Saturday, September 30, 2006

Whew! What a day!
We woke up at 8 (hooray!) and went downstairs for breakfast. Markus’s phone rang as we went into the kitchen for the cereal. It was the movers, on their way to the house. Fifteen minutes later, they were in the door, bringing in boxes and packing tape and paper and bubble wrap… Ten minutes after that, they were spread throughout the house, packing almost every room simultaneously. For those of you who know how Jennifer feels about moving day, you can guess how thrilled I was about this process; however, I have to give it to them for their professionalism and efficiency. With all the to-ing and fro-ing and on-again-off-again planning surrounding this move, the actual moving day snuck up on us. We weren’t quite ready for the packers, but they came and it all worked out fine. They will be back to finish tomorrow, so we’ll check into the hotel tomorrow afternoon. In a couple more days, we’ll be off on vacation! Yippee!

Last night, we went out to dinner at a pizza place we like in a nearby mall. After dinner, Ellie, as usual, wanted to go for a stroll. This usually involves a hunched-over Markus supporting her with both hands as she makes her little steps anywhere she finds interesting. Last night, however, they came back to the table with Markus holding Ellie by one hand only! She was soooooo proud of herself! She went walking all over the mall holding just one hand (actually, her hand was holding one of our fingers…so sweet!), taking such confident steps. The look on her face was priceless. She kept stopping to grin at everyone who passed and give them a little wave with her free hand.

Today, she was eager to practice this newfound skill. She walked and walked and walked around the club and again at home after dinner. Just before bed, Markus had her by the hand while she was walking around our room, but she let go to pick something up. She didn’t seem to notice that she didn’t have his hand when she started walking again—this time all by herself! Markus had her by the back of her onesie, and she tottered around for a few minutes all on her own! Our baby girl is starting to walk!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Today is Jennifer's 30th birthday! Yippee!

In honor of my birthday, Ellie decided she needed to keep me occupied every single second doing EXACTLY whatever she had in mind at that second. I think she must have been concerned that I would get distressed about the 30 thing, so she left me no time to contemplate the birthday at all. She is one busy baby, and she has some big opinions to share! Blessedly, Markus came home from work and took her to the pool for a little while. I tell ya, in terms of birthday gifts, sitting in peace for twenty minutes is right up there with jewelry! Not that I'm complaining! Our girl is a doll and you can see from the photo taken this past Saturday that we have lots of good times together! She's growing and learning and refining every day, and it's truly a miracle to witness. Still, I did force a hole into her demanding schedule to bake myself a decadent chocolate cake. It is, after all, my birthday.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Yesterday morning, a good friend sent us an email giving us serious flack for not updating the blogspot...and rightfully so! We have been very very busy of late, but the thing is, they haven't really been very blog-worthy doings. Our routine is pretty fixed, as I've said in the past, and we've been keeping busy going through those motions. Ellie is always making us smile with new (and not-so-new) and wonderful things she's doing, but not everyone wants to check in on the baby all the time. So we've been remiss in the blogging arena lately. We apologize to our regulars!

We do, however, have news!
The dates are set. The bureaucracy is in full swing. Our move is afoot!
As it stands now, the movers are coming to pack the house on September 30 and October 1. They will load the truck on October 2. We will spend those nights in the Ritz again (woo-hoo!). On the 3rd, we will fly from Doha to the Seychelles for a family vacation between postings. Yippee!!! We will spend three nights on La Digue and three nights on Mahe before flying back to Doha on October 9. Then, it's back to the Ritz for two nights before we fly to Amsterdam on October 11th. The Hague, here we come!

For those of you who don't know the Seychelles, it's an island paradise made up of over 100 small islands off the eastern coast of Africa (above Madagascar). It is supposedly one of the world's most beautiful diving spots. Though diving is pretty much out with Ellie in tow, we're looking forward to some good snorkeling! La Digue is still home to indigenous giant tortoises, which we expect Miss Ellie will love! The beaches are paradise from what we hear! But, you think to yourself, you guys aren't really beach holiday people, so why are you going? Well, consider the location. This is probably the closest we will ever be to the Seychelles, and it's an excellent opportunity to see paradise for a few days! Can't possibly complain about that, although to escape our desert life we're more up for a trip to the cool mountains someplace than a tropical beach. We know it will be gorgeous, so we're excited!

In the meantime, we're trying to wrap things up here, which is no easy matter. We thought things were inefficient in New Orleans. HA! Everything takes three times as long as you expect it to here, and that's based on expectations that it will take three times longer than it should. One interesting factor is that while they are incredibly inefficient in almost every respect, they have somehow centralized all computing to the degree that you will not be cleared for departure at the airport unless all of your accounts are closed and finalized. Any open or unpaid utilities, traffic violations, what-have-you will show up on the screen when they swipe our passports, and if anything comes up, we are not free to go. Amazing. They don't make it easy to close things out, either. Markus inquired with our bank this week about closing the account (we can't even have an open bank account here when we go). We have a credit card attached to the account, though we don't use it. The bank informed Markus that we have to give 45 days notice before the account will be closed and finalized. During those 45 days, our account balance will be frozen to 170% of the credit limit of our card. The only way around that massive mess is to find someone remaining here in Qatar to go in person to the bank and sign forms to be responsible for any charges that might arise (even though the card is frozen and unavailable for use). We definitely went with Option B on this, because 1) we don't have 45 days to be money-free and 2) we are 95% certain some issue would arise on their end that would entangle our money even longer or make it impossible to retrieve once we attempt to depart. This place is crazy.

Qatari national flag hanging in City Center

It has had its upsides, though. We have made some wonderful friends here, and we will be very sad to say goodbye so soon. We will also miss the club at the Four Seasons. We've spent many a happy afternoon splashing about in the pools and frolicking in the spa there. Just today, Jennifer went for an early birthday girls' brunch at the Four Seasons...incredible array, folks! Just the dessert buffet had its own room! Only serious foodies need apply!

Finally, we have really appreciated the eye-opening cultural experience. This is our first time living in a Muslim country, albeit a fairly Westernized one. Ramadan starts in a few days (though we'll happily escape most of's too hot to think about not even being able to drink water in public or in our cars). It's amazing how the differences that were once so obvious (men wearing all white, women wearing all black, the HUGE sunglasses, everyone and their brother driving Land Cruisers...and more serious things like the regular calls to prayer broadcast all over the city, in the malls, on the radio...) have faded into normalcy over the months. It would be nice if Ellie were old enough to remember any of this, but we're ready to make some new memories in Holland!
Soon, we will start the settling in process all over again, but don't worry...we're definitely planning to look for a home with plenty of guest room and we expect visitors!

crosswalk sign

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Now that we've got the blog working again, it's time for the scoop on Dubai!
It was sooooo wonderful to get out of Dohot for a few days, even though it was just as hot in Dubai. At least there were new things to see, new places to go...
Dubai is a shopping mecca, and malls abound. The malls have different personalities too. Ibn Battuta has five "neighborhoods", each with a different country in mind. There's a Chinese section, Indian, Egyptian...

The Souq Medinat Jumeira has more crafts and imports, furniture and clothing from throughout the region. It is brand new, but designed to look like the old souqs. It's also located next to Dubai's most famous landmark, the Burj Al Arab.

Burj Al Arab, the world's only seven star hotel
Dubai, UAE

Finally, there's the Mall of the Emirates, most known for its indoor ski arena, Ski Dubai. I had most been looking forward to taking Ellie to play in the snow in the desert, but unfortunately, they had a strict no-under-3s policy. We got to look through the window, but that was about it. Ironically, when we stepped out of the elevator at the Mall of the Emirates, they were blasting the theme to Mission Impossible.

outside Ski Dubai (the top of the slope)

Finally, a word on our hotel. No, we didn't stay in the Burj Al Arab. I think you need to be a millionaire to stay there comfortably. Rumors have it that the nightly rate can be in the thousands. No, we're not quite there yet. Instead, we stayed at the Grand Hyatt in town, which was a mere five stars (the compromises one has to make!). It was a gorgeous hotel. The interior had a huge garden area with a running brook stocked with fish... Outside, there were three beautiful pools: a massive one for adults, a smaller one for children that had waterslides and fountains in a climbing fort, and a little one for babies. There were huge grounds with lots of grassy playspace and an outdoor jogging trail. The breakfast spread was the best we've ever seen in a hotel, and it was included with the room. We can most definitely recommend staying there!

Of course, we begin to wonder how we will ever keep Ellie in the style to which she's become accustomed. At five months, she lived in the Ritz Carlton for six weeks. She plays in the pool at the Four Seasons. And when we holiday, she stays at five star hotels. I think we're in trouble.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Our baby is growing up! Ellie celebrated her first birthday yesterday, and what a fun day she had! In the morning, we celebrated with her friends at our standing Thursday morning Dairy Queen play group. Pancakes, cupcakes in ice cream cones...yummy! Then, we met Papa for lunch at City Center, and he bought her a Minnie Mouse balloon (balloons are her favorite!). After her nap, we had a special playdate with her new friend Cy and met his pet camels (though we don't have pictures of her with them...they made her a bit nervous)!
We can hardly believe her first year has gone by. She is growing and changing so much every day. What a miracle and a treasure that we are blessed to witness daily. Happy Birthday, Ellie! We love you so much!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Although she's been walking with help for about five months, Ellie has seemed to lack the confidence to have a go on her own...until recently. For the past week or two, she has been standing free and doesn't seem so nervous about sitting back down again. She's been quite a cruiser around furniture too. But the other day, we had another big first...Ellie strolled the entire length of the mall while holding onto her stroller. She was soooo proud to do it all on her own!