Grateful

I think life showed us that we needed a rest…

It has only been a month since my last post but it feels like way longer. Honestly, I haven’t had many ideas to blog about lately and I’ve been pretty busy between work, work, and well being lazy. But life is good. I am beyond grateful for where I am in my life right now. I am alive, healthy; my family is strong and healthy. You know how they say, your body tells you when it needs a rest, I think life showed us that we needed a rest. Sometimes our lives are so fast paced that we forget to take a moment and be grateful. I have a good job, with minimal stress. My bills are paid. My retirement fund is growing as is my savings. These past months, I’ve been spending time on the phone with my family and at home with my husband. My mother and I reconnected. I even treated her to a hotel stay back home. Some people that I am close to have suffered some real hardships this past year and I am grateful that I have been able to be there for them in some way. Life is so precious and I believe that once Covid-19’s death wish slows some, people will appreciate some things a little bit more. At least I hope they will. I don’t believe that life will ever quite be the same though. Most of us will look at things differently and choose differently. I can’t even watch a food tv show without cringing about something or look at past pictures. Like how my husband and I went to Sri Lanka 2 years ago and ate street food from street vendors. It’s a miracle that Covid-19 didn’t come sooner.

Yesterday, I received the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. It’s free in my host country. I feel okay, minus the sore arm. I have to go back for my second dose in 3 weeks. I was nervous about getting this vaccine however, I want to get back to traveling. Most importantly, I want to go home to see my sons and the rest of my family. I miss them dearly. If getting the vaccine will make that easier, it’s a risk worth taking.

Today is a good day to be alive and to be grateful.

A Review of my Stay at Al Messila Resort and Spa Doha

Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

It is winter break over here in Doha for teachers and children and in light of Covid-19, I’m sure it does not come as a surprise that I opted out of traveling. I did, however, choose to do a short staycation to see different walls than the ones in my flat. My friend Jennifer and I decided to book a room at Al Messila Resort.

Al Messila is located in the Al Rayyan area of Doha. It’s nestled right off Doha expressway and across the street from the U.S. Embassy. We got a great rate as Qatar Foundation employees and I had heard good things about the resort. Jenn and I were really looking forward to some rest and relaxation.

Although the front desk consists of a few podium desks behind plexi/glass shields, the lobby is beautiful. The high ceiling is grand and the chandeliers majestic. There are several areas to sit surrounded by gold and beige decor. Your bags are checked by security and your temperature and etheraz apps are checked upon entry.

Although we requested two beds, the confirmation did say 1 King (which I should have checked prior) and changing to 2 beds would include at least an hour wait. We didn’t feel like adding an additional hour to our already rather late check in time of 4pm. Since we have traveled together before and are pretty good friends, we decided to share the bed.

We stayed in a deluxe room which was very spacious. I really appreciated the 6 piece bathroom including a separate shower and tub behind the same glass door within the bathroom, the rain shower head and double vanity. The room had a rather long hallway from the door to the bedroom, a wall mounted television, coffee maker, mugs, tea, King bed with 4 rather flat pillows, a table, 2 chairs and a chaise. Our room had a balcony facing the front of the hotel and highway. Next time, I’ll be sure to request a different view. The room was very clean with the exception of a nectarine which was under a chair on our balcony, upon check-in, and remained there throughout the duration of our stay. There were stains on our carpet and the bed was not very comfortable. In fact, my side felt very slept on and I had to move closer to the center of the bed to feel like I wasn’t sleeping on a slope. The Wifi was free though and it worked well. I am awarding the room 3 stars, for the great wifi, space, and wonderful bathroom; unfortunately, 2 stars were sacrificed due the bed, carpet stains and forgotten nectarine.

The hotel grounds are beautiful, with lots of greenery and a large pool. There is a pool bar as well and all of the bartenders and pool staff are nice. Happy hour starts late around 7pm. The cigar lounge was clean and Daniel makes very good drinks. The star of the resort, though, is the Spa. As a hotel guest we were able to enjoy the spa amenities free of charge. You can even catch a golf cart over to the spa. If you are not a guest of the hotel, you can still access the spa for 15o QR. Jennifer and I spent about 2 hours at the spa going from room to room. We took part in the hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam rooms, relaxation beds and rooms and even pole dancing and trampoline jumping in a pool. During our spa visit, we only saw 3 other guest, so we basically had it to ourselves. You can pay for other services as well, like facials and massages. I really wanted to experience a Turkish Hamam but due to covid, those weren’t on offer. Al Messila gets 4 stars for amenities. The only reason I deducted a star is because of the lack of dining options which unfortunately hits this resort in 2 areas. Let’s talk food and service.

Let’s get right to the point, in this large beautiful hotel, why is there only 1 restaurant? Firstly, breakfast was not included (*correction, breakfast was included, we were not charged) but the buffet is very reasonably priced at only 38 QR and even though breakfast is buffet style, you can not go up and get your own food, precautions put into place due to Covid. This is fine, however, no one informed us about this even after we were sat at a table and left alone for some time. Eventually we called someone over and they explained that everything would be bought over to our table. They were informed about my vegan and Jennifer’s vegetarian diet prior. It took a while to receive our food but I was able to ask for specifics like potato wedges and sauteed veggies. A menu of what’s available would have been helpful, saved time and cut down on waste. Nevertheless we walked away full and satisfied. For lunch we ate outdoors. The chef prepared some vegetable dumplings and french fries for me. The dumplings and several sauces were tasty. That was on our first full day. But the second day was a disaster. We made breakfast reservations for between 9:30-10 and arrived around 9:45. We were told to wait in the lobby as there was already a queue of people waiting. No one took our names down or gave us a number to be called. We waited about 30 minutes before Jennifer said something to the host and we were finally seated. The host seemed to have no idea about our reservation. The restaurant was getting hammered hard and it showed. We requested to just order specific items from the buffet so that everything did not have to be bought over. I ordered simple potatoes and grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, Jennifer ordered avocado toast, and eggs benedict but forgot to tell them no meat, and they obviously forgot our dietary restrictions. They bought over eggs benedict on turkey and a side of meat. She re-ordered and I waited, and waited and waited. Then her fixed order came minus the toast, and I waited and waited. Then she finished and I still sat waiting. We pulled over someone who appeared to be a manager and told him the problem, that we were leaving and I was not paying, as I didn’t eat anything other than a piece of fruit. By this time, I am very upset. He apologized and insisted bringing over the food anyway. A few minutes later, he bought over a plate of mushrooms, sliced avocado and pre-packaged hash browns. The sight of this plate made me angry. It was not what I had ordered. It was not avocado toast. It was not cooked potatoes and the mushrooms were cold. By this time I am furious with the service and I didn’t hesitate in letting the hostess know. There were many complaining guest that day. The service and the food was awful. Knowing that it is winter break, people are not traveling outside of Doha like they used to, due to Covid, this hotel restaurant should have been better prepared. I left out of that restaurant very HANGRY and ready to leave the hotel altogether. I am awarding the restaurant/food and service, 2 stars due to everything mentioned. When I travel, food is high on my priority list especially because of the way I eat. If the food is not right, I usually don’t return.

Things worth mentioning: On our check in day, we received fruit and truffles delivered to our room. This was a nice touch. Later that evening, tea was also delivered. Unfortunately for every good thing, something not so good happened. For instance, after we enjoyed in-room dining on the first night, we called for the tray and dishes to be collected but no one ever came to get them and the room started to smell. On day 2, we saw housekeeping in the hall when we left our room but they never cleaned our room. We had to call down to have our room serviced.

welcome snack

Final thoughts and message to the manager of the Al Messila: This review is based on my experience alone. Everything is true. I travel a lot and write many reviews. Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

  1. Provide a menu for the breakfast buffet so that people can make choices
  2. Have a vegan menu available. The world is changing; more and more people are going green
  3. Prepare for busier seasons with more experienced staff and write down reservations
  4. Don’t bring people cold food- ever, unless it is supposed to be cold and make sure that everyone at the table gets their food
  5. Keep customers informed. A customer should not have to call downstairs to find out why their room was not serviced
  6. Ensure that room service collects in-room dining dishes or at least checks with the guest within an hour
  7. Flip mattresses
  8. Remove the nectarine off the balcony of room 3012 and get rid of the carpet stains
  9. Move up the check-in time. Half the day is gone at 4pm and with a noon check-out time that isn’t even a 24 hour stay.

Al Messila receives 3 stars from me- Beautiful but below basic in food and service.

***Update: After contacting the hotel manager, Mr. Mallah, he arranged for me to return to try out Al Mesilla restaurant again. There were some major changes made and the brunch is very good. They had a whole section dedicated to just vegans. And it made me wonder, if that will always be there or was that just for me. The service was much, much better. The drinks were good too and so was the food. After this new visit and changes, I may be inclined to stay there again. I appreciate that the manager invited me back to have a better experience. I kind of wish he had covered a night’s stay along with the restaurant visit.

A Feature Story in Undomesticated Mag

…simply put, I am not done here, not yet.

A few weeks ago, a young lady contacted me after stumbling across my blog. When this happens, the person sends you some questions about your experiences, you respond with your answers, they tweek the content and then put together a feature. Ms. Hawk did a great job of putting my thoughts together. I’ve pasted the interview below for your reading enjoyment. Interesting fact: the article came out on my anniversary 11/11. What a nice gift. If you fancy, subscribe to the magazine as well. There are some very interesting reads on it. Click here for the website.

International Careers: Kennesha Bell on Teaching in Qatar 

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Kennesha Bell lived her entire life in Philadelphia until at the age of 39, she packed up her family and moved to Doha, Qatar to teach first grade, satisfying a longtime yearning for travel and international experience. Four years later, she has no plans to leave. We talk about getting the assignment, adjusting to another culture, the challenge of being so far from family, and why she loves life in the Middle East.

You can read more about her experience at her blog American Teacher Overseas.

Undomesticated: What led you to teaching abroad? And why Doha?

Kennesha Bell: I applied to teach abroad because I needed to get out of Philadelphia. I felt like I was suffocating. It was sort of a calling, I guess you could say. I love to travel and I wanted to experience life somewhere else. 

Doha was not my first choice. In fact, the first time I applied to teach overseas I was turned down by Teachaway, the company I went through. I didn’t have enough experience at that time. Then two years later, I applied again, passed the interview with Teachaway but was denied by Abu Dhabi Education Council and never heard back from the school in Kuwait. I applied for a third time two years later, being the persistent person that I am, and received offers from Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. Qatar had the best benefits package for a family. 

One of the reasons I chose the Middle East was because of the mystique of this part of the world. I only knew what I heard about it through the media, which gives a very one-sided outlook. Also I had read that Qatar was, and still is, one of the safest places in the world, and it is smack in the middle, so what a great hub to travel to the rest of the world from. How could I resist moving to a place that is safe, pays great, is a travel hub, and a mystery to me?

Undomesticated: When people think of overseas English teachers, they usually think of someone recently out of college and single. You, however, were in your late thirties and married with children. How did that affect your decision and your transition to Doha?

Bell: It was not easy, but I was determined. Honestly, I thought it would be a good opportunity to give my children. They would have something I never did, travel experience and exposure to different cultures. I figured we could go through the growing pains together. The company I work for in Qatar was extremely helpful with the transition. My director even connected me to another mother who was in Qatar with her children. We talked via Skype before I moved. She put my mind at ease and she and I are still good friends. 

Undomesticated: What was the biggest surprise about your job? About living in Doha?

Bell: The biggest surprise about my job was the surplus of resources and help that was available to me. 

Also, the diversity of the staff was a surprise. When you come from a place where everyone looks like you, talks like you, and has had similar experiences to you, you get locked inside a bubble. Here I felt like it was the first time I stepped outside of that bubble and saw life for how it is supposed to be: Colorful and beautiful.

Undomesticated: What would surprise people back home in Philadelphia about your life now?

Bell: I feel 100% more safe in Qatar than Philadelphia. This surprises people because Qatar is in the Middle East. That stigma about the Middle East runs deep for people who live in the West bubble and have never traveled to this part of the world. I love it here and have no desire to return to my hometown outside of being with friends and family.

Undomesticated: How do people in Qatar react to you as a Black American woman?

Bell: Some people are surprised when I tell them where I am from. One person even said, “I thought only white people were from the United States.”

Americans are looked up to here and as an African-American, I have never felt discriminated against. The population here is so diverse. There are people from everywhere here. 

Women in general have preferential treatment in some ways here. There are lines just for women. Women are often allowed to go first. The commonality of separation of genders takes some getting used to though. 

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Undomesticated: What is the biggest reward of your job?

Bell: I feel appreciated as a teacher in this country. Most families respect you and look to you as an expert.

Of course, the money is great too. I’ve been blessed with being able to travel to many places, pay off debt, invest, and enjoy the fruits of my labor. 

Undomesticated: What is the biggest challenge?

Bell: The biggest challenge for me was adjusting. Things are different here. Life is slower. I’m from a big city, where everything is rush, rush, rush. I’ve had to learn patience and humility. Things don’t happen on your timetable here; it happens when it happens.

Another big personal challenge was being without my husband for the first year because he was working and we had a house in the U.S. that someone needed to live in. And being without my kids for the following years. The issue with my kids is touchy and very emotional and I devoted an entire blog post to this.  My two sons are so different. My oldest son stayed with me the entire first year.  He does very well with change and is adaptable. We traveled and spent a lot of time together.  He returned to the U.S. when we went home for the summer and stayed there to finish his senior year in high school.  

My youngest son however, does not do well with change. I wanted us to immerse ourselves into the new culture, and I think it was too much for him. He did not want to stay, so almost three quarters of the way through the first year, he returned to the U.S. to live with his dad. Some may not agree with my decision but I truly believe that everyone deserves to be happy. Being here was not bringing him the joy I had hoped, so I let him go home.  

Some may ask why I choose to stay despite it all, and my answer is this:  Qatar is my home now.  I am happy here.  Life is more peaceful here. I have a well-paying job that has allowed me to pay off thousands of dollars worth of debt, save, travel to many places, and I’ll soon pay off my house back in the U.S. I wasn’t able to do these things while working and living in the U.S. Sure I miss my other home and my family most of all. Before the pandemic, I made it my business to travel there every year. But, simply put, I am not done here, not yet.  

Undomesticated: What advice would you give someone hoping to teach abroad?

Bell: Go for it but have patience. If it is your dream, do it; but don’t expect others to be excited about your dreams. 

Think of all the wonderful things that could happen, and live a life without regrets. 

Credit: https://www.undomesticatedmag.com/blog/teaching-abroad-qatar-kennesha-bell-


I got Tested for Corona

Do I have Corona? What if I do?

Last Tuesday was our first day with kids in the physical building but before kids were allowed back, every teacher was required to submit to a Covid-19 test. So last Saturday, I had mine done. I would be lying if I said it was painful but it was not comfortable at all and I would be okay with never getting that done again. Thankfully it was at the expense of my employer and scheduled by them. I also heard that teachers and students will be randomly tested throughout the school year, just like a random drug test.

So how was it exactly.

It was a drive-in nasal swab. A long q-tip like object was slid into my nose, all the way up to my brain (it seemed), a specimen was collected and then the q-tip was taken out. It seemed like it just kept going and going up and took forever to come back out. My nose burned some for about an hour afterwards but there was no blood or discharge afterwards. I did not want to take the test but I’m glad I did. All kinds of things went through my head while I waited for the results.

Do I have Corona? What if I do?

Did they just put a chip in my head?

Within 30 hours I had my negative results along with all the other teachers in the school. What a relief!

And for the first time in my teaching career, teachers are asked to stay home if they aren’t feeling well. And because I am asthmatic, if I’m not feeling up to it, I can work from home too.

Very few students showed up for school on week 1. Every two grades came in using the same entrance spread out throughout the school. No nannies, drivers, or parent are permitted to enter. They must drop their children off at the door where they are escorted in, and checked for mask and temperature. All teachers are required to wear a mask and have their Etheraz app checked upon arrival. Half of each class has school from 7-10, whether they are in person or online and the other half from 11-2. Tuesday’s are virtual for everyone. This is how things stand for now but a survey was sent to parents a few days ago asking them to vote on fully online or fully in person. So we shall see what happens. So far so good.

Each day the new daily number of people infected with Covid-19 averages around 220 and the total number of active cases has finally dropped below 3,000. This is nice especially since there was a total of over 100,000 positive cases in this country and 202 deaths. That number is high for this tiny country but Qatar has done well and way better than many other countries around the world.

We are in the final phase of phase 4 reopening of the country. Visitors are still not allowed but residents who left the country are allowed to return and join the general population after a covid test and set quarantine. The movie theaters have just reopened with limited capacity along with many other venues. Children are allowed in the malls again and I’ve heard it is crazy. I am not in a rush to join that chaos.

I am looking forward to the day that Qatar announces 0 new cases.

Did you have covid-test? What was your experience like?

The End to the Summer and the Start of a New School Year

Where do we draw the line between educating our children, and risking our lives?

Well it is that time of year again. I knew that no matter how much time I had off, it would still feel like not enough once this time came. It never does, even though this has been the longest summer break ever. It was never on my bucket list or my intention but I can now say I spent a summer in Qatar. Outside of my husband, I haven’t seen my family face to face in over a year. I haven’t traveled anywhere in over a year. And despite these things, I can’t feel anything but gratitude. The pandemic is still going on but so far my family has maintained their health and so have I. Sadly, many others around the world have not. I still have a job, while others have lost theirs and people who were offered jobs by my company and other international teaching companies, had those offers rescinded. Many people have had to endure pay and benefit cuts. Several people at my job have also been transferred to other schools or have had their positions changed. So far I am still at my school, with the same position and same pay and benefits. But I am not under any misconception that in a moments’ notice something could change. I feel truly blessed.

I find myself finding joy in the little things like finding a spray bottle at the local store and Lysol in the supermarket yesterday for the first time in over 6 months. And just in time to go back to work and around other people. The Fedex man is like my favorite visitor, even though he is just doing his job. I enjoy doing a full face of makeup just to take pictures and clean it off. I like waking up and talking to my plants that I have been taking care of since the Pandemic started. Traveling takes a lot of out of you, so this summer has definitely been restful and I have even found some joy in the weight I have gained. I actually have a little butt now, for real for real!

Things are opening back up here in Qatar and the other day I bought a gym membership for Darryl and I. I want to keep my butt but not my stomach. During this whole quarantine, Darryl enrolled in culinary arts school so he has been cooking up a storm. I have thoroughly enjoyed eating his assignments. Although this summer was spent totally different than what I had in mind, there is no one else I’d rather be quarantined with than my husband. He made it totally bearable.

I started tutoring again about 2 months ago and gained 2 new clients that will continue services once school starts. I will be hustling this year, working to pay off my mortgage and build up my investment. I did an interview with Expat Arrivals a few weeks ago; you can read it here. In the interview, I discuss life here ups and downs. My friends Britney and Quahn have been hustling too. They started their youtube channel. I’ve had time to watch all of their posts about their travels abroad. I even made the cut on their post about Capetown. You can watch it here; be sure to like and subscribe to their channel here.

This school year will be interesting with a shortage of staff and in the midst of a pandemic. I’ll admit, I’m nervous. Kids spread germs like nobody’s business. I’d rather we continued virtual learning but I’m afraid these kids will be so far behind, they’d have to spend years playing catch up and that is so unfair to them. But is it worth lives? I know we have to move on and learn to live with Corona for now, but at what and whose expense? Where do we draw the line between educating our children, and risking our lives?

4th Year in the Bag- Teaching in Qatar

Today marks the last official day of work, bringing to a close my 4th year teaching in Qatar. Each year I usually write a recap of how the school year went but it just seems weird this year. For the last 2 months, I haven’t even been in the physical school building. I didn’t even get to close out and pack up my room. This year was bitter sweet. I had an amazing working experience, but this year was also full of WTF events, ending with the obvious one that I won’t mention.

This was my first year, since being here, holding a position outside of the classroom. I loved it. It was stress-less, manageable and fun. I was able to focus on small groups and see growth. I was able to attend and conduct several Professional Development workshops. I obtained my Google I Instructor certificate and re-enrolled in school. I smashed my goals both personal and professional.

However, I didn’t travel once since the school year started, instead I focused on achieving some monetary goals. I waited to travel ’til April but that got shot down. My trips to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malta, Ireland and numerous ones in the U.S.A all had to be cancelled. I am still waiting for several refunds and I have accepted that I probably will not get them anytime soon. I lost money too. I won’t be traveling home this summer which has me feeling very sad. I can go home but there is no guarantee that I’ll be able to make it back in time for the next school year to begin, as many borders are closed including Qatar’s for incoming persons. I also don’t want to risk close confines with strangers on a plane right now. I miss my kids and my family but I’m not alone as many people are suffering the same fate or worse. I still have a job and I have my health, so far, and I am safe. My family is healthy and I am grateful. Although if my husband was not here, I would be losing my mind.

I can’t believe it has been 4 years and I’m still here. I have no regrets about coming here. Time surely flies though. I have no idea what next year holds but I’ll be here for the adventure. We will probably start the year virtually and I may even be asked to return to the classroom temporarily, depending on the ability for new teachers to commute to Qatar. I hope not but the possibility is there. Either way, year 4 is in the bag.

Who knows what tomorrow holds? I could have never predicted that I’d be living through a pandemic in a foreign country. I never predicted I’d be here this long either. We have to plan for the future, but enjoy the day. So buy the shoes, eat the cake, take that flight because tomorrow is not promised.

Stay safe and healthy. I love you all!

Life in Qatar during the Pandemic- Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

We are basically advised to stay in our accommodations and only go out for food, medicine and emergencies.

By now, everyone all over the world is being affected in some way or another by the Coronavirus. As many countries surrounding Qatar began to report cases of patients with Coronavirus, Qatar was immune for a while. However, on February 26 this happened, “HH the Amir has issued directives to evacuate the citizens of the State of Qatar and citizens of the sisterly State of Kuwait, who are currently in Iran, due to the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).” (Qatar News agency) And on February 29, The Ministry of Public Health confirmed Qatar’s first case of the novel coronavirus. The patient was a Qatari male who was one of the evacuees from Iran (Qatar Living). Since then the number has risen to over 450 patients infected with Covid-19, with the highest jump occurring just 11 days later of 238 cases. As of today, there have been 0 deaths and 4 people recovered.

At first, like many other countries, the Ministry thought the risk of spreading the virus was low and putting small precautionary measures in place would keep it that way. However, as the virus continued to spread, it was obvious that more would need to be done to keep the public safe and infections down.

Travelers were screened at airports. Some residents whom returned from countries with high cases of the virus were put in quarantined for 14 days. A hotel and some residential apartments were used solely for quarantines. Those residing there received free wifi and three meals a day from what I was told from a friend who returned from Italy and was quarantined upon arrival and without choice. She was released after the 14 days. The Gov’t paid for everything.

I was really looking forward to Spring break which was this week, March 13-21. We would have been visiting friends in Saudi Arabia (KSA), which I was really excited about since KSA had just recently opened their doors to tourist visas. Our visas were purchased and approved. Our flights were booked. We were also going to stay a few days in Kuwait. We already had our visas for there too as well as hotel stay and flight. Needless to say, we did lose out on some money, around 500 usd. We were able to recoup some of our flight money and 1 night of our hotel stay in Kuwait. Our visas for KSA are good for 1 year but the ones from Kuwait were only good for the time of our stay. If this has taught me anything, it is to pay that extra money for free cancellation on flights and rooms because the unexpected can happen. I usually don’t purchase insurance but for some reason I did on the hotel in Kuwait, probably because it was only 8 usd, so now I am waiting to see if the Insurance will reimburse the money from the other night stay for the hotel. I’m kinda bummed about the whole thing because I was excited about this trip and I haven’t been on any vacations this school year but I’d rather be safe than sick. There are many bright sides to this whole thing but one in particular is that, the original plan was to go to China to see the Great Wall for Spring break but I decided against that to save some money. Thank God for that because I would have lost a whole hell of a lot more money. In the meantime, I booked our flights to Malta for May. It was going to be our first stop on the way home this summer, followed by a few days in Ireland. Well my flight to Malta has also been cancelled but at least they refunded all of my money for that. However, my flight from Malta to Ireland is still booked and sitting in limbo.

Anway, with the rising numbers of infected persons, the Ministry announced the closing of all schools for students as of March 10. For the remainder of that week, students stayed home and teachers went to work planning for virtual learning. Everyone was advised not to travel but of course some did. And earlier this week, Qatar cancelled all incoming flights for 14 days for anyone except for Qatari citizens. Some people were left stranded. This week major precautions have been put in place: Mosques, malls, cafes, barbershops, spas, public transportation, sit down restaurants, public parks, events etc.. closed, distance learning for students and social distancing. We are basically advised to stay in our accommodations and only go out for food, medicine and emergencies. The Gov’t has offered some incentives for small business owners like, no rent payments, freeze on bank loan payments but nothing for the common residents.

I am a little worried but not panicked. This kinda summarizes how I feel each day.

I’ll admit, I am enjoying my time. Being stuck in the house doesn’t bother me especially since I’m stuck with my best friend. It’s like being snowed-in back in Philly. Darryl and I are spending our days doing various things. This is how we spent yesterday outside of Netflix and chill.

I watched birds building a nest outside my bathroom window.
Playing Corn hole
I cooked dinner (which I rarely do, barbeque tofu, farro casserole and left over cabbage) and we ate by candlelight with our Coronas and watched a movie.

I’ve made a list of things I would like to do during this lockdown and am taking my time accomplishing them. Some of those things include: finish my Abundance Now book by Lisa Nichols, begin my new book on How to write a Children’s book, write a draft of my children’s book, declutter the house, make a decision on where I will live next year (will I move again or stay put in my apartment for the first time in 4 years), cook, start using my budget app, virtual museum tours, research investing, book my next detox, etc…

I think Qatar is doing their best to contain this virus but the daily rising numbers show just how resilient and contagious this virus is. I’m actually glad I am not in the U.S. right now. In my opinion, I don’t think enough is being done there to combat Covid-19, however, I am outside the bubble looking in. I pray for my family over there and hope that it doesn’t get as bad as it is in Italy there.

The first known case of Covid-19 is traced back to November 17 from Hubei province in China- https://www.livescience.com/first-case-coronavirus-found.html. It’s been approx 4 months and China is just starting to get a handle on it after over 80,000 people were infected and 8000+ have died. The end of June will be the 4 month mark in Qatar since the first case was reported and since January 19 was when the first case was reported in the USA, the end of May will marks that country’s 4 month mark. Qatar has already basically locked down the country but the U.S. has not. I am nervous that I won’t be able to make it home this summer to see my family. I’ve been face-timing my boys back home and really would like to see them face to face. But I don’t believe that this virus has peaked in the U.S. yet. I fear the end is far away.

So far since moving to Qatar, there has been a blockade and a pandemic. I would have never expected these things to occur while living so far away from my family. But life as an expat comes with a lot of unexpected situations. Stay healthy. Stay safe.

Please Wash Your Hands

Things to do during quarantine:

Virtual Tour of the Great Wall of China

Virtual Tours of Museums, Zoos, Botanical Gardens, Aquariums, and Famous Landmarks and more

Tour National Parks

Take a Virtual Field Trip

Play Games- I just ordered one of my favorite games, we used to play with the boys when they were little (Guitar Hero)

Exercise- Many gyms are doing virtual classes and there are many on youtube

100 things to do

FYI: This website reports case of Coronavirus around the world

*I would love to hear how others are coping and what your country is doing in light of this Pandemic. Leave a comment!

Things That are Weirdly Expensive in Qatar- Collab post

What weirdly expensive items have you discovered in your foreign country?

How many of us go into Walmart or Target expecting to pick up one or two items and leave thinking, ‘what did I just spend $100 on?’ Well it’s like that everywhere you go in Doha, especially since if you see it, you better get multiples because it may be a long time before you see it again. This is life in Qatar.

I’ve been living in Qatar for 3.5 years and it still shocks me how expensive some things are. Most of the residents are expats, like me, who come here for a tax-free salary. However, there are other benefits to living here, like diversity of cultures and safety, which you can’t really put a price tag on. But contrary to what numbeo.com says: the “Cost of living in Qatar is 8.72% lower than in United States …”, the cost of living in Qatar is not lower than in the United States. In fact, I have the data to prove it.

For example, the first time I saw a deck of cards here, it was at a Shisha spot and it cost about 100 Riyals or $27. In the U.S., you can get that same deck for about $3.87 at Walmart, or a cheap deck for $1 at the $1 store.

The other day, Darryl and I were looking for jump ropes to exercise with and the prices ranged from 50 qar to 159, between $13 and $50 usd.

And don’t even get me started on manicures and pedicures. They can set you back 500-600 riyals easily, that’s $137.

One of the reasons I chose to come to Qatar was it’s location, which should make it a pretty easy travel hub all over the world. Unfortunately, due to the blockade traveling from Qatar is dreadfully expensive now. Three years ago, my sons and I flew to Dubai, for $99 each, non-stop, round trip. The flight took less than 2 hours. Now the flight cost $400+, takes double the time and includes a layover.

Okay, so I know that this is a Muslim country but they do sale alcohol and you will definitely pay the cost to sin. There is literally a ‘sin’ tax and because of it, alcohol prices have doubled in the last year. A bottle of Tito’s vodka is approximately 231 riyals or $64 at Qatar Distribution Corp. You can get that same bottle of Vodka in the U.S. for $20.

In a country that has one of the highest rates of obesity, you would think Gym memberships would be reasonable, think again. An annual gym membership can range from 5000-9000 qar or $1300-2500.

Rent here is insane for what you get. I live in what Americans may call a project looking apartment. A flat among many, but it is very nice, clean and surrounded by greenery, which is rare in Qatar. The maintenance is wonderful and utilities are included. It also has a gym and shopping within the area. The best part is it puts me 10 minutes from work. It’s a two bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, 120 sq meter, 1291 sq foot apartment and the rent is 8500qar/mth or approx $2400/mth. I’ve lived in 4 places in Qatar and rent all ranged from $1500-$3900/mth. Here is where I agree with numbeo.com, “Rent in Qatar is 16.40% higher than in United States (average data for all cities).”

Thank God my job provides a housing and utility allowance which covers this insane cost or I would not be living here.

Since Darryl does the shopping let me introduce my guest blogger, my husband Darryl, who will discuss other weirdly expensive things in Qatar:

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Wimpy 1931

Like a lot of children I loved cartoon as a kid…who didn’t? The Wimpy character from Popeye was hilarious to me because all he wanted to do was eat and not pay for it (lol). Now that I am older, I see Wimpy as someone who wanted to get the most he could and pay the least for it (not sure if he ever paid for any of those burgers he ate).

As the main shopper/cook of our household, I, like a lot of people (excluding my wife), will travel to the ends of the earth or Qatar for a bargain, (although if I factor in the amount of gas I use to travel to the ends of the earth it may not be a bargain anymore, IJS). However, in Qatar there are some items that no matter how far you drive they will still be weirdly expensive when you get there.

With that being said, here are the nominees for Weirdly Expensive Items in the Household and/or Food Category:

A Liter of Listerine mouthwash at 60 qar (approx $16 usd) may cause you to stock up on Mentos.

Tide w/bleach at 75 qar ($20 usd) might have you thinking about using the old bar of soap and wash board method to wash your clothes. Even some of the non USA brands are just as expensive.

Taco Shells, not even the full taco kit, is 35 qar ($10 usd). I mean if you are going to pay that much for the shells all the fixings have to be top of the line like Waygu beef and aged cheese.

Non-Dairy Ice Cream 45 qar ($13 usd) regardless of your reason for eating non dairy Ice cream (vegan or health issues) at this price it is definitely a treat worth savoring.

…and the award for most Weirdly Expensive Items in the Household and/or Food Category goes to that little green leafy vegetable called Kale!

At 60 qar per kilo ($17 usd) it is by far one of the most weirdly expensive food items in all of Qatar. I mean it is a leaf for all intense purposes. While I understand it is a superfood, at that price it should be considered a super duper food.

To my readers: What weirdly expensive items have you discovered in your foreign country?

Thank you to my contributors- Darryl Montgomery (husband), members of the BSOQ facebook group.

The Doha Metro

With the new Metro system up and running in Qatar, I thought it was about time to try it out. When I moved here 3+ years ago, there wasn’t an established transportation system but the country had began building one. Roads and roundabouts were slowly closing in preparation for the new metro and in conjunction with the 2022 World Cup stadiums being built all over. The Metro is a component of the larger Rail System being built. The transit system became operational in May. The Red, Blue and Gold lines are now open and operating.

We decided to take the metro from our residence to the Flower Festival in Souq Waqif. A major convenience to the metro is it’s MetroLink. It is a free service feeder bus that runs daily and provides first and last mile connectivity to Qatar Rail customers within a 2-5 km radius of the Doha metro stations- https://www.qr.com.qa/metrolink. This is the website where you can find out times, locations and schedules for the Metrolink.

We live in Barwa City and there are a few Metrolink bus stops within our community. We only had to walk about 2 minutes to the nearest stop and it was on time.

The Metrolink took us to the Free Zone station which is between Al-Thumama and Al Wakrah. Once there we were able to purchase our tickets. A single standard ticket cost 2 riyals about $0.55 usd; a day pass cost 6 riyals=$1.60 usd, which is a hell of lot cheaper than a day pass on Septa in Philly which will set you back $9.00 usd.

When you enter the station at the Free Zone, there is a vending machine and map. You have to take an escalator or elevator upstairs, then walk across the bridge that takes you over the highway, then walk back down another escalator to purchase your ticket. Once the ticket is purchased, you go back up another escalator and walk to the train door. Seems like a lot of up and down, up and down, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead for this extra time that will be spent just getting to the train. Fortunately the trains run pretty regularly and there are signs, maps and assistants all over to help.

We had to take the Metro Red Line to Msheireb Interchange station where we transferred to the Gold Line and got off at the Souq. Of course you have to do some more up, down walking to actually get to the Souq. There are several exits that take you up to the Souq but I think we walked out of the wrong one.

After about 45 minutes, from our home in Barwa, we made it to the flower festival.

Last words about the Metro:

It is clean.

Timely, however give yourself a few extra minutes to account for the extra walking.

Official Website https://www.qr.com.qa/home

There is an app for that

There are three different sections on the train cars: standard and family class- cost the same, Gold club (a single journey cost 10 riyals and a day pass cost 30 riyals)

The train cars are small and can get crowded. If you can afford it opt for the gold club to avoid crowds and guarantee yourself a good seat-in the front of the train with a conductors view, private and enclosed.

Please watch your kids.

Stand clear of the doors and let people off of the train before you try to rush on.

Get onto the train quickly as the doors do not wait and will try to crush you.

Clean up behind yourself.

Be careful if you are wearing a thobe or abaya or any other long clothing so that your clothes do not get caught in the escalator or metro doors.

Black Excellence

I have received many certificates in my life but this one was up there with my Bachelors, not because I had put in a lot of work but because it took a lot of strength for me to come this far.

A few weeks ago, there was an advertisement in the BSOQ group for the Black Excellence ball that was coming up. I considered buying a ticket to attend, but never acted upon this. A few days later I received an email stating that I was nominated for an award, from an anonymous person, and because of my nomination my attendance would be complimentary. So I purchased one ticket for my husband.

I was asked to submit a brief biography of myself to the organizer, The Brofessor. Once I submitted my bio, The Brofessor asked me to mention alopecia in my bio. That is when I realized I was being recognized for being a courageous women with Alopecia. My advocacy for women embracing their bald crown did not go un-noticed. I had impressed inspired someone and my heart was overflowing with humility and pride.

I went all out for my husband and myself. I purchased a dress but decided it wasn’t enough and decided to get a dress professionally made for myself and a jacket and pant suit made for Darryl. I called my girl Nazma, and she hooked me up with a beautiful henna design for my crown and glory. I have received many certificates in my life but this one was up there with my Bachelors, not because I had put in a lot of work but because it took a lot of strength for me to come this far. To be recognized as someone with courage is one of the biggest compliments I could have received.

For years, I was so ashamed and would never think of venturing outside uncovered. Like many other women who live with Alopecia, I was embarrassed more than anything. I still cover my head, mostly in Qatar- where hair is such a sense of pride and any deviation from normalcy is frowned upon-but it is not because I am embarrassed. It is because I don’t always want to be stared at like a zoo animal. I love to stand out but I prefer it be a choice. Alopecia is not a choice. But deciding when to reveal it, is MY choice. Embracing it, other than allowing it to take over my life, depress me and make me feel less than what I am, is MY choice. (There are some positives to having a bald head that I’ll keep to myself.)

But this post isn’t just about me. Many wonderful people were honored and awarded due to their work in Qatar, outside of Qatar and moves they are making. There were many professionals in attendance and not just Black. There were doctors, an Ambassador, a pastor, an opera singer (whom blessed us with a song), photographers, engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, journalist and so much more! Even a young Achiever in the making was honored. You couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride being among such amazing people and hearing their stories. There was food, dancing, networking and an overall good time. Women shined and men were handsomely dressed in suits and ethnic attire.

The Black Excellence ball was a celebration of Greatness; a time to come together and say: WE SEE YOU! WE HONOR YOU! WE ARE HERE! And above all, WE LOVE YOU!

It is an event not to be missed. I know this event can only get bigger and better and I can’t wait to be in attendance next year!

[click here to view The honorees video]