Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Moroccan Handicraft Week at Katara

One of the things we like most about living in Qatar is that we are exposed to so much more of the world than we ever were back home.  We get to meet people from every country imaginable.  Its a very eye opening experience being here and we love it.
A couple of weeks ago we went to the Moroccan handicraft festival at Katara.  Katara is a large organization that maintains/celebrates/and teaches about the culture here in Qatar.  From their website, "Katara was born out of a long held vision to position Qatar as an international cultural lighthouse, radiating in the Middle East through Theater, Literature, Art, Music, Conventions and Exhibitions." 


The festival had over 55 artisans in ceramics, handmade traditional clothing, handwoven rugs, metalwork, jewelry, carpentry, etc.  I wanted to take every single thing I saw there home with me!  It was all so beautiful.  I would love to travel to Morocco some day.  


I was especially interested in the booths that featured metalwork.  There was a jewelry booth with Tuareg jewelry, and I also found a man who did Damascene, although he told me that in Morocco they call it Damasquini.  His shop was amazing. 



Damascene is the process of inlaying fine silver (or other soft metals) into steel.  His process was very similar to the way I learned to do it, but the tools he used were slightly different.  I posted about my experience learning the technique of Damascene here.  If you are interested in looking at more of his work, his website is www.palaisdamasquini.com .  Theres a really good video on the website here.



 In this photo (above) you can see the texture that is cut into the surface of the steel (looks like cross-hatching) in order for the silver to be inlaid.




 And, Ellie got her first henna tattoo! 
 They put glitter on it...which only ended up making a huge mess.  But Ellie thought she was a princess!
We ended the night with a nice little stroll along the shoreline.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Still Here...

Since I last blogged, we have celebrated Christmas and New Years.  We have moved into our permanent housing, and settled (somewhat) into a normal groove.  I've gotten really behind and know I need to update this more.  My computer totally crashed and had to have major surgery, and I'd like to think I would have blogged sooner, but lets be honest, I've never been very good at this.  Anyway, suffice it to say that a lot has happened.  We celebrated our first Christmas ever away from home and family, which was hard, but not as bad as I thought it would be.  Thank goodness for skype, it made it possible for us to open Christmas presents with grandma and grandpa and almost (but not quite) made it feel like they were right there with us.  New Years was uneventful...we didn't stay up or watch a countdown or anything.  The bad thing about working in this country is that they don't have the same holidays (days off work) as we do in America.  So Scott didn't get Christmas or New Years day off.  That was a little strange.  We will have to get used to having other holidays off like Ramadan and Eid:)  Despite not celebrating New Years, I couldn't help but feel like this is going to be a special year for us.  This year we will be living in Qatar.  I will gain a new sister in law (my brother is getting married!!).  I will watch my baby turn 3, and I will officially pass from my 20's to my 30's (yikes).  I have no idea what else this year will bring but I know it will be full of change.  I'm looking forward to it.
Anyway, back to the update.  We moved into a "villa" at the beginning of November.  Villa is the term they use here for houses.  Ours is a stand alone villa on the outskirts of Doha.  Most of the people we know here live in compounds but we chose not to.  We like the solitude and quiet out where we are, but its also a little isolated.  We don't have the same community of expats that goes along with living in a compound.  Our villa came unfurnished, which in the states means that it doesn't come with furniture.  Here it means it doesn't come with furniture or appliances (like fridge, washer/dryer, stove, etc).  So that was interesting (and expensive).  Also, when you make a move in the states, you take a lot of your stuff with you.  When you move overseas like this (at least for us), it meant we left a lot behind.  We sold almost everything and put some things into storage.  We pretty much didn't bring any furniture except our beds and my jewelers bench.  So, we live in this 5 bedroom/4 bathroom mansion that is almost completely empty.  Its funny.  Its also hard because we feel like we are completely starting over.  I feel like I'm 18 years old and moving out of my parents house again.  I'm sure over time we will accumulate things but I know we will never fill this gigantic house.  Not that we need to, its way too big for our little family of 3.  They like to live very large here.  Almost all the homes have at least as many bathrooms as they do bedrooms.  And our house is small compared to how the locals live.  They also have lots of servants.  At some point Ill take some photos of the villas around our neighborhood that are owned by Qataris.  They all look like palaces.  Ellie calls them princess castles.  Despite how empty our villa is, its starting to feel like home.  Slowly.
Other than that, we are pretty much just trying to acclimate to every day life in this part of the world.  Life changed drastically for me when we moved here (for MANY reasons) but one huge struggle is that I haven't really driven at all since we got here.  I got an international drivers license before we came, only to find out that its not really very legal here.  So I drove once, thought better of it, and haven't driven since.  I got here October 1st...which means I haven't driven in over 3 months.  Losing the freedom that comes with transportation is really hard.  I can use personal drivers, which I do sometimes, but its expensive and not super convenient.  I have been incredibly lucky to make fast friends here with some ladies that attend the same church as us, and they have very generously given me rides to playgroups, cooking classes, and book clubs.  I think that's the only thing that has kept me sane, is these amazing people just scooping me up into their lives and making us feel so welcome here.  I've never been quick to make friends so it shocked me and has been a huge blessing that I really never would have expected.  Another major change is that I went from working 2 jobs that I loved, to being a full time stay at home mom.  It's been a little rough, just because I really loved teaching, but its also been really nice to be able to spend all my time with my little girl, and to be able to have nothing more on my plate than to just watch her grow.  She amazes me and I know she makes me a better person.  I am still looking for work here in Doha, but if the right job doesn't come along I will be content to be home with Ellie and just enjoy the time I have with her.  I also brought my bench and some tools so I can make jewelry at home and possibly teach private lessons.  
I think that's all for now...I will try to update more often:)  Thanks for hanging in there with me:)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Happy Halloween from Doha

 We celebrated Halloween last week...which was strange to me, because I wasn't really expecting to celebrate Halloween in Qatar.  Apparently there are lots of people here who do, so we joined in:)  Our shipment won't arrive until mid November, so all of my holiday decorations are still on a boat at sea.  We improvised and made our own Halloween decorations!
 Skull and crossbones snowflake,
 spider snowflake, 
 spider and bat snowflake, and 
 bat and jack o lantern snowflake!
 Ellie loved her mermaid costume and was excited to trick or treat for the first time (in Qatar of all places!!)
 She collected lots of candy because everyone thought she was so cute:)






Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Today something happened that broke my heart.
I took Ellie to the playground and there was a family there with 3 kids, probably ranging from about 4 years old to 7 or 8.  Ellie wanted to play but the kids kept running away from her.  At first they were just avoiding her but they quickly became more and more aggressive in their certainty that she not play with them.  They pushed her off some playground equipment, blocked her way to the slide, hid their toys, called her a baby, and continued to devise ways to get her away from them.  I simply observed and didn't get involved for a few reasons.  One, Ellie is so young and innocent she didn't even know what was going on and she wasn't upset,  two, i kept waiting for the adult with them to step in (never happened, I think she was a nanny and not a parent), and three, i honestly didn't even know what to do.  I was also a little shocked.  I know kids can be mean, but experiencing it yourself and then watching your (two year old) child go through it are two entirely different things.  
As a parent you want to protect your children from such hurt.  But you cant...and even if you could you shouldn't  because only by experience can they know what it feels like.  And that, that is the best way for them to learn never to treat others this way.  I know I am making a big deal from a small thing, but it really upset me.  It broke my heart to watch Ellie try so hard to make new friends and for her to be so thoroughly rejected.  It broke my heart because i know this is only the first in a lifetime of similar hurts, and there will be much greater sorrow in her life too.  It broke my heart because the children mistreating her were so young themselves.  It broke my heart because I know exactly how it feels to be the one excluded.
I hope more than anything that I can teach Ellie to never, ever treat anyone this way.  I hope to teach her love, compassion, mercy, humility, kindness, and generosity.  I hope she can grow up to be the type of person who, when she sees things like this happen, she steps in and makes the singled out person feel welcome.  I hope she seeks out the excluded, the isolated, and the secluded.  I hope she can be a true friend.

I know this experience probably affected me more today because I am alone in a foreign country without family or friends and am feeling lonely (although to be fair we have already met some fantastic and very welcoming people, but friendships take time).  I know I cant protect her from everything (and that i shouldn't).  I know i really have no control...but that doesn't make it any easier.  Being a parent is hard.  I always knew it would be, and I know this experience was nothing compared to others we will have, but again, that doesn't make it any easier. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ellies Couture Halloween


So...we didn't bring a Halloween costume for Ellie...because we are in Qatar and we figured they probably don't celebrate Halloween here right? Wrong. 
Apparently there are enough Americans that Halloween and trick or treating here exist. So, we found this picture (above) of a mermaid costume online and took it to a local tailor at the souq. We also went fabric shopping at the souq for the material for the costume.  We asked for a couple of small changes like sleeves but otherwise kinda left what they did up to them (as long as it looked like a mermaid).  They measured Ellie up, took our picture and fabric, and told us to come back in a week.

Here is a picture of the tailor shop.
Ellie getting her measurements taken.


 Checking out the final product with the tailor.
 So cute!!!  We love how it turned out and can't wait to take Ellie out for her first trick or treating experience (in Qatar of all places)!!
 Just in case you are wondering, this whole costume cost us less than $30 for the fabric and tailoring...which I thought was pretty dang awesome.  I'm going to have a hard time keeping myself in check because how cool would it be to go and have a bunch of dress up clothes made??!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

First Few Weeks in Doha: A Mosque, Singing Sand Dunes, and American Fast Food

Well, its been about 3 weeks since we arrived in Doha, and honestly I love it so far.  Its foreign and overwhelming and crazy, but there are things I really like about it too.  I think I will save that for its own post though. 
 
The first few days I was here we stayed in Scott's company apartment in downtown westbay.  The view of the city was incredible, and our apartment was also right by the beach.


I love how just outside the huge skyscrapers of the city, you can see the sprawling residential areas. 
  Our view of the water!
 But, we didn't stay in the company housing for long because it was very expensive and we needed to save some money to get into our own place.  So, we moved in with some very generous family friends.  We will probably be here about a month and half in total.  You can see the compound they live in below. 
 And, this is the house we are staying in (below), until we can move into our own place.  We found something but have to wait for the current renters to vacate in about a month.  Most of the expats live in homes like this, called "villas".  A lot of them are in compounds but some are stand alone.  The benefit of a compound is that it is often an instant community of people from the US, they have amenities like pools and playgrounds, and they also offer a small level of security (although it is very safe here).  They have the feel of a duplex or townhouse, or even apartments...except for the fact that ALL the houses/apartments here are HUGE.  I mean really huge.  We looked at tons of villas to rent and almost all of them were WAY more space than we needed.  They all have as many or more bathrooms than bedrooms!  Its crazy!  They don't do anything on a small scale here.  Anything.  And the cost of living is crazy.  The lowest prices for apartments is around $2200/month.  Most are upwards of $3800/month!  Most expats have their living expenses paid for by their employers, but its still just crazy how expensive living here is.  Anyway, when we move into our new place I will post more on that topic.
Last week was a Muslim holiday here in Qatar, Eid Mubarak.  The holiday is to celebrate Abrahams sacrifice of Ishmael.  For us, it meant that Scott got a few days off work.  It was nice because we got to do some touristy stuff like visit the singing sand dunes.
This is my favorite thing we have done so far.  Out in the desert there are these HUGE sand dunes.  And when the wind hits them, or when you climb up or down them (anything causing the sand to move) they make this crazy humming sound.  It’s a natural phenomenon that only happens in about 35 places worldwide.  Certain conditions have to be met in order for the sand to “sing”, such as the sand grains have to be round and between 0.1 and 0.5 mm in diameter, the sand has to contain silica, and the sand needs to be at a certain humidity.  People also say the dunes make a louder noise when it’s hotter outside.   It was pretty amazing to experience.  It sounded like a very loud, very low pitched humming.  And you could feel the vibration of it in your feet as you walked in the sand.  
 It was very hard to climb to the top of the dunes, the climb was really steep and as you climbed sand was just sliding down faster than you could make progress.  But getting to the top was worth the hike, the view was incredible.  I will remember that sight all my life.   We went with some new friends and had a bonfire and bbq at the bottom of the dunes.  It was really fun.  Ellie loved the sand and just rolled in it the whole time.  She didn’t want to leave.  We gave her a bath when we got home and I swear a half a cup of sand came out of her hair and off her body.  





I love the desert.  Its funny to me how different it is here, but also how many things feel so familiar.


Another thing we did while Scott was off was go to the State Mosque (Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Mosque).  The mosque is one of the largest religious structures in Qatar with an area of approximately 20,000m² (across three levels), a capacity for 12,000 worshippers and a land area of 175,000m². The main prayer hall has 28 large domes with a single minaret which is 65m in height.  It was beautiful.   

 We saw online that they would be giving guided tours, so we arrived at the Mosque and asked about the tour.  The security guard looked confused but told us that sure, we could go inside.  Hmmm.  Once inside, another guard said that I had to enter through the womens entrance.  So we walked all the way around (it was a long walk, that place was huge!) to the womens entrance.  At which they told me that I could not enter the prayer room with Ellie (no kids under 7 allowed).  So that was a bummer.  But we did get to walk around the hallways and main courtyard, which was amazing.  I would love to go back again sometime.  











One of the craziest things to me about Qatar is how many american chains are here.  Its unbelievable.  I mean, its the middle east!!  I guess Im just really surprised by how many american restraunts are here.  Mcdonalds, burger king, arbys, carls jr, dairy queen, chilis, macaroni grill, applebees, dunkin donuts, shake shack, krispy cremes, they are all here.  Ellie's happy about it...but I'm not, haha!

But I am happy to have found some of this!  Although I'm going to have to quit because soda costs like $1/can here and thats a habit I can't afford:)
And Ellie is happy to have found chocolate milk.  This girl is wanting for nothing...chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, and the world's biggest sandbox...what more could she ask for? :)
We'll post more soon!