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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.

Friday Afternoon Traditions

26 Mar

It used to be 4 friends gathering for a cup of coffee and a chat at the end of the weekend. It was simple and we were done after an hour and a half, at best. There was no planning and certainly no cooking involved.

Over the last couple of weeks it has become coffee and cake, followed by fabulous ‘Sunday night dinner’ for 10+. It’s awesome… and the best way to end the weekend even though it sometimes results in yet ANOTHER late night.

On the menu last night:

Olaf’s Coffee and Gerda’s Chocolate Cupcakes followed, a few hours later, by…

 

Orazio’s AMAZING tomato,basil and mozzarella pizza (we love having an Italian on our pooldeck). We managed to get him to show us how he does it with an afternoon ‘Master Class’. Not sure if mine will taste anything like his but I’m going to give it a try (or just get the neighbour to keep making da pizza).

 

We are blessed to share our time in The Land of Sand with such a lovely bunch of friends.

 

The ‘homemade’ Challenge

4 Mar

One of the nicer aspects of living in the Middle East is that people generally end up having a fair amount more disposable income than they would do in their home countries. Most often, that extra money is used in one of three ways: to pay off debt back home, to live a lavish lifestyle whilst they can or it is saved.

I have only ever lived in the Middle East since having a child of my own so I may be completely wrong with this observation but it seems to me that kids here receive really pricey gifts from many of their friends for their birthdays’. I  don’t remember it being quite so lavish back in South Africa and I know that it was definitely not so when I was a child.

On party day, I understand the practice of placing all the gifts in a pile on a table for the recipient to open after the party when the kids are as young as mine as it would result in chaos if each gift was opened during the party but I am a little amazed at how many children arrive at a birthday party and immediately set about playing whilst Mom just pops the gift onto the huge pile. There is often no exchange of gift or happy birthday greeting at all. I do understand that little children cannot be expected to uphold all social behaviours all the time but I can’t help but think that the personal side of carefully choosing and giving a gift is sometimes lost.

I have the wonderful privilege of being a stay at home Mom. I spend my days with our child and I have more time to do things with him than many moms. One of the challenges that I have decided to take on, especially whilst I am not working full-time, is to make gifts for Luka’s friends when their birthdays come around. He is as involved in the gift’s creation as his 2-year-old skills allow him to be but obviously still needs lots of help. He has, for instance, full artistic licence when designing and making the wrapping paper and card but sometimes needs help with a few other things.

Here are two of our latest attempts at homemade gift making:

I did the painting for a Hello Kitty fan and very sweet little friend of Luka’s who recently turned 2 and Luka took care of the wrapping and card with paint and potato stamps.

He was so proud to hand it over to her!

Next we bleached out this little shirt for Rafael with his name and a picture on the front and a funny little, “I’m 3!” line on the back. Luka helped with this one as well as making the wrapping paper and card.

 

 

I have no idea whether Rafael actually liked the shirt. He may, in fact, hate it and refuse to wear it but I’m sure that with a little time and a lot of practise our gift making skills will become finely tuned.