Going Postal

The level of pot luck and guesswork required here to get even the most basic things done is little short of Olympic. Take posting a letter for example…

In descending order of effectiveness, here are the best ways to get a letter out of Qatar:

Going nowhere fast

As if to ruin my pithy observation about their rarity, I saw my second Q-Post van this week

1 – Personal courier: give your letter to someone travelling to your country of origin for them to post on arrival. An expat classic

2 – An actual courier: you know, an international company that tracks stuff, has a reputation to uphold and has done this before

3 – By owl

A very distant 4 – Using Q-Post, Qatar’s state-run mail operator.

I’m not sure what Q-Post staff do all day, because in two years of living here I’ve only ever seen two of their vans – and the second of those was just a few days ago.

But I know what they’re not doing: delivering post to your home anytime ever. The lack of a residential postal service is not surprising considering Doha is very much a work in progress, one where most of the streets have no name. Continue reading

Voluptuous Panic

As an expat you’re learning by trial and error all the time. Even something as seemingly simple as returning ‘home’ for the summer is riddled with challenges.

Up, up and away

Amnesiac puts his best foot forward

Our return to the UK last summer was a blur of logistics, shopping and travel and felt, once we limped back to Doha, quite exhausting. The overriding excitement at the prospect of our first holiday back home led me to completely overestimate how much we could fit in to a few short weeks.

But we’d been away for a full year – pinch, punch, first year of expat life, and no returns… – and I was determined to make the most of it. We crammed every spare second with a catch up or activity of some description.

Fast forward to this summer, and I thought I’d learned my lesson. We sent the kids back to Europe to stay with their grandparents and play outdoors, rather than keeping then cooped up here during Ramadan.

I hired a bigger car, arranged fewer circumnavigations of the UK and came back with fewer suitcases (the tally chart would show 15 in 2012 when we moved out; 10 including a sewing machine after our first summer back last year, and a measly six this year).

Partly it’s because Doha is changing and developing all the time, and more and more things we had on our home shopping list are now available here (if you’re prepared to pay the premium and zig-zag across town to collect them). It’s either that or we’re getting better at stockpiling, but the net result is the same: I have enough Marmite to see out the apocalypse, if anyone’s interested. Continue reading

The Sound of Silence

Summer in Doha: It’s 45C outside. You can’t eat or drink in public during daylight hours. And 10 weeks of school holidays have begun. Time to relocate the children…

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What kind of activities do you like to do when you’re on holiday? Spend some alone time in the sun with nothing but your Kindle and sun cream, maybe? Perhaps it’s snorkelling, hiking or practising your haggling skills in a bustling, noisy market?

Hatastic

Awaiting delivery…

But whether you’re into street food or skydiving, it’s safe to say that it probably wouldn’t include millinery.

Yes, millinery (that’s hat-making, Scrabble fans). Or editing a year’s worth of photos. Or assembling, hanging and fixing things. Or doing pension paperwork. Especially not pension paperwork.

And yet those are precisely the things that have Mrs LC and I have been happily filling our time with over the past week or so. It’s all stuff that’s been on our to do lists forever, but never quite makes it to the top because life – specifically, parenting – gets in the way.

The kind of things that seem to have been stuck there for centuries, like a mosquito in amber. Things I’d normally concoct outlandish excuses to avoid doing. (“Hey, Amnesiac! Want to recreate the iconic rope bridge scene from Temple of Doom using nothing but matchsticks and minifigs?”)

The reason for this eclectic selection of activities is that Family Little City is currently running on two parallel timelines, much like Sliding Doors, only with better English accents.

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Stay Another Day

We all need a break from Doha once in a while – but who knew you didn’t have to leave the city to get one?

Room with a view

On a clear day, you can see forever

Happy second birthday, Little City. Yes, this blog hit the terrible twos the other week. Two years of introspection, camels and parenting failures, gone in a flash.

But in all that time and all those words, the best (ok, only) freebie I’ve been offered as a result was a copy of The Entertainer (Dubai edition) – an offer I politely declined.

But then, as if karma, fate and serendipity had joined forces with the sole purpose of not letting the occasion go unmarked, the Grand Hyatt hotel right here in Sunny D, got in touch.

They really liked my blog – flattery will get you everywhere – and would I be interested in being their guest for the weekend and writing about it?

Do bears..? Is the Pope..?

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Doha-ha

An early summer heatwave shouldn’t have to mean waving goodbye to our sense of humour for three months as well

Living somewhere like Doha – a place that not many people have visited – means you’ll frequently get asked what it’s like here.

Good Morning Vietnam

“Were you born on the sun?”

Many adjectives come to mind – I’m sure all residents reading this will have some suggestions – but you’ll probably hear a variation on ‘dusty’ or ‘beige’. But at the moment, as we stand on the brink of summer, it’s mainly ‘scorching’.

Despite my best efforts at acclimatisation, this past week has been hard. Summer came early and with a vengeance, affecting everything. Every obligation or invitation is weighed up through a solar filter.

You may think I’m exaggerating because I’m from a country where talking about the weather is a national sport. You may think I have nothing to complain about because I chose to move to the desert, which isn’t exactly famous for its igloos and snowstorms, but blimey Charlie it’s been hot this week; Robin Williams-quoting hot; record-breakingly hot to be precise, and conditions like that rob you of all but the most basic functionality.

Continue reading