Saturday, April 29, 2006

As fair warning, this isn't a happy posting, but I wanted to update those of you who want to know.

Ellie and I made it to Mississippi without too many issues (all flights were delayed, we missed one, rebooked, blah blah blah...but she was an ANGEL the whole time!).
Dad was hanging on for us. For the past two days, we've been spending the days at his house and sleeping at the home of a wonderful family friend in town. Dad is in his final days. He won't eat, he's jaundiced, and his body is wasted away from the struggle with the cancer. It's amazing what changes have been wrought in him since we left for Qatar two months ago. We don't think he will be with us much longer, though he may surprise us. He either sleeps or persists in a semi-conscious state most of the time, though there are moments of brilliant lucidity when he'll even give us a smile or two. I pray that he will find peace soon.
Markus is working like a madman back in Qatar (don't get us started!), but he hopes to join us here as soon as possible.
We're trying our best on this end to hold it together. Thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Over the past few weeks, the number of personal emails I’ve written has been steadily diminishing until now it’s close to zero. While I have read and appreciated each and every email people have written to me, I’d like to use tonight’s blog to explain why I haven’t written much in return.
The whole move/transition here has been challenging in many ways. Most of the time, I try to keep it light and on the bright side. After all, there are silver linings to be found if you know where to look. The blog has pretty much kept everyone up to date on these things.
Starting last week, however, there has been a big omission. As many of our friends know, my dad (Jennifer’s dad) has been undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. Colon cancer is one of the easiest cancers to cure if it’s caught early, so I encourage everyone (and everyone you care about) to get an annual screening test done starting at age 50 (40, if you have a family history). Dad’s cancer wasn’t caught early, and (thanks in large part to Hurricane Katrina), his treatment wasn’t started promptly either.
When Markus moved to Doha for work, Ellie and I stayed behind with Dad for a couple of months. During that time, he was struggling with his chemo, but generally he was responding well and scans showed that the tumors were shrinking (i.e., the chemo was doing its job). He still had a lot of pain that went unexplained (increasing pain despite increasing pain meds), but he was okay most of the time.
Recently, the pain and other troubles got the better of him and he was readmitted to the hospital. We’ve subsequently learned that the cancer is just about everywhere, and he’s experiencing tremendous pain caused by extensive cancer in his bones (spine, hip, some ribs…). By the end of last week, the decision was made to stop the chemotherapy and focus on quality of life. Medications were increased. Hospice was called in to provide daily home care (a nurse comes by for a little time each day). A hospital bed was moved into the house. Dad was sent home.
Ellie and I will be headed back to the US tomorrow night (Doha time), arriving Thursday evening (Ocean Springs time). While the weekend went relatively well and Dad seemed relatively comfortable (eschewing the hospital bed for his leather recliner), he seems to have taken a turn for the worse in the past 24 hours. We’re hoping that it’s just a (very) low point and he’ll perk up again, but that’s where it stands for now.
That’s all I can really write at this point, but I just wanted to let everyone know what’s going on. Please keep writing me emails about what’s going on in your life. I really want to know and I am checking for them every day! It helps to let my mind escape from time to time. Just please understand that I may take an extra while to write back.
God bless you all.
Today, we had some kind of minor dust/sand storm. Imagine a very hazy day, but turn the haze beige and that's what it looked like around here. EVERYTHING was coated in a thick layer of dust, and we could even feel it coming in through the car's air conditioning. Yow.
Five minutes ago, it started dripping rain. Not much, just drips...but who knew it could make us so happy? Our world needs a good rinse!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Ellie is such a little love! She gives Markus and I kisses on the cheek, and her latest, greatest sign of affection is nose bites. When she's feeling really lovey, we have to be prepared for our noses to be coated in drool. Today, we experienced something new. She kissed her friends! Watch out for nose bites!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I didn't realize how much I miss New Orleans and still lament Katrina until I saw this video.
It's a must see.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Markus worked diligently to hang our shade sail this afternoon. Once it was up, though, we realized that the only way to prevent tremendous sagging in the middle was to prop it with a pole. Having lived in the South hasn't left Markus without redneck tendencies. Notice our new pole...half his windsurfer mast topped with a hard hat, propped on the outdoor lamp. Excellent.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ellie is an Aqua Baby!
This morning, Ellie and I went to her first "water familiarization class" (AKA "Aqua Babes"). It was at the pool of the really nice Al Fardan compound. There were six other babies and moms there, and what fun! The lady who led the class (Daniela) taught us some songs with motions that had us dancing, kicking and splashing in the pool. At first, Ellie wasn't too sure this was a good idea. She looked very worried and clung to me like a little monkey. My initial attempts to extricate her fingers from my neck were met with tears; however, she quickly began to relax and marvel at so many other babies in the pool. In the end, she did wonderfully! She was floating along on her tummy (Mommy supported, of course), kicking her legs and reaching for toys with her arms. We're so happy to have discovered this group!
Of course, all that swimming does leave a girl exhausted...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How much is summed up in that one word?
When the locals say "inshallah", it roughly translates to "God willing." They use it when they make appointments (as in "I'll be there at 3pm, God willing"). They use it for nearly anything. It certainly applies to trying to accomplish anything here.
Two days ago, I snagged the car's bumper on a rusty post while exiting a souq. The damage is minimal and can be fixed easily, but in Doha, you have to get a police report for any vehicle damage before it's allowed to be repaired. Yes, I had to go to the police station to get a police report because I snagged a bumper on a darned rusty post. INSHALLAH!
Luckily, I was with a good friend, who helped me through the insanity of it all. We drove to the traffic police straight away. It was 11:30am. Businesses close down from noon to four, so I only had a little time. I called ahead and they said to come, so I went. We parked the car, and I went inside. The officer told me (in limited English) to park the car out back and wait. So we moved the car and waited. And waited. And waited. (thank goodness Ellie was sleeping!) Finally, my friend went in search of a restroom. When she came out, she met a policeman and asked him about what we should do next. He told her that they weren't writing any more reports for the day and we should come back tomorrow. ARGH!
I've been feeling a bit stressed, so I went to him near tears, explained I had a baby in the car... He relented, told us to xerox all of our documents (license, registration, residency card) quickly and bring it to him. Then he said he would write the report and we could pick it up in the morning. Okay. Done.
I went back yesterday morning, but he wasn't there. Another policeman was. I waited for about an hour in a hot room full of foreign men who don't believe in deodorant while that policeman ignored me. Finally, a very nice Qatari man in a dish-dasha asked in wonderful English if I had been helped. I said no, and he started arguing with the policeman on my behalf. The policeman made this nice Qatari man act as translator, speaking to him in Arabic and refusing to attempt English. At last, he relented and said he'd look for the report. The Qatari man went outside, and the policeman went back to dealing with other people in Arabic. After about fifteen minutes, the Qatari man came back, saw me sitting there, and resumed the which point the policeman told him that I should just come back tomorrow. ARGH again!
This morning, Markus came with me. Having a man there works wonders for getting someone to pay attention to you! Also, the policeman from the first day was there (as was loser guy from yesterday). They attended to us right away. Here's the best part. When the nice policeman had trouble understanding the nature of my accident (because his English was limited), he had to ask the guy from yesterday...who sheepishly had to be the translator! THE SAME GUY WHO ACTED LIKE HE DIDN'T SPEAK ENGLISH YESTERDAY SO HE WOULDN'T HAVE TO HELP ME WAS THE TRANSLATOR THIS MORNING! Oy.

A stupid mistake turned three day hassle with Doha police. Get a police report for insurance, my fanny. Inshallah!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

This evening, Markus went blocarting on Tatooine.

Later, back on Earth, we purchased a new DVD. LOVE the parental guidance must always be concerned about PERIL!!

And last but not least, a word on mail (thank you for the reminder, Gail!). Just add it to my ever-growing list of things I find strange and uncomfortable around here. Mail is not delivered to the house. Anyone's house (except probably the Emir). How strange it feels not to check the mail every day (even though I'm used to bills and junk). To receive mail, one has to pay for a P.O. box in the center of town (all neighborhood branch boxes are fully rented out). For an additional fee of around 1400 riyals per year, a service will collect the mail from your box and deliver it to you at your office. Or you can just have the mail sent directly to your work address. That's what we're planning to do.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Happy Birthday, Uncle Bob!
Big hugs to you from Doha!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Welcome to our 'hood!

On this picture tour, you just drove up our street (Al Andalus) from the main drag of our 'hood, Al Mirqab. Up the street, through the CNN reminders, past the butcher, baker, and (no, not candlestick maker) laundry to the entrance of our compound (notice the Pepsi machine landmark!) and up to our house. Comments welcome!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Happy Mohammed's Birthday!
To celebrate, the loudspeaker chanting began at midnight last night and continued for an hour or so (maybe longer), and it was back again from 6a-8a, in addition to all the usual chanting, of course. Wow. Funnily enough, it's not a public holiday.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It's Sunday, and thus starts another week here in Doha (workdays run from Sunday to Thursday here). Over the past weekend, we gave ourselves a day off from the headache of transitional woes to relax at the spa. Doha is such a mixed place. It's a developing country with a LOT of money. Fifty years ago, this place was desert. Now, it's growing at such a pace that it can't keep up with itself. You can find a level of luxury here that possibly exceeds what can be found in the West...but then you see that this growth and this luxury is had on the backs of immigrants from Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines, Romania, and a host of other undeveloped countries. We live in an area not much populated by expats. Our friend Kelcey refers to the place as our "hood", and she's onto something there! There's no crime to speak of in Doha, so we have no worries, but this area is pretty run down. Another friend said driving to our house felt like watching something on CNN...except he was in it. We live near a few mosques, so every day we can hear numerous calls to prayer (which is pretty neat, actually). There are very few white people around (or Arabs, for that matter), and only the working class seems to do much shopping on the nearby street...making us stick out like white pebbles on a brown beach when we take a stroll. On the other hand, we just spent the past month (or more) living in the RITZ CARLTON with a marble bathroom, Bulgari soaps, and access to the Executive Club Lounge. Now, our "club" (which would be the JCC back in New Orleans) is the Four Seasons Health and Wellness Spa. It is fancy-schmanzy (way too much so for us, but it was the best choice out of available options). We spent Friday there, introducing Ellie to sand on their man-made beach and grass on their lawn (sad how rare greenery is here!). It's always wonderful to watch her have new experiences, and we had a wonderful time on Friday. The pictures should show you a bit of what we saw and did. Still, imagine going from that back to our's all very strange here.