This past weekend marked day 100 of our expat adventure.
Somewhere along the way, it became the longest consecutive period I’ve ever been out of the UK. It seems to have gone by in a flash of headlights.
On the plus side, I’m starting to stitch the city together in my head, and though I still get lost, it’s happening less frequently.*
On the downside: the rules, even when they’re not changing, still confuse and confound. The roads, even when they’re not being dug up, still amaze and exhaust.
So because everyone loves arbitrary round numbers – not to mention lists – here’s a numerical (if not exactly scientific) overview of our first 100 days as expats…
0.05 seconds from a red light going green until someone 40 cars back starts beeping at everyone in front to get a move on. Tonight we ask: is Usain Bolt coached by Doha commuters?
1… car accident (no advance from day 1; phew) 1 flood, 1 house sold (this weekend), 1 birth, 1 death, 1 emergency trip back to the UK, 1 weekend away, 1 visitor (more please; all welcome!)… and a bit of a wobble.
2 speeding tickets (was three, but we successfully appealed one of them. Just the two trips in person to your favourite and mine, Madinat Khalifa police station…) We only found out about the tickets when we returned our hire car and asked for our deposit back. No one tells you about these things; apparently, most people only learn of their transgressions when they attempt to re-licence their car every year. Ouch.
(Doha drivers: have you been naughty/nice this year? Here’s the list Santa’s checking.)
Still, at least paying them is hysterically easy: it’s an online form that takes seconds. If only every interaction with officialdom was that simple. (Naturally, the Little City legal dept would like to point out that the best course of action is to not get any speeding tickets in the first place.)
2 minutes and 39 seconds – time needed to top up my levels of Englishness whenever they’re getting a bit low. Method: play Teddy Picker by Arctic Monkeys. Sarcasm + invective + killer bass line + Duran Duran reference = genius. See also 47.
3 hours (average) spent behind the wheel per day. On these insane roads, it’s exhausting. Dear Santa, can I have a neck/shoulder massage for Christmas, please? I have mostly been good (apart from the speeding tickets, obv) and it sounds like there’s a place just round the corner…
Half a dozen camels in the back of a flatbed truck. Never fails to raise a smile.
11 paces from car to shop (roughly), but still too far for so many drivers to walk…
13 – maximum number of unanswered rings on a Doha landline before giving up. “Hello, is that 1991? You could make a killing selling answering machines here…”
17 – cost in pence ($0.27) for a litre of unleaded; and that’s the fancy premium version. A full tank is about £9/$14.50. But they get it back in the mark up on broccoli. It’s almost as if Carrefour doesn’t want you to eat vegetables.
19 – number of days (total) spent queuing for various government agencies. In the UK, this much waiting patiently would get me Wimbledon Men’s Final tickets. Here: a temporary driving licence oh, and I paid October’s leccy bill. Little is simple; less is explained; almost nothing can be done in advance or over the phone.
Some hard-learned queuing tips:
- Dress appropriately. There’s nothing worse than slogging your way across town only to be turned away at the door for an avoidable dress code violation
- Plus, always ensure you have something to eat, read (hard copy; batteries go flat in Doha queues) and play on you at all times. Accordingly, my first 100 days are brought to you in association with Nature Valley salted caramel granola bars, Private Eye and Triple Town)
22 degrees C – morning temperature deemed cold enough by my kids to need a jumper for school. I’d say they were pretty acclimatised.
30 November – date Mrs LC suggested we buy a space heater “before they all go”. Now imagining our very own Dohapocalypse as hordes of shivering punters strip Lulu to pieces in search of plug-in portable warmth. (It might be a ridiculous notion, but at least it made buying her Christmas present easy…)
35 Riyals (about £6) – monthly charge to watch Reading** get pummelled every week from the comfort of my own home. (**Other football teams are available). Not sure yet if this is good or bad value.
47 – number of times one song can be played in one day without me getting sick of it. Told you I spend a lot of time in the car.
50 degrees C – highest temperature we’ve experienced to date, despite arriving at the ‘end’ of summer. That worked out well, didn’t it?
87 (approx) number of visits from maintenance to fix stuff in our villa. I’m not saying I get lonely when they don’t stop by every day, but…
100 days and counting.
And for the next hundred?
Well, there are some significant birthdays, Qatar’s National Day next week, the school holidays and our first Christmas and New Year in the desert, more top class international sport, Ikea Doha should open its self-assembled doors (inshallah), an actual holiday, a secret squirrel project and who knows what else?
Judging by the first hundred days, anything can happen – and probably will.
* Of course I jinxed my evening by typing that just before setting out for a carol concert at the British Embassy. But we’d never been there before; the map page on their website is broken; Google maps can only provide nearby street names, none of which were recognised by the sat nav; the Embassy switchboard, which offers directions was closed for the day, and the only people we know who would know how to get there…were already there and not answering their phones.
So, after 45 minutes of fruitlessly driving the family around previously unexplored parts of Doha, we abandoned the mission completely, carols unsung. Infuriating doesn’t even begin to cover it…