Saturday, 29 March 2014

What makes a good event?



The weather in Doha right now, my friends, is simply beautiful. After bizarre rainstorm a couple of days ago (which once again flooded through our skylights upstairs, causing Husband and I to jump up in the middle of the night to arrange bath towels all over the landing floors…) it is all clear and sunny again. But not too hot. Just perfect.

And, sitting around the pool today, watching my visiting in-laws play with the kids in the blue water, I reminded myself that life in Qatar is pretty good. Really. What is crucial is not to forget how good things are, overall. Because, there will always be small things. And the small things in Doha are just very different. 

I was thinking about it last night at the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup Finals we attended. You see, this is exactly the kind of stuff that I love about living here. When would I, let alone my in-laws (coming from North Wales, where all they really get to see is sheep shagging and an odd bunny getting snatched by a eagle on a good day) would get to attend such an unusual event? Not only that, but it was also absolutely for free, which is important to note, as that is a crucial part of the story.

So imagine how impressed my in-laws were, when I took them to watch all those muscular tiny girls and boys jump around for free, on their wedding anniversary, on the first day in Doha? Very. What a wonderful treat! they exclaimed. What a gorgeous venue! And you get to go for free! Wow, isn't this a wonderful country?

We parked easily and walked for a short while in a pleasant weather, past the Torch, towards the Dome. It is pretty cool venue, you have to admit. We were meeting some school friends, and one of them was holding premium seats for us- in the front row, right in front of the balancing beam that was due to start at 6pm. We could not believe the fun we were about to have! Free water bottles sat nearby in a case, and kids excitedly drew on the little individual marking boards they got given to put their own scores on. How much better could this get?

Suddenly, something happened that reminded me that we were in Doha. A media man climbed through and stood in front of me. 'I am going to have to put my camera here!' He said in a aggressive way, obviously expecting us to object. I glanced back. All the other seats behind us were already taken. My girlfriend, who specifically came early to secure the best seats, looked at us and smiled- 'Well, this was not really what I planned, sorry!' I was not quite sure what he expected us to do. There was nowhere to go, and we had small children with us, not to mention elderly in-laws.

Sorry, he threw casually, dragging an enormous stand and an even more enormous camera which he proceeded to install literally on top of me. I tried to fight back. 'I am not moving!' I said and made myself comfortable in the seat, but he just shrugged his shoulders and turned his back to me.

I quickly realized that I had no chances to win in that situation. And so, I had to move. Following my in-laws, I sat on the stone steps, trying not to get too annoyed by what happened.

I reminded myself that I, fortunately for all the parties involved, did not pay a penny for our tickets. Should I have paid, I would probably be prepared to fight the cameraman until the police arrived.

What's the point of this story you may ask. Well, this is just what life here is like. Everything can be perfect. Here is this beautiful venue. Here are all the free tickets, balloons, prize giving at the end and great entertainment. And then there is someone like this camera man who can come and f*** it all up, just because nothing is thought through properly. Nothing is actually professionally arranged in advance. If only!!!! There was some logic in this guy's actions...Would a media professional not know in advance, having a schedule in his hand, that he would be filming a balancing beam performance at 6pm? Would it then be so difficult-I have to ask!?- to put some notice around the front row, perhaps a tape or a sign to secure that area for the media? Rather than, five minutes before the competition was due to start, dragging a heavy camera over the heads of small children and kicking us out?

And in the end, we had a good time anyway. I reminded myself, after glaring at the guy for a few minutes, that he just had no idea how things would be done in the professional world. He was only doing his job- however well he could. Maybe he had to deal with other unprofessional people already a few times that day. Maybe he was told last minute what to film, and where to go. Maybe it was all a big surprise to him.

But, to me, this is what makes a good event. Not just a vast empty space with nice trees and the lit up Torch. Not the amazing venue and free tickets. But professionalism of people involved. The planning. The details. The respect for customers.  I guess that is just something that will have to develop with time.

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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

What do I do all day? Absolutely nothing.


I saw a very famous quote on Facebook just now. A question smart people should never ask a housewife:

'What do you do all day?'

Well, I said to two friends this morning, leaning into a soft big armchair with my cup of coffee, I can happily announce that these days, I do absolutely nothing. Sweet f*** all, to be precise.

And guess what? I am loving it.

The thing is, guys…I finally did it. I got myself a maid.

When we were just discussing coming to Qatar, one of the most commonly heard jokes in our household was the one about a potential maid. 'Oh, don't pick up those dishes!' Husband would exclaim ' Let Manuella do that!' Yep. Our imaginary maid had a name.

But, after the initial month or two of asking everyone if they knew the best way to get a maid, some uncertainty kicked in. I was not convinced I could do it, after all. Having a stranger living with us, folding my knickers and listening to my every conversation was just a bizarre concept to start with. And then, there was the confusion about the way to go about it. Do we use an agency? How much do we pay? Do we wait until we get lucky and someone leaves and we could take over the sponsorship of their by then trained and experienced maid? Do we have a live-in or live-out? What nationality should we chose? (And you have to chose, by the way, as your permit is only valid for a specific country your maid is from.)

Having waited for way too long, and interviewed a few potential candidates, I sort of gave up on the idea. My baby turned into a toddler, and things started getting somewhat easier. Sleepless nights (almost) disappeared into the past, I found babysitters I could trust, and a cleaner to help me once or twice a week. I can cope, I said to myself. The worst time has passed now. I have some me time while the kids are at school, and I do not actually need anyone. Because, not only do you risk getting someone you might not like, you are also bound to be facing some sort of issues. And trust me, I have enough issues as it is, without having to deal with yet one more person in my house, with her own sicknesses, crazy relatives and money demands.

But, everyone else had a maid. That can be pretty annoying.  Even the very new guys who only just moved in, seemed to be quickly getting a maid each. What's wrong with me? I asked myself. Do I not deserve a bit of a break? Do I not want to have some help with these most hated house chores?

And one day, Husband got fed up. Come on, he said. Just try. If it does not work out, what's the worst that could happen? You ask her to leave. Go on, he said. Try!

My girl is the complete opposite for what I originally thought I was looking for. To start with, she is the prettiest and very possibly the youngest housemaid  in the compound. That was never my intention. I am not stupid, I kept telling my friends, only half-jokingly, to be getting a young and pretty maid! Nope. I will get someone older, more like a granny type.

Her English is….well, there is none. Her experience does not quite exist either, from what I could tell. But, you know what? I love her. Some days, I even have this feeling that I could actually love her more than I love my husband.

In the space of the month that she has been here, I already am a much nicer person. From a flustered, tired and constantly irritable mother, driver and a maid, I am slowly turning into a calm, relaxed, kind woman.

I used to want to kill my family on the daily basis. Every time someone spilt juice on the floor, every time I opened my older girl's wardrobe to find the inside of it looking like a hamster's nest- again and again…I would be on the edge of loosing it. I would snap at my kids, and I would tell Husband off for not tidying up after himself. I am not your maid! was a very commonly used expression in my house. But now…Now I can do whatever I want. I can have my hair done. I can go to the gym. I can sleep. If my little girl asks me to come outside and blow some bubbles for her, I can actually do that, without thinking that I should really be inside changing my bedding or re-loading the dishwasher. I noticed that I pay more attention to what my friends are telling me now. I actually listen. I have the time to. I even!!! started reading the news again. I am slowly turning into a normal human being.

But this, my friends, created, as my new Spanish girlfriend would say, a terrible situation.  Now that I discovered that having a stranger fold my knickers is very easy to get used to ( hmm…actually, have to tell her to stop rolling them into tight balls…) I simply cannot imagine life without a maid. How on Earth did I cope before she came into my life? How did I do all this? She works all day long doing all this crap I hated doing and had to do... and she does not have two children and the driving around Doha, and the shopping, and the socializing, and the working out, and the cooking, and the painting of the school play backdrop…How did I ever do it all??? And most importantly…how the hell am I ever going to do it again?

It really is great.

Hell…I might even try and get a job!

Nuh.

Maybe not just yet. Let me just enjoy this miracle while it lasts.