Thursday, August 28, 2008

Doha to Houston: 28 hours!

With our move being delayed (again), EM sent Shane to Houston to work with the Sakhalin Development office for a few weeks.  We are scheduled to stay 3 weeks, but we might have to return to Doha before then if his work permit for Russia gets processed soon.  Adam and I tagged along on the trip, and are taking the time to relax, spend time with family, and to avoid Ramadan in Qatar!  

Our trip to Houston took 28 hours, but that included an overnight stay in London.  Overall it wasn't a bad trip...Adam took a few naps and only had one real meltdown.  Hopefully he will sleep a bit more during the trip back since it will be mostly during the night.  

A Qatar Airways plane we saw while waiting at the airport

A view of the Doha Airport from the terminal

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dinner with friends

Before we left for Houston, we went out to dinner with Gill and Aaron at Bentley's in the Ramada Plaza.  The food was great, the company was great, and the wine was great!!  Hopefully, we will be able to go out again when we get back, but that will only happen if we are still in Doha once Ramadan is over...

Around Doha: A few photos

Ahhh, memories!  I will have plenty from living in Qatar for 2 years.  In fact, we arrived at the Doha International Airport exactly 2 years ago today.  I remember what was going through my head (and eventually made its way out of my mouth) when I first arrived:  WHERE are we, and WHY are we here?  To be fair, it was over 100 F outside (at midnight) and the humidity was somewhere around 1000%.  Once we got settled and started getting used to life in our new home, things got better and we started to like it.   It isn't long now and we will be moving on, to a very different place with a VERY different climate and culture.  I will always remember living here, and always treasure the memories and friends that we have made here.

The following are a few pictures of regular sights around Doha that I have taken over the past few months.  

I pass by this shop nearly every week, but have never stopped to buy their chicken.

Not necessarily an odd sighting:  someone going the wrong way in a roundabout

I haven't seen a 6-door car in, well, ever!

Who can forget the horrid sand storm that lasted almost the entire month of June 2008?  Not me, and certainly not my housemaid :-D

I believe Qatar is the only Middle Eastern country to not have a National Mosque.  Well, now they are rectifying that with the building of this huge silver thing.

Not a great picture, but this intersection is commonly known in Doha as the "pump and pray" intersection (see the mosque next to the gas pumps?)

I am not sure what the deal is, but many drivers in Doha are scared to approach the light when it's red, sometimes leaving an entire car length between them and the intersection.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Adam the Pirate

Adam has a "Pirates and Princesses" party at school on Thursday (his last day).  I found this costume at one of the toy shops in town, and got him to try it on for me today.  Doesn't he look cute!!

Ceramique & Chili's

I took Adam to Ceramique, a cafe that kids can paint ceramics which then get glazed and fired in a kiln.  We met Gill and Ella, Tammy and Ellie, and Liam (Gill was looking after him for a friend).  After checking out all the options (they have vases, plates, tiles, picture frames, figurines, etc.), Adam decided on a star-shaped plate.  Then he picked his colors (blue and green, of course - but I added a yellow).  I put one of Shane's undershirts on him in case he made a mess on his clothes and the paint didn't wash off.  Then I let him go for it!   Once his masterpiece was finished, I drew his name and an outline.  I think it turned out pretty good! After that, we all went to Chili's for lunch.  The kids had a great hopefully the plate will turn out good, too!

Adam working on his masterpiece

Selecting his colors

Adam giving me a smile

The finished product

Coloring on the menu at Chili's

Adam, Ella, Liam, and Ellie at Chili's

Our last rug purchase

Shane wanted to purchase one more Persian rug before we leave Qatar for good.  We went to our favorite "rug guy" at Oriental Carpet and found this rug.  It is a Qom "Hunting" rug, made of pure silk - which is why we will hang it on the wall rather than walk on it!  I did some internet research and found out that Qom rugs are among the best known and finest Persian rugs.  They are made in the city of Qom, Iran, hence the name.  This specific style, the Hunting rug, depicts a hunting scene in the center of the rug.  Our rug's hunting scene has horses with riders, the animals being hunted and different plants.  The border area shows the plants and animals in a more peaceful setting (I guess pre-hunt).  I don't know if the picture does this rug is beautiful in person. 

Monday, August 18, 2008

Doha's Benihana: Sakura

For our anniversary, Shane and I decided to go to Sakura, a Japanese steak house at the Ramada hotel.  We hadn't been there in a long time, and had forgotten how good the food (and sushi!) is.  We sat at the Teppanyaki bar where they cook the food.  We had a good time and got to enjoy a night out just the two of us!

the happy couple!

our cook was juggling eggs

making that fried rice

getting ready to flame the lobster tail

stand back!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

All that's done must be undone

I have spent the last few days 'undoing' all the things that we had done in preparation of our move to Sakhalin:  airfare (including the dogs), hotel reservations, packers/movers, pet relocators, etc. Maybe when we have to do it all over again next month it will be they say in Doha, insha'Allah (God willing).

Since our move is being put off for at least another month, Shane is going to Houston to work at the Sakhalin project office for 3 weeks.  Adam and I are going to tag along and see friends and family.  Hopefully we will also get some R&R before we have to come back to Doha and start the moving process all over again.  It will be good to 'recharge my batteries' before making another big move to another foreign place, and being away from Doha during the holy month of Ramadan doesn't sound too bad either :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wow, 10 years!!!

Our 10th wedding anniversary is tomorrow!  I can hardly believe that we have been married that long!  In 10 years, we have lived in 7 residences, 3 cities, and 2 countries.  I recently took a trip down memory lane and went through all of our pictures from the last 10 years.  I put our scanner to work and now have all of these photos on our Picasa site.  I also scanned in photos from our wedding album.  To view the wedding album, click here.  For the other album, click here

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Now you see it, now you dont!

This move just gets crazier and crazier.  Monday was such a good day; it finally seemed like things were moving along smoothly for once.  Well, Tuesday was a completely different day.  The work permit that Shane was issued was revoked.  Apparently, immigration got wind of it and told EM not to bring him there to work on that permit.  The labor laws (or whatever they are called in Russia) are very strict and the penalties are great if one gets caught working without a permit or with the wrong type of permit.  We will now have to wait until the visa extensions are granted to the Sakhalin region, which should be at the end of August.  After that, it takes about 4 weeks to obtain a new work permit, so we are looking at moving at the end of September or beginning of October.  We will stay in Doha until then and Shane will work his new job from here.  I am hoping to one day to look back on all of this and laugh...

Monday, August 11, 2008

We can see the light...

It looks as if things are finally coming into place with our move to Sakhalin.  Today we were issued two very important pieces of the puzzle:  our letters of invitation and our medical clearance.  The letters of invitation just allow us to obtain (i.e. purchase) visas to enter the country.  We should get the originals in the mail later this week, so we will visit the Russian embassy next week to get our visas.  Shane also received his work permit, which is kind of like our Qatar residence permit.  It will allow him to live and work in Yuzhno.   

We are now working on getting hotel reservations for our last week in Doha.  The packers come to the house on the 20th, so we will need a place to stay until we leave on the 25th.  It looks as if we will be staying at the Sheraton, which will be nice.  It is in a good location for Shane's work and our compound.  Just the thought of living out of suitcases again kind of turns my stomach, but it is part of life as an expat and we are getting pretty good at it by now.  

The last big step - besides packing, of course - is to get the paperwork done for the dogs.  They need an export permit for Qatar, a health certificate by a certified vet and a rabies vaccination.  The vaccination is already done, and the other two items will be done sometime in our last week here.  

It still hasn't hit me that we are really moving.  We have known about this for so long, and have had so many hang-ups and delays along the way that it seemed that it would never get here.  While we are ready to move on, it will be hard to say goodbye to all of the friends we have made here.  

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A journey to Sakhalin: 2 weeks and counting!

We have just a little over 2 weeks before the BIG move!  I can't believe it, it seems like we have been working on this move forever.  We have known about it since February, so I guess it was just so far away for the longest time, but now it is almost here!  We have our plane tickets, which are now changed from our previous route (via Moscow) to our new route (via Tokyo).  We are flying Qatar Airways from Doha to Frankfurt, All Nippon Airways from Frankfurt to Tokyo, and then the company charter from Tokyo to Yuzhno.  All in all about 22 hours of flying time, not including layovers.  The pups are both booked the whole way through, but we will have to collect them and our bags at each stop.  In a way, that will ease my mind to see that they made it to each stop.  

Our LOI's (letters of invitation) should be granted on Monday.  Once we receive them here, we will go to the Russian embassy to purchase our visas.   The packers will be here on the 19th, and we will move into a hotel for the rest of our stay in Doha.  Once we get our visas, things will really start to come together.  I am hoping to get all of our suitcases packed by next weekend, so no essential items get put in our sea shipment.  It should be a busy couple of weeks!

August in Doha

There isn't much to do in the summer in Doha.  August is by far the worst month to be here, with the highs reaching into the 12o's with the heat index.  There aren't as many people on the roads now, with most of the population taking off to somewhere with nicer weather.  We are still hanging around, of course, since we are moving in a few weeks.  One good thing about August - the driving is not as crazy!  Every now and then when I am driving around I see something out of the ordinary and grab my camera to take a picture.  This post is basically compiling a few pictures that I have taken over the past couple of weeks.  

This car looks like it should be in the Houston Art Car Parade

On this car is a Jesus sticker, a State of Qatar decal, the flag of India and the word's "God's Gift" - hmmm...

I really just have no idea what is going on here.  This is at Landmark mall and everyone was standing in line to get their picture taken with this thing

The photo isn't that great, but there is a Texas registration sticker on the back of this Landcruiser - along with a State of Qatar decal, of course!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lunch at Fuddrucker's

Adam, Alex, James, and Ella

Adam loves it when we go to Fuddrucker's for lunch.  He judges restaurants by the size and quality of their indoor play area.  Since it is too hot to play outdoors in the summer, the only places to play are in restaurants and malls.  We met my friends Gill and Gina and their little ones for lunch and also to let the kids play.  When it was time to eat, we put all the kids at one table.  I tried to get them to pose for a picture, but they weren't interested.  The boys wanted to eat and Ella just didn't want her picture taken!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Shane's trip to Sakhalin

Shane bought this painting at a local art shop

The view from the rooftop of the Megapalace Hotel

View from the Megapalace Hotel

Olympia compound

Living room


Karoke bar

Lake and paddleboats in Gagarin Park

Lake and paddleboats in Gagarin Park


View of the mountains

Gagarin Park

Gagarin Park

Lots of rides and bouncy houses in Gagarin Park!

Ferris wheel in Gagarin Park

The Megapalace Hotel from Gagarin Park

View from the Santa hotel

View from the Santa hotel

A lot of the town is older - this picture was taken on Shane's route to work