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Thursday, 30 June 2011


Well, I tried to write this post last night, but I just couldn't find the words. I believe in writing when you are feeling the emotion you are writing about, but yesterday it was too heightened and quite simply, words failed me.

So here I am today a little refreshed, still somewhat emotionally empty, but a little clearer, I think, on what I want to write!

Goodbyes, wow, so hard. I still cry at the airport when my Dad drops us off.

But this pain was something different and it made me ask myself why?

I think, with my Dad it is different, he is family, we are forever bound and therefore however much it makes me sad, I know we will stay in contact and see each other again. There is no doubt in mind with that.

When saying goodbye to friends there is always that doubt. You say you will see each other again, but is that for each other's comfort? Is that to make the goodbye easier? I know from my side it isn't but the fear that it is from theirs is what causes the angst. I am a true believer that a friendship worth having is a friendship worth working for and in this day and age it is so easy to keep in contact and to visit people. But the fear is, what if they don't feel the same? What if their goodbye is final? And you are unbeknown to that? And all the tears you cried were in fact for the end of a friendship? This is where the trust part comes in. You have to have faith. If you have truly made a connection with a person then you can and will have faith that the connection runs full circle and they too will be feeling the same as you do. The key is not to look for proof. We can believe in God with little more proof than spiritual signs, if you can do that, which I have learned here, then you can have faith in the power of friendship without a demand of written contract!

I will try and recant for you yesterday's events. Now, I am not sure if I can truly do this justice or accurately enough, but what I can guarantee is that it is from the heart.

This morning I took the children into school to say their goodbyes to the staff. They are being so passive about all of this, far less emotional than I have been. We did the rounds and I was feeling pretty much OK but we couldn’t find Grace's teacher, Suneetha. But me and the kids had to get the bus so headed to the bus stop. And at the very last minute we saw Suneetha coming down the street, she and Grace ran towards each other in what can only be described as a cliché movie moment. Only this wasn’t a cliché, this was real. Suneetha is the tiniest lady you will ever meet with the biggest heart! She held Grace in her arms like she was her own, kissing and loving her. I let them have their moment and went over to join them. Suneetha embraced me so hard, I could feel every ounce of emotion she was feeling.

That was the moment I fell to pieces, which I had vowed I wouldn’t do in front of the kids!!

Not only do I think an awful lot of Suneetha - as a mother, I saw how much she loves my little girl and how heartbroken she was for us to be leaving! She is a very special lady.

Jason came home from school and you could see he was hurting now too. He had kept it bottled in for weeks and today’s goodbyes were finally taking their toll on him. Once again the tears began, this time from both of us.

We had arranged to go and sit at Erika’s until the bus came to collect them. So at about 3.30 we took the kids to Farah, who so kindly looked after them as we didn’t think it would be a good idea to have the kids around, they didn’t need to be exposed to this.

When we got to Erika’s villa, there was a strange feeling in the air. We were all waiting for the same thing, and all wanted time to stand still in one way but wanted the inevitable emotional crumbling to be over with.

We hadn’t really talked much about leaving with Erika; we had been blindly ignoring the inevitable. We hadn’t really broached the subject in full, only vaguely touched on it on some of our late nights.

But it was happening now. And there was nothing we could do to stop time.

We all sat around, Jason, Erika, William, Lesley and myself. Not really knowing what to say. And then the bus came early.

As soon as I heard the horn of that bus I felt crushed. I didn’t know what to do; we now only had moments left.

I am an anxious person at the best of times. I’ve already had one panic attack in view here, now was not the time for another. As Erika got the rest of her things together, Lesley ran after the bus to get her luggage and I went to Narien.

Now Narien has done a lot of these goodbyes. She has travelled the world. She is strong in these situations. As soon as I passed though her door and saw her face, for which I knew would be the last time for a very long time at least, I crumbled! Narien was always a rock for me here. She gave me the world’s greatest hug when I arrived, just what I needed, scared and unsure in this place. She has mopped up my tears and has always been there. Someone I always knew would be there when I couldn’t cope myself. For the first time I saw tears in Narien's eyes. That very action was huge. Like I say she has done this a million times before and even though she has had such an impact on our lives, I didn’t think after all the people she has met that we had come close to having an impact on hers in that way.

She said two things that I will definitely take with me!
‘You have all enriched our lives!’
‘You don’t need to change; you just need to get a little stronger’

With the tears rolling, I went back to Erika.

Thankfully the bus had begun at the other end and was finishing where we were. I was glad of this, it would make it easier, everyone would be there, say goodbye and then leave, rather than us catching the bus up as we walked home, prolonging the agony.

Several hugs of Erika later, the bus was there and the guys got off the bus and helped get the rest of the luggage on.

Lesley came to us for her goodbyes. We haven’t known Lesley for long, but she became part of our little group very quickly, there was a vacancy for a person just like her!!!!  She is young and young at heart and not used to this, maybe even less used to it than me. She has found it hard because she is also saying goodbye to other friends she has met here, I’m not sure that our family has had quite the same impact as those other friends, but with us there is history. This is the girl who braved our doorstep to apologise to me. Now that may seem futile in print, but if you had seen the look on her face and the panic then you too would realise that this was quite a step for Lesley. In just a few months I have seen her grow and one thing I hope and pray for is she will find herself here. She will realise who she is and what she wants and she will grow strong. It is in there and she really is a very wonderful person. I am just glad we passed over the ‘difficult’ moment in our friendship because she is a friend worth keeping!

One thing she said to me before she left:
‘Be kind to yourself, you are beautiful inside and out, you just need to see it.’

More tears. (And not just at the time, as I write.)

Alwin and William – the boys! Obviously these goodbyes would be emotional in a different way. We need those boys in our little group; they balance us out – 3 boys 3 girls!!! And even though the emotional connection is different to that of the girls, it is still valid in its own right. They are good men and have been good to us – so I have instructed William to grow some hair and Alwin to get married and have babies!

Then came Erika.

The most heart wrenching goodbye of them all.

The connection here has been nothing I have ever experienced before. She has become a member of our family. She doesn’t need to knock our door; she doesn’t need to ask for a drink, she doesn’t need to work out where to sit at our table. And they are just the practicalities. There aren’t many people, in fact anyone, that has become so much a part of our family before and I truly doubt there ever will be again. This was a one off blessing. Saying goodbye to her was like saying goodbye to a member of your family leaving home. Spiritually she has changed me, religiously she has changed me. All of us. The experiences we have shared have been momentous and couldn’t be replicated in word, so I cannot even try. Erika has to be one of the most wonderful people I can ever say I have been blessed to share my life with. We all are. And anyone who is blessed enough in the future to come across her should also count themselves among the most blessed in the world. She gave me something that was missing in my life, I can’t put it into words, but that something was filled. I never have to justify who I am, what I want to say or what I mean. She just knows.

When she was arranging her things on the bus, I panicked, I thought that was it, what if she didn’t get back off the bus to say goodbye properly. A sense of calm came over me, knowing she would. And she did.

I found myself wanting to get everything out that I wanted to say, so she would have my words to take with her and she would know exactly how much I treasure our friendship. I got nowhere near doing this any level of justice!

In a mass blur of lots of words shared, she pulled back, still holding me and said:
‘Look at me. It’s all going to be OK.’

Once again, more tears (and not just at the time, again whilst I write)

I have never compared Erika to a sister, an aunt, a mother, like some friendships are because what we have is different. But that moment, how she was so strongly holding it together, there was a look in her eyes. A maternal look. You could see she was a mother. That she was strong enough to hold it together and give that reassuring look that mother’s give. Once again the Erika I know, holding back her emotions to allow other people to have theirs. One thing I said to her, was to always be true to herself and her feelings. To follow her dreams. She deserves to be happy. And I love her.

With that everyone was on the bus. Thankfully Jason grabbed me. And held me the tightest he ever has. He felt the loss too, but was there for me. I saw the bus leave and finally Erika let go. Her head in her arms. And I imagine as heartbroken as me. God Bless her and I will pray for her continued strength, her safe travels and peace and happiness. She has a footprint to carry with her and I have a heart to carry with me.

The long walk back to the villa.

Jason held me every step of the way.

My heart was so heavy; I couldn’t bear the weight on my own.

My fear is that I am not emotionally strong enough for this. I questioned whether travelling is the best thing for us to be doing. The past few years have been emotionally rough for us all and I had begun to gain strength here being around these people. I will no longer be around these people. I know in Qatar the situation will be very different to what we had here and to a degree that scares me. We are going into the unknown, with no safety net around us. And without our friends there. I know we shall make new friends but it could never be like this. I am grieving. Not for lost friendships, as I know they will continue to blossom, but for the other things we have lost. Things that cannot be recreated or relived. But as with all grief you have to learn to hold on to the precious moments, the memories and the adventures. And the difference with this grief is we get to stay in contact and we get to meet again. So we have not lost everything and in time I will realise we have not lost anything, we have gained. We have gained true friendships that few are blessed to have in this lifetime, so in time I will stop grieving for moments lost and treasure the moments had.

This is for my friends.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The One Where We Started to Say Goodbye

So the time has come to start with the goodbyes. As a very wise friend recently said to me: Some people struggle more than other people with endings. I think I am one of those people!

There is no doubt in my mind that we are making the right decision, in fact a great decision. Qatar is going to be great for many reasons and we will settle in and we will make friends and we will have fun.

But that is only after we leave here.

I think I underestimated this.

When we came here I thought it would be ok to be leaving, moving around the world, I didn’t think that in the relatively short time we would be in each country we would be so emotionally involved with people. I naively believed that we all live like passing ships, therefore making it easier to leave.

How wrong was I?

The kids have left school now. They have both taken it very much in their stride and Joey especially seems very passive about the whole thing.

The tears began when grace received a card from her class. Her teacher had also commented in there saying - Remember, study well. Sweet little bunny! I wish you a bright and beautiful future. Be a good girl and lead a good life, I love you so much Grace! I'll miss you a lot. I was so deeply touched by what she had written. Gracie really struggled to settle in school, to the point where one day we had to take her out kicking and screaming, but since then she has become so happy there and to know how much her teacher loves her was really moving. That card is one of our many keepsakes that we are taking around the world!

Later that day came our first goodbye. Sadia was leaving for the UK. As we left her villa to go to the kids’ school a deep well of emotion began to overflow. Thank goodness I had my sunglasses on to hide the tears! this was quickly followed by a few goodbyes at school. Suneetha, graces teacher came to me to thank me profusely for the picture and frame I had given her and in return she gave me a lovely wall hanging her niece had made by hand. These are the gifts that sit on peoples walls that will forever invoke such memories from a person’s past every time they look at them. a private journey back in time.

So this was when the real magnitude of all this hit me.

A period of long drawn out goodbyes.

In some ways it would be easier if we could say of goodbyes in one day and get on the plane and leave them behind. Then it would be just one set of tears, one set of emotions, and just one emotional event to recover from. But we will be the last to leave. So instead we shall be left to feel the change and to feel the emptiness of this little bubble we live in.

The people I have met here have enriched my life. They have entered our lives and our family. these are friendships that it is hard to close the door on. And these are the friends that it is hard to say goodbye to. Inevitably this is going to be a difficult week, I don’t feel myself, and in a way I just want it over with. I am not usually one for public displays of emotion but I think this week may become an exception!

People never really know the profound effect they have on your life. How they impacted your life with such happiness and how things they have said or done will stay with you forever. I can only hope that one day I can have a small percentage of that effect on other people's lives.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The One with the Ma'asalama Party!

After the turmoil of the emotional breakdown, the divine moment and the strength and power of my friends, the party was back on!

But only because of three of my very dear friends who must take credit - Erika, Farah and Sadia. Knowing they were there by my side to help deal with this made me strong enough to go through with it. Not without a little (correction - a lot) of anxiety!!!

I had already planned what to do when, what, how, where and why, in true Ellie style! So putting it together wouldn't be a problem!

Erika gave a heartfelt speech to the staff at school (although in their defence - re my previous post) a lot of them, were equally as upset not to have the party and to have had so much upset caused!

So lots of cooking on Wednesday evening and up at 5am on Thursday - I hadn't really been able to sleep all week anyway! I finished off the food I had to do and then it was time for decorations.

We had planned a street party - something different with BBQ's on the go and a general happy feel.

The decorations proved somewhat tricky and through stress and sheer frustration nearly ended up in divorce!!!!! But then don’t all parties?? With the slight wind ripping a lot of them so much time was spent on rescuing them id didn’t get to do all the decorations I had planned in my mind! But Jason and William saved the day and painstakingly repaired the ones that were up. As well as collecting tables, chairs and BBQ's from everyone!

Now the nerves were really setting in.

I had my bath with the kids and started to get ready. Time was running out and so many thoughts were running through my mind! Would people come? What would people think? Would it rain?

A few deep breathes and a set of curling irons later, I was ready and so was the family. In true Erika fashion she arrived to keep the Lloyd family under control! And with a few last minute things to do, guests started to arrive and Erika played the wonderful role of hostess for us. A massive weight off my mind!

We had a wonderful turnout. Some of which I will mention here!

Graces teacher, Suneetha, came - much to my surprise and even more to Grace's surprise!!! She was over the moon!!! So excited and so, so happy that this lovely lady who she adores had come to see her!!! Magical!!!!!

Afaf, the Arabic teacher came - this was a huge compliment. This lady has a family and works fulltime and has to travel, the very fact she took the time to come here for us was incredibly flattering and I was truly touched!

Lots of Jason's pupils came, some with their parents, the respect that they showed for him was beautiful to see. It must have been a huge compliment to him and areal confidence booster in the job he does.

Some of the children's friends came with their parents - this was particularly lovely, because it is not like in the UK where you meet the parents at the school gates, we are all so separated from each other in this place. So it was great to see them and spend time with them.

The teachers from Iskan 2 were here in strong force!!! To trusty 6, the ones who have always to come to everything we have done with such enthusiasm - Erika, Narien, Phil, Patricia, William and Deema - I can always rely on those guys to show their support.

My other friends from here, Farah, Sadia and Hina - all here and much to Hina's surprise that the street party was a great idea. That meant a lot!

The support staff from the school, Corrine and Joan - again this was fantastic; they have to travel in to come to such an event. And Azzar and her family, who are always wonderful to see - especially that Azza always infectiously laughs at my jokes making me feel like a million dollars!!

There were other people too, and to each and every one of you I was truly touched that you came, we all were!!!

The whole evening was so much fun. Especially the confetti cannons that I couldn’t set off. Did anyone rush to help?? No it was far too hilarious to take pictures!!! Much to my delight it took Jason and one of his students some brute force to get them open!!! But when they did the kids LOVED it!!!

Narien gave a speech, of which choked us both with such emotion! She has a wonderful ability to make a person feel so special. A gift I feel blessed by.

After the sunset and food people began to make their way home. Farah, Imran, William and Erika all helped with the mass cleanup operation and once the kids were in bed we had chance to sit and reflect.

It was a wonderful party, spent with beautiful people. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I thank everyone who was there, I thank everyone who made it happen and to you all, you have made a special impact on our lives and we shall treasure that gift wherever our travels take us. You are all incredible and special people who have touched our lives in many ways. May you all be blessed with happiness.

The One With the Divine Intervention!

I have thought a lot about how to write this blog, in reference to my previous post. I considered taking it down. But after some thought I realised I need to stay true to my feelings and the previous post was how I felt.

The hurt of how we had been treated affected me deeply. I am an anxious and emotional person at the best of times and it very much exacerbated my feelings. On Tuesday evening I decided to go for a walk to try and clear my head somewhat. Along the way I dropped into Erika's to take something round. She invited me in. At the time, I was thinking no, but went in anyway.

The obvious topic came up. Poor Erika having to listen to it. And then all my emotions - of everything collided into an emotional meltdown. Now most people around me will see me explode at one time or another, an unfortunate symptom of my passion, but tears and panic are two things I normally keep to myself. I am not one for public displays of emotional wreckage. So even though my emotional fallout may have been somewhat of a burden to Erika, in a funny kind of way it was indeed a compliment. A mark of trust.

Once slightly calmer, and somewhat statue like as described, Erika turned to her bible. To find the words that may go some way to fix this. There were a few profound comments within this. One of which (and I am obviously paraphrasing here!!!)

When you don't have the strength to fight anymore the lord will do it for you.

I had reached my point where I really didn’t have the energy to fight anyone or anything, and if some divine spirit was there to help, then I was willing to take anyone’s help.

After she read this to me, my initial thoughts were that of, thanks for your kind words and an almost envy that people could have such a faith in something. To be honest I gave it very little thought after then.

Erika walked me home with some flowers and that was that.

Until about half an hour later

Then the strangest thing.

I had the most surreal sense of calm wash over me. Almost miraculous. I was still hurt so why did I suddenly feel this way? Trust me calmness doesn’t overwhelm my spirit easily!! I suddenly smiled, for the first time in days. Felt stronger. But nothing had happened. Really nothing at all, I wasn’t even thinking of anything I was simply ready for bed! But had something happened?

I thought back to the things Erika had said to me. Had God answered her prayer? Had god fought for me and given me strength to fight myself?

I was never sure of religion before this, I have been a confused woman sat on the fence for a while now. But this somewhat changed me. I didn’t go looking for divine intervention; I wasn't even thinking of religion. And yet when I wasn’t looking, something magical happened, without warning, without searching and without asking.

Well at least, I didn’t ask.

But I believe someone else did.

That very moment changed me. However much of a cliché it may sound it really did. Something happened to me that evening without any effort on my part; I didn’t have the emotional energy or will. But it still happened.

I only have one explanation for the feeling I had.............

God answers prayers (Erika - FB status 2011)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The One Where We Got Hurt For The Very Last Time!!

So once again there are tears before bedtime - once again in the Lloyd household - the tears are mine - I have protected the kids from this and Jason is far stronger than me!!

When you live in a situation like we are in, however much you strive not to, you live in a strange kind of bubble. For anyone planning on travelling in the same way as us, I hope you can take a lesson from this post. I have certainly learned my lesson - the hard way.

Here we are about to leave what has been our life for the last two years. We have made some great friendships and I always thought affected people's lives in a positive way along our journey.

I am beginning to rethink that disillusion now.

It is somewhat of a tradition here to have a Ma'aslama party before you leave. We have always hosted parties - from Christmas to Easter to welcome dinners and BBQ's. They have not been selfless acts, of course, they have obviously benefitted us but predominantly they have been for others. Christmas - to get everyone in the spirit ready for them going home, Easter to help ease homesickness, welcome dinners - for the obvious to make people feel welcome. And yes of course we enjoyed organising and having these parties. But this party was for us. Just about us, for once!!!

Now the norm is to have the party at the rec centre, this always starts and finishes late - and let's just say you often get unwelcomed guests!! So I planned something different. We are a family and we wanted this to be reflected in our party. So I had planned a street party to start at 3pm and go onto into the evening. We would decorate the street, make the cakes and salads etc. Light BBQ's all up the street for people to bring their own meat to cook - a community kind of feel, stretching as far as the Mexican Mardi Gras feel to the South African bring and bri.

Something completely different, but so much fun.

We have been so excited for this for ages. Our final party. The big one!!! Would be so much fun!

It was not to be. And why?

Because inevitably people will always let you down. It must be part of the genetic makeup. People are by nature selfish creatures. Although on the most part good people keep this in check and never let it affect others. There are some that don't and these are the ones that cause hurt!

Our party became insignificant and unimportant to others. After all the things we have done and tried to do. After the good we have treated others with. there could not be one night that was just about us. Where those people would be there for us, instead of us being there for them.

And what hurts the most, is it actually doesn't matter to most people. The person it is mattering to the most right now is me, the one who is hurt right now is me!!! Jason is obviously hurt, but he has a gift to protect himself, he never allows himself to get that close to people. He never opens his heart to people. The kids, well I have managed to salvage something for them, I will go into their class and do a little party for them both at school. If you phrase things correctly you can pretty much convince children anything is a good idea!

So then there is me, sat her typing away, devastated and humiliated. I just wanted us to have our party. to celebrate our time here and the end of the beginning of our journey around the world. As I said before, people are selfish, and yes it is a selfish act that I wanted this for us, but it wasn't selfish at the expense of others - And that is the difference between me and them!

But, you know it isn't about the party, the party is the catalyst, the party is what has highlighted the truth to me. The party just happens to be the storyline for my lesson. And it may seem a little futile to some, but this is at the end of a cummilation of crap that we have had to bare!

Soon we will be home, sooner than planned if I can change my flight, and then we shall be in Qatar. We will be saying goodbye to this place without a goodbye. But from now on people are going to have to earn a place in my life. No longer will I be the one making the effort to keep everyone together and included, to organise the parties, to make people for welcome, that can now be someone else’s job. Because at the end of the day if I do all these things, who will really be there for me and my family when we need these things doing for us??!!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

The One Where We Just About Crossed the Qatar Border!

Well the car needs to get to Qatar and so do our belongings - best way, drive the car packed with stuff - or so you would think!!! Despite an array of the Ellie lists this trip did not go as planned! It may seem somewhat of a negative blog, but I will endeavour to find the positives! They are in there somewhere!

So what can happen over 3 days and 2 nights? You'd be surprised!

We have had a mountain boxes stacked high for a few weeks now, and it was time to get them in and on the car. An operation executed with military precision if I do say so myself! Food prepared for the kids and Erika for the weekend and timetables and lists at the ready for all of our most wonderful friends who were taking care of the kids for the 3 days! We are now pretty much ready to go.

5am I am up getting the last few things together and the kids ready for school. Erika arrived to take pictures of the car and the beginning of our journey and her and Lesley took the kids into school for us. Hand luggage in and we are ready to go.

Four hours sleep isn't the best way of starting a journey but needs must. It should take us about 13 hours to get to the border and hour to cross and another hour to the hotel - we should be there by 10pm, Best laid plans.............

We took route 10 up to Hofuf and then route 85 down to the border - unfortunately there was a diversion, which was a diversion that actually took you in a circle back to the same place, add to that the traffic in the city - we had just added 2 hours to the journey. No problem we should still be there by midnight, enough to enjoy a little beer and a good night’s sleep before visiting the school.

We finally arrived at the Saudi border at 11pm. (so now we are definitely looking at 1am!!) There’s a problem, although a 24 hours border crossing, the export office is not! Therefore we can cross but our car can't. We are asked to park up. A supervisor comes down and says we cannot cross. We had spent money on a hotel in Qatar we have to go, we are due at the school at 9am, we REALLY have to go! They suggest we get a taxi to Doha and come back tomorrow - hmmmm not really going to work as that would mean exiting Saudi and re-entering - the visas only allow single visits not multiple. They suggest we stay a hotel in Saudi - why spend money on a hotel when we have already done so for the other side? And aside from that, exactly what kind of hotel are we realistically going to fin at this time of night, we have been in that position before and trust me was not the kind of hotel you want to visit! The supervisor went off and never returned. Leaving us stranded there. I asked at the border booth several times for him to return and nothing. After about 1 1/2 hours I reached my limit. Walking over to the booth I stopped the traffic. I demanded the manager now! To which the guy replied well let me deal with these other people and then I will call him. No way!!!! I had already waited long enough, and I am not moving until he is down here. Ultimately I blocked the border, which I am pretty sure is a criminal offence, but desperate times and all that! Funnily enough, police cars appeared, probably the strangest thing they have come across at this border I am sure. Thankfully these guys restored my faith in humanity and agreed we could not be left there. And also one of the police supervisors was from Khamis and spoke very good English and he made sure that we got sorted.

400 SAR later (a back hander to pay the guy they got out of bed to do the paperwork) we exited Saudi, so now all should be fine.......................shouldn't it??

Well, if you thought that the above 2 1/2 hour fiasco was bad, that was child's play in comparison to what was waiting for us at the Qatar side!

A mile or so through no man's land and we reach the Qatar border. 200 SAR for our visas, ok no probs expected that, drive to the next booth to which the lady says go and park with the lorries?? We ask why, she gets on the phone and says ok no problem drive through. One more gate that's it and we are done!!!!!! No such luck! They tell us we have paperwork missing. Not very clear on what and tell us to go through by the lorries to customs and they will sort it no worries!

Ok so a bit of a pain in the arse, but we do that and we will be on our way.

Got to the office. Does anyone have a clue as to why we are there? No, of course not. You would think this was the first ever car imported in Qatar. We are passed form pillar to post, and through limited broken English given 10 different stories. Ultimately we cannot enter. Telling us to go back to our bank in Saudi and get paperwork - which we have and has nothing to do with the bank. Also told to go into Qatar get our employer to write us a letter and come back! Every option was completely unreasonable and beyond impossible. We have to get the car and things over now and only now!!! Finally we are told if we pay tax we can take the car over. Tax?????? In a GCC country? We argued this for a while and eventually gave in and said right fine take the money and let us go. To which the idiot behind the counter decided he no longer spoke English. Lord knows if there hadn't been a barrier between us I think I would have introduced him to the back of my hand by this point!

Another of their arguments was that you couldn't take a car into Qatar unless you were a resident, however you cannot leave Saudi on a final exit if you still own a car in the country - so what to do???!

With all the commotion another guy came in to help. (Which surprise surprise we ended up having to pay a back hander to in the form of 100 SAR!!!!!!) Although his help was somewhat idle only moving as the tone in my voice increased!! He also couldn't tell the time as his 10 minutes were the equivalent of 45! By this point I had threatened to drive the car across myself and that they would have to physically stop me with a gun!

By this point we had been up for about 24 hours - travelling for about 21 hours. Exhaustion would be somewhat of an understatement! So we follow the man from office to office, across truck filled car parks to go back to customs, where the original said obnoxious refused to do it. After all this!!! They wanted money, we offered, they wanted paperwork we gave - what more did they want my bloody sanity because I was pretty sure at this point it was lost without a trace!

This was the moment I couldn't take anymore. We were stuck in no man's land - not in Saudi, not in Qatar, we had nowhere to go, not even anywhere to get some water and red tape, bad manners and made up rules had us trapped. We were away from our babies (although partially thankful as I am glad they didn't have to suffer this with us. Exhausted, emotional and physically battered and dehydrated I reached my point. I collapsed to the floor, couldn't breathe and was in inconsolable tears. I couldn't take anymore. We had nowhere to go. The most isolating feeling in the world. My husband stepped up with his last ounce of strength to hold me. A real man.

During this the police were there once again. They had witnesssed this last moment and fully understood that we could not just be left.

Finally someone with jurisdiction over the rude, manipulating idiot behind the counter.

So 2400 SAR later and we are allowed to take the car across into Qatar.
By this point it was 5.30am. Jason was beyond tiredness and still had to drive. At one point falling asleep at the wheel. Taking one single kilometre at a time we finally ended our 1500km journey and arrived at the hotel at 6.30am, 23 hours after we started. Thank goodness!!

Looking somewhat shabby for a nice hotel, we check, to be told that breakfast is not included – OMG, not another problem.
Just take me to my room!!!!
Thankfully five minutes later we are called and breakfast would be included.
I pay for the internet to email the school to change the time they were due to collect us. Breakfast thrown down the hatch, bath and a little sleep for an hour. Fully refreshed? Not likely! But a little more human, enough so to meet people.
So we leave the hotel for the school at about 10.45. Welcomed into a lush air conditioned building, after the intense Qatari heat!
So this bit I shall keep short – The head of secondary took us around the school, we saw the infants, junior and senior sections. Fabulous place, so well resourced, pools, art, music, sport. A nurse and counsellor in each section, swimming lessons for every child – just perfect. I was particularly impressed with the junior and infants. So colourful, smiling staff, happy kids!!! I want my kids to go to that school! And I am VERY glad they are.
We also looked at the apartment, was a little difficult to picture at first as there is still some work to be done, but once we sat with Mona, we understood what was going where and how it would look. The compound is lovely, clean, pool, gym, everything we need.
We went back to the hotel, had a little bit of lunch, enjoyed a few glass of wine and a seriously overdue nap!
The head of secondary had invited us out for dinner that evening. Even more wonderful to meet people on a social level too. It is always so nerve wracking, what will they think of us, will they ‘get’ us, and will they be glad we are moving there. Will we make friends like we have made here? So many questions, so many emotional doubts, most of which we have no control over.
After much confusion on times and when we were to be collected from the hotel, we finally managed to join the Head and his wife. They had waited for us for an hour, with remarkable patience, or at least any loss of patience was certainly not displayed in our direction!! We had a Chinese meal at the Ramada hotel. The food was delicious and the company was fantastic. We all chatted from a professional point of view as well as a social perspective, easing many fears and doubts and answering our many, many questions! I just hope they enjoyed the evening as much as we did!
We arrived back to our room at about midnight after having a short walk around the hotel grounds. Our plan was to get up early in the morning to enjoy the pool and beach. No such luck. After almost 3 days of less than a total of about 8 hours sleep we were shattered. The 7am alarm was ignored and we awake at 10am.
We enjoyed a lovely calm breakfast together; talking over what had been a somewhat turbulent few days! Back to our room shared a huge bath and a bottle of beer before leaving for the airport.

On the car ride to the airport we got to see a lot of Doha, the green green grass, the clean streets, the sea, the amenities, so many things to do and see.
As for the airport, well that was great. Very user friendly, the duty free shops are all together, and make great viewing (and buying!!!) so a few gifts for our friends and the kids, we went upstairs. Here they had free internet, charging stations, a family room, a quiet room with reclined seats for people to sleep, a children’s play area and food that didn’t cost you a second mortgage to eat! I was very impressed, which is good as we shall be using this airport a lot over the next two years!
Two flights later and we arrived home.
Straight to the kids rooms to see them sleeping, and image that I had held onto for the last few days.
After a quick catch up with Erika and Farah and our parents we collapsed into bed.
The weekend was over.
The perfect weekend that was planned with lists for every eventuality was beaten by red tape that doesn’t even exist. It turned into disaster. But after every storm the sun will shine. And it rose for us and we pieced together what was left and salvaged the good points and focused on the positives.
And the perfect ending came this morning when I awoke to a Joey hanging round my neck in bed, saying how much he missed me and loves and he was so glad we were home. Family is what matters.
Family is all that matters!