A girlfriend asked me over the summer, what an average day in Qatar looked like. "What do you do after you've dropped the kids off?" I tried to explain that things took a bit longer here, but I didn't do well at explaining why.
On Thursday I had to pick up a boy scouts shirt for the third little traveller. I was given the name of a tailor and told to head over near the airport. Unfamiliar territory. I tried to put the name in the GPS but it didn't show up, as is often the case, there was no actual address just the name of the area, I printed out a map from google and set off.
The shops at the souq and the smaller shops in what I can only describe as makeshift strip malls, shut at midday and don't often open again until 4. This means, if you're a parent with an afternoon school pick up, everything needs to be done in the morning. I had a list of things to get for the birthday celebrations that evening, so time was of the essence.
After driving up and down a highway that was undergoing major roadworks, I rang the tailors for help. A very lovely man with broken english displayed incredible patience while it became very clear that he couldn't work out where I was, and I couldn't work out where he was. It's hard to give directions from no-where to the unknown. I could tell him that the airport was on my left, that I'd driven past a series of shops and a service station and that Wakra was in front of me and the city behind me - but we weren't getting anywhere. An hour later - I went home without a shirt.
For anyone living away from home, this is a common story. These are the frustrations that come with being new. Sometimes it's not just a new city it's a new culture that comes with it. In my early expat years, I would have pulled over to the side of the road and cried. It sounds so pathetic, but a weeks worth of fruitless searching can leave you feeling that you just can't get anything right. I would have asked myself why I was here, why everything seemed so much more difficult than home, and then I would have done the only logical thing. Blamed it all on G. It would have been his fault, he brought me here, it was his stupid fault.
I don't do that anymore.
I rang G in the midst of giving up, we traded jokes on who was having the more exciting morning, him at the IT security meeting, or me on a highway with low flying planes, trying to avoid the trucks while reading the signs.
"I'll have a go at it on the weekend" he said, I moved on to the next job of picking up the ice-cream cake.
This morning G decided to go in search of the tailor before his sailing lessons. He rang me from the location asking for the tailor's number.
"You found it?! Fantastic! Where was it?"
"If you would have kept driving for about another 500 metres you would have found it. You were really close" his voice was encouraging.
"So why do you need the number?"
"This place is huge, I've driven around and around but I can't see the tailor".
After G had rang and got directions, he eventually found the store.
"Where's your son?" the man asked G.
"He's at home - but I don't need him right? You have the shirts here?"
"No, no sir, we make them - we need to measure him."
We're going back this afternoon.