Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Yesterday, Jemma and I put our Christmas tree up.
In an attempt to bring the festive period to the desert, we cranked up a Christmas playlist and put the tree up in our Doha apartment, decorating it to the sound of Michael Buble crooning in the background.

Unfortunately, as we put the star on the top of the tree and prepared to put the lights on, we realised we didn't actually have any lights. Somewhere between last Christmas and now, our tree lights seemed to do a vanishing act.
Feeling a little frustrated at the thought of having to get a taxi all the way to the mall specifically for lights, it got me thinking about the things I miss about home - the ease of getting things done being one of them!

This one goes without saying really. Especially with the Christmas period looming, and the knowledge that I won't be spending Christmas Day with my loved ones (or most of my loved ones, luckily I get to share the day with the mister), it hits home more than ever how much I miss them all. Not that I dont already miss them every single day. I honestly don't know what I'd do without FaceTime!

My brother and sister in law recently had a beautiful baby boy, Ryan, who I am yet to meet, so it's also gutting to not be spending his first Christmas with him. He seems to have got the knack of this tree decorating lark already though at less than a month old...

Another one that goes without saying. Living in the desert has, more than ever, made me appreciate those girls (and Sean!) who I am so lucky to call my best friends. They are the ones who are there for me unconditionally, who I trust implicitly, and who I know will be my friends for life.

I am so lucky to have found a friend for life in Jemma, from having moved to the desert- a fiercly loyal, trustworthy and honest friend, but I think girls like her in Doha are few and far between. The amount of gossip iv heard amongst even the thickest of thieves friendship groups in Doha is scary.

It makes me value my best friends from home even more, and I miss them very much!

Even after almost a year and a half of living in Doha, I still cannot get my head around the frustration of trying to leave the country. You require an exit permit to be issued by your company before you can go anywhere.

Sometimes, even if you are told that you have had one issued, I have known people arrive at the airport to be told that their exit permit hasn't actually been issued. It makes travelling all the more stressful, as you don't fully relax, safe in the knowledge that you are definitely leaving, until you are through passport control and physically sitting on the plane.

Not being able to leave in a hurry or in an emergency is a real issue. You can feel really trapped, and it's a horrible feeling.

Back home, you can just get up and go.

Doha is not built to cater for pedestrians. There are virtually no pavements, and the few pavements there are can barely be classed as pavements because they are so obstructed.

Every Tuesday I get up early and walk to my morning Pilates class. It's so lovely to be outside in the fresh air, especially now that the mornings are so much cooler, like a crisp spring day in the UK.

Sadly, my ten minute walk consists of me nearly getting run over by traffic for at least 5 minutes of the way, where I'm having to walk in the road due to the lack of pavements!

I miss the fact that back home in the UK I live down the road from a lovely park, as well as miles upon miles of beautiful canals, lakes, and green fields.

I never thought I'd say this, as going to the doctors in the UK has never been a particularly fun experience (except for a visit to handsome Dr B, isn't that right, mum!) but here I pine for a good old GP.

Given the fact I am always ill, it would be nice to just be able to go to the doctor and get told what's wrong and what prescription I need to pick up, but no. Here, if I get sick I have to go to the hospital which just seems so extreme, and unless it's a specific problem, it's near impossible to track down the right department to visit.

Tesco, I am talking about you, you wonderful supermarket of joy. Yes we have Carrefour, but it just isn't the same.

The other day I bought a loaf of bread, and the very next day it was mouldy. My vegetables (when I remember to buy them), are good for nothing after a day or two. Salad wilts to nothing after a couple of days in the fridge. Cadburys Dairy Milk tastes horrendous out here. If I want to go to Boots I have to pay a tenner to get a cab and drive half an hour out to the Villagio mall. Same with River Island, Topshop, and any other decent high street shop. Not that they ever have any good stock. Do you see my point?! Shopping in Doha is crap.

Which leads me back to my original point, last night I would have loved to nip to the shop to buy lights for the tree, but the nearest mall is a ten minute cab ride away, as there is nothing in walking distance from my apartment. And even if there were, there would be no pavement to walk there.

Back in the UK, I could walk in either direction and be at a multitude of shops within ten mins, and if I can't find something in my local Topshop, there is always another Topshop/Boots/Tesco within a ten, twenty, or 30 minute drive!

On the plane home from Sri Lanka, Qatar Airways had an in-flight guide to Qatar. It listed the top 3 attractions: the Souq, Katara, and the Museum of Islamic Art. Now, that is not to say these three places aren't lovely, because they are really nice to visit. But they are pretty much it.

Yes there is the cinema, but it's always full of people chatting on their mobile phones or to each other the whole way through.

This is why the main things to do in Doha are eating, drinking and fitness. There are restaurants in abundance, enough bars to keep the expat population happy enough, and the opportunity is there to keep fit in more ways than would be available in the UK (stand up paddling, anyone?!), but it's so easy to get bored here. You really have to work at keeping yourselves entertained.

The city always looks so amazing lit up at night, like it should be full of amazing nightclubs, bars, shops etc, so it's just such a shame that it contains barely anything other than office buildings, and the occasional rogue cactus sprouting from the road.

1st world problems!! Don't get me wrong, I know how lucky I am. I'm just having a good old whinge about the things I miss about life in the UK.

On the flip side, it's December and it's 20 degrees outside. The sun shines every day. It rains about 4 days a year. My neighbour is a Sheihks palace and two 5* hotels, my back garden is two swimming pools and a beach, and my apartment is the nicest property I will ever have the fortune of living in.

So things could be a heck of a lot worse!

But I really, really do miss Tesco...

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