Monday, January 26, 2009

Busy Izzy at 6 months

Isabelle turned 6 months last Thursday! I remember when she hit the one month mark, thinking that if I could manage to breastfeed until her six month birthday I would light fireworks off behind Lady Liberty. Well, we did it! Isabelle has been 100% breastfed. A feat that at one point seemed impossible. No fireworks in the end as Isabelle was getting her last night of good rest in the NY apt while we were busy celebrating our last night with a bottle - okay, bottles - of wine that Molly brought over, on a blanket in the middle the living room floor, surrounded by heaps of boxes in our otherwise empty NY apartment. It was a wonderful way to spend our last night in the city. Now onto solids for baby Isabelle...and whatever that entails.

Today Richard, Isabelle & I spent five hours driving around the city with a guide named Susan. She & her family are from New Zealand, but love living in Doha. As it was all business in the sense that we were trying to get a handle on things relative to our move here, I didn't take a single picture. Dagnabbit. Fortunately for us, we have Google Images.

City Center Mall, which I referred to yesterday
If you squint your eyes, look through the window & imagine a hotel behind the building across the street, that's where we are living

First stop on the outing was at this Starbucks. I asked for an iced coffee and got something more along the lines of iced milk. It was tan in color so I assume there was a bit of coffee in there...but hard to say for sure. Not a problem, plenty of time for coaching since I have a feeling this will be my coffee stop most days

The Pearl - we walked around this diorama, minus all of the people & drank chilled fruit juice in wine glasses
The Pearl is a 2.5 billion undertaking to create a man-made, self sufficient, luxury city on an island in the Arabian Gulf, off the West Bay of Doha. I believe only 1/3 of the development is complete so far & it's the only place a non-local can buy real-estate. Maybe they should serve something more than chilled fruit juice!
See those mini islands off the end? They are privately sold & personally, my favorite. See that two lane road to the city from the mainland? My least favorite and I hope they have a back-up plan in the event people need to get off The Pearl en masse. Surely they've thought of that though. Right?

Compound living... Sounds worse than it is. Essentially, it's subdivision living in suburban language. More simply, it's a neighborhood, sometimes gated with security, sometimes with pools, tennis courts, small shops, etc., sometimes not. There are still a lot of places to check out, but these are a couple of places we saw today & will give you a sense of the type of home we will likely be living in.
Alfarden Gardens

West Bay Lagoon

Mega Mart - the home away from home
Mega Mart is home to most western foods & household brands for times when all you really want is Jiffy peanut butter & no other brand will do.

Doha Golf Club

We also drove by the Ritz Carlton, the InterContinental & the Four Seasons. It's typical for a family new to a city to join a club when living abroad. It's a good way to meet people and a nice place to socialize. Here in Doha, it seems most club memberships are at the hotels, so once we start meeting people and learn more about the city, we may join one of these clubs. It's also a nice place for kids as they all have kiddo play areas and baby pools. I think this Friday we're going to brunch at the Four Seasons, which we hear is a good way to get to know the place.

All in all, this was our day in a nutshell. It was pretty productive in the end and great fun to see the city through a resident's eye. Tomorrow is Richard's first day at work and Isabelle and I will head out for coffee & grocery shopping at Carrefour, mixed with a lot of internet research & appointment making while getting Isabelle back onto her routine.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hello Doha, pleased to meet you

With Molly & Steve on one of our last nights in New York with friends

It's a quarter to 8 in the evening and we're forcing ourselves awake until at least 9. We're settling into the hotel apartment, which in some ways is better than our NY apt - reliable internet, bazillion TV channels, loads of space for Isabelle to play, her own room(!)...and did I say reliable internet? We spent the day out at the City Center Mall, which is four levels, has a center ice skating rink & 2 of the many Starbucks in Doha. We picked up a few transformers/voltage converters & I was surprised to see so many familiar shops & just about every American fast food restaurant you could think of, including places I didn't even know were still around like TCBY & KFC. We stocked up on groceries at the large Carrefour that rivaled the Schnucks in Jefferson City (think mega Wal-Mart with grocery store). It is HUGE and has rows and rows of groceries, produce, gear - like strollers & even furniture - as well as electronics.

The past week leading up to this point bordered on insane. We found out on Tuesday that our visas were ready, so the movers came on Thursday, finished packing on Friday and we were on a flight here Friday night. It was stressful at times, and even more stressful at others but in the end, we managed to get our life in the city packed up & on a container headed east. Moving across the world was swiftly becoming a reality as the boxes were piling up around me at lightening speed. So as minutes turned to hours and hours turned to days, and days to to our final day, so came pangs of heartache, excitement for adventure, nostalgia for the fun times had in that great city and thrill for what new experiences lay ahead. One might think I would have been more emotionally prepared for leaving New York since we've known this was going to happen forever, but it's only after tickets are booked and your stuff is gone that it really sinks in. It's an end of an era and I couldn't have wished for a better 8 years in NYC.

As thick as my emotions were in those final days, I'm finally feeling present in the moment and excited to learn about this city & the people in it. Tomorrow we have a guided orientation of the city. Richard will be off to work on Tuesday & I will be on the hunt for a home. More to report later... xx

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's the final countdown...

We have been busy packing and getting ready for the move... ...the move that we still don't know when is happening. Yep, you heard me right. The movers are coming to pack us up on Thursday and Friday, but we still have yet to book our flights. We expect to take off on Saturday, but are at the mercy of how quickly the admin surrounding our visas take.

In the meantime, we have had a fun few weeks filled with seeing friends, having a going-away party at The Village Restaurant, dancing in the East Village, and taking in the city before we leave. I haven't had a chance to upload the photos from the get-togethers, so here are a few more from the holidays until next time!

{Baby Isabelle with Omi}

{Cousin Apple, 9 months}

Who we're dancing to this week: Lady Ga Ga, Just Dance!
(I can't even type 'Just Dance' without singing it in my head & wanting to jump!)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Exciting Times as in Busy Times!

You should see our apartment right now. Seriously. You'll never feel bad about your messy house after you see this. The dining table is pushed plush with the wall and is less a dining area and more of a desk with stacks of various to-do, to-buy, to-see piles. The two sofas are pushed together and resemble a king side bed with all the pillow backs against the wall & Isabelle's playmat on the floor in front of it. This looks like a 60 minutes special. I would take a picture to show you, but that would take time, which is in limited supply these days as we prepare to move across the world.

I am far less worried about the traveling aspect with Isabelle after our successful and very relaxing trip to Cyprus & Holland over the holidays. She was such the star. She gave jetlag the heave-ho and took less than 24 hours to adjust to local time both going there and returning. She gave colds, runny noses, chesty coughs and fever a sucker punch as she staved off all illness that plagued others around her. And she took the gold as we traveled from NY to Cyprus, from Cyprus to Holland and from Holland to NY without hardly a fuss. Ahh, she made us proud.

People have many questions for us about our move, so I'll try to summarize the gyst of it in "The van der Meer's move to Doha FAQs" below:

- When do you move?: Don't know
(sometime next week, probably, assuming the visas don't have any hiccups)
- Where will you live?: Don't know
(probably a house, likely in an expat compound, but we won't know until we get there and start looking for places)
- Uh, okay, so then where are you staying when you arrive?: Don't know
(most likely a serviced apartment or hotel, which is apparently being arranged by the bank, we think...but can't say for sure)

I've learned to be flexible.

Since returning from the holidays, we've been busy wrapping up work, buying furniture (because if there is anything we do know, we know our next place will be larger than our NYC apartment, thankgoodness), saying good-bye to all of our friends, visiting some fabulous New York restaurants one more time until we return again, and slacking on the blog.

As such, I should get back to doing whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing.


BONUS PHOTO! Grandpa and Isabelle in Chicago, early December

Who we're dancing to this week: Twilight Soundtrack