I must be getting used to this place. I went outside a few days ago, it was a mere 40°C (104°F) and I actually thought “It’s not too bad today”! The true test however, will be when I can stand at the curb and automatically look in the right direction for the traffic. For now I’m at the confused stage – no longer quite sure which side of the road they drive on here, or at home!
As promised, on Sunday morning I turned up at ‘Jones the Grocer’ for the weekly coffee morning for ex-pat women. It was a little intimidating at first, as everyone was engrossed in conversation when I arrived and I wondered if I did the right thing going alone. But nothing ventured, nothing gained so I found an empty seat and soon was chatting away with the rest of them. It was a large group, maybe 40-50 women, mostly in my age group or thereabouts. I met women from England, USA, Scotland, Canada and even Australia. Some had been here for several years, there was one lady who arrived a week before me. She is also on her first ex-pat experience, so we had a lot in common! Many of the women are career ex-pats, some since childhood, but they all had a firm sense of where “home” is. After my initial trepidation I found them to be very friendly and welcoming. It is a nice idea, to have a regular time that anyone can turn up and be assured of people to meet with. I suspect that anyone who feels lonely here has not explored all there is on offer.
After Jones’s, I walked all the way across the road to another café (it’s a hard life!) to meet the Mah-jong group. None of the women I met last week were there, so I had to be brave and introduce myself all over again. I’m losing sight of my comfort zone! The Mah-jong was somewhat challenging because they play quite a different version to the one I’m used to, I will need to brush up on the rules. But they were very forgiving, and in fact they are such a sociable group they don’t keep score, so I didn’t mind losing every hand! It was certainly a fun way to spend a few hours, and I hope to go regularly if I can.
The women at the coffee morning were so friendly that one invited me (along with about 8 others) to her apartment for coffee the next morning. It was good to spend the morning in a smaller group, with less background noise, and have the opportunity to have more in depth conversations. As the new girl in town it is great to hear about what’s on, and get advice about important things like where to get a good pedicure. May of these women have lived in fascinating and far-flung places like Abu Dhabi, Malaysia, and Uzbekistan and there is a wealth of knowledge and experience among them. And I got a great recipe for banana cake.
In case you are getting the impression I’ve turned into one of those “ladies who lunch” I have been working too! In fact, due to the different time zones my pixels2Pages team-mates live in, our regular team meetings are generally starting after midnight for me. Lucky I’m a night owl, though this is a bit extreme, even for me!
The big news of the week is that we have found an apartment! It was the 14th place we looked at, and exactly the same layout as the first place, which we almost took. We hesitated that first time, worrying that we really needed to have a better idea of what was around, and then missed out on that apartment. This one is actually a little better, because it has a nicer outlook. It is also fully furnished. I looked at many furnished apartments, and without exception the furniture was awful, but this place is kitted out with brand new Ikea products. Last Saturday, in expectation of renting what they call a “semi-furnished” apartment (semi-furnished means white goods and appliances, but nothing else at all) we spent most of the day at Ikea, scoping out what is available, and choosing our preferred options. We didn’t buy anything but picked up all the relevant product sheets. We also enjoyed some Swedish meatballs for lunch. Anyway, the furniture in this apartment was almost exclusively the items we had on the top of our list, so we knew this was the apartment for us. The landlord even gave us an extra QR5000 cash to buy the furniture we want for the office/guest bedroom. We have signed all the papers, and will get the key on July 1st. Although we are enjoying our serviced apartment, we are really looking forward to being in our own place, and getting settled.
The apartment is in an area called The Pearl, an artificial island on reclaimed land just off the coast of the CBD area of Doha. The name “The Pearl” was chosen because the island is being built on one of Qatar’s previous major pearl diving sites. Qatar was one of the major pearl traders of Asia before the Japanese introduced cheaper more affordable pearls just before Qatar’s oil boom. There are a number of residential towers, shopping areas, a marina with many cafés and restaurants. There is a real resort feel to The Pearl, and we feel very fortunate to be living there.
Here are some photos taken as we looked over the place with the agent. I will have to get some better ones once we have moved in.