Thursday, February 26, 2009

Observations

No lie, I have moments where I think, "Wow, I'm already really used to this place." Moments when I feel like I'm used to all of the differences, so much so that I hardly notice them anymore. For example, I hardly even notice the calls for prayer echoed throughout the city all day, the fact that shopping malls & hotels are where the majority of life happens here, or when the locals always ask if your baby is a boy despite her being dressed from head to toe in pink (as if accidentally assuming one's son is a girl would be an insult?), or the candy bar instead of coins when I collect my change at the supermarket... I've come to expect things to be a bit off, which are never bad, or good...just different. However, just when I think I'm an old pro at this expat thing, something funny or bizarre happens.

Allow me to give you an example. Local Qatari love kids. I realize what an over-arching statement it is to say this, but it's true. Family is core to their culture and it shows. Every mall has a center ice skating rink, a massive arcade/kids zone, kiddie tricycles to rent and the stores are either baby stores, or sell baby clothes. I would have never imagined finding so much in terms of clothing boutiques for babies. Given this baby/kid/family friendly environment, the locals have no qualms going up to you and your baby to coo at your little one. That's normal, but what I find interesting is that they all snap at your baby. You know, like what sororities do instead of clapping (I'm not making fun, I was in one). They snap. Snap Snap Snap. Everyone. It doesn't stop being weird for me, but I think it's funny. I think it's similar to how us westerners universally say, "your baby is cute." They universally snap at your kid.

However it doesn't end there... On a number of occasions when I'm having lunch or coffee with a friend, and Isabelle is playing in my lap, I feel stares. Not the stares that I'm used to, which involve being blond in the Middle East, but the kind of stares coming from local women with big friendly smiles and who whisper and point...at Isabelle. It's one thing to be a baby here, it another thing to be a blond baby girl here. They eventually approach and kneel down to smile at her, clearly because she's the cutest baby ever. (Did you really think I could get through even one post with holding back the reigns?) Then comes the snapping, as I mentioned. THEN come two snaps, a clap and hands out...like I'm supposed to hand her to them. What! They all have looked like nice people, but seriously? Who goes up to a stranger and asks to take the baby out of their arms? I have successfully pretended not to notice their intentions, or make an excuse that she's fussy (which is clearly a lie as she's sitting there grinning at them). However, sometimes they want to take their picture with her. Then what can I do as they are holding out their camera? There are no less than 4 photographs of Isabelle being held by strangers floating around this country. Again, they love kids, but just when you think that is bizarre, listen to this...

First allow me to set the scene: We are in Starbucks for a Mummy & Me group this morning. I think there were 5 or 6 of us, all with little ones under 10 months. We were in the center of the coffee shop. In the corner was a family or maybe two families of local Qatari having coffee together. All traditional Muslim Qatari, men and women both, with about 4 little kids under the age of 5.

Okay, so in my group we were hanging out and talking amongst ourselves when one of the Qatari women came over and asked to take our friend Beth's baby. As I mentioned before, this snap, clap, open hands thing happens. Our friend Beth kindly obliges, and then the lady walks off with her baby and takes the little one over to her family in the corner! WHAT! (Me at this moment: jaw on ground and eyes the size of golf balls thinking, "did that woman really just walk off to the other side of the shop without so much as a word with our friend's child?) No real conversation took place. It's made all the more unusual - in my mind - because you couldn't see the woman's face, only her eyes. Beth is from Michigan and is actually Muslim as well (though not traditional in the abaya, but her head was covered). I mention this because she lived in Egypt before this, and said this is totally normal for their culture; taking a strangers kid away to play with him or her for a while. After the shock and horror passed, I admit I do see the innocence and sweetness of it all. They were just playing with her baby, passing her around, smiling at how cute she was. Maybe there is still too much New York in me. Or maybe I'm just a first time mom in all its glory & paranoia. Either way, I think I'll continue to hang on to my baby.

In other news...

The villa in West Bay Lagoon is ours! Picture to follow soon!

Isabelle's burps are officially like her dads...a kind of hiccup/burp combo. It's odd I know, but it's theirs and as far as I know, theirs only. I certainly have never witnessed another pull off the three in a row hiccup/burp combo the way they do. She also has his toes & fingers, and she also rubs her feet together when she's tired, just like her dad. She's a lot like her dad, but she's got my cheeks.

I think Isabelle has baby eczema. In the big picture, it's a mild case. You can't really see it, but you can feel it. Does this just go away? I couldn't quite understand the pediatrician...all I did pick up from the conversation is that I shouldn't worry.

A bottle of formula does not make this baby of ours sleep through the night. Neither does a bit of baby rice & milk, nor does a helping of applesauce. I think 4am is just her time to check in with me, have a snack, say hello, and go right back to sleep. My gut tells me it’s not going to change anytime soon. Hmmm.

The W Hotel is opening up this weekend across the street with 1. The Spice Market (a la Meatpacking District), 2. Bliss Spa (also a la NYC), and 3. Jean Georges restaurant (also NYC). Home away from home!

Our friends Jo and Omar (who just got their liquor license, which you need to get from your employer before you can go to the one shop on the outskirts of town to buy beer, wine or liquor), picked up Coronas & wine for us today. We celebrate.

An iPhone here is like $900. Ugh. So I bought the $20 Nokia 1200 with the intention of picking up another iPhone when I’m home in May. However, if it weren’t for the ‘Photo of the Day’ which our parents are going in withdrawal from, I think I would just keep this Nokia 1200 forever. I think most of us have had this classic at one point in our cell phone life and I have been reminded how refreshing simplicity is. You can call, you can text, and you can’t really break it. It’s awesome.

Nokia 1200


Who we're dancing to this week: Kung Fu Fighting by Cee-Lo & Jack Black

Monday, February 23, 2009

A day on the Corniche

Here she is, busy at work taking apart daddy's work ID

The Corniche is the gathering spot and epicenter for lazy, outdoor picnics, jogs along the water and a popular place to stroll on weekend days and nights alike. We spent the afternoon walking along the water and loving the cool sun. (You know, the kind of cool sun that makes you feel quite confident soaking in the rays and then you go to bed looking like a lobster. Yeah, it was worth it though.) You can see quite a lot of Doha from the Corniche, so here's the city.

But first, here's Isabelle...of course.



{Doha from the Corniche}
Lunch at the lovely Almourjan Balhambar Restaurant

"We'll have your special and she'll have your menu"


Traditional Islamic dress
Women wear abayas & men wear throbes


Construction - the hallmark of Doha


The Sheraton

Mom, I was napping could you spare me on the camera?




The Corniche - Central Park for Doha

The Post Office



{Brunch at the Four Seasons}
Having no trouble kicking back
With Jo, who is about to have a little playmate for Isabelle in May


Who we're dancing to this week: Cold Play, Lost!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dialed in, in Doha

Beautiful Baby Isabelle 6 1/2 months

So we now have a USB cord to upload photos! Now all I need is my iPhone working here so I can get back to sending 'Photo of the Day' emails. Slowly but surely we're getting there.

{Big Girl}
Here's a bit of Isabelle in Doha from the past three weeks. It should come as no surprise there is more of Isabelle than there is Doha, so stay tuned and I promise I will get more of the city on film!




{Valentine's Day}
So Valentine's Day is somewhat of a new concept here in Doha. Only in the past couple of years have they celebrated it publicly in stores and restaurants, considering it's a Christian holiday. With the influx of western expats, the restaurants now really enjoy going over the top with it. Richard took me to the lovely Sharq Village restaurant at Al Dana and I've never seen so much red satin in a fine dining restaurant before.

Isabelle with Henni, who is her lovely baby-sitter on weekend nights

Red satin galore!

...and little heart cut outs that said things like, "Love is one soul in two bodies" and other lovey things

For the enthusiastic, the General Manager of the restaurant could sign the "Declaration of Love" certificate given to each guest.

They also came by during the meal, asking to take our picture. Not sure what for and assuming it would be stock for future brochures, we were then presented the photo of us in a red & white frame at the end of dinner, along with a heart shape box of goodies.


{House hunting}
We found a nice villa in an area we really like, so we're currently in the process of getting contracts signed and details sorted. Doing business here, at least in the real estate world, seems to involve a lot of "you have my word" and after-work meetings in the back of one of the random businesses that the billionaire local owner owns, and lots of conversations with people who talk with thier hands. Once it's officially ours (fingers crossed), I'll get some photos and post them. In the meantime, here is Isabelle in her lucky house-hunting outfit.

Thanks Koen & Flor for my lovely Dutch t-shirt




{Happy Girl}



{First bites of food!}



{Dinner in the gold souqs from a couple of weeks ago}



Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dear Isabelle, Feb 2009

Dear Isabelle,

What a dream you've been for your dad and me. We looked so forward to your arrival and now, 7 months on, we simply can't remember life before you. You have superceded our every expectation of how life would be with you in it.

At nearly 7 months, you have mastered many things including sitting up (& going from sitting to hands & knees, followed generally by a collapse to your tummy on the floor), standing, lunging, rolling over (& over & over & back over again), pulling, grabbing, doing a baby version of downward dog, scooting backwards (we're still working on the forwards crawl) & the list goes on. You continue to grow before our eyes & those gorgeous baby legs of yours are impossible not to kiss. We watch you sleep on the baby monitor and talk about how blessed we are to have you as our baby. This week you've taken to rolling over onto your stomach to sleep, which surprised me at first but I trust your strength to turn over if needed.

You love books and animated conversations. You've really taken to our new home and I think you love the new space, sunlight and the adventures we go on during the day. You've recently learned to stick your tongue KISS band style & enjoy doing it often. You continue to be a very loving and cuddley baby, whose sweet nature is noticed by everyone. When you wake up from a nap, your dad & I race to your bed, trying to be the first one who gets to see your beautiful face smiling up at us. So far you enjoy eating pears, apples, sweet potatos & baby rice. Next week we'll be trying avocado, bananas and maybe squash, and giving carrots a second try.

You are a such a happy & good natured baby & you've made our move across the world not only easy, but especially fun. Thank you.

Love,

Mommy & Daddy

Here are some of your favorite toys, books and things we use daily in your life today.