Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quick Pic - Aspire Urban Adventure 2014

Howdy
Here is a shot of me at the last leg of the Aspire Urban Adventure. This is the kayaking/paddling portion.  The picture is from either right before or right after I bopped my team mate in the head.  I am not terribly good at kayaking. 



Laura

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In Just 24 Hours

Howdy
2015 Ford Figo

They say a lot can change in 24 hours and I think I just lived it. Yesterday about this time a friend drove me to Strong, an auto rental and sales business.  I was a little confused when we pulled up at Popeye's Chicken and she announced that we had arrived. Behind the Popeye's is a lot where a building used to be.  Next to the lot is a tiny, shiny building.  You talk price, choose a car, do some paperwork and bingo-bango-boingo, you have a vehicle.  (Much to the disappointment of my coworkers I did not find a tour bus) You just sort of go out into the night. And yes at this point it's 5:30pm and it's good and dark, not dusk, just full on night time. I have my handy GPS and I am ready for action, if not homicidal Land Cruisers. I made it home safely.  I finally got to park in my own parking space too after looking at it longingly for two months.  I have an assigned slot that I can see from my apartment.  It is pretty handy since I kept neurotically checking for my car all night and into the next morning. And yes that next morning I drove myself to work.  What a nice change.  Really you do see the city differently when you are interacting with other drivers. I don't have a tag for the parking lot so I had to park on the street.  I didn't know how quickly things filled up so I left home around 6:30am. I got a good spot that I could see from my office and off I went to work.  Turns out I could have parked even closer but I was worried about getting towed so I parked behind someone else.  I'm such a sheep but I'm nervous about a ticket.   Amazing. You have no idea. 


This afternoon I had to work at another office.  No calling the driver, no fumbling for cash.  You just grab your things and head out the door.  Amazing. After leaving work again in the afternoon I then drove to the the LuLu Express which has an Aramex office.  I picked up my first box from Amazon.  I ordered some hair things I just cannot find here in Doha.  I am still figuring how to adapt my hair the heat, wind, sand and sun.  Gee you'd think for all that I was at the beach but sadly my hair takes a beating just walking around the apartment complex.  I also ordered a rash guard, it is a shirt you wear for water sports that works as sunscreen.  It is sort of pain to wear with a one piece swim suit since you have to do some calisthenics to use the washroom, but its still less painful than a sunburn.   I had not thought to pack clothes like this but nearly all the children and a lot of the adults swim in long sleeve tops.  I see a lot of long shorts on people as well.  

Related to Aramex, this parcel took nearly a month to receive. It is not a fast or  inexpensive process. If you really want to send me things the best route really is to get items to my family and let them get the parcel ready. I have to pay for some of the shipping to receive the box so I will not be giving out my address since I love ya'll but cannot afford 20lb mystery boxes. 

Then, just because I could, I bought some groceries.  Have i mentioned I might be  addicted to cashew nuts? Its like my body knows it's fall somewhere and that I should be a squirrel. Then I drove home.  Sounds crazy right? I mean the total adult madness of commuting and running errands after work?  I loved it.  So here I am home in time for tea with fresh food, mail from home and a car.  What a difference a day makes. 

Laura


Monday, October 27, 2014

Quick Pic - Car Selfie

Howdy

My and my Ford Figo. I check on my car during the day since I can see her from the window.  A coworker informed that no one would steal my car which either means theft is low or my car is not that appealing. 



Laura


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Good News

Howdy
Hey look, I learned to film horizontally.  To bad a teeny part of this video is backwards  because it's the mirror image.  Oh well, you get the idea. 




You know you love this screen shot of what appears to be a slow motion sneeze?

Laura

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quick Pic - Egyptian Seeds

Howdy
Sometimes at the store I just buy random things and figure what they are later.  I recently bought a packet of Egyptian Seeds from the section that sells the bulk fruit and nuts.  The packaging doesn't give a lot of clues. They are salted and taste like pumpkin seeds.  I really don't know what plant these are from but they do make a tasty snack.  I like to add these seeds to my cereal for breakfast and I think when I make granola I can certainly add these.  


Laura


Monday, October 20, 2014

Aspire Urban Adventure 2014

Howdy
Well I have just had the longest day ever.  I left home at 7am, it is now about 5pm.  I did get home a bit before but I desperately needed a shower and a cup of coffee. Today I did the first ever Aspire Urban Adventure. It's a day long, 10 event course at the Aspire Zone here in Doha. I signed up about a month ago and met the whole team for the first time today.  We signed in, got a nice snack and waited for the games to begin.  My team Urban Chicks was paired with Blood, Sand and Sweat (or some combination of those words that I now cannot think of....ps let me know when I have to stop blaming things on jet lag)  Our guide Vickram was super cool.  He is here from the Netherlands to work as a personal trainer.  He is here with his wife who teaches yoga. We ate and drank a lot because of the heat and the duration of the event.  We all got refillable water bottles and there were water tanks every where. The heat still made the water warm quickly and we would joke that it was all just tea. Warm water just isn't refreshing after a 2k bike ride into the wind. I also drank oodles of juice boxes. I think at the end of the day there was cake but honestly after being gone so long I just wanted to go home and shower.  See you swim and then you go outside so sand blow and sticks to you.  Or you put on sunscreen and the sand blows and sticks to you.  I was filthy by the end of the day.  I'm sure I am sunburnt too. 



Some of the challenges we did really well at like the basketball.  But the obstacle course we really ran into trouble.  One section was monkey bars and not only were the bars too high to even jump for but the pipes were so wide you couldn't really get your hands around them.  Also for the biking we were warned there was a sand pit .  What they meant was a good quarter of the track was several inches of sand that I didn't have the skill to know how to bike through so I made terrible time. I thought I would do well at the rowing because the graphic showed a canoe and then we did the whole section on rowing machines from the gym.  Also it turns out that kayaking is a weakness of mine and I was quite slow at this as well. 




The obstacle course had a lot to do with balance, I didn't fall but boy was I careful. I forget sometimes that even things that aren't that high scare me. When we did the swimming relay one person has to jump off the 10m board and I couldn't do that unless you pushed me off. At the beginning of the balance course you get a spoon for an egg race at the end.  It's like field day in grade school.  Well the pockets in my shorts weren't big enough so I tucked the spoon in the strap of my swimsuit. Bad idea.  As I climbed the ramps the spoon when down my suit! I had to fiddle around for it which must have looked pretty funny.  I was later told by a teammate that the whole thing was on camera but I really hope she was teasing. 


When they first planned the event they were asking for teams of just men and mixed teams.  But three ladies only teams applied anyway so they made a special category.  My team got third which sounds good until you remember that there were only three ladies only teams to begin with. I did have an awesome time and I am going to sleep great tonight, no doubt about that.  Oddly almost every  participant was an expat, I think I only saw one Qatari.  Maybe Saturday is too much of a family time for some athletes to get time away?  At any rate we ended up in the news.  Thanks Qatar Tribune



Go Team Urban Chicks!


Laura

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fun Facts - Money, Drivers and Such

Howdy
I have a really hard time explaining the size of Qatar.  After all it has been here for centuries and we somehow never talked about it in school.  Just how small is Qatar?
Qatar is ranked 164th in area and 148th in population amongst the world’s sovereign states.  It is a little bit smaller than Connecticut (14,357 km²) or Puerto Rico (13,792 km²), but is nearly three times as big as the USA’s smallest state, Rhode Island (4,002 km²).  - (Qatar)
Qatari Riyal 
Qatar uses the Riyal or Rial and the Dirham as currency.  Each Riyal is 100 Dirham.  The exchange on the Riyal is about 3.64 USD for every 1 Qatari Riyal.  This rate changes and I have a currency converter on my computer and my phone for quick math.  You do not see many vending machines or parking meters in Qatar so there are few situations where you can use Dirham.  In fact you will often not receive dirham when you pay as part of your change.  Or if a few dirham are part of the total the cashier will not ask you for them.  

A lot of people suggest taking a car where you want to go and not driving yourself since there wont be anywhere to park when you do arrive. For me a driver or taxi can be 40-50 RIY, which is about 10-15 USD.  A taxi can be cheaper but I find that drivers, as opposed to taxis, are more likely to know where they are going.  I would rather spend an extra 10RIY and not have to give directions or get lost.  Since I don't drive I am very oriented to landmarks, I can often get a lost cabbie home by asking if he can find Sidra Hospital.  In Qatar the taxis are blue and not yellow.  Drivers often drive Toyotas or Hondas with no markings so you cannot tell from the sidewalk if they can take you home or not.  I have lots of numbers in my cell for drivers just in case.  When I first arrived three people gave me the number of the same driver.  I took this as a good sign and I use this driver during the week to get to work and also on weekend trips. 

I've been sick this week.  I am learning many new home remedies for the common cold.  I was given a cup of tea with Zatar spice in it.  Zatar tastes a lot like thyme.  I was not feeling well and when asked how I liked the tea, I erupted in a giggle and announced that it tasted like pizza.  I have also tried chewing honey comb for my sore throat.  The honey is lovely.  It is soothing and it coats a raspy throat.  However the beeswax has no taste and once the honey is gone its a lot like old chewing gum.  I am grateful to have packed Ricola cough drops, Airborne and Sudafed.  Of course I also drink a lot of tea but that is readily available.

Sorry not so many fun pictures this time but with my nose as red as Rudolph I think I can save the photo-op for another day.

If you are bored you can always post questions in the comments and I'll try to answer those.  I haven't been out adventuring since I got sick so I don't have as much to write about.  I could give you a breakdown of my day. Worked in my cubicle, had meeting...repeat. I tease.  

Later taters, 
Laura



Friday, October 10, 2014

Ladies of Harley

Howdy
Tonight I went to a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness.  Many Harley Davidson clubs including The Ladies of Harley Qatar Chapter were there to show support.  Check out the slide show below to see all the festivities and also to see the Ritz Carlton Hotel, which is pretty amazing.   This is the first album I've added to my blog so apologies in advance if it doesn't work quite right.





Laura

'What Are This?' post Answer

Howdy
Congratulations to Lexy for correctly identifying the mystery picture from my Quick Pic -What Are This? post. 




The picture is of a cat we saw outside who didn't want to be pet and instead ran away, only to hide in this nearby pipe.


Laura

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

MegaMart - Selection! Prices! Location?

Howdy All
Before there were these crazy big super stores we used to bounce around from grocery store to grocery store looking for everything we loved.  Now we just show up at a Kroger Marketplace or a Super Walmart and stockpile for the apocalypse.  Those big stores haven't caught on in Qatar.  No one wants fast and convenient.  Shopping is a past time.  It might even be the national sport.  You have never seen so many malls. Yesterday we went to the Megamart.  I think there are two.  One of them is really big and one of them is in a strip mall.  I'm not sure if you can see from the sign that Megamart is right next to a Subway.  I haven't eaten at a Subway here so I don't know how they compare. From the outside Megamart has a superhero sort of logo. There is no discernible parking and we ended up across the street next to a coffee shop, auto parts store and one business that we just couldn't figure out.  Nearly everything is closed for the Eid holiday but Megamart has lots of imported things so it was crawling with hungry expats. From the road and even from the parking lot, Megamart can be hard to spot.  It is so worth the trouble though.  Firstly they have fabric softener sheets.  You cannot find these are Carrefour or Lulu. I don't prefer liquid fabric softener so it's great to have a new source for these.  Currently I have been asking people to bring me fabric softener sheets from home. 


I got all kinds of fun stuff and some basics too. I buy bottles of water whenever I am at the store and especially if someone is driving since I can get heavier items. It's hard to explain the size of the store. It is very small.  It is about the size of the shop at a gas station.  The aisles are very close together.  I got a pack of coconut water because you don't always see it pre-wrapped. 

I had to buy this Waitrose coffee because of the amount of BBC tv I watch.  This is a popular supermarket in the UK and I am always eager to try their brand of basically anything.  This coffee promises to be 'Full bodied, rich and malty.'  I have no idea what a malty coffee will be like. I'm not sure why but the selection of coffee creamer here is limited at best.  I don't know if milky coffee is more of an American thing or what.  Clearly milky tea is popular since you can get Chai and Karak everywhere.  (To clarify I think Karak is Chai.  It is a spicy tea with a lot of milk and sugar. I have seen it on the menu as Chai Karak, Karak Chai, Chai and Karak and to me they all taste the same.  It does not taste like Thai tea which tends to be a red tea where as all the chai/karak I've had is black tea with other spices.) I have heard it called I enjoyed the suggestion on the back that "Should you not be happy with this product please bring the packaging back to any Waitrose branch and we'll replace you item and refund you."  I think a full size Waitrose here in Qatar would be  obscenely  popular, but I also think we need an Office Max/Dept and that hasn't happened yet either. 


I was also enamored with this packet of fruit rounds (in the picture above). In addition to my coffee I chose some Dutch Fruit Rounds. It says Country Garden Cakes and you get three each of apple and strawberry.  They really are made in Holland because I checked the label. 

Finding hearty wheat bread that is dense and not just brown isn't always easy.  The Lulu sometimes has a multigrain bread but often it isn't sliced or the loaf is round which I don't find ideal for making sandwiches. I was happy to see the small bakery had many kinds of brown and black breads that were thick and hearty looking.  I bought two loaves and I hope I can freeze some without changing the texture to much.  I got Wikinger Bread and Norlander Bread.  I haven't a clue what the names mean but the bread is covered in seeds and it was great with butter and nutella last night.   I think the first bread is made with sunflower seeds and the second is a rye?  I like pita bread but this was a great change up.  Also in the bakery section I got karo syrup and nutella.  



Some items got to stay behind although they were funny and good for a laugh I just couldn't buy them.  Maple syrup must be pretty rare in Qatar to warrant a nearly 20USD price tag.  I know the cheap stuff is full of junk that is bad for me but still, yikes.  I bought Karo syrup and even the molasses was a better bargain. Not surprisingly, across the aisle from the maple syrup was this single serving of pancakes and syrup. I've made pancakes since I moved here, I don't know that I would buy premade pancakes.  I did have biscuits and gravy at Ricks Kountry Kitchen and they were amazing. (also I stink at making biscuits so I would pay for those before pancakes)

Some things are super easy to find here like lotion, face wash, candy, and yogurt. Oh and deodorant not surprisingly, is a massive market, especially aerosol and any sort of body spray like Axe. I think ever major sports brand like Aidias and Nike have their own line of deodorant for guys in a crazy variety of scents and length of time they promise to keep you smelling nice. I saw one for 72 hours but really at that point I think you should just shower.  Another item that is mysteriously absent from many stores are ladies hair products.  For men I see lots of gel and paste and who knows all what, but for ladies all I see is shampoo and conditioner. I have bought some styling products here so far and it was mostly a failure. 

Other things you look at and wonder why they took the time to import it at all. For example this Rich and Velvety coffee by Twinings.  I looked at this and thought "but you make tea." I didn't quite understand what the item was, it seems have three flavors but I didn't see how it was all packaged so they were separate.  Maybe next time. 


My last favorite thing.  I don't know that crime is ever a problem here.  I wouldn't think you could easily shoplift  anything  considering how many employees were on duty during our visit.  While standing in line I noticed this racket against the wall near where a guard had been sitting.  Do I assume it is for swatting flies?  I imagined it was for hitting thieves. No idea.

A good time was had by all.

Laura

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Quick Pic - What Are This?

Howdy
Last night on the way home from the spa, I saw this bizarre thing.  I'm not going to tell you what it it right away because I have discovered that my readers like guessing.  If you are wondering about the strange title, it's a quote from the Jenna Marble's YouTube video What Are This?  It's a strange sort of humor. There is some cursing at the end of the video, so if that concerns you just watch the first minute so you get the flavor. This video makes me laugh like a ninny but you may not find it amusing at all.  C'est la vie.  I walk around saying "what are this" all the time.  So friends, take a look at the picture and decide for yourself, what are this?  Try to keep your comments G rated please. 



Laura

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Quick Pic - Topiary

Howdy
I saw this carefully sculpted shrub while running in Lot 1 yesterday morning.  Today I was thoughtful enough to take my cell and snap a picture for you.  You can just make out the QF cut into this hedge which presumably stands for Qatar Foundation. Most of the hedges are trimmed with swirls so this art is a tad conspicuous. 



Laura

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What Is An Expat?

Howdy
Sometimes when I say I am an expat people do not know what I am referring to.  For real facts and humorous musings on how my life is changing, check out this new page on my blog.

You Might Be An Ex-pat If...

Laura