Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Doha: Day Two

Things are better...kinda. If Monday left us with more questions than answers, especially about things concerning the kids, Tuesday brought mainly answers and most of them good ones.

Taxes: we're okay. They've put in a new tax offset program, which means the university sets back enough to cover the taxes on our non-salary benefits. We also got a good explanation of how the taxes work with the salary and the foreign tax exclusion benefit, which we probably won't qualify for the first year because of the amount of time we'll come back and spend in the States. But, during the second year, we'll have no taxes on the first $91,400 we each make separately. This is what we needed to hear since the plan is to aggressively attack the student loan debt and put a big enough chunk of money in savings to come back with a large down payment on a house.

Travel money: Holy Sh*#! We receive $7,200 per person each year to use however we want. If we want to make several trips back home, we go. If we want to bank every penny, we save it. If we want to take the kids to Paris for Christmas and London for Spring Break, bon voyage baby! The other great news is that we found out they'd be flying us business-class if/when we come over with the kids. Even better is that another couple with little ones E's age said they didn't have any problems flying over because you usually take an overnight flight, and the kids sleep a good portion of the flight. When they wake up, they have a big breakfast, watch a movie, and then you're pretty much here.

For the kids: they'll be great here! There are many parks, most of which have playgrounds, and it turns out that there's a zoo, which only costs about $1.00 to get into! E will love having the zoo as an activity that we could do several times a week. I toured the giant Villagio Mall, which has everything H loves: from Claires to Limited Too, along with every high-end designer you can imagine. I did a "pretend" shopping run through the Carrefour, and they have lots of American brands that are a bit more expensive than what we pay in the States, but at least familiar things are there. The down side is that you never know if something will be in stock. For example, one week there won't be any Kellogs Fruit Loops.

So, the next time you see buy 20 boxes. One person told us the general shopping rule is that, if you see a line of people buying something, you just automatically get in line to buy some too because you never know when it will be available again.

The shopping is much more like the European style. That is, you go to the bakery to get baked goods, the produce market for fresh fruits and veggies, one store for the meat, and another for boxed and/or processed foods (though these aren't as common). Gone will be the days of doing 1-2 weeks worth of grocery shopping and Wal-Mart items all in a Saturday morning. Not only is it not practical, but it's also somewhat unpredictable because of the traffic.

They drive like maniacs here! Seriously, for the first time in my life, I've experienced car sickness. At first I thought it was related to being pregnant or having jet lag, or a combination. No, it's car sickness. It only happens when we're being driven around by our driver (and yes, having a driver is something I could easily get used to), who follows the usual practice of gunning the car to accelerate and screeching to a stop when finally forced to do so. Then there's the whizzing around the round-abouts...ugh, somebody hand be a barf bag!

We met with a very helpful HR person, took a tour of the tiny library (doesn't matter because we're still connected to the main campus), and then had a lovely dinner with a history professor (for whom Hubby has TA'd) and his wife. By the end of the day, our concerns about how the kids would transition to life here were pretty well allayed. So, I turned to my own fears...

I'm a bit overwhelmed by how much is unknown. How long will it take to find a workday rhythm here, especially when the nurseries (daycares) begin at 7:30 but end at 2:00-2:30? How am I going to deal with the possibility of being awakened by the call to prayer at 5:00 a.m.? Am I going to lose my mind during the first three weeks, during which all the paperwork (permanent residency permit, driver's license, criminal background check, etc.) is being processed, and none of their processes make any sense? We keep hearing that the key is being flexible and "going with the flow." here's how that works:

Me + going with the flow = oil + water.

I can be adventurous, but I generally worship my daily routine. And then there's my fear about finishing up revisions to the dissertation. I'm terrified that things might be so unsettled for the fall that my whole work schedule will turn into a matter of simply surviving on a daily basis. Basically, the idea of how long it will take to Figure It All Out is overwhelming and unanswerable. Hubby and I know that we *will* Figure It All Out, but I'm scared of the worst-case scenario...and I don't even know what the worst-case scenario is yet?? I'm just wondering how well I can cope with some of the daily differences. None of them alone can be considered a deal-breaker, but if they're added up, will they be enough to make me crazy or regret my decision? Or, will I do what all the other expats seem to have done: learn to be flexible? Ultimately, this is probably a good lesson to learn anyway, right?


M said...

Ok, so living in Canada isn't as different as living in Doha, but I can say that flexibility has been key to adapting to lots of changes, especially administrative and health care related changes.

kenandbelly said...

Oh, there will be days where going with the flow will feel more like being flushed down the toilet. Learning to be flexible is just a compensatory strategy. I think that already being a parent gives you a head start with this lesson (at least, I seem to have had an easier time with the "serenity now" part of this this than other some of our international friends).