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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!

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.

A Break Away from our Holiday

19 Sep

Firstly, apologies for not blogging regularly at the moment. We have no internet access where we are staying which means I can only post something new when we are with family and I do not wish to spend my visits with family on my laptop. I’m completely out of touch with the younger generation as I still think it’s rude to spend half my day attached to an electronic device. I know…I’m SUCH an old-timer. Anyway, I shall attempt to ignore everyone, focus totally on my electronic device and put something new up today, mostly because my Mom needs something new to read. I think she has probably reread my entire blog from first post to last whilst waiting for some NEW PICS OF HER DAUGHTER AND FAMILY.

So in the interests of moving right along, I shall begin.

Meet my very special friend, Helette, her husband Conrad (who’s pretty special too) and their two gorgeous girls Lindi-pops and Neenee.

 Helette and I have known each other for well over 10 years. We met in our early 20’s, fresh out of university and in our first years of working and earning a little bit of our own money. I was not a big party animal at university, well not regularly anyway. I was a full-time student but also a full-time athlete. I needed to achieve a certain level of success on the sports field in order to fund my studies which meant I needed to be disciplined. Needless to say, once I was working I was able to let my hair down a little and not worry about the repercussions of Friday night come back to haunt me on Saturday morning on the athletics track. I still competed seriously for a few years after varsity but I got to finally play with my misbehaving friends a lot more. Helette and I spent many of our early working years growing up and throwing up (it wasn’t quite as bad as that) but we have had many memorable adventures together.

Since those early days we have played a part in one another’s engagements and weddings and have always spoken to one other within a few hours of having our babies, no matter where in the world we were. It’s that kind of friendship and I hope it will always be so.

In any visit to South Africa, we try to meet up with the Van Rensburgs and this holiday has been no different.

Enter one of our most favorite places in the world…Thiessen Island.

Theissen is a small reclaimed island, situated in the lagoon in the coastal town of Knysna, a 6 hour drive from Cape Town. Olaf and I love everything about Thiessen and dream of living there someday in the very distant future. For now though we are happy to rent a house on the island and get as many of our family and friends to join us for holidays. We rented a small house for a few days and got the V R’s to drive the 3 hours from Port Elizabeth, where they live, and join us for a long weekend.

 It was cold, the wind blew gales, it rained and we were stuck indoors for half the weekend BUT we had a fabulous time hanging out together.

When we had the opportunity we got out and played on the beach

went for walks

and ended the day with long, romantic bubble baths. Nah, not really. Luka did not fully appreciate the opportunity of bathing with 2 gorgeous girls but I’m sure he will…in time.

Glorious, glorious

17 Aug

We woke up to the MOST glorious day, yesterday.  It was by far the best day, with regards weather, since our arrival 3 weeks ago. The morning air was cold and fresh against my face as I stepped out on to the balcony with my coffee but there was that wonderful stillness that precedes a beautiful day. The sea was like glass

And the sun was just starting to gently warm the city, waking up beneath the mountain.

We had planned a day out, leaving at around lunchtime so that Luka could have his midday nap in the car on the way to our destination. We wanted to take the scenic route and our lil’ darling is not all that interested in scenery or driving! However if we time it correctly, he snoozes in the car whilst we get to enjoy the drive and talk…to one another. There are only so many times I can read ‘The Gruffalo’ in a 40 minute drive without becoming one myself! 

With a beautiful morning ahead of us and nothing pressing that needed our attention Luka and I hit the beach. The morning was far too good to be spent indoors. Being a weekday, there were not many people on the beach except for a few people strolling with their dogs and the usual collection of SUP’s (Stand Up Paddlers) – Cape Town’s latest surfing trendoids.

Time on the beach follows a well worn pattern with young Luka.

 We begin with collecting pebbles, shells, stray crab legs, seaweed…

and throwing it all into the water (for the fish to eat, apparently)…

The distance between the child and the water gradually gets shorter, so the pants get rolled up…

and the boy goes in.

Its 2 hours of bliss for a 2 year old. Nothing in the world could make him happier. The bonus…it’s free and I get just as much joy chilling on the beach and watching him play as he does running amok.

Looking back through the pics I took, I found this one which freaked me out a little. How grown up is my boy! The sea swallowed up the 2 year old and spat this teenager out in his place.

Back from the beach feeling tired (Luka) but contented we hit the road. We headed to Hout Bay, a quaint harbor town along the coast, for a seafood lunch. The scenery along the way is spectacular. Houses built into the mountain on the left, overlooking the sea on the right.

It’s not all summery, sexy multi-million dollar houses though. The reality of living in South Africa is that there is high unemployment and wide-spread poverty and in this case the rich and the poor don’t sleep very far from one another. Below, an informal settlement, where families live in shacks built from sheets of corrugated iron, timber and anything they can gather together. Where fire, rain and wind threaten to take the little that they own on a daily basis. It’s weird how the site where this large settlement has developed looks almost romantic and picturesque as it is situated in such a pretty spot, at the foot of a mountain in amongst beautiful natural vegetation.

But on to lunch

and a great view from our sundrenched spot on the deck.

We took a stroll around the small harbor after lunch

Bumped into this BIG guy swimming lazily in amongst the boats

and finished up with an ice-cream on the beach.

Cape Town’s not too bad for a little city at the bottom end of Africa, huh?

Cape Town

2 Aug

Hello Cape Town!

After bidding farewell to our lovely friends in The Land of Sand, we left Arabian Homes, tears streaming down our faces, and headed out with our favorite driver, Mr. Salaam.  The car was very quiet as we made our final 30 minute drive to King Khaled International Airport, except for a little voice who kept asking, ‘Why mommy and daddy crying?’.

Upon arrival at KKIA, all sentimentality disappeared very quickly as we joined the throngs of people squashed into seemingly never-ending rows heading for the check-in desks. The usual pushing and shoving in the poorly air-conditioned airport was a good reality check for us and suddenly getting on a plane and heading out of the summer heat seemed like the best thing to be doing.

After a short stop-over in Abu Dhabi and a peaceful overnight flight we landed in Cape Town. Visually, the change from the desert is always completely mind-blowing for us…EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. The beauty of South Africa never fails to amaze us. The sky is bright blue and the air feels so fresh against your cheeks as you exit the airport building. Everything looks bright and clear compared to the dust-covered city of Riyadh and one almost can’t quite drink it all in on the drive into the city. It’s like having very dirty sunglasses removed after 6 months of not realizing that you even had them on in the first place. BUT THE COLD…oh my word! Cape Town winters are wet and chilly but the temperatures are fairly mild compared to countries in Europe. However,  felt like we were dying on the days when the mercury dropped below 16 degrees Celsius. The change from  45+ to 18 degrees and below just about killed us. We have since acclimatized a bit and we also have not had too many very cold days so things are looking up for ‘The Blue Brinkmanns’.

We are staying in an apartment in the suburb of Blouberg. It’s not my favorite area of Cape Town but on a warm, sunny day it’s fabulous to be near the sea. We are just over the road from the beach so Luka is able to get his full of the great outdoors (which keeps us all sane) and we get to hang out family often which is obviously part of the reason we come home. 

Olaf also got to celebrate his birthday in South Africa for the first time in many years. We spent an afternoon with family over the weekend…

and headed to a wine farm in the nearby Durbanville Hills on Monday (his actual birthday) with our friend, Gerda, who is also home on holiday from The Land Of Sand. We enjoyed a long, lazy lunch at Nitida, a wine farm, nestled between the mountains. The weather was perfect. We soaked up the sun, surrounded by spectacular vine-covered hills; chatting, laughing, savouring fabulous food and sipping the MOST delicious Sauvignon Blanc. A wonderful treat for us all!

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…