A new kind of ‘normal’

14 Nov

When we first moved away from South Africa 6 years ago, I remember how very strange this new country of Qatar felt to me. From the moment I got off the plane I was struck with how different everything and everyone looked, how bizarre the guttral-sounding Arabic language sounded  even though I come from a country that has 11 official languages. I can recognise the smell of an airport in the Middle East immediately without knowing where I have landed. My senses were completely overwhelmed by this new land. I remember so well the  exact moments where, waiting in my car at a traffic light watching people crossing the road, I would be struck with how bizarre it was that I was living  HERE, in this of all places in the world. It was not a negative, “I don’t want to be here’ feeling just an amazement that my path had brought me here. 

The wonderful thing about being human though is that we adapt to new situations faster than we realise. Before you know it, your sense of normal has shifted. The fact that I can hop into a car in any country in the world and drive no matter what side of the road I need to use without any fear or apprehension is now normal. Our 3-year-old thinks it is normal to fly halfway across the world a few times a year. For a few years in my life it was normal to make my own beer and wine in the kitchen and leave it to ferment in the pantry.

Living in Saudi Arabia really challenges your ideas of normal, so much so that you can begin to lose touch with your roots. To a certain degree you can forget what it is that you enjoyed doing, seeing, watching, listening to as you have little or no access to those things in such a restrictive country. 

Now that we are back in Qatar, my perspective of the country is a little different. We have only been back 4 days so this may be a little premature but I find the place so much prettier than I did before. I am in awe of grassy parks with rolling green lawns, the sea, well-maintained curbs, beautiful wide new roads to drive on, and opportunities to enjoy the outdoors outside of compound walls. On Saturday we went for a stroll on the corniche (Doha’s waterfront). It was quiet and peaceful, the sea was like glass. We passed joggers, kids on bikes, fishermen, couples strolling, activities that are not easy to partake in, in Saudi Arabia. You take your life into your hands trying to jog in an abaya. I have tripped too many times just walking along a pavement to even attempt to run. How my ideas of normal have shifted!

Here’s the corniche on a quiet Saturday morning. It’s pure bliss…



4 Responses to “A new kind of ‘normal’”

  1. Rahiema November 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Philippa, I have made up my mind! My time to exit only is long overdue!!! Xx

    • Philippa Brinkmann November 15, 2011 at 4:29 am #

      Rahiema, I’m still a Middle East novice compared to you. You’ve been in Saudi for a long time and I will probably never know what that feels like. It’s a tough decision to make as wierd ol’ Saudi has it’s perks when it comes to family life.

  2. Sue November 15, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    Hi Phillipa, Ya, I heard that Doha has changed quite a bit. Looking at the corniche pics brought back memories as we used to have picnics on Fri mornings. We will buy pastries from Bateel and eat under the trees and enjoying the morning breeze. Its a great change from KSA..

    • Philippa Brinkmann November 15, 2011 at 4:34 am #

      Sue, it feels so strange to live in a place where we can do these types of things again. I loved my time in Saudi and am constantly reminded of the lessons I learnt there, like appreciating having some freedom again. It’s all fine and dandy in winter, summer will be different!

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