Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Privileged. Seriously, for real?

I was having a chat with my sister in law during summer break. Perhaps, I sounded a bit whiny, complaining too much, as I do, about difficulties of expat life in Doha. To which she pointed out, that I needed to appreciate just how privileged I was.

And I thought afterwards that maybe, this is what it looks like from the outside, peeping into this Facebook enhanced window of glamorous expat life. Privileged. 

Well, let me tell you about this week I have had.

It started quite well, actually. I was driving from Souq Waqif with a nice friend and my toddler, having had a pleasant lunch, to a shopping mall to find a gift for my husband's birthday. And then, just like that, everything went wrong. Husband's colleague called me out of the blue. I should have suspected something bad happened as he never really calls me. Don't worry he said, but your husband is in Hamad emergency. Of course, why would I worry. I was stuck in a horrendous traffic somewhere in the Middle East, with my husband badly unwell somewhere in a local emergency hospital, and there is at least three hours of driving between us. I could, of course, panic. Fortunately, having children to take care of pulls you back together pretty quick. I had to get my older child from school, I had to take them all home, and only then could I go see what was wrong with Husband.

I drove to school, I sat in traffic, I drove back home, I sat in more traffic. I almost hit people, people almost drove into me...Every second of driving in Doha feels like it shortens your life by months. I spent the whole day driving, while worrying about what might happen.

Fortunately, Husband got home the next day. However, the suspicious symptoms needed more tests. More than the local hospital suggested. Husband was impressed with Hamad team. 'You can't really fault them', he said. Fine, I thought. But. I would still like a second opinion. Now, in our compound, there is a friend, who knows a good specialist in a big private hospital. A doctor with a ten-week waiting list, who, as a favour to my compound friend, agreed to see Husband the next morning. Of course, in our privileged expat life, we have a health insurance that covers cases like this. But of course, when I looked at the insurance card, it stated- very clearly- that the hospital network excluded this particular private hospital the good specialist works at. We, therefore, had to pay for the expensive tests ourselves, with the hope that we could, one day, claim back. That situation, let me assure you, does not feel particularly privileged. But, never mind that.

Having a sick husband means doing everything by yourself. Including drop offs in the mornings, which are normally done by Husband. Getting up at 5am and leaving the house at 6am with a 7 year old and a toddler, who, just to add to the fun, developed a nasty tummy bug and had to be changed three times before getting in the car, was a challenge.

Thinking of everything stressful going on made me want my mother to visit sooner rather than later.

Hmm, I thought. Where is this visa we have applied for weeks ago? I have chased up the guy who helps me with the paperwork and visa stuff. Oh, he said. The immigration sent the request back asking for your birth certificate to be attested by either an Azeri Embassy in Qatar, or the Qatar embassy in Azerbaijan.

This is when I thought to myself, paraphrasing a page i often read on Facebook. Seriously, for real?

Oh, yes. But she has visited three times before without this particular piece of paperwork? Yes, but the rules now changed. OK, I thought. OK. I can do this. I phoned the Azeri embassy where a pleasant young man assured me he could help. Just come over, he said.

I tried.

The Google Maps on my iPhone knew the embassy was somewhere right there, in the midst of all the other west bay embassies. But I could not find it. I drove around. I called people who knew where it was. I spent ONE HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES trying to find it. I could not find it. There was no obvious address that Goggle maps would recognise. There was no map on their website, no directions. By 12:45pm I realised that I had to give up, otherwise I could never make it back in time to pick up my child from school. Which, theoretically, is less than five minute drive from the mysterious Bermuda triangle that is the embassy zone in Doha. However, with the crazy traffic, it would take five times as long.

Determined to find the Azeri embassy or have a heart attack, I picked up the child from school, and drove back now aiming from the completely opposite direction- the only way the embassy guy could explain to me. Finally, I saw the familiar flag. Never in my life was I more pleased to see it.

The guys were kind and friendly. They looked at my gray face and offered me to sit down in a cool waiting room. Finally, yet another stamp was placed on my frayed birth certificate. I felt somewhat relieved but not for long. 'Here, the embassy guy said, handing out a small piece of paper to me with the Azerbaijan Embassy account number printer on it. 'Go to this bank tonight and pay this, please". Then, when you can- No rush!- please bring the receipt back here.'

Seriously? For real?

Where am I, I thought, as I sat in the endless traffic on my way back. Where am I that I have to physically go to a bank to pay 50 bucks for an unnecessary stamp, and then drive back to the lost-on- the-map embassy zone to give back a receipt? What was I again? Oh yes. Privileged.

I then drove another hour to meet the guy with paperwork. 'Oh, nothing will really get done now until after Eid', he casually mentioned as I stood there clutching my birth certificate. 'And they might ask for another attestation, actually. From the ministry of International Affairs....'

I just want my mother to come.  I don't feel privileged. I feel absolutely and utterly exhausted. And, just to complete all of the above, I received a yet another hatred message from a patriotic Azeri girl telling me how mean I am to the whole nation.