at sea?? 

And it's rather amusing to see things I packed that make no sense - like lamps.  We were forewarned that our furnished townhouse didn't have any lamps, so we brought a few of our favorites.  Now we have fabulous lamps all over the house ... except we can't plug them in!!!  The voltage is different here and the lamps won't work without a converter.  I could probably buy a new lamp for the same price as a converter!  So for now, our lamps are decorative and maybe some day, I might get functional ones.  Oh well!  It does look nice with lamps.  :-)

Another silly thing I packed without thinking was roughly a year supply of the boys multi-vitamins.  They were gummies.  They clearly don't do well in the heat for ~11 weeks.  No longer are they individual little gummy vitamins, now they are a solid chunk.  Maybe I should have kept them -- I could have given the boys a spoonful of chewie goo every day?!  :-)  Clearly that should have gone in our suitcases!!!  Now I know for the future...