I’ve baked a word-cake to celebrate Bright Lights, Little City‘s first birthday
I started blogging because I wanted to share our experiences as newbie expats, but I’m allergic to Facebook and too British for therapy.
So, blogging it would have to be instead – and in the blink of an eye, last week marked Bright Lights, Little City’s first anniversary.
I know this because the clever chaps at WordPress posted a neat little trophy icon in my dashboard menu (turns out it’s impossible not to click on a trophy icon).
Like children, snowballs and revolutions, Little City started small (my first post was basically the written word equivalent of talking into a cupboard), but now every week is busier than the last, and before you know it, you’ve got visitors from as far afield as Azerbaijan, Réunion and Peru. Didn’t see that coming.
The simultaneous thrill and terror of hitting ‘Publish’ remains as strong as ever.
So in lieu of baking a cake (really not one of my strengths, unlike spelling), I thought I’d celebrate with a quick review of the year gone by, follow up on a few earlier posts and share some things I’ve discovered by accident – I would say ‘learned’, but I’d be lying – on the way.
The one that got away
A year of posts means some hits and some misses. Is there a lovingly hand-crafted post full of overwrought introspection I wish had got more love at the time? Why, yes there is.
Things that make you go Eh?
The volume of traffic Little City gets from Canada. I know lots of lovely Canadians (in spite of stuff like this), but only one person who actually lives there – and she’s American, and moved there so recently that her blog is called The New Torontonian, so it can’t be all down to her, right?
So, who knows? Every time I see my Canada stats, I’m reminded of this: “Find out why.”
The to-do list
We all need goals in life. For Little City next year, it’s “Get better at WordPress”. Like an unruly toddler, the front page still doesn’t do what I want it to, for example.
What happened next…?
Reading back over Little City‘s first year (almost as painful as my teenage diaries, but not quite), a few posts could do with an update…
I wrote about Father’s Day last year, and in the absence of anything resembling a day job since then, it will have to stand as my annual appraisal again.
Judging from this year’s cards, they haven’t been too traumatised by leaving their school, their old house, country, lifestyle, climate and culture behind. Or by having me as their primary carer for the past 12 months (although the words ‘wait till your mother gets home’ have left my mouth on more than one occasion).
I am, it says here, helpful and funny, which I’ll take any day of the week – although I have to point out that Amnesiac is using ‘helpful’ with specific reference to my Super Mario Galaxy skills. I know this because he told me.
Still, sarcasm aside, I try and count my blessings. They’ve coped amazingly well through what has been a relentlessly full-on year.
With Amnesiac, the worst of him is the speed (or lack of) at which he eats. Petty, you might think, but seriously: geological periods have come and gone more quickly.
Meanwhile Kid A is in permanent rock / hard place mode; at once amazed and horrified that she’s nearer being 18 than a newborn, and acting every age in between and beyond.
Mrs LC says I mustn’t keep rising to her bait (of which she seems to have an endless supply) because she’s doing amazingly well at school and trying her hardest. So I’ll try and remember that the next time Kid A’s yelling at me and telling me that I never… never… what was it?
Last month, I wrote about the end of visiting season and how my brother had given Amnesiac a pack of sunflower seeds to plant. I then used that as a tortured metaphor to pack in some more overwrought introspection. It is, after all, what I’m best at.
But I’m sure some of you are wondering how the actual flowers are doing… Well, we planted six. A couple were dug up by the compound cats using the grobag as a gro-bog. One simply didn’t take. One sapling didn’t survive some sort of bring-your-plant-to-school day.
But two have survived and are busy growing. Amnesiac still gleefully checks them every morning. Turns out the desert sun doesn’t destroy everything in its path.
I made a new year’s resolution this year: to talk to one new person every week in an attempt to expand our social circle.
It hasn’t always been easy, not least because, as a fully paid up introvert, rooms full of strangers make my skin itch even more than the slowly-rising desert heat. But the wheels are slowly starting to turn…
We’ve eaten takeaway pizza with people young enough to know what The Vampire Diaries is; we’ve said yes to pub quizzes, birthday drinks, leaving dos, joined a beach club (next door to the petrochemical plant!) and I’m losing at squash again (which is an occasional, if recurring, theme throughout my life). Mrs LC has even co-founded a “book group”. I think we all know what that means.
Last weekend I hit some sort of Doha milestone / rite of passage when I found I had already been here long enough to be invited to two separate leaving dos. Summer is leaving season, and it’s kicking in.
But even as we’re waving goodbye to one of Mrs LC’s colleagues and someone you wish you’d met much sooner, new connections are being made. I found myself sitting next to guy at brunch who was in his third week here. This accidentally cast me as Morgan Freeman to his Tim Robbins, and allowed me to impart some old lag wisdom.
We talked about this and that for a little before I found myself asking him: “Have you had a car accident yet?”, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Truly, I have arrived.
Despite an abundance of reservations, taking on a live-in maid is going about as well as we could hope. Mrs A is reliable, works hard and, like me, irons better than she sings. The kids are used to having her around and she seems genuinely happy to be with us.
As promised, her passport is in her possession. We overpay her (vs the minimum amount agreed between the Philippine and Qatari governments), on time, in full, in cash, every month.
Dismally, this appears to mark us out as exceptions as employers.
She has two full days off a week and can go where she likes in that time. Usually, she visits her sister who also works as maid here in Doha, and whose employer doesn’t let her leave the house. Yup, you read that correctly.
Life’s already hard enough for her – she had to watch her daughter’s wedding over Skype last month – without us making it any harder for her.
That said, she tried to use our bathroom scales this morning, only to run head first into the imperial system. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. Converting our maid’s weight into kilograms for her: just another morning at Little City HQ.
Afore ye go
In short, it’s been a strange and fun year. Through these posts I’ve been trying to figure out if we’re doing this expat thing right. (Provisional judgement: ‘doing it right’ is the wrong goal; doing it at all is more than good enough.)
The comments, replies and feedback – yielding everything from sympathy and advice, to outright sarcasm and oversharing – have helped make our adventures easier on the way. Thank you to everyone who’s contributed so far.
Looking back over some of my earliest posts, when my head was split sixteen different ways in the run up to our move, I can’t actually remember a fair chunk of what I wrote about at the time, so I glad I wrote it down – even if it reads like something that happened to someone else, a long, long time ago.
But we’re making progress every day. Looking at my kids now, I know that even as their memories fade, we’re embedding something intangible in them.
Whether that’s cultural awareness, curiosity, a world without borders, tolerance to scorching temperatures, or simply knowing how not to drive, we’ll have to wait and see.