Sunday, August 30, 2009

New pictures!

So I took some more pictures of Education City (where Rachel works) and have posted them here.  I hope you enjoy them!  I'm sorry I haven't taken more pictures, but there really isn't a whole lot to take pictures of around here.  Almost everything looks the same, beige painted houses, sand, or construction!

Other than that we really haven't been up to anything terribly interesting.  I've been a bit under the weather for the last few days, I think it was something I ate (which apparently isn't unusual here), so we had a fairly low key weekend except for Friday.  We ended up going to 2 parties that night, one was an 80's party, which we really didn't dress up for nearly as much as almost everyone else did!  Mr. T and a faux Richard Simmons made wonderful appearances which was awesome.  We then went to another friends for his birthday party which was lots of fun with plenty of dancing and good company.  Yesterday was really just relaxing and me trying to feel better, which I do today.  Other than that it's been pretty boring.  Until we get our permanent residence permits, we're pretty much stuck in Doha.  But once we get our RP, we'll be traveling a lot so we'll have lots of fun pictures and hopefully some good stories!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ramadan Kareem!

Ramadan Kareem everyone! That means have a blessed or generous Ramadan and is the typical greeting used here before and during Ramadan. The last week has been a fairly busy one.

The end of last week we went for our medical testing. That was quite a unique experience. It's no where near as organized as a US hospital, although it was pretty much strictly set up to do the medical tests needed for a residence permit. Men and women are split up due to the restrictions of Islam. We then had chest X-rays, blood drawn to run tests for communicable diseases, and a quick medical exam. Overall it didn't take too terribly long and we at least met some new people who are in the same position we are!

The weekend was also fun. We went to a party and again met lots of new people. I also may have another option for a job! I talked with several people who work in the Chemistry department at Texas A&M and they were very excited to hear that I had a Chemistry degree and that I had also worked in a lab for 4-5 years. I'm still keeping my options open at this point, but it's nice to know that I have options. We also got all the stuff we shipped over on Saturday! It's been great going through our stuff and really making our place feel like home. I especially love having all the kitchen stuff we sent over, I was tired of using the "butter knife" aka chef's knife they provided us. It was nice to get the other things in our shipment as well, having some extra clothes is also very nice, but the absolute best thing is the mattress pad we shipped over! The mattresses here are TERRIBLE. They only put about 1/8" of padding on top of the springs, so Rachel likes to say that she worried about one poking through and piercing an organ. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but it may not be too far off!

As for the beginning of this week, Ramadan has been the biggest thing. For those who don't know, Ramadan is the holy month in the Islamic faith. The timing of Ramadan is based on the Lunar calendar so the start of Ramadan shifts every year 11-13 days. It's also dependent on the exact sighting of the moon, which can vary by a day or two in different countries as it is done by a designated person (typically) in each country. From sunrise to sunset Muslims fast during Ramadan. They don't eat, drink, smoke, or indulge in anything that is in excess or ill-natured. The fast is broken after sunset prayer with a meal called Iftar. The food served varies from place to place, but typically opens with sharing dates, tea, and water with family and friends at the dinner. It's then typically followed by a traditional dinner. The fasting lasts for a lunar month and is followed by Eid ul-Fitr, which is a 5 day holiday that involves lots of eating and partying. There is a second Eid 40 days later which is also a large holiday in Muslim countries. One of the problems with being in a Muslim country during Ramadan is that driving around sunset is extremely dangerous. People are not only rushing home to get before sunset to pray and break the fast, but they haven't eaten all day and are typically grumpy and high strung. We avoid driving between 5:30pm and 7pm during Ramadan since being passed by Toyota Landcruisers who are going 130kph when you're going 80kph is scary. The only other issue we've run into is that most restaurants are closed during the day during Ramadan either on their own accord or by government decree. Some takeout places are still open during the day, but it's hard to know which ones. The next few weeks should be lots of fun though, since there are plenty of parties and Iftars around to go to!

I hope everyone is still enjoying hearing about life here! Please please please post questions in the comments that you'd like answered and I'll try my best to answer them! Ramadan Kareem!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

H....O.....T...... HOT!!!

Wow is about all I can say for the heat the last two days. It has been unbelievable. Even people who have lived her for a long time are saying this is as bad as it's been in awhile. It has been about 100F, but 75-85% humidity. While that sounds similar to NC, there's something about the way the desert heat feels that is so much different. When you walk from inside to outside, it not only feels like walking into a wall of heat, but it literally takes your breath away. Several times today walking outside I almost choked. The biggest problem is that 2 days ago the humidity showed up. A week ago, I could take the 110F heat no problem, it's hot, but if you're in the shade it's not unbearable. Today, you could barely stand outside for 30 seconds with out pouring down sweat. The humidity is so high that I can't walk out side without my glasses fogging up completely. Any glass that isn't double paned is completely covered in condensation. I'll have to get the picture from Julie Chase, but she took a picture after dinner tonight of me and Jon from about 7 feet away, and even at that small a distance you can see the haze illuminated by the flash.

In other news... WE HAVE OUR DRIVERS LICENSES! It took us about 4 hours, but we got it done. Muhammad, the Qatari government "liaison" walked us though the process, which was supposed to just be getting the Traffic Sheik's signature and then our licenses. Well, we got the signature, but the man who was going to print our licenses said we needed to take the driving test (an 8 hour ordeal that's as complicated and stressful as you can imagine). Luckily Muhammad threatened to go back to the Sheik and complain and got the man to have us only take a "small" driving test. The test was administered at the arab driving school, which is just as nuts as you would think it would be. I was sad I didn't have a camera with me, because it was quite the madhouse. When we got there, the traffic policeman signing off on the tests had us take a signs test, which was interesting as we hadn't studied any of the signs. I acted like I knew every sign and the man didn't question it. Rachel got a little flustered, but luckily the man was in a good mood and had her study for 5 minutes before taking the test. After that was the driving part, which consisted of me and the other husband with us (a very nice Jordanian couple) driving for about 45 seconds each. Rachel and the Jordanian wife drove second and all went well. After a little more red tape, we got our temporary Qatari drivers licenses! All in all it could have been much worse, but we were ready to just walk away and try again on another day if need be.

The next thing on the list is the medical exams (exact copies of what we already did in the states) and our fingerprinting so that we can get our Residence Permit (RP). We'll also have to turn in our temporary licenses to get our permanent license once we get our RP, but that is much simpler and Muhammad will simply take our temp license to the ministry and exchange them.

That about does it for our exciting day today. The license was a major check mark in our settling in process, and probably one of the more stressful things we had to worry about.

All in all, a good day...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pictures (finally)!

There are only a few pictures from around the apartment (excuse the mess!) and just outside the front of the apartment building. They are here. Enjoy!

Today was another exciting Qatari day for Jon and I. We went out looking at cars to get an idea of prices for the cars we are interested it. It was definitely a different experience than at an American dealership. Nobody bothered us at all and we were able to look at the cars in peace without being hassled. The only problem was everything closed from 12:30pm till about 4pm since it's the summer and ridiculously hot outside, although today wasn't actually too bad. It was probably only 105F and not too humid. Right now it's 6pm and it's 95F (feels like 111F) which really isn't too bad considering it will probably get worse. After car shopping we got lunch and then went to Carrefour to pick up a few more household things. I'm hoping Rachel and I can go out for a walk when she gets home from work and I'll take more pictures then of the housing area.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I survived!

Well I survived my first experience driving in Doha yesterday as part of what Rachel likes to call my "Qatari day" which consists of driving around, shopping, and eating! Driving isn't as bad as I was fearing, but I can see how it can be worse than the US. All it takes is being aggressively defensive as I like to say. The only complicated part is that there are very very few signs telling you what road you are on. They also use mostly roundabouts for cross streets. There are even roundabouts with lights to help smooth out traffic, although they only work up to a certain volume of traffic. There are also some steep fines for violating some traffic laws. Running a red light, which includes turning right on red, and making illegal U-turns will cost you 6000 Qatari Ryial (QR) which is over $1600!!!

We've had a lazy first weekend here in Doha. We got up late which was our first time being able to sleep in past 6am due to it getting bright here about 4:15am! We have pretty much moved in, although there is some rearranging and some furniture we need to really get moved in here. I still haven't taken any real pictures as we just cleaned up, but that's my plan for tomorrow. Tonight we're going to our first real party, which just so happens to be at the US Embassy! It looks like it'll be a good time, hanging out in the Marine House where it will be sort of like a BBQ. We're excited as we haven't met many people outside of Education city yet and this looks like it will be a good opportunity. I'll post tomorrow about our experiences at the Embassy and also post the pictures from around our apartment!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Made it safe and sound!

We're here! We got in Tuesday evening about 6pm to the Doha Airport with no problems. All our luggage made it with us without a scratch. The flight was very enjoyable, as Rachel and I both managed to sleep 9 hours of the 12 hour flight! Once we arrived we were greeted by Jeff (Rachel's boss) and Jon and Julie Chase (our friends who are also over here). They took us to our new apartment. After getting our 300lbs of stuff into the apartment, we relaxed a bit and then went to dinner with Jon and Julie at a place called Hot Chicken. They had the largest and most varried menu I've ever seen! Indian food, Chinese food, Middle Eastern food, "American food" including a chicken nugget sandwich, as well as almost any kind of fresh juice you can imagine. The 4 of us stuffed ourselves all for about $20, a total bargain considering the juices alone would have been that much in the states! We got home after that and started the slow process of unpacking which we are still working on today, luckily it's mostly clothes and a few other things. We're getting ready to head out to Carfour, a French version of a super Walmart and pick up a few things that weren't provided. Aparently fully furnished doesn't mean it has trashcans!

PS. Feel free to pass this on to anyone who'd be interested!

Monday, August 10, 2009

T-minus 1 hour!!

We leave in an hour! We're finishing our final packing and are heading to the airport. Doha here we come!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ready... Set... Yellah!

Ready... Set... Yellah (GO in arabic)!!! Well we're getting really close to our departure date. We got our visas about two weeks ago and have our date of departure (August 10th). We just finished moving out of our apartment after a week of long nights packing and help from many friends. We're taking a few days to relax at the beach with family and recharge before heading back to the triangle for the last push in getting ready to go. Luckily most everything is done!

I really can't believe we leave in about a week. It's been so strange to move out of Rachel and I's first "home" but we have and are ready to start our great adventure in the Middle East. We're still very busy with last minute details to take care of and trying to see as many people as possible. I will post again when we arrive in Doha and I'll also post the link to our pictures so that everyone will be able to see our apartment and what living in Doha is really like!