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

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