Kicking the Bucket

Bucket lists are all wrong. Dwelling on places you haven’t been is a one-way ticket to regret and dissatisfaction. Except…

(Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama crosses Stonehenge off his bucket list

Have you got a bucket list? If so, you’re far from alone. We all have crazy, ridiculous dreams, whether it’s running a marathon, taking the plunge and moving abroad, or just driving across Doha without getting either mown down or marooned in traffic. We can all dream, right?

Even President Obama has one, as he cheerfully admitted when taking time off from the NATO summit in Cardiff last month to pop over the border into England and cross Stonehenge off his.

Living a life of potentially-unfulfilled hopes is no life at all. But having floated in the Dead Sea last month, I’ve been thinking about my list again – specifically, a waterfall. Continue reading

Tourist Extraction

I hadn’t planned to write about our recent trip to Jordan – what I did on my holiday being a topic best left behind in junior school – but the amazing trip we had over the Eid break convinced me otherwise

We found a beautiful, friendly country, albeit one which has seen its tourist industry – which contributes more than 20% of its GDP – take a hammering in recent years.

The Dead Sea

“Is it called the Dead Sea because it’s full of dead people?” Ah, the endless joys of seven-year-old-boy logic

It’s not even as if it’s their fault. The country is peaceful, stable, visibly protected and yet because of where it physically sits in the region, people take one look at the atlas and think: nope.

Proof of this came before we left, when Kid A expressed a previously-unhinted-at interest in geopolitics.

“Dad,” she asked me, “why exactly are we going on holiday somewhere that’s in between Israel and Syria?” You have to admit, it’s a good question. Continue reading

Rainbows and Unicorns

For the first time ever, I’ve seriously considered stopping writing this blog.

Rainbows and Unicorns

Ben Alman / Flickr [used under Creative Commons]

Oh no, I hear you gasp, as you drop your toast in shock. What’s happened?

A – Has the expat dream has finally turned sour?
B – Is he worried about the effect live-blogging their childhood is having on his kids?
C – Perhaps there’s – whisper it – “trouble at home” and it would be best to keep a low profile for a bit?

Sadly, gossip-fans, the answer is D – None of the above (today, at least).

No, call me picky but it’s the tedious thoughts of fines, deportation and/or prison that’s weighing on my mind, and it’s all thanks to Qatar’s new Cybercrime Law which was ratified earlier this month.

Continue reading

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