Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Customs is very strict here in Qatar. We were warned that all of our boxes would be opened, and any items offensive to Islam would be removed. Certainly our boxes were opened, and many items were removed, though we’re sure that not all were offensive to Islam…but what can we do? Some things have been imported in the past that should not have been allowed. If only they had known, surely the strict customs officials would have blocked them. I’m thinking here about BRITISH ROUND-ABOUTS.
For the uninitiated, round-abouts are a traffic solution found throughout Britain. They are placed at intersections to avoid installation of traffic lights. In Britain, there are very strict rules about driving behavior in the round-abouts, and the whole situation works out pretty well. Traffic generally keeps flowing, despite the four-way interchange. Not so in Doha.
The colonial legacy of round-abouts might work if people knew the rules (or cared to follow them), but naturally they don’t. Drivers here may or may not have had any driving training (they may or may not have licenses or insurance for that matter), so they enter the round-abouts from every which way, change lanes without rhyme or reason, exit right from the far left…it’s total mayhem. We have to be incredibly vigilant in observing and anticipating actions of fellow drivers to avoid crashes at every interchange. Round-abouts are at nearly every intersection (though they are slowly being replaced by traffic lights), and the traffic backs up like you wouldn’t believe. To make things worse, the police often “help” clear traffic at the maddest round-abouts by stopping and starting traffic on their own…often halting the traffic already in the round-about to allow dozens of new cars to enter. It’s chaos. For extra fun, there are no left turns (only doubling back at the next round-about). When planning a drive, you have to plan ahead to end up on the correct side of the road as your destination, which often results in detours of several miles or at least several minutes. A small example happened yesterday, when it took me just 8 minutes to get from the hotel to the location of my destination…but 15 more minutes to get from that spot to the other side of the street, where my destination actually was.
Add to this the fact that the roads are not in any way equipped to handle the volume of traffic, and you have a very messy situation. Construction is underway all over the city, and roads that we drove on today might not be there tomorrow. You think I’m kidding, but we’ve already experienced that very thing! The country has so much money that it seems to have undertaken whatever projects it can think up at the moment the idea occurs. And we thought driving in Houston was ridiculous. Oy!
But enough venting about traffic. At least the British didn’t successfully export their driving on the left, yes?

It seems tonight will be our last night in the hotel. Our things were delivered to the house at Palm Plaza as scheduled last week, and we have unpacked. Unfortunately, the company did not get around to fixing any of the items we’d submitted before move-in. The air conditioners don’t work in most rooms, and the dirty (smelly and stained) carpets and (slightly moldy) drapes have not been cleaned…thus, we have remained in the Ritz. When we called Human Resources (HR) today to ask about a timeline for maintenance and repair (this was our third call since Thursday), all they seemed to hear was that we are still in the hotel. Within hours, they hadn’t arranged for maintenance, but they HAD arranged for us to check-out tomorrow. For those of you who want reading the blog to feel as though you were talking to us, feel free to insert as many bad words at this point as you like. Needless to say, we are none too pleased with HR.

In other news, Jennifer started Arabic lessons yesterday! I love learning new things, and I get a real kick out of new languages. Last night, we started with basic introductions (my name is…, I am from…). My favorite word from yesterday is “mutazawija” (pronounced moo-tah-ZOW-widge-ah). When a woman says “Ana mutazawija”, it means “I’m married.” (For men, it’s “Ana mutazawij.”) I just think the word sounds cool. Thanks to Markus, I get to use it!

And last but never least, our precious Ellie is growing like a weed! Our favorite staff person in the Exec Lounge had two days off, and the first thing she said when she saw us today was, “Ellie got so much bigger!” How does it happen that they grow so fast? Our new pediatrician remarked that she’s going to be tall. We hope so!
Ellie has always been strong and quick to learn. Two days ago, she pulled herself into standing position in her stroller (she was sitting in her car seat, which was nestled backwards in her stroller at the time…she just leaned forward, grabbed the edge of the stroller, and stood up!). Now, it’s her favorite thing to try. She stood up in her play bed this afternoon just by pulling on a support with one hand. Got her papa’s genes…can’t sit still!


I am an Edu-Dame said...

OK, I have to know: what got confiscated?

the dipe squad said...

So far, we only have the New Orleans shipment (remember, we were booted from New Orleans by Katrina, so our things were in two houses--the Houston shipment hasn't cleared customs yet). The things that seem to be missing are random: Swiss Army knives, a discman, the cushion for our IKEA chair, five of Markus's nine carved stone buffaloes... On some items, we're hoping they were in Houston and will still arrive. Honestly though, we're expecting more to be missing from the Houston shipment, as those were more essential items (since that's where we were living). The value of things was greater, and we had things like DVDs that they might want. Sigh. It's really not surprising, though. We spent three hours tonight looking for hardware items like large screw-in wall hooks (and didn't find them). No wonder they take things coming in from outside.