MORE DOHA IN A GOOD WAY

Finally, I am getting the hang of living in Doha. Actually, Doha is kind of fun, a very expensive kind of fun. At last, I figured out that the government building in West Bay, close to Adagio and Intercontinental was not really called “Office of Public Prostitution” instead of “Office of Public Prosecution.” Since June of 2016, when I came to visit and looked up at this building, I squinted in the sunlight and grossly misread the words. It was too embarrassing to ask anyone, lest someone thought I was too silly and old-fashioned. When I misunderstood the words, I was just spectacularly floored at how advanced, and modern Doha was. Now that I have that mystery figured out, it hardly took me any time to figure out that “Court of Cassation” was exactly that and nothing else, so glad I didn’t make a mistake on that one. Also, now I don’t incredulously ask the coffee baristas to repeat twice the price of a small latte or a chocolate brownie, (I am still fond of lattes, but have laid off brownies because I don’t want them to end up where they became harder to get rid of than super glue on your skin).

My maid woes have also been taken care of. After the greatly temperamental and famous Fauzia of Amoudia Village, I have been blessed with a low key and decidedly kinder helper from the Philipines. When I hear her call me madam in a soft baritone, I just about pass out with barely restrained pleasure. I clearly remember the day when a friend came to visit in Jeddah. As soon as I told her that our house didn’t have much work, a very loud snort followed by witchy cackling came from the direction of the kitchen where our erstwhile helper was working. Then this came from the direction of the kitchen, “hah this house doesn’t have work?”, followed by more laughter. Needless to say I was publically shamed. Yes, Fauzia cooked and cleaned like a dream, but having her was akin to a very expensive car. You know you love those pricey wheels, but they are rather delicate and high maintenance. My current helper doesn’t possess good culinary skills, but her attitude and work ethic is nothing short of dazzling. Her cleaning is immaculate, and her manners are exquisite. I don’t reconnect with one-year-old orange slices, bread pieces, candy wrappers and other unidentifiable food particles upon moving sofas to retrieve shoes or some other item. All the areas underneath the sofas, beds, tables and other pieces of furniture are as clean as the floors in our house.

The Uber drivers are a bit tricky though. There are all kinds of Uber drivers out there. The chatty ones who don’t let you talk even though you are the customer, and you need to unload because you paid for the privilege. Then there are also the rude ones who never get out to help with anything, and grunt out their responses, well no five stars for these ones or a healthy tip.
Just a couple of days ago, I sat in a car with a fresh-faced young man who repeatedly kept asking my five-year-old not to make his car dirty. It was all I could do not to snap at him that if a child was stressing him out, then maybe Uber driving wasn’t meant for him. I saved the best ones for last because they make a person very happy, and always get five stars from me and a nice tip. They are unfailingly polite, help out with your stuff, and smile at your child. Good news is that the good ones are the norm, and the not so polite ones are an anomaly.

I have also learned to navigate grocery shopping without getting thoroughly stressed out. It does not cause a minor panic attack to pay exorbitant prices for produce and other household items. Milk, that elusive headache, has become readily available and at much reasonable prices than before.

Things have become normalized, or maybe we have become acclimated. I have finally realized that in Doha traffic, getting from point A to point B can easily take 30-40 minutes even in short distances. It’s very fulfilling and incredibly gratifying to be able to do small things for people in the service industry here, such as offering higher tips to the grocery bagger, restaurant servers, asking how they are faring here and about their families back in their land. Finally, I am learning that Doha is an interesting place to live with much to offer if a person will open their heart and mind to newer experiences.

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MALLS, MALLS AND MORE MALLS

 

 

I hate going to the mall, it’s so boring and not fun at all. I hate the stuff they sell there, it’s a visual assault on my finer senses. The clothing is so ugly, gaudy and poorly manufactured that it manages to make a person look ugly and fat simultaneously, now that’s what I would call killing two birds with one stone. However, at this point in my life I’d prefer to be neither. The only way I would wear the clothing is if I was about to be executed in the most painful manner possible, (like being thrown in a cage full of lions or dropped in a pit full of poisonous snakes…you get the gist of it), and only wearing those hideous blots on fashion would grant me a stay of execution. Apart from few choice brands, shoes aren’t much different from clothes. They are uncomfortable, expensive, and, tasteless, (again not something I wish to even contemplate buying.) Any piece of clothing or shoes remotely presentable is so outrageously overpriced that they can feed a family of five for a week. However, as a mother of two teenagers, I do have to make those dreaded mall trips just about every other week. Although my daughter would totally disagree with this frequency, “you never take me to the mall” or “we never do anything”, ‘doing anything’ in her language is another euphemism for going to the mall. I manage to give a few feeble responses, but the result is inevitable. Usually the one tactic that works, and I capitulate is when those Machiavellian teenagers tell me that my refusal has more to do with being tired which is a sure fire sign of advanced age. Needless to say, after this dirty trick, I find myself giving in, meekly led to the mall.

 

Although I must say the one thing I really enjoy is watching people. Sometimes I go to City Center on the weekend, and the visual, auditory overload is simply over-whelming. The diversity in people, religions, languages and ages is nothing short of phenomenal. There are rich people, poor people, brown people, white people, Arab people, Asian people. There are mixed couples and non-mixed couples, and single people. There are hijabis and non-hijabis. There are hijabis who you can tell don’t really want to be hijabis, but are covering under duress. Then there are the censorious hijabis looking at non-hijabi world with tight lipped judgment. There are the nervous looking white people, the confident Indian and Pakistani people passing each other with casual indifference, the perpetually smiling Filipinos. Then there are the uniformed maids looking sad and dejected, taking care of multiple kids, and my heart goes out to them.

 

I must say that the couples are fun to watch too. There are so many fascinating power dynamics in couples, I can tell by observation. My kids call this observation ‘stalking’. Did you guys know that power couples are present in every age, race, religion and economic strata? You can tell by looking at the way the couples are walking and interacting with one another as to who wears the pants in the house. Although some homes can have a partner who wears two pairs of pants, (another little gem from my two gems). Or in some relationships, each partner has one leg of the same pant, you know everything is shared fifty-fifty.

 

There are the couples where one spouse is just barely walking behind their other half with all the kids in tow, and you can see the defeat in their faces and the triumph in other’s face. It’s almost like witnessing a prisoner being led by a noose around their neck. There are the couples who are walking together and the kids are equally distributed too. It is fairly obvious that they have a power sharing agreement. Also, there are those who can barely wait to get away from each other, but the kids are keeping them together. Then there are the couples without the kids, and they appear to be quite happy to me, although not in all cases. Finally, happiest are the single men and women spanning across age, race and religion. I am not saying that because I am with two temperamental girls who are pulling my arms in opposite directions. I am certainly not envying the childless couples because I have constant verbal disagreements with both of the girls about the stuff that they’d like to buy and the stuff that they can buy. And I certainly do not eye the childless couples with any longing because I am stuck with two opinionated girls who don’t and I do mean don’t take no for answer. Also, I don’t entertain the thought of running into the crowd and never be seen or heard from again.

Another place I truly enjoy in the mall is Sephora, the makeup store. It’s so much fun to go inside Sephora. I feel like a child in a toy shop, or like a poodle rolling around in treats, well you get the picture. Now to afford something in Sephora is entirely another matter. The fact is that there are very few items priced at less than 100 riyals. I do enjoy looking at makeup and people who are trying the makeup. There are the ladies with pouty lips so wide that the lips practically have a postal code of their own. I mean how do women get lips like that, and are they natural or not? I can’t tell and I am sure touching someone else’s lips can land a person in trouble. Although I have wondered on occasion if someone’s very, very pouty lips were poked, would they bounce back or not? You know like a child inside a bouncy castle or on a trampoline. I am so eager to have pouty lips that anytime I go outside I put on a lip treatment called Fresh Sugar, and then stand in front of the mirror to make a pout, (I think a temporary pout would be better than none). Everyone in my family has learned of this pout exercise, and my son has actually learned to pout better than me.

 

The next thing I am so curious about are the eyes. The eye-brows are so perfect on some ladies, it’s as if God is devoting extra time and effort especially for making those amazing eye brows. Honestly, the curvature on those brows puts the St. Louis arch to shame, they are simply spectacular. Also, lets not forget the shoes, the heels that some women wear can practically be a murder weapon in a pinch, or can be used as intravenous needles in case of emergency surgery. I love those heels, and gaze at them longingly in the stores, but if I wore those, not only would I fall flat on my face and cause some serious damage to myself which in turn could lead to permanent mental and physical harm. Although sustaining serious harm in order to avoid shopping is certainly food for thought.

 

Finally, I’d like to share a few products that I bought from Sephora on my latest mall excursion and truly enjoy using them. I bought an eye pencil and a liquid lipstick by Marc Jacobs, and four matte, liquid lipsticks in various shades of beige by Huda Beauty. I bought these products because I had read good reviews about them, and when I tried them inside Sephora, they looked nice. Upon reaching home, I realized maybe I could’ve done without couple of the liquid lipsticks, but again impulse buying is a big problem for me. I try and buy products after reading their reviews on a blog or a magazine, and in my opinion, best buys are those that we use often even if expensive.

TEENAGERS, THOSE SHAPE SHIFTING ALIENS THAT SOME OF US HAVE AND SOME WILL HAVE IN THE FUTURE

“You don’t understand”

“I am 14 and you don’t get it”

“What’s wrong with going to the mall”

“All my friends are doing it or wearing it”, (real classic)

“Its okay to wear this to school”

“I asked auntie so and so and she said Islamically it’s alllowed”

“I am not being rude, it’s just the way I am”

“Why am I not being allowed to do this, give me  a reason”

“Well maybe it’s a bit on the shorter side, but it looks good on me” (well so would going au natural but that doesn’t mean we should)

“I’ll do it in 5 minutes”(on multiple occasions those elusive 5 minutes remain, you got it, elusive)

“You asked like a gazillion times, and I will do it”, ( Its technically not feasible Einstein. I’d much rather undertake the offending task myself because saying something a gazillion times is a herculean chore and quite simply impossible)

“I know I am right”

“____________’s parents are so mean, they don’t allow him or her to do anything”, (this  is a psychological tactic meant to obtaining whatever is their desire du jour by shaming)

“I asked your permission, and you said yes”, (never mind the fact that you don’t ever recall agreeing to anything. They have a trick here too, they catch you when you are at your most vulnerable, and are temporarily unavailable to the world, and would agree to just about anything short of cannibalism).

Blessed are the parents who’ve never heard any of these heated and passionate proclamations. I remember the golden and simple times when my teenagers were little, and all I had to worry about was the latest gymboree or gap outfit, read to them, feed them, teach them manners, help them brush teeth and tuck them in for the night. However, if those times were comparable to an unending, soft Summer breeze or a pleasant fall morning, now it’s more like a category 5 hurricane. Their demands are relentless and ruthless.  They are merciless in their judgment of adults, they want answers and explanations for everything. They are always the wronged party even if you catch them with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar.

Honestly, there are days when I seriously think they are aliens from another planet because they are ever evolving and very scary to deal with. Occasionally, I have resisted the urge to simply elope from home, assume another identity and live peacefully ever after. However that’s a pipe dream because remember they are aliens with super-natural powers , they’ll use those amazing powers to find me  anywhere on earth.

While it is difficult to deal with them, one fact I would like  to point out is that the times we are living in are unlike any other, and the challenges we are facing in raising our kids are also very, very unique. The most prominent of these challenges is the internet. The easy and cheap access to the internet,  and the tremendous amount and variety of information available at finger tips cannot be quantified, and the dangers posed by this limitless data cannot be overstated enough. For example, there are numerous platforms for connecting with others in a multitude of ways, aka social media outlets. These social media outlets provide a real window to outsiders, living in faraway places, in our lives. Personally, I am not fond of these because I feel they can be very  intrusive in the best of circumstances, and downright dangerous in the worst situations. But  most teenagers love to share practically every aspect of their waking life with others like them, notice how I said them, (brings home the alien concept nicely, doesn’t it).

Now I am going to steer away from the internet topic a bit, but we’ll touch on it later. I am noticing a very troubling trend, and it is straight from one of “them”. What my daughter tells me about  her friends and friends’ friends is that when teenagers feel they are being denied the right to do their heart’s bidding, they are finding  ways to achieve their goals in  all sorts of clandestine manners. And any parent who thinks these forces of nature can be stopped in their tracks, I’d like for them to solve the minor problem of world peace. Kids have been hiding things from their parents for an eternity.  In  my opinion,  ongoing minor and  hidden acts of rebellion eventually lead to major acts which in turn create a major ideological divide between parents and the children. And one day, the unsuspecting parent is faced with the devastating realization that they don’t know this person.

One example, a young girl who doesn’t want to wear a scarf will wear it to school but take it off when she reaches the school. Later, she might decide to do other things without telling her parents, and the list goes on. The way I see it, it’s not a simple matter, but that’s not the real problem. Eventually, it will lead to a personality that becomes adapt and even expert at deception. And in my opinion, this deceptive personality is by far the worst of the damage, damage that will last over a life time. And that’s a how we end up with these perfect, well-groomed, well-mannered yes men and women in front of moms, dads, friends and relatives but entirely different people with different values in front of friends.

The way I am learning to deal with this is I pick my battles. As they say, not every hill is worth dying on and not every battle is worth fighting. A give and take has been established between me and my kids. And this is what I would tell any parent, develop a relationship with your teenager because they are at a very delicate junction that hovers between adulthood and childhood. It is very simple to  tell your child the right and the wrong, but it’s not the way this works in their world. Telling them to stop doing  something from the “religious” perspective, or the “right thing” perspective or the classic, “you are not doing this because I said so”, (although I hope to God no sane parent is using the last one) simply does not work.  And let me share something else, when obedience is won by anger or force, the expiration date on their compliance lasts as long as the eye contact.

The rules of the game have changed. Twenty or thirty years ago, we could physically restrict  their movements and achieve some results.  Now everything is inside our home, the devil is everywhere so to speak. There are ways to deals with this, and trust me restricting their phones, internet access, and television viewing will not get much accomplished. The “restrict everything”  tactic will only work if you throw them in the dungeon and lose the key.  They do go to school, and  have friends who in turn will likely have the smart phones and the net access that you denied your child. Think about it, it’s like you are trying to avoid a communicable disease but constantly coming into physical contact with it. One way to get them to kind of submit to some of your smart phone, net and television rules is to have no offending devices at all, if you can manage to tear yourself away from them. Again what we’d like to do, and what we can do are two entirely things. Even in my own home we have not been able to get rid of the devices, not that we have even tried. Our home is practically a one stop shop for used apple devices.

What I have managed to achieve is to have a comfortable relationship with my kids, which entails allowing them certain latitudes despite my dislike for those allowances. However, there are times when I will put my foot down and issue an absolute, unequivocal no. It does produce some severely unpleasant weather. Since these nays are few and far between, there’s no changing them.. Now I can comfortably say that I know pretty much everything that’s going in with my kids’ lives, but that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Only request/advice I would have for the parent of  a teenager is to reach out to them, engage them. Whichever approach a parent takes, I don’t see any route not going through the hearts  that will reach the mind. Only by making them feel comfortable, accepted and loved can can we start the dialogue with them.

 

DOHA AND MY TWO KHAADI SHIRTS

I’d like to say hello to people kind enough to read this, this is my first blog post. Please bear with me, this will get interesting with practice.

Originally I wanted to share something a bit more staid, but for the first post I thought something on the lighter side might be better. Well, when we moved to Doha in August things got off to a rocky start. We thought we would end up in a house, but ended up in hotel ( a really nice one my husband kept reminding us, but still a hotel  was my retort). We would try desperately try to find  things that reminded us of Pakistan, (we moved here from Jeddah which is essentially like a mini Pakistan anyway, you can hardly move  a few feet without finding Pakistani items or people, even the dirt on the roads is similar to Pakistan and in ample supply along with the bugs that could just as easily have been directly imported from Pakistan such as the beige colored lizards or the huge cock roaches that seem to bring out the screams in teenage girls or the endless supply of ants). Milk shortage drove me nuts, and literally day and night I missed the 2 litre bottles of Al-Marai that I would ask my driver to buy and at that point in time seemed very minute.  However, when I had to contend with Iranian milk, Turkish milk, British milk at prices that could have purchased gold in cheaper times, I was not pleased. Plus I am extremely particular about the taste of my tea and the long life milk wasn’t cutting it. Actually, at that time not much was cutting it for me in Doha. I missed Aslam, our driver of four years who practically did all the outside work for us, I missed my apartment, my friends, Mecca and Medina, I missed my life. The one time I just about screamed in excitement  was when I spotted a soon-to-open Khaadi sign in Doha Festival City. For those of you who are not Pakistani,  Khaadi is a nice, upscale clothing brand based in Pakistan. But just like a first born that goes over its due date, that Khaadi shop wasn’t opening and anticipation was excruciating . I would go again and again and no Khaadi. One day, it opened, finally.

Well, I went there last week and  purchased two short shirts after much pondering because even though short shirts have been in fashion since last year, I was hesitant due to some extra pounds that I haven’t managed to shake off after I stopped breastfeeding, (even though I stopped feeding the baby I couldn’t stop eating  as if I was still on a feeding routine. Although its impossible and bone draining, I have wished on occasion that breastfeeding could be done indefinitely). Well anyway, one shirt is straight, red and looks cute-ish (as my 15 year old daughter would put it) but the neck line is something else. It’s the other one that is my undoing, its A-line and goes up to my knees and fully closed on the sides. It is as if a giant sponge is carrying a television on its head, it squashes my height, makes me appear about twenty pounds heavier than I am, and it makes my waste line appear as wide as a sumo wrestler’s.   I am never wearing this shirt in public, only in the privacy of my room by myself will I put on this hideous monument to my own stupidity. Furthermore,  I have decided that this was the last time I saluted the latest fashion trend, never again. I was made for long shirts and no short shirts ever again. I think time will dull the psychological trauma of  the frock shirt.