Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dispatch from Doha - The Early Days

We're here. I've taken in an enormous amount of information in the past 48 hours, and there's too much to cover in one post but some of the highlights include:

  • Children that did beautifully on the flight over (15 hours)
  • Children that are just barely getting over jetlag. The first two nights, the oldes two woke up at 3:00 a.m. hungry and wide awake. They had pb&j's, eventually went back to sleep, and didn't get up until we woke them up at noon!
  • Our home phone still doesn't work, and it costs a small fortune to make an international call on the cell phone. This sucks because I can talk faster than I type, and I can squeeze in a phone call much easier than I can the time to compose an e-mail.
  • I've visited three separate grocery stores in two days, spending more than $800, and I still have a one-page list of things I need for this "furnished" house (i.e. dish towels, hand towels, bigger pillows, baskets, cereal bowls, etc.)
  • It's 5:20 am here, and the baby still hasn't woken up yet, so this is very good.
  • We can't find Amelia's formula here. They have several kinds of Similac, but not the Sensitive Formula for babies that are gassy. Our options right now are to ship it (expensive), use lactose-free (not sure we need to do that), or see how she does on the regular formula. I bought a container of the regular stuff for now, and a friend suggested that we look at a pharmacy to see if they might have it there.
  • A new order/restriction is in place regarding driver's licences. There's a chance I might not be able to take my driver's license exam for more than a month. This is very, very bad for all sorts of reasons.
  • We blew up the portable DVD because we didn't have a converter (just an adaptor), we are in dire need of expanded cable or immediate entertainment for the children. Hannah has already made a couple of friends, but one is leaving for Saudi today, and the other is kept on an unusually tight leash (slightly weird, but extremely nice, home-schooling Mom, who btw had three bags of toys and blueberry muffins waiting for us when we arrived!!) They'd also stocked the house with some basic items: milk, bread, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, etc. Then I came to find that she only has these items because she's been having them shipped weekly from the states. Evidently, one can't actually get grape jelly in Doha.
  • The call to prayer is beautiful. It's a somber, comforting reminder that many people are stopping whatever they're doing to be dutiful to their religious practice, no matter how inconvenient. I gotta respect that. Don't get me wrong, I'm soooo happy that I can't hear it from inside my house unless the front door is open, but I do like listening to it.
  • I drove for the first time yesterday. The roundabouts weren't as bad as I though they'd be, but it will still take a lot of getting used to in terms of finding my way back home and figuring out the consequences of not having left turns.
  • I can't wait for our stuff to get here! I've done my best to make it feel like home, but right now it still feels like we're on vacaction in a luxury home in an American compound.
  • Still no word on the American School for Hannah. Or, I should say, one set of people thinks she'll get in, one person yesterday said he didn't think any other kids that weren't already accepted have a snowball's chance in hell. Thus, we'll look at a couple of other schools and let her see the campuses.
  • The first night here, on the way home from the airport, I did the unthinkable. I rode in a vehicle with Amelia in my arms. It's a long story, but it involved her screaming at the top of her lungs, projectile vomiting her bottle up all over herself because she was so worked up, and her really just wanting to be held. I not-so-nimbly flew into the backseat and picked her up and held her for the 15-minute drive home and prayed we didn't have an accident.
  • Nothing could have prepared me for how different things are here...even our previous visit.
  • Oh, and they don't really believe in tampons. That's just freakin great. I packed enough to get me through my next cycle, but I'll be having my friend stash extra in her suitcase when she comes over....and THANK GOD someone is coming over to help! We just need an extra set of hands right now.

This is just a nutshell version of the first few days. Today is my first day on campus, and the driver is coming to pick me up in a few hours, so I'm off to shower, make myself presentable, and get formula made for the day. I'm hoping to get to post more frequently once the kids get back to their regular schedules, but everything is just a bit crazy now. Until next time, the roller coaster ride continues :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

EconoLodge Limbo

The international relocation company has come and gone. Unfortunately, they forgot to get several drawers of clothes out of my dresser, which has left me with more stuff than my luggage can hold. So, I can either throw them out, put them in storage, or pay an enormous amount of money to have them shipped over. For now, I'm hoping the campus support office will make an exception and let me get by with shipping a box through them :)

The garage sale has come and gone. I had two wonderful friends spend hours and hours in the hot sweaty garage, setting the whole thing up. We did really well, clearing about $700, which isn't bad for a garage sale and doesn't include the $250 we sold our living room furniture for.

The moving crew came back yesterday to move our remaining stuff into storage. There were some kinks in the deal, a private arrangement between us and them...an off-the-clock kinda job. Luckily, everything worked out okay, and they wrapped our stuff air tight. I really think it will stay protected while we're gone.

Today was my birthday present: a spa day! Nothing like a Swedish massage and European facial to work off some of the stress of moving.

Good karma came our way when the orthodontist decided not to charge us the $350 to transfer Hannah's file out---woohoo! That definitely made it easy for me to make the decision to just hire someone to clean the house. Never mind that one of the people doing the cleaning is totally high on meth!! Yes, that's right. Totally wacked out, scratching her hair, sunken cheeks, hopped up higher than groceries. The whole story is that the assistant teacher in the baby's room at the montessori mentioned that her mother does housecleaning. I called, offered her $150 for the job, she accepted and said she could do it tonight. When she showed up, she explained that she'd brought a friend to help her do the job in order to make sure it got finished tonight. It took less than a minute for me to tell that this other lady was completely strung out. Don't get me wrong, she's on speed, so she's cleaning faster than Wonder Woman over there. And they both seem really broke and really shocked at the amount I offered to pay, so I don't doubt that they'll get the job done. I just still can't believe a freakin meth head showed up to clean my house....well, it used to be my house.

Now, I live in EconoLodge Limbo. We've set up shop, complete with bottles, formula, bottle drying rack, brush, way too much luggage, and a couple more boxes of stuff I need to figure out whether I need to take or not. What sucks right now is that I can't find my cell phone charger or a book that was lent to me by my department head....argh! Hopefully, they'll show up soon.

We still have a walk-through for the house tomorrow, I need to pick up medical files for myself and Hannah, and we have an emergency appointment with HR because there's some screw up with the benefit enrollment for Amelia, which should've been taken care of two weeks ago when we met with the HR coordinator!

At this point, I'm feeling more calm than I thought I'd be, yet there's still plenty of stress. I feel like I'm bound to forget a thousand things, and I'm just ready to be at my mom's house, spending a few extra minutes with her and going through the stuff that *will* fit in my luggage. On top of everything, we still have to take a look at the short-term housing units back in Home State on Thursday and re-pack all of Hannah's stuff after her being at her grandma's house for a week (with God knows how many shopping trips!).

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Brief Post from Home State

Yes, I'm still here...temporarily. We've been back in my hometown since last Friday, and the internet connection at my mom's house is intermittent at best. Finally, Hubby and I worked out an arrangement in which he got four hours to work at the local coffee shop yesterday, while I watched the kids, and today is my turn. Unfortunately, I actually have work to do and cannot sit here endlessly kvetching about all the drama that has unfolded over our one-week visit. Let's just say that it is no longer a healthy option for all involved to have my family of five invade my mother's home for any longer than a 3-day stay. There's just too much crazy and too little space.

Some good things have happened though:
  • We have both a pack-out date and a fly-out date! The moving company will come to pack up our things on Friday, July 17th. We will fly out of Houston for Doha on Saturday, July 25th. I still sometimes can't believe we're doing this.
  • Somehow, my 10-week old baby managed to sleep through the entire night last night! Seriously, from 9:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Don't know what caused this, but man I'm a well-rested Mama today!
  • We found a storage unit for the mani-van. We'll store it here in Hometown, and when we come back for breaks, my mom can simply use it to come pick us up at the airport, and she'll be able to drive it periodically to keep it in working condition. The owner of the storage place was willing to give us a really good rate, too, because we're willing to sign a long-term lease.
  • We also got more solid information on the availability of a 3-bedroom, furnished corporate apartment. Since my hometown is about 40 minutes away from the airport (and capital city), this works out well for all sorts of reasons.
  • I got to take a picture of all my girls with my last remaining grandparent, my grandmother, who has Alzheimers. To be honest, I don't think she even remembered that I had been pregnant. In fact, one of my cousins told me that she'd previously told him I'd had a miscarriage. Regardless, she was thrilled for us to visit, and she was even able to hold the baby. It did, however, cause her to break down in tears. Every birth of another great-grandchild makes her happy, but sad that my grandfather isn't here to enjoy it with her. The loss of her husband almost 20 years ago is the dominating memory in her mind, and she seems increasingly haunted by his absence from her daily life.

Okay, this will have to suffice for now. My task for today is to go through the entire dissertation and review my advisor's suggestions, questions, etc. and make sure I understand exactly what she's asking me to do in terms of revision. We've agreed to meet one more time before we leave the States, which will give me the chance to ask for any clarification I might need. So, to the real work.