As Halloween is ending in Denmark, I am realizing how depressing holidays become as an expat. I know that I am in a foreign country and can’t expect everyone to celebrate the way I grew up celebrating a holiday, but it doesn’t mean that my heart slightly aches a bit more around these holidays when my kids don’t have the same traditions as I did growing up.
Scandinavia as I know it has begun to embrace Halloween a bit more over the years. At the grocery stores, dedicated areas were filled with the familiar assortment of costumes, decorations and candy. But, the locals, at least where I currently live, didn’t go further to really celebrate.
We ventured out tonight, and lucked out at three houses out of at least 20. No one had decorations out, not even a glowing jack-o-lantern. I am resigning to the fact that in some local article it was said that Halloween is to be celebrated before or after October 31 this year since today marks the celebration 500 years of reformation. Thus this Friday there is something in town arranged, and am hoping that my son will be satisfied.
Last year in Doha, Halloween was something out of movie. Houses decorated, kids running around trick or treating. Simple, sweet, holiday done and dusted. This year, I rather not repeat since as much as I tried, my little village didn’t. My efforts gave hopes to my son, only to make me explain that the Danes here don’t celebrate it quite like we are use to. Different cultures. Different lifestyles. Welcome to expat life kid. At least you got three lollipops! Grass is greener where you water it, right?!
We are only human. And with that, shit happens. As much as I like to post happy, positive pictures and stories, reality is, I am not living in a bubble. The month of October reminds me of my first car accident I was involved in. Ironically, it happened just two weeks prior to our move to Qatar back in 2014. I quickly became very grateful at how effective the Danes are when it comes to dealing with authorities, specifically when involved in a car accident.
I had entered a round about safely, but a tricky one where the cars from the left also had a signal to adhere to within the traffic circle itself. A lady drove through her red light and drove right into me. It shook me up and I immediately began questioning myself did I actually have the right of way? We slowly pulled forward and off to the side. As we both got out of our cars, we of course questioned one another if we were fine physically. Then, she said her English wasn’t that great, and I replied my Danish wasn’t the great either, so we will wait until the police got there. From my American upbringing, I imagined that I would give my report to the police officer and then follow it all up with the insurance company. To my surprise, that is not the case in Denmark.
The police officer checked if we were alright, then told us to call our insurance companies and carry on. No further information needed! I expected him wanting to hear both sides of our stories, or collect our names at the least. But nothing! So, I called the insurance company and it all worked perfectly. The car insurance company directed me to where I can get my car fixed and nothing else was needed. There was a witness who did approach me at the accident scene and told me that he was willing to give his viewpoint to the insurance company if needed. I took his information and provided it to the insurance company, not really knowing if they ever actually contacted him or not. All what I can say is that I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it all went and can be thankful that I had insurance.
In Qatar, it was a whole other story. I wasn’t in an accident, but happened to scratch the car on a post while backing up. What in my mind was just a paint job, turned out to be the biggest ordeal. I had to report to the police station! Then to the insurance, then back to the police, and only with their approval, could I take it to their suggested place. Needless to say, I am very happy that I never was in an accident in Qatar. I could only imagine what a nuisance that possibly could be! Counting my blessings daily!
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!