Finding My Viking Mama Feet

I can not lie. Living in the Middle East quickly can spoil one. It spoiled me for sure. Now that I am back in Denmark, I am slapped in the face daily of no one is going to help me. Don’t set any expectations! (As I had mentioned in my post way back when I made my trip to Banana Island.)

So I had low expectations as I left Qatar this late spring. The kids and I moved back in with my parents in California while my husband closed up shop in Qatar. Then in August we flew to Denmark, and from the moment we landed, I was quickly reminded that I am now in the land of the Vikings. Case in point: traveling with a large number of baggage… 7 bags, 5 carry-ons, two kids and a stroller or two…baggage

Three countries. Three very different experiences. Qatar, by far was the best. People were willing to help out. From the curb side, to check in, through security, the flight (thank you Qatar Airways!). People were helpful. And they had always been. One of many reasons why I will always love Qatar.

Next stop, Los Angeles International Airport. After a 16 1/2 hour flight, I was delighted that we were able to skip the line in passport control/customs and have some priority or just simple kindness shown, since I had a four year old and 4 month old in tow! Then at baggage claim, we were offered help, for a price, but at least I had help to get all by bags off the conveyer belt and out pass customs.

Final stop: Denmark. Again, I didn’t expect much, but when I approached the baggage service desk for some help, I think I could have heard crickets. I asked for their suggestion of how do I manage by myself, two little ones and at least three carts of baggage. They seemed to be dumbfounded as to why I would even travel! I said I don’t mind pushing one cart out of customs at a time, knowing that my husband was on the other side and can collect them. That seemed absurd but I wasn’t offered any help or any other options. Then I spied a larger cart that was off to the side. After what seemed like the longest consideration, they said I could take the larger cart. I put on my Viking hat, loaded up the cart and tried to push it all through the doors. A lovely officer guided me, but didn’t even offer to help me.

I get it Denmark. Land of the vikings. Survival of the fittest. I have my hat this time around! Just need to find my feet…

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THE expat problem

I had written about my expat problem (link here) and now I am sitting in anxiety, dealing with what I believe to be THE expat problem. Demobilization. Moving again!

And I want to write about it because for those who aren’t expats, being an expat isn’t as glorious as we portray it to be through our pictures that we post. Especially the expat who is on global mobilization, like my family is. Meaning we move around from country to country for work. (One can categorize expats into two groups. The other group are what we like to call love pats, they have moved to the country where their spouse is from. They usually don’t move around.)

Some may think it is just another flight and move to a new city. There is so much more to it for an expat. Residency permits need to be turned in. Plants and cars need to be sold. Bank accounts need to be cancelled. Schools need to be notified and applied for, again. Pets need to have their accommodations sorted out while we move into temporary ones. Food needs to be passed on. We have to say goodbye to our friends, or rather see you later.

I have heard it from many of how great it seems to be living an expat life, but there are plenty of downsides, and demobilization is one of them. We make the best of our last days in each country, checking off our bucket lists. The grass is greener where you water it! Even if there for only a short period of time!

Camel racing

I briefly had read about camel racing and didn’t know much besides that I wanted to see it while living in Qatar. When I asked friends about it, they would say it is worth it, but details were minimal. (Somewhat like my trip out to searching for shark teeth! See post here!)

I knew that I could find the location on google maps if I typed in “Camel Race track” and then follow the signs to Al Shahaniya. I also knew to go on a weekend. That was it. Schedules aren’t posted online, but with a colicky baby and preschooler, I decided to just go even though storm clouds were continuing to hover and had a downpour of rain earlier. Worse case scenario in my mind was that it would be a drive out to the desert and back.

I am happily writing to say that it was well worth it. My excitement grew when I first saw the signs for the camel race track on the Dukhan highway. Then I began hoping that there would be at least some camels lazying around, maybe training and at best, racing. Pulling into the parking lot of the 10km racetrack, the rush began, literally with white SUVs driving up to the race track and following the camels that were racing. We had lucked out and made it during a race! Feeling slightly like a black sheep, I parked our black SUV off to the side, away from all the white SUVs, carefully got out the kids and went up to the race track. It was no Kentucky derby for sure! (Not that I have ever been there, but I have gone to Santa Anita plenty of times, and let’s just say that camel racing is not to be compared.)

Here is a little video clip, note the jockeys!

You now saw it! A little remote controlled robot jockey!

Some other fun facts:

  • Known as the sport of the sheiks
  • Professional camel racing began in 1972
  • There is an actual tv station dedicated exclusively to the camel races
  • The camels can have a speed up to 40 mph
  • The camels can cost up to one million Qatari riyals

My bonus to my memories is this lovely booklet that they handed out for free upon entrance!

Al Shaqab Equestrian Center

By no means am I an expert on horses, but when I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Al Shaqab Equestrian Center in Qatar, I signed up knowing that I would see something special.

The Al Shaqab Equestrian Center was founded in 1992 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Father Amir of Qatar. Before Qatar was known for oil and gas, the region was mainly known for its prized Arabian horses. The name itself, Al Shaqab, is known as the battle when the Qataris defeated the Ottomans, leading to the independence of Qatar.

The center covers 980,000 square meters in a clever horseshoe design. The architecture is as beautiful as the Arabian horses that are bred there.  It is definitely a world class equestrian center, holding everything imaginable needed, from air conditioned stables, a breeding center, hydrotherapy, a veterinary center, a riding academy and more. I definitely left the tour amazed and am curious to know if there is another equestrian center in the world that matches the standards of Al Shaqab.

Finally…CAKE!

Where have I been? I am now a mother of two! So, no need to write more other than I am a bit more occupied than I was before. I have been keeping up with my instagram account at least! But, that is not enough since I want to write more and have pushed it all aside. I am beginning with this post about trying to get back into doing things that I like to do, such as getting back into shape (losing all my baby weight!), writing my blog, and doing things that are on my bucket list. One thing being learn how to properly decorate a cake. Last week, I did just that. Continue reading Finally…CAKE!

Pink October

It’s the end of October and usually I would be getting ready for some Halloween party. Growing up in the United States, you couldn’t ignore all the commercials for Halloween. It was pure bombardment of all things Halloween. However, living abroad now, it is almost easy to skip the holiday. In Norway, it was difficult to find a pumpkin to carve, let alone a reasonably priced one. The idea of trick or treating was completely foreign then. I think in our 6 years living there, we had maybe 2 trick or treaters come round. In Denmark, they seemed to embrace the holiday a bit more. We even found a pumpkin patch to take our son to. Here in Qatar, I have almost dropped the idea of celebrating Halloween because not sure of what extent I have to go through to find a pumpkin, any decorations and should I bother with trying to organize trick or treating.  Continue reading Pink October

Good to be back

After any long vacation, it is always nice to return back to your own familiar surroundings and personal things. This summer, I spent one month traveling and came back to Doha not realizing certain things that I had missed, and probably will miss when we aren’t in Doha.

  1. My own bedroom, bed, sheets, pillows, house…This may not come to a surprise to many, because who doesn’t like their own bed with their own sheets? And now that we are back home and not living in hotels or staying with relatives, I literally have my own bed since my son is back in HIS OWN room! Bliss!
  2. The people in Qatar. I had barely been in Doha for an hour, when a local man handed me a plastic bag so that I can put my produce in. Then, the extra help at the cashier register that I had missed apparently. One man was placing my groceries onto the conveyor belt, while another man was bagging the groceries after being scanned. Perhaps not necessary, but it is nice to have the help, especially when jet lagged. I probably have written before, but have to write it again, the people here are genuinely kind and helpful.
  3. Karak shake. I have not written about this, and didn’t think I would miss it. But if you haven’t had karak, you are missing out! Karak is a blend of black tea, milk, sugar and cardamom. I had my first karak at the souq here, and have my favorite go to
    place since every place makes it slightly different. Some may make it with sweet condensed milk instead of regular milk and sugar, making the drink even richer. It is a personal preference. There are many places here in Doha that you can even drive up to, honk your horn and order a cup of karak. Even at the very popular Chapati and Karak in an area of Doha known as Katara. There they also offer a karak shake, which is divine in the heat of Doha in my opinion. Apparently they are also located in London, so if you are there, have one! Absolutely delicious!IMG_7166

Continue reading Good to be back

Expat problem #2: Being sick as an expat and understanding the local approach

I have been in a rut for a couple of weeks and it all began when I got sick for the first time living in Qatar. Needless to say, it is never easy being in a foreign country and needing to see a doctor. Without questioning, you take the advice of your newly made friends and go see their recommended doctor and hope that their doctor understands you, the illness and your approach of how to deal with it. To no surprise, this all varies from country to country.

Continue reading Expat problem #2: Being sick as an expat and understanding the local approach

Gold Souq

Going behind the scenes is always exciting in my opinion, and once again, with the fabulous American Women’s Association here in Qatar, we went behind the scenes of the gold souq. I have mentioned the souq before as the traditional market. There is the general area, and then there are particular areas devoted to items, such as the gold souq or the fabric souq. It is absolutely daunting walking into the gold souq and not knowing which store is best. One could just be blinded by all the gold! But, the ladies knew of a reputable place and in this case, it was Kingdom Gems & Jewellers, where Yaseer gave us a very informative lesson about gold in general.

Continue reading Gold Souq