Saturday, 28 July 2012

Spare cash? Buy yourself new boobs!

I went to the gym one sunny morning recently. The word ‘sunny’ is a bit of a joke, since it is always sunny in Doha. (It was also a bit of a joke back in the UK but, obviously, for a completely opposite reason).  

As I stood there, barely moving on a cross trainer, I noticed a stunning girl on a treadmill next to me. I quickly guessed she must have been Lebanese. Having spent a few months in our compound taught me to tell a Lebanese woman from others. The main attribute they all seemed to have, (and I still am to learn whether it is all the Lebanese women in Doha, or only the ones in our compound), is that they are all gorgeous. But, the problem with our (compound) lot is that they are all absolutely, utterly and unrealistically identical.  

‘I think I know which one she is’, I thought to myself, smiling at her.  She smiled back. She had luscious long hair, which she clipped up in a casual, yet sexy bun, and impossibly narrow waist (where do the internal organs go?), and big sensual lips.   We said hello and exchanged a few general gym-related comments. I asked, trying to be sociable, whether it was her I had seen the previous weekend celebrating her son’s birthday at the pool.  

‘Oh, no, it was not me’, she laughed. ‘But I can see why you would think it was’. And she gestured to the two ginormous watermelons proudly bouncing in front of her slim statuesque body.

And I thought to myself ‘my goodness, she is right! That is just what they all have in common here, all five of them!’ (Of course, I can only suspect there are five of them, because I have never seen them all together; and since they are clones, it is difficult to be sure just how many there are.)  
Absolutely every single one of our Lebanese beauties has very large, very round, very fake boobs. And I have a strong suspicion about those big lips, too.  

Back in Azerbaijan, you can always spot the wealthy women. It is not just the expensive cars and handbags anymore. These days they all look like our first lady. And it has to be said, to be fair, that she is very pretty. I am not sure how artificially enhanced she is, and I’d better not go there for political dictatorship reasons…. But all the girls who are in the certain league back home suddenly look very similar to her. The same lips, the same hair, the same make-up. It makes me wonder whether the world of rich women has moved on from Mulberry handbags and Tiffany rings on to their body parts as symbols of wealth. And the obsession seems to be cross-cultural.   And, once I paid attention to the boobs, they were everywhere I looked. On Facebook, almost every week I noticed yet another old friend proudly sporting a new pair.  

Not only do boobs happen all around me, they also are no longer something personal. Sitting in the local Starbucks, my friend and I were discussing the obsession with boobs, and she nodded happily. ‘I am gonna get some, too, when I go back to the States. You should only get them in California, those are the best!’ I giggled, thinking she was messing about, but she was dead serious.  ‘Wow!’, I thought. ‘What’s going on?’  

What happened to the ‘more than a handful is wasted’ wisdom that my husband lovingly shared with me years ago? Was he just being kind?

But, forget whether they look good or not. I have a strong suspicion these days that it is no longer about looking sexy, or attractive; or to boost confidence of some flat-chested young girls suffering from self-image issues…It is becoming an attribute of wealth. Have money? Buy yourself some boobs! Otherwise, your friends might think you are not rich enough. And who cares if, as a result, you all look the same.

That morning, having had a long chat with my Lebanese gym buddy, I went home, showered, picked up my kids and went to the pool. And there she was, sunbathing in a tiny bikini, showing off those perfect curves.   I stopped by. ‘I see you also decided to come for a relaxing swim after that grueling workout, didn’t you?’ I said to her, only to be met by a very confused look. Oh, dear. I got it wrong again.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Turtles hatching? No chance!

Well, I hope Husband is happy! Last weekend, he hinted that some people just have shopping for hobby, and dont enjoy more exciting things in life. Such as this amazing turtle hatching opportunity we get here, in Qatar. Or rather, watching the turtles hatch. Last Friday he tried to get me excited about driving one hour, at night, with a year-old baby to watch the hatching process. Of course I, being a mother, and therefore the one who will undoutedly pay for such extravaganza later, said How wonderful darling, but NO, thank you. 

Husband, in his usual style, pretended to understand my reasons but was then sulking all weekend. And husband does not sulk quietly. He makes the guilty party feel awful by explaining in details how wonderful the turtle hatching/watching experience would be for our older daughter, and how it would have enriched her life. How beautiful it would be for her to see.

So, when today a compound friend mentioned that their family was driving to Fuwairit beach to watch the hatching, and offered to take my older child along, I felt bad. Surely, I thought, I myself should enjoy watching the little cutie pies hatch! Beautiful sunset, friends who would not let me get lost or roll the car over in the dunes on the way there...what is actually such a big deal? Yes, I would have to drive there myself, alone with two kids since Husband had an important meeting with the big boss. Of course, it would be a little bit stressful for me, but surely other cool mums would do it. So can I, I thought and told my child I was going to go, too. I was going to be one of those cool mums she would be proud of.

It was not too bad, to be honest. At first, it was pretty good. The journey was not difficult, except for a very steep hill off the road, where I thought the car was, indeed, going to roll over on its' roof, but it managed to stay up, if slightly on one side. I did not get stuck in the sand where my daughter's friend pointed out someone she knew had got stuck one time...The weather suddenly got a lot worse though. In Doha itself, it was a pleasant 40C or thereabouts. A bit hot, I admit, but at least it was dry. Naively, i figured it would be cooler at the sea. It would be breezy. 
Instead, it was like sitting in a steam room. Not the sauna, because saunas are dry. But a steam room, because it was that humid. With sweat dripping off the tip of my nose, I quickly changed into my swimming suit, stripped the baby and went into the water- to cool down. Ha! How naive can I be, really? Cool down? it was like walking into a warm bath. Maybe, I thought, when I come out of the water, it would feel better on my skin. Nope. It did not.

The children had a great time. They rejected every piece of food we brought for them, but played in the bath water for a while, until the man of the group commanded it was the time. Hurry, he said, the sun is setting. It reminded me of one of those terrible zombie or vampire movies, where people had to run to safety before the sunset. I glanced down to the horizon where he pointed out the location of the turtle nests was. It looked far. Can you see those people standing at the edge there? he said, but the truth is...I could not see anyone. Having quickly considered dragging the push chair along the sand, I decided against it. Carrying the baby on my hip was not easy. I kept glancing around telling myself to admire the beautiful sunset and the rose-colored sky. It was, indeed, stunning. But the baby was heavy.
Finally, we could see some small square patch surrounded by wire fencing. As my eyes managed to see  a bit more of the destination, I voiced my concern. Hmm I said. Should there be someone there, you think? 

Oh yes, the man walking next to me nodded enthusiastically. There is a man there, he opens the hatch when it is time. 

But there was nobody there. There was no man. And no spectators either.

As we stood around the empty cage, a small buggy appeared, with an Indian man in it, waving to us. Oh, there he is! my friend exclaimed. At a closer look, I realized that the driver was not waving hello but waving us away from the cage.

The man of the group walked over to ask what did that gesture actually mean.
Hi! Are the turtles going to hatch tonight?- he asked, smiling kindly to the buggy man.

No chance, he replied. Those Indian men working n Qatar have very fascinating turns of phrase, as I noticed.
-No chance?, my friend asked again, stunned.
-No chance! 
But why, we tried to ask. The man shrugged his shoulders. Next sunday. No chance tonight.

And so we walked back to the car. It was getting dark by then, and everything still looked pretty. But, by then, I started thinking that I just really, really, and i mean terribly really wanted to be back home. On my sofa, with this (is she really this heavy?!) baby tucked in bed, clean, with a full tummy, and not covered in sand from head to toes, exhausted and starving. But I also knew that I had a loooong way to go yet. I had to walk back, I had to pack the picnic crap, I had to hose down the sandy kids, and then I had another hour of driving, hopefully without any accidents, until I could relax safely at home.

And the worst of all was the sand. Oh, the sand got everywhere. In every little crease and hole.
Sweaty and sandy, I finally set off to go home. One more time tipping the car over on one side on the steep bank, some more dark sandy roads and finally, on the main freeway. One more hour, and we were home.

Now, Husband can never again claim I am not adventurous enough. Next time he opens his mouth to tell me that I need to be more enthusiastic about such trips to the beach at night with two small children....well, I might just kill him and feed his body to the effin' turtles. If they ever do hatch.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The old books.

My mother finally got round to having her living room refurbished.

The old ceiling needed repairing for a while, and the state of the wallpaper was getting embarrassing.
People started making comments, you know.

And, as it often happens when you finally take a proper look at your home, she noticed a lot of things she did not really need, things that accumulated throughout many years, sitting there on shelves, gathering dust. She proudly told me how much junk she had thrown away.

It feels great, doesn't it, i agreed. And then, we got stuck.

What do i do with all these books, she said.

In my childhood, the big library was the focal point of any intelligentsia's flat. My auntie was particularly rich. She had the complete volume sets of Alexandre Dumas, Pushkin, Dostoyevskiy...everyone you can think of. And she had probably read them all, too.

In the times of my childhood, books meant so much more to us than money, crystal glasses or gold.

What do i do with them all? My mother asked and we were lost, nostalgic for a moment, stuck between our past and current lives, torn between the old habits and the new circumstances.

You don't throw books away. Your library is your treasure, your collection of priceless pieces you keep forever. To pass on to your children. But, we corrected ourselves, what is the point now, for us? Not only would I not really be shipping all those books to wherever i currently happen to live these days...but also, let's be realistic, my children would never be reading them in Russian.

And yet, it felt wrong, somehow. Throwing away all those books felt like we would forever close that door. The door to our past- with no ibooks, newspapers online or smart phones. The past of the Soviet childhood, rare sets of books, prestigious and not, expensive and collectible... The past where we dusted those bookshelves and arranged the favourite hardcovers by height, admiring the quality of the special editions and the colours of the hardcovers.

How many years we collected those books! How difficult it was to find a certain author's complete set of all the volumes! "Who is going to read them now?" My mother said, with only a slight note of sadness in her voice.

 Up to you, i said. If you are ready to rid of them, just do it.

But we both knew she probably could not.

Now, she said, her tone suddenly changing, You promised days ago! to teach me how to install Angry Birds Seasons on the Ipad... Hmm...yes, times have definitely changed.