Saturday, July 26, 2014

Three Years, 300 Words

We're in Ireland this week!

atop Trim Castle, Ireland

This vacay day, I offer a summary of the last three blog years with links to 5 essays per year:

Initial blogs outline Bob's experiences setting up housekeeping, adjusting to a 6-day work week, searching for the Catholic Church. There's info about Eid al-Adha, a photo tour of the Pearl, and an explanation about how to obtain a license to drink in Doha.

Katie and Kimber

Katie, Kimber and I make our first trip across the world and Bob earns his temporary driver's license after a three month effort.

After seven trips over land and sea I am an official expat spouse. No more airport lines; Qatar Airways' Silver Status travelers board at will. (Today, ahem, I am a Gold member.)

Learn about Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser's job site chicken coop in The Sheikha and the Chickens. Update: the chicken coop and garden, a nod to the Koranic garden, a green space that includes plants from the Koran - was unceremoniously removed in 2013.

Watch a video (with translation) of the Call to Prayer and see a giraffe giving birth. Sit with me as Qatari college students share a favorite gulf tradition with elementary school aged girls, and participate in the gymnastics event that is the Qatari greeting.

washing windows at Zig Zag Towers

Discover How to Get a Speeding Ticket, live Five Moments in Doha and get to know Qatar's Money. Finally, Dear Expat, About Your Cleavage is an open letter to the sparsely dressed Doha expat.


We hang with our awesome expat family in a finicky climate. I attend a Qatari Wedding and a Qatari Women's Association event with Kimber and Kitty, Bob's mom. Our beautiful son, Chris stops by.

And the adventure continues!

Friday, July 18, 2014


smoke from burning tires
clouds the summer sky
the street a river
of bottles old food
used toilet paper
raw sewage and blood
three families sleep
in one room share one
bath one cold kitchen
one bare yard the smell
of perspiration
salted with dread
Zionist settlers
build a wall depress
a population
with economic
servitude hatred
desperation death
soldiers with machine
guns tanks grenades gas
comb ghetto alleys
for children with stones
little boys with sticks
moms with wooden spoons
families fight back
with homemade weapons
rebels dig tunnels
martyr themselves as
modern explosives
made in USA
rain on tenements
settler zealots
"God's Chosen People"
bulldoze ghetto streets
withhold water and
murder fathers jail
teens assault children
as world media
reports terrorists
attacked innocent
settlers who were
fishing for salmon
in West Bank streams and
Gaza lakes today
smoke from burning tires
clouds the summer sky
the street a river
of bottles old food
used toilet paper
raw sewage and blood
a symbol of the Palestinian resistance
sticker affixed to a Doha car window

Friday, July 11, 2014

Minding My P's and Q's

beautiful, energetic, my mama
She's dynamite in white: pants, shirt, shoes, socks. Even her mop of curly hair is iced in frosty hues.
Multi lingual army brat, homecoming queen, degreed. She's a busy professional who operates her own business, jogs, lifts weights, writes. A stranger once stopped her on the street to rave over her multi colored aura but you don't have to read it to see it: energy shoots from her eyes, radiates off her skin, envelopes friends and others. She's a light in the darkness, a campfire on a cold night, a rocket soaring through the sky.
"We travelled from California to Missouri and all along the way people offered me their seat," she laments. "As if I were old."
I suggest the deference wasn't due to incorrectly assessed infirmity but because she's a woman, professional, of a certain age and worthy of respect. She rolls her eyes.
"Did you take the seat?" I ask.
She nods, smiles. " Yes, of course."
respect your elders, youngun
(Katie and her grandpapa)
My mama taught me this: say please and thank you, excuse me, yes, ma'am, no, sir. Don't play your music too loud, do offer your seat, flush. These universal niceties are one's P's and Q's and apply no matter where you are in the world…plus a few more:
In Qatar
Adherence to the cultural expectation of modesty is considered good manners and respectful too. Plus, when supping from a communal dish one should use the three fingers on the right hand, eat from the area nearest you, don't blow on your food. Hold the door and stand so that others enter first, to your right. An older-than-you female relative or stranger is called "aunt" or her kunya is used to address her. Adult women refer to young girls as "Mahmah" to bestow a kind of pre-respect. Deference is shown to a man with the title "uncle."
But, wait, there's more:
"…I go to the ground floor of our house and my children rush to kiss my head…I start by greeting 'Al-Salam Alaikum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh', and try to find my mother. I kiss her on the head, then do the same for my father. My siblings and nieces/nephews would be queuing to kiss my head…"
That's right, older family members - and senior strangers within the culture - receive kisses to the top of heads from younger others. It's respectful, deferential and expected.
Doha billboard
be respectful: don't spit!
In Philippines
Unofficially Filipinos comprise the second largest expat population in Qatar (after Indians). They are nannies and maids, clerks, administrative assistants, receptionists, drivers, mechanics, nurses, doctors and more.
"If Filipinos left Qatar, everything would come to a screeching halt."
- commonly heard (in country)
Some young Filipina mothers don't see their children for years as adults often leave home to provide for the family. Most come to Qatar alone, leaving children behind with grandma. It's no surprise that Filipino families are very close, with a strong, culturally imbued respect for elders.
"…conservative families expect children to practice the kissing of hands or placing their parents or elder family members' hand to their foreheads with the words 'mano po'…"
Remember to say please and thank you and press the back of auntie's hand to your forehead.
In America
Lush groves, rattling trucks and hog sized motorcycles with riders in camo doo-rags. Someone's mama drives a rusted Buick which passes an Amish buggy on a highway flanked by fields of corn, clover and Queen Anne's lace. Where just-folks wave to strangers, the American flag unfurls over the quik mart and the downtown McDonalds does a brisk noon business.
The highway between Springfield and Kansas City: the heart of America's heartland.
I pull into an empty parking space, step across the busy drive-through lane. In front of me swagger two teenage boys in CAT caps, baggy jeans, black tee shirts and scuffed, untied tennis shoes.
One boy pauses at the door. He holds it and stands so I might enter first, to his right. "After you, ma'am."
My heart swells with pride for his mama.
"R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me…"
-Aretha Franklin, "Respect"

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pork, Beer and Independence: 5 Joys, 5 Hardships

The US may be out of the World Cup in Brazil but it's still red, white and blue in the United States. It's Independence Day - when twenty somethings lounge on party pontoons at the lake as fireworks explode in the sky. Children run in circles in the middle of the street with sparkle sticks clenched in fat little fingers. Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles tip a cup from lawn chairs on driveways before garages turned into neighborhood party rooms. Families hold hands and lower heads in prayerful thanksgiving over tables loaded with potato salad, hot dogs, chips, dip, 5 bean casserole and coolers full of red punch and Bud Light.
Everyone, everywhere, it seems, with shoulders and knees bared, eating pork, drinking wine, celebrating God and freedom in his or her own way.
Life in America is more than MTV, People of Walmart and the ability to buy pork and alcohol in any local grocery store wearing a tank top and Nike shorts. Here are five more things a Middle Eastern expat might find fulfilling about a stint stateside:
1. Benadryl, ice, (fresh) Cheezits and Twizzlers (sorry, Bob) available for purchase at any local grocery store or convenience mart.
2. The ability to wash and dry multiple loads of laundry in less time than it takes to walk barefoot across the Sahara backwards carrying loads of soggy misshapen shirts and pants that will never dry no matter how long the machine cycles or the wet air blows.
small person, warm rain, great joy
3. A dance in the rain - in the middle of the street, at the park, downtown, or pretty much anywhere you want.
4. To hug, kiss, hold hands with same or opposite sex friends and loved ones while standing on a stage at a busy mall at noon (or wherever).
nope nope nope
5. Surf the internet without once getting "this site is blocked by your country" or "this program isn't licensed for viewing in your location."
Life in America isn't all bare skin, pulled pork, internet excess and champagne. Here are five hardships stateside Middle Eastern expats endure:
1. The necessity to open your own doors.
2. Entrance fees at museums, exhibits, fairs, the zoo.
3. Scrubbing out the bathroom p-trap using a kitchen knife and (ugh) fingers.
4. Forget full service gas stations with prices less than $1.00; you gotta pay in advance (to prove you can afford it?) and pump your own gas.
5. You must get out of your car, enter the food court or other eatery, collect your own tray and - seriously! - bus your own table.
smiling at his daddy, snuggled up to me
Babies and grandbabies, the zoo, happy hour, Walmart, chugging water in public at the height of Ramadan. It seems that life in America is perfect. But the Middle East has something the US doesn't: this hard working guy with his can-do attitude, cute dimples and gorgeous shiny hair.
Bob, continuing the adventure: year three