Thursday, 31 January 2013

How to alienate (Russian speaking) people and make enemies in Doha.

Everything you do has some benefit in the end, even a mediocre posting on a blog. As it happens, I got dragged into a fantastic, very typically Russian cat fight on the Russians in Qatar Facebook page about this last posting, which, even I will admit, was just a silly rant, nothing more nothing less.

But it taught me a valuable lesson.

There is no need, really, really, really no need to say things on the Internet that you would not say to someone's face. 

.....Or is there?

So many times I read things online and get this overwhelming urge to tell the person what I really, honestly think about them. Oh, it is so tempting!

There is one group someone created on Facebook that I joined which was very nice to start with. It collected old photographs from the street I used to live on back in Baku. It was such a cute idea! We looked at what our building looked like back in the 60es, and later on...what was there and what was added later...( here I wished i could add a photo of the very spooky-looking transvestite prostitutes who for some reason took fancy of one particular corner of Samed Vurgun street at nights; and would approach the cars at the red light to offer their services.) All was going well until one particular woman just joined in and never stopped. She posted pictures of kittens, of course. She also posted stupid jokes- a gigantic number of them. She then started writing pieces of?...- I guess it would be a blog eventually?- and posting those, too. And I resisted really well until one day she asked- Are you all fed up with me yet? 

Oh, my.... How close was I to explaining to her just how badly I hated everything that came up under her name recently! How badly did I want to tell her how stupid I thought she was! Did I say anything? Oh, yes. Of course, I did!

But then I deleted it all.

There also was a good blogger I used to follow. She got huge! Absolutely huge. And I had, I guess, a blogging envy going on- a little bit, you know? So, when she disappeared for a while, and then came back saying she got depressed and that is why she was not appearing online anymore recently...she pointed out she had no good reason to be depressed. It was pathetic, wasn't it, she asked.

Yes, it is, I replied.

And then, I deleted it. Because, I asked myself- why is it that I feel like telling this girl I don't even know something so nasty and mean? Maybe it has something to do with the fact her blog has tens of thousands of followers?

Whatever our reasons and motivations are, we often say things online that we don't really have to say.

So, to my latest blog post about things that slowly turn me into an expat bitch, people in Doha reacted with passion. One girl decided it was so sad and negative it possibly reflected my whole outlook on life, not just Doha. Maybe I was generally this frustrated, she suggested.

As I sat there in shock that someone would suddenly write such a long, technically polite, but ever so condescending and judgemental comment,  another girl appeared suggesting I had nothing better to do with myself, and should stop whining. 'I hate it when people just whine here all the time!'

Now, you real life, these two girls might be ( might!) quite nice, actually. They might have been nice to me if we met at a coffee morning, and I would have been nice to them, too. We might even have discovered we had a lot in common, and even shared a few funny episodes about our Doha life. But as it turned out, they used written words in just such a way that provoked me to use my written words in just this way...

In the end, just like the joke goes...I let myself relax and enjoy it. Everything (well, within the reason. Everyone tried to hide behind politeness, delivering insults in a subtle, Downton Abbey style, so me swearing and being openly rude was sadly, not appropriate) I would have normally resisted to say, I allowed myself to say. Interestingly, not only did I enjoy the silly cat fight with a bunch of Russian housewives in Doha, I also found a few new friends in the process. In fact, by getting a few people involved in this discussion, I quickly saw who was worth getting to know at some point, and who was definitely not.

In reality, all of us had too much free time on our hands, if we all were to be frank with ourselves. But some people felt the need to justify their involvement in the dialogue. "I have better things to do, you know? I organize a children's' play! You have nothing to do, thus your whiny blog post!"

Now, Doha is a small place. Sooner or later, some of us might meet in real life. So one might suggest not making enemies on Russian forums...But I say-

Oh, what the heck! Why not?

Actually, it is not that bad!  You get to know who is who straight away, you don't then need to waste your precious time in real life, trying to get to know someone only to get disappointed later. As expats, we have not got that luxury. We are all here temporarily. We make friends quickly, and we move on quickly, some of us leave the country, some find other friends...So now, I have maybe made a few new friends, and quite a few new enemies, too. I know what not to waste my time doing, events not to bother attending...and also, most importantly...I got all this silly bitchiness out of my system for a while now. So next time, when I feel the urge to comment under someones unfortunate blog or a silly joke...I will simply say nothing.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

An expat bitch.

I am so bad at blogging these days, aren't I? I have no excuse, really.

I expected to feel more creative when I move to Qatar, but, in reality, I barely have anything to say. Partially, because anything I could say I would possibly get deported for. Also, of course, my life here is basically just the same as it was back in the UK, less recycling, less rain, less walk.

I also expected to feel a lot less tired here. My imagination drew a very relaxed life. I was feeling fed up with my English existence: Rainy days with nothing to do except for eating or shopping...everything being too expensive...paperwork piling up to the ceiling and recycling nightmares every Wednesday (in the rain).

In reality, rainy days have been replaced with the days that are either too windy and therefore, dusty; or way too hot to do anything but eating and shopping. Everything is too expensive (except for petrol) and no recycling, but other, equally irritating, challenges that are very specific to Doha

And what i am getting to realise is that i never expected to feel so...i am not sure what it is. Angry? Stressed? Anxious? Probably a little bit of all three. Sitting in my big car, on the way to a coffee morning, with someone cleaning my house while i am out...what do I have to be stressed or angry about?

I am getting a feeling recently, that I am, slowly but inevitably, turning into this typical western expat wife. It has been a whole year since we unpacked our suitcases in Doha. At first, I smiled at everybody and was polite on the roads. I was in a nice mood from the endless sunshine; and thought all the maintenance guys were incredibly helpful. But, as I settle further into my routine here, as little funny silly things become daily sources of irritation, I am turning into a mean bitch.

On my way out of a hypermarket today, I sat patiently waiting, allowing three, four, five vehicles to enter through the exit of the car park, since the entrance- for some reason only known to the management of the market-was barricaded by two shopping trolleys and barriers; It was my right of way, of course, but I tried to be kind and patient- something that always backfires on the roads of Doha.
Finally, after the 5th car, I decided it was probably my turn to move, only to see a small underpowered white car continue moving directly at me, not wanting to wait. And so it was over, that slight, short-lived glimpse of patience and niceness in me. I pushed my car forward, forcing the man to back down on the road. Driving in Doha makes you nasty. It teaches you that stereotypes do work. And that you can predict just how dangerous or stupid, or most probably both, the driving will be by what car is being driven, and by what nationality driver. 

And then there are other things.

At the Qatar Masters event last weekend, we sat in a glorious sunshine, drinking white wine, which was being sold at a stall directly opposite. Behind us, in a large tent, our kids were having fun with all the lovely, thoughtfully planned things for the children-what a perfect afternoon to spend with a few friends in a nice setting, right? Right??

And then it happens. It almost always does. A very polite but clearly annoyed with us supervisor of some description leaned down to ask us to move from the family section. You should not be drinking here, she said. 'Really? That's funny', I said, lifting the almost empty bottle out of the bucket. 'You are about 40 minutes late. We are finished with this anyway'.

She started clearing the rubbish off our table in the very annoyed fashion. It was obvious that the point was not that we had a plastic cups with a tiny bit of wine left in our hands. The point was- she wanted us to leave, as she needed that table. But we had 7 children between us and our friends. I stood up and walked five steps away, where other expats stood on the grass, drinking alcohol which, may I remind you, was sold at the event. Technically, I was no longer drinking at the 'Family' table.

So I am confused what that little angry woman was still angry about as we got ready to leave.
She looked very unhappy. I however, felt very happy, thank you very much. The sun was shining, my baby was not whining, the wine was cold and pleasant..... What was her problem I wanted to know.

'Look,' I said to the angry little woman. 'We are leaving now! Be happy! Relax! '

'I just think it is very disrespectful', she said under her nose. 'This is a family section, for children. You should not be drinking here!'

I pointed to my baby eating snacks with her baby friend. 'What do you think these are then? We are a family. We have children?'

I tried to explain to her that as soon as she'd asked us, we got rid of the bottle, got up and left the table. But she was still very unhappy. So, smiling my most generous, sincere smile, I hugged her sturdy shoulders- Listen, I said, Really, there is no need, is there? No need to be such a..... And then I might have used a not-so-nice word.

Did not really want to say that. It just came right out. See? I am an expat bitch.

Oh, Qatar! You do remind me of my dearly beloved motherland, my wonderful Azerbaijan, in so many ways! What is allowed, and what is not allowed, and what is allowed to some, but not the others...
What works and what only looks like it works, but you all know very well it probably does not...

And yet...The sun is shining. And I am allowed this glass of wine in my house. Life is good.