Sunday, 23 December 2012

"Celebrate this Christmas in a new way"- with your Azeri internet bride!

A while ago, I shared a spam email my friend received from a girl wh was supposed to be an Azeri. We all had such great time reading those letters that I thought I would return to the topic again, since someone else contacted me with a similar, but a better quality spam.

I wonder if this is a sign that the Azeri women are gaining popularity ( thanks to what? Eurovision? Mrs Aliyev and her daughters? who knows)? But I do get people asking me whether i think it is a real Azeri girl sending them love emails quite often these days.

Now, this American guy contacted me on Scary Azeri Facebook page. Did I think this girl was a real thing, he was asking.

First of all, I had to explain to him, that her name- Asiya Malunova, does not sound very Azeri to me. Kind of close, but not quiteWell, never mind that. Let's look at one of her emails to our American friend. ( I cut some of it out not to bore you too much)

    • Once again I went to a cafe, and write letter to you my dear Jay. Reading your answer, I learned a lot. 
      ....I went to Baku, and learned how I can come to you. I know what it is necessary. I went to a travel agency so they help me and give me more information so I can know exactly what to do. As I told you, I'm not going to wait long months or even years before be with you. If we're not now take this step, it may not be a better chance. And then we will be sorry that we are not together. And I hope that you will agree with me.Agency provide its services, and was ready to sign a contract. But I'm not in a hurry. I does not sign until I talk to you. And only after you answer, I'll write them a letter (they give me their email address) and I'll ask them to start work. And just go to them for sign a contract.And now I think you need to hear what I have to do, so I can leave my country Azerbaijan.To start, I want to ask you, you just ready to be with me? And promise me that you will not make me a pain!!As soon as I say that I want to leave my country and go to you. They warned me that it could be dangerous. I'm not the first girl who leave the country. And just as many girls to leave Azerbaijan for various invitations, labor, and travel. And many simply do not come back. They disappeared. But after these words I was more afraid.Travel agent ask me before I went to somewhere ? I said no. and then he took out a folder and gave it to me to read.there were documents, photos, and a lot of different articles. Basically there says about prostitution and sale of people and slavery. I did not think that we have in the world still have slavery. Also there were photos, all those who left. Photo was two. One was before people leave the country, and a photo of the man when he was finding.Some pictures I could not see, they were terrible. It was also more photos of the girls. Travel agent told me that a lot of sexual slavery. And some of the girls are lured into other countries and used as prostitutes. And on this any agency in my country is obliged to warn all that could wait for him in another country.Believe me, after all that I tell, I was just was in shock, I even wanted to cancel to go to you. I was afraid. And I do not hide it. But because I did decide to learn everything . I told you that I will never be taking steps back. And I always will go forward. Then they told me, if you really want to leave Azerbaijan, then you need to have the following documents: a visa and passport. And return tickets. Since I have a tourist visa. And I have to buy a return ticket as well. Otherwise, I can not let go back to your country. Such rules in the agency, and in general in our country.So, on the documents: visa will be valid for 3 months, a passport will be valid for 3 years. To do this I have to submit a lot of documents to visit you! I'll have to do medical certificates, certificates of residence and information about my salary.I do it today, I have prepared all the necessary documents. And I think that's not a problem to prepare the travel documents. But in order for me to start to do things again, I ask you, are you ready? Are you ready to be with me? Are you willing to meet me at the airport soon?But there is one problem. Yes, it is financially. and I shall be sorry if tomorrow I will not see your letter, or I see an insulting letter. And you know, I will be very sad that you're going to think badly of me. But I still have to ask you about it. And to tell you all this.I talk about the cost. But this is only approximate. They will have the exact name of the airport, where I will fly to you, I ask you to tell me this in your next letter. And then they can say exactly how much it will all cost.And I just can not pay for everything myself fully that amount. I havesavings and some money. But this is not enough. This is about10 of the total trip cost. And I want to ask you. Are you afraid? (Smile).I ask this because I'm guessing that you might have in your head, but do not say anything bad.Believe me, I do not want you to hurt or deceive you. But I need to know if you are ready to be with me? And your words are powerful. And I understand that you are afraid of losing your money. And ready to give me back if I do everything myself, and come to you! But I really can not find all the money in full.Do not worry, I will not talk about you bad. But if you'll believe me, I'll believe you, too. And then we're both going to see that does not cost a thing to be afraid or anything. Because soon we're able to be together. Is wanted ... If you can help me with payment of my trip, it will show me that your intentions are honest, that you really want to have a serious relationship with me in the future and ready to do a lot for this. If you're going to say that I should find all money myself, then it will show me that you do not believe me you're afraid of losing your money and do not want to risk it. This would mean that you just want me to come to you, you had sex with me, and I'm going back. And with it you do not spend money, you just sit there and expect for my visit. This is a very interesting position, but I do not accept it.I ask you only have to answer me these questions. And then we're going to know what to expect next. Our meeting - everything we dreamed. Are you ready to be with me? You're going to help me with the money, because I can not afford topay for everything by myself, and only 10 (percent) of the whole amount?Also I need the name of the airport, where you will meet me! This is very important. (But I think that if you did not write me, I can also think that you take a step back.) Now I am ready to give my part of money to travel agency for they begin with documents . In this way we save time.Do you want to celebrate this Christmas in a new way, with me?I will wait for a response from you.I love you, your Asiya
  • Now, as far as spam goes, this one is actually not too bad, right? However, I had to wonder- what real Azeri girl would throw herself like this at a total stranger. How did she find this poor guy, I wanted to know. I appreciate that morals are changing, and perhaps, Azeri girls are becoming more... hmm.. what's the polite word for this?...brave? Yet, it is- technically speaking- still a Muslim country. Maybe, I thought to myself, this is how desperate some girls get? Maybe things are this tough back in some Azeri small towns and villages. (Asiya here claims to be from Dashkesan) 
    Then, Jay sent me this. 
    Hello again. How are you today?
    Now I come again to our internet cafe, it is not far from my home. So after my work, I come here. I'm glad to see your new letter, thanks for that. I really hoped to see your answer, and now I'm really happy because I can see that. I realize now that you and I, we can start to get to know each other better. I understand that I make the right choice when I went to a wedding agency, and they gave me there's your email address. I do not really understand how it works, wedding agency. Wedding agency manager told me that they have agreements with many dating sites, and those sites provide this agency with e-mail addresses of visitors and single men. In any case, I'm glad that now I can communicate with you. I ask you to write me often, and I will do as well. I'll be glad to know about you and your life, and talk about my life. I want our relationship is in constant development. Friendship must also evolve. Now I think we have to take the first step, I have an interest in you, and you have an interest in me. I'm sure at least - we can become good friends. My hobby. I go to the gym, do jogging. Do you like sports? I love photography, and I will send you my pictures often. But, I would never send naked pictures! If you're asking for it, I will stop writing to you all. I can speak English. But to write to you, I'll use a program interpreter. I would like to know, what are your favorite activities, hobbies? Tell me more about your work, do you like it? I love my job. I work as a salesman underwear for women. I find my work interesting, as always communicate with people. Also, I should always have a good appearance. I always try to dress in quality items that customers can see it. My height is 172 centimeters and weighs 58 kilograms. I am 31 years now and my birthday is February 1, and I still live alone in the city! My country called Azerbaijan. This is a Muslim country, with the religion of Islam. I hope you are not afraid of it? And my religion is not a barrier to the development of our relationship?
    I am comfortable with the other religions, and I do not think that religion can be an obstacle for the development of a serious relationship. Because I do not put religion in first place in my life. For me, my target in life now is to find my only man. That's why I went to the wedding agency.
    My town is called Dashkesan. It is not very far from the capital, Baku. My city is small, quiet and calm. I do not like the big, bustling city. In our country, all of the girls are married off to a man at a very young age, and my father always chooses a husband for his daughter. Since Islam is the main religion. Girls and women in our country have very few rights. I'm different . I want a man to love him. And so I would not want to stay longer in Azerbaijan in the future. So I have a conflict with my parents. I'll tell you more about that in my next letters! I want you to write me big letters and send your pictures, please do not forget.
    While I want to use only the Internet mail. I think that this is the best option for correspondence with you. So I can write anything I think. Please, let's use e-mail for our communication? I do not know how to use other programs to communicate, and I just do not have time for this. I can not use Skype or MSN, since it is very time-consuming, and the Internet cafe manager told me that their internet speed is not the fastest for that. So I prefer to use only e-mail communication.
    I hope not too tired you my letter and questions? I hope you can find time to write to me again soon. I want to receive from you a long letter. If I see that you answer my questions, I understand that your intentions are serious. Please write to me as often as you can. Write about anything that you're interested. Ask me any questions. I try to answer you directly.
    Looking forward to an early reply, now goodbye.
     Now, I have highlighted the funniest parts for those of you who might still think this girl is genuine. Like jogging. Anyone who ever visited a small town in Azerbaijan would know that no sensible single girl would brave a jogging experience there. But the best part of course, is the photo. I deliberately shared the emails with you first. So, now that you have the image of this strong, confident, AZERI girl from a town near Baku in your mind, please enjoy her photo.
    Wow, I thought to myself. Whoever you are, whatever country you are writing from, you almost had me. ALMOST, my dear. 
    I am so sorry, I wrote to Jay. She is not a spam. She is a professional con artist.
    It is easy to us, people who know what Azerbaijan is like, what women there are like, to laugh at poor blokes who become targets of these people. But really, if Jay, or another poor bloke similar to him, who has little or no knowledge of countries like Azerbaijan...receives such detailed emails, supported by photos of legs coming straight from that small tight arse...would he not want this to be true? Would he not push any last traces of logic aside in a hope to, at least once in his lifetime, feel these endless legs wrapped around his lonely body this Christmas? How can anyone blame him? 
    Now, I wonder if there is a business opportunity here for me. I can provide services to people like Jay, who need help explaining why this is a con artist. Why no Azeri girl, however emancipated, would sit in this kind of a pose in this kind of outfit in front of a scenery that is clearly not Azeri either. (Saying that, I do know one Azeri girl, married to an expat, with a child..who thinks it is totally normal to post photos of herself on Facebook- wearing nothing but a silk slip.
    "I have things to show!" she answered when I asked why she would do such a thing.)

    But then again, who knows just how powerful these "agencies" are. Our pretty long-legged friend shared the details of the travel agency who are now holding her passport, according to her. For some reason it is a Polish travel agency, claiming to have an office in Baku. Perhaps, the travel agency is just a cover. The girl in the photo, come to think of it, looks more Polish than she does Azeri, to me anyway. But hey.. I have seen some of these Eastern European dudes in movies. I would not want to mess with them!

    So, I guess all I can say to Jay is....good luck. At the very least you get to keep this photo. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

An unusual shape.

At a birthday party last weekend, a Russian lady I quite liked said to me (reassuringly) that I was not fat, not at all. I was just an unusual shape. Hmm…

Had the most bizarre dream last night. I was writing Christmas cards the evening before, and then walked around the compound shoving them under neighbors’ doors. In the dream, I sort of continued taking cards to people, but this time, I was driving my Doha car on the streets of Baku. I decided to stop by A., my childhood friend I am no longer in touch with, to drop her card off to her. I remember the Blue Mosque she lived near, I parked my car next to the old iron gates and walked in. and there she was, sitting on an old bench in a tiny courtyard with local children. She was so happy to see me. Wait, she said, you have got to see this! And she pulled my hand to her little ground floor shack, where, right in the middle of the living room grew an enormous Christmas tree. ‘I just planted it here’ she said, ‘and the top of it is all the way in the neighbors’ flat upstairs! We drilled a whole around it, and now we both can enjoy the live tree for ages!’

Slightly unrealistic, you say? Yep. Possibly. Every little detail about that dream is unrealistic, not just the tree growing inside a tiny shack A. used to live in. She is in Moscow now, and I am in Doha. Nothing, not even Facebook, can bring us close to each other like we were back then.

I often say Oh the world is so small these days! Who cares where we live? One day you can be here, in Doha, and next day in the UK or Baku. Flights are easily available, social media helps to keep in touch...And yet, how badly do I wish sometimes, that I could, like in the dream, drive my car down from Doha to Baku, or London, or the hand-deliver my Christmas cards to all my old friends.

As a profound atheist (or am I actually more agnostic? Who cares.) I am very fond of Christmas and New Year. But, inevitably, this time of year makes me feel nostalgic. About the past, the people who are no longer here, or the friends who are too far.  About the places I wish I could just walk into, again, after many years, and find exactly the same- just like they were back then, when everything was innocent and stress free, when my friend was not working long hours in the big snowy Moscow; but was sitting on the bench crunching sunflower seeds with neighbors’ children.

Every little detail in that dream was unrealistic. And yet, every little detail was so vivid, so correct. My brain, incapable of remembering to get the cornflakes for the last three shopping trips, has managed to store away and bring back up some lovely memories. Maybe this is what it is like, to be getting old. That, and being of an unusual shape, of course. 

Friday, 30 November 2012

The girl with stunning eyes.

Been busy and tired from endless socialising and getting involved in pointless discussions about God on Facebook.  Normally, i would not get involved. But, this particular discussion amused me when an old uni friend made a comment that he suffers, living in Prague, where, according to the recent poll, 90% are atheists. 'I am so sorry!' This girl replied. 'It must be awfully difficult for you to live in a society so immoral and empty of any values!' That, of course, was a kind of comment that I just could not walk past in silence.

I honestly don't care that a few of my intelligent, lovely friends have religion. I sigh deep inside, and wish i could understand them. But it does not bother me that i can't. I hope it does not bother them, either. We also get told, endlessly, that we have to respect the religious beliefs of the others. But what about the lack of beliefs? How come some people think it is appropriate to insult the non-beliefs of others?

I tried to explain to this girl that, out of hundreds of people i have net in my life, my grandmother, an atheist all her life, was one of the purest, kindest, most generous types. Somehow, the discussion went  from ignorant to moronic when one other girl commented that the very fact we even discuss God proves he exists. 

No further comment.

But, if you happen to still be reading this, and not thinking to yourself "oh, for crying out loud, not the god discussion again!"...this is not what i wanted to talk about tonight.

I wanted to share an interesting local experience with you.

Recently, I have noticed that i am slowly loosing this uncomfortable feeling i used to get whenever i saw a woman completely covered up. I guess, i used to think that i could not make any contact  with her. To me, not being able to see her face meant that i could not really tell what she is thinking. Is she smiling? Is she smirking? Is she thinking my jeans are way too tight? It is difficult to talk to someone whose facial expression is not participating in the conversation. But, having lived in a country where a lot of women do cover up for -holy crap!- almost a year now; i think I am a lot more at ease with it all.

So, about two weeks ago, during a visit to a local heart hospital (where i have decided to take my visiting mother to check out some irregular heartbeat problem), i noticed that one of the receptionists had the most unbelievable eyes.

Now, it is still quite difficult for me to tell whether an Arabic woman i am looking at is a Qatari or from some other county nearby. 'Just watch', one more experienced friend told me. 'The Qatari women, they walk differently. They float so gracefully, even on those heels, that there is no mistake.' They also seem to do something with their hair that stands really high up in some sort of a bun at the back of the head, which lifts the abaya and looks a lot more feminine, somehow.

The woman with stunning eyes had all the attributes applicable for a local lady. Her hair was raised in a big bun high up. Her heels when she got up to get some papers from anther desk were incredibly high and her body language exuded confidence. She was clearly also in charge, it was in the way she held up her mobile phone and in the way she gave brisk orders to the other two young Arabic receptionists. I was not talking to her, but kept glancing at her face, completely mesmerised by her eyes. Perhaps it was the shock of seeing such light, almost the shade of the Gulf sea water, colour, or the size if them, or the heavy eye make up around them that caught my attention. I was wondering to myself if the rest of her was this pretty, or just her eyes. Finally, unable to help myself, i spoke to her.

Not knowing whether she would think I was rude, or accept the unexpected compliment, and not being able to judge from her facial expression, I had to just trust my instinct and go for it anyway.

'Excuse me', I said to her, 'I just have to tell you...You have amazing eyes! They are just too pretty!'

And as I spoke to her about her stunning eyes, they wrinkled. She was laughing along with me, embarrassed, but clearly pleased. Those pretty eyes, the only part of her body that I could see, were happy and they were smiling. 'Thank you' she said. the girls on each side of her also giggled and we parted at that.

We needed to go back for one test in a few days, and also to try and book a stress test. 'You should try and get an early appointment' ( my mother's visa, already extended once, was running out soon) the doctor told us, 'but, to be honest, the waiting lists are way too long. You probably won't get it in time before your flight.'

As we approached the reception desk, my mother spoke to the girls again. Please, she said, any chance I could get a stress test before I have to leave the country? No, they said. Nothing. Not until mid-December. 'Oh, well...' my mother sighed. 'That's okay. Thanks so much for trying anyway'.

And then, as she started to walk away, she heard the one with the beautiful eyes shout out 'Wait a second! Come back here!'

She picked up the phone and spoke urgently into it. Then she made a few quick notes in the computer.
'Here', she said, her eyes smiling again, and she added my mother into the queue for the next morning.

Now, there is a good lesson to learn for someone like me. Firstly, compliments- when genuine!- work miracles. Secondly, human factor and personal contact like this work in Doha. This sort of thing would never happen in either of my other homes- the UK or Azerbaijan. In the UK, complimenting a receptionist about her eyes would get me nowhere. The rules remain the rules, whatever you say. In Azerbaijan, only bribes would help to go around the rules. But here, everything is possible if someone simply liked you.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Birthday with Jesus and demon on a shoulder.

I have been thinking a lot about religion recently. Again.

What I was thinking is just how much I wished I could believe he ( she? it?) existed. Because, there are times in our lives when we really want to ask someone for help. 

My friend's child is seriously, critically ill. And as I saw her message on my phone, as the few written words formed into a scary reality, I mentally begged someone, something for this child to get better. It is something you just do automatically, don't you. Beg someone. Please, I thought, please...Let him get better! But whom was I asking? If he, she, it...did exist, would he not have allowed this to happen in the first place? And if she/he/it decided to allow for this to happen...would he change his mind only because a few of her friends ( including the ones who always slagged him off until now) prayed and asked him to? 

And so I have been thinking about religious people, and tragic or stressful moments in life; such as death, diseases, tsunamis and whatever else. Every time, I wonder... How much easier would it be for me, if I really thought something existed out there, somewhere?

A few days ago I almost emailed this one woman who left a comment on a Facebook posting of the New Zealand triplets who died in the Villagio fire in Doha a few months ago. The parents are obviously finding their faith helpful in dealing with the unthinkable loss of their toddlers. They are clearly people with God, which is...well, great for them, I guess. But this particular comment from one of their readers pissed me off. The Weekes put up a photo of a little pretty Chinese ( I think) girl, who also died that day. It was an awfully sad posting. On that day, it was, would have been, the girl's birthday. And the couple mentioned just how cute she was, and how her parents must miss her.

Most of the people commented by saying things along the religious lines, such as blessings and prayers, which of course, were understandable. Whatever works for them to make them feel better, right? But this particular woman left the comment in which she sounded excited. 'Wow, she said. Birthday with Jesus! How much fun is that?'

I felt physically sick reading this. Fun?? In what world does this woman think that having a dead child is fun? It made me want to write to her and ask, did she honestly believe that this enthusiastic comment would make the parents feel any better? 

It made me want to ask her if she ever lost someone she loved, a pet...a parent.. a friend...let alone a child. How much fun would she think they were having with Jesus on their birthdays? 

Husband dismissed my problems with the morons on the Internet. He explained that there are many crazy people out there and sadly, they all have access to the Internet these days. Fine. I get it.
But really, my personal issue with this  comment goes beyond that. It is exactly this bizarre attitude that I strongly object to when it comes to religion.

Let me give you a good example. In Doha- just like in Baku, by the way, it is quite common to see small children jump up and down the seats in the car. In the front, in the the middle moving between the back and the front...whatever you can think of. I even saw a child sitting on his bicycle inside the car! Now, as a parent and as a driver in Doha, (and you will never understand what I mean unless you tried to drive- and survive on the roads of Doha) I simply don't get how anyone could risk their children's lives like this. It does not make sense to me. 

However, if you are a religious person living your life with a fatalistic approach...Then it is simply not your problem, is it. The child will survive if God wants him to. If the parent is driving like an idiot or some other idiot might cause an accident...well, it is God's idea of what should have happened. And nothing (I guess, including seat belts) would change that outcome. 

I mean, what a great way to live! Nothing is your fault! You are not responsible for anything that happens! Everything is God's will. Perfect. In fact, I suspect the whole Villagio fire is nobody's fault either. God wanted 13 children to perish that day. So it happened. And now the little Chinese girl can have her birthday with Jesus! How much fun is that??? Right?

Also, the same approach works when you want to do something a bit naughty. Not a problem. A friend was telling us a story of their maid getting caught in action when she was having a bit of fun with their driver. A very religious driver from Syria. With a religious maid from Shri-Lanka. Caught in action, the driver lowered his eyes as he tried to explain the unfortunate situation to the owner of the house. Look, sir...he said. The demon was sitting on my shoulder

See? Not the driver's fault! He was not a cheating bastard whose wife and children were waiting for him back home in Syria, no, no no... His penis would have stayed safely tucked into his pants; but, sadly, the demon sat on his shoulder and told him to stick it into the maid. Simple!

As I said...Sometimes, I wonder what it must feel have this outlook on life. To see sad things as 'meant to be'. To see everything as someone else's responsibility, someone else's will. And in a way, i wish I could look at a picture of that little girl, and see not a tragically wasted life in a stupid accident that should and could have easily been prevented...but God's will. And what it must be like, to sincerely believe she is out there, having a piece of cake with Jesus? Yes, sometimes I wish I could.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

When you can be anything you want.

I, in all honesty, don't know how I can stand Facebook these days. But, the truth is, I am hugely addicted. My excuse is that, without any doubt, it is a useful tool for people like me, living far away from home(s). And the more countries you leave behind, the more friends are out there somewhere, and there simply is no time in our lives to send regular emails, let alone call each other. But I still like to know what they are all up to.

And, despite quite a few very irritating things about it, Facebook never really annoyed me too much, until recently, when some very bizarre things started happening, for which i can't think of any logical explanation. Besides endless pictures of (frigging) cats that I simply can't stand any longer, the one particular thing that really bugs me these days is this fake heart-breaking story. For instance, the one about a man asking for a divorce and then realizing he still loved his wife. Sadly the wife dies, and the mistress slaps him across the face, first having checked his forehead for signs of fever. (please refer to the extract below...)

I mean, come on, people! For goodness sake!

Do you know how many people left comments under this incredibly badly written made-up piece of crap? Thousands! It is so obviously fake it makes me laugh, but people actually cried. I guess, I should not be too surprised. People, in their majority, are depressingly, unbearably, hopelessly stupid. But what interests me here, is who comes up with this sort of crap and most importantly...why? To generate spam? To collect likes and shares? But for what? There is no money in it, surely, and no fame either as there never is the original name under such a confession.

There are some other popular ones floating about...Like the Russian letter about a baby being born on an aeroplane, being delivered by an unemployed young woman. (Not sure what her employment status has to do with the price of fish. )

What I wonder about though, is whether these made-up heartbreaking stories, clearly aimed at getting an emotional reaction, could eventually cause a major compassion fatigue, turning most of us into cold monsters, completely and utterly indifferent to the real life pain and suffering. I hope I am still able to tell the difference between a real situation and made-up crap like the above...But, sometimes, I ask myself..what if  it me who is too cynical to spare a tear for this story of a poor cheating bastard and his dying wife? What if all the 2,000+ commentators who cried and felt for this situation are not actually stupid but just very kind and compassionate?

I am only kidding.

Of course I never asked myself that, because, come on!!! These people are stupid. While they are sitting on their fat arses in front of their laptops, leaving emotional comments under a post generated by some other unknown moron, their elderly neighbour might be alone in his lat, with no family or friends to visit him. Their mother is probably waiting for a phone call, or their real life friend might be depressed, needing someone to talk to. But they sit there crying for something that clearly, never happened. Because, it is easier this way, isn't it? This is something they can get emotional about for a split second, before moving on to a cute picture of a cat with a silly caption, and, voila!
life is all great again. No effort required, no proper emotional involvement. Yet, they feel good about themselves, for as far as they are concerned, they are kind. And compassionate.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Friend Stealers

It has been a while, hasn’t it? I have been very busy. The weather is getting better day by day here, in Doha, after the summer heat; and everybody tends to spend more time outdoors, hungry for fresh (well, somewhat dusty, but still) air.

It is the second Eid here right now, which means a week off school and work, and we spent last three days at the beach with friends, good food and even a shisha. I have not got much to add, really about being at the beach every day (without making you all jealous and that is not, my friends, my intention!) 

Except that I have developed a very strong dislike for the jetski owners here, in Qatar. Husband always hated people who ride on jetski simply because they belong, in his eyes, to a special category of twats, also known as ‘people with no soul’. I, however, felt quite indifferent towards them, having tried jetski a few times myself, and not seeing any problem with them, except for the annoying noise. But, here, in Qatar, the guys who go on jetski do it in the most not just annoying, but dangerous fashion- they insist on riding them very close to the shore, practically on top and in between the swimmers in the sea. I have watched them do it for three days, and wondered what makes them come so close to us. Is it the desire to show off their jetskiying skills? Because, there isn’t any skill in riding one. It is not that impressive, really. So, if not to impress, then what? To scare us? To demonstrate that they don’t care if they kill one of us?  I am quite curious what they think we think as we all watch them behave like dickheads on the water. Whether they think we envy their sexiness and macho-ness, and admire their speed and coolness? Or do they realize that every single pair of eyes directed at them sees a very large, brainless asshole on a noisy metal piece of shit?

Anyway, now that I expressed my honest opinion of the jetski riders, I can comfortably move on to what I wanted to actually talk about today.

Ladies and Gentlemen! Let me introduce you to…

Friend stealers.

A long time ago, back in the UK, I had a very unpleasant experience. I introduced a very nice friend of mine to another, new friend, who I quite liked. They hit it off, and for a while, we all hung out together, in a peaceful friendly harmony. But, after a few months, I found out the new friend started to exclude me. She bought some tickets to a cool event and invited my friend, not telling me. But as we all know, things like that get around very quickly. She then invited my friend and her husband for a dinner at her place. Without me. And slowly, but surely, my friend started spending more and more time with her. Without me.

Husband hates it when I get jealous of my friends, or upset about getting excluded. He thinks I sound like a little girl in the playground. Maybe. But, even with years of practice at being excluded, of teaching myself not to care, of telling myself endlessly that people have every right to like someone else more than me, and/or do things with other people…Situations like this particular one, when a friend comes in and muscles in, attempting to steal my friend, however I look at them….SUCK.

Since I have arrived in Doha though, I have actually not felt this way at all. Most of my friends here tend to share their friends happily. I assumed it was an expat thing. In the UK, I often noticed that many people never mixed their friends. They would meet friends from school on one day, friends from work on another and so on. I myself never paid any attention to separating my friends. If I had a party, I would happily mix them all- the more the merrier. If I hosted a dinner, I would enjoy bringing friends of mine together and introducing them to each other.

Here, in Qatar, we mix pretty well. Not just because we are all in the same boat- new place, no established friendships going years back, no families nearby. But also because we all need more contacts, and the only way we make them is through each other, through sharing our new friends with other new friends. As it goes in Russian…’peace, friendship, festival’. 

But now, back to why I feel like crap today. Today I have found out that not just me (which, as I noticed, I don’t actually get that affected by anymore), but my daughter got deliberately excluded by someone I considered a friend. Now, this is a different game altogether! You can exclude me as much as you wish, my dear. But to exclude my little girl, hurting her feelings…that is unforgivable in my Book of Friendship. I sat down and told myself the usual things. She did not have to invite my girl. So what those kids are all friends- they can’t and should not do everything together, all the time. It is nice to do things separately! I told myself that I was being unreasonable. That I should rise above it….blah blah.

But you know what? I still have this nasty feeling…And in the end, this is what it comes down to, with me anyway. Forget the logic, forget the reason. I trust my feelings getting hurt. And if that happens, it usually means one thing. The end of friendship.  

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Ten portions of haruf, Qatari style.

We have been busy planning a birthday party for Husband and his compound friend, who happened to also have a birthday on the same day. After considering a few options, we decided to take a chance that the baby would sleep through the noise, and actually have a joint party at our villa. Thankfully, the space is not really an issue in Doha. Back in my homik in the UK, I had to exclude people I wished I could invite, as we simply could not fit more than maybe 15 of them in the house. Now, we thought we would enjoy the freedom of a large living room and invite anyone we wanted to see. In the end, we expected roughly about 50 people in total, from both ends so to speak.

I had already consulted an Azeri friend here, in Doha, about the food options, as I seemed to remember him mentioning he had an amazingly tasty half a sheep he had ordered in for his party. 'Get haruf!' he said. He mentioned it would feed about 20 people or so.

I rung the guy at the restaurant. His English was not brilliant, and the conversation was somewhat painful. How many people does this one haruf plate feed I asked.
-10 people, ma'am.

Hmm...I thought. He says 10 people. Probably just wants me to buy more. But, my Azeri friend said 20. To be safe, I probably need to order two plates. That was me being wise, I thought. However, being an Azeri, I still worried about under-catering, so I also threw in a couple of plates of mixed grill. For about 5 people, I was told. Well, maybe also some salads then? 'Yes, maam. Mix salad!'

I asked what other salads they made that he could recommend. Yes, he replied. Good mix salad! OK, I gave up. Let's have four mix salads then.

At 8pm, the driver arrived. Now, when you say a plate in English you mean a plate. Not a round metal tray which is, according to my measuring tape here, is 67cm in diameter. As the little man stood there, smiling at me, his arms stretched round the huge heavy tray, I gestured into the living room, silently praying that- maybe?- it was the two plates I'd ordered, combined into one humongous tray. But of course, it was not. He went back to the car for the second tray. Sweet Jesus! My friend exclaimed, holding on to her heart. She probably realized we could have saved half of the money if she'd joined parties with someone more sensible.

You see, what this party made me realize, is that I ( naively) thought that Azeris ate a lot at parties, and tended to over-cater for their guests. But....I just never lived in the Middle East before.

Now, I did take the picture for you of this haruf plate. I should have, really, taken it when the haruf was there, in the middle of our dining room, in its full glory. This photo simply does not do it any justice. In this photo you can see the second tray, which was left untouched by the party of 50. I only remembered to take a picture of it after I had spent half an hour using up all my cling film trying to cover it all up.

The mix salad situation was also interesting. What the guy at the restaurant actually meant, was that he would send another enormous platter, possibly about 1 meter long, with about 7 various dips and salads on it. Of course, one of those would be enough. But we had 4.

Oh, well. The party was a total success, so I say so myself. But i have never in my entire life had miscalculated the amount of food this badly. It took the notion of over-catering to a whole different level.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to find half a sheep in my kitchen. I simply could not see any more sheep. The sight of this (literally-half of an) animal on a platter of rice in my morning kitchen ( after a night of drinking and eating non stop till 3am) was enough to almost turn me into a vegetarian.

And i forgot to mention that it was, without any doubt, the most delicious lamb i have ever eaten. It was divine. But, even for 50 enthusiastic, lamb-loving guests, this was way too much. By the end of the day, I felt like standing on the corner of the road throwing chunks of sheep into passing cars. During last two days, I have eaten more sheep than, possibly, in years. We decided to give the lamb out in large bowls to our compound friends. It felt like it was never going to end. I kept digging in and filling a bowl after bowl; and the tray was still full.

My mother, over FaceTime, was expressing her concerns that I kept the meat out of the fridge overnight. You should have put some in your friend's fridge! She said. 'Hold on...' I told her. 'I don't think you comprehend how big this haruf actually is'. And I showed her this photo. Oh, she said. Yes, exactly. Oh.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

And then he found his release. Again.

One night during our summer break, Husband and I were out for dinner in a very pleasant restaurant, just him and me, you know. Without the kids, thanks to the in-laws. We sat there chatting away and sipping wine, when husband asked if I have finished reading this so-called mummy porn Fifty Shades of Grey yet. 'No', I had to admit...The problem is- I get bored and fall asleep every time Christian Gray finds his release. And since he finds his release pretty much on every other page, I never manage to read any more than one or two pages in one go. This is definitely, without any doubt the worst book I have ever attempted to read in my entire life.

'Do you realise though, Husband proceeded, that people at the table behind me, as well as to my right,  have been discussing this book for the last fifteen minutes? What is the matter with them all? How could something so bad get so huge so quickly?'

What amazed me personally in The Fifty is not the lack of any imagination, style or proper plot. And not even the repeated usage of the same words over, and over...and over again...(Mainly palatable, and found his release); but how it was a complete and utter rip off the Twilight. Interestingly, I used to think Twilight was bad, but only until I have started reading the fifty shades. In comparison, Twilight is a work of art.

Because I did read Twilight, I could easily see everything that got borrowed. From attempts to re-create the passionate but dangerous relationship, the unstoppable chemistry and the complicated situation, to small details such as relationships with people, the way he messes up his hair when confused, the way he claims to be not good for her...Besides shameless stealing of little episodes and characteristics from the Twilight, the woman also took some very well-known sexy bits from say, movies that have been proven successful. Say the sex on the piano episode from Pretty Woman. Really, it was a good scene, so why not repeat it again?

The reason I am still shocked at the success of these books is that the author did everything I, as an aspiring writer, would be mortified of getting caught doing. I mean, isn't plagiarism one of the worst crimes in any writing genre? And sure, it is very difficult to write anything original these days- most of the things have been written about, most of the topics have been covered. But that, surely, is part of the challenge? And what's the fun in stealing the work of someone else, adding a bit of spanking here and a sex toy there, changing a vampire into a rich entrepreneur...I guess all that money she has made from these books would be quite nice, yes. But would I want my girls to grow up knowing their mother wrote this bad (so bad it deserves a good spanking, Mr Gray) housewife porn? For the rest of her life, Ms James will be known for her rather impressive familiarity with kinky sex, and absolutely nothing else.

So I guess I should just admit I got sucked into it by this fantastic case of viral marketing, spent four quid on an Ibook version I could read while in Doha..and could not actually finish it. But, at least, I know what everyone is giggling about now.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A very civilized coffee morning. With a twist.

I got dressed up yesterday to go to a very civilized coffee morning. Sometimes I just feel like making a bit of an effort, you know? The coffee was at a new friend's place. I knew she had invited quite a few people I have not met yet, and was looking forward to getting to know some new faces.

It was a beautiful house, with a beautifully set up table. The hostess made an effort, too. I sat there, chatting and sipping my coffee, when something quite shocking happened. A very pleasant Indian lady suddenly, pretty much out of the blue, announced that London was completely and utterly Islamased. 

I love meeting different people with all sorts of opinions. I find it incredibly entertaining when people just come up with some bizarre stuff in front of someone they barely know, if know at all. I never really get into any arguments, not because I am embarrassed. I, in fact, encourage them to go on, as it gives me a fascinating glimpse into their minds, and without letting them speak out, I would simply never discover just how screwed up some people are. For example, only recently, I met a South African lady, who was openly telling me how she screamed at her maid, and how once she grabbed hold of her male cleaner's arm and twisted it backward to stop him washing up under the running water. She explained that she had warned him once not to use running water and he disobeyed her orders. She looked so insane telling us this story, I was beyond fascinated! I mean, when she just walked into that dinner party, she did not look anyhow interesting. She was just this very quiet, badly dressed, lonely sort of older lady. And suddenly, she came to live with all her racist, cruel, nasty personality shining through. Amazing! Simply amazing.

Anyhow, back to the Indian lady. Without any hesitation, confusion or embarrassment, she came up with this, hmm...statement. Looking me directly in the face, expecting support and understanding. I made a hmm...confused sort of noise. I was thinking that she did not know where I was from. I have dark hair and almost middle-eastrn sort of features. I could have easily been offended!  Okay, as many of you know, I am far from being religious, neither am I the one to be protecting religious people and their feelings.  Yet, I have found her comment really, quite unpleasant. Not only because I come from a Muslim country, I also disliked anyone saying anything negative about the UK and London. Basically, I found the comment nasty on all sorts of various levels and layers, from all sorts of angles.

She went on to explain how saddened she was by this complete and utter Islamisation of London and the UK. How London is lost to Muslims. Lost. Gone.

You know, I wanted to say... You clearly, have not been to Southall. I actually think London is quite Indianised, myself. And as for Doha, it is quite Indianised, too. Do you find me saying it to people at a coffee morning, shaking my head in an outraged racist kind of fashion? Nope. She also mentioned that America was her home now, since she has spent years living there. I wonder how she would feel if she overheard some white Americans discussing how many Indians lived in the States these days. (Or Hindu, if you want to get technical).

She went on to complain about Islam in such a way that it made me wonder what she was actually doing here, in Qatar. It must be quite a painful experience for her, really.

And suddenly, I just wanted to leave. Despite the pleasant hostess, a beautifully served coffee and a very tasty watermelon. Some opinions, you see, are better off shared when you know someone much, much better. Perhaps, intimately. I felt almost harassed by this comment. It was ugly, it was naked, it felt indecent. As if she had stripped in the middle of the morning coffee, and showed me her saggy, dark nippled breasts, shaking them in my face. That is what it felt like, to me. Revolting.

Now, she might actually be a nice person. Slightly islamophobic, perhaps, but maybe quite nice deep inside. But now that she stripped in front of me before I even had a chance to get to know her, guess what...I don't have any desire to find out.

Friday, 7 September 2012

A few post-Safarov scenarios, depending on the nationality.

Very strange. For some reason, watching "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" just now made me think of Safarov. Not a good image, but I simply can't shake it off. 

Please note. Very important! Views and opinions expressed below are NOT of Scary Azeri. 

So, since my last posting on the national hero Safarov I have been following some conversations on Facebook, and obviously getting a few comments here and there, you know. In the end, it all got too boring to be honest, especially when both sides started off in a very civilized manner; only to then start bringing up well-known examples and wind each other up.

But! Before I move on to some other topics in life, and leave poor Safarov alone to enjoy his fame and love of all the "patriots"...I just thought, it would be amusing to list down the available conspiracy theories floating about on the Internet right now. Who knows, maybe one of those will actually come true? In which case, we can all come back to this blog some time from now- years? months? days?- and say wow...however mad this sounded, you guys were right! (Which I personally sincerely doubt). But, humour me. Let's just consider all the versions. I might be missing a few, of course, so please do feel free to add to the below list.

Right, this is where you, my dear readers, have to, naturally, separate. If you are an Armenian national, please see the following explanation to what has happened. 

"a theory that all these was carefully orchestrated by Azeri/Turkish leaders to start the war against Armenia in the near future. After making Safarov a hero authorities will then kill him saying that an Armenian infiltrator did that. That will anger Azeri people even more and they will be calling for war."

If, however you happen to be Azeri, you might prefer the following version:

Safarov was set up by the Armenians. He was given a drug called vafli, often used in dog fights, to stimulate aggressive behaviour. Now, this minor detail is VERY important to a lot of Azeris. The murdered the armenian officer was not asleep! I repeat: He was NOT asleep, but got woken up, walked to his door and opened it to the (maddened by vafli drug) Safarov. Somehow, this makes it a better story for a lot of Azeris. I personally don't get why. Whether the guy was asleep or just woken up does not change the fact that he was turned into a Nearly Headless Nick (excuse the black humour) by You Know Who with an axe. What fascinated me as well, is that in some rather pathetic example of Azeri journalism, they laughed at the other Armenian companion of the murdered officer- for hiding away from the madman with an axe, and being too afraid to open the door. The journalist thought it was an act of cowardice. I wish I could place that journalist at night, in a hotel room with a mad enemy with an axe right outside, and see if he would still think it was funny. But I am sorry. He is in Baku, he gets paid to write this crap and can't do anything about that. 

Another version circulating around Baku right now worth sharing is that the plot was organized and Safarov paid to commit the crime by the.....Americans, of course!
You see, they have been suspiciously quick with their "disturbed" reaction to Safarov's pardoning, and that means that they were waiting for it to happen. President Aliyev is only a puppet in some major international set-up, and did what he was instructed to do. The whole thing was orchestrated in order to provoke the war, and for the Americans to take control of Armenia. I am not quite sure what the Americans would need Armenia for (no offence guys, but you have no oil.) But that is a theory that has been kindly passed on to me yesterday. 

You might have noticed, that whatever version people get fed on their side of the conflict, one element all the versions have in common, is the possibility of war. Which is not a joking matter. 

Finally. One article I have read on the subject was a breath of fresh air- an Azeri professor speaking beautifully, intelligently and I just have to share it here, in case you might have missed it. (it is in Russian). I was relieved to see there are still people like Professor Badalov back home. But also felt sorry for the guy. Even people I used to think I knew...used to think were intelligentsia posted such shockingly brainwashed, stupid comments under that article that I seriously consider un-friending them on Facebook.  Of course if they have not already un-friended me.