365 Day Recap

It is New Years day here in Qatar and I am not at work. Hallelujah!  -My New Year’s Eve was kind of boring (no fireworks here, and stayed home instead of partying) but after the amazing year I’ve had, I’ll take it!  If you came to my blog expecting this…

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 1.16.58 PM

Sorry to disappoint you.  Sure, there are things I plan on doing more and even some I plan to do less but believe me I’ve set and broken enough resolutions in my life.  I like to set goals whenever I feel like it, not just at the start of a new year.  But that is me, so if you have set New Year resolutions for yourself, I sincerely wish you success.

When a new year starts, I like to reflect.  I like to reflect on the things I did in the last 365 days.  It is a way for me to stay humble, grateful and thankful.  So here is my 365 day recap…

I started 2017 in bed because I had to work the next day for the first time, that stunk but that was no indication of how my year would be, in fact quite the opposite.

I visited 7 countries, 6 of them for the first time, 1 of them from my original bucket list (now called my Places to Visit List).  

My husband moved to Qatar with me and I moved from my big villa to a nice apartment.

20171109_185248.jpg
Us at Banana Island

I had some of the most amazing food ever and even tried really hard to be a vegan when I wasn’t eating seafood. 

Really what would this post be without some food pics!

I found fun ways to enjoy my time and took in some sights around Doha.

I flew first class for the first time, twice.

I watched my girlfriend marry her sweet heart in Vegas and we had a blast.

20170721_213007

I ended this year with several interviews and a headline on Al Jazeera, focusing on my superpower- alopecia!  Something tells me this is just the beginning…

I’ve made new friends and lost some people along the way.  Everybody I knew last year, is still alive and that is a blessing in itself.  This is only a portion of my last 365 days. 

The next 365 will be even better!  I LOVE MY LIFE!  I am on a journey and the path looks amazing! 

What were some of your highlights from 2017?

Qatar’s National Day: A Celebration of Fortitude

National day in Qatar is celebrated on December 18th when Jassim Bin Mohammed Al-Thani succeeded his father as ruler of Qatar.  He helped to unify the various tribes and force away outside influences and although Qatar did not gain it’s independence until 1971, he was seen as strongly influential in the unified Qatar.  (read more about the history here)

Even though National day is held every year, this year’s National Day festivities were highly anticipated for two main reasons; last year’s celebrations were cancelled due to the conflict in Aleppo and more importantly the current blockade against Qatar by several Middle Eastern countries.  Other than these reasons, I was excited because it would be my first year seeing an actual celebration in this country on such a wide scale.  It was almost like, this country needed a celebration, some joy amongst the sadness that has engulfed this nation after 6 months of political unrest, which still seem to have no end in sight. (the latest on the blockade)

Many social media outlets advertised this year’s festivities which included a week long drone show at Katara, a 10 day celebration at Darb Al Saai (we took our students there last year on a school trip), shows at the Mall of Qatar, a parade and fireworks on the Corniche and much, much more.

My school held a National Day celebration on the last day before our three week winter break.  Students put on performances and booths were set up all over the school grounds with games and food.  Teachers were dressed in National clothing and parents came out to spend the day with their children.

Jennifer, JD, Darryl and I checked out the festivities at the very crowded Darb Al Saai one night.

But the real celebration was at the Corniche.  The parade was set to start at 3pm and we had a strong feeling that it was going to be super crowded so we decided to get down there around 12.  As we walked along the Corniche to get closer to where everything would be, the crowds began to form and we were able to experience something a little out of the ordinary.  There were hoards of men and they could only walk up to a certain point before being stopped by guards and police, because our husbands were with us, they were allowed to proceed.  Qatar is definitely made up of a dominant men population,  mainly due to the amount of laborers and because it is a family-oriented country, priority does go to men and women couples, women pairs and women with children.  So as we were allowed to proceed, not without going through the metal detectors and being patted down; it felt strange watching the sea of men disappear behind us.  I felt sorry for them but I understood the logic.  Groups of single men in an open area with few women, in a country where you can get into trouble for staring too long at a women could be asking for trouble.  It is also a way of crowd control.

20171218_113401.jpg

There weren’t many seats set up across the street from the Corniche and we were not optimistic that we’d get one so we opted to stay on the water side.  Unfortunately, to really see the parade you’d have to be on the side of the street where the seats were, so we were not in the best place to really enjoy the parade but what we did enjoy was so much more.  As I looked around, I saw a myriad of diversity, Indians with Asians, blacks with whites, Arabs with Christians, young and old people, smiling, laughing, enjoying the day.  No fights, no arguments, just happiness.  As Darryl and I sat on a curb and lost our view of the street, due to many people with children taking their seats on the grass in front of the gates, an Arab family took food out of their bags and began to eat.  Then they offered us some and although I said “La, Shukran” (no thank you) 3 times, they refused to take no for an answer.  I’d heard that it was rude to reject an offering of food so I reached out my hand and accepted the plate.  I did the polite thing of taking a bite of some Arabian treat for which I had no idea what it was and then the older woman of the family said she was going to give me more, and a younger women took back our plate and loaded it with more food.  The food wasn’t half bad either.  We had water which was being given out for free from an Al Meera truck and food from a kind stranger.

20171218_130601.jpg

20171218_145744.jpg

Then this happened, men, complete strangers, gathered shoulder to shoulder and began praying together.  Since I moved to this country, it is one of the things I admire the most about Islam, the way they pray.  For those few moments, they are not strangers, expats, nationals, rich or poor, but brothers and equal.

20171218_143329.jpg

The parade was a show of arms.  The few glimpses I was able to see on tip toes between shoulders and over heads were of military trucks and men in uniforms marching.  But we had a great view of the air show and it was awesome.

20171218_155721-1.jpg

 

20171218_140102.jpg

20171218_154126.jpg

20171218_154100_001.jpg

We didn’t stay for the people’s parade but Jennifer booked a hotel on the corniche where we went back to watch the fireworks at night.

20171218_200122.jpg20171218_200048.jpg

Darryl and I left the hotel and headed home after the fireworks but a usual 10 minute ride took 1.5 hours to get home and we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the real celebration.  Cars, trucks and people everywhere celebrating in the streets.  The real parade, in a sense, had just begun. A display of real pride prevailed

20171218_211446.jpg20171218_211726.jpg

Even though we didn’t get to see the drone show in Katara or shake the hand of the Sheik, or truly get to see the parade, I immensely enjoyed being amongst the people for National Day.  In American, I would be so afraid to venture out in large crowds for fear of violence or bombings.  Here, even though I was nervous, only because of the blockade, I still felt safe.  It was nice to see a country of people united standing side by side in solidarity and believe me it felt like the entire country was present. I feel like Qatar needed this day.  Despite what’s happening politically, Qatar is showing courage.  Be strong dear country, be strong!

Here are some tips on how to be prepared for the parade:

  1. Arrive early, like 5 hours early
  2. Get a seat in the stands so that you are facing the parade (if you are on the water side, only the vehicles come down that side, but it is a good side for the air show) or sit close to the gates
  3. Go as a family
  4. Take some snacks and liquids
  5. Locate the bathroom
  6. Dress for the weather (hoodie-if it’s chilly, that you can take off if you get hot) (sunscreen)
  7. You can drive and park at the MIA and take a bus over to the festivities or drive to a nearby hotel and walk the rest of the way
  8. Book a hotel near the Corniche for the day, so you can enjoy the fireworks and avoid the crowds
  9. Go, be pushed and shoved, smile and meet people
  10. Get into the spirit and dress like a Qatari or wear something that shows off local pride (hat, t-shirt, scarf)

Footprints in the Sand

So my head is famous and now so is my face, a little bit. 

I love being in front of the camera.  That sounds really arrogant, right?  I know but it’s the truth.  No, I don’t think I’m the most beautiful person in the world, not even close but I’ve learned to love myself and that was a journey.   I also think the camera and I have a pretty good relationship.  I would love to be a model, but when I google types of models, I don’t fit into any of the categories.

I am not tall; I’m actually pretty short, 5’2 to be exact.  I’m not thin or plus sized; I’m somewhere in the middle with a pouch.  I’m not glamorous, fit, a child or mature.  But I do have pretty nice skin, a caramel complexion, a pretty smile, a nice shaped BALD head, I’m smart and I’m confident.  So I’ll probably never end up in Vogue or on someone’s catwalk but for some reason I always end up in front of a camera.

It could have started with my baby pictures.  I was a cute, chunky baby.  Or perhaps it was nude photos I had taken years ago.  Where are those anyway?  Or maybe it started with this….

FB_IMG_1510414754554.jpg

That was a picture taken at my graduation from Cabrini College for my Master’s degree 4 years ago.  I remember a photographer coming around and snagging pictures but the real shocker came when I received a phone call from a friend saying that they just saw me on the L-train.  I knew I hadn’t been on the L-train that day so I was confused.  Then they told me, my picture was on a billboard advertisement for Cabrini.  I contacted the school and had them send me a copy.  That picture was on their billboards and on pamphlets.  For months, people would call me saying that they saw my picture.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine passed on some information about a tv channel that was looking to interview some people of Qatar.  So of course I responded and a few days later the crew was at my flat conducting the interview.  The interviewer asked me questions about my life in Qatar and allowed me to speak about Alopecia and my blog.  The interview went well, but I beat myself up afterwards because there was so many other things I wanted to say.  Isn’t this always the case; you think of things you coulda woulda shoulda said afterwards?  But it was too late and well, what’s the point of crying over spilled milk.  He said he would contact me once all the editing was completed and the interview was posted.

Today on my 6th wedding anniversary I got the message.  The interview is posted.  Please check it out using this link.  QatarnaTV

Everything that was said was my exact words, but it comes off a little different than my intentions especially at the end, when I said “I don’t plan to return to the U.S. anytime soon.”  It is true that I don’t intend on moving back to live in the U.S.A any time soon, , but it’s not because I plan on living in Qatar forever either.  I plan on exploring other places.  And when the time is right to leave here, I’ll move someplace else.  I’ve learned so much from living abroad, I want more experiences like this.  I will always love my home country of the U.S.A and will always visit.

My friend Nazma, the Henna artist, did an interview for Society magazine November 2017 edition (The First Family Magazine in Qatar) a few days ago and she posted a copy of the article on facebook.  And who’s big head took up a whole page, MINE!  Here it is in all it’s glory.

FB_IMG_1510415531368.jpg

You can also read the article here. Society Magazine

So my head is famous and now so is my face, a little bit.  I have another interview coming up this week with Nazma on Al Jazeera. Wish me luck!

Honestly I would love to be the first internationally recognized alopecia model and travel the world as an activist and a bold, fierce model.  I would love to be the face of alopecia all over the world, to encourage other women to not let a lack of hair define them, but to recognize their natural beauty inside out.

Who knows, maybe one day, I will create a new type of model.  For now, I’m leaving my footprints in the middle eastern sand.

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