The first 7 days in Doha

So things aren’t perfect but I like it here.

I started this post days ago but when I tell you I’ve been sooo busy believe me.  And now, instead of it being 7 days in Doha, it’s more like, 8, no wait, 9.  Yes it has been 9 days in Doha.  My sense of time and days is all off.  I rise and sleep earlier than I ever have.  The sun rises around 5am here and it’s dark around 6pm.  I’m usually up before 6:30, sometimes by 5am and down by 10, sometimes by 9pm.  I’ve never been a morning person, but Qatar is turning me into a Grandmom, up early, down early.  Anyway enough about that.

I know that I have only been here 9 days but it feels more like a month because we have done so much and I owe that mainly to my new job.  I have experienced some wonderful things and some things that just don’t make sense to me but the good definitely outweighs the bad so far.  I have this new saying, “It’s Qatar.  Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t!”  It is my way of coping with some things that don’t always go as planned and that happens a lot.  For instance, I will be teaching First Grade instead of Kindergarten.  I found that out on the first day of work. (I actually think it might be a blessing in disguise). Another example: We waited 5 days for internet.  It was supposed to be fixed/installed for 3 days straight but everyday, “It’s Qatar. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t!” Fortunately it did on the fifth day.  And there were other minor occurrences but I won’t bore you to death with them.

I started work last Sunday and my family was able to go with me for the first week.  We received our orientation schedule for the next 3 weeks but were told it is subject to change. So within one week, I toured my new school, which is nice, I’ve met all the new staff, we turned in all our gathered paperwork, took several trips to the mall, arranged by our school, had an eye examine for my driver’s test, saw my classroom and was given time to work in it, had my medical exam, took a trip to Ikea, toured Education City, signed up with the bank, scheduled my written driver’s test, which is tomorrow, and took a trip to Sheikh Faisal’s Museum today.  I really appreciate my administration using this first week to take us around and get things done that will make our stay in Doha easier.  It also helps to ease us into work.  The children do not start for another 3 weeks.  Our second week begins tomorrow, where we will get into some curriculum things.

I really like my new coworkers (hopefully it is not just the honeymoon phase).  We are a diverse bunch.  I work with people from all over, South Africa, Australia, Jordan, Turkey, U.S.A., etc.. It is so refreshing to be around like-minded individuals. I hope the rest of the staff are just as wonderful.

There are malls everywhere here.  I love to shop but this is too much even for me. I’m not here to spend a whole lot of money and this definitely does not help my addiction.  And the Ikea is great including the food there.  I can only imagine what the mall of Qatar will be like. It will be the biggest mall in the world.

Last night my husband and I attended a teacher’s social event at the Hilton Hotel in West Bay, Doha.  It wasn’t a lot of people there for the event but the majority of the attendees were my coworkers. We had a blast.  I won some prizes and my husband recited Rapper’s Delight.  We even had a drink or a couple, okay, okay, a few.  Yes, you can drink alcohol here, at hotels and if you obtain a liquor permit, once you get your RP (Residence Permit), you can also purchase alcohol to consume in your home.

It is very hot here, but bearable in small doses.  When I say small doses, I mean like, walk from your house into the air conditioned car, out of the car, into a building.  A few days ago, we decided to walk around our neighborhood around 5:30ish in the evening.  I think we got about 6 blocks when I decided I had had enough.  I felt like I was being smothered, so we turned around and came back home.  I’ve also been experiencing headaches.  I think it might be due to the sun, or dust, not sure which. But I haven’t had any allergy attacks, so that’s good.  During the day, the heat is dry and the sun is so bright that my sunglasses fog up as soon as I walk outside.  In the evening, the humidity is so prevalent that you feel smothered.

Okay so here are some tips for my followers whom are considering working here:

  1. Bring patience and leave the chip on your shoulder home. Bring humility too.
  2. On the day, you are scheduled to meet with H.R. bring a packed lunch.  You will be waiting a while. Also keep a few copies of your passport photos. Don’t give them all to H.R. Believe me you will need them.
  3. Be sure to switch your cellular provider to Tmobile before you come here and download SKYPE and Whatsapp.  Tmobile provides you with free text and wifi calling and 2 Gs of data monthly while here. You can call back home for $.20 a minute.  You can SKYPE back home for free and use Whatsapp.
  4. Please follow this advice- Have a couple thousand dollars that you can access.  You will need to buy things for your accommodation, food and a Qatar SIM card if you want to get things done here, before you get paid. Remember you are starting over from scratch basically.  Bring some cash and exchange it for QAR and keep some in your American bank account.  Also check your bank to see how much are international fees when you use your card here.  You may or may not receive your first pay when you expect it.  I didn’t. But hey, “It’s Qatar…” you know the rest.
  5. Check the money you get from the bank before you leave America.  They will not exchange $50’s and $100 bills that have dates older than 2007 here.  I read that somewhere before I came but I forgot and they sure didn’t take $200.00 of my money.  But Ikea does take American money and they had no problem taking those bills.
  6. Be sure to make a copy of your passport because your job will take it until you get your RP and you need your passport to exchange money here.  Some places will take the passport copy.
  7. You can rent a car with a International Driver’s Permit until you get your RP, but I don’t know why you would want to rush to drive here.  It is aggressive and UBER works but that’s money again.
  8. The process to obtain a drivers license is crazy.  Do not come here with an expired drivers license or you will have to pay for driver’s school and it is not cheap. When you go to schedule your driver’s test, bring your American Driver’s Lic and a copy of it.  You will also have to pay a fee, but you can only pay it with your Qatar bank card.
  9. Here’s the kicker though, I tell you all of this but rules and policies change like the wind here, so tomorrow may be different rules. LOL!
  10. Most things you can find here, you just have to look for it.

So things aren’t perfect but I like it here.  I’ve also embraced my villa and my compound has some perks.  Smaller compounds usually do.  My husband and I have worked out in the gym together several times, which is literally 10 feet away.  My house is large and the air is the bomb.  My kids are adjusting well too.  Everyday is like an adventure.  I promise to post pictures and videos soon, but I have to get to bed.  It’s late and I have the written part of the driver’s test at 7am.

Update: I passed my test today!  Here’s the process to obtain a Qatar Driver’s License if you have an American Driver’s License.

Step 1: Pass your eye exam. Simple and is done in the mall.

Step 2: Schedule your written test, purchase a manual for 55 Riyals about $15 U.S. Read thru the manual.

Step 3: Take the written test (theory test) consisting of 20 questions. You can’t get more than 4 wrong.  You can download the app Qatar Driving and take some practice test. After you pass the written test, you can take the driving test or schedule the driving test.

Step 4:  Take the road test.

I have Step 4 scheduled for next Sunday. Wish me luck and stay tuned for the results.

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Welcome to Qatar

Experiencing it is different than reading about it.

It’s almost been a full two days since my arrival in Qatar and honestly where do I start?  I often wondered, while reading other’s blogs, why they just drop off and why there is such a break in between their post and now I know.  1) You get so busy that it becomes difficult to make time for it or  2) You get so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start or 3) You are too tired to even care.  I am a mix between 1 and 2.  Let’s start with the journey…

The Journey

My sister, best friend sister and mother in law drove with us to PHL airport.  We needed all three cars as we had a lot of luggage.  It was sad saying good bye and I’ll admit I shed a few tears.  We checked in our luggage, which took some time because as I mentioned before, we had a lot of it, 8 pieces to check in to be exact and 8 pieces to carry on.

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The weight allowance for checked luggage on Qatar Airways, leaving from U.S.A, economy class is 23kg or 50lbs. You are allowed 2 free checked bags at this weight.  If your bags weigh more than this, but not to exceed 32kg or 70lbs, than you can pay $50 online up to 6 hours prior to your flight or $65 at the airport.  We knew that 3 of our bags were over the weight but did not pay online so we had to pay $195 at the airport.  We could have shipped our items but shipping freight to Doha is expensive, more than $1,000 for not much so we opted to just pay overweight fees.  It cost $200.00 per extra luggage, which still would have been cheaper but for 60 pounds over weight, 20lbs for 3 bags each, we still saved money.  Also they have the right to reject extra luggage so we didn’t go that route and plus the added cost of buying extra luggage just didn’t balance out. They also check the weight of your carry-on bags which should not exceed 7kg or 15lbs. You are allowed one carry-on per person and a personal item, which is really two carry-ons. Several of our carry-on bags were overweight but the attendant who helped us let us go.  They also requested a copy of our visas at the airport.  I have no idea why. I n all, I think we did pretty good with packing and the luggage in general.

Once we got our luggage squared away, we got our boarding passes and proceeded to security.  We waited in line for our turn only to be told to go back downstairs to the ticket desk because only our first initials were printed on the passes.  This was now 1 hour from boarding time and we started to lose patience.  We got that taken care of and got thru TSA without incident.  We found our gate and had only enough time to use the bathroom and then line up for boarding.

The plane was huge.

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It was the biggest plane I had ever been on.  The inside was beautifully lit with pink and blue lights.  The seats reclined.  The 12+ hour flight was ok. There was some turbulence but not too bad.  The flight attendants were nice.  They were always coming around with their carts offering beverages (including free liquor, even Hennessy).  They served three meals and even accommodated my vegan diet. (BTW you can select your seats and special diet online prior to your flight)  Even though we were prepared with jackets, blanket, pillows etc.., they also provided some of these things like a blanket, eye mask, ear plugs, compression socks, pillow and headphones.  My husband said they kept flashing messages on the tv to remind people to walk around, hydrate and moisturize to help with the long flight.  But I never saw those messages; that must have been while I was asleep.  They provided a variety of movies, tv shows and music channels to keep you entertained.  It was a long flight but it didn’t feel super long and I only slept about a total of 3 hours.

Upon landing in Doha, my husband and I were the only 2 people that clapped.  I always clap when I land, because I’m happy we made it safely and I clap for the pilots for a job well done.  Is that just an American thing?  Well, we exited at the back of the plane, strangely, on the tar mat and boarded a bus, which took us to the arriving terminal of the airport.  I prepared myself for extreme heat but it wasn’t too bad, maybe because it was 6:00a.m.  We went through customs and collected our items without incident.  I exchanged some U.S. money for some QAR (riyals) and purchased 2 Qatari SIM cards.  My Vice Principal met us and….

Don’t expect to get what you expected

…she told me that my housing had been changed.  The villa that I was told that we’d be living in and was looking forward to living in, close to my son’s school and the mall, with a maid’s quarter, 4 bedrooms, 3 living rooms, etc, etc… was not to be.  Instead we have been placed in a 3 bedroom villa with 1 living room, and no maids quarter,  30-45 min from my sons school.  It is one of the Beverly Hills Gardens compounds.  And although it is nice, it is not El Berr, as expected.  On a positive note, it is close to my job, the beach and the airport.  Also one of the teachers that I have been SKYPing with over here is now my neighbor and we work at the same school.  I only met 2 of my 16 neighboring families because most of them are still on summer vacation.  From what I have been told, there are several families with teenage boys that live in this compound. That is another added bonus.  We have a nice pool and small fitness center.  Our villa is furnished with older furniture but it’s not too bad. We had some dishes, an ironing board and iron, and some other things that the school purchased for us.  It’s called a soft package.  One of our neighbors and a school leader took us to the market to get some food later that day because none had been left for us contrary to what was supposed to happen.  When we got back, someone had dropped off some bread, milk, eggs, and jelly.   I was glad we went to the market, because who can survive off of that menu.

We were so tired that I really can’t remember much after that.  We took a nap, then were taken to a different market.  I had a headache that night, not sure what from.  It could have been from a number of things.  I took two tylenol PM’s and went to sleep about 2:00a.m.  I didn’t wake up until after 1pm.

I used the fitness center today while the boys swam in the pool.  It’s nice to have a fitness center in the front yard.  I can get used to that.  Tokitha (my friend from North Carolina) and I hooked up today.  She sent me a driver and we all went to the mall.

I’ve read many blogs and post online about the rude nature of some of the people here but…

Experiencing it is different than reading about it

… some people really do brush by you, reach over you, lean over you, stare at you and bust in front of you without a single word.  I just look up like WTH and keep it moving.  For the most part, everyone has been nice and Qatar is like a melting pot of many different cultures.

Neither our cable nor our internet works.  Thankfully our neighbor gave us her code so we can access the internet while sitting on our steps in our house.  It’s the little things.

Life in Qatar will take some adjusting and patience, I just hope I can stay positive and keep an open mind.

On another note, I completed my TEFL online course before I left the states.  I have obtained another certification.  It was completely online and done at my own pace and even though I already secured an overseas job, it still makes more opportunities available to me and I learned a lot.  And I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to complete it before I left.

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…So welcome to Qatar!

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39 is going to be a great year

One week to go!

Two days ago, I turned 39 years young.  Not everyone feels comfortable admitting their age or accepting it, but I am quite comfortable.  I feel good about it.  I look good for my age too so that helps. LOL!

Two days ago, I got back from my trip to Jamaica.  I absolutely love Jamaica.  There hasn’t been one time when I’ve gone and haven’t enjoy myself.  It’s usually just my sister and bf sister but this time we took the young girls, their daughters.  The youngest was turning 21. We had a ball.  We stayed in Montego Bay at the Grand Palladium resort.  Although the resort was very pretty aesthetically, I probably won’t stay there again.  It was a little far from everything, and over rated.  I prefer to stay closer to the action and to the locals. Here are some of the highlights: snorkeling in the middle of the ocean, climbed Dunns River Falls, bobsledding, Mystic Mountain look-out, partied, ate.  Here are a few pictures.

Yesterday I got good news from my H.R. rep that put my worries to rest.  Everybody’s visa has been approved, including my husband.  Now we are packing.  39 is going to be a great year and a year filled with firsts.  I can’t wait. ONE WEEK TO GO! Stay tuned…

SURPRISE

My husband and sister planned it and totally got me.

Happy August 1st everyone.  August is my favorite month of the year; it is my birthday month.  I don’t have a birth-day.  I have a birth month and I like to celebrate for the full 31 days.

Several people have asked me if I was having a going away party and I have answered no each time.  For one thing, I don’t think I should have to throw my own party, since I am the one leaving.  Secondly, I only have a few friends, many acquaintances, but only a few friends.  But on Saturday afternoon, I came home to a house full of people and a surprise going away party.  My husband and sister planned it and totally got me.  There was so much food and drinks, and fun conversations.  It was a great time had by all and quite the surprise.

Only 2 weeks to go.