A week ago we boarded the plane in a grey and drizzly Manchester to head for our new life in Qatar. Where it most definitely isn’t grey and drizzly, but sunny, hot and sandy.
A week, such a short time. It has sped by so fast that I can barely remember arriving with two sleepy, grumpy children. Standing in the queue for immigration, the line stretching out in front of us for miles. The Big One starting to play up, shouting, hitting, you know, all that fun stuff nearly 4 year olds do when they are grumpy. Add to the mix a screechy, sweaty baby who had decided enough was enough and he wanted to go to sleep. And now. I was delighted the husband went over to find out how much fast track would cost, I was even more delighted when he decided it was worth every penny. So sweaty and dishevelled we vacated the rapidly expanding queue and went through fast track. Worth. Every. Single. Penny.
The best part was, that for once, our luggage came out quickly and together. One piece after another. All eleven of them. Bam. Bam. Bam. Car hire, drive and hotel to crash in quick succession.
This was us a mere week ago. Arriving in a country I had only been to for a weekend, not for a holiday where we could go home and chalk it up to experience that we wouldn’t want to come again. To live. To build a life. With all of our worldly possession on a ship en route to us and the vital components packed carefully across 11 pieces of luggage.
Sunday saw us fly half way across the world. Monday saw us set sail for our new life, getting the vital pieces for our first week. A late wake up, an exploration of the hotel, heading out, buying SIM cards, buying essentials, milk, nappies, wipes. Slowly getting our bearings.
Then Tuesday came. And with it, the real start. After being home with us for the past 6 weeks it was time for the Husband to go back to work. To lace up his shoes, tie his tie and wave us off with a cheery goodbye. It was also time for me to put my big girl pants on and go meet people. Putting yourself out there is something which is essential when you become an expat, people are unlikely to come to your house to find you until you’ve found them. But it’s tough, and it can be lonely putting yourself out there. Surrounded by people who all seem to have found someone to talk to, pushing your way into conversations to feel like you’re leaving them all too soon because your daredevil baby is climbing up the sofa or your big one is running away. You do it to stay sane. To make friends. To meet people who feel the same as you.
I did it. I got brave and went to a coffee morning on my third day. It was great, yes the Baby climbed up a chair and scavenged for food like I hadn’t fed him breakfast. Yes, the Big One demanded carrot cake and I caved even though it was 9:30am in the morning and we are trying to cut back on cake. But I went, I smiled, I chatted. I exchanged numbers. We talked houses, and expat life. Villas were recommended and real estate agents. I felt good. I felt empowered. I remembered all the things I love about expat life. The potential, the possibilities.
I knew I was on the right track, even when I sat in the car and couldn’t work out why it wouldn’t start. It’s an automatic car that only start when they are in park, I remembered that before I called my husband in a panic. Instead, I called the realtor. Air con blasting, children ready to sleep, I called a wonderful lady who was free that afternoon. And so our house hunting began.
Round and round. In and out. Some houses were still connected so had air con on, which was a dream. Some houses, did not. Have I mentioned it’s 45 degrees here and walking into a villa that hasn’t had air con on is akin to walking into a sauna? Hot. So hot that when you walk outside it is cooler. Even being 45 degrees! Over the course of the week we have seen 12 different houses, various compounds, various sizes. Pros and cons for each. As it stands today our short list is down to 2 and we are close to making our decision, we are ready to flip a coin and pick which house we want to go for…. But more on that another day.
Afternoons spent house hunting, mornings spent friend hunting. Mornings at coffee, mornings at soft play, mornings where I have been lucky enough to be invited to people’s houses, mornings where I’ve cheekily invited myself and begged for a washing machine. Mornings where people have reached out to me via Facebook after I posted arranging coffee mornings, lunches and play dates. The warm hand of expat friendship at work once again.
I’ve even tried to run, keeping up with my fitness that began back in earnest in the UK. First up I tried the treadmill and managed to reset it 4 times before giving up, my clothes knocking the emergency button and the machine grinding to a halt. Then I tried outside, but ran along the wrong side of the road with no pavement so I just half heartedly ran round a building a few times. Then I managed 20 minutes on a treadmill without breaking it.
That’s nothing compared to the husband who actually did manage a run outside….
Yes it’s hard.
The living in a hotel room, no washing machine, no kitchen. Sat on a bathroom floor whilst my biggest refuses to go to sleep and my blood pressure rises. Knowing that the 15 minute nap he had in the car is coming back to bite me. The Baby waking through the night. The paperwork. The waiting. The living out of suitcases.
But it’s also exciting, already Doha is offering so much. It’s reaching out and enveloping us in kindness, in friendship. The houses that have been viewed have been viewed as more than just a house, but a home. A place for us. For this chapter of our lives….
You can also follow our journey in Qatar over on Facebook.