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.