Where were you when 4 countries broke off diplomatic ties with Qatar?

Please pray for peace in the Middle East!

It started off as a regular work day.  My alarm went off at 6:00 am, 1 hour earlier than the rest of the school year, because it is Ramadan so school starts later and ends earlier. I pressed the snooze button once maybe twice.  By the time I got out of bed, it was around 6:20ish.  I washed, dressed, and ate breakfast with my son.  I met Jennifer downstairs. We’ve been carpooling since we moved into the same apartment complex.  “Four countries done split from Qatar”, she said.  I opened my phone and saw all the chatter in multiple Facebook groups for which I am a member.

On Monday, June 5, 2017-  CNBC headline “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar”.  Doha News “Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have broken off diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed land, sea and air access to the nation, according to official reports”.   Today is Thursday and since this happened, it seems to be all people are talking about.

I will not go into details on my feelings or the ‘background’ behind the whole thing, because over here, you have to be very careful of your words and what you post on social media.  Besides only the people involved know the real truths.  I have read a lot of news about the reasons that this has occurred.  I encourage you to read up on it as well (click here to read about it on CNBC).

As for life here in hot Qatar, it is business as usual.  Life goes on.  I get up, do my routine, and go to work.  I come home, cook, and talk to my husband on the phone.  Of course, I am worried.  I am worried about getting home stateside safely in a week.  I am worried if I will be able to return to Qatar where I’ve grown quite comfortable.  I like my lifestyle here, calm, peaceful, making good money, traveling, light work.  It’s not perfect but it’s home, for now.

Since Monday other countries have also cut off ties with Qatar, including Libya, Maldives and Mauritius.  I am happy I got to visit Bahrain, Egypt and Maldives before this happened.  KSA and Oman have not cut ties with Qatar as of now.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?  For now, I’m safe!  Please pray for peace in the Middle East!

Ramadan in Qatar through the eyes of an Expat

I can’t even find the words I feel to describe this time of year here.

It’s almost Ramadan and this will be my first time seeing it celebrated from a Muslim country.  Sure there are Muslims in the U.S.A that I know and yes they participate in Ramadan but I’m assuming it’s a little different from seeing it up close from the Middle East.

Since I am not Muslim, I will not try to educate you on the holiday but you can find more information by clicking here!  These are just my observations…

11/05/17 (This is the way the date is written over here: day/month/year)

2 weeks before Ramadan: Today my school had a small celebration called ‘Alnafla’.  I never heard of that before this week.  The way it was explained to me, it’s like a countdown to Ramadan.  The schools’ common areas were decorated, students wore their national dress and colors and brought in traditional food.  All week, students bought in donations for Syria as well.

15/5/17- A Qatari speaker came to my class today to talk with my students about Ramadan.  I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying but as they spoke in their native language, I grew a new found appreciation for the value this holiday must hold for them. I grew angry at how prayer has been taken out of the schools of my home country.  Qatar has such pride in their religion, how could prayer in schools be bad?  My students were so quiet at times and so engaged at others.  I only wished I could comprehend.

20/5/17- Yesterday would be the last alcoholic brunch until Ramadan, so I decided to accept an invitation from the BSoQ group I am a member of on Facebook and join them for brunch.  We went to Bubbalicious at the Westin.  It was my first time having brunch there and it was definitely a party.  People were yelling and dancing and alcohol was flowing.  There was even a soul train line going through the restaurant with a bunny.  I ate so much seafood and drank too much beer, wine and bubbly.  I met some really nice people and will be more actively involved with this group.  I had a ball hanging out with them.  We were the last to leave the brunch and me and another girl got in trouble because we thought it would be fun to abandon our heels and adulthood and jump in a bouncy house in the middle of the hotel.   Who does this?  I’ll tell you- two drunk girls who were just enjoying life.  In between being laughed at and recorded by a couple enjoying some food in the lobby and security waving us out, the air was let out of the bouncy house as well as the air out of our sails.   I just hoped our shenanigans wouldn’t land us in bigger trouble.  Afterwards we went to La Cigale hotel to smoke Shisha.  I had another engagement to attend with some coworkers, too tipsy to drive, so I left my car at the hotel valet and took an uber to the third affair of the day which was at the Radisson Blu hotel.  Since I was so late to that party, I hugged everyone, enjoyed another beer- you heard me- and we all hopped in a car headed someplace else.  One of my girlfriends picked up my car from the other hotel and drove it to their house.  After the fourth affair we went to my girlfriend Jennifer’s house where I crashed.

I usually do not drink that much because I hate over hangs and that is exactly what I had this morning.  As I drove home, I prayed that I’d make it home without throwing up into my handbag.   It was not one of my finer moments, but it was fun.  Needless to say, I probably will not be drinking again, any time soon, so the QDC (liquor store) can stop sending me text messages of the last day to purchase alcoholic beverages before the store closes for Ramadan- about a month.  Not today Satan.  I don’t need or want any of your spirits and fruits.  I wonder how many other people had a night like mine, trying to get that last celebration in before the holiday.

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New friends in Qatar
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Soul Train line with a bunny
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Getting done
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Having fun
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In the bouncy house. Don’t judge!

28/5/17- Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak is how people greet each other during this special month.  (Sort of like Happy Easter or Merry Christmas)  Ramadan officially started yesterday.   I heard the sound of the Canon last night.  It is a way they communicate that it is time to break the fast for the day and Iftar may begin.

FYI:

  • During Ramadan, work hours are reduced for most people.  For us teachers, work starts at 8:00am and ends at 1:00pm.  This is also the school hours for students everyday except for Tuesday.  On Tuesday, students get out at 12:00 pm.  This is wonderful news.  No more getting up at 5:00am for the rest of the school year, 3 weeks to go! Today was the first day, unfortunately, my body is so used to getting up that at 5:15 am I had to use the bathroom.  I was so irritated at myself, but I managed to get back under the covers and fall asleep for another hour.  It was lovely.
  • Adults are not allowed to eat or drink in public, not even in their car, from sun-up to sun-down.  Many restaurants don’t even open.  Fortunately, you can order take away from some places and delivery from others.  You can get a fine if you are caught eating in public or even jail time, whether you are Muslim or not.  It’s about respect and consideration for those who are fasting.  You can eat and drink in private places, like your home.  Yesterday, I went to the nail salon and was surprised that I was offered coffee and tea.
  • Children below 4th grade generally are not required to fast but they can.   Of my 12 students that came to school today, 2 of them partook in lunch, the others claimed to be fasting.  I made it clear to them, not to judge those who were not.
  • In the evening, most families have a huge meal, called Iftar.  Some even give food away. Yesterday at the Corniche, police officers were giving away food.
  • I’ve heard that the malls stay open very late and if you go, it will be like Black Friday at 2 in the morning, as parents purchase gifts for their kids for the end of Ramadan celebration, called Eid.  I’ll let you know my experience when I go late at night.  My son and I went to ‘The Mall’ yesterday and it was an absolute ghost town.
  • It is such a delight seeing men run to the mosque for morning and evening prayer, some running into the mosque and some simply praying outside in groups.   I can’t even find the words I feel to describe this time of year here.   It is really something.

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Last night, my friend Jennifer held the first Iftar.  We enjoyed a light dinner and each other’s company.  I have 3 more Iftar’s that I will be attending this week including one with my job and another with friends from the BSoQ facebook group.  Ramadan is indeed a special time in Qatar.   Sadly, I will not be here to see the whole thing play through as I will be headed on some more adventures on my way home to the states.

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Ramadan Kareem everyone from Qatar!

Apartment Hunting in Qatar

Everything in Qatar is different than home and the process of finding and securing a new place is no exception.  A few months ago, the company that I work for gave everyone the option of taking a housing allowance or be moved to a different accommodation.  Since we arrived we have been living in a very nice compound that is approximately a 15 minute drive to work.  This is very good for Qatar, since traffic can get extremely hectic.  I was a little nervous about being moved too far away and having a long commute to work.  So I considered taking the housing allowance.  I also took this as an opportunity to save some money, since the housing allowance is a nice amount and I was optimistic that I’d be able to find a place below that amount.  On the other hand, I didn’t really want to bother with renting and all that comes with that, that I know about, and all that I don’t know about in a foreign country.  In the end, money won, as well as other reasons, and I took the allowance. (without knowing everything first)

I haven’t had to look for a place to live in over 16 years.  I own my house in Philadelphia and I had forgotten how stressful it could be.  I haven’t had to look for a place alone in over 21 years.  At least I wasn’t the only one looking.  On top of this, the compound that we lived in, that we loved so much, had been sold and the new management turned off our wifi and our company knew nothing about this until I brought it to their attention.  I won’t bore you with the particulars, besides I just want to forget about that whole ordeal. It was very stressful in the beginning but like everything you learn to cope.  In the midst of searching for a new place, I actually got to navigate thru Doha and see some interesting accommodations.  The way they build some of these buildings makes no sense.  I saw one apartment where there were on-suites to both guest bedrooms but no connecting bathroom for the master bedroom.  I’ve seen shower heads with no bathtub or shower wall or door and kitchens so small that the refrigerator and stove were located some place else.  I’ve seen apartments with high floors, a kitchen as soon as you walk in with the bedrooms in the rear and no other way out if there was a fire in the kitchen except plunge to your death or be burned alive.  I’ve seen structural cracks being caulked over.  I’ve also seen huge houses with a kitchen outside and multiple rooms with no purpose, beautiful apartments across the street from slums, and places a stone’s toss away from a beach.  I think you get the point.

It came down to two places for me.  A beautiful newly built apartment with a 5 minute drive to work or a not so brand new beautiful apartment with a 30 minute ride to work. Would it surprise you to know that I didn’t pick the obvious choice?

Both apartments had pros and cons.  The first one was newly built with all new furniture and appliances and it included twice a week maid service.  It was literally 5 minutes away from work and much less expensive with all utilities included.  I could save over $1,000 a month in housing allowance alone, if I chose to.  But it had no frills.  Five minutes away from work meant at least 30 minutes away from everything else, like malls, restaurants, Ed City, etc… It did not have a gym or pool.  All the neighboring fitness centers were for men only and hubby and I love to work out together. The kitchen was a closet with tin drawers and no dish washer.  The bathrooms were even smaller closets, and well, here is a picture of what was supposed to be the shower.

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Yeah I couldn’t get passed the showers.  And new in a Doha does not always mean better; there is nothing to go on so you never know what you will get.  The other apartment is more expensive and electricity and water is not included.  This cuts my savings from my housing allowance more than half.  But the apartment is bigger and more modern with an open kitchen concept and a dishwasher.  It includes a bathtub, actual shower and washer and dryer.  The complex has a pool, steam room, gym and club house. Everything that I enjoy about Doha is literally within a 15 minute drive.  Parking is underground and I like the furniture.  I guess it came down to preference and to me, me and my husband’s comfort in a foreign country is very important.  When I come home from work, my home is my solace and refuge.  Also, I know quite a few people who currently reside there, so I had something to go on.

Accommodations in Doha are expensive.  I will be paying about $2400.00 a month in rent for a 2 bedroom, approximately 120sqm apartment, compared to about $800 in rent that I would have to pay in Philadelphia and the $750 I paid in mortgage monthly.  Crazy, right.  Our housing allowance is about $3,000.00 a month.

Most rental companies require the first month rent and one month security deposit due upon signing the lease.   Some even require a commission fee which is usually an additional half month.  This is because a lot of companies use realtors to show their place and the commission goes to them.  Also you will be required to give post dated checks for each month until the end of the contract.  Basically, I gave the rental company 13 checks, two current months and 11 future months.  Here’s the kicker, I don’t begin to get my housing allowance until I have completely vacated my current property.   So I had to pay the first month and security out of my pocket because I can’t move without having a place to stay. (I didn’t know that before I decided to go with the housing allowance). Lesson learned: find out all the info before accepting anything.

Anyway, I signed my lease starting June 1.  The landlord is nice enough to allow me to move in one week sooner.  This way I am sure to vacate before June 5th and hand over my keys, therefore meeting the deadline to receive my first housing allowance in my June pay.  This is what is supposed to happen, but this is Qatar and things usually don’t go like you plan, so fingers crossed.

Update 28/5/17:

I’ve moved.  You won’t believe how much I’ve accumulated in one year.  It’s definitely a downgrade from that big ole villa I had but home is what you make it, right?  Here are some pictures of my new apartment before I decorated it.

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How to Survive a Year in a Long Distance Marriage

Living a part from your best friend and lover is not easy. You need a lot of patience. You need to have a goal in mind, that will make it all worth it in the end. You have to believe that it will work and work at it. It can be done!

When I accepted a teaching position in Qatar, I knew I would be pretty far from anything remotely familiar to me including my husband but I didn’t know I would be 6,770 miles away. I had never been in a long distance relationship and prayed that my relationship with my husband was strong enough that my marriage could survive.  I know that distance can make or break a relationship.  Well the first year of this long distance marriage is coming to a close and I am happy to say, our relationship is stronger because of it.  I will also add, HE IS WORTH IT!  Here is how our marriage survived a long year apart and perhaps these tips can help you too.

Make time for each other

Set a specific time of day, each day to spend together.  There was an 8 hour time difference between Philadelphia and Qatar, 7 hours during daylight savings.  When my day was coming to a close, his afternoon was just beginning.  When his was coming to a close, mine was just beginning.  So we always made an effort to speak before each of us went to bed.  Thankfully he worked from home 2-3 days a week, so some days we spoke a lot more often.  We would watch our favorite shows together.  We both had an Amazon fire Stick, so we were able to watch episodes simultaneously.  Back at home, we always had shows that were ours, that we only watched together.  So we stuck to that.

Technology is your friend 

We Skyped most times, video chatted on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.  Those long distance phone calls can really add up so make space on your phone, tablet and laptop for all apps that will allow you to talk free of charge.  We kept our Family Plan with T-Mobile when I moved but added the Simple choice plan which gave us free unlimited text messages while living overseas.  Also I purchased a Magic Jack before leaving the U.S.  With this, I received an American phone number and had the ability to call American phone numbers without extra charges.  This came in handy when Wifi didn’t work.  While technology is your friend, wifi is not always friendly.

Find an airline and a credit card you really like and stick with it

The amount of points you will get for visiting each other will add up and maybe you could even score free flights or other perks.  Right before I left for Qatar, I got an American Airlines credit card because they were offering 44,000 points after you spend $1,000 within 90 days.  I figured I wouldn’t use AA much while in Qatar but those points could be used when I came home for a trip for just the two of us or to fly him to visit me.  It didn’t take long to earn 55,000 and two free admission tickets to their Admirals club.  We will be using those tickets and points this summer to fly first class to Vegas.

My favorite airline to date is Qatar Airways.  The service is always top shelf.  The longer the flight the better the service.  Joining their privilege club has its benefits too.  I set up my account to include my food preference of vegetarian and when I am flying they always have separate food for me ready to go.  The flight attendants have always been nice, the entertainment on board is good, the food and drinks are free and you’re allowed 2 checked bags, a carryon and a personal item.  Sure you will pay more for their flights but with good reason.  Eventually if you use them enough, your club status will change and the perks will increase.

Schedule your visits

I missed my husband a lot, sometimes more than others, but scheduling his visits gave me something to look forward to.  Planning our time together was fun.  You can use countdown apps or a calendar to track the days until you are in each other’s arms again.

Create a ‘thing’

Each night before I went to bed, I sent Darryl a song.  I added all of these songs into a playlist called “For Him”.   It turned into my favorite playlist of all.   It is a good mix of songs that started with the song I walked in on on our wedding day.   I started sending him these songs as soon as we were on different continents.  After his first visit, I stopped sending them.  I thought it was just a small thing that didn’t hold much value.  That was until one day he said, “I guess you aren’t sending me any more songs” and I could hear the melancholy in his voice.  It was at that moment, I realized how much me sending these songs meant to him and that it was “Our Thing”.   Needless to say, I started sending them again.  So create a thing for your mate and stick to it.   One of my coworkers who is also in a long distance marriage says she and her husband often planned to eat dinner together while on the phone, or cooked together.  It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is special between the two of you.

Here are a few songs from “For Him”:

Turning Page by Sleeping at Last from the Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Soundtrack

Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran

A Song for You by Donny Hathaway

I Miss You by Beyoncé

I Miss You by Adele

Your time is precious, don’t sweat the small stuff

The first time Darryl came to visit, we had been apart for three months. I guess within those three months I had grown kind of selfish.  He bought me some snacks from the U.S. that I missed, but he was eating them.  I got a little upset about this because he could eat these any time he wanted back home, but I could not.  The ones he brought with him was all I had and he was eating them.  I was so annoyed.  I snapped at him.  When he left, I missed him so much and I felt really bad about the way I treated him.   Another incident happened during that same visit.  I have a teddy bear that I sleep with that he purchased for me.  When he came into my bedroom, he moved it and when I said something to him about it, he threw it on the floor.  I got so upset with him.  The next time he visited, I moved ‘Blackey’ the teddy bear from the bed to the chair.  I didn’t get upset when he ate my American snacks.  I realized that on the last visit, I wasted time being upset over petty things.

Every couple has arguments and disagreements but when you live so far apart, every moment together is precious.  Don’t waste time on small stuff.   Just remember how much you miss him when he’s gone and all the petty stuff won’t matter.

Do some regular things together when he visits

The first time Darryl visited we took a trip to the Maldives.  It was so fun.  But the next time he came we stayed at my home in Qatar.  And that visit was even better.   Why? Because we got to do regular, married couple, every day things, that we don’t get to do.  None of our time was wasted on waiting on an airplane, or a whole day of traveling.  We had some real quality time together.  We watched our shows in the same room.   We had pillow talk.  We cooked together.  We shopped.  We spent hours upon hours in bed.  We went out to eat.  We visited friends.  He drove!  He went to work with me, met my students and read to them.  We went to the movies.  He went with me to get the car fixed, which was a big deal, because he got to feel like a husband again and I got to feel like a wife.  Visits don’t have to be big and elaborate to be special.

Find ways to show him, you love him

My hubby found the holidays specifically depressing.  I, on the other hand, was in a country that doesn’t really celebrate American holidays so it didn’t affect me in the same way because there weren’t decorations up everywhere or people celebrating.  My most depressing times were right after he left.  Anyway, it’s hard to send love through a phone, or celebrate holidays over 6,000 miles away.  But we both managed to find ways to show each other how much we loved one another.

A few weeks after Darryl left initially, I found a letter that he hid in the arm of one of my jackets.  It was a love letter that he wrote for me before he left.  On our anniversary, my son bought me a letter that Darryl had written and given to him to give to me on this day. The thought that he put into that made me teary eyed.  Darryl loves watches, so one day I ordered him one and sent it to the house.  He was so surprised.  These little momentos are everything.

Make the most of your alone time

I’ve never had a lot of friends or had to be surrounded by a large entourage so being alone was not new to me.  I actually enjoyed time spent with me, myself and I, so the thought of being without friends, and family didn’t really trouble me.  But it had been a long time since I had gone without companionship for more than 2 weeks.  In fact, I have been in relationships for the last 17 years with no significant lapse in between.   This indeed was different.

But I learned to enjoy my alone time.  I watched shows that I liked and ate out when I wanted.  I shopped without guilt or hiding bags.  I went out for drinks with new friends, without feeling guilty about leaving him alone.  I spent a significant amount of time sitting in silence, just being reflective and learning about me.  I traveled and spent way too much money.  I didn’t take up a hobby but I did get back into writing, this time by way of blogging.   I encourage you to take up a hobby or get back into something that you once enjoyed but that fell by the wayside because, well life happens.  Learn a new language.  Learn to play an instrument.  Go somewhere you always wanted to go but the two of you couldn’t afford together.  Next year, I do plan on learning Arabic.  I also intend to learn how to play the violin.  I’ve always wanted to play the violin.  I recently bought a membership to get back into yoga.  It’s a great way to relieve stress since my other stress reliever is so far away.  Make the most of your alone time and time spent making new friends.  Which brings me to my next tip…

Trust and Respect each others space

My life did not end when I left and neither did his, so what’s the point of getting upset when he decides to go out with friends instead of being on the phone with me.  Living apart is not easy; living over 6,000 miles apart is a challenge.   Give each other space.  Every free minute does not have to be spent on the phone talking to each other.

What is a relationship without trust?  I had to trust that when he went out, it was not to cheat, flirt or meet people.  It was for the same reasons I went out, to relieve stress and have fun.  It is so important to think positive or you will drive yourself crazy.  I remember this one time Darryl didn’t answer my nightly phone call.  All kinds of negative thoughts filled my head.  Did he have company?  Did he have a chick over? Is he ignoring my calls? When he finally called me, he said he was so tired that he fell asleep waiting for my call.  If a man is going to cheat, no amount of worrying is going to prevent it.  You will drive yourself crazy, worrying about what he is doing.  If you love your mate, trust them and respect their space.

Surround yourself with friends that have your relationship’s best interest at heart

I’ve met several females since I’ve moved overseas, some single, some married and their spouse is with them, some in a similar situation to mine, some newly divorced.   Who you choose to spend your time with is important.  In my experience, partying with single friends is never the best choice.  They know that you are married but they still say, “so and so has friends.” That’s nice, but what does that have to do with me.  Why even put yourself in that predicament?  One of the persons that I chose to spend the majority of my time with, I mentioned her earlier in this post, is in the same situation as me.  Her husband lives in Germany and she lives here.  I feel very comfortable telling her when I miss my hubby and she doesn’t hesitate to tell me when she misses hers.  We understand each other’s feelings.  Me and another girl clicked from day 1.  She and I started together.  She is married and her husband is here with her.  We became instant friends.  Our husbands are cool too.  I like hanging with her for several reasons but one of those reasons is that she loves her husband and keeps me on track.  Both of these girls have no problem telling me when they think I am wrong about my hubby and I like that.  They don’t try to steer me away or to meet other people.  They tell me I have a good husband and I better act right.

Darryl keeps a small circle too.  I am grateful for the few friends he has, who try to keep him busy and who check on him.

Living a part from your best friend and lover is not easy.  You need a lot of patience.  You need to have a goal in mind, that will make it all worth it in the end.   You have to believe that it will work and work at it.  It can be done!

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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Qatar Roller Coaster

So let me tell you a little about this Qatar Roller Coaster but please keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different and not everyone takes the same Roller Coaster to QATAR.

If I had hair, I’d be bald, but I already am and therefore have none to pull out and none to lose. If I was light skinned, my face would be red, but I’m brown skinned, so therefore you can’t see my meter go up. LOL. I have to laugh to keep from crying, because this whole process is frustrating and a lot of people in my shoes would have probably given up by now.  But not me, although sometimes for a brief moment of insanity I want to.  But then all of this would have been for nothing, and a HUGE waste of time.  [Side note: I hate wasting time! It is a pet peeve of mine.]

So let me tell you a little about this Qatar Roller Coaster but please keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different and not everyone takes the same Roller Coaster to QATAR.  If your situation is similar to mine, (married, divorced, school age kids by first husband, remarried) then please learn from my mistakes.

  • I drove to Harrisburg to get my modified custody order authenticated and they turned me down.  The paperwork did not have the proper certification or signature.
  • Called PROEX to continue with the authentication of the Degree and state criminal checks so the custody order wouldn’t hold up those items or the beginning process of my visa. [Thank God I did, keep reading]
  • Received my authenticated paperwork back from PROEX! YAY

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  • Went to family court after numerous phone calls to confirm I was doing this right.  Paid $41.58 to have the court certify and sign the custody order.
  • Mailed the form to Harrisburg
  • Harrisburg couldn’t authenticate my custody order. WHY? Because the certification that I paid for, was incorrect.  [SCREAM] Hopefully the information I got today over the phone is correct or hopefully I understand it correctly.  So here is the scoop: My modified custody order needs to be taken to the Court of Common Pleas, City Hall, not Family Court.  It is there where I must get it certified, and signed by the Director of the office of the Judicial Records for another whopping $41.58. [Laugh to keep from crying] Guess what, I have to wait for Harrisburg to mail the order back to me first, then take it down there, then mail it back to Harrisburg.  Blessing: I didn’t drive all the way to Harrisburg this time, I mailed it.  I only wasted the price of 2 stamps this time and avoided a meltdown at the state office.
  • FBI still doesn’t have me in the system (OMG U.S. CAN BE JUST AS SLOW AS THE MIDDLE EAST) but they are opening mail postmarked from March 14, 2016 as of today, which is when mine was postmarked.  So fingers crossed ours gets opened this week. P.S. call them every week to see if they have hit your date.
  • I received an email from the H.R. rep saying my family flights to Doha were secured for August 19th and our housing has been requested.
  • I emailed him back and requested that date be moved up to Aug 15 or 16. Because I am supposed to start work on Aug 21.  If I leave on the 19th, I will probably still be jet-lagged and I need time to settle in.
  • Hey at least our flights are booked.
  • Everyone has their luggage. TJMax has great luggage. Keep checking your favorite TJ Max store, as they get new shipments of luggage weekly.  That is where I purchased the boys luggage.  I got mine from Boscovs.  My sister and brother swear by Boscovs and now I am a believer.  I couldn’t believe I found the luggage I wanted there.
  • I also purchased packing cubes, a luggage scale and a lavender eye mask from Amazon. I don’t want to have messy luggage, go over the luggage capacity or be awake for a 12-14 hour flight.
  • Only 2 weeks left at work! YAY!
  • One of my girlfriends have agreed to take Zoey, the dog! YAY! She will be picked up in July.  I hope she likes her new home.  There’s 6 kids there and another Shih Tzu.
  • Booked a flight to North Carolina for me and the boys for the end of this month.  We are going to visit, Toketha. She is another teacher that is going to Qatar that I met via Facebook.  Her son is around the same age as Zamir, so we thought it would be a good idea that they meet.  They have already connected via the Book.
  • The bright side of the paperwork is that the custody papers should be back from the authentication process from the state and the FBI clearance should all arrive around the same time.  Then I can send them off together to PROEX to have the process completed.  That will be the end of the paperwork, HOPEFULLY!
  • My translated custody order is in the mail.
  • I’m 50% through with my TEFL online course.

So as you can see, there is a lot of behind the scene things that are occurring.  Sometimes I look at others situations and get discouraged because many of the other teachers are already done with all their paperwork.  Some weren’t even required to get documents translated.  Some saved money by completing the whole authentication process on their own.  But hey this is my situation, my life, our journey.  And I’m on it for the long ride.

Happy May 1st!

That means we have about 100 days ’til our new life begins in Qatar.

Darryl, “It’s May 1st, did you know that?”

Me, “Happy May 1st!”

Silence

Me, “Wait, May 1st!  Oh my God, that means…”

That means we have about 100 days ’til our new life begins in Qatar.  It also means I’ve let an entire month go by without acknowledging my person of the month of April.  It also means, time is really flying.  I can’t believe it’s May 1st.

There is so much I want to blog about, but I’ve truly been so busy, I haven’t realized how much time has passed since I signed my contract.

Wednesday was my last day teaching a class in North America.  Two years ago, I was teaching 1st grade.  Here is a picture from my class.

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A year ago I was teaching 5th grade.  Here is a picture of of us on a field trip.

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This year, I taught college students.  Each time I got a new class, I forgot to take a picture with them.  Well, not this last class.  I was happy that most of the young ladies I taught in my first class, were also the same ones I taught in my last class, different subject of course. They really are full of personality and they were a great group of woman.  I hope they stick with their studies and go on to pursue higher degrees in education.  I walked into what was our last class, to a bouquet of fruit flowers and a balloon, that said, “We will miss you.” I got all teary eyed. They also gifted me with two visa gift cards and two greeting cards.  I will miss them too.  Here are some pictures of us.