Seeing the Beauty in my Imperfection

When I first decided to blog, I knew I did not want to focus on my disease but then something wonderful recently happened.  More on that in a minute…

I have alopecia totalis, hence the bald head.  Alopecia is a skin condition in which my immune system attacks my hair follicles, mistaking them for foreign.  It started out as alopecia areata, hair loss in small patches, then I would get needles in my head with a cortisone to make it come back.  To make a long story short, after years of getting this done I got tired of it, so one day I shaved it all off knowing that without the shots it wouldn’t grow back.  It also spread to my legs (a blessing in disguise), eyebrows and eyelashes.  The summer before I moved to Qatar I had microblading done for my eyebrows.  They’re like tattoos.  Learn more about alopecia by clicking here.  There is even a national agency, National Alopecia Areata Foundation.  To learn more about microblading, click here.  I also have a Facebook group called ‘Women Living with Alopecia‘.  It is a support group for women like me.

…on to the something wonderful that recently happened.  A little over a week ago I happened upon an article on Dohanews, about a women here in Qatar who does henna on bald heads for free, for women who have suffered hair loss from cancer. You can read it by clicking here.  I contacted her and asked would she do the same for a women living with alopecia.  Her answer was a resounding “YES!”  Then she asked me if I’d be willing to do a photoshoot.  And my answer was “YES, of course.”  [In my former life, when I was taller, I dreamed of being a model, so I was super excited.]  It took less than a day for her to set up a Whatsapp group between me, herself, a make-up artist and the photographer and two days later they were all at my flat.  For a day I felt like a runway model and didn’t I look like one.

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All three of these lovely Sri Lankan women provided their services to me free of charge.  They have renewed my faith in the good in people.  I feel so blessed.  Thank you Nazma, Lucky and Nadeesha with all my heart!

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Henna by Nazma Mazhar.  https://www.facebook.com/qatarihennastudio/  http://instagram.com/qatarihennastudio

Makeup by Lucky Allure  https://www.facebook.com/luckyallure1/

Photography by Nadeesha Rathnayake  http://www.instagram.com/nadrat_photos

Even almost a week later, my henna is still beautiful. [unedited picture below]

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I have a brief interview coming up on a Qatar TV show in a week focusing on “People of Qatar”.  I plan to rock my bald head with a henna crown, thanks to Nazma, and speak about my activism.  And for all my fellow women living with alopecia, I leave you with this quote.

Don’t ever let your imperfections make you weak, instead use them to give you strength!˜Me

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Arabic 101: Lesson 2

Ahlan Wa Sahlan- Welcome, Hello

If you ever want to know what it’s like to be an esl student, become one. ≈Me

I’ve never been a very empathetic person but this class is causing a change in me when it comes to my class of first graders.  Even though they understand a lot of English, they are still learning English as a second language and many of them are spoken to in Arabic at home.  I have to repeat directions several times in class and I’ve become more mindful of how fast I speak.  I’ve been told by multiple people that I speak rather fast.

Darryl and I have had 4 Arabic classes now and my confidence level has gone wayyy down.  This class is intense.  I am having a lot of difficulty with reading the letters and remembering what they mean.  However, I am catching on to bits of conversation pieces when the Arabic teachers at my school talk.  I assume it is a lot like this with some of my students.

Anyway this week we learned the Arabic numbers 0-10. Ten is just a combo of 1 and 0.

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Here is my favorite phrase that I’ve learned:  La Atif– it means I don’t know.  I use it quite often.

Other Phrases:

Ayna taskunu- Where you live?

Ana Askonu fi Bin Omran- I live in Bin Omran

Ahamaloo fi- I work in___

Come (not the right spelling but same sound)- how many, Becum- how much

A few Adjectives: Kabir- big; Jadil- new; Jamil- beautiful;

A few nouns: Baab- door; kitaab- book; cowlim- pen, wajib- homework, Bayt- house/home

Possessive- Kitaab- book, kitaaboka- your book for a boy, kitaaboki- your book for a girl, kitaabohu- his book, kitaaboha- her book, kitaabi- my book

Until next time- Iilaa aliiqaa [Ela licka]- See you

 

Finding Fun on a Budget in Doha #1

With my inner travel bug temporarily locked away and a new goal of saving this year, I’ve begun the mission of finding fun in Doha, while on a budget.  I browsed the Pleasure and Leisure section of my ‘My Qatar Book’ (discount book) and found Adventure Rooms. I booked a game for 6 and last night Darryl, Jennifer, JD, Britney, Quahn and I went. They have these escape rooms in the U.S. but I had never attended one but always wanted to.

Let me paint the picture for you.  You and your party, enter a room and are locked in for a period of time. There are clues in the room that you have to solve within the allotted time in order to get out or get into another room.  If you solve the clues in all the rooms you win and are freed, if you don’t, then you lose and the doors are opened for you.

The Adventure room is located on D room road.  It cost 600QAR for a party of 6 or 200 QAR per couple, that’s about 54 USD.  You can choose between several different rooms and scenarios, prison break, world traveler etc..  We chose the Crazy Science room because it is supposed to be medium difficulty and since only 2 out of the 6 of us had done this before, we wanted to take it easy.  We didn’t know what to expect.  I was team captain since I booked the outing and was taken into the room last.  We were all chained to some bars, then the attendant through the keys out of our reach and locked the door behind us. -No instructions were given except for a little card we read before we went in. I won’t spoil the fun with details of how it went down but I will say, WE WON!  We worked as a team and was able to unlock two rooms successfully and make it out with 5 minutes to spare.  There were some funny moments and some awww are you kidding me moments.  We had a really good time and are going to do this again in a another room.  Thanks to my discount book, we get to go again for free.

Afterwards, we went to Trader Vics for dinner and libations.  I used my entertainer app for two entrees for Darryl and I, buy one get one Malaysian Curry dish.

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In all it was a good night and we only spent 500 QAR, 135 USD for everything, 200 for the adventure room and 295 for dinner and a drink.

Dear Inner Travel Bug

Dear Inner Travel Bug,

You must be suppressed this year.

I know, I know, it’s torture.  It is not easy on either of us, but it must be done.  You see last year I allowed you to run free and I’ll admit, IT WAS AMAZING.  But we have other things that we must do and they will have to take precedent this year.   WE MUST SAVE!  This blockade that has been forced on Qatar has left me with a sense of uncertainty.   I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and we must have some money in the bank.

This will be extremely difficult especially with a 3 week winter break coming in a few months.  I know, there are so many places just waiting for us to bless them with our presence, but we have to be stronger than our desire.  Yes, one of the reasons we came all the way over here is travel but we also came to save.  And what have we saved?

Exactly!

Sure we have paid off some debt, but we have a long way to go before we’re completely debt free and I don’t know how long Qatar will keep us here.  Prayerfully, the blockade will not affect our income and we can stay in Qatar for a few more years, but for now let’s just chill and prepare.

I would hate to put you in a box and lock you down, but you almost caused an argument between me and Darryl the other day.  He keeps us balanced you know.  He is good at telling us what we may not want to hear but need to hear but then he feels bad about it when you get all pouty.

We are not the young, no responsibility, single, fly off on a wimm person.  We have a child graduating high school this year and preparing for college and soon he will be asking for money beyond a plane ticket to come visit us here.  There will be dues, and fees, and prom, and retreats.  Our situation is different than others, we can’t just do whatever we want whenever we want to.

We have accomplished many goals together, weathered many storms and we can do this too!  I know a bird should not be caged but sometimes you have to do what is necessary. PERK up.  I’m sure we can find some fun around here somewhere!

New mission: Explore Doha and find some fun!

 

Arabic 101: lesson 1

Anyone who has known me for several years will not be surprised by this post so here it is.  Even all the way in the Middle East, I have found a way to enroll in school.  I’m the one whose family members say ‘has made a career of school’.  I’ve been in school beyond primary school off and on since 2001; ever since my oldest son was 2.  Well this time is not for a degree but it is to add intellect to my brain.  What can I say, I love learning! I did say, I would like to learn Arabic and what better place to do this, than in the motherland and where I can practice it in a full immersive environment.  In the end, it’s going to look really good on my CV.  This was me last night in my first class…

Well sort of.  But really it was a great first class. My hubby and I are taking these classes together and this is our first time in school together.  We are very competitive so this should be interesting.  I think he is a better student than I already.  They say teachers make the worst students and they might be right.

We are taking these class at TII- Translation and Interpreting Institute located in Education City.  The classes are twice a week on Monday and Wednesday from 5-6:40pm. The cost was 2500 QAR or about $700 usd each.  We also received a 10% discount each because of my employer.  (Thanks to Larisa Mount for the recommendation and for the course books) This class is called ‘Survival Arabic’ and you learn speaking, listening, writing and reading.  I like that it encompass all of those aspects.  There are more consecutive courses that you can take but you must take ‘Survival Arabic’ first.

If you come to the Middle East, it’s nice to know some words and I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things I learn with my readers each week, so here you go: Lesson 1

I’m sure you have heard of ‘Assalamu Alaykum’, which is the official greeting among Arabs.  It means ‘peace be unto you’ or hello.  The response is ‘wa alaikum salaam’- sounds like y-a-lake-um-salahm.   You can also say hello with ‘Ahlan’ or ‘Marhaba’.  When you say hello back to a male- ‘ahlan bika’ [ah ha lon bee kah], to a female- ‘ahlan biki’ [beekee].

‘Ana Ismii’ [Isme]- My name is____

‘Ana min’ [mean] America- I am from America

‘Laa’- No

‘Na am’- Correct      ‘Haq’ [hah khan]- Right       ‘Tamam’- Ok

‘Haadhaa’- That   ‘Haadhi’- This

Khalas- finished, enough

These were just some of the things we learned in Class #1.  We also learned how to write the long and short vowels.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 1.52.56 PM this is one example.  I think Arabic writing is beautiful.  It reminds me of calligraphy.

 

Hopefully you learned something today.  See you next week!

Maasalama [Mah salama]- Good bye

 

 

 

That’s When I Knew I was in First Class

Then the flight attendant offered me my pajamas and slippers…and that is when I knew I was in first class.  

Over the summer, along with checking Cuba off of my “I Will DO IT” list, I was able to check off Flying First Class, x2.  The first experience was with American Airlines.  Darryl had already booked our flights home from Miami so I figured I’d see how much it would cost to upgrade.  The upgrade costs us less than $300, so why not.  Before we boarded, we went to the admirals club.  American Airlines had sent me two free passes to the admirals club in the past and I hadn’t used them until now.  Admirals Club is a membership program and lounge operated by American Airlines.  In the lounge, there was free food, drinks for purchase, free wifi, showers, television and comfortable seating.

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Of course, First Class boards first and we were seated in the second row.  The television screens were bigger than in economy class and we were served drinks right away.  We had the constant attention of attendants and received free snacks and a tasteful meal. There was more leg room and the seats were comfortable.

I may have been acting a little bougie, because I kept wondering when they were going to close the curtain.  And when they did- that’s when I knew I was in first class.  You know that E*Trade Commercial, yeah I was the women with the champagne…

There were lots of kids on our flight, but I didn’t hear any.  You don’t know how good it felt, to be the first ones off the plane either.  No waiting, no pushing, just strolling. Like A Boss!

Well something like that anyway.

I sent the following IM to my girlfriends:

“Yo, I just upgraded to first class American Airlines. I’m chillen in the Admirals club waiting for my 4:30 flight with free food and Wi-Fi and showers.  Why not, it’s my birthday month.”

This was my girlfriend Jennifer’s response:

“Let me know when you are riding first class on the way to Doha! That’s when you’re fancy.”

So, what did I do when I got to JFK airport when my summer had concluded and it was time to head back to Doha?  I asked how much it was to upgrade my Qatar Airways tickets to Doha, and that was on some other level!  Now let me clarify something: I am by no means rich, but I have learned how to work the system a little and get cheap flights.  I found a super cheap, one way flight back to Doha from JFK so I was willing to splurge a little if the price to upgrade would put me around the same price of a regular ticket. Sometimes you just have to live a little and at that very moment at that first-class counter a quote I refer to often came to mind…

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So I bought ‘the shoes’, well the tickets.  I was some what salty because we didn’t get to try out the Qatar Airways lounge.  After fighting through New York traffic and walking that big airport it was almost time to board.  Qatar Airways is already top shelf, so I could not wait to ‘eat the cake’, especially after the ticket handler said that I wouldn’t be able to get my pre-ordered vegan meal.  She said because that was for economy.  She said my meals would be better.  I was willing to have my pre-ordered meal but she said not in first class; they could not bring me economy meals.

We boarded first, of course, and found our seats or reclining beds.  Then the flight attendant offered me my pajamas and slippers…and that is when I knew I was in first class.  Don’t mind if I do.  She handed me a toiletry purse and directed me to the bathroom.  This bathroom was better than some homes.  After I changed into my pjs, she took my clothes and hung them up in a closet and then made up my bed.  Did you hear me?  She made up my bed.

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My husband asked if we could order a drink but was told that they can only offer champagne until after the take off.  Don’t mind if I do.  We were given menus to choose what we wanted to eat and were told me could order how much and how often we’d like. Did you hear what I said? Order how much and how often we’d like.  It was like having our very own butler, because the attendants attended to our every need.

Seven hours into the flight, Darryl woke me up and reminded me that I had slept half our first-class experience away.  It was the best sleep I had ever had on a flight.

So we watched some movies on our big screen monitor together and ate and drank for the duration of the flight.  First class makes a long flight enjoyable and if I could fly this way everywhere I would spend the money and do it.

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The only thing I didn’t like about both of my first class experiences was the big console in between the seats.  Darryl and I couldn’t cuddle.  In economy you can lift the armrest and lay in each other’s arms but the big consoles between us made this impossible. Should that deter you from flying first-class?  HELL NO!  It is an experience worth having at least once, if you can afford it.

The Spice of Doha

If you’re looking for a variety of choices of tasty foods to eat on a Friday afternoon, the Spice Market is an excellent choice.

The first Friday brunch I ever attended in Doha was at the Spice Market.  I had only been once for the brunch because it is one of the more pricier ones, but it was memorable. After a not so impressive brunch at what used to be my favorite place, Zengo (more on that later), Jennifer, JD, my husband, Nancy, her husband and I decided to go back to Spice Market to see if it was the same as we remembered, and it did not disappoint.

The Spice Market is located in the W Doha Hotel in the Diplomatic area of Doha.  The flower arrangement that greets you upon entering the hotel is beautiful and the bold blue bulbs that dangle from the ceiling are the perfect backdrops for pictures.

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We were welcomed to the restaurant by tray choices of drink specials, non alcoholic and White Lady, Classic Margarita, Ginger Margarita or champagne.  Don’t mind if I do!

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Besides seafood, I don’t partake in any animal products but there was a variety of different foods for everyone.  There are plenty of food stations including sushi, seafood and salad and cooking stations including Thai, Indian and more.  The sushi station is my favorite.  My husband said the beef was tender and cooked to perfection. Everyone in my party enjoyed the dessert.  I just ate some fruit, since I don’t eat dairy and most desserts contain dairy.  There were no complaints about the food.

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And when it comes to service, the Spice Market’s service is top shelf.   Lae Lae and Promise were our servers.  Our glasses were never empty.  They never complained about being asked to take our pictures.  We never had to wait for clean plates.  They kept a smile on their faces.  They were excellent.  The Assistant Director of Beverage and Food, Piercorrado Papotto, came over and introduced himself as well as the restaurant supervisor, Esradh.

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If you’re looking for a variety of choices of tasty foods to eat on a Friday afternoon, the Spice Market is an excellent choice.

Tips:

Go hungry and early and stay the whole time

Pace yourself so you can enjoy as much as possible

Purchase the My Book Qatar on your mobile device for 160 Riyals and enjoy a Buy 1 Get 1 free meal and save

Make reservations in advance especially if you’re going with a large group

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Afterwards we took the lift to the 29th floor of the W and admired some artwork by Ahmed Almaadheed.  He created the Tamim The Glorious photo.  We signed our names on the We Stand with Qatar murals and book and then took in the sights of Qatar from above. Admittance to this gallery is free and worthwhile.

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