Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Great Car Hunt

For those of you who have known me for some time you will know that I love cars, particularly going out looking for a new car or a new toy, I have a very long car history, most of which is quite dodgy like at one point owning a brown Austin Montego 1.3 (it did get better from there, honest, my motorbike history is considerably better apart from the Yamaha Virago 535 which I crashed)

Anyway, the day kicked off in sort of usual style, being summoned by our 4 year old master at 6 am, way too early but hey, we are used to it….sort of.

We were met by one of Cathy’s colleagues who has been here several years and we followed her to a place where they sell cheap things for the house, school, etc etc, a little bit like a pound shop. We had a wander and bought several items for the house which we needed…or not, I am undecided on that.

Having done the boring bits we then embarked on the great car hunt – I have (of course) been researching cars for the past 8 months, funny how things change as soon as you are here and see the reality. Anyone reading this in Qatar please feel free to laugh and ridicule us at our original choice. Initially (until we arrived) we were considering either a Mitsubishi L200, Toyota Hilux king cabs, that sort of thing. When we arrived, we noticed that these are the preferred vehicles for those working on building sites, certainly not a family vehicle in the slightest, not one a respectable westerner would like to be seen in. Anyway, we opted for the Mitsubishi Pajero (OK, anyone in South America now please feel free to laugh at me, for anyone unfamiliar with the term, Pajero is slang for w****r in South American Spanish). We popped into a dealership, or more like an NCP car park and spoke to a rather uninterested sales person who half halfheartedly showed us to the car (I was quite annoyed as I had even dressed up for the occasion, OK, by dressed up I mean I wore a pair of jeans). The deal was OK, nothing to write home about, but OK. Considering there are dozens of dealers pretty much one after the other, I really expected a little more enthusiasm but hey, what can you do. This lack of enthusiasm was before I even told him we are currently waiting for our RPs (Resident’s Permit), without this we cannot do a thing, then he really lost interest and nearly showed us the door! At least we now know what we are dealing with and what to expect. Hopefully, fingers crossed we will have our (or at least Cathy’s) RPs sometime in the next month or so…………maybe, hopefully.

After this we decided to pop out to IKEA, oh, and I think the rest of Doha had a similar thought too. It was a very successful shopping trip which I am delighted with as we only bought ONE item for a total of 17 QR (3,68€), now that’s what I call a result!

We arrived home and Katja who had started being a pain in the neck in IKEA was fast asleep, we carried her upstairs and had a nice long sleep, she woke up in a lovely mood and we made our way to Villagio Mall to meet up with Steve and family. Note to self: “Never go to a shopping mall on a Saturday evening, it was heaving, and I mean heaving!

We had a lovely evening with Steve and family who until then I had only chatted with through Twitter, we ended up going to the Red Lobster for a bite to eat, great food, great company and a fab way to wrap up a most enjoyable weekend.

 

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Friday Fun in Qatar

As the days go by and we discover more and more about Qatar we like it more and more and our curiosity to discover more places grows and grows. I know this is “the honeymoon period” and in time certain things will irritate me and annoy me but hey, let’s enjoy this time while it lasts!

The morning started at around 2 am when the alarm on Katja’s phone went off for some unknown reason (she doesn’t have a phone as such, we use an old phone to play music for her while she falls asleep). She was freaked out and so where we for that matter, of course, it was quite hard to go to sleep again after that. Anyway, eventually we got up  at 7 am which is about right for us. We had breakfast and cleaned the apartment (OK, Cathy cleaned) and then at around 10:30 we popped out on a camel hunt. We set off and made sure we had enough fuel by topping up the tank. I found a better petrol station and closer than the one before, I also found out that there are 3 types of petrol, the most expensive one being 1 QR a litre which equates to 17p or 21 cents of a Euro, of course, I splashed out, my hire car deserves only the best so I spent all of £4,97 or 6,26€ in filling up the tank!

The Camel Hunt

We headed off towards Dukhan which is a coastal something (town/ city / village), but after 10 of 15 miles we decided to head back into Doha as it was a bit mad to go out on a bit of a wild goose-chase (or camel chase as the case was). On the highway towards Dukhan, all you can see is one construction site after another, this is of course complimented by road improvements. On that note, I should mention that the roads we have driven on so far are absolutely amazing generally speaking. While you do have to put up with all the roadworks and diversions, generally speaking, main roads are pretty fab.

Doha City

Amazing Doha!

Amazing Doha!

I downloaded an app for my phone which is a fantastic GPS, it really knocks spots out of anything else I’ve tried! So we decided to head towards the city centre and find Souq Waqif – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Souq_Waqif even though it is Friday and everything is shut. Thanks to this amazing app we found the Souq without any issue. We then headed towards Villagio Mall but on the way there I had to make a stop to take this photo (Cathy wanted to get out and have a walk on the beach, it was 42 degrees at the time, needless to say; we didn’t!). Doha is a fusion of ultra modern and more traditional buildings (new construction but in more traditional style).

On the way to the mall we went past some incredible buildings, and I mean amazing buildings, lots of greenery and palm trees, most impressive!

We arrived at the mall and watched some ice hockey while we decided where to eat. There’s a good selection of places to eat, i’m not sure if a number of them were still shut because it was relatively early (12:30) or because itis Friday. After a lot of deliberation we had a couple of Shawarma Sandwiches http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shawarma and Kati had a pizza from Pizza Hut, it was all very nice and not a bad price either for just under 10€!

We headed back home after this, GPS app took us a fantastic road which made us realise how close we actually live to this place! We had a short rest or we tried to but Katja was having none of it, she went into complete meltdown mode, one of those meltdown specials that you see in supermarkets where you can’t help but feel sorry for the parent having to deal with it! This behaviour was jeopardizing our afternoon party in lot 1 so we had to deal with it pretty swiftly. Child having been taken care off and made to see the error of her ways and now in a very sociable mood we headed off to lot one which is a 3 minute drive. Trust me, in this heat you really don’t want to be walking too far. We met a great bunch of people, Kiwis and Americans and some other nationalities, in fairness, I have never been in the same room with some many Kiwis! We had a great time, Cathy had a couple of ciders (with alcohol), I abstained, not only have I been quite naughty with my Shawarma sandwich, I wasn’t going to drink too. Also, here there’s zero tolerance when it comes to drink driving, penalties are harsh even for small quantities which would be legal in other countries.

Katja had a fabulous time with all the kids there, thank goodness her mood had improved, we have taken all her toys and books of her for the day but we did say that if she was good we would go for a swim. In fairness, it was Cathy and I that really wanted a swim and we weren’t going to shoot ourselves in the foot by punishing her. Fortunately her behaviour warranted the reward.

The End of a Fun Friday

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Sunset over our compound

The clubhouse car park was full so we decided to park at home and walk across the bridge and go for a swim. As we walked across the bridge I couldn’t help but to stop and take a photo of this amazing sunset, it’s not brilliant quality as Blackberries are not renowned for the quality of their photos but it was truly magnificent.

The pool was packed but we managed to have a nice swim, Katja had a go at swimming by herself without floats, she’s doing ever so well, particularly swimming under water!

After lots of swimming and playing we headed back home, Katja had a big smile and very proud of her achievement, we will continue to work on it as she is getting more and more confident swimming. Having the pool on our doorstep is great, as the days go bye, daytime temperatures will start to drop and we’ll be able to go swimming in the daytime which is great as Katja finishes school at 12, it means I can do more swimming with her during the day. Once she starts school there will only be swimming at weekends.

We had a lovely yet simple tea, baby carrots with humus and very spicy  mango pickle dips, a great end to a mostly enjoyable day (it was all enjoyable except for the meltdown bit).

Tomorrow; the great car hunt….

 

Second Weekend in Qatar

Thursday being our new Friday and having weekends made up of Friday and Saturday will take some time to get used to, but like everything else, it is all part of adjusting to a new country, a new lifestyle and of course, a new and most interesting culture. Last weekend which was actually our first weekend in Qatar was taken up mostly by running around sorting stuff for Katja’s birthday party which meant that we had no time to explore our new surroundings etc etc.

Settling into a Routine

One of the important parts of settling in is to get into some sort of routine, at least this works for us. Part one was unpacking and setting up home, this was soon followed by having a set of wheels and then settling into some sort of routine, by the way, having a routine and being stuck in a rut are two very different things!

So, what’s our routine? well, just like anywhere else in the world, shopping is a necessary evil, I hate it with passion but hey, it’s one of those things that just has to be done. While we are on our honeymoon period with Qatar I must admit I don’t mind it all that much, however, I am sure that in time I will soon grow to seriously dislike it as I do in all other countries we have lived in. After school finished I will pick Cathy up and we will then go shopping. We have our shopping list ready so it shouldn’t be all that bad – The whole point of doing the shopping today is to get it out of the way, done and dusted, then tomorrow we can go out and explore this fascinating country….. after we have cleaned the apartment of course!

After shopping we’ll pop across to the club house and have a bite to eat then go for a swim. We have always had bar Friday, this entailed meeting up with friends, have a few beers and some food. Here, it is bar Thursday (not quite the same ring to it but I am sure we’ll get there in the end), this entails meeting friends, having a bit to eat over a couple of glasses of fresh cold water (remember, no alcohol in the club house) then followed by a swim, not too shabby at all really! A little anecdote for you! Our bar Friday routine has been so ingrained in Kati’s mind that when she was learning the days of the week, allegedly, she corrected the teacher when it came to Friday, Kati said: “it’s not Friday Miss, it’s Bar day!”

This morning I am having a bit of a catching up morning, Kati’s gone for a play date with one of the girls in the compound, they are both of a similar age and will be in the same class at school together. Kati gets to play, I get to catch up on things, win win situation! When Cathy finishes school today Kati will go for a quick medical check up for school, weight, height all the usual stuff and then on Sunday 7th September, Kati starts school (yes, it does feel strange saying that, the Sunday bit, not the starting school part).

What’s on the agenda for the weekend? camel crossing

We’ll head out for a drive tomorrow, Kati is desperate to see some camels so we’ll head out into the “countryside” or desert without going off road of course as we are in a hire car. Jeremy Clarkson (I think it was him) referred to hire cars as the best 4 x 4 ever made, however, we won’t be doing that as I don’t want to lose our deposit! As from October there’s a place that does camel races so we’ll definitely be going to that, Kati will love it, no doubt! As the weather is still quite warm, we are looking for things to do that involve being close to air con or in an air conditioned environment. We really can’t wait to go and explore when it cools down a bit, probably in 4 to 6 weeks more or less. When we come back we have an invite to go to one of the other teacher’s houses for refreshments, rumor has it there’ll be beer, of the real variety! One of the (many) things we like here is that things seem to start early and finish early. We have our tea at around 17:30 and end up going to bed at around 21:00 hrs, this suits us just fine. When Kati starts school it will definitely be early nights for her. I’ll be taking the girls to school at 06:15, classes start at 07:00 and Kati this year will be finishing at 12:00; Cathy finishes at 15:00. So, if you think about timings, we will be getting up at around 05:00 which is not an issue at all for us as we are early birds anyway.

Saturday we are off looking at cars, we can’t do a great deal until we have our RP (Resident’s Permit) but at least we want to identify what to buy; this is usually the real fun bit. Then after that I chatted with someone on Twitter and we’ll arrange to meet up with him, it will be nice to meet someone who isn’t a teacher!

 

 

 

Is Everything Bigger in the Middle East?

Being complete “newbies” in Qatar we walk around in amazement at everything and notice things that perhaps those who have been here longer than us no longer notice or just accept as normal!

As an estate agent I always look at properties in a different sort of way to what normal people do. One thing that struck me from the very first moment we walked into our apartment was the size of things! The height of the ceilings, the weight of the doors, the size of the cooker and more than anything else, the height and width of the doors. Our front door is at least 7′ high by approximately 5′ wide, the rest of the doors in the apartment are all about 7′ high too, it is quite a feature!

When you go out on the road, particularly heading towards Doha city centre, the architecture is spectacular, I am a huge fan of traditional architecture with arches etc etc, however, the modern buildings as you head towards the city centre are simply magnificent. It is quite an honour and a privilege to be able to witness a country being built. Wherever you look there’s construction going on. Whether it is a new stadium, a new road, a new building or a new car park, there’s construction in every direction, especially on the outskirts. I must admit we are really looking forward to autumn and for temperatures to come down a bit so we can explore other places apart from modern malls. We are particularly keen to explore the Souq and all the more traditional areas but for that you need to wait for cooler temperatures.

Playing in the Heat 10410418_10204309562317443_4055143792181968686_n

This morning I drove Cathy to school then took Katja out for a play in the park in the compound before it got too hot, it was 8:15 am and it was pushing 40 degrees but we managed to play for a bit  in the play area which is all under cover

We played for around 20 minutes then decided to head home and seek refuge in our air conditioned apartment where I think we will remain until we pick Cathy up at 14:45 –

One of the (numerous) interesting things here is that it gets dark very early, at the moment it is dark by 18:30, a big contrast compared to Spain, UK and even Bulgaria where it is daylight until much, much later. This in reality is a blessing in disguise as you can then go out and do things without having to wait until late. Evenings feel a bit “stickier” but at least you don’t have the sun to deal with too so you can do things outside like going to the park, swimming etc etc etc.

Third Culture Kids

In reply to my write up from yesterday, Ana sent me a very interesting website regarding Third Culture Kids (TCKs) – In a nutshell, these are kids which are brought up in a culture different to that of their parents, also known as mini citizens of the world. I will look into this site in more detail and with great interest as this is very applicable to Katja as she grows up, if you want to check it out yourself, have a look at http://www.denizenmag.com/

How is my diet going?

How’s the diet going, I hear you say! Well, perhaps you forgot I am trying to lose weight, but I sure as hell haven’t! I am doing OK and three days in I am coping well. I have a fruit juice for breakfast and for lunch, then for tea I have real food, I just need to control how much I eat! This is so hard here as food is SUPERB, curries, spices and so many different new flavours, so many new foods to experiment with!

We are now gearing ourselves for the weekend, plenty of things on such as going such as shopping, going to someone’s house on Friday and looking at cars on Saturday, oh yes, we also want to head out to the desert to find some camels too!

 

Katja in Qatar

From a very early age we realised Katja would absolutely thrive being part of a community, was saw this as she took her first steps in Bulgaria and being part of AAS (Anglo American School), this continued during our year in Spain in which she made friends with some amazingly nice people (I won’t add names as I am worried about missing people out but you know who you are) and now we are seeing her thriving in Qatar.

One of the big problems Katja faced in Spain was that she wasn’t part of one thing or another. She was traveling (along with Cathy) the best part of 100 miles per day. They would leave home at 7 am and return home circa 6 pm, 5 pm on an early day. Not only was Kati extremely tired after the best part of 11 hours out but also missed out in making friends her own age in the village yet at the same time was too far from her school friends to be able to have play dates etc etc. As I said above, due to her outgoing and sociable personality, she made some amazing friends in Monda, even if they were a little bit older than her………OK, quite a bit older…………….OK, OK, a lot older!

So, what has today consisted of?

Cathy went to school as usual, Kati was in a very mellow sort of mood and played happily by herself so I got on with a few things I had to do. We (I) opted for not going out for the sake of going out as we were going out for tea. After Cathy had signed the contract for her new job here, she was assigned a buddy, someone who she can get more info from and bounce ideas from. Lou (Cathy’s buddy) lives in the same compound as us and has two boys slightly older than Kati. She very kindly invited us over for tea so we had a lovely meal while Kati played with the boys and had fun. After tea we went across the road to the club house and enjoyed the rest of the evening chatting to people and having a nice swim. Now, this is where it gets interesting for Kati (and for us too for that matter). A lot of people go across to the club house, it is a great opportunity to socialise and meet new people, within seconds of Kati jumping in the pool she was playing with loads of kids who also live in the compound. To say she had a blast is an understatement. This is very much what she needed, to mix with kids her own age, to be a kid and not to be expected to behave like a mini adult at all times.

IMG_20140824_193100We are firm believers that in this environment Kati will thrive, not just from an educational point of view but as a person. Talking with so many people who have been here several years and have kids slightly older than Kati, they all seem to say the same thing; this is a fabulous environment for kids to grow up in and how their kids have thrived in all aspects of life.

As I said yesterday, we are all growing up together, just because you’re an adult, it doesn’t mean you ever stop growing up!

 

Crash

THIS WAS WRITTEN BY ME IN JANUARY 2014

Having a wife and daughter who travel 165km per day to work, there is always one call I dread receiving. On Monday in the middle of a meeting that’s exactly what I received.

Cathy was on the phone sounding upset, I could immediately tell something wasn’t right (it’s not that I am that intuitive but you could really tell). Yup, she’d had an accident. Of course, first question was, “are you all OK?” This was followed by “Where are you?” and “Is there much damage?” This was immediately followed by I am on my way and pray the guy that hit your car is long gone. I darted out of the meeting without giving an explanation, jumped in the car only to realise I had left my jacket behind so I ran back and grabbed it, all without providing much explanation. En-route I rang Cathy to make sure she took photos of the scene of the accident as well as position of the vehicles, damage, road condition blah blah blah. Thank goodness for camera phones. The other driver called the police as required by law where there is damage to property. Here’s where it gets interesting. Police arrived (2 local police on their scooters) shook hands with the other driver and spent a considerable time with him as apparently they knew him. Obviously a lady on her own with a 3 year old and a damaged car isn’t quite as important as greeting a friend, oh yes, perhaps it may have something to do with the fact she was English! Fortunately, both, Cathy and Katja were unharmed, Cathy’s car has considerable damage but still driveable, the other guy’s car had suffered considerable more damage and was certainly not driveable, it had to be taken on the back of a recovery truck!

Basically, the other driver had failed to give way to a car already on a roundabout and proceeded to join the roundabout as Cathy was turning, this resulted in him hitting the side of Cathy’s car with his front end. He damaged every panel on the passenger’s side (this is the side Katja sits in!). Needless to say, he’s not admitted liability and is arguing it’s Cathy’s fault (how, I have no idea but hey ho!) As he’s friends with or seemed to be very friendly with the police officers who wrote the report, we feel it will probably go against Cathy.

As we are insured fully comp, we have to pay the excess and that’s it. If Cathy wins, we get that back, if she doesn’t then we are 300€ out of pocket. I don’t wish to say anything which may be deemed libellous but, corruption, anti-foreigners and many other similar phrases spring to mind! Anyway, I was ¾ of the way there when Cathy rang to say she was on her way back and it was all over. On Tuesday we popped over to sort out the insurance etc etc and have arranged for her car to go for repair and to have a courtesy car in the meantime. The really ironic thing is that having driven in Bulgaria for more than 5 years where driving is at best can be described as atrocious, in winter weather and road conditions more than challenging, if I were a gambling person, I would have put money that either of us would have had an accident there, instead it had to be in Spain! Oh well….

We are both feeling pretty deflated and fed up with Spain, not wanting to wish our lives away but we really want to roll the clock forward by six months, at the same time we are conscious that we have plenty to do before we can leave. Even though  it doesn’t get all that cold in winter, houses are not prepared for cooler temperatures thus making winters not all that pleasant. We are hoping that it will warm up by mid-March which is only 6 weeks away….

Outcome

I am writing this sitting in a bright and lovely apartment in Qatar, it is August 20th and can tell you the outcome of the accident! Hey, guess what? Yup, the claim went against her, nobody seems to understand why but it was deemed to be her fault….. only in Spain can someone be on a roundabout, be hit by a car who fails to give way and the person on the roundabout be found at fault! To add insult to injury (metaphorically speaking as neither Cathy nor Katja were injured) Cathy received a letter from the insurance company to tell her that they will not renew her insurance come August. This was a pain because it was just before I drove the car back to England. Anyway, it was all sorted and it’s all water under the bridge!

Tell me Why I Don’t Like Mondays

No, you don’t need to tell me, I know why I don’t like them. Sunday evenings feel like standing at the abyss, the clock ticks and Monday is ever nearer!

It has been an OK weekend, we (Cathy) finished off painting the sitting room and entrance hallway, I must admit, it looks very nice! It has made the entrance hallway look a lot bigger.

Friday was a frustrating day, we just found out that Cathy is being taxed on Katja’s free place in Sotogrande School, this is now costing us a lot of money, not only that, but as her contract includes lunch at school, she is also being taxed on that! And the government dares to say that the country is out of the doldrums? Rob from Peter to pay Paul springs to mind. As I wrote earlier on, in one year, 200,000 immigrants left Spain, that’s the equivalent to 547 people per day, every day; these figures don’t include Spaniards trying to earn a living elsewhere. I was talking with a Spanish businessman on Friday, he was very happy that he managed to sell some shares and not lose money. It is a sad state of affairs when not losing money is a cause to celebrate!

I spent Saturday afternoon cycling with Katja, she’s extremely good and becoming very confident. We cycled for the first time together, we rode 6.6km, our average speed was a little over 6 kph. I think for a 3 and a bit year old, that is pretty good. Upon our return, we did some chores in the house then popped out to the bar. Dano and Becky gave Katja a lovely hat and a cat (which I proceeded to name Kiwi). Kati looks adorable in her new hat and loves her cat. She came into our room at stupid o’clock in the morning, stood by our bed like some ghostly figure and all she could muster was, where’s my cat?!

Skipping Sunday, Standing by the Abyss, Roll on Monday! (26/01/14)

I have been meaning to collect the base of a bed I bought several months ago, I managed to collect the mattress as it fitted in my car, however, the base didn’t. I had hoped it would fit easily enough, but nothing ever does. I had to take Kati’s seat out which I really didn’t want to do but hey ho, I did. Just as I expected, it was a real swine to fit back in but I did it. We then did several trips to the skip today, we had several items of furniture we had to get shot of as they were in pretty poor condition thanks to people who shall remain nameless….. After that, we popped over to Joe and Sue’s house to pick up our treadmill. Cathy has been nagging me for weeks that she wants to get into shape as she’s committed herself to some 15 km run in May.

At about 3 we popped down to Marbella to chill out, we took Kati’s bike with us and she had a good ride along the sea front in Marbella. It was buzzing, bars and restaurants were packed! It was lovely walking around in shorts and T-shirt in January! There were even people sunbathing. Then it was back home, light the fire and enjoy a good old fashioned Sunday roast with roasties and sprouts!

It’s the beginning of a new week or as we see it, one less week to go, happy new week to you!

Wednesday January 22

Another day, another Euro, well, this being Spain it’s more like, another day a few Euros poorer!

So, what can I tell you that you don’t already know? It seems like the clock is ticking ever so slowly, we are sitting here wishing it were August, I know, you are probably thinking, silly muppets, wishing their lives away. However, Spanish winters, believe it or not are pretty hard, especially when you live in an old big house. We only have a wood burner for heating, even though temperatures don’t drop that low, it does feel pretty chilly. We will certainly not miss lighting the fire in the evenings and spending 120€ a month on wood. Oh well, hopefully we only have another 4 weeks of cooler weather before things start picking up in March.

We are painting at the weekend, OK, that was the Royal we! Cathy will be painting the areas I rendered last weekend, I will spend a few hours with Katja, we’ll pop into Fuengi and buy some things for her bike and pop in to see mother while we are there.

Not much to report, see you soon!

Refreshment to Labour

I have always sort of been into writing, I’ve had blogs in the past but I never got round to update them. I have done some write ups over the past few months, these are some of the write ups on the run up to moving from Spain to Qatar, chronologically they are out of sync with current stuff as they’ve been written several months ago.

From Refreshment to Labour! (January 20th 2014)

Having procrastinated since the beginning of November, it was time to get the cement mixer going and once more, crack on with the house.

We have 28 weekends left, it may seem like a long time, but in Spain, time seems to go double quick (so does money but more of that later).

Our house is blessed with having briquettes throughout, in a weird sort of way, it works, even though it sounds a bit tacky but it works. However, as these old houses have no damp-proofing, a certain amount of damp is normal. Long storey cut short, briquettes not only gather lots of dust and make a dark house look and feel even darker, that’s problem number one; problem number two which is the most serious, is the fact that damp wasn’t allowed to dissipate or find its way out so they were starting work their way off the wall! I stripped several walls and entire rooms, even nearly managed to electrocute myself as I got carried away with a chisel and hammer! Anyway, I stripped a column in the sitting room back in November and haven’t gone back to it until Sunday.

It was a weird week as Katja managed to come down with the cold I had just got over and in true Kati form, her temperature went sky high on Thursday resulting in a mad dash to Coin which is 7 miles down the road. We saw the same quack (I’m sorry but I really can’t call it a Dr) that we had seen several weeks earlier when Kati was bitten by something by her right eye and it swelled up to the point she couldn’t open it! Anyway, the witch Dr quack checked her over and said she had a cold, wow, I could have told her that bit! She prescribed some medication after scribbling her weight on a piece of paper and done some rough calculations as to dosage. She then printed a prescription saying she had to take paracetamol for 86 days! Needless to say, 48 hours later she was all sorted. It’s during situations like these that we realise how much we miss Dr Stoychkov from Bulgaria and the health care package we had there.

By Sunday we all had cabin fever so had to get out of the house so we popped out to Fuengirola sea front and Kati rode her bike for a bit which did her the world of good and on our return I sponged down the pillar I had done in the morning.

Today (20.01.14) Cathy sent our paperwork off to Qatar, this is already starting to feel like a long move! As Kati would say, “It’s taking too long”!

Last one to Leave Spain, Please Switch the Light Off!

It was with great pleasure that we found out that two of Cathy’s colleagues working with her in the same school where she is now have also accepted job offers in the same school as where Cathy will be teaching in Qatar, they also have kids, one of similar age to Kati so that worked out very nicely.

I read an interesting article in El Mundo on Thursday, the headline was, 200,000 immigrants left Spain in one year! That equates to 547 people every day, which is a massive number.

Many of them had come over to live and work here and as work has run dry, have left. It is hardly surprising we are all leaving in droves. Two instances which really brought it home in the past 36 hours are:

  • A couple living near Alhaurin el Grande in the campo, house was burgled. Rang 112 for police. They were told to ring the Guardia Civil. No answer until the morning. Even then, according to what they said, the police weren’t too interested as they didn’t have an interpreter.
  • Social security payments going up, businesses and individuals being taxed to breaking point, this will affect us, we just don’t know by how much yet.

I have never been in love with Spain, I have always had a bit of a love hate relationship with the place, however, we had some fond memories of the place and whilst we realised it wasn’t going to be an easy move, I don’t think we were really prepared for how much the place had changed. The weather remains good (even though we hate Spanish winters), however, we as many other Brits living here, we feel that enjoying 325 days a year of sunshine, is too-high-a-price to pay for the rest of the rubbish you have to put up with!

Bye for now!

Settling into life in Qatar

We are so lucky to have a nice apartment in a great location which even includes parking right in front of the door into the block! It would be pretty uncomfortable to survive without air con in the apartment, however, as days go by, we are becoming more and more acclimatized and finding we use the air con less and less.

We seem to be settling into our new lives in Qatar relatively easily, it is quite amazing how much you can get done with a little help and being in a country where certain things appear to be pretty well organised, I am sure there will be plenty of time to see the other side of the coin once the “honey moon” period is over. When moving into a new home/ town or country, there is always a certain honeymoon period which is then followed by realisation and acceptance of your new surrounding.

We found out that the GPS on my phone is actually far more useful than I had anticipated, this has led to far less arguments in the car as the number of times being hopelessly lost have been few and far between. For the first few days driving here can be a little daunting as there seems to be a rather minimalist approach to road signs as well as not being too many key landmarks to use as a point of reference. Most compounds/ urbanisations initially look the same as do the roads, however, this is now slowly changing and I can see more landmarks.

Katja’s Birthday

The run up to the weekend was dominated by the big event, which was Katja’s 4th birthday! Having arrived here just a few days before her birthday, having just a handful of toys to play with isn’t all that easy for her, and to add to all this, having to spend her days with me to top it off isn’t probably the best start for her. We were very aware of this situation well before we arrived here. Me, being a Twitterholic got onto Twitter and was recommended a lady to make a nice cake for Katja so Cathy was in touch with her well in advance and a frozen theme cake was ordered to be collected on the 22nd (Katja’s birthday is the 23rd).

The arrangement was to collect the cake on Friday morning (weekends here are Friday and Saturday) We drove to Landmark 997044_10152692398224797_3337492959457738055_nShopping Mall which is approximately 10 minutes from home (I can now find my way there and back without the aid of my GPS) but to play it totally safe we organised for Jamaal (Indian driver who had previously picked us up from our compound and driven back so we could follow him when we hired the car). to pick us up from Landmark and take us to pick up the cake. It turned out that the place was only 5 minutes from Landmark but at least we got there and back. The cake looked fabulous (unlike last year’s disaster which was Dora the explorer but unfortunately the cake maker’s fridge had a problem and Dora looked like she was a heroin addict). Even at 10 am the temperature is already firmly on 40 degrees (real feel usually top 40’s) so I rushed from Jamaal’s car into our own car and sat there with the A/C on full blast aimed at the cake, we had just paid a small fortune for this thing I certainly wasn’t going to let it melt in the heat! We arrived home some 20 minutes later and put the cake in the fridge. At this point I should mention that we paid a fortune for this cake not because we wanted to but because cakes are expensive here, this was probably the least costly one available! We spent the rest of Friday sorting stuff out for Katja’s big day. Cathy had invited several people over, we just didn’t know what the “several” would equate to in numbers!

The Big day!

Today is Katja’s 4th birthday, this will be the 3rd different country she celebrates her birthday in (first and second in Bulgaria, third in Spain and fourth in Qatar).

At 05:20 (yes, I sleep with my phone next to me) we had a very cheery little girl come into our room saying “I am 4 years old, I am a big girl, my legs reach the end of the bed” I must admit I did think to myself that that’s exactly where she should return to but instead put on a big smile and wished her a very Happy Birthday! She had asked for pancakes with chocolate sauce. Shopping in a new country is always fun, particularly when trying to follow some sort of recipe! Cathy checked through a couple of websites for recipes for pancakes and in one it mentioned you could use bicarbonate of soda as a replacement for baking powder……as we tucked into our pancakes with chocolate sauce we soon discovered that while yes, you can use bicarbonate as a replacement, it failed to mention that this made them virtually inedible! So we all enjoyed a couple of rounds of toast and honey instead……

10583027_10204276910821176_8661466731750061292_oArmed with GPS we headed off to Villagio Mall which we had been told is pretty awesome with children’s play areas etc etc. Fortunately traffic wasn’t bad at all and after a couple of wrong turnings we arrived at what looked like a rather  unassuming shopping mall. After wondering if we were in the right place we ventured in, this place was simply spectacular!

What first greets you is a canal with gondolas which costs 10 QR to go on (approximately 2€ per person), there are clouds painted on the ceiling to give you an outdoor feel too. Shopping is a little like being in the UK, there’s every shop you can imagine including Boots! Restaurants? Don’t get me going on that subject as there’s every kind of nationality you can think of, I think I could spend the rest of my life eating in different ones (just writing about it is making me hungry).

We eventually ended up in the children’s play area. This could be a bit of an understatement, this place is massive, there’s a Ferris wheel, roller coaster and an incredible number of different attractions and games. We told Katja she could choose two things to go on (we would still be there if we hadn’t limited it!). She chose the soft play area and then trampoline. I should add that she is incredibly agile and athletic which is why we will encourage her to do lots of PE as there are some fantastic opportunities for her here.

After our time in the shopping it was time to do some very last minute shopping and head home to greet visitors at 16:00 hrs. Kati fell asleep in the car on the way home, traffic was quite light and we made our way back with relative ease. We arrived home and started getting things sorted for our guests. The aim of having a little gathering was for Kati to play with kids her age and to make new friends. We were truly humbled by peoples’ generosity, Katja had some amazing presents and lots of people turned up. we counted in excess of 30 people which when you consider we live in a 2 bed apartment it is pretty good going. Everybody seemed to have a good time (adults included even though we didn’t have any alcohol as we haven’t paid for our alcohol license yet. On this subject it is worth clarifying that once you have your resident’s permit, you can buy a license to purchase alcohol). Once the party was over, we all headed to the club house across the bridge for an evening swim. On the subject of swimming pools and water, this is an interesting one for you. There seems to be too types of water that comes from the tap, very hot and…. not so very hot, this is at home and other places I have been to. Before jumping in the pool, the rules are that you have to have a shower. They have the usual outdoor showers like most pools, problem here is that it is virtually impossible to shower before jumping in the pool without suffering serious burns, the water is that hot! Jumping in the pool is also an interesting experience as the water is also hot, it is like jumping into a rather large communal bath tub.

Fuel

Somewhere in between all the mad dashing around we had to fuel up the car. I must admit I had been looking forward to this bit (strange, I know but read on). The car was down to under 1/4 of a tank of fuel so it was time to find a petrol station. For an oil producing country, I must admit I hadn’t seen to many stations so off we went in search of a petrol station before running out, that would be quite a big issue in these sort of temperatures. Just off a dual carriage way we saw at a distance a petrol station. We took the slip road and pulled into a place with fuel pumps and several people sitting around in the heat. I pulled up at a pump and a pump attendant soon asked if I wanted a full tank to which I replied yes please. He filled the tank which came to an incredible 30 QR (6.38€ – £5.10)- To put this into context, in Spain this would have cost circa 43.8€ or in the UK approximately £43.80. Happy as Larry off we went with a full tank of fuel.

Maintenance

I may have mentioned this in a previous post but one of the great things about living in accommodation provided by the school is that we don’t have to worry about maintenance. We had an issue with the lock in the front door (every so often it refused to lock) so with one phone-call two guys turned up at the door, looked at it, ordered a new barrel, came back at the agreed time of 14:30 and by 14:35 we had a new lock….simple! we have an issue with the air con in Katja’s dressing room, the issue is that if it gets any colder it will start snowing in there and we can’t control it. Maintenance came to check it last night and they are now coming back with a couple of guys to fix it this morning.

Diet

Having a dressing room with perhaps more mirrors than what is probably healthy to have I have decided to go on a diet. Too many years of enjoying food too much have taken their toll on my “figure” (I know round is a figure but still….) so as from today I am going on a diet. Sarah and Jonathan very kindly gave us a blender, fruits are relatively cheap here so decided to go on a breakfast and lunch fruit juice diet ( please don’t suggest vegetable juices as I will not do that), this country has some of the nicest food I can think of so yes, I will be allowing myself to be naughty once a week. I would hate to miss out on the fabulous foods here but as I am getting older I really need to keep my weight down which considering I was a skinny little runt only a couple of decades ago, I never thought I would be saying that. well, I never thought I would be living in the desert either for that matter…..

Exploring the Compound

Last night (Sunday but felt like Monday) after tea we went out to explore around the compound. During the week Kati and I had put her bike together but until now she hadn’t had much of a chance to ride it. We had a little walkabout while Kati enjoyed her bike. The heat is relentless, as soon as the sun goes down (approx 18:30 hrs) instead of cooling down it becomes more humid but so be it, life just goes on. We ended up in the playground area which is very nicely done, there are swings, slides, climbing frames etc etc. There’s also nice soft grass and sprinklers all over the place, and to keep the grown ups happy, there’s wifi throughout the entire compound (including outdoors). There was a lovely breeze blowing, Cathy and I enjoyed just sitting there while Kati played, even though the breeze felt more like hot air blown by a fan assisted oven, it felt refreshing and pleasant, I guess it’s one of those things that you have to experience for yourself to understand. we are lucky to be able to do so, and be able to grow up in this country. Perhaps it may sound like a weird phrase to use but just because you are a grown up, it doesn’t mean you stop growing up with every new experience.

Coming up

The great car hunt…….