Monday, November 24, 2008

Aw Shucks!

I Love Qatar

I have recently found out that my blog was selected as one of Qatar’s Top Blogs by a popular local web site called I Love Qatar. The owner of this site, known as Mr. Q (aka Kei & Amnesia), left me a wonderful comment a few months ago. I had no idea it would lead to this.

When I had started this blog it was mainly a way to keep my family updated of our daily life, however mundane it might be. I had also intended it to be mainly a food blog (not enough of these you know!) focusing mainly on local cuisine, hence all the food related posts. But, lots of interesting things happened in between, so I decided I could not limit myself to a particular subject.

So Mr. Q if you are reading this, I am, to say the least, honored and humbled. And I will definitely try (fingers crossed) to post more often!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

24 Cupcakes

24 cupcakes
It was my eldest son’s birthday a few days ago. He turned 15, and at 5’9” is now taller then his dad. Yes, there are a few well earned silver strands mingling with my otherwise raven locks, but I have not broken out the Clairol yet. I know it is just a matter of time that I will - or won’t.

We had given H a choice of having a party or getting something he couldn't live without, and I am delighted to say that my gregarious and ever sociable son chose his friends. His invitation list initially consisted of 25 of his closest friends, but we whittled it down to 15.

We had reserved 3 lanes at the Markaz Qatar Al Bolinj / Qatar Bowling Center. The bowling alley here is about the same as back home, except it is immaculately clean, with a VIP sitting room and waiters in black and white uniforms who deliver snacks in hefty proportions while you bowl. Security is plenty and is strictly enforced. The rules are similar as well, with the exception of this one, by far my favorite:

No bowling is allowed while wearing an abaya or thobe.

We had requested everyone not to bring gifts. We wanted it to be a simple and casual affair, for the boys to get together and have a good time. We also did not want H to receive expensive gifts, such as IPhones & IPods (which is not unheard of by the way). But Arabs are extremely generous, with the Qatari’s being high on the list. So a few did come bearing gifts. I am left pondering how we will reciprocate.

We had a great time. I met all of H’s friends who were there, and they are a great group of kids, albeit a bit shy in front of mom. The gathering truly represented a mini United Nations. N and I had slaved all afternoon making cupcakes - with a little help from Ms. Betty Crocker. We made over 30, and had taken 24 with us, which disappeared within minutes. Afterwards K and I allowed him to go to Johnny Rocket’s with his buddies for his favorite meal of burgers, fries and shakes. Qatar is a much safer place to live and we give our children a greater amount of freedom that we otherwise would have. In case you're wondering, that's when the real party began!

I have previously mentioned in a former post our main purpose for moving to Qatar. But another greatly important reason was that we wanted our children to grow up with a greater sense of awareness and respect for other people and cultures.

I have lived in the US for the majority of my life, but have been fortunate to have lived in other parts of the world as well. I have also been blessed with many opportunities to travel. I can honestly say we Americans, no matter how the bad economy gets, compared to the rest of the world, still have got it good. But we often tend to be myopic, barely noticing what goes on beyond our back yards.

We don’t need to drive gas guzzling SUV’s, and we don’t need to fill our homes with inexpensive items manufactured in foreign countries under dire conditions. We are a nation of immigrants, therfore we must educate ourselves to a greater degree in order to prevent the evils stemming from xenophobia. And having such a profound influence on the rest of the world, we need to choose our leaders wisely. I am proud to say, this year we did.

But having said all this I must also point out that we citizens are by far the most generous of all developed nations, giving twice as much to charitable causes; benefiting not only our own communities, but wherever the need is greatest.

Therefore, I did not want my children to grow up to be the epitome of the old and often unjust cliché the ‘ugly American’. Here they are experiencing another way of life, different from what they are accustomed to, but wonderful nonetheless. They are interacting with people of various demographics, from distinct cultures, societies and economic levels. Through our frequent travels they have been able to observe other parts of the world at a closer range. And they are developing a keen sense of awareness, along with a greater appreciation and respect for others. They also know how good they have it.

And so ya ibni, my sweet boy, may you carry this knowledge with you throughout your life, when you return home, or wherever you choose to live. And may you convey this more so through your actions than with words.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gimme a Break

King Tat Bar
Gimme a break, break me off a piece of that ... uh … King Tat Bar?

This post is not about advertising jingles or odd candy finds - although there are plenty here - it is about change. And since this is not a political blog (although I have pretty strong opinions on many issues), it certainly is not about the change Obama/McCain are proselytizing either. It is about the good old chaching kind.

Coins - called dirham’s - are often not used much in our daily transactions. When purchasing an item, paper currency is used almost exclusively. Prices are rounded off to the nearest quarter. I don't know if dirham's come in any denominations besides .25 and .50 since I have never seen any. I have also never seen an item for QR 2.99, or QR 299.99 for that matter.

To give you an example of how this works, if your bill in any given store comes to 12.25 riyals and you hand 15.00 riyals to the cashier, most often you will receive 3 riyals back. If your total comes to 12.75 riyals most likely you will receive 2 riyals back. When your total comes to 12.50 you may be handed 2 riyals, and in lieu of .50 dirham’s, a mini King Tat bar or some other interesting and/or odd flavored chocolate, hard candy (mango-mint, tamarind) or gum (coffee, banana, cardamom). No one seems to mind this exchange.

Often these chocolates are loosely disguised reproductions of Western confections (of which we also get in great assortment). But none of my kids will eat them, so I keep them stashed away until they expire. Only then will my conscience allow me to throw them away.

Enough babbling for now, its time for some real change. Y’all go vote now ya hear!