Monday, October 05, 2009

Doha Diaries, no 2

Okay, so it's been a month since I've posted...sorry. I'm sure nobody's been waiting at the edge of their seats. To sum up the time: some important things have changed. I don't even know where to begin, so I have to resort to the drudgery of bullet points:
  • Banking/Lending: opening a bank account in a developing country is a bizarre and archaic experience. Trying to finance a vehicle purchase only makes this more complicated. For example, you need not have money to open an account, but you can walk away with an activated debit card for said account, on the spot. One cannot get a car loan until at least one direct salary deposit has hit your account. When this happens, you can apply for the loan. If you are approved for the loan, you then physically write out 48 (for a 4-yr loan) checks in the amount of loan payment and hand them to the banker. The bank will then deposit/cash one check each month on the due date of ones loan. In order to facilitate getting a car loan for a new minivan, Hubby promptly opened an account and filled out the paperwork to have his payroll direct deposited into his Doha account. Good right? Yeah, except that the finance dept. works about one month in advance, and he was two days past the cutoff for getting October's payroll into the Doha bank. This means we cannot even apply for the car loan now until November 1st, when his payroll hits. Seriously, this is beyond ridiculous. Now, we're stuck leasing two vehicles for this month, one of which is covered by one car allowance, the second of which (a Chevy Tahoe) will cost approximately $1,000 for the month (after the car allowance is applied).
  • We made it through Ramadan just fine, but living within the limitations of Ramadan operating/working hours was inconvenient to say the least.
  • Hannah and I went back to the US for the Eid break that follows Ramadan. I'll skip the nightmare that was the possibility of us not getting our passports back from the immigration office in time to leave....We had a great time back home: shopping, eating (one day I managed to eat pork at breakfast, lunch, and dinner--yum), the State Fair, and college football! I even organized a clothing drive for the troops that are on the base in Doha (they aren't allowed to leave the base without civilian clothing, and most of them don't have any). But, the trip was bittersweet. On one hand, I wanted to stay, but on the other hand, I desperately missed Hubby and my two little ones back in Doha. The airport scene to come back to Qatar involved Hannah in tears, clinging to a chair, and begging to stay in Home State with my parents and them trying to pry her off the chair. I'm not hopeful that this scene will improve with future trips.
  • My classes continue to go quite well. My students are sweet, funny, interesting, and (usually) eager to learn. I brought my film students blueberry muffins, and it was the very first time most of them had ever tasted them. One asked, "What do you call this again?" I plan to make pecan pies for them in the future :)
  • Hannah is unhappy with school. I'd heard her make a few general complaints after we got back from the US, but last night she opened up and explained that she feels out of place, behind, and lost in the classroom. Part of this is because many of the kids have been going to ASD previously, so they've learned the methods being taught. Part of it is that she doesn't feel comfortable asking questions because she's afraid people will think she's stupid. She doesn't want me to tell her teacher that she has ADHD because she doesn't want to be given special treatment. She has great friends in our compound, and she admitted how much she loves spending time with them, but she hasn't made any connections to other girls in her class.
  • I've grown a bit unhappy here as well. I like my job...I really love only having two classes (with a grand total of 25 students combined), and God knows the money is just what we need to pay off our credit cards and get some of our student loan debt erased. However, I don't have any close friends, and there isn't really an academic or intellectual community for the humanities faculty here (much less one more specifically concerned with literature). Granted, I knew this beforehand, but there's one faculty member in another humanities department that specializes in my period, and I thought that person might be someone with whom I might connect in academic matters. Someone to share work with, discuss matters in the field, etc. Well, not so much.
  • Also, I have no quality time with Hubby. No babysitter in a world full of South Asian nannies. We're brainstorming ways around this problem, and we may end up "skipping" work one day to just be together, but for now, this really sucks. I don't remember the last time we really kissed each other.
  • Add that fact that Hannah is increasingly unhappy with her school, and Hubby and I are at the point that we're willing to break contract if we were to secure tenure-track jobs back in the US. Indeed, after my talk with Hannah last night, we've made an agreement with her.

Option 1: Hubby and I will apply for t-t jobs in the spring. Most likely, we'll keep it to ones that we have particularly promising chances at...If either of us lands one, we will go back to States. This will mean paying taxes on our salary for the time we've been here and we'll have to pay back the relocation allowance advanced to us when we moved here.

Option 2: If neither of us get a job (or there turns out to be no spring job market), AND if Hannah is still unhappy with school at the end of this academic year, we'll stay for the second (and final) year of our contracts, but Hubby and I will home-school Hannah. We'll learn the curriculum over the summer and seek help from others in our compound who home-school their children, and we'll do the best we can. The good part about that option is the flexibility it would allow for all sorts of things, but especially travel back to the US.

This doesn't cover post really couldn't. Life here is a daily something. It may be an adventure one day, and a nightmare the next. Some might say that this is true about life anywhere, and maybe it is. But here, there's an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. The feeling that you don't know the rules, so you can't really respond logically. Of course, it doesn't help when sometimes (and this is really true) the rules are, literally, not written down (as in the case of traffic laws).

I'm still giving it my best effort. I will remain hopeful, not only for my sake but also for the sake of my family. I still believe it is in our best interest to remain here, fulfill our contracts, and use this time to work on getting published and hitting the job market with as much marketability as possible. It's just that some days are harder than others to remember this...


M said...

I understand a lot of what you're feeling--especially the feelings of isolation. Although my experience of living abroad hasn't involved as much culture shock as yours, I have felt a lot of isolation--both academic and social. At our age, it is just hard to make friends. I also have (or had) very little connection to the university before this year. No one in Women's Studies has their degree in English, so I had very little in common with them academically (in fact, most of them are philosophers). Now that I'm teaching in English, I had hoped I would meet more people, but there hasn't been much opportunity for socialization. I've met a few people, but not many. I have made friends with one of Wild Man's friend's mothers, but we don't see each other that often. It's hard, plain and simple. Unfortunately, I don't think this is a symptom of living where you live. I do think a lot of it has to do with our age and position in life.

I also understand not having any time for yourself. I would totally encourage to take a day off to hang with Hubby. C and I have made a practice of doing that once a month, and although other friends have criticized us for using the time Wild Man is in daycare to have lunch or go to a movie, I believe it is absolutely necessary. We rarely (as in once every 6 months) hire a babysitter, so we need that time for us.

Hang in there. It will get better.

Jennie said...

This is the hardest part, AcadeMama. Everything you describe is part of the normal adjustment curve, and it will get better. Hang in there. Hard as it is to believe now, someday you will be so accustomed to your life there that returning home to the US will put you through another wave of culture shock.

kenandbelly said...

M and Jennie are both onto something, I think. FWIW, last fall was really hard for us once the shine of "we're living abroad! We're having an adventure!" wore off. It was really hard on our romantic life, so kudos to you for planning to prioritize that as best you can. The second year is much better (so far).

Intlxpatr said...

Everything you are experiencing is SO normal, and the discouragement and feeling overwhelmed, even Hannah's unhappiness, this is all . . . normal. The weather is getting better and better, time for families to get out and walk, visit Fort Zubara, the beaches, have a little fun exploring. Doha is truly a sweet place, and it won't be long before you start feeling more at home.