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.
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 Shopping 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……
Armed 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.
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.
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.
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.
The great car hunt…….