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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The One With The Little Things!

It has been a long time, a VERY long time since I last wrote and for some reason this morning I was overwhelmed with the immediate need to write again, so I am seizing that opportunity whilst it is present!

For those of you who know me you will understand why I haven't written in such a long time, for those of you who don't, you will hopefully have some understanding by the end of this entry.

Things have once again been rough for me these last few months. And, to be fair, for the family. Now there will be those of you out there who do not understand, wish to understand or even care about 'matters of the mind'. Whatever your take on the varying degrees of 'psychiatric ailments' that people are exposed to and suffer from every day in the world, then that's OK, however, I would say take note, accept they exist and if you are unlucky enough to ever be confronted with any such scenario, enjoy the small steps of positivity, however short lived.

Someone once said to me 'seeing them ('the sufferer')have one happy day could keep the rest of us going for several weeks!'

It is with that in mind that I write this.

So where have I been? In hospital, seeing my doctor and in a pretty dark place. I am here now(amongst other things)about 6 stone (almost 40kg/88lbs) lighter - some may say for the better but the way I got here wasn't so great and honestly, I am still there.

That is all I will say on that matter!

Is today any different?

Not really!

Well, a little.

Today, I have noticed the little things. And enjoyed a few along the way.

Realistically, one would think I have quite a simple life and in some respects I do. And today that 'simple life' gave my mind a reprieve, even if just for a few hours. After going to bed at 8pm last night, rattling from my meds, I managed to get a half decent night's sleep (a real rarity for me of late!). This enabled me to get up before 5am this morning without being as groggy as usual. After getting everyone ready for school I still had time to listen to Grace read her book to me. I then took everyone to school and headed off to get the car cleaned. OK, nothing special so far at all. On the way I saw the sunrise. The most beautiful, powerful sight, rising above the city, such an amazing orangey red colour. I was in awe! Whilst the car was being cleaned I sat in a cafe and drank a cup of tea whilst reading a book. Complete peace and relaxation. I then did the grocery shopping and came home, straight to the computer to write this.

WOW - I know what you are thinking...How dull was that for a morning! Nothing remotely interesting there. Nothing special, I mean it's not like I wondered across the desert on some pilgrimage to 'find myself' or experienced an adrenaline rush one would get from a parachute jump or contributed anything worthwhile to society.

But in my own little way I did all of those things.

Driving the car through the city and it's sunrise was my 'walk through the desert'.

Reading my book with peace and calm and doing the grocery shopping was my 'parachute jump'.

And what was so worthwhile that I 'contributed to society'? The very fact that I am here. That I am alive. That I have another day in which to 'find myself' again, to 'experience an adrenaline rush' and to find what it is I am here to contribute to this world.

What prompted this? Well going to bed at 8pm for certainly helped!!! But also something I saw on the TV last night. A scene with two people - both getting drunk. The one character has been suffering from depression and had tried to commit suicide before. They are laughing uncontrollably and for a brief moment this character had forgotten all his 'woes' until the other character abruptly interrupts their 'drinking game' with a question. List three reasons why you should live? He was horrified at the question and gave a lame answer in response. She tells him that was no good and it hadn't earned another shot of sambucca. He then gets defensive and goes on and on with a huge list of GOOD reasons why he should live. The realisation on his face that there were, in fact, good reasons to get through what he was going through made me realise that there is good reason for me too! For all of us. And for some of us, the ones with the 'psychiatric ailments', it is hard to see for the most part. And I am sure in a few hours or days or weeks I will too feel too emotionally drained to see those reasons. Which is why I am writing this now. It is in print. It is out there. It has been said. So that no matter how crappy I feel by lunchtime, dinner time or breakfast time tomorrow, I can, if I can find the strength and conviction, look back at this and know there was at least one passing moment that things weren't so bad.

This may only be (and in fact WILL be) a momentary glimpse of tranquility. It never lasts long. In fact they are so few and far between at the moment and rarely last more than a fleeting moment of a few hours and are a bi-product of scenario. But however little this moment is - to me, to others and in the grand scheme of time - I wanted it recorded.

Why?

Because this is selfish post. This post is for me. And for all of the other 'Ellies' out there.

One small step at a time.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The One Where We Got Our Car Stuck!






One of the first questions people ask when moving to a new country is how to meet new people. Meeting other expats is relatively easy. Most countries have forum sites, meeting groups or bars that expats frequently occupy. But what if you want to meet other people? Locals, or residents from other countries? One tried and tested way by us..............get your car stuck in the sand near someones camp! Oh yes, that's what we did. And yes we got to meet some new people.

I must stress at this point that it was far from intentional and I am pretty sure there are in fact more practical ways to meet people.

Two weeks ago we went off for a wreckie to find a beach that we could all camp on the following week with some friends. We headed to the north of Qatar, Al Ruwais. Once there we drove around and down the coast slightly on the east side. We saw a turning off the road and figured...'why not?!' Finally we reached a beach with the waves of the ocean in full view. Heaven! At first glance, it looked like the beach was occupied by Bedouin communities, on further investigation we found out that people can have a camp there for 6 months of the year. They pay the government 10,000 QAR deposit and as long as the camp is left clean and tidy then they get it back at the end of the 6 months. It is a fantastic way of allowing people to enjoy the beauty of the beach whilst preserving the natural beauty.

So after a little walk, back to the car to have a little lunch and carry on driving. This part of the journey didn't last long. We drove straight into a soggy salt flat. A few attempts later and we were stuck in a salt and oil covered car! This is when we met the happy campers! Jason trampled through the soggy mess over to the nearest camp. Someone was watching over us and this was the best camp he could have approached - the best people! Next thing, about 15 men came over to help get us out of our little situation. Much to all our amusement! The young boys took me and the kids for a ride around in the beach buggy to keep us occupied whilst the others rescued the car and once free they invited us in for tea.

This is where the cultural differences were highlighted for me.

Now, back in the UK we would certainly help the stranded driver outside our house and most probably invite them in for a cup of tea afterward. But that would be it. Not because we are rude or uncaring but because that is the way we do things. That is our hospitality. In the middles east things are very different. Help you with your car - yes, offer you tea - yes, offer you an amazing banquet of food - yes!!!! I was so overwhelmed by the level of hospitality. These boys invited us into their space to use as our own. It was such a foreign concept. Nobody stood on ceremony, everybody chatted with us, each other and carried about their business. Very surreal. Almost six hours later we left to go home and promised to return the following week.

The following weekend, packed and ready to go. We picked up Shiraz and Alwin and off we set. In true 'Ellie' style I had meticulously packed for every eventuality!! We arrived just before lunch time, which of course I had packed! We went to see the boys before we unpacked and introduced Alwin and Shiraz to the group. We sat in their tent and had tea. This type of lifestyle really suits these guys. So calm and relaxed. Certainly a life I could get used to.

When it came to setting up camp everyone joined in. It was no hassle, no question, just automatic. Again something I am not used to. In the west we are generally so private, even in public. But I prefer their way. Helping your neighbour, joining in and getting involved. It is an art they have mastered without a worry.


All set up, tents pitched, wind breaks up and swimwear on!!




We had obviously brought meat for a BBQ dinner but the guys had planned to cook a lamb. And when I say cook a lamb, I mean pretty much a whole lamb in a hole in the ground. Now for the life of me I can't remember the proper name for this, but it is basically pit cooking. They dig a hole in the sand, fill it with burning charcoal and then lay the meat, wrapped in foil and then bury it. A few hours later THE best food you have ever tasted! We added our small offerings of chicken and salad to the table, although rather small in comparison! And when I say table, I actually mean floor! The best way in the world to eat. On the floor using your hands. You feel the food with more senses allowing you to taste the food so much more. Cooking and eating is such a communal affair over here. It really is a beautiful moment to be part of. And they make it seem so effortless! Reluctantly, we finished eating, and when I say reluctant I mean because if I had any more room I am sure I would have eaten the whole thing it was THAT good!




Of course then what else to do but play volleyball! Well the boys did. The children went off and played whilst Shiraz and I sat and chatted. This in itself was a beautiful moment. The kids, ours speaking a little Arabic and the others speaking a little English, it was no boundary. Children are wonderful in this respect. The world is theirs, nothing holds them back. Not even words, or the lack of. They have the ability to find common ground in any situation with anyone. Our two worlds came together in perfect harmony. I got to learn so much about Shiraz. Her history, her upbringing, what makes her who she is. The conversation flowed without pressure. We were on the same page, both interested to learn more, about each other, ourselves and everything around us.



And then came the shisha - for the adults!!! Marshmallows and oreos for the kids! What was great about this was that some of the guys came to us and the kids too. Jason and I made the hot chocolate and Shiraz made the marshmallows. Once again everyone effortlessly assumed a role, working together. By the end of the night the children were sleeping peacefully and Shiraz and me were looking like refugees next to the campfire. We all sat and talked and laughed and I know, for me at least, I felt at peace. So comfortable. So happy. So relaxed. This is what life is for. Moments like this.



The next morning the heat got us out of our tents. What a wonderful feeling to swim in the ocean before breakfast. The water was crystal clear and not too cold - once you got in! Khalil took is out for a little boat ride and Shiraz and me gave the beach buggy a bit of a bashing!



Unfortunately all good things must come to end. We packed up all of our things and the young lads drove our stuff to the car in the buggy. Again another act of kindness, that once again was so automatic and effortless.


Gracie slept most of the way home whilst we sang loudly to Queen songs on the stereo.

Perfect.

I loved this weekend. I wish everyday was like this. Although, I am sure if it was, it would take away the magic. What made it so wonderful was, of course, the people but also that it was different. The combination of cultures and people. The fact that the guys were endeared by my constant photo taking and the uncle invited us to sit with him and eat. The fact that on different soil our two worlds wouldn't mix so easily and harmoniously. That we were all blessed to share this experience.

Needless to say we are planning to go again. This time I will take them a carrot cake, partly to say thank you but mostly to avoid the mocking for not taking one this time! We intend to stay in touch with these wonderful people.

New friendships have begun.

True friendships.

A meeting of separate worlds.

An example to the rest of the world.

And all of this from getting our car stuck in the sand!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The One Where We Lost Grace!




When telling someone this story they asked me a simple question - 'How does one loose Grace?' Very true, for anyone who knows Grace you would know she is a very difficult soul to loose! But here is how we did!

What happened yesterday is something that I am sure almost every parent in the world has been through at some point during parenthood. And thankfully, for most, it ends the same way as it did for us.

It was boxing day, and we decided to go for a picnic at a park just by the sea on the corniche, a very different but lovely way of spending the day after Christmas for us. We all had a great day, grandparents kicking the ball with the kids, kids playing, sitting in the sun, taking pictures and spending quality time as a family.

I had gone to take some pictures of the sunset with my new camera, Nanny and Joey were playing with the ball, Grandad and Jason were packing up the picnic and Grace was playing in the park. The moment was perfection. That is until I went to get Grace from the park. There I experienced the most gut wrenching moment, the moment, as parents, we all fear.

Grace was gone.

Now I am sure we have all have experienced this, the momentary panic and then you see your child. But not this time. She really was nowhere to be seen. I thought maybe I hadn't seen her. I went round the park several times.

Still nothing.

Still no Grace.

Jason was casually walking over, obviously unaware at this point. I waved him over, he knew something was wrong.

'I can't find her!' - the words every parent hopes they never have to speak.

Jason started looking, obviously thinking with all the children in the park, I had missed her.

He couldn't see her either!

In his organised manner, he set all the things down with Grandad for him to stay in one place. We enlisted Joey to look around the park, Nanny was retracing her steps as to where she had seen Grace last and me and Jason began looking outside the park.

Now I was starting to feel dizzy. Sick. Where was she? The reality that she was not here was beginning to dawn on me and if she wasn't here then why? Where? What happened? Only parent hood panic can create so many thoughts in your mind at any one time! You begin to think of all those stories you hear in the press, we all know the ones I am talking about. And it was 'those' people's stories that began going through my head. The realisation that it could, in fact, happen to anyone. And then that awful question - 'Am I the 'anyone' it is happening to now?' That is the moment you feel the hysteria bubbling up from inside. That is the moment you try to think of all the practicalities. What do we do? Go away hysteria because hysteria isn't going to help me now. I started making a list in my head of what we should do, what would be the most effective way of finding my baby? At what point do we call the police? I don't want to go overboard here, but surely the sooner the better in this kind of situation. And not just one strategy, the park is filled with people, someone would have seen her, seen who she was with, where she had gone!

The panic in our faces must have been clear at this point. A young couple asked us if we had lost our child - YES, the most awful answer I had to give - I wish it was no, but we had lost her. That is when it dawned on me. They asked if we had a picture. I had taken over 300 that day, so there was definitely some of Grace and I had kept my camera on me in case it led to this point (so there was a small piece of me thinking rationally!). This was the moment that made it real. I was finding a picture to show strangers my daughter. It was like a slow motion movie moment. I was shaking trying to get through the hundred's of photos I had taken to find one of her. The couple looked at it and said they would help us look. By this point other people were looking over at us, I was aware that the other families in the park were now aware and that was the point where Jason and me let the hysteria out and starting calling her name all over the park. Who cares what people may think of the hysterical mother I just want my daughter back.

Then in a surreal, slow motion moment I heard Nanny calling us.

She had found her.

I can barely translate that feeling into words. It almost didn't feel real. But it was.

There she was bouncing down the hill, holding Nanny's hand as if nothing was wrong.

I grabbed her close to me and held her with every fibre in my body and soul. I was trembling. And crying by this point.

The relief.

The adrenalin.

Love.

She quite simply asked me 'Mommy, were you frightened?' 'Yes darling, I thought I had lost you!' 'I wasn't scared Mommy, I was playing!'

It materialised that Grace had started a new craze that day of rolling down the hills. And the other children in the park had copied her, she met some friends and decided that she needed to teach them how to roll down the hill for maximum enjoyment!

Grace had been blissfully unaware as to what had happened. And I hope that she will remain blissfully unaware when she becomes a mother. As this was the most awful moment of my motherhood experiences so far!

I had a momentary glimpse into what the parents of lost children go through. Thankfully it was just momentary. Others aren't so lucky. As parents we will all probably experience moments like this, whether it be for 2 minutes or 60 minutes. But most will experience the same outcome as us. We will be reunited with our babies, we will hold them and cuddle them again. We will have the opportunity to watch them grow in their lives. But some aren't so lucky. Some parents live in that moment for the rest of their lives.

Take a moment and spare a thought for those parents, because we are lucky. We still have our babies. And however horrific that moment was for us, it ended, it was resolved.

May we pray for all the lost children in the world and for their parents to, one day, have it end in the same way as it did for us.







The One With All The Patriotism!




December 18 2011 - Qatar National Day! And didn't we know it! The build up for this day had been going on for weeks but in all honesty a lot of it had passed me by. Why would I be interested in national day? This isn't my country. I am merely a long staying visitor.

Or so I thought!

It certainly didn't matter that this wasn't my country, it certainly didn't matter that I was a visitor and I realised I certainly was interested. The way the Qataris celebrate their national day - it would be impossible for any true soul not to be moved by it!

So what's it all about?

Well in short it is a celebration. It serves as a reminder to the people of Qatar as to the hardships their ancestors have endured to give them the Qatar they have today. And trust me, the way that they celebrate they are fully aware and appreciative!

Now really all countries have this, or could have this! So what makes Qatar different to the rest of the world?

This tiny, desert peninsula country poking out of the side of Saudi Arabia (it's only land border) has approx only 300,000 nationals. The rest of the population is made up of ex-pats from around the world. This, for most countries, would be enough to crumble any level of patriotism. But not for Qatar. I am sure almost all of that 300,000 population were out in force to celebrate over those few days! And as a guest in their country I found the whole experience very humbling and moving.

The school celebrated it with pride. Every building had a flag draped over it. Car's had flags all over them, and were even painted and decorated in full Qatar colours. A trip back from the mall the day before national day ended with us stuck on the corniche for 2 hours in the traffic! Something that would have normally been an annoyance, but not this time. There was so much to see!!! The boats on the water all lit up, shining lasers into the sky, music playing, people standing on their cars waving huge flags! Horns beeping, confetti cannons dusting us all in sparkles. And even a Qatari guy dressed as father Christmas spotting the ex-pat cars coming and wishing us a Qatar Christmas! It was an amazing sight. And I felt part of this tiny little country. They welcomed us into their celebrations without question or prejudice.

I learned a lot in a few short days from my host country.

There isn't enough patriotism in the world. Maybe if there was, people wouldn't be so negative and aggressive. People would learn to be proud of where they live and in turn take care of that place and make it a better place to live and eventually this would make the world a better place.

This doesn't only apply to the country you were born, show patriotism to the country you live in. I used to think it strange that foreigners would join in British celebrations and non Irish would celebrate St Patrick's day, but not now. The country you live in, regardless of being born there, has provided you with opportunity, money, food, shelter, protection, safety and in most cases have done so with open arms. We should learn to respect that. This country doesn't have to allow me to stay here, but it does and for that experience I am eternally grateful to any of my host countries along my travels.

I was never patriotic towards the UK. I have my issues with the UK, which I won't go into now, but I have learned a greater respect for my home country. It isn't perfect, no. Is anywhere? Very few if any! But my home country safely took care of me for 29 years of my life and continues to do so. I have that passport. I am safe. No money could ever buy the security that passport gives me as a person and as a mother. Whatever issues Great Britain have or challenges they face and no matter where in the world I am, I can always go back there. My children will always have health care, education, food and shelter. It may not be perfect but this isn't a perfect world. And in reality what more protection do I need for my children.

So take a leaf of Qatar's book - celebrate your nation, home and host nations. Let us dance and celebrate life in the streets. Celebrate each other. The sooner we sing and dance in the streets the sooner we will stop fighting in the streets and with baby steps the world can and will become a better, more peaceful place.


Friday, 25 November 2011

The One Where Erika Came to Visit!


The week finally arrived that we had all been waiting for!

The week that we promised ourselves would happen.

But the week we thought probably wouldn't!

I had been counting down in true 'Ellie style' for weeks. And the day was finally upon us. We were going to collect Erika from the airport. But on that journey there was a strange feeling in the car. Had we all anticipated this too much. Had we built it up to be something it wasn't. Would things and people have changed too much for this to work in the 'real' world. Because let's face it our friendship developed in such a artificial world for us. So there was a real worry that this wouldn't transfer in the way we had imagined.

Trust me - there was no need to worry!

Arriving at the airport, uncharacteristically on time for the Lloyd family, armed with a welcome banner made by the kids in my class, the kids and I popped to the bathroom, thinking do it now so we don't miss her!

OOPS! Erika had arrived - uncharacteristically early!

So the picture, I am sure, we had all had in our heads of how we would meet again ended up being rather different to the reality. Momentarily distracted by the surprise of her actually already being here, we all instantly hugged kissed and made a heck of a lot of noise!

A short time later, Erika was once again sat in our car, having a smoke, and instantly I think we all knew it was just like old times. It was just perfect!

That night we got Erika's bed ready with her room mate - Grace - ate takeaway and drank some REAL wine! And talked - sooooooo much! In fact all week we talked so much!

So what did we do the rest of the week? Well it was a week of firsts for us all.

Friday:



We went to the Movenpick for brunch. 265 QAR for 3 1/2 hours of complete indulgence. All the food and wine you could consume. And a fantastic kid's room with food and entertainment galore to keep them entertained allowing the grown up's to appreciate their indulgence!

Jason enjoyed freaking me out by eating an oyster and I watched Erika and her camera with a smile!




Saturday:

No trip to Doha would be complete without going to the mall! So without a doubt - we HAD to take Erika to Villagio! Where we enjoyed the obligatory McDonald's - believe it or a not, for us, was a little taste of Saudi! We wondered round and a dreamed of Porches and Tiffany's! Although it was a bit of a shopping fail, after several fitting rooms, we left with nothing to show!



Sunday:


Ahhh - the beach! We hadn't really had the chance to explore the beaches before Erika had arrived so this would be an adventure for us all! We headed towards Furawait and found a perfect beach. All expats so swimwear was fine! We set up our day camp - as always! The kids LOVED the sea as always, Jason hated the BBQ as always and me and Erika enjoyed the sun - as always! It was a lovely beach - watching all these people from all over in their own little groups doing their own thing, having so much fun and just enjoying spending time with each other - doing just as we were! A really lovely day - until the wind got up - then it was time to go home!




Monday:


Well that morning we woke up to rain! A place where it rarely rains, it rained when Erika was here! Ah well, we were sure there was something to do! So off we went to the Souq Waqif. We had been once before and knew that Erika would love it - the stalls, the architecture, the animals. And she did! A far cry from the souq in Saudi! The rain was about to get us again so what else to do but get into a cafe for some food and a shisha of course! No better way to spend a rainy day!






Tuesday:



Erika just had to go to Costa! So we took her to Landmark mall where we finally had shopping success at H&M! We all enjoyed a Costa and I then did a rather fast shop at Carrefour for us to enjoy the Lloyd's homemade pizza for dinner! An Ellie Supreme it is then!











Wednesday:




Salon day - Erika had her hair cut and coloured and required a stiff drink to get over the shock! Let's just say they weren't the most confident of people! Thankfully I only had a pedicure and my eyebrows threaded - I don't think I could have coped with the hair! But she did look fab afterward! I cooked a full on roast dinner whilst Jason took Erika to the Pearl - another must if visiting Qatar!




Thursday:



And then we were at the end! The day Erika was to fly back! So not to waste the day we got the car packed with her cases and drove to the Corniche. We had a lovely, windy, walk looking at the dhow's and then spontaneously took a trip out on one. A perfect, peaceful end to the week! A quick McDonald's later and we were at the airport! I am pleased to say not as emotional as the last goodbye!

So that was our week! Lots of food, lots of wine, lots of talking, lots of laughs and lots of tears!

It was perfect.

It was everything it should have been.

It was everything we wanted it to be.

It was everything a true friendship is.

It was proof that no matter who you are, where you are and what you are doing - if you have made that bond with another human being that is called friendship it will last, it will withstand distance and no matter what path you take in life you will always meet again.

The One Where I Was Alone

It has been a while since I wrote on here, for many reasons, I had so much to say, but not enough words. Maybe writing this will help give me clarity.

We have been in Qatar now for three months and already it feels like a lifetime. The adjustment here has been far more dramatic than that of Saudi. You would think that going from the desert, abayas and world set 20 years ago to something so cosmopolitan in comparison that the move would be an easy one.

How wrong one could be!

Yes we can get a real glass of wine, salted butter and even pork now! Yes women can drive, we have all the shops we could find in any UK mall and every corner you turn there is another westerner.

And yet that still wasn't enough to ease the transition!

The cliche of a city being a lonely place is no longer a cliche for me.

Everything here is so big and busy. EVERYTHING! This city just keeps on moving, with or without you. The roads are busy, buildings are being built at an unbelievable rate and everyone is rushing to go somewhere. And you can stand still in the middle of all of this and get dizzy from all the chaos.

I have stood still but my mind kept racing and that is where I am writing from now.

Like I say I have struggled here. It is far more difficult to make the bonds that you can make in a place like Saudi. Where we were before we all needed friends, the friendships we made were lifelines. They were (here comes another cliche!) the glue that held everything together. We all missed things - people, food, familiarity. It was mutual and open and that is what held people from such different walks of life, ages and backgrounds so close. When we moved here I think I expected the same. Because even though we were obviously somewhere more comfortable, we were all still in the same situation. Missing home, missing people, missing continuity. And all of us are traveling to some extent. But having the comforts that we have here blinds people. All of us. It gives us a false sense of security that we are in fact no different to living back in our home countries. That everything is the same, we just have sunshine. But it isn't the case at all. We are all vulnerable. And whereas before in Saudi, we all came to terms with our vulnerabilities, opening the door for friendships, here we don't. Not even me. This is not in reference to people I know this is an observation of what I see around me - people are in groups, there isn't so much of a mix of people. We are all so separated here, in our own little cliques. Now I know this is not true of every single person who lives here, but I truly believe it holds true for most people, but maybe even to a certain degree for everyone. Everyone just keeps on moving, keeps on rushing and keeps on going regardless of those around them. This isn't a bad thing on their part. It is survival. That is why a city can be such a lonely place.

For me things have felt very much out of control since arriving. There has been very little time for my mind to rest. Some people can cope with that, I for one cannot. I become affected. For many reasons. And I then try to gain control. For many reasons. And I cannot. And that is why I become so affected.

Right now my head is spinning and I need to slow down in this busy metropolis. There is some peace here somewhere and I have to find it. I know where it is, it is in my heart and I know God will guide me eventually, but for whatever reason we are taking the long way round. Maybe I will get used to city life, maybe I won't. But what I will have to learn is the ability to be happy. This place has highlighted my weaknesses and made me crumble, what I now need to do is use this place to find my strength and allow myself to grow again. Because Qatar isn't a bad place. I don't have a bad life. It is me and only I am in control of what I am feeling.


I need to embrace this city.

I need to embrace life.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The One Where I Started Work and A Whole Lot More!!!




Wow!! What a month!!! We arrived in Qatar a month ago today and so far I have encountered that many emotions I have lost count! And we are still yet to explore Qatar properly, a whole month has gone by and we still haven't walked by the sea, that is definitely this weeks mission!

So I am now a working mom. I know millions of mothers all over the world, in far harsher circumstances, go to work everyday, in jobs they love, in jobs they hate. But until you have done it you can never comment, it is bloomin' hard! Leaving my safe family bubble, knowing that I am no longer 100% there for my family all day everyday is extremely hard to adjust to. I now have other commitments. And in the beginning it makes it difficult to enjoy your new job as you are so emotionally distracted. Of course my first priority will always be my family, but it no longer comes in the form of my permanent fixture in the family home. I find it hard that I have this level of responsibility during the day, it conflicts what I conditioned myself to over the last few years. It is difficult. Do able. But difficult. And something that not everyone will understand.

Like I have said millions of mothers work, millions have fought for the right to work. For me it is terrifying. Liberating, but terrifying!

Over the last few years I have felt safe and secure at home. It has been the one place where I have been able to be comfortable. The place where I was given time to recover. I'm used to being at home where I don't have to face my demons, I am safe and secure and can offer safety and security to my family. From a practical sense I can do all the things that need doing - wash, clean, cook, prepare and plan - the things that all families need in place. I am in charge of my own time. I am the boss of my job. I answer to only me and my family.

So the first proper day at work. Where the children would now be in school. I was a wreck. The night before I barely slept. I questioned myself and my own abilities. I had no idea what I was doing. Could i do this job. As in could I be good at this job as there is no point in doing any job unless you strive to be good at it. I hadn't really got to know all the staff. at least if I had been around friends they would be aware of my anxieties and struggles and understand why this was such a huge personal step for me. I know everyone has first day nerves, but if I am honest mine were crippling me!

The night before we started I called Erika. One person I knew could and would give me the words to cope with this. There was a lot said in an almost two hour chat, but one thing she said I held onto - 'Go in with a smile, what's not to like!' I shall carry those words in my pocket, not just for that first day, but for my everyday life - I am a good person, I do what I do and I am what am I!

I got through my first day, I got though my first week. Of course I did. Everyone does. The only difference is how we cope with it. Initially I didn't cope with it well. Now I am coping with it better.

I am sure half of my colleagues must think I am a bit strange with the way I have dealt with the first week. But you know, I have learned the hard way to be open about how you feel in situations, not in a depressing way, just in an honest way. To vocalise this certainly helps, and for people to know the whys and the hows often gives them a deeper understanding of the person you really are allowing them to make a clear judgment on you. Once people know this, they can then truly decide whether they like me or not. And that's OK with me.

Jason has coped remarkably with his first week. He is working hard and striving to be the best he can - as usual. I am so lucky to have married such a man. He never goes into anything half way. He gives his all - always. And as for the kids, well they have been amazing!!! Joey has coped so well with starting at the juniors. He was very much left to his own devices. He found his confidence and maturity and off he went. Joey is no longer a baby. He will always be my baby, but he is now his own person, doing what he does in his own little life. A real milestone for him and a huge milestone for me as a mother. I am so proud. I am so proud of both of them. I was worried for Grace. For her first day and the rest. She had to change class after two days, an unfortunate admin situation, but I understood. A persuasive chat and a happy meal later she was fine with the move too. And you would never know! She moved into that new class as if nothing was an issue. She has made friends in there easily and seems to me to be very happy. That's the only reassurance I need!

This has been a difficult post for me to write in the respect that my mind has been elsewhere. I have not had the stimulating emotional depth that I have been used to having. The talks with Erika have helped. Allowed me once again to find my true self. To dig deep and feel and be moved by all situations. I want to write, I want to be a writer. I accept some people may not like my style and some people may reject me, but I stay true to what I feel and experience and truly believe that others will gain from my experience.

Although I have realised that it is the people around me that help me write. The people around me that allow me the space, time and inspiration to think. The people around me that move me and inspire me. Eventually I will find the right emotional stance to regain my confidence to write. I will to find the depth myself. It is there i know it is. I just need to level myself.

This post is for all my friends.

I know you will understand this the same way you understand me.

I may not be physically close to you right now, but you are in my heart, my thoughts and my words.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The One Where We Moved to Qatar!!

When you first arrive at a new place, regardless of your level of confidence, you will always feel vulnerable. New faces. New personalities. New surroundings. Everything around you is a constant picture of uncertainty and the unknown. You instantly become aware of your own imperfections and idiosyncrasies, and wonder if anyone else is aware or if you are being judged.

Well no need to wonder. You are being judged! That may seem like a rather paranoid statement, but just like you are making first judgements, however subconscious, you can guarantee the people around you are too. They too are feeling insecure with the new faces, new personalities and new surroundings.

Right now I am feeling all these things and more.

Why?

We moved to Qatar.

So let me tell you how we got here!

After having an enjoyable, albeit, chaotic and busy summer, we had reached the packing stage. With that came the unpacking and repacking stage too. Way too much luggage and we had never flown emirates before so we had no idea as to how strict they were on weight. Let me tell you now, they are strict!!!!! It took a little persuasion and cunning to get through with 22kg extra plus the 4 pieces of hand luggage of about 25kgs over too!!!! We just scraped by, a little convincing and I expect my tear stained face at the check in didn't warrant any confrontation either!

Saying goodbye to my Dad and Val was hard.It always is! It was fabulous that Val was able to come to the airport this time too. Jason had gone earlier with the luggage and my Dad had come back for us. Of course it is hard going to a new place, the constant changes. But we chose this life and I wouldn’t change it. But Dad and Val are my security. Knowing they are always there gives me the emotional strength to do what we do and the fact my Dad has such faith in Jason as a husband, a father and a teacher strengthens my faith in him too.

So we were finally on the plane. A very nice plane too! Lots of room and really comfy. But we are the wobbly table family and if anyone will sit by anything that is broken then I am sure it will always be us! Yep, we were sat under a drippy head locker, a few engineers and the cabin crew supervisor later we finally took to the skies! As with most scheduled flights of this length, they give out things for the children, whether it colouring books, teddies, bags etc. Our children got a colouring book and crayons, however the children around us got that and a puppet. Now I realise in the grand scheme of things it is only a puppet. But when the kids saw others getting something they hadn’t then I had to ask. To which the lady said she didn’t have enough and was being fair to everyone. Hmmmmmmm, pretty sure she wasn’t as she was giving different things to different kids. When the supervisor checked on us (because of the leak) I let her know what had happened. A few minutes later the lady came back with a bag from business class for the kids and a rather snippy dig that now she was treating us differently to the other kids!!!! There was really no need. We hadn’t been asked to be treated differently - just the same as everyone else! I was ready for an all out strop at 35,000 feet, until, obviously she had calmed down, she came to apologise for the way she had spoken to me. So I just left her with a gentle reminder that all children have to be treated the same and there was really no reason for her to speak to me like that.

The rest of the flight - plain sailing!

You must also be aware that this was also Grace's 5th birthday. So with the normal stress and chaos of travelling, let alone moving country, we also had gifts and happy birthdays to do!! Grace donned her princess dress all the way to Qatar, where she must have looked like Disney royalty as we came though arrivals! The staff were fabulous with her. She had a birthday cake and pictures taken - even on the connecting flight where time was very short, they made up a tray of cakes and chocolate for her and even more Polaroid’s.

By now it was about 3.30am on Friday.

The head and his wife collected us from the airport and took us to our apartment. Only problem being it wasn’t 'our' apartment. We, as are many other staff, are in temporary accommodation. Exhausted and overwhelmed we just went along and finally got into bed just after 5.30am. The kids had been awake for over 19 hours by this point. By 11am we were up again to get sorted to get some groceries. Later in the afternoon we began to panic about how long we would be here. As a mom and a wife, my primary job is to settle my family. I couldn’t do this. Once again we were living out of a suitcase. We met with the HR manager that evening to talk about the problems. And with that conversation we knew instantly she was really doing everything she could and was making absolute sure that we were comfortable and gave us a few options. I actually felt quite bad for her, not only must she be swamped with work with everyone arriving; she is also fasting for Ramadan and then must be getting complaints about where people are living. She is definitely in the right job - approachable, helpful and damn good at what she does!! And very sympathetic and patient with us and our questions!!! Soon we should be able to move and settle in to our proper home and then it will all be fine - in the meantime the place we are in really is very nice!

In the evening all the staff were invited to dinner. The Iftar meal. It is Ramadan here at the moment. This was all paid for by the school. What a wonderful welcome. The food was divine! We went down to reception to wait for the school transport to pick us up and this is where we met all those new faces for the first time.

WOW!!!!!!! How terrified was I? I was always the type of person that could walk into any room and not be fazed, not anymore. At this point I just wanted to go back to our room! But we didn’t and I am glad we didn’t. We met some great people. From all walks of life. This is maybe one of the reasons I love this. You get to meet, talk and socialise with people that maybe you wouldn’t normally. It really broadens your mind. I think there are some people here we could really get along with. In fact I have already met a Pakistani woman who is prepared to swap Nihari for carrot cake - quite a result in less than 24 hours!

Things are quite different here to that in Saudi. The people are different and there is a lot more of them. A lot to cope with. But I am sure we will. The kids got to see the school this morning and our bank accounts are sorted. hopefully tomorrow we will have our car back too!

We are all exhausted. We are all emotional. We are all definitely overwhelmed. But some time, a little patience, a good night's sleep and our own place to settle down in will soon fix all of that. And I have to remember that. I have to remember that first impressions should never be the lasting impression and that all these people around us are feeling just as insecure and vulnerable as we are right now. But it is sometimes good to feel like that. It is good for the soul. And it is definitely good to remember we are not on our own. This is going to be great. This is going to be fabulous. Our life is one big adventure and we are making sure we make the most of every second of it. I just must remind myself not to rush these things, there is time, we are here for the next two years.

Hello sunshine. Hello Qatar. We can't wait to see what is in store for us here!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The One With All The Riots!

So here I am angry.  I am annoyed.  So what should I do?  Shall I go and rob the Bullring shopping centre.  Shall I terrorise the streets near people’s homes?  NO!!!!!  I should deal with my anger in a more productive way.

This is my blog.  And although this may not relate to my travels, my travels have an effect on how I look at situations.

We are back in the UK for our summer holidays.  A time to reunite with our families and have some relaxing time before we move to a new country and start new jobs.  But I, like many others, have been enraged and deeply affected by what has been dominating the news lately.

Now there is a lot of unrest all over the world at the moment, predominantly in the Middle East.  I have witnessed firsthand the fear and upset in the eyes of our friends.  Our friends from Egypt and Syria, worried about their families, devastated at the unrest in their countries.  I am British; I had no way of truly understanding what they were going through.  Until now I had been lucky.  Now I have some idea.  Still not fully, but we have suffered our own unrest here.

So how did it all begin……………….

Well, let’s be fair we shall never fully know.  We are to believe, there was a man, a man with a gun, who the police tried to apprehend, the man was shot, and subsequently died.  The man, Mark Duggan, 29 and before I go any further may I say I am in no position to judge, I did not know this man, I was not there and therefore I do not know.  So may he rest in peace and may his family find some resemblance of peace during this very chaotic and difficult time.  After all, without judgement, He was still a human being, and for that my condolences are sincere.

After this, people began to riot in London, we would imagine out of anger for his death.  Yet his family did not condone this behaviour, therefore if this was the REAL reason for the unrest it should have stopped immediately!  But it wasn’t the real reason was it?  Of course it wasn’t it was an excuse.

The riots began to spread across the country.  It reached Birmingham, not too far from where we are right now.  I was becoming more affected by what was happening.  Of course I was affected before, but the closer to your doorstep it is the more you see the reality of what is happening.  We are lucky, we were never in any danger, nor were we likely to be.  But I was still worried about sending my husband to Tesco’s that evening.  So how must have the people in the flats above shops and streets being attacked have felt.  Holding their children, terrified as to how far this was going to go.  The places that were set on fire.  The people cornered into buildings, shops, alleys, their homes, either scared they will never see their kids again or scared for theirs and their children’s lives!!?  I cannot even begin to comprehend how they must have felt.

Homes, businesses, streets, communities and lives have been destroyed.  Three lives that were lost were three young men from Birmingham; I believe their names to be - Haroon Jahan  Shezad Ali and Abdul Musavir.  Another man to lose his life was named as Richard Mannington Bowes.  I am sorry if I have missed anyone from here, for them and anyone else affected, grieving or injured, you are in my thoughts.

So what is to blame?

We have now moved on from the shooting in London.  Again if this was the REAL cause then that would be what is being shouted from the rooftops, but it’s not.  I saw one woman on the news saying she was claiming her taxes back!  Seriously – I would love to know exactly how much tax she has paid, is she working, and did she loot more or less than the amount of tax she has paid, minus the tax money she has used in resources and now the amount she has stolen – I am pretty sure she now owes the country money!  People have turned this whole situation round to a case of the ‘hard done to people’ in the UK.  Now by no means is this country perfect, yes there are people who are poor, homeless, sick, alone, untreated etc etc etc – however, take a look at other countries where people are suffering all of these things and more with absolutely no level of democracy!

As the British public, we are now supposed to feel sorry for all these people we feared just days ago.  These people are apparently desperate; they are socially and economically deprived.  They need our pity and support!!???! REALLY?  They terrorised our streets for days.  They have just doubled or trebled the tax bill for this country, who is paying for it?  The tax payer will pay for it.  The hard working people will pay for it.

But aside from all of this, these people were not doing it out of economic deprivation, if they were they would have stolen milk, bread and eggs from Tesco’s and baby clothes from Primark.  But they didn’t they stole 100’s of thousands if not millions of pounds worth of merchandise – as in phones, TV’s, top of the range clothes – these are not the things that desperate poor people steal.  These were not the actions of desperate people.

Now the violence, and let’s be honest that is what it is by definition, is beginning to calm, we as a nation are being asked to have an element of sympathy for these people.  Why? To be honest I have no idea why.  They will be caught, they will be sentenced and they will given the punishment deserved and decided by our system.  Some people are claiming these punishments are too harsh.  Like what I ask?  Like prison?  Like losing benefits?  Like having restrictions on their movements?  In my opinion none of these punishments are too harsh.  They terrorised the nation.  They cost the nation money.  They committed unforgivable crimes.  They should and will be punished.  If they lose their council house then so be it – there are plenty of families living in temporary housing who deserve to be able to set up home, these people who have been given a home are biting the hand that more than generously fed them, and we are supposed to think that they still deserve them?  Well I for one don’t!  In this country people should work for what they get, they should earn everything from self respect, to respect from their community, to the house that they live in.  It isn’t difficult.  It is achievable.  This country has many problems, but these things we can achieve, if we are prepared to work for them.  We don’t need to fight for these things; these things are there for the taking, if we are prepared to work at them and work to keep them. 

None of this is to do with upbringing and social circles.  My family became somewhat disjointed after my mom died, when I left home I was surrounded by people who took drugs – and I mean snorted cocaine off a bar and injected heroin in front of my eyes!!!  Did I join in? NO!!!!! I DID NOT!!!!  I could have done – it was easy, I could have had what I wanted at that point.  But I refused.  Yet I was an ‘impressionable’ 16 year old.  But I was a 16 year old with my own mind.  I made a choice.  I have struggled to get where I am now.  I am in debt, I have two kids to look after – although when I say ‘I’ – I actually mean my husband as well – he is the financial strength in our situation.  He has worked in jobs he hates.  Extra hours when exhausted and picked up the pieces when times are tough, where robbing a bank may have maybe seemed easier.  We are not perfect nor are we rich – nowhere near in either case!!!  But we sleep at night with a clear conscience that we have worked hard and worked honestly and worked for us – for ourselves – to make our own future.  We don’t expect anyone to fix our financial situation, that I know many people our age are in, we are in it and we work ourselves out of it.  It is economics.  We will never starve.  I know if we returned to live in the UK tomorrow that our government will make damn sure that me and my children will have a house and food if we ask – it may not be perfect but it would be there.  As British people we are very blessed in that respect, not a lot of governments in the world will look after their people that way.  Wherever in the world I live, I am glad I have that passport.  I am protected.  My children are protected.  We shall always have food and shelter and even education and when you boil it down what more does one REALLY need?  In reality we have no real reason to protest THAT violently.  If there is an issue, at least exhaust every avenue possible, OK it may not be perfect but at least if you have genuinely exhausted every avenue then maybe, just maybe, there is a cause for the masses to protest for.  The lack of an I-Phone, a plasma TV and Addidas track-suit is not just cause, and the actions of these people merely portray that, that is all they were concerned about – I refer you once again to the shops they looted........................

Where were the banners?  Where were the chants?  Where were the marches outside parliament?

Answer – there were none!

Why?

There was no REAL cause here.

People used a vague cause.  A vague grievance that they had against the government, that they did not feel passionate enough about to approach them, more of an excuse to cause mayhem.  To profit from.

They have ‘their tax money’ now.  Unfortunately they also have all of yours too!  It is in the plasma TV they are watching, whilst calling their ‘bro’ on their I-Phone and sitting in the designer outfit on the sofa they would have stolen if they could have got it home without being seen!!!!

The bottom line is these people had NO just cause.  IF they did they would have exhausted all other avenues, but none were even attempted!    These people are NOT deprived.  IF they were they would have stolen food and none descript clothes.  These people were violent, greedy and in the modern day description they were terrorists.  They terrorised their country and their own communities.

May God bless all those who have died.  May we support those affected. And may I never become that disillusioned that I would believe that ruining a society is the answer.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The One Where We camped in Pembrokeshire 2011!!!

Let's face it, camping is a re-enactment and grown up version of playing house and making dens from when we were kids.  We put up a canvas structure in the middle of a field, design a little kitchen and living space, bedrooms, a changing room and then we live in it - for the next 10 days!

I love camping.  I love the little things about it.  I love the fact that it is perfectly acceptable to walk around a field, surrounded by strangers, wearing your PJ's.  In no other community could you get away with this!

For us camping is great as during our summers we are constantly camped out around our families houses, which is fabulous, but for them and us, it is good for us to have a place where we can be alone as a family and our respective families can get their houses back for a short time.  It also acts as a base for us when we visit Pembrokeshire, combining visits and a holiday in one.

Most of all it is good for us as we are trying to give the kids the best of all worlds.  With our lifestyle of airport lounges, flights and private school we run the risk of raising city kids with no real knowledge of the real world around them.  Shamefully our kids already know at their young age how a hotel works, how an airport works, but their outdoor knowledge is limited.  Getting their feet all muddy, washing in a dribbly campsite shower, sand between their toes, climbing trees and most of all making their own entertainment with other children in the middle of a field in a commercial and technological age that we are all dependant on.

So off we went to Pembrokeshire, car very much packed.  It took a little longer than expected - over 5 hours due to being diverted off the motorway, which in true highways agency style there were no actual sign posts once leaving the motorway.  Many circuits later and back on the motorway, we arrived.  A beautiful sunny day.  We sat and had a picnic before we set up the tent.  The kids played in the park and 3 hours later the tent was up, everything unpacked and a very tired and hungry family!



Back in the car we travelled over to Pembroke Dock, went to Tesco’s and got real British fish and chips.  We went down to a place called Hobbs Point.  A place that has many memories, good and bad.  But this time the sun was setting and I saw a beauty in a place that I had once taken for granted.  Not just the visual beauty but the ability to experience such a momentary emotional beauty.



Back to the tent with full tummies and food ready for the next day.  We got the kids to bed after a scrummy hot chocolate and me and Jason sat with a drink and relaxed.  That night I went outside and saw the sky, it was simply beautiful.  I had forgotten just how many stars there were up there!  I saw a plane.  I have always looked up and wondered who was on them, where they were going and what they were feeling.  I would look up in envy, wanting to be sat in that cabin, going on an adventure.  But this time I looked up and wondered if those people were on as much of an adventure as we are.  This time there was no envy.  Just a level of wonderment and intrigue.  Maybe now I am settling.  Maybe now I am settling into a life that I am happy with.  A life that I am happy to be living.



During this trip I began to reflect and think a lot.  Sometimes it is difficult to do this, it conjures up a vast level of emotion, and there are many emotions I have to deal with, with returning to Pembrokeshire anyway, most of which people would have no idea of to meet me.  Happy, sad, excited, anxiety.  It is always difficult returning, but it is getting easier every year.  And next year we shall have to plan our visits much better as the emotional and physical toll it takes is a little too much!

For the first time I realised that I do actually miss the UK.  Well, some parts anyway.  In true yuppie style we had the TV in the tent with free view (something I said I would never do, but was actually a godsend on the rainy mornings when the kids couldn't play outside!)  We were watching the TV one evening when the kids were in bed and I saw an advert, I can’t remember what for (I think the advertising committee failed there!) but it had fireworks in it and I made me think of Bonfire night.  The smells and the feel of the autumn/winter air in the UK have a real homely feel to it.  Something we haven't experienced in a while.  It made me realise I miss the continuity of Britain.  The adverts we all see, and moan about when we are here, for summer, Easter, Bonfire night, Halloween, Christmas.  They all serve an obvious commercial and financial purpose, but they also give us that continuity we all need in our lives, which in turn gives us comfort, which we all lack appreciation for until we are without it.  Just think of the Christmas Coca Cola advert.............................(you are now all humming 'Holiday's are coming' to yourselves now aren't you?!)

I also began to reflect on friendships.  We had friends come to camp with us.  At one point there were 14 of us.  Meal times may have seemed chaotic with that many people, but they were in fact very organised affairs, noisy, but organised.  We had a roaring fire and toasted marshmallows too!  When I sat back and watched everyone tuck into their food, 3 families all together, I felt warm inside.  But there was a certain level of something I missed.  That familiarity. That family time that you can spend with other families.  Something that we have lacked over the past 2 years.  The constant in your friends and your children's friends.  But I comforted myself with the knowledge that what we have maybe very different, but it isn't necessarily bad.  In fact in some aspects it is better.



The first day of the holiday was glorious.  Real beach weather.  So off we went with picnic, beach towels, buckets and spades and sun cream down to Castle beach.  We even got Daddy in the cold British sea.  We were definitely on holiday!  Needless to say the weather didn't last; it rarely does in Britain, one thing I certainly don't miss!

Thankfully most of the rain was during the night times, so we didn't spend too much time getting wet.  During the 10 days we met up with the girls for the kids to all play together and for us all to have a catch up.  It was just like 3 years ago - the 'pre Ellie getting ill' baby club (we all met as our babies were all born around the same times).  I was incredibly anxious about the meeting, but it was surprisingly easy, and we all gossiped away like old times.



We spent a day on the beach that Jason used to go to as a child.  For him this place has so many special memories and now he is reliving them with our kids.  For him this must be very satisfying.  We climbed the rocks, poked sea anenomies, looked in caves and enjoyed the time, once again, with no technological interventions!



We didn't get to visit all the people we wanted to.  It is really hard, time wise, practicalities and the physical and emotional toll it takes.  Next year will be different.  We shall book a big table somewhere and everyone can meet us at the same time.  This way we can still enjoy some resemblance of a holiday without the constant pressure of who we haven’t been able to visit yet.  To all the people we didn't get to visit, we do think of you and we are sorry this time we didn't meet, but we will again I am sure, and true friendships will withstand the absence.

All in all it was a strange holiday.  Not necessarily in a bad way, in fact we had a great time, expensive, but great!  It was strange because of the varying emotions I had to deal with and the moments of clarity as well as confusion I overcame.

We will continue to camp there every year.  Every year I will get stronger in facing my demons that still lie there.  And every year I will learn to make more of our little trip away.  Our haven amongst the chaos of visits and organising we inevitably face every summer.  Every year it will get better.  And our city kids, that were once beach babies, will return to their roots and learn who they are and where they are from.  And hopefully at 15 they will still want to come camping with their Mom and Dad to the place we knew as home for so many years.