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House Updates and…Being Left Behind

8 Jan

Each house has its own feel, personality and needs (even expat rental houses). Our new house is a lot bigger than our last, we have a total of 6 bathrooms in this one whereas we had half that before. However, our resolution to keep all decor cheap and cheerful remains unchanged. We have no intention of spending vast amounts of money on a house that is not ours. We would like to stay in Qatar for at least 5 years BUT we also know that anything can happen and moving on may be forced upon or chosen by us at any point in time, so we ain’t decorating for life here. We  need to make this house feel like a family home as we spend much of our time in it. We are happy to spend some money on making it so but not too much. 

This is the family room. It is on your left, through an open archway (so to speak) as you enter the front door. It’s where we hangout most of the time. It’s also attached to the kitchen in an open-plan sort of way, which we love. It’s a good cooking, eating, slouching around watching TV kind of room. 

I took these photo’s the first time we saw the house.

 Obviously we went with the furnished option, as most expats do, and getting our own furniture shipped over makes no sense to our current lifestyle.

 We moved on to this a week or two later.

 We unpacked the boxes, took a while to find a place for everything but eventually we got to a state of sub-normality.

 

I’m dying to paint but the thought of repainting before we leave one day puts me off doing anything too severe. So I’ve left the walls ‘practical-expat-cream’ and rather added some art. Maybe art is too strong a word, it’s more of a collection of memories, photos and things we like. All home-made, all cost absolutely nothing as we had everything already, I just needed to find it, sort it out and put it all together – the fun part. The ‘collection’ includes some art that Luka made, mementos from events we’ve attended like the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, things from places we’ve visited like stones from a beach in the south of France and even a map of good old Riyadh including the area we lived in there.

I added some Chinese paper lanterns I had lying in a cupboard for colour. And no I would probably not use paper lanterns in my real house and rather keep them for the garden but there you go. Improvisation.

I had to get rid of the curtains. There was nothing wrong with them in terms of quality but they were heavy, not my style and the red swags just killed me. I quickly whipped up a really simple set of tab top curtains in the course of a Friday morning from a large piece of cheap calico I’ve been carrying around and slowly cutting pieces off for various projects over the last few years. They are like a breath of fresh air although I’m thinking of dyeing them a very pale grey-blue to add some contrast to the cream walls. 

So with a few changes and a bit of effort our family room feels a bit more like home. And the only thing we bought was the table lamp which we got on a sale. Everything else we already owned/were given/found at the dump. I am refining my cheap and nasty economical style of decorating with every new country we move to.

On a completely unrelated and probably more interesting note. Olaf and, our 3-year-old,  Luka will be leaving the country tomorrow. In a bizarre twist of visa related events, my temporary visa was extended and Luka’s not. It’s complicated and I shall not bore you with the details but Luka needs to exit and then re-enter Qatar in order to get a new visa as his will no longer be valid within the next 2 days. Olaf is the only one of the two of us who can take him so the boys will fly to Dubai for dinner tomorrow. A few hours after dinner they will jump back on a plane and fly the hour back so that Luka can have his passport stamped with a new visa. It should be a fun father/son bonding session. Obviously, I am absolutely devastated at being left behind. I have already booked to have my hair cut, nails done etc while I have all those hours to MYSELF.

Oh the joys of expat living!

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While we were away…

2 Jan

Relocation logistics have kept me away for a while. No residence permit means no internet, no bank account, no phone line. You’re barely allowed to breathe the Qatari air AND there never seems to be much of a rush to get the residence permit completed so you just have to sit tight and wait it out! But we are up and running again now in our own house with our own internet connection so there should be no more issues going forward.

Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve been up to lately.

First up was getting these driven over from Saudi and unpacked (AGAIN)

And when we needed a break from the chaos, of a house in the middle of unpacking, we went discovering new places to play (whilst it’s winter and the weather makes being outdoors an absolute necessity)

We discovered a great new jogging path near our house, designed and built especially to encourage people to get out and exercise. I don’t think it’s used very much.

It winds its way around the Khalifa stadium and other world-class sporting facilities situated in the area and is known as The Aspire Zone. It’s awesome!

Whilst we were in the area we dropped in to watch some international handball at the Arab Games 2011. It’s not a sport I know very much about as it’s not played much in South Africa but it’s easy enough to understand and is fun to watch. Luka now insists on playing handball at least once a day.

Then there was the small matter of Christmas. It was our first in The Land of Sand as we usually travel over the festive season. It was also the first time we have put up a Christmas tree in about 7 years as we have either lived in a country that doesn’t allow then to be sold or we have simply not been home and so not bothered to buy one.

We cooked and baked a bit,

continued the German tradition of making and decorating a gingerbread house a few days before Christmas

and relived some of our childhood memories on Christmas Eve whilst Luka opened his gifts (before finally closing his eyes to sleep at 11:30!).

We skipped the big  Christmas buffets offered at the hotels and opted for a wonderful meal at a fabulous Turkish restaurant alongside the sea on Christmas Day

 with this as our view

and completed the meal with coffee and a decadent cupcake from Red Velvet Cupcakery. Not your traditional Christmas meal but very memorable for all of us.

Over the last few days we’ve been doing a little painting

 one of us using imaginary paint and the other the real stuff.

This looks set to continue and the results shared soon.

I now have no excuse not to post regular updates of  life in the ‘new’ Land of Sand so I will be back again soon. Thanks for your patience.

The New Digs

12 Nov

One of the first important undertakings when moving to a new country is to find a place to call home. People working for the large oil and natural gas companies in Qatar often move into compounds owned or rented by the company as soon as they arrive.  We, like many other expats living here, are in a different line of work so finding a place to live often falls within our own responsibility.  With 6 years of expat experience behind us, we have learnt that the most effective way of finding a place to live is to research as much as you can before you arrive, make contact with good property agents or compound managers and ‘befriend them for all your worth’ until eventually they give in and you secure a house. This is all left to Olaf as I am a hopeless negotiator and flirt.

Four years ago when we last lived in Qatar housing was in short supply and very expensive. The situation seems to have changed a bit since then with compounds, apartment blocks and free-standing houses springing up everywhere at a rapid rate easing the demand somewhat. This country is developing and growing FAST.

Having lived here before we had a good idea of the areas we thought would work for us and the type of housing that would suit our family and lifestyle. During the 5 weeks that Olaf has been living here before us, he did all the leg-work, meeting an agent, looking at houses and securing us a home before Luka and I arrived. He did an excellent job and I couldn’t happier with the choice he made. We had the freedom of choosing a free-standing house, an apartment or a house in a compound. We opted for compound living again as we like living in a small community, feeling secure and being able to use shared facilities like a gym and pools without having to maintain them ourselves. 

I snapped a few (bad) pics yesterday when we went over to see the house for the first time. It has all the usual basics like furniture and white goods but obviously needs some love and lots of personal touches to turn it into a home. I am more than happy to oblige!

Our street within the compound

 

The compound pool, with jacuzzi and kiddies pool behind me out of picture

 

Our Backyard

I’m really excited about having our own outdoor space for Luka to play without me worrying about him falling into a pool or going walkabout, a place to barbeque with friends and just generally hangout undisturbed.

Family room and huge kitchen in the distance

 

Lounge and diningroom

 The house has 4 double en-suite bedrooms upstairs, some with little balconies of their own. It’s more space than our little family of 3 really require but these houses only come in one size. We have plans to change one of the bedrooms into a craft/playroom and will keep the other as a guest bedroom. Now that we no longer live in Saudi Arabia, people suddenly want to visit us again! We look forward to having all our family and friends to stay. 

We are currently staying in a hotel/serviced apartment and are due to move into our house later this week. However, we are still waiting for our household goods from Saudi to arrive so we may have to delay the move until they arrive. It would probably be more comfortable to sleep on sheets and have a kettle to boil water than not!

We’re here!

11 Nov

After a very long break in Cape Town, Luka and I have finally joined Olaf at our new destination. The good news is that the name of my blog remains appropriate even though we are now in a different country. If you are a regular reader you may recognise this place…

It’s the city of Doha, in Qatar, and it’s our new home.  We are not that far from our previous home, Saudi Arabia. In fact, Saudi is the only border that Qatar has as it is a peninsular surrounded almost entirely by sea.

We lived here for 2 years before so it’s not completely new to us but it has changed and is in a continual state of upgrading. Plus this time we are here with a kiddo which makes life a little different. 

All the details of settling will be shared as they happen.

It’s Moving Day

18 Jul

With 30 hours left in the Land of Sand we are putting the final touches on our moving arrangements. The house is mover-ready, the movers arrive in 30 minutes. We are so experienced at doing this now that we have our technique almost completely mastered.

Our suitcases are packed…

and currently being stored in the BATHROOM! Weird but effective as a no go zone for movers and a storage spot for us.  It’s the only room in the house that does not need a mover to pack things in.

We make our final exit tomorrow afternoon.

Chat again once we land in Cape Town.

Caio

Moving on…

4 Jul

It’s been a few months in the planning but with only 2 weeks left in the Land of Sand, I think it would be safe to say we are now officially moving on. Our formally happy home is looking more like the basic ‘ Arabian Homes standard 3 bedroom house’ with each passing day. The walls are bare, the shelves are neatly packed ready for boxing, Olaf has finished work and we are sitting around waiting and waiting and waiting. We built a few, well more than just a few, weeks into our leaving plans as experience has taught us that the exit process always takes longer than it should…and we could not have been more right. There are a few loose ends that still need to be tied up before we fly out on July 19th.

Why are we leaving the Magic Kingdom, you ask? Olaf’s work contract has come to an end and after spending 3 years working in Saudi Arabia he feels that a change of venue would be a good idea. The dusty, ridiculously hot, ultra-conservative, extremely peculiar desert kingdom turned out to be quite different from what we expected.  To be fair, I have not worked whilst living here so my everyday experiences have been vastly different from Olaf’s but we can both agree that the friends we made and the time we spent with them has made living in Saudi Arabia enriching, fun-filled and so very memorable. We will miss them all more than we care to admit.

We’ll be heading home to Cape Town for a fabulously long holiday whilst the details of our next destination are being finalised. Once all t’s have been crossed and i’s dotted I’ll be sure to share it all with you.

Until then, we wait…

 

Lazy Friday Afternoons

7 May

Our ‘Friday’s in the Land of Sand tradition’ of everyone gathering at around 4 in the afternoon for coffee, to bring the weekend to an end, continues as before. It’s warming up now and some of us are already spending the afternoons outside doing this; 

It is the only place to be if you need a little outdoor time. This weekend, the guys set the volleyball net up and a few of us knocked the ball about in the pool a little.

A few mandatory action shots of those playing as well as those observing from the sides (often called upon to play ball boy/girl). 

When not in the water with us, Luka spent his time running around kicking a ball or convincing anyone who was willing and able, to kick the ball to him. Fortunately for him, there are always innocent bystanders who are easily suckered into a game. Even Orazio’s 71 year Mum was drawn into a game of footie with him yesterday.

 But even those with boundless energy need to rest from time to time.

By early evening we all felt like Luka looked there.

Bennie picked up shawarmas from the Turkish restaurant around the corner for dinner. We wolfed down some much-needed nutritional sustanance and all headed home for an early night.