Sankofa 3: Redefining the dream

We’ve been in Doha over 2 years and in that time my husband has had little income. I’m thinking of running off to join Cirque Du Soleil – so adept have I become at juggling not just finances but also my emotions and our expectations.

I cry often but not as much as I used to. When feelings of resentment, unfairness or jealousy well up: I acknowledge the feelings, I observe the feelings, I feel the feelings, I choose to release them and I read my gratitude list. Sometimes I add to it. Sometimes I can’t so I just re-read it and take pleasure in the memories that the statements evoke.

I know that there are pros and cons to every situation. Despite my ever-increasing gratitude list, sometimes I can’t help but feel that I have traded in all the positives of living in the UK for the negatives of living in Qatar.

You’ll ask, ‘what about the beach?’ I say I grew up in the Caribbean.

You’ll ask, ‘what about the diverse cultures?’  I say I Iived in London and at our wedding we did not serve pork, beef or shellfish and had vegan and vegetarian options.

You’ll say, ‘what about the terrific schools?’ – As a conscientious Mass-attender for years, my little one was guaranteed a place at the local RC primary.

There is a lot of anger and frustration with plans torn asunder and dreams delayed.  This is why I started my gratitude list, regularly update it and carry it with me everywhere. So I do count my blessings, but they are more elusive and implicit.

My husband has been able to spend a lot of time with our son, so there won’t be any regrets so familiar of fathers when their kids have grown up. He’s very good at networking, has an impressive business card collection and even had a few chats/interviews, but no job offers – yet.

As for me, work is less pressurized so I mostly work a 40 hour week and often manage a one hour lunch break with colleagues. There are more hours between home time and bedtime, so I have more time to cuddle, kiss and tickle my son until his laughter infects me. Other times I’m ‘Vilgax’ and he’s ‘Ultimate Echo Echo’ and he ‘dies’ me. I am also re-exploring my creative side mainly through being a member of the DM writers’ group and creating my blog.

The last word belongs to my husband who’s been exploring the entrepreneur route, which was one of his post-MBA goals, with a few friends and as such is a founding member of QSports Leagues.  So, to quote the words of Derek Trotter aka Del Boy (go on, Google it), maybe ‘this time next year, Rodney, we’ll be millionaires!’

Have you had to redefine your dreams? How did you do this?



Sankofa 2: Not yet living the dream

It was like the lyrics in that Lori Lieberman/Roberta Flack/Al B Sure/Fugees song about feeling as if someone had come across your private letters and was reading them out loud. The post evinced a visceral response in me because it was as if the DM member had read my mind. I knew that I had to reply, to reach out to share and support. However, that would mean acknowledgement and acceptance. It would be like hanging my knickers out in a communal courtyard. A week elapsed before I replied.

We’ve been in Doha over 2 years and in that time my husband has had little income. We’re in such straitened circumstances that a trip to Sealine, brunch at a hotel or a spa session, even once a month takes some serious financial juggling. Living the dream? Not yet.

I feel guilty, guilt so potent that it often wakes me at that most devilish of times: 3am. My husband agreed, because I asked him, to give up his work and professional status in renewable energy to come to Qatar, only to be treated dismissively for being a chemical engineer with no oil and gas experience, despite having an MBA and over 15 years of program and project experience.

So what did we do? We held our breaths, hoping and praying that each meeting, each month would bring us back to being a double income family.  I even looked at better paying jobs in neighbouring countries.  After 20 months and no second job, we exhaled. We stopped existing conditionally (we’ll do x when hubby gets a job). We chucked out the plan. We started living.

So if I was reading this I’d be saying that I love the mountain top revelation but what about the pragmatics in the plains?

We got rid of the rental car and bought 2 okay cars, not the SUV I’d slobbered over (my husband is a green through and through and has not had a desire to up size), and 2 extremely good child seats.

We went on holiday – not to India or Sri Lanka or Oman but crashed at a friends’ apartment in Abu Dhabi.

We invite friends over for dinner despite me being a reluctant cook.  My husband thinks he’s the love child of Ainsley Harriot and Jamie Oliver.

I finally joined Doha Mums because I realized I needed some friends who weren’t work colleagues.

I have my clothes pressed at the laundry, but we share the household chores.

I go to the spa but it’s not for the ‘full works’, some months it’s a manicure and a pedicure and other months it’s a massage.

We allow ourselves to be treated to playdates or dinner or both.

I revel in others’ experiences and successes.

I created a gratitude list and regularly update it.

My husband and I talk honestly about how we feel. We dream a lot, plan a little. We’re living!

How do you continue to live and enjoy life when things are not turning out the way you’d dreamt or planned?

Sankofa 1: Visa runs and sponsorship woes

Do not run through life so fast that you forget not only where you have been, but  also where you are going. Peace of Mind by anonymous.

So many wonderful things happening at the moment. I’ve enjoyed developing the ideas, drafting and refining, publishing, reading and replying to the comments, yet…

I needed to stop and reflect.  I needed to remind myself of the context.  I needed to go back to the beginning and reconnect.

Consequently, I have decided over the next 3 weeks to republish the blogs that got me started on this journey. An adventure encouraged by fellow writer and blogger Chris I am grateful for her support and challenge.

Here’s the first of 3 blogs that appeared on the :

Visa runs and sponsorship woes 

My family moved to Qatar with the understanding that I could sponsor my husband and our son. We’ve been in Doha just over 2 years and in that time I have not been able to acquire sponsorship for my husband nor has he been able to secure a job. In order to stay in Qatar legally he has to make visa runs.

Often it is every two months on a tourist visa. A couple of times, we’ve applied for a 6 month family visit visa( involves a marriage certificate attested by 3 authorities here and in the UK, letter from my sponsor, a medical)  but once he leaves the country, this visa is nullified and the process has to be restarted. This was definitely not the plan.

We arrived in Qatar at the end of June 2010. Due to the reduced working times of Ramadan and the Eid holidays, it took 10 weeks for my own Resident Permit to be issued. Since my husband and son couldn’t get under my sponsorship until my paperwork was in order, they had to do a visa run to Dubai. The first run was fun as it was to friends he’d not seen for a long time and they had never met our son.

When they returned to Qatar I discovered we couldn’t move into permanent housing unless my husband and son were both sponsored by me. Until then, my family would have to remain in temporary housing.

The immigration department of the organization I work for advised that as  the changes to the spousal sponsorship law were recent, I may encounter difficulties to sponsor my husband. I applied and was refused. Why, I wondered, were we not told about getting our marriage certificate attested by the UK Home Office and a solicitor? I sought help from my organization. There was much talk and little action. I applied again and was refused. My husband and son had to do another visa run.

I tried another track; I tried to sponsor my son. Before the application could be accepted I was asked to get his blood type. This was the easiest part. I went to a clinic just off the Salwa Road and in a matter of minutes and 50 riyals, I knew he was B+ – was that a message from the universe?  I was asked to return within a week. On my return I was issued with a letter in Arabic and when I tried to clarify, I was told to go to the MOI building on C ring near the American Hospital. Once again, colleagues translated that I had been asked to attend a panel to be approved as a female sponsoring our child. I was advised not to take my son but my husband could come for support.

We arrived at 7 am at said building on the date given in October and took the now ubiquitous Qmatic number. The place was heaving and there was little explanation of what the process would be. After a two hour wait, I was asked to enter a room that had a table of about 15 Qatari’s on one side and then about twice the number of expats on the other side, all talking at once. I was motioned to sit down, and asked my name, where I worked, why my husband did not work, my child’s age and then he wrote something on the paper and motioned for me to leave. I tried asking what it meant but no explanation was forthcoming. I left the room and tried to explain to my husband what happened. He asked an official outside who said that I had to return to the original MOI building.

I did that later the same day. I was asked to go to the Medical Commission for my child. As the staff at the MOI had not given me the reasons for this trip, one of my female Qatari colleagues accompanied me to the Medical Commission. It worked like a charm. 20 minutes and 100 riyals later, the document was stamped and we were leaving. To this day, I am still none the wiser as to the reason for this process as my son was not present and he has not had any medical examinations done.  This I presented to the MOI office and by the end of October, I had my son’s RP. My husband, on the other hand, made another visa run.

We discussed the issue with other couples in our situation. We did meet 2 couples who were successful in sponsoring their husband but it was through the wives’ persistence that ‘waasta’ was eventually applied to secure these sponsorships. We decided not to go through the trouble of trying again but rather continue doing visa runs until by husband found a job that would sponsor him. That wasn’t as simple as we anticipated.

Was it time to rethink the dream?


The Blues, Country Music and Being Grateful

On a weekend, I can easily sink into a quagmire of negative feelings and focus on all that is not right with my life. I wallow like a hippo in mud in these feelings and by Sunday when it’s time to go to work, I look back in regret at a wasted weekend.

Last Friday, I was determined not to submit to the depression, so I got up early, had a shower and armed with a mug of mocha, I immersed myself in Joyce Meyer messages.  The blues kept at bay, I whizzed round the house in a flurry of activity as I had to drive Kwame over to a friend’s house.

On the way there I turned on the radio. The main English radio station plays country music on a Friday morning. It may not be a la mode but I do like me a bit of country. The stories seem so authentic and the metaphors are so clever that I’m awed by the songwriters’ creativity. It reminds me of my mom talking about Granny Audrey stopping her sewing, getting up from behind her sewing machine, grabbing a broom and dancing. I also remember being at Granny’s and playing some of those records.

The station also plays country on Saturday mornings, so I switched on again as I was whipping up some pancakes – I was a bit on fire this weekend – I heard a song that left me reeling like I’d gone half a round with Mike Tyson at his best.

This morning I had a bit of a set back in a personal goal. All my thoughts and feelings started to head south when I remembered that song. I Googled it and listened again. ‘Be Grateful’ is by The Farm and the chorus states that no matter how bad you’re feeling, there’s always someone who has it worse and the things you take for granted were once welcomed as blessings.

Go on have a listen

It made me go back and look at my gratitude list. And it got me thinking that I need to prioritise anew making daily additions to my gratitude list.

Is it time you started or revisited your gratitude list?

40 days, SP, Easter and Birthdays

I gave up going to Church for lent – not intentionally – we just did not manage it. Here in the desert the weekend is on Friday and Saturday. Though the church has services on both days we have chosen to go on a Friday. We alternate between 10 am and 3 pm – the latter mainly when I have had to read. Hmm.. reading or being a lector – that’s another thing that I have given up- well not officially – I sent an email to the co-ordinator saying that I had to temporarily stop and  I’ve not reestablished contact.

At the beginning of lent I was feeling very disillusioned and said to God that I think I sacrifice enuff being out here and can’t see why I should give anything else up. You’re probably surprised that I hadn’t been struck by lightning – not as much as me.

After that terrible-twos type tantrum, I remembered the encouragements which first started when I was a teenager, that instead of giving something up to do something more. So I refocused on my chosen word for the year -Trust and meditated on verses that include this word. I prayed and I practiced silence in the presence. I sought out inspiring messages while others came to me serendipitously.

I realized that a lot of my struggles have been about my religion and its practices so I stopped judging myself and others about these and focused on my faith. The last few weeks I have experienced some intense moments and have had answers to prayers that had made my knees sore.

I have had to step out in faith big time with a particular proposition, trusting my ‘heart-know’ (otherwise known as gut feel) when my brain was screaming logic. I feel so blessed to say that I passed that test as it was a repeat of a lesson that I had failed spectacularly on several prior occasions.

On Easter Sunday, I went to mass and though I could feel the critical spirit rising in me, by grace, I was able to concentrate on the importance of the message. I’d had a very different but unique wilderness experience. My time in the desert continues to surprise and teach me.

And no I don’t have any regrets for going to see Sean Paul (SP) on Good Friday.

Yep once again I’m posting on a Monday and it’s my Dad’s birthday – so across the oceans and the wires – Happy Birthday Daddy!

What’s your Lenten lesson?